Soul Asylum were in the right place and the right time to grab sturdy coat-tails, and were regarded with bewildering regularity in the 80s as one-third of a trinity of Minneapolis titans; Hüsker Dü, The Replacements and Soul Asylum.
Picking the odd one out was never difficult (The Replacements allegedly nicknamed Soul Asylum ‘The B-Teamers’).
Their debut album, Say What You Will, was produced by Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü so it’s unsurprising that the album shared a similar tendency to loud, fast punk rock.
But as the band’s career progressed, the songwriting of lead vocalist/guitarist Dave Pirner became sharper, relying on conventional, melodic song structure instead of aimless, raging sound – and guitarist Dan Murphy’s writing was equally as good.
After they signed to A&M in 1988, Soul Asylum hit their artistic stride, releasing two excellent albums that suffered from poor promotion on the label’s part. In fact, the label dropped the band after their And The Horse They Rode In On album.
Soul Asylum’s last chance for success was with their first Columbia LP, Grave Dancer’s Union (1992) – an album that was more accessible than their previous albums without compromising their artistic integrity.
Amazingly, the band hit the big time thanks to the folkie ballad Runaway Train. The band became superstars, touring the world for nearly two years and going platinum several times over.
For a band that seemed destined to the same fate as their long-gone Minneapolis contemporaries, their success was nothing short of a miracle. They even performed at the White House (at Bill Clinton‘s inauguration).
Before their next studio album, Let Your Dim Light Shine (1995), drummer Grant Young was fired and replaced by Sterling Campbell. The album continued the band’s commercial success – but it was to be their last hit album. Candy From A Stranger (1998) was unsuccessful and Soul Asylum were dropped by Columbia.
Bassist Karl Mueller was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004. He died in June 2005.
In July 2006, Soul Asylum released The Silver Lining, their first studio album of new material in eight years.
Ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and former Prince drummer Michael Bland joined the band. Even though Stinson is a permanent member, other bass players fill in for him whenever he is required to go on tour with his other band, Guns n’ Roses.