Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Bungling of Truly

Hiro Yamamoto’s departure from Soundgarden happened at an unlikely time—right after they released their first major label record, Louder Than Love—and fundamentally changed the sound of the band. Although I like much of Soundgarden’s arena-rock material, none of it holds a candle to the sludgy, dirge-y early stuff. So when Yamamoto resurfaced in Truly not long thereafter, it excited me, and I picked up (and later lost, and later picked up again) Truly’s first release, the Heart and Lungs EP (Sub Pop #0118), almost immediately after its release.

A fair amount of buzz circulated around Truly owing to the band member’s resume. Not only did they include Yamamoto, but former Screaming Tree Mark Pickerel pounded the skins. Furthermore, singer/guitarist Robert Roth originally fronted another well-known band, before Sub Pop forced the band to replace him. And that band was called . . . Nirvana!

OK, I’m kidding about that last bit.

Truly’s homepage contains several reviews, interviews, etc. One of the funnier ironies I learned from the interviews is that both Pickerel and Yamamoto left their respective bands when the pressure applied by the major labels turned making music into a job. Truly must have appeared to promise less pressure. Truly, of course, later signed with a major themselves.

Heart and Lungs, which was produced by the band plus John Auer of the Posies, was a fine ep. Musically, they sounded little like either Soundgarden or Screaming Trees. Instead, they played an unhappy, narcotic brand of indie rock, at times bearing a slight resemblance to Pavement and Sonic Youth, if either of those bands had decided to drink a bottle of Robitussin before playing. While they have a strong sense of melody—especially on the wonderful “Married in the Playground”—marketing a slate-gray band like Truly must have given Capitol Records a headache.

Tom mentioned to me a few weeks ago that he had never encountered a Truly fan; I haven’t either. At least in part, Truly’s pedigree can be faulted, as the Heart and Lungs EP lacks the carnality of Soundgarden or the psych/garage punch of Screaming Trees; Truly’s charms don’t present themselves as immediately. Most blame lies, however, with Capitol, who bungled their handling of this group. Capitol signed Truly while they were in the midst of recording a full-length for Sub Pop that went unreleased. Four years passed between Heart and Lungs and their debut for Capitol, Fast Stories . . . from Kid Coma. By the time Fast Stories hit the racks, Kurt Cobain had killed himself, and the music press had relocated to some hipper, younger scene. All of the buzz had been squandered.

Floodwatchmusic.com has a review of Fast Stories that’s worth a read. I have to confess that I’m among the many who forgot about Truly between releases, and I’ve never owned anything but Heart and Lungs.

Word of warning: my copy of Heart and Lungs has some scuffs and scratches, so the last two tracks contain a couple of skips. I copied the two songs from the “Leslie’s Coughing Up Blood” single from Robert Roth’s homepage; I’m not sure whether this version of “Virtually” was the same as that on the original single, or whether Truly rerecorded it for Fast Stories. I also snagged the excellent “Blue Flame Ford” from that site.


Heart and Lungs

Heart and Lungs
The Color Is Magic
Truly Drowning
Married in the Playground

Leslie’s Coughing Up Blood

Leslie’s Coughing Up Blood

Fast Stories . . . from Kid Coma

Blue Flame Ford

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Girl Trouble: Grunge By Association

Hey Lamestain –

Girl Trouble has no business being on your blog. Five reasons:

1. They didn't play grunge. Instead of that sludgy, angst-filled, punk-metal hybrid popularized in late'80s/early '90s Seattle, Girl Trouble's upbeat, dance-friendly, '60s R&B/garage-type music had far more in common with the Sonics than, say, Skin Yard. Still, they shared area gigs with the 'Yard, along with other grungebags like Green River and the Screaming Trees. On February 29, 1989, at the University of Washington's HUB Ballroom, a relatively unknown Nirvana opened for them. Likewise, GT's first LP, Hit It or Quit It, was released on Sub Pop in September 1988, before the seminal grunge label issued Nirvana's "Love Buzz" or Bleach (or, for that matter, Superfuzz Bigmuff and God's Balls, but not before Screaming Life, Dry as a Bone and "Touch Me I'm Sick"). Besides a couple earlier singles on K Records, Girl Trouble also contributed a track to the '88 compilation Sub Pop 200. Amongst typically heavy, brooding cuts by Blood Circus and Cat Butt (whose David Duet briefly sang for Girl Trouble), GT represented with an atypical cover of "Gonna Find a Cave" by the Banana Splits. Not grunge.

