Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Giving the Gift of the U-Men

Christmas is always a busy time at the Lamestain household. Our Yuletide tradition of dressing up like Michael Anderson of Blood Circus (dressed up like Santa, of course) and handing out Yummy singles to the neighborhood children brought much joy and laughter, and we can’t wait to do it again next year. Plenty of eggnog was consumed, holiday ham was enjoyed, gay grunge apparel was donned, and Tad songs were caroled. Plus there were gifts! And we are saving your gift, which is also the best gift, for last: the U-Men Step on a Bug: The Red Toad Speaks record.

Produced by John Nelson and the U-Men at Crow Studios, Step on a Bug was released by Black Label records in 1988. Also released on cassette tape, this and the Hellcows LP were the only full-lengths on Black Label. Tupelo Recording Company also released this on vinyl, though I think they mostly handled overseas pressings. You can check out our earlier U-Men posting for more info and junk here.

We were also lucky enough to see the debut performance of the Tom Price Desert Classic a few weeks back at Fantagraphics Bookstore’s 1-year anniversary party. Tom fronted the band, and was joined by ex-Huffers, Don Blackstone and Matt Wright, Joe Kilbourne (the Derelicts), and Martin Bland (Bloodloss, Lubricated Goat, Monkeywrench, and our recent record discovery, Bushpig!) The band sounded great, and a great time was had by all.

We can't wait to open your gifts now.

Whistlin’ Pete
2 x 4
A Three Year Old Could Do That
Juice Party
Flea Circus

Too Good to be Food
Willie Dong Hurts Dogs
Papa Doesn’t Love His Children Anymore
Pay the Bubba

-- tom the xmas elf

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
Four Winds
Candy Man
I’m Strong
Dog That Bites
I Don’t Want One
Pagan Baby
Flog That Horse
60 Pound Wharf Rat
Stop Touching Me!
Lucky Boy

. . . all on this handy .zip file.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Karp – Punk in My Vitamins Tape

While we are all mourning the end of the compact disc era, we would
like to take a moment to reflect on the tragic demise of the cassette tape. Sure, mass-produced cassettes sounded awful compared to vinyl, were prone to jam or get eaten by your tape player, and would wear out quickly, but their affordability and the ease of copying made them a goddamn blessing to the underground community. Of course, now with cd-rs, cheap cd burners, and mp3s, it’s even easier to distribute your tunes, but we still feel a bit sentimental toward the oft-maligned cassette tape. From the UK Do-It-Yourself labels (like Fuck Off/Street Level, Deleted, and New Crimes Tapes), to the early K Records and Sub Pop compilations, to the 90s lo-fi bedroom labels (like Shrimper, Elsinor, and Union Pole), the cassette has had a rich, though largely obscure past. Outside of one-man, lo-fi black metal bands and harsh noise artists, it doesn’t seem like anybody manufactures them anymore, and few stores bother to carry them.

And that brings us to this week’s hot pick: the almighty Karp and their self-titled tape. Released in 1992 by Unwound bassist Vern Rumsey’s Punk In My Vitamins label, the tape is eight songs of Karp at their earliest and rawest. Featuring Jared on bass/vocals, Chris on guitar, and Scott on drums, the band’s line-up remained the same until they broke up in the late 1990s. Vern also recorded the band in Olympia’s State Theater, and several songs were later re-recorded for various releases. Some of these songs were also included on the Action Chemistry compilation CD.

The label–-also the name of Vern’s fanzine--released split tapes by Long Hind Legs and Kicking Giant and by Long Hind Legs and Mundt, a short-lived duo featuring Mukilteo Fairy/Tight Bro Quitty and Crimpshire drummer/zinester Aaron Cometbus; they later moved on to releasing vinyl. Sadly, I lost all of my old fanzines during a move, but if memory serves me right, Vern would often include a cassette tape with his ‘zine. Also, if I remember correctly, there might have also been some Thrones and Dub Narcotic tapes.

I’m not sure if Chris did much after Karp, but Jared later fronted the Tight Bros From Way Back When and then reunited with Scott in the great band, The Whip. Sadly, Scott died in a boating accident in 2003. Jared now does double time in Big Business and the Melvins.

The very fine blog Strange Reaction also did a Karp post here, and you can find a complete discography here.

The Falling Under
Me Big Mouth
Handsome Traveler
Blu Blud
30 Ton Press
Propane Activist
Rocky Mountain Rescue
Nine Lives

Get them via zip here.

As a bonus, here's a live Karp show that our friend Jay recorded in Portland:

Live at Reed 10/23/94

-- MC Tom

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coffin Break fanatic

While doing some research on Coffin Break, I noticed that a few different web sites note that they held close to their punk rock roots while everyone else in Seatown was growing out their hair, dressing in flannel, and playing grunge. It’s interesting to read this assessment now, because back in the day, Coffin Break sounded like a prototypical grunge band. In fact, they still sound that way to me now, at least with regard to their early singles.

I don’t say this in derision. As you know, “grunge” isn’t a bad word in the Lamestain offices. In fact, we’d love to someday compose a thoughtful history of the term and how quickly it became co-opted by the mainstream media to refer to all sorts of polished, radio-friendly, clean-sounding music (played by guys with long hair in flannel shirts, of course). We all knew what grunge really was, and it wasn’t Candlebox.

But the stuff about punk rock roots--that is certainly true when it comes to Coffin Break. If Skin Yard, for example, arrived at grunge via art rock, and if Mudhoney came to it via the Stooges and the MC5, then Coffin Break came to it from punk rock--specifically, the early to mid-80s punk rock like the Circle Jerks and Gang Green. (That is, the stuff that has some melody and a pretty good sense of humor.) But when you pop on “Noise Patch,” yes, dear reader, what you hear is grunge. Good grunge!

The band revolved around Pete Litwin on guitar and Rob Skinner on bass, who split vocal duties, and David Brooks on drums; second guitarist Jeff Lorien joined the band a bit later. Litwin’s vocals have a 70s arena rock quality to them, whereas Skinner’s vocals share more in common with the aforementioned melodic punk bands from the early 80s (Skinner sang on “Kill the President,” the Coffin Break song you’re most likely to know). Come to think of it, even their hair reflects this difference (Litwin’s = long, Skinner’s = shaved off).

Coffin Break recorded their debut 7” (“Noise Patch” w/ “Boxes and Boxes” and “Obsession”; 1988; C/Z Records) at the OK Hotel in 1988. The reason you don’t hear any crowd noise is because a change in the zoning status for the OK Hotel meant that the venue had to cancel the show, and the audience shivered outside before heading home in the rain (and in flannel). The venue still permitted the band to record. Of the three songs, “Noise Patch” is my favorite; it reminds me a bit of Bundle of Hiss.

“Just Say No (To Religion)” is closer to straightforward punk. This was on the 1988 C/Z Records compilation, Secretions.

