Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Early Screaming Trees: A Primer

First, sorry about the infrequent posts. We’ve been busy as hell these past few weeks and haven’t had much time to do anything, let alone digitize our Sick & Wrong singles.

Several months ago, I picked up a used copy of SST’s anthology of Screaming Trees, which covers their first five records: Other Worlds and Clairvoyance, which Velvetone Records released in 1985 and 1987, respectively; and Even If and Especially When, Invisible Lantern, and Buzz Factory, which SST released in 1987, 1988, and 1989, respectively. (The compilation does not represent the EP they recorded with Beat Happening. It’s been pretty fun to listen to this material again, although I wasn’t terribly familiar with it the first time around. Although I always had intended to pick up a copy of Buzz Factory as a teenager on the basis of the Trees’ reputation, it wasn’t until they released the Change Has Come double-single on Sub Pop that I actually spilled money on the band.

Change Has Come appealed to me immediately; when I heard a friend’s copy of some older Trees material, however, I lost interest in picking it up. My first impression was that it was too clean, too basic.

The reason I had this negative reaction is that I’d delved into their back catalog chronologically. When I revisited the stuff recently, it’s clear that Screaming Trees’ oldest material sounds like music by a high school band. It did not surprise me to learn that, in fact, the youngest member—Van Conner—hadn’t yet reached his 20th birthday when the band formed in 1984. But like Guided by Voices, it took a few years for the band to hit their stride. The earliest songs are, for the most part, better than I remember them being but still don’t set the world aflame; the songs from those later SST records are excellent.

"Transfiguration" live in Chicago in 1989.

I won’t delve deeply into the band’s history or the former members’ current projects, as the good reader-users of Wikipedia cover those subjects with greater authority than I can. I culled almost all of these tracks from the SST anthology, but for those who are interest in greater detail: “Barriers” is from Other Worlds, “Orange Airplane” is from Clairvoyance, “Transfiguration” and “In the Forest” are from Even If and Especially When, “Walk Through to This Side” and “Night Comes Creeping” are from Invisible Lantern, and “Subtle Poison” and “Where the Twain Shall Meet” come from Buzz Factory.

Note: we're having problems (surprise, surprise) with our archiving site, so we'll add the individual links later. Everything is on the zip file, and hey, that's easier anyway!

Barriers
Orange Airplane
Transfiguration
In the Forest
Walk Through to This Side
Night Comes Creeping
Subtle Poison
Where the Twain Shall Meet

And the .zip file is right here.

--Wm

8 comments:

yannick said...

at last a new post, but I already have al this songs, I got their sst anthology and even If and especially when,..., look at my myspace for pictures of it

I like their earlier stuff a lot, but it's harder to find than their major releases

cheers

AtothemfT said...

Anyone who lived in Seattle (or probably even the NW) and was a fan during the period the band was active would probably have a good story or two about them. Gary Lee and Mark didn't get along real well which frequently led to onstage tension. Bumbershoot in 1990 (or maybe 1991) was a classic meltdown, with Lanegan storming off the stage after yelling at Gary to "Play, motherfucker" during an extended feedback jam.

I also saw a show in Eugene, OR, at the U of O back in '88 or '89 where Gary tumbled backwards while flailing around on stage and snapped the neck off a vintage Gibson SG that he had leaning against his amp. Ouch.

Regardless, Screaming Trees remain one of my favorite NW bands and Buzz Factory and Sweet Oblivion are their two best in my opinion.

Thanks for putting this post up. Great, great stuff.

hdvns said...

The Trees were a great band. I was hooked the first time I heard “Transfiguration”. But I think they really hit their stride with 'Buzz Factory'.
And sorry for the shameful plug, but at thee head vein you can pick up 'Even If and Especially When'.
Cheers!

SixMile said...

Buzz Factory was my first exposure to the trees and I was happy to see them play in Detroit.

Any chance you can re-post the time speaks her golden tongue mp3's?

Great Blog...

Got anything on Thee Hypnotics?

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