Giant Sand was the primary outlet for the stylistic curveballs and sun-damaged songcraft of Howe Gelb, a Pennsylvania-born singer/guitarist who formed the four-piece Giant Sandworms after relocating to Tuscon, Arizona in the mid-'70s. After releasing the EP Will Wallow and Roam After the Ruin in 1980, Gelb fired everyone but bassist Scott Gerber (although founding guitarist Rainer Ptacek returned to the fold many times in the future) and started over as simply Giant Sand, essentially a one-man band backed by a revolving cast of players.
Valley of Rain The first Giant Sand LP, 1985's Valley of Rain, earned Gelb comparisons to Neil Young for his reedy vocals and country-flavored, grungy guitar aesthetic; like Young, Gelb also proved to be a restless creative spirit, a notice served by 1986's Ballad of a Thin Line Man, an acoustic effort that featured the harmony vocals of ex-Go-Go (and Gelb's then-girlfriend) Paula Jean Brown. In 1988, Giant Sand issued a pair of new LPs, the equally diffuse Storm and The Love Songs.
By 1989's raw, improvisational Long Stem Rant, the group consisted only of Gelb and drummer John Convertino, while 1990's Swerve featured guests like Juliana Hatfield and Poi Dog Pondering. Ramp (1991) and Center of the Universe (1992) returned to the ragged desert rock of their earliest material, but with 1994's Glum (the band's first and only effort for major-label Imago), Giant Sand's music turned unexpectedly moody and restrained. Backyard Barbecue Broadcast, released in 1995, culled material from a pair of live radio sets.