Friday, April 25, 2008

Seaweed's foggy eyes

In the past, I’ve written about my first encounter with Seaweed: opening up for Gas Huffer at the Columbia Center in Seattle’s central district. The room--the bottom floor of a building--lacked a stage or even proper lighting. I went with my friend Mira. Neither of us had heard of Seaweed by this point, who had only released a single or two. A few songs into their set, someone kicked a cable with his foot and cut off all of the power--the sound, the lighting, everything. If you’ve ever seen this happen, you know it’s a pretty funny experience: you get a few seconds of drums and the faint sounds of nonamplified electric guitar. After a few minutes, someone managed to find the affected socket and get things running again. It didn’t take long before a band or audience member again knocked out the sound.

“Well, that’s punk rock,” said singer Aaron Stauffer.

Seaweed sounded great that night, as they did at each of the four or five times I saw them. They had a youthful, punk rock spirit and enthusiasm that many bands from that era (as awesome as they were) lacked. Not long after the first show, I bought some of their singles, as well as the Sub Pop Despised EP when it first came out. We later bought their first proper full-length, Weak, and the follow up Four (both on Sub Pop). I have pretty good memories of those records.

. . . which is why it was such a shock to hear the early singles and EPs again after so many years and to feel an undeniable sense of disappointment. I’m guessing that, as a teenager, I liked those early records because they served as mementos of Seaweed’s fantastic live shows. Listening to them now, I’m not moved at all. They lumber where they should sizzle, and the songs all kind of sound the same--a common criticism of the band at the time. “Star Girl” (from the self-titled EP) reminds me a bit of early Screaming Trees, and “Love Gut” has some Bleach-ish riffage, although the song sounds little like early Nirvana otherwise. Only “Foggy Eyes” (from the Estrus Half-Rack compilation) really rises above the pack, and that’s a Beat Happening cover. The remaining songs are basically mid-tempo punk, with dashes of emo and hardcore. Tom compares them to Dag Nasty and early Bad Religion. That seems reasonable to me, but I haven’t delved too deeply into either of those bands’ catalogs.

One bit of trivia I find kind of cool about Seaweed: they released songs both on K Records (motto: “Let’s hold hands and eat candy”) and Estrus Records (motto: “I’m gonna fuck you on the back of my El Camino”). I honestly can’t think of another band that had a foot in both camps.

The fellas likely recognized their own limitations. I can remember liking Despised more than these EPs and the full-lengths more than Despised. We likely have Despised kicking around somewhere; however, Sub Pop still sells it via their website, so we likely won’t post it. But hey, now you know where to find it! (They’re also selling an mp3 version of Four, but the CD isn’t in print; Weak remains out of print in all formats.)

The band’s lineup remained pretty consistent throughout their career (Aaron Stauffer, vocals; Clint Werner and Wade Neal, guitars; Bob Bulgrien, drums; and John Atkins, bass). Alan Cage took over on drums in 1999, as the band wound down. Jesse Fox has taken over on drums recently. Recently? Yep, recently: the band has been active again. They’re slated to play at Sub Pop’s 20th Birthday Bash, so make sure to catch ‘em. More can be found via their myspace page.

Seaweed EP (1990; Leopard Gecko Records)

Inside
Stargirl
Re-Think
Love Gut

"Just a Smirk" 7" (1990; Leopard Gecko Records)

Just a Smirk
Installing

"Deertrap" 7" (1991; K Records)

Deertrap
Carousel

From the Estrus Half-Rack compilation (1991; Estrus)

Foggy Eyes

The songs are all on this dandy-as-candy zip file.
--Wm

24 comments:

flexible labor said...

There were moments when they combined this total two guitar powercrunch with this total vulnerability. The song "Patchwork" from the Simple Machines compilation 7" is a great example.

chnkltgy said...

You know, I listened to their Beat Happening cover on that one Simple Machines LP and it just popped off the record in comparison with the other bands on the record. Of course, live they were tremendous, but man, if they just hung tight another five years or so, they'd be considered punk rock icons.

AtothemfT said...

