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What’s Up Matador

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What’s Up Matador is a 2-CD (or 2-LP) compilation that was released by Matador Records that chronicles some of the best artists within their roster during the 90s.

The first disc serves as a bit of a “best of” collection, featuring indie standouts by Yo La Tango, Pizzicato Five, Cat Power, Helium, and of course, Liz Phair.

The second disc is what is particularly noteworthy, as it features previously unreleased material from many of the same artists. This marks the official debut of Liz’s “Stuck On An Island,” a b-side that fans would later discover was in the initial running for whitechocolatespaceegg.

What’s Up, Matador

What’s Up Matador (1997)

Released: August 26, 1997
Label: Matador (OLE 163-1, OLE 163-2)
Format: 2-CD, 2-LP (150-gram)
Country: US, Canada, Europe
Availability: Rare

“Stratford-On-Guy” written by Liz Phair
Guitar, Vocals: Liz Phair
Sick Guitar: Brad Wood

“Stuck On An Island” written by Liz Phair

Disc 1: Favorite Tracks

01. Yo La TengoTom Courtenay3:31
02.PavementTexas Never Whispers3:08
03.Teenage FanclubCatholic Education2:32
04.SuperchunkFor Tension2:59
05.UnsaneVandal X1:46
06.Bailter SpaceSplat3:49
07.HeliumPat’s Trick3:21
08.Cat PowerNude As The News4:22
09.Bettie ServeertTomboy4:21
10.SilkwormCouldn’t You Wait (Acoustic)3:37
11.SpoonDon’t Buy The Realistic3:58
12.Liz PhairStratford-On-Guy2:58
13.Pizzicato FiveTwiggy Twiggy4:04
14.The FallHey Student4:29
15.Railroad JerkBang the Drum2:45
17.The Jon Spencer Blues ExplosionDang1:53
18.Chain GangSon of Sam3:12
19.The FrogsAdam & Steve3:06
20.ChavezUnreal is Here2:33
21.Guided By VoicesMotor Away2:07
22.S.F. SealsStill?4:03
23.Thinking Fellers Union Local 282My Pal the Tortoise2:48
24.Mecca NormalWater Cuts My Hands1:59

Disc 2: Unreleased Tracks

01. Cat PowerBack Of Your Head3:43
03.Railroad JerkOne Step Forward5:09
04.The Jon Spencer Blues ExplosionFor Tension1:39
05.Guided By VoicesMy Thoughts Are A Gas3:06
06.SpoonTelamon Bridge2:01
07.PavementKilling Moon5:16
09.Yo La TengoDon’t Say A Word (Demo Version)3:33
10.Barbara ManningThe Blood of Feeling2:59
11.Bettie ServeertLife Is An Imbecile3:26
12.Liz PhairStuck On An Island2:26
13.The For CarnationAlfredo’s Welcome3:38
14.Run OnDays Away5:39
15.Mecca NormalHurricane Watch3:53
17.ChavezTheme From “For Russ”4:44
18.Tobin SproutSmall Parade2:15
19.Bardo PondThe Trail6:15
20.Pizzacato FiveHappy Birthday2:28

The Liner Notes

What is a record label? What are “recoupables”? What is “indie cred”? Who is Ricky Luanda? Where is my mail order?

Every day, we receive countless letters, faxes and electronic mail messages from children who want to know “what’s up?” And although we try the best we can to answer their questions individually (especially if they send pictures), we couldn’t possibly satisfy everyone. Enter award-winning film maker Clay Tarver. Clay (who also plays guitar in Chavez) conceived of an instructional (yet entertaining) film that would introduce young people to the world of Matador. With the help of cable television fixture Bill Boggs (perhaps you’ve seen his work as a pitch man for the 18″ satellite dish) and a New Jersey elementary school audience, Tarver’s film answers all the questions you’ve ever had about Matador, its origins, the bands and their way of life.

The companion double CD that you’re holding, should serve as an easy initiation to this strange, but very responsible record label. For the hard-core fan, this album’s plethora of rare and/or unreleased material, should ensure hours of listening pleasure, if not a decent resale value.