“Pop Fanatic” (1990; C/Z Records) ranked among my favorite singles during my teenage years. I bought it at Cellophane Square after having admired the cover for weeks and weeks; it served as my introduction to the band. It was refreshing to hear it again when we unearthed it after more than a decade, as it’s lively and fun. Skinner’s bass and Brooks’s drums own the song. In a way, it sounds as if it came out of a really lucky jam session. Sadly, they didn’t perform this song the one time I saw them live. Rumor has it that the lyrics take a dig at Sub Pop, although that doesn’t seem likely, as they released a single (“Pray”/“Lies”) on Sub Pop in 1990. I can verify, however, that the cover of “Free Bird” on the b-side isn’t funny or interesting in the slightest; we recommend that you pretend that both sides of the vinyl contained “Pop Fanatic” by listening to that song twice.

Coffin Break released three full-lengths (Rupture, on C/Z Records, and Crawl and Thirteen, both on Epitaph) before parting ways in 1994. Not long thereafter, Litwin formed Softy, who appear to have played more straightforward grunge, although I confess I only know what I’ve heard on that website. Skinner formed a poppier band called Popsickle, who I recall seeing once or twice. Brooks pounded the traps for a number of bands, including the RC5. Coffin Break, of course, reunited for Geezerfest not long ago.

Noise Patch
Boxes and Boxes

Just Say No (To Religion)

Pop Fanatic
Free Bird

And the songs are, as usual, also available via zip file.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Drills - A Conflict of Interest Post!

When Lamestain was wearing diapers, we wrote a very moving piece about the early hardcore band, Deranged Diction. In the post, we mentioned how Seattle had a pretty healthy early 80s punk scene, but sadly, few of the bands ever got around to releasing any records. The Fartz, Solger, the Silly Killers, Fastbacks, and the Rejecters, of course, all released great records, but there were countless other bands that never made it wax. However, some bands at least appeared on a various compilations, so they weren't completely lost to time. It was actually through a reissue of tape compilation that we were introduced to this week's star band, the Drills.

A few years ago, San Francisco label Enterruption moved up to Seattle and opened up a fantastic record store in Wallingford called Electric Heavyland. Named after one of the best Acid Mothers Temple records, the store carried everything from the latest Wolf Eyes' spin-off cassette tape to some UK crust band. They also continued their label and, along with Borderless Countries Tapes and Schizophrenic records, reissued the BTC compilation tapes I'm Buck Naked and Eat Me as the Hardcore Amerika compact disc. Most of the bands played standard hardcore, but there was one band that stood out from everybody else: Seattle's The Drills.

Since the best hardcore, in my humble opinion, is the noisiest, craziest, and most obnoxious, the Drills were like a godsend to me. Immediately after hearing their tracks, I had to learn more about the band. Not only that, but after playing the songs to my girlfriend, we decided that we should finally start our much-talked about record label, Dirty Knobby, and reissue the Drills for the masses. Unfortunately for us, though, the CD listed no information about the band except that they were from Seattle, so we had to put on our Columbo outfits and start investigating.

The first thing we did was email the labels and ask them if they had any Drills contact information; sadly, they didn't. Then we used our Lamestain press credentials and asked various Seattle rock gods, but nobody seemed to remember much about the band. Next we emailed Clark Humphrey--whose book Loser is pretty much the Funk & Wagnalls of northwest music--but once again, nothing. At this point, it seemed like we were going nowhere and we might as well give up on our dream.

To make matters more complicated, the band's name is not very Google friendly. But then Lady Luck smiled in our direction. After going through countless useless links, we found this 1993 Goldmine Pearl Jam article and finally had our first clue:

"The following year, Mr. Epp's "Out Of Control" featured on the Seattle Syndrome Volume Two compilation (Engram 012); Epp also joined the Limp Richerds (again without Arm) on the What Syndrome cassette compilation (Deux Machina CSD 4), a response of sorts to the better known Seattle Syndrome series. The Epp tracks were "Strong Arms Of The Law" and "Keep On Smiling Til The End."

A who's-who of current Seattle talent, "What Syndrome also features Silly Killers, 10 Minute Warning and Hobo Skank, all of which feature future Guns N' Roses guitarist Duff McKagan on drums; Big Machine, the Rejectors, Firing Squad, the Accused, Solger and the Drills."

I have never seen or even heard of the 1983 What Syndrome tape, but now we learned that the Drills were, in fact, from Seattle, and we had their record label name. Searching for "What Syndrome" and "Deux Ex Machina" uncovered this amazing webpage and a scan of the tape's insert.

Tracking down Deux Es Machina turned out to be pretty easy. Once we found contact information, we figured what the hell; we'll email him and ask if he remembers the Drills. It turns out that not only did Deux Es Machina head James Banner remember the band, but he played bass on some of their sessions and still had the recording tapes. He told me that the band was the brainchild of one Patrick McCabe, who lived with him and other punks in Renton at the Death House. The Death House was also home to future members of Skin Yard, Vexed, and, if I remember correctly, the U-Men.

I told James that we would love to release the Drills on vinyl, and he graciously transferred his old tapes to cd-r and mailed them to me. He also contacted Patrick McCabe, ran the idea with him, and gave me his contact information. Patrick, it turns out, did not have anything from the Drills days, but luckily, he was interested in the project and gave us some background information.

I met up with Patrick at the Blue Moon around April, and he gave me the rundown. The band was formed by him and Patrick Thomes when they were both 30-year-old ex-hippies living in the Death House in the early 80s. As he put it, they were tired of "being accused of being boring and worthless old men," so they got some distortion pedals (they always hooked up 2 in a row for maximum distortion--3 would just be a bit too noisy) and a drum machine dubbed "Dr. Rhythm" and recruited some friends, and now they had a band. McCabe became "Detox Jones," and Thomes became "Retox Jones," and Milton Garrison (later of Vexed), Tom Price (U-Men and later Gas Huffer), James Banner (Enstruction), and Bill Warner all appear on the recordings. Milton co-wrote and performed around four songs, and guitar great Tom Price makes a rare appearance playing drums on "No More Beer."

Part of the reason why the band was so mysterious was because they never played any shows. Their Skull Death cassette was copied by themselves and was mainly passed around to friends, though some copies did make it down to San Francisco. McCabe believes that Maximum Rock & Roll reviewed the tape, and a copy might exist in their library, but I don't think anybody kept the issue. A copy also made it down to Jello Biafra, and amazingly, he still had the tape as well as the accompanying letter. The fine folks at Alternative Tentacles were also kind enough to scan and email me copies.

Outside of that, nobody has any Drills photos and, while McCabe use to put together band graphics, nobody was able to locate anything from the old days. Nor do we know the exact recording dates for the band. Since they first appeared on tape in 1983, we can guess that the recordings were made around 1981/1982. To make matters more confusing, the Drills also liked to make up fake biographies and would come up with insane stories about fictional band members.