2. They didn't look grunge. Despite being photographed by unofficial grunge photog Charles Petersen, Girl Trouble did without the customary flannels, thermals, shaggy manes, Doc Martens and whatnot. Instead, the foursome dressed more like, what, Salvation Army beatniks? During their shows they'd often wear top hats, motorcycle helmets and beanies. For "Six Days on the Road" they wore trucker caps; for "Give Me Back My Wig" they wore -- wait for it! -- wigs. Instead of stage-divers, GT's shows attracted go-go dancers, ages 8 to 80 (actually, at her last performance, Granny Go-Go was 82). And instead of showering audiences with sweat and beer, they showered their crowds with cheap novelty trinkets. Better yet, after most shows, they'd hand out copies of Wig Out! -- the official GT 'zine -- which covered such topics as junk food, thrift-store scores, kiddie-show hosts, lousy movies and the Trinity Broadcasting Network. But yeah, they didn't look grunge.

3. They weren't from Seattle. Girl Trouble hailed from Tacoma -- as the seagull flies, that's 26 miles down the sound from Sub Pop Rock City. In spite of the relative proximity, they certainly weren't a part of any so-called "Seattle scene." In fact, they were conspicuously proud of their hometown roots, as celebrated in "My Hometown" (heard in the grunge documentary Hype!, as well as on the film's soundtrack). If anything, as far as "livability" circa '88, Tacoma was a far grungier burg than Seattle!

4. They didn't break up. Girl Trouble formed in 1983, long before most outfits featured on this blog, and they've rocked with regularity right up to the present, long after most of these bands expired (the mighty Melvins notwithstanding). After nearly a quarter-century of musical mirth, wildman singer Kurt " K.P." Kendall, guitarist Bill "Kahuna" Henderson, bassist Dale "Buddy Love" Phillips and drummer Bon Von Wheelie continue to prove themselves trend-proof, recession-proof, and, well, grunge-proof.

5. They also didn't do heroin, flaunt tattoos and piercings, inspire clueless fashion trends, marry Courtney Hole, appear on MTV, get signed by a major label, get dumped by a major label, get involved in lawsuits, commit suicide, or do anything else to embarrass themselves. Still, Girl Trouble remains lumped in with all those other grungewads, simply because they happened to play in the same approximate geographic area, during the same era, and in the same "underground" clubs as the Tads and the Pearl Jams.

But whatever. At the risk of perpetuating the Girl-Trouble-is-grunge myth at this late date, they remain one of my all-time favorite bands, and I'm happy to spread the word whenever I can.


Cleopatra and the Slaves EP

Cleopatra and the Slaves
Who Do You Think You're Foolin'

Riverbed 7"

She No Rattle My Cage


I'll Make You Sorry
Mohair Sam

Monday, January 22, 2007

Special guest post

Our good friend Steve kindly agreed to write a post about Tacoma garage rockers Girl Trouble. It will appear later in the week. In the mean time, check out his blog--the link is over here ------>

Monday, January 15, 2007

Where Have You Gone, Michael Anderson of Blood Circus?

