Monday, August 13, 2007

Tales of Brave Calvin Johnson

Over the course of the past several weeks, I’ve started and ditched several drafts of this post about the four-song Beat Happening/Screaming Trees collaboration, which K Records/Homestead Records released in 1988. I planned jokes in some, and in others, I considered the role Beat Happening and Calvin Johnson’s K Records played in the Northwest, with consideration of the influence on everyone from Nirvana to Kill Rock Stars to Sleater-Kinney to every band in the country that eschews bass.

Then, I remembered that I’m talking about Beat Happening here. It would be more fitting to talk about, I dunno, cookies or hugs or freckles or something.

Which is why, even to this day, it strikes me as odd that hard-psych grungers the Screaming Trees ever collaborated with Olympia’s most famous twee-pop stars Beat Happening.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t be so surprised. The Trees Gary Lee Conner and Mark Lanegan co-produced Beat Happening’s seminal Jamboree (the one with “Indian Summer”) with Steve Fisk. And Fisk, who also produced this EP, sat behind the boards for the first few Screaming Trees records (Other Worlds, Even If and Especially When, and Invisible Lantern). Those early Screaming Trees records certainly didn’t sound like Beat Happening, but they aren’t so radically different either. The two bands would diverge sonically even more not long after they released this EP. Trouser Press notes, accurately, that Beat Happening runs the show here.

Lanegan would later release a few very well-regarded records of country death songs and also serve as a sideman with Queens of the Stone Age. Johnson, among other projects, made basement funk jams with Dub Narcotic Sound System. Let’s consider ourselves lucky that the two worked together in 1988 and not 2007.

Anyway, while nobody would argue that this EP attains the heights reached by the respective bands on their own, it’s still worth a listen. Also, if you can find it, hunt down Velocity Girl’s cover of “Tales of Brave Aphrodite,” which surpasses the (already good) original.

Sea Babies
Tales of Brave Aphrodite
Polly Pereguin
I Dig You

And of course, the zip file can be found here.

--Wm

3 comments:

Lamestain HQ said...

I'm going to need to find a better cover shot of that record.

MZ said...

Great tracks and they were eventually released on CD as Beat Happening's "Music to Climb the Apply Tree By".

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