Perhaps the reason why the band didn't sound like your typical punk band was because the two main members were older than your typical punk rocker and they were, in fact, hippies. Even though bands like Crass were made up of old hippies, there has always been that war between punks and hippies, which everybody probably knows about.

Patrick McCabe's first favorite band was the Kinks, and he used to frequent Seattle's legendary Eagle's Auditorium, which went from hosting the San Francisco psych bands in the late 60s/early 70s to the punk bands in the late 70s/early 80s. Patrick mentioned that the next rock band that gave him a true rush was the Sex Pistols, which makes sense, because there are two unreleased songs on Banner's tape that swipe riffs from the Kinks and Sex Pistols. Patrick Thomes was originally from Michigan and would go see all the Detroit bands at the Grandee Ballroom.

For the record, we went through the recordings and picked out our favorite songs. They recorded their signature song, "I'm Normal," at least a dozen times, and we bookended the record with the version that also appears on the What Syndrome tape and a more hardcore version sung by Milton. "Great Thrash Great Trash" and "Blind Dog" are both 20-second monsters on which McCabe sounds like a possessed animal, and slightly different versions of these songs appear on the I'm Buck Naked tape. "No More Beer" and "Skate Tough" were also on the original Skull Death tape. The cover drawing was done by McCabe, and we think it fits the music perfectly. McCabe also wrote the band bio on the back sleeve, though the typos are our fault. Sorry about that. We have since learned to never approve artworks after a night of drinking beer at the Sloop. Lesson learned. McCabe also provided us a personnel list, which became the insert.

McCabe also had a noise project called VCN, but he mostly concentrates on writing and performing poetry. During our investigation, we also found this 1997 UW Daily article about Patrick.

If you read our Vexed post, you may have also noticed that Patrick's appeared at the Central Tavern's Valentine Show with Soundgarden, Vexed, and the late writer, Steven Jesse Bernstein. Patrick Thomes is back in Washington state, but I am unsure of his musical activities.

"I'm Normal" - alt version
I dunno the title for this song

Go here to stream more songs and here to buy the damn record.

-- MC Tom

Monday, October 29, 2007

A spooooooky post for Halloween: Mr. Epp and the Calculations

Although they had a minor underground hit with their “Mohawk Man” single (reaching #1 on Rodney Bingenheimer’s show on KROQ, Rodney on the Rocks), perhaps the most (in-)famous contribution to music from this era made by Mr. Epp and the Calculations derived from a letter Mark McLaughlin (that is, Mark Arm) wrote in 1981 to the zine Desperate Times. He described Mr. Epp as “Pure grunge! Pure noise! Pure shit!” And not long after that, Kurt Cobain died.

I’ll only give a brief history of Mr. Epp and the Calculations, as that ground is well covered elsewhere (here and here). They named themselves after their math teacher at Bellevue Christian High School. While membership changed frequently during their brief existence (1981 to 1984), Mark Arm, Darren Morey, and Jo Smitty formed the core of the band, and Steve Turner played with them toward the end. Any attempt to run through the line-ups of various recordings would be redundant, as that information covered well in the links above.

In the days since they disbanded, most people who have discovered them have done so out of interest in the members’ subsequent projects. The most famous, of course, were Green River and Mudhoney, but Darren Morey later joined Steel Pole Bath Tub, who maintain a considerable cult following to this day. Smitty kept Mr. Epp’s flame alive in the 1990s, issuing the band’s records through his label Box Dog and in conjunction with Turner’s Super-Electro Records.

Some of the bits I’ve read about Mr. Epp refer to them as a hardcore band, which they’re most assuredly not. A friend of mine, who passed on these digital files, told me that he hears Flipper and the Minutemen. While I don’t believe that Mr. Epp sought to imitate either one of these bands (especially since few musicians have the chops necessary to ape the Minutemen), there’s a strange amount of truth in his description. In a way, they defy categorization. It’s easy to forget that so many punk bands from that era also defied easy categorization; the hidebound punks from the early 80s who adhered to specific ethos and appearances, in fact, serve as targets for Mark Arm in the aforementioned “Mohawk Man.”

I may be making this sound more interesting than it is. We’ll be charitable and state that these fellas went on to make better, more interesting, more exciting music later. “Spooky,” which does for goths what “Mohawk Man” did for Exploited-loving, snaggle-toothed rockers, is probably their best song. The rest? I’d download the whole thing only if you’re a completist.

The first five tracks come from Mr. Epp’s first EP Of Course I’m Happy, Why? (Pravda; 1982); “Spooky” comes from the compilation tape The Public Doesn’t Exist (Dog Tapes; 1982). Box Dog and Super Electro released Ridiculing the Apocalypse, which collects everything, in 1996. As far as I know, it’s out of print; it someone knows otherwise, kindly let me know. Their complete discography is well covered here.

The entire cd is on the .zip file here.

Mohawk Man
No Rights
Wild Youth on Money
Red Brigade



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vexed: Not Your Typical Seattle Funk-Punk Band!

I’ll be honest with you, sonny: if there is one thing that makes me want to run to the hills, it’s funk-rock. Sure, I can bust a move to some of the early funk-punk bands, like Liquid Liquid, Medium Medium, and ESG, but after hearing way too many Red Hot Chili Pepper imitators and long-hair guitarist dudes who have learned the 7#9 chord (aka the Hendrix chord) and suddenly think they are Eddie Hazel, I generally find it best to avoid the genre.

With that in mind, this week’s spotlight artist is Vexed, who were described as having a “relentless funk/rock/death/groove sound” on the 1988 C/Z compilation record Secretions (CZ006). Honestly, if I wasn’t already familiar with the band, chances are I wouldn’t bother to check them out based on that description, and that would be a shame. While the band did incorporate funky bass lines, and while their guitarist played more than barre chords, I’d say that they had more in common with bands like Victims Family and Nomeansno than Psychefunkapus or Infectious Grooves. There was nothing jokey or “jock friendly” about their music; they were politically oriented and owed more to bands like Gang of Four, Dead Kennedys, and Killing Joke than your typical frat party funk rock band.

Also, unlike your typical funk party band, Vexed were made up of punk rock veterans. Bassist Alfred Butlers played in Death of Marat (with Skin Yard’s Daniel House), and singer/guitarist Milton Garrison played in In Vitro Pope, the Altered (with future Soundgarden bassist Hiro Yamamoto), and the Drills (which featured punk rock poet Patrick McCabe). As far as I can tell, though, none of the bands besides the Drills ever released anything.

