With their versatile blend of classic hard rock and punchy alt-pop with a thin metal veneer, Motor City rockers Sponge caught fire during the post-grunge boom of the mid-'90s via modern rock radio hits like "Plowed" and "Molly (Sixteen Candles)." Despite being wrapped in the fuzzy guitars and brooding intensity that typified grunge music, the band had a knack for jangly riffs and catchy, anthemic hard rock hooks.
Sponge hit their commercial peak in 1996 with the release of their sophomore effort, Wax Ecstatic which, like their 1994 debut Rotting Pinata, went gold. While the band's popularity waned in the 2000s, they continued to forge ahead via hard-hitting late career efforts like Galore Galore and Stop the Bleeding. While their sound remained steeped in classic and alternative rock, they did begin to incorporate more pop elements with the release of 1999's New Pop Sunday. Their sonic attack remained largely uniform, but founder and frontman Vinnie Dombrowski would serve as Sponge's sole constant member throughout their tenure.
Sponge grew out of a Detroit-based hard rock act called Loudhouse, which released an album on the Virgin label in 1988 before losing its record contract and disbanding shortly thereafter. Drummer-turned-vocalist Vinnie Dombrowski (born Mark Dombrowski) and guitarists Mike Cross and Joey Mazzola regrouped as Sponge in 1992, adding Mike's brother Tim Cross on bass and Jimmy Paluzzi on drums. Adapting their '70s hard rock influences to fit the grunge zeitgeist, the bandmates earned a major-label deal with Columbia and released their debut album, Rotting Pinata, in late 1994.
Initially, critics compared Sponge to Stone Temple Pilots, but alternative radio embraced the band's first two singles: the driving rocker "Plowed" and the jangly, introspective "Molly (Sixteen Candles)." A third single, "Rainin'," also earned airplay, and Rotting Pinata went gold; meanwhile, Sponge went on tour as Live's opening act. With new drummer Charlie Grover in tow, their 1996 follow-up album, Wax Ecstatic, was a more diverse affair, rediscovering some of the band's roots in arena rock, British glam, and jangle pop. Even though singles like "Wax Ecstatic (To Sell Angelina)," "I Am Anastasia," and "Have You Seen Mary" enjoyed radio airplay, Columbia was dissatisfied with the sales figures and dropped Sponge once the album left the charts.
Undaunted, Sponge signed a new deal with the Beyond label, which released the more classicist New Pop Sunday in 1999. It attracted little commercial attention, and more personnel shifts ensued. Tired of touring, the Cross brothers both left and were replaced by guitarist Kurt Marschke and bassist Tim Krukowski; Billy Adams also came on board as the new drummer. After several years of recharging -- during which time Dombrowski played in several Detroit-area side projects -- Sponge returned with For All the Drugs in the World in 2003 and The Man in 2005. Dombrowski reworked the lineup once again, this time adding guitarists Kyle Neely and Andy Patalan, before returning again to the studio in 2007 to record Galore Galore for Bellum Records.
Two years later, there was another lineup shift -- Tim Patalan became the group's bassist -- and they released an EP called Destroy the Boy. A full-length called Stop the Bleeding arrived four years later via Three One Three Records; the LP contained all of the 2009 EP plus new songs, including a twisted cover of Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle." In 2017, the band partnered with Michigan Brewers and PledgeMusic for their eighth full-length outing, The Beer Sessions, which Dombrowski called "a celebration of independent music and incredible Michigan beer." ~ Steve Huey