At Lamestain HQ, we don’t fully blame the kids for their awful taste in music. At first, we thought that kids today don’t want to rock, and we figured that is why so many of them illegally download Maroon 5 or Fall Out Boy records. Then we realized that these kids are also filling their iPods with Jet, Buck Cherry, and Godsmack songs. It’s not that they don’t want to rock–it’s that they don’t know how to rock. And really the only person man enough to teach today’s myspace generation how to truly rock is Michael Anderson of Blood Circus. Unapologetically loud, unpretentious, and not afraid of spilling beer or bumping elbows at a show, Michael Anderson would be a great role model for aspiring young rockers. The question is then where did he go and why doesn’t Blood Circus reform and teach this tired town a thing or two about rock? Sadly, we don’t know. All efforts (okay, only 2 efforts) to contact the band were unsuccessful; therefore, we can only assume that the band members are so disgusted by today’s terrible musical climate that they have gone into seclusion. We can’t blame them.

Following a short stint in Swallow, Michael Anderson formed Blood Circus in the late 80’s with guitarist Geoff Robinson, bassist Tracey Simmons (aka T-Man), and drummer Doug Day. Taking their name from an unreleased, no-budget sci-fi movie, Blood Circus made their vinyl debut in 1988 with the “Two Way Street” b/w “6 Feet Under” single on Sub Pop (SP13). Before the record-buying public figured out what had pummeled them, the band then contributed the song “The Outback” to the Sub Pop 200 compilation. The Primal Rock Therapy EP followed in 1988, and while it was released in between Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Big Muff and Nirvana’s "Love Buzz" single, it failed to turn Blood Circus into rock stars or impress the fickle English music press. Like their debut single, the EP was recorded by Jack Endino at Reciprocal Studios and has sonic elements of the Melvins, MC5, and Motorhead. The EP also features the song “Gnarly,” which is noteworthy because it is the only grunge song about surfing. As Jon Poneman correctly once wrote, their records are the “grunge acid test.” If you want a singer with a Messiah complex and a message, look elsewhere. If you want a band that just intends to crash your party, drink all your beer, and then puke on your new carpet, Blood Circus are for you.

After Blood Circus split in 1990, Michael was in Hard Belly Lloyd with ex-Swallow members, but as far as I can tell, did not release any more records. T-Man later joined Bro’ James’ post-Cat Butt band Yummy for some records and also vanished. Geoff and Doug’s post Blood Circus musical endeavors are also a mystery.

Luckily for you, Sub Pop was flushed with cash after Green Magnet School’s mainstream success, so they wisely reissued Primal Rock Therapy on CD in 1992, with their debut single and five songs from an aborted 1989 recording session as bonus tracks. Whether the band has more, unreleased songs tucked away in a closet or somewhere is unknown. At the time of reissue, the band did a couple reunion shows around Seattle and can briefly be seen destroying the Crocodile CafĂ© in the documentary, Hype. After that, the band descended back to underground Seattle, and we haven’t heard from them since.

While most people like to bring up how Primal Rock Therapy was panned by critics and barely sold any copies at the time, we are hippies and like to focus on the positive aspects of the record. Beside rocking harder than most 1980’s metal bands, the band also held up fairly well against the test of time. While the production might place them squarely in the early Sub Pop grunge category, their songs aren’t that far from sounding like some of the better, modern rock revival acts. So put them in the CD changer with some Monster Magnet, Comets on Fire, Ufomammut, and Big Business records, crank the volume, bust open a Lucky 40oz, eat some Cheetos, and then start breaking things over your roommate’s head. That’s what Michael Anderson would do.

Two Way Street
Six Feet Under
My Dad's Dead
Lime Green
White Dress

Buy it here.

-- MC Tom

Monday, January 08, 2007

Historia de la Musica Tad, vol. II

My friend Jay and I used to ride the number 8 bus on the first leg of our way home from high school. The 8 dropped us off in the University District. We’d then transfer to another bus (for me, the 43), which usually didn’t arrive for twenty or thirty minutes. We’d kill the time between busses by running over to the original Cellophane Square on 42nd and University and searching through the record bins. Maybe we’d grab a slice at Hot Lips Pizza on the Ave.