From the label’s inception in 1989, Matador’s aesthetic has been defined by the musical tastes of company founder Chris Lombardi, and his partner Gerard Cosloy. Said tastes have ranged from the brutal power of the Unsane, to the exotica stylings of Pizzicato Five. While the label has never been defined by one particular sound, the common denominator has always been the quality and individuality of the artists themselves. Matador’s success to date is completely due to the ingenuity and hard work of these artists — we thank them for their contributions to this album, and we apologize for telling them it was a benefit record for Boy’s Town.

Matador’s humble roots are similar to that of most do-it-yourself independents. Although documenting the musical creations of our favorite artists is our main motivation, we also hope that in some small way our efforts offer encouragement to others… letting everyone know that with an $80,000.00 loan and two major label infusions of cash, you can do it too!

A label is only as strong as its roster, and without the talents of our bands, we might as well start a clothing line (don’t think we haven’t considered it). That said, we can never forget the wonderful people who have made all this happen: our lawyers.

Accutron 2000


Once Sub Pop’s roster broke through to the mainstream in the early ’90s, its reign as America’s premier independent label drew to a close, leaving Matador Records as the definitive indie label of the decade. Matador’s period of greatest impact was between 1991 and 1997, which is the time that the double-disc set What’s Up Matador chronicles. The budget-priced compilation is designed as both an introduction and as a collector’s dream, containing one disc called Favorite Tracks and one disc of unreleased songs. Matador didn’t have a signature sound, preferring to cultivate a loose aesthetic that permitted its artists to do whatever the hell they wanted. So, there’s the nervous punk of Superchunk, the jangling pop of Bettie Serveert, the fractured pop of Pavement, pure weirdness from the Frogs, mathematical rock from Chavez, disco from the Pizzicato Five, the avant rock of Silkworm, hardcore punk from Unsane, psycho-blues from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Railroad Jerk, and lo-fi from Guided By Voices and Spoon, along with singer/songwriters like Liz Phair, Helium’s Mary Timony, Cat Power, and Barbra Manning/SF Seals. It’s an eclectic roster, but it’s a rich one, containing many of the best and most important bands of the decade. The first disc runs through the hits quite effectively; for anyone curious about Matador specifically and American indie rock in general, it’s an excellent primer. The second disc is for collectors and fanatics, and it does not disappoint. Many of the bands on disc one contribute unreleased songs that never sound like throwaways, and some of the label’s newer bands that didn’t make the first disc — Run On, The For Carnation, and Bardo Pond — are included. With its abundance of strong music and its complete Matador discography, What’s Up Matador is an essential purchase for anyone curious about ’90s indie rock.

— By Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusic


Released: August 26, 1997
Label: Matador (OLE 163-3)
Format: VHS
Country: US
Availability: Very Rare

Written and directed by Clay Tarver
Edited by Jonathan Horowitz
Produced by Jill Covitz

In conjunction with the album release, the folks at Matador also released a campy/funny video where host Bill Boggs teaches an audience of elementary school children a little bit about the music industry and running a music label. Written and directed by Clay Tarver, the video also featured music videos and appearances from Liz Phair, Yo La Tengo, Jon Spencer, and more.


01. Spoon – “Not Turning Off”
02. Railroad Jerk “Rollercoaster”
03. Yo La Tengo – “From a Motel 6”
04. Guided By Voices – “Motor Away”
05. Pizzicato Five – “Twiggy Twiggy”
06. Silkworm – “Wet Firecracker”
07. Bettie Serveert – “Palomine”
08. Pavement – “Cut Your Hair”
09. Helium – “Pat’s Trick”
10. Run On – “Christmas Trip”
11. Liz Phair – “Jealousy”
12. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Flavor”
13. Chavez – “Unreal is Here”
14. Chain Gang – “Satanic Rockers”


Stuck On An Island

When I was young
I crashed the car
I tried to bend it back into shape
With a rake for a crowbar

I wasn’t dumb
But I was so naive
I saw the signs
But I didn’t believe them

Now it’s dark
And I’m tired
All my messages got erased
And I don’t know where my friends are

Tell me, who can I turn to when things are so blue?
You’ve got me crying over you

Dad was home
It was getting lighter
I knew he had to take it to work
In about a half an hour

I wasn’t thinking clearly
It was like a panicking sweat gripped my body

And I was stuck on an island
On a cold November morning
Doing coke with Henry
And I totaled my car

Yes, I was stuck on an island
Wondering where my mind went
Getting a cold, wet shower
If I could just black out this hour
From time

Aloha, Doctor Phair

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