It's not supposed to be this way, but my copy of the liner notes from Diary, the 1994 debut from Sunny Day Real Estate, are held together in defiance of gravity with a delicately placed combination of tape and staples. To handle the lyric book without using the utmost level of cautious, gentle page turning would result in its leaves crumbling unceremoniously to the ground. This condition is due to my downright obsessive relationship with that album over the years. I studied the artwork, scoured the pages for vague clues about the band's shrouded lineup, and most importantly, I knew every single word that leapt from singer Jeremy Enigk's mouth.
What followed for Sunny Day Real Estate was one more record, a breakup, a mass exodus of half the band to join the then-fledgling Foo Fighters, a reunion, a mediocre live record, and one final album of meandering prog rock. It's safe to say that my absolute obsession with Sunny Day Real Estate started and stopped with that tattered booklet for Diary. While I was there for the breakups and reunions, and even that dabbling in prog, my heart wasn't in it. In a lot of ways, I suspect Enigk's wasn't, either.
But despite all the dramatics, Jeremy Enigk took the time to focus on his solo work, a series of albums far more dynamic and orchestral than his work in SDRE. In fact, he took a lot of time. Return of the Frog Queen was released in 1996; it's successor, World Waits, was delivered a decade later, and his latest, The Missing Link, arrived late last year. For Enigk, the album is part of his ongoing struggle to gain traction as a solo performer, as longtime fanboys (guilty as charged) have a hard time letting his past die. "Sometimes it's frustrating," he says. "A lot of times fans will really only want Sunny Day Real Estate, and I respect that, but I would hope that what I'm doing now is just as valuable."
It is, seeing as Enigk is best by his lonesome—the socially introverted frontman who possesses a delicate and oft-imitated emotional howl that has the ability to bridge the gap between performer and listener—even if it leads to the destruction of a few liner notes here and there.