Vexed formed around 1984 and made their debut on the 1985 compilation tape Pyrrhic Victory, along with Soundgarden, Skin Yard, and 10 Minute Warning. After that, the band appeared on the promo-only 1986 cassette Bands That Will Make Money, which was put together by former KCMU DJ Faith Henschel and featured Soundgarden, Green River, H-Hour (w/ Tad on drums), Skin Yard, Pure Joy, Fred (w/ Amy Denio), and Portland’s Napalm Beach. Their vinyl debut was on the 1987 Ironwood Records compilation LP Lowlife, where they contributed the song “Sixes and Seven.” That label was based in the Ironwood recording studios, which, I believe, is now Avast.

Next, they contributed the song “I Forget” to the 1988 Secretions compilation LP (CZ006). This LP was masterminded by Vertigo Bus’ Patty Herlevi and also featured songs by various Amy Denio projects, Crypt Kicker 5 (featuring Jack Endino on drums), Weather Theatre, Pure Joy, Coffin Break, Skin Yard, Capping Day, H-Hour, and a few others. Secretions came out around the same time as Sub Pop 200 but is more musically diverse and less “scene defining.”

Vexed’s first noncompilation record was the 1988 Maybe 7” EP, with the songs “Ad Nauseum” b/w “Xians” and “Resistivity of a Highly Viscous Fluid” (CZ008); those songs were also added to the CD version of their first record, The Good Fight (CZ021). The Jack Endino-produced record features a mix of instrumental and vocal tracks and is further proof that there was more to the local scene than just grunge.

Continuing with their compilation-appearing blitz, the band contributed the song “GWYM” to the Teriyaki Asthma Volume 4 7”(CZ0023), which also has Alternative Tentacle recording artists, Alice Donut, Icky Joey (Love Battery and Thrown Ups members), and God’s Acre. For fellow record nerds, please note that Milton’s other band, Yeast, also appeared on the first Teriyaki Asthma EP, along with the record debut of Nirvana, former Chrome member Helios Creed, and Coffin Break. The first five volumes were also compiled on CD in 1991; you can buy it here.

With that, the band broke up, only to reform a few years later with new drummer Buzz Crocker who was on loan from fellow C/Z recording artist, Alcohol Funnycar. This version of the band contributed to the 1994 Three on the Tree 7” EP (CZ075) alongside Chicago’s Wreck (featuring Die Kreuzen bassist Keith Brammer) and Seattle’s Engine Kid (featuring a post-False Liberty and Brotherhood and pre-Sunn 0))) and Southern Record co-honcho Greg Anderson). The 1994 Cathexis LP (CZ072) was the band’s swan song, and the members moved the lonely town of Splitzville.

Jack Endino sums up Vexed and their place in Seattle music best on this fantastic band interview:

"Vexed played some of the best shows I ever saw from a Seattle band, but the grunge crowd kept their distance. Their loss," he said. "Remember, history is written by the victors, so Seattle music history is now 100 percent grunge-centric. The 'other' bands we're speaking of here didn't 'do' much to leave a mark. No national tours, no big record deals."

"Afterwards, the grunge thing, though not yet called that by name until '89 or so, sort of separated itself out," he added. "There were the 'hip' Sub Pop bands and then there was everyone else, which was still a lot of great bands. Eventually, the 'everyone else' became sort of an anti-scene, a self-conscious 'Oh well, guess we're not a grunge band, but who cares' thing. But you had bands as diverse as the Young Fresh Fellows, Coffin Break, Gas Huffer, The Gits, heck, a million other great bands who existed. But for a few years, 'everyone else' was overshadowed by the Sub Pop hype juggernaut, to the extent that Sub Pop and 'grunge' simply became synonymous with 'Seattle' to most people who didn't live here. This actually got pretty annoying to the rather large 'everyone else' crowd, as you can imagine... So there you have the situation with Vexed: two albums, no national touring, no hype. Could apply to any of a zillion bands."

And the songs are also on this .zip file.

-- MC Tom

Monday, October 15, 2007

Some updates

We added several links to other blogs on the sidebar. The two that I’ve been checking the most religiously lately are 10 Things Zine and Thee Head Vein. 10 Things is assembled by Dan Halligan, who used to write a punk rock zine in Seattle called Ten Things Jesus Wants You to Know. He updates the blog quite frequently—daily, from the looks of things—with most posts documenting long-gone, obscure punk bands. It’s great stuff. We anxiously await Dan’s coverage of The Recordbreakers! Thee Head Vein is devoted to old school garage rock and the stuff that it has influenced. Although the writer doesn’t focus on any particular region, there’s a fair amount of cross-over with some of the bands we discuss. It’s a great blog with tons of fantastic music.

On the post about Here Ain’t the Sonics, ex-Mono Man Mort left a message with a link to an interview he did on the radio (specifically, Pooner Clark's Locals Only show on KISM) that covers his entire career, starting with his surprisingly excellent high school band (The MPs) and going through The Dehumanizers, Game for Vultures, the Mono Men, and . . . Mort’s an interesting guy and mainstay of the local scene. Give it a listen while you’re at work.

Finally—and this is the coolest news of all—we learned a while back that Green River will be reuniting for a Sub Pop birthday bash next summer! (Actually, we heard about this through the grapevine a while back but have sat on the news, awaiting confirmation.) I can’t express how awesome I think this will be. Mark Arm and Steve Turner played at least one mini-reunion with Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard while touring with Pearl Jam (see the samples below), but this will be, from what I understand, the complete band.

The two tracks come from a one-off reunion at a Pearl Jam show in Las Vegas (November 30th,1993), albeit a reunion without Alex Vincent, who will be part of the upcoming reunion. Enjoy!

Swallow My Pride
Ain't Nothing to Do

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lamestain Answers the Age-Old Question "Who the Fuck Were My Eye?"

If you were sitting on my lap right now, you would probably notice that I am wearing a Columbo-style yellow raincoat and sporting a massive smile, because I have just solved the mystery of long-lost Seattle grunge pioneers, My Eye. The mystery of My Eye’s origin and demise was so mysterious that most people didn't even know that the mystery existed. Since I fancy myself as a semi-professional sleuth, a Philip Marlowe for the grunge era, if you will, I decided to take the job and uncover the truth about My Eye. What I found was both eye-opening and shocking! Or, at least, it was interesting to me. While the band didn’t last very long and didn’t leave much of a recorded history, they did feature members from several prominent bands, and most of them are still performing music regularly.

Now with the job accepted, I donned my deerstalker hat, lit up my bubble pipe, and started looking for clues. The first and most obvious pointers come from the band's appearance on the 1989 C/Z Another Pyrrhic Victory: The Only Compilation of Dead Seattle God Bands LP (CZ012). Perusing the back sleeve with a magnifying glass, I learned that band members were vocalist Steven Van Liew, guitarist Kurtiss (spelled Curtis) Lofstrom, bassist Max Godsil, and drummer Duffy Drew. The record also offers the below information:

“Not much is known about this short-lived band. They were rumored to have lived in the underground Seattle only to come out at night to prey on young teenage girls. Previous single on C/Z is out of print.”

