Tuesday, December 19, 2006

We Will Never Forgive Sub Pop For What They Did to Swallow

As pretty any music observer knows, music genres get co-opted rather easily, and their definitions often change. For instance, wretched modern Emo bands like Dashboard Confessional or New Found Glory sound nothing like yesterday bands like Rites of Spring or Moss Icon. Often, originating bands will develop a trend, play many thankless shows, release a few ultimately obscure records, and inspire a legion of other bands that will go on to more have commercial success. Grunge was no different. The 1992 definition of grunge really did not make much sense if you were at all familiar with the 1988 definition. Blind Melon, Smashing Pumpkins, Paw, or Bush obviously did not have a lot in common with the early Sub Pop or Deep Six compilation bands. At Lamestain HQ, we are, of course, champions of the latter group. In our Bizarro World, it’s the Skin Yards and Cat Butts pictured on Teen Beat magazine covers, while the Blind Melons and Everclears of the world are lost to the cruel dustbins of history.

One early Sub Pop band that deserved better success than Silverchair was Swallow. Along with Blood Circus, Swallow were an early grunge band that didn’t make the major label jump. They cut some of the earliest Sub Pop records, shared bills with some future star bands, and broke up before the Alternative Nation frenzy. With two front men, Swallow also had two kinds of sound: Chris Pugh was more pop-grunge, and Rod Moody leaned more towards heavy grunge rock. At some moments, they also had a bit of an early Soul Asylum (and yes, that band used to be cool, too) feel to them.

Ex-Young Pioneer member Chris Pugh formed the band with bassist Andy Scheen (ex-Isolation), drummer Scott Schickler (ex-Limp Richerds & Thrown Ups), and future Blood Circus frontman Michael Anderson in 1987. Michael didn’t stick around for long and was replaced by former Deranged Diction member, Rod Moody. Chris’ old Olympia ties with Bruce Pavitt led to Sub Pop forming a verbal agreement with the band and releasing their debut single, the "Guts"/"Trapped" 45 (SP #14) in 1988. The band soon followed with the self-titled full-length (SP #24) and also contributed the song "Zoo" to the scene-defining Sub Pop 200 compilation (SP #25). After some touring, the band released their 2nd LP, Sourpuss, which Sub Pop/Glitterhouse only distributed in Europe. Craig Bradford then replaced Scott, and the band recorded their unreleased third LP but soon broke up after record label troubles. Why Sub Pop refused that record yet went on to release several Big Chief records remains a mystery today.

After the band broke up in 1992, Chris fully unleashed his inner pop songwriter demon with his band, Creep, and Rod formed the band Spike and co-founded Y Records (not to be confused with the UK Y Records, which released awesome singles by Pop Group, Glaxo Babies, and Pigbag) for a few years. The band did a few reunion shows around town with Blood Circus around 1993/1994, but I was underage, living in Bellingham, and probably listening to Witchy Poo, so I missed them. In retrospect, I should have gotten a fake ID. Swallow are doing shows again, and Flotation Records will be releasing their long lost third LP sometime next year. Go here for more songs and upcoming show & band news.

In the meantime, here are some songs from Sourpuss.

Sex Pig
In Effect

--MC Tom


Mystery Bug said...

I'm still trying to remember anyone (including the press) who ever claimed that The Smashing and Blind Melon were grunge.

I'm pretty sure that no one was calling anything Grunge at all in 1988.

Lamestain HQ said...

go to allmusic and both SP & BM have 'grunge' listed under styles.

local rags like the Rocket & Backlash were calling bands grunge back then as well. Everett True also started using the term in NME or Melody Maker in the late 80s.

yannick said...


another word of Jezus

Mike said...

Didn't Mark Arm coin the phrase "grunge" back in his days in Green River?

I know Backlash magazine quoted him saying the new record was "pure grunge, pure shit!" and the name kinda stuck.

Anonymous said...

Would love a re-post of these Swallow tracks if possible - been hunting a copy of Sourpuss for years.

And the "pure grunge, pure shit" quote was from Mr Epp days, long before Green River.
There's also a passing reference to 'grunge' on Sonic Youth's 1987 Sister Interview Disc.

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