Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Steel Wool Bring the Luck

My first experience seeing Steel Wool live was in the living room of some house in Seattle. I can’t even remember which neighborhood it was. They played with the punk-pop band Sicko, and the sole attempt at soundproofing the room consisted of an old mattress, which someone had leaned in front of the windows on the side of the room. Within 20 minutes, the cops had arrived, and everything went quiet until the police left. Then, the rock continued.

Steel Wool never achieved, even locally, the plaudits heaped on other bands at that time. They formed in the early 90s, just after the national attention on Seattle had reached its fever pitch, playing a style they called “grange” (grunge with a little Hank Williams in the mix). They owe their biggest stylistic debt to Mudhoney—or, to be more accurate, Mark Arm and Steve Turner’s side project, The Monkey Wrench. I don’t mean to imply that they sound derivative. They took those influences sound of their own. Had they formed just a year or two earlier, I suspect that they would have attracted a much larger following.

The vitals: Steel Wool was Jon Wright on guitar and Rhodes, Sean Hollowell on guitar, Dave Pelo on drums, and Steve Dukich on bass. Wright, Hollowell, and Dukich all shared the microphone, and Pelo also sang back-up. From what I can find, they released two LPs (Simple Men Who Like Working with Their Hands and Lucky Boy, both on eMpTy) and two singles (“Ian” on eMpTy [1992] and “Devil’s Night” [1994] on Bag of Hammers).

The mp3s are all from Lucky Boy, which appears to be out of print. (If someone can correct me, we’ll remove ‘em.) The entire record is at least pretty good, and a couple of tracks are completely excellent. The instrumental “60 Pound Wharf Rat” was, I suppose, their “hit”; they played it every time I saw them, and I even witness the aforementioned Sicko cover it once. “Pagan Baby” is a Creedence cover. I consider “Dog That Bites” to be their crowning achievement. It’s an utterly ferocious, garage-y song that would reduce Jon Spencer to a quivering little Kleenex-eater. If you’re only curious enough to download one mp3, well, there it is for ya’.

Jon Wright’s name has popped up on a few other records as a photographer; he also engineered Black Madonna by the Austerity Program. Steve Dukich briefly filled the bass slot in Mudhoney after Matt Lukin retired in 2001. Dukich played on Mudhoney’s Brazilian tour in 2001 and appears on one released song (“Who Will Be the Next in Line” on the Kinks tribute Give The People What They Want [Sub Pop]). I can’t find any information on Hollowell or Pelo, and internet searches haven’t yielded any information regarding current projects for the former members of Steel Wool.


Scratch Your Ass and Bark at the Moon
Combine
Four Winds
Candy Man
I’m Strong
Dog That Bites
I Don’t Want One
Pagan Baby
Flog That Horse
60 Pound Wharf Rat
Lost
Stop Touching Me!
Lucky Boy

. . . all on this handy .zip file.

--Wm

19 comments:

CMA said...

Nice post! Steel Wool are one of my alltime favorites. I saw them open for Mudhoney, which they did...alot.
There is a third record that was basically finished before they broke up, but its missing vocals. I heard "Loose plans are being made" to finish it. Contact Steel Wool here: www.myspace.com/thesteelwools

- T

Yannick said...

Shit they are much better on lucky boy, I only have Simple Men Who Like Working with Their Hands but on this record they don't rock as hard as they do on Lucky boy,...

Great stuff

Dougie Felchtone said...

I think Jon is currently in Leather Boy if they're even still together.

Fish or Cut Bait said...

I sadly had to retire my Steel Wool T-shirt this summer. "Supreme Steel Wool, Eight Balls!" All fond and thread-bare memories become paint rags eventually.

seattlecrazy said...

I have both steel wools albums..sadly on of the lost god bands of seattle, who lost out during the crazy altera-grunge shuffle of seattle's early 90s.
steel wool rocks..and rocks..hard... enjoy..

they dont make 'em like 'em anymore....

seattlecrazy said...

looking for second unpublished album of willard called BONEGRINDER.

Hey lamestain..if you or anyone can manage to post this Album,i will be eternally thankful..
Also if you can do a post on SGM and their album AGGRESSION, produced by Jack endino

samo said...

Hey awesome blog! I was wondering if you could repost the melvins/mudhoney split and the green river demos. If not know where I can get them :)

Anonymous said...

Great post. I happened to find another single from them called "Broomsauce" (EMPTY 92 ...?)
http://www.musicstack.com/item/46327684/steel+wool/broomsauce

Anonymous said...

I Know that they are finaly putting the vocals down on their third full length album... also there was a third 7" on reservation records: "Mechanical servants incorporated/Drummer in jail".
I think that Duckich and Wright began playing together in January of 1990 and bother had been in numerous punk bands. Both seemed to have some folkmusic background too. Duckich was recently in a band called Hot Lunch as well.

Anonymous said...

I used to work with Sean. He's a mechanical engineer now.

Pete Caruso said...

My wife and I went to school with Sean and Steve. We haven't seen them in 20 years but it is not surprising that they both are in a Punk Rock type band. Sean once bought an old car in High School for $100 then charged $1 per person per hit to take a sledge hammer to its body then he cut the top off of it and made if a home made convertible. He would drive down to Dick's Hamburgers in Spokane. My wife had a huge crush on Steve in the 7th grade. Steve and I used to go to midnight movies at the Majic Lantern Theater in Spokane, WA when we were in the 7th grade. I remember going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Pink Floyd - The Wall.

Pete and Kari

Anonymous said...

I used to go see them every time they came to Bellingham back in the day. 60 Pound Wharf Rat was one of the most fun songs to see live, total bounce rock, and they always killed it. I still listen to Lucky Boy fairly regularly, it's a great record.

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Lliam said...

This is a long shot - this was one of my favourite bands growing up - had all their tunes on vinyl, etc (long lost) - impossible to find these tunes digital.. could you repost them? THANKS

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klachopis said...

Well, well... There is some recent activity on that third album ... Supposed to be called Retirement Plan???

A song from those sessions has been mixed to the band's satisfaction -- it is called Endless Mumbler -- and it's up on their new myspace at the following address:

http://www.myspace.com/557307733

Quite the ass kicker. More songs are supposed to follow, but knowing those guys I wouldn't wait with baited breath. Happy days are here again.