Perhaps sensing that a future detective might someday want to unlock My Eye’s secrets, the record’s clues are purposely misleading. Their single was out of print by 1989, but several investigations into Underground Seattle provided no evidence that the band ever resided there, and there is no proven link between the band and any missing teenage girls. While those bits have proved to be false, the band did contribute the songs "Harder Trust" and "Gets that Way" to the 3000-pressed and Jack Endino-engineered LP. The record also featured unreleased songs by Green River, 64 Spiders, Malfunksun, and H-Hour and never made it to compact disc.

Trying to prove that there was a correlation between My Eye, the Another Pyrrhic Victory LP, and the 1985 Pyrrhic Victory: A Goal Attained At Too Great a Cost cassette tape was also a dead end. The Daniel House-released tape featured early songs by Soundgarden, Skin Yard, Vexed (featuring Milton Garrison from the Drills – stay tuned for an exclusive Lamestain Drills feature!), Feedback (featuring Daniel House and Matt Cameron), the fantastic 10 Minute Warning, and many others, but no My Eye. While it was fruitful to learn about the tape, it did not help me with the My Eye investigation.

The next clue came from their lone 1987 “Empty Box” b/w “So Much Going On” single on C/Z (CZ005). This clue initially threw me off, because the band sounds like post-punkers gone grunge. This assumption ultimately turned out to be wrong. While the songs are gloomy and dark, the band members did not come from the post-punk or Goth scene. Instead, they came out of Seattle’s largely written-out-of-the-history-book hard rock scene. Most notably, Steve and Kurtiss played in early metal titans Overlord, who you can learn more about here. Steve also sang in Shadow, which featured future Rockfords guitarist Mike McCready and later members of Goodness. Duff Drew played in the glam rock band the Trids, which featured feature Zipgun/RC5 singer Rob Clarke, and shared the stage with Culprit, Shadow, and Overlord.

Next, I needed the final answer to the riddle - what happened to the band members? Following My Eye’s split up, a little birdie told me that Steve then sang in Bible Stud and currently plays in the One and Only True Messiah. I was also reliably informed that Max and Duff joined up with ex-Thrown Up John Leighton Beezer, formed Stomach Pump, and released a record on Penultimate records. This has been verified with exhaustive research. Duff has also since played in Toothpaste 2000 and Manray. Kurtiss did some time in Portland’s Crack City Rockers and his current musical whereabouts are unknown.

"So Much Going On"
"Gets That Way"

And the .zip file is here.

-- MC Tom, Private Dick for Hire

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Fastbacks are always right

My introduction to The Fastbacks happened in high school, when I went to see Beat Happening at the OK Hotel with my friends Amy and Khaela. Mecca Normal played the first slot on the bill, and I must admit that we found them a bit abrasive; none of us had heard anything quite like them and were too wet behind the ears to appreciate them. When we mentioned this to Khaela’s cousin, Bret Lunsford, he responded that we might find The Fastbacks more immediately appealing.

The Fastbacks were one of the longest-running bands from the Northwest: they formed just after the first wave of punk (in 1979) and lasted through the hardcore, hair metal, and grunge eras. But they disbanded in 2001, 22 years after their start, so if you didn’t get a chance to see them, you missed something awfully special. They completely knocked our socks off that night. I had never witnessed anything quite as spastic and invigorating as Kurt Bloch jumping around on the stage like a hyperactive child with a bellyful of sugar, somehow never missing a note. Kim Warnick and Lulu Gargiulo played with equal enthusiasm but fewer gymnastics, substituting energy where other bands might prefer precision.

I saw the band four or five times after that, both as openers and headliners, and I can’t recall a single time when they weren’t the best band of the night. They played each show as if it was their very first. I also saw Bloch several times with The Young Fresh Fellows (who we’ll write about eventually) and The Minus 5; he appears to be that excited all of the time.

That excitement and exuberance, however, doesn’t extend to the lyrics, which are usually quite melancholy. In fact, the sharp, sunny melodies create a fantastic counterpoint to the generally glum, lonely subject matter. Whatever you say about The Fastbacks, they weren’t the cool kids growing up, but they also never indulged themselves in the embarrassing, narcissistic emoting of today’s emo and punk bands. The most commonly made comparison, in terms of music, is The Buzzcocks, but The Fastbacks also carried the torch for the more arena-friendly power pop bands of the 70s, like Sweet (whose “Set Me Free” was a staple of their sets) and Cheap Trick. And people may roast me for this, but here it is anyway: I prefer The Fastbacks to The Buzzcocks. Always have.

These tracks all date from their earlier records and singles, some of which Sub Pop later collected on the compilation The Question is NO. Starting in 1992, they recorded mainly with Sub Pop; the earlier labels included No Threes (Bloch’s label), Pop Llama, and Lucky. We’ll eventually get to the Sub Pop records, which are really when the band peaked, as much as I love the older material.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the band’s history with drummers, so here it is: they had a lot of drummers.

Early single tracks:

“Someone Else’s Room” (1981)
“It Came to Me in a Dream” (1986)

From Fastbacks . . . and His Orchestra! (1987)

“Wrong, Wrong, Wrong”
K Street

From Very, Very Powerful Motor (1990)

“Better than Before”
“Everything That I Don’t Need”

From Bike Toy Clock Gift (live in1988)

“Only at Night”
“In America

The songs are also on the .zip file here.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lamestain Parties Like It’s 1989: Geezerfest!

If you had told me 10 years ago that Blood Circus and Cat Butt would reunite for a special one-time only gig at the Crocodile Café, I would have called you a stupid, lying asshole who needs to quit toying with my heart. Well, thankfully neither you nor anybody else made that prediction, so I do not have to eat crow and apologize. As we all know now, those bands along with Swallow, Love Battery, and Coffin Break played their first shows in way too many years, and it felt like the old days again–expect minus the goofy fashion and ridiculous media hype.

Sadly, ungrunge obligations prevented me from seeing the first half of Saturday’s show and my geezer-like stamina meant that I couldn’t also go to Sunday’s show, but all the bands I did see tore it up. Lamestain salutes the Flotation Records crew for coaxing band reunions and organizing the two-day event, and hopefully they’ll do it again next year.

We arrived at the Croc just in time for Love Battery’s set, and they sounded better than ever. The band played all their hits and featured original members Ron and Kevin on guitars, Mike Musburger on drums, and a new guy whose name I can’t remember on bass. Their psychedelic light show also made me feel like I was trippin’ balls, which is a good way to start the evening. According to their Myspace page, they will be working on a new record this fall, so hopefully they will start playing regular shows again.

