Friday, October 13, 2006


In the post about Green River, I talked about the importance of seeing Mother Love Bone in my musical education. Since I already discussed one of Mother Love Bone’s parents, it would be fitting to discuss their other parent: Andrew Wood’s first band, Malfunkshun.

Malfunkshun formed in 1980, when Wood was only 14 years old, and they disbanded in 1988 (they were, for all intents and purposes, a high school band). Although their recorded output was limited to a handful of tracks on compilation albums, they achieved a fair amount of local notoriety. In the early 90s, my brother interviewed Lori Black during her second stint in the Melvins, and she singled out Malfunkshun as among the best bands from that era. (The Melvins later covered “With Yo’ Heart Not Yo’ Hands”; someday, we’ll post it here.)

I feel rather unqualified to write much about Malfunksun; they disbanded very early in the grunge years, and the only songs they released while together were on the Deep Six compilation. Histories of the band can be found elsewhere on the web, but I’m not too certain how trustworthy they are. On the wikipedia page, for example, the writer claims that SubPop opted not to sign the band because they weren’t “Grunge enough.” This claim strikes me as preposterous; they sounded as sludgy as anyone.

However, Malfunkshun also sounded more schizophrenic than their peers: a typical song also included a track of shredding guitar on top of the heavy 70s bottom end, and Wood’s vocal style owed more to glam rock (and, dare I say, hair metal) than to the MC5 or the Stooges. Wood’s love shtick, well, it was a bit unfortunate, but I hate to think that his legacy includes Dr. Seuss hats and glitter. He died at the disgustingly young age of 24 and had already started to outgrow the college campus, fly-your-freak-flag look. Furthermore, the look is almost refreshing: it indicates he didn’t subscribe to adolescent boundaries in taste, whereby one wouldn’t permit himself to like both Kiss and Black Flag at the same time.

(Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I wasn't immune to the freak-flag silliness at that age either. Although I never owned a Dr. Seuss hat, I did play in a band with a song called "Hippie Woman Child" (thankfully, I didn't pen it), and not only did I own a pair of small, rectangular sunglasses, but I also owned a beaded necklace, and I was even known to wear both at once.)

Wood’s death happened just before—literally days—the planned release date for Mother Love Bone’s Apple, their heavily hyped major label debut. His heroin overdose also began a tragic and stupid trend in the northwest, but nobody needs to hear that lesson again. Kevin Wood, the band’s guitarist, later found a reasonable degree of local success with the Fire Ants (with ex-Nirvana drummer Chad Channing), Brad, and Satchel (the latter two of which also included Malfunkshun’s drummer, Regan Hagar). I think I saw the Fire Ants play at Bumbershoot one summer. Whoever it was played absolutely dismal white funk with falsetto vocals. They also smiled a lot; the white funk made them happy. Maybe it wasn’t the Fire Ants. Come to think of it, I probably saw some other band.

An interview with Kevin Wood, can be found here. Also, a movie about Andy Wood premiered at the 2005 Seattle film festival; the producers anticipate an eventual DVD release. I haven’t seen it, and clips do not appear to have landed on YouTube.

The first two tracks come from the infamous Deep Six compilation (C/Z Records, 1986), and the latter two come from Another Pyrrhic Victory (C/Z Records, 1989). Both are long out of print.

Malfunkshun--"With Yo' Heart (Not Yo' Hands)"
Malfunkshun--"Stars n' You"
Malfunkshun--"My Only Fan"
Malfunkshun--"Shotgun Wedding"



Steve said...

Hey Lamestain --

Fuller disclosure: I seem to recall that young Wm also wore a black top hat on occasion.

Later dudes -- Steve

Lamestain HQ said...

Christ, I totally forgot about that. Yeah, that was really awful.

If you want the worst disclosure of all, here it is: I saw Sweaty Nipples live. By choice. Five times.

Phil said...

Brad was possibly the BEST white-boy funk to come out that era. I'm really sad they got steamrollered by the Pearl Jam juggernaut.

El said...

Probably the best band of the era, and so ahead of their time.

Long live Landrew!

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