I still have a soft-spot for these flat, compressed Dan Pelton-produced Seaweed singles. At the time, I absolutely loved them. Bassist John Atkins' Leopard Gecko label inspired me to start my own label, New Rage Records in 1990, and Seaweed was definitely an influence on our band, Stymie. See for yourself, if you want:
http://www.myspace.com/stymieband

AT

flexible labor said...

"I honestly can’t think of another band that had a foot in both camps."

Thee Headcoats had records on both Estrus and K.

Another band that definitely had a "foot in both camps" would be Rockin' Rod and the Strychnines (although they didn't record for either label...)

Anonymous said...

Man, boyendyk, seaweed brings me waaaay back.

Right around graduation from high school, my rock band opened for seaweed. Crazy night. Then when I started Reed that fall in Portland, Clint W. got my friend and I into a Seaweed show at Satyricon even though we were underage. At that show an upperclassman from our school offered us a ride back to campus, but we were all, "nah, we're getting a ride with the band". Turns out that the guy who offered us a ride home is now in the Jicks and my friend is close friends now with Janet from S-K, who is playing with the Jicks.

AND a friend of mine in Chicago is Clint W.'s cousin and another friend of mine here now has Wade (I think - one is a lawyer) as his band's manager.

Ah, the northwest!

TurkeyNamedBrotherhood said...

PLEASE REPOST THE LIVE KARP. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. I'm using all caps because i am fucking SERIOUS. PLEASE and THANK YOU

(tall) Chris and Karlene said...

Another band in the Estrus and K camps would be the Screaming Trees (a cover on the Sonics tribute record/the co-EP with Beat Happening).

Lamestain HQ said...

hey turkey,

here's the live at reed tape:

http://www.sendspace.com/file/z39mse

TurkeyNamedBrotherhood said...

i can not thank you enough for the Karp!!!!!! thank you sooo much. rad blog

Lamestain HQ said...

Ach! I forgot about both Thee Headcoats and the Trees. Thee Headcoats should have been obvious, considering how many records Billy Childish has released.

Crazy Mary said...

Hey,
I just wanted to say that you keep up th good work. I am really into this whole nw scene and find your posts so fascinating. I just finished reading your entire blog, and looking forward to see new posts, tales, information and good bands.

Cheers.

jay said...

seaweed has a live track on the International Pop Underground and every time i listen to it i fondly remember their live shows. for some reason, the show i remember the most was up at the St. Joe's social hall on capitol hill. i'm pretty sure sparkmarker (another good live band) was at that show also.

i've been anxious to see them play this summer, but i also have a sneaking suspicion that it will be terrible.

oh, and thanks for posting the karp tape again. i just found the original tape at home recently(really, the original, the one that was recording from the soundboard) and digitizing it seemed like a huge pain in the ass.

--jay

bill/tom: i can't find your email address.

Lamestain HQ said...

Hey Jay,

It's lamestainnw@gmail.com.

Good to hear from ya!

Anonymous said...

Gravel was also on both K (a few singles) and Estrus.

Doug said...

Reading this post brought back such memories of seeing shows out at Green River Comm Col. when it was 5 bands for $5, seeing Seaweed and IMIJ one summer night in 92. God I'm Old...Thanks though, keep up the great work.

Namaste :;:

Anonymous said...

Hey, did anyone check out the Seaweed Tribute that came out this year on the Engineer Rec label? Yep, true, and it's good, for the most part. Kane Hodder from WA is on it, but more notably, Stephen from Cave In and also some new band peeps are talking about, Thursday and The Gaslight Anthem dudes. -TheyCallMeBelcher

Mike said...

Wow, Seaweed. They are a really awsome band, I have most of their releases except for the singles you guys put up. I heard there was a rumour that the band had an "alter ego". The band The Fuckers were rumoured to be Seaweed, I asked them about it but they gave me a very vague answer. So I assume it might be true. The Fuckers released a single on Sub-Pop (not sure if it was before, after or during Seaweed).

I never got the chance to see Seaweed live, since i'm way to young and don't live in the NW. But I heard they had some pretty crazy shows.

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Anonymous said...

Any chance of reposting the Foggy Eyes cover? It's one of two Seaweed tracks I cannot find for download anywhere.

Anonymous said...

See here.