Coffin Break followed with a tight set and sounded like they never quit practicing. I am not too familiar with the band’s Epitaph records stuff, but I did recognize a bunch of their earlier songs like “Pop Fanatic” and “Kill the President.” Their set was pretty much split 50/50 between their pop songs and heavy songs and the crowd loved them. Look for an exclusive, sure-to-be interesting Lamestain Coffin Break feature in the next few months.

Next up was Swallow who played the classics and also some songs from their finally released 3rd record, which is out now on Flotation Records. According to those in the know, the band sounds better now then they did back in the day. They also split their set between almost-poppy garage and gnarly grunge songs, and rocked da house. Singer/guitarist Rod was also one of the Geezerfest organizers; so once again, we raise our pints and salute his hard work. Swallow have also been playing around town, so check them out, yo.

And then it was time for the triumphant return of Cat Butt. It was the Journey to the Center of Cat Butt line-up’s first show is something like 17 years, but outside of looking older and less grungy, the band sounded great. It looked like the band had a great time, and it was cool to see them back on stage. According to rumors, Journey to the Center will enjoy a lavish CD reissue sometime in 2008. We recommend that you check back on Lamestain at least 10 times a day in case there is any late-breaking news. We can also report that David Duet and Dean Gunderson are now down in Los Angeles and play in the band Hot for Chocolate.

I also can’t help but think that Michael Anderson heard my cry last year and decided to reunite Blood Circus to give Seattle show-goers a much needed asswhoppin’. Thankfully, the band did come out and whip everybody into a shape. They played their debut single, which we all know is one of the era’s classic artifacts, most of the Primal Rock Therapy EP, and Sub Pop 200’s, “The Outback.” Sure they no longer look like the skuzzy biker dudes on their EP, but dammit, they could still kick out the jams. For proof, go to their Myspace page and check out some live clips.

Blood Circus was also selling a new Blood Circus CD compilation of unreleased demo and live songs. The cd songs came from various old cassette tapes, so recording information is slim, but the sound quality is great, and it’s cool to hear all the unreleased songs. They were also selling a fab new shirt and I would have bought one if I didn’t already spend all my dough on $5 beers at the bar. Hopefully the band will be selling these items online.

Go here for photos and here to buy Geezerfest posters and shirts, bubba.

-- MC Tom

Monday, September 10, 2007

More Melvins! More Mudhoney!

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been examining the backlog of records we digitized and trying to get through vinyl we converted months and months ago. One of the records in that backlog was this nifty little bootleg: H.I.V. Groupie Hits Pack, a split single featuring the Melvins and Mudhoney. The recordings themselves kind of suck, and this comes nowhere close to being essential (unlike Soungarden’s fantastic Peel Sessions boot), but the record represents the boots common during the late 80s and early 90s in the Northwest.

Like a lot of young losers, we’d periodically hit the record conventions that would stop by Seattle Center, often in the hopes of finding unreleased goodies. It was very, very common to stumble across dealers who sold nothing but bootlegs, often in 7” format (other booted singles we found back in day include several Nirvana demos, a live Soundgarden single, and the Misfits’ Last Caress EP). The records cost twice as much as legitimate singles and, invariably, were mislabeled. That’s the case with this single, too.

The Melvins contribution, labeled as “The Sails of Charon”/“Just Sixteen” and credited to The Professors on the sticker, is actually a cover of Kiss’s “Goin’ Blind” recorded live at the I-Beam in San Francisco in 1987. The sound quality is so-so, but the performance makes up for it. The Melvins, of course, have a well-documented love for all things Kiss. They covered “God of Thunder” for the Hard to Believe compilation and were occasionally joined by Gene Simmons onstage. Best of all, when Kiss released Alive III in 1993, the Melvins played a release party at the now defunct club RCKNDY! For the hell of it, we’re throwing in the “Goin’ Blind” cover they later released on Houdini.

Melvins “Goin’ Blind” in 1990

The Mudhoney tracks consist of, as far as I can tell, demo versions of “Here Comes Sickness” and “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More” and a live version of “Chain that Door.” The recording quality sucks. Furthermore, “Chain that Door” is mislabeled as “Eruption.” You can imagine the disappointment we felt upon playing this at home and failing to hear Steve Turner make mincemeat of Eddie Van Halen. I love these songs, but there’s no chance that these versions will displace the official versions. The sticker (intentionally) mislabels the band as the Psycho Surgeons, a real Aussie punk band who later morphed into the Lipstick Killers.

Mudhoney “Here Comes Sickness” in 1989.

Don’t expect anything special, but enjoy nonetheless.

Melvins -- "Goin' Blind" (live)
Mudhoney -- "Here Comes Sickness" (demo)

Mudhoney -- "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More" (demo)
Mudhoney -- "Chain That Door" (live)

Melvins -- "Goin' Blind" (from Houdini)

And the songs are on the .zip file here.

Item! Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger recently did a piece on “the best Seattle music blogs that you might not know.” I know that sounds bad, but worst of all, they didn’t even mention lamestain! One of the “Seattle music blogs you should know about,” inexplicably, spends more time covering Fergie and Kanye West than actual Seattle music. We mention this not because we wish you to write angry letters or to burn down the offices of The Stranger, just to point out that, like Bob Pollard and The Simpsons, The Stranger was better in the 90s.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wellwater Conspiracy: The Early Years

When it comes to Seattle supergroups, Wellwater Conspiracy was the best of the bunch. As we all sadly know from hearing the Damn Yankees and Brides of Destruction (wait, did anybody actually buy that record?), supergroups are usually pretty terrible. Seattle, of course, had Temple of the Dog and Mad Season, but Wellwater Conspiracy gets way more play time at Lamestain Headquarters than either of those bands. Unlike those other bands, Wellwater Conspiracy doesn’t sound like a supergroup, and unless you were familiar with the band members and their sometime aliases, you might not be able to guess their rock pedigree by listening to the records. Wellwater Conspiracy had their own sound, so you can’t just describe them as Monster Magnet guitars meet Soundgarden’s rhythm section. Really the only supergroup in town that could give them any competition would be the Monkeywrench.

Starting off as a side project to the already-side-project band Hater, Wellwater Conspiracy featured ex-Skin Yard/Couch of Sound drummer Matt Cameron (aka Tad Dameron), Monster Magnet guitarist John Paul McBain, and March of Crimes guitarist Ben Shepherd (aka Zeb). If we were a stoner rock-focused blog, we would mention that Monster Magnet’s Spine of God is one of the best records in the genre. But we are not, so back to Wellwater Conspiracy.

The band formed during recording sessions for the first Hater record and was originally intended as just a studio project. They eventually started playing live shows and appeared at the 2000 Terrastock festival in Seattle’s Showbox Theater along with Windy and Carl, the Monkeywrench, Ghost, Bevis Frond, Kinski, Moe Tucker, and a bunch more.

