The happily-named Stabbing Westward began as a little known industrial-rock band based in Chicago -- the Liverpool of the genre -- in 1985. Though it took several years, the Christopher Hall-fronted outfit eventually signed to Columbia, whose roster had recently become more adventurous after a fallow period. The band's first album, 1993's Ungod, did little business, but they attracted a larger audience with their sophomore effort, Wither Blister Burn and Peel (1996), when the video for "What Do I Have to Do" scored Buzz Bin rotation on MTV. Wither went gold; perhaps even better, the briefly reformed Sex Pistols invited Stabbing Westward to open on their U.S. tour.
The early American pioneers of industrial dance-rock music probably never imagined that a popularized version of their sound would be a commercial radio favorite within a decade (any more than the likes of the Replacements and the Pixies could have expected to find themselves echoed back in Kurt Cobain's voice 24 hours a day). But audiences can be fickle, and Stabbing Westward soon numbered among the many minor successes of the post-Cobain alt-rock bonanza. When a third album, Darkest Days, appeared in 1998, all ears seemed to be on the lite-pop likes of Matchbox 20, and the record failed to go gold. After being dropped by Columbia, the group issued its next, self-titled long-player on large indie Koch Records. The band broke up before issuing a fifth album. Interestingly, though, Columbia found the band bankable enough to be worthy of an entry in its Essential series, usually reserved for the likes of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen. With the band members scattered, who knows what it means. But fans may find it worthwhile to stay tuned.