Their 1993 debut single “Sleeveless” b/w “You Do You” (SE701) came out on Steve Turner’s amazingly consistent Super Electro record label and is a huge stylistic departure from the member’s better-known bands. Fans expecting anything heavy rock sounding might have been disappointed by the Sixties-style psychedelic pop that put the band more in line with the Paisley Underground than the Flannel rock scene. The 1994 “Trowerchord” b/w “Green Undertow” and “Enebrio” (SE706)EP came complete with an Al Goldstein-approved record cover and featured more trippy guitars and hi-pitched vocals. The band expanded their repertoire to Sixties Japanese beat/psychedelic and covered the Carnabeats’ “Sandy” and the Spiders’ “Nati Bati Yi” for their sleeveless third single (SE707). (You can also find the original “Nati Bati Yi” on the Planet X record’s Monster a Go Go compilation LP, which also features great songs by the Mops, the Carnabeats, the Golden Cups, and the Beavers.)

Their Declaration of Conformity LP (Super 07) (cd on Third Gear Records) came out in 1997, which is also around the time that the modest mice-like emo-kids took over the Seattle scene. The LP features all of the first three single tracks and is one of the more underrated modern psychedelic records. Wellwater Conspiracy has since done a few more records, toured with Pearl Jam, featured guest appearances by Jack Endino, Eddie Vedder (Wes C. Addle), Kim Thayil, and Josh Homme among others, but that falls outside of Lamestain’s very strict, self-imposed timeline.

"You Do You"

"Green Undertow"

"Nati Bati Yi"

And all of the songs are on this .zip file.

-- MC Tom

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hole were, I swear, once a very good band

First of all, yes, we know that Hole technically formed outside of the Northwest—specifically, they formed in Los Angeles, although Courtney Love grew up in Oregon and, of course, lived in Seattle around the time that Live Through This broke big. Eh, close enough

And second of all, yes, I mean what I wrote: Hole’s early material rocks. Live Through This never appealed to me; I didn’t care for the slicked-up vocals or the rather obvious reference to Kurt Cobain’s suicide in the title (and probably elsewhere on the record) or the songs or the hype. And the few tracks I heard from Celebrity Skin sounded pretty dismal. Those records, however, represented Love at the peak of her mainstream fame: Courtney Love of Versace ads and Milos Foreman movies, Courtney Love of ACLU awards, affairs with Edward Norton, and Golden Globes.

A friend-of-lamestain knew guitarist Eric Erlandson in the mid-80s, before Hole, when he was “pretty shy, straight-laced . . fresh-faced and innocent.” The earliest shows sounded completely shambolic—an inept bassist (not on any of their records) who would periodically scream in the microphone, a third guitarist who generated massive amounts of feedback, etc. He reports that Hole attempted to channel “the NYC, lower east side, scuz rock kinda thing,” even to the point that they had hoped to recruit ex-Sonic Youth/Pussy Galore member Bob Bert for drums. Whatever ambitions the band may have had at the time, they certainly didn’t involve photos in Karl Lagerfeld clothes.

Their first single and LP (“Retard Girl” and Pretty on the Inside, respectively) capture the band midway through their trip from scuz rock to radio rock, when the songwriting had sharpened a bit and the band members had figured out how to play off each other. It still amazes me, however, that Love would later achieve such red-carpet success, considering how reckless and wrecked Pretty on the Inside sounded at the time—or even sounds now, for that matter. Some annoying LA-isms pop up here and there (for example, a phone message of Love saying, “Your reputation is shit in this town” gets repeated a couple of times), and I always skip the track in which the band bangs out the chords of “Cinnamon Girl” repeatedly, but overall, it’s a fine record.

(I confess that I didn’t own this record until recently. I picked it up from amazon.com after revisiting the Garbadge [sic] Man video on YouTube, although I certainly knew the music from way back when.)

Some things to clarify about Hole:

1) They were not riot grrls. They may, however, have been part of the “foxcore” movement. (I mention that only to make fun, once again, of Thurston Moore for coining that jackassed term. I mean, come on. “Foxcore”? Ha ha ha.) But riot grrls? No.

2) According to our friend in the know, Eric Erlandson deserves more credit than he often receives for shaping the band. Love may have provided the (anti-)style, the sneer, the self-hatred, and the songs, but Erlandson gave those songs texture and shape. It’s reported that he later even played all of the guitar tracks in the studio. So it’s a bit unfair to think of Hole as Courtney Love + a backup band (http://www.hipmagazine.com/courtneyletter.gif). Speaking of which, Jill Emery plays bass and Caroline Rue plays drums on these records.

3) “Retard Girl” is actually just so-so.

4) Hole released a single on Sub Pop, “Dicknail,” between “Retard Girl” and Pretty on the Inside. It’s pretty good, but we don’t own it.

Retard Girl
Phonebill Song
johnnies in the bathroom

Teenage Whore

And the .zip file is here.


P.S. Coverage of Geezerfest will be up soon!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Here Ain’t the Sonics – The Only Tribute LP without a Sonic Youth Song

Listening to the new Sonics Busy Body Live in Tacoma 1964 LP on Norton Records serves as a reminder that the band was easily one of the best Northwest bands of all time. The Sonics were still young and hadn’t quite broken out of the Wailers mold (especially on side A, which is mostly instrumental cover songs), but you can still sense the greatness that was about to happen. As far as original garage rock goes, the Sonics were one of the loudest, hardest-driving, and coolest punk bands in the land. Really, 40 years later, bands are still unsuccessfully trying to outdo the Sonics. As part of Norton’s brilliant Northwest garage rock series, the live LP--along with the Here Are the Sonics, Boom, and to a lesser extent, the Savage Young Sonics--are must-haves for thee garage rock sect.

It’s also common knowledge that great tribute records are hard as hell to pull off. Nonetheless, Bellingham’s Estrus Records and Conrad Uno’s Seattle-based, Popllama Records put in a valiant effort with the 1989 Here Ain’t the Sonics LP. The Northwest garage rock scene was pretty small at the time, so the labels searched across the US and World (well, at least, England and Sweden) and picked out some of the heavyweights. Unfortunately, the record is only so-so. While we are sure that nobody involved expected to accomplish the impossible and one-up the Sonics, we do wish that some of the bands tore it up a bit more.

The record starts off well enough with Sweden’s original garage punk rock revivalists, the Nomads, who were still a few years away from kick-starting the 90’s Swedish Punk and Roll scene with bands like the Hellacopters and Gluecifer. (The Nomads, who have impeccable taste in their cover songs, have also done the Sonics songs “Boss Hoss,” “He’s Waiting,” and “Psycho” on various other recordings.) Tacoma’s pride and joy Girl Trouble do a respectable version of “The Hustler,” but in my professional opinion, they don’t quite own the song like they do with their Elvis covers. The Mono Men also performed better Sonics covers in the later Mort-era of their career; their versions of “Boss Hoss” and “He’s Waiting” on numerous other records are looser, louder, and more in the Sonics spirit than this version of “The Witch.”

Brother JT’s phenomenal former band, The Original Sins, do a fairly good job with “Like No Other Man,” which then begs the question why this band wasn’t appreciated more. If there is ever a 90’s garage rock record that demands to be heard, it’s their Bedlam records release Turn You On, which you can finally now buy on CD here. (Ripping off the Mummies or Supercharger is old news, kids; try writing a song as good as “Just 14” or “O Misery” instead.) Brother JT also continues to make great records to this day.

Screaming Trees then take one of the punkest Sonics songs and somehow make it sound like a bummer. Obviously, Mark Lanegan wasn’t known as a screamer, but you shouldn’t cover “Psycho” unless you are willing to rip your throat out. Bellingham’s Game for Vultures featured Mort fresh out of the Dehumanizers, and Oregon’s long-running Surf Trio do a version of “Strychnine” that is missing some of the menacing quality of the Cramps’ earlier cover version.

Side two begins with Billy Childish’s legendary band Thee Headcoats, who released records on more Northwest labels than most Northwestern bands; besides this record, the band released records on Regal Select, Sub Pop, Estrus, Super Electro, and K Records, and amazingly, they are all great. Pittsburgh’s The Cynics, whose members split their time in band with running the very cool Get Hip Records, were also one first and longest running American garage rock revival bands. The Young Fresh Fellows, of course, deserve their own post someday, and this song features Kurt Bloch on shredding lead guitar.

It’s a mystery whether Pippi Eats Cherries were a one-off or a real band, but this band-featured ex-Gun Club and Pontiac Brother Ward Dotson before he formed the much better and sorely underrated Liquor Giants. (The Liquor Giants’ “Play Along” 45 on Seattle’s Lucky Records is a lost power pop gem.) The still-sounding-great Fall-Outs provide another album highlight and were able to make the song sound like their own. Marshmallow Overcoat proves that Black Sun Ensemble weren’t the only psychedelic band in Tucson in the mid-1980’s; they’re still around playing shows.

Former U-Man and part-time Drills drummer (uncovered here first, bubba!) Tom Price leads the Kings of Rock through “Boss Hoss.” (The band also covered “The Witch” on an early In the Red single.) The album then ends with San Diego’s Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper, whose claim to fame in the 1980 was celebrity parody songs. A track by the Nights and Days, the Night Kings, or whatever Rob Vasquez was doing at the time would have been cooler and more fitting, but hey, the label has got to make some money someway.

This record was also not the only local Sonics tribute. In 2000, the Experience Music Project hosted a concert by the New Strychnines, which featured Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, Steve Turner, and Dan Peters; the aforementioned Tom Price; Girl Trouble’s Big Kahuna; Young Fresh Fellow and Minus 5 head-honcho Scott McCaughey; and Craig Florey. They later changed their name to the New Original Sonic Sound and recorded a CD for Munster Records.

Cinderella - Nomads
The Hustler - Girl Trouble
The Witch - Mono Men
Love No Other Man - The Original Sins
Psycho - Screaming Trees
He's Waiting - Game for Vultures
Strychnine - Surf Trio
You've Got Your Head on Backwards - Thee Headcoats
Shot Down - The Cynics
High Time - Young Fresh Fellows
Dirty Old Man - Pippi Eats Cherries
Going Home - Fallouts
Maintaining My Cool - Marshmallow Overcoat
Boss Hoss - Kings of Rock
Have Love Will Travel - Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper

Get them all through the zip file here.

-- MC Tom

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.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

By Popular Request: Room Nine!

As writer Clark Humphrey noted way back in 1993, one of the biggest clichés when describing Northwest bands is that such-and-such a band "is not your typical Seattle band." Chances are you have seen everybody from Sky Cries Mary to Forced Entry to FCS North described that way. In truth, only about a handful of bands defined the “typical Northwest sound,” while the rest of them played hard rock, punk, garage, metal, new wave, or whatever. Obviously, labeling everything “grunge” or “not grunge” makes for crappy and lazy music journalism that only gives a narrow view of what happened in Seattle over the past couple of decades.

That said, Room Nine weren't your typical Seattle band (har har). If anything, their rainy day sound had more in common musically with 1980's UK post-punk bands like the Chameleons, Echo and the Bunnymen, and, at times, the Psychedelic Furs than with all the My War-era Black Flag meet Black Sabbath influenced punk bands. They played mid-tempo songs with plenty of reverb and chorus, which would probably sound a bit dated today if it weren’t for such a renewed interest in that sound among so many modern bands. Seattle, of course, had its fair share of other UK-influenced pop bands, such as early Pure Joy or Weather Theatre, which goes to show it wasn’t just stinky guys in flannel shirts abusing their Big Muff fuzz pedals in the club scene.

Room Nine was formed in the early 80s by singer/guitarist Ron Rudzitis (or Ron Nine), bassist/keyboardist Scott Boggan, and drummer Scott Vanderpool and was probably one of the few local bands that had their own lightman, Michael Laton. They made their live debut opening for Student Nurse and were signed to C’est La Mort records, which might have been Louisiana’s only independent label that specialized in synth pop, goth, and post-punk. Scott Vanderpool eventually moved to Olympia and showed up in bands like the Young Pioneers and Chemistry Set and was replaced by Shawn Allen, who stuck with the band until their break-up in the late eighties.

Room Nine contributed “Angel Sings” to the 1986 C’est La Mort compilation record, Doctor Death's Volume I, and “A Thousand Years” to the 1987 Ironwood Records compilation, Lowlife. The Lowlife compilation, which features a photo of Chris Cornell on the cover, was recorded Jay Follette and Paul Scoles and also featured songs by Vexed, Walkabouts, Pure Joy, Feast (featuring a pre-Mudhoney Dan Peters), Bundle of Hiss, Terry Lee Hale, Melting Fish, Clay Alien, and 5 Sides Collide. (Incidentally, Ironwood studio is also where Chris Hanzsek recorded Soundgarden, Melvins, Skin Yard, etc. for the 1985 C/Z records debut, the Deep Six compilation.) Room Nine then released their only full-length, the Voices….. of a Summer’s Day in 1987, played around town a lot, and then broke up around the turn of the decade.

Ron went on to form Love Battery and has since reunited with Scott Boggan and Vanderpool as the band, Down with People. Both Love Battery and Down with People will be playing the Geezerfest at the Crocodile on August 25th and 26th.

Circus Floor
Revolving Door
Seas Without a Shore
White Summer
Don't Look Back
Red Dog

For some reason, mediamax won't upload the last couple songs, but you can get them all in a .zip file here.

- MC Tom