The original Cellophane lacked much room; anytime more than three or four people stopped in, everybody would jostle for space. It seemed especially cramped on rainy days, which meant the entire winter and most of the spring and fall. Rare and collectable singles hung on the wall behind the counter, and among those singles was the TAD/Pussy Galore "Damaged" split. (The single would have been practically new; those old Sub Pop and C/Z records often attained collectable status within weeks.) A couple of years later, Nirvana would sign to Geffen--you know the rest--and the prices for anything on Sub Pop skyrocketed.

We picked this single up years later (although I found these mp3s on the blog Strange Reaction several months ago), once the prices for grunge records returned from the stratosphere. It feels cool to finally own this. The song itself is no great shakes, but I love the opening ("My name’s Tad, and you’re stuck with me!"), the AC/DC breakdown, and the tongue-in-cheek nihilism of it all. It amuses me to listen to this now and remember that Sub Pop released it only a couple of years before TAD signed with a major label—one of the less likely major label deals that one can imagine. But by that point, Cellophane Square had moved their U-district store to a bigger shop several blocks north, and Hot Lips had shut its doors for good--frankly, everything had changed.

But enough with the nostalgia. Here are the specs: Sub Pop released "Damaged 1"/"Damaged 2" split (SP #0037) in June 1989 as the eighth installment in their Singles of the Month Club. I don’t know how many copies were pressed, but it probably wasn’t many. I’m pretty sure (but not certain) that, like TAD’s first single ("Ritual Device"/"Daisy"; see our September archive) and "Tuna Car" on God’s Balls, Tad Doyle plays all instruments. (Pussy Galore came from the wrong coast, but we’re including their side here as well.)

"Habit and Necessity," which I’m including now because I don’t know when I would otherwise write about it, comes from the third volume of Amphetamine Reptile’s Dope-Guns-and- Fucking-in-the-Streets (Scale 18; 1989). I can’t find much information about this track, although clearly TAD had grown into a full band by now; in fact, on "Habit and Necessity," they sound more like the steely, Big Black-ified band on Salt Lick than the heavy, sludgy band on God’s Balls. I have no idea who recorded it, as it appears in neither Steve Albini’s nor Jack Endino’s recording discography, and it doesn’t obviously bear any of Albini’s or Endino’s hallmarks. It’s a great song, though, so you’re welcome.

TAD--"Damaged 1"
Pussy Galore--"Damaged 2"
TAD--"Habit & Necessity"


Monday, January 01, 2007

The Hellcows: Or Portland Kisses and Makes Up for Producing Nu Shooz

As a rule of thumb, I will buy and enjoy any record by bands that remind me even slightly of Captain Beefheart. Edgar Broughton Band, Hampton Grease Band, Bloodloss, Sapat, etc. are all great. Portland, Oregon, band The Hellcows are also on the list. Like The U-Men (who they shared record labels with), The Hellcows’ singer does a pretty good Beefheart imitation. I’d also say they were less rooted in garage rock or The Birthday Party than the U-Men and more prone to art/noise spazziness. It’s not surprising that The Hellcows were also closely aligned with the great, long running Portland by way of the Los Angeles Free Music Society band, Smegma: Mike Lastra recorded them at Smegma Studios, and the two bands shared bills and released a split single.

The band comprised Brian Koelling (vocals, trombone, percussion), Gerry Ostrem (sax, guitar, harmonica), Eric Stotik (guitar, tape, percussion), Carl Annala (bass, guitar, percussion), and Mike King (drums, percussion), and their 1987 debut EP, G-Spot Crush, was so good that it was released twice by two different labels: Smegma’s Pigface Records (#12) and Black Label Records (based out of Fallout Records). Black Label then released the Toothless (BLR-005) full-length in 1988 and the Carrot Show EP in 1990. Fallout Records were selling copies of Toothless until they closed in 2003. Maybe the inside photo of two band member sporting White Zombie shirts scared off potential record buyers. I’m pretty sure Toothless also came out on tape, much like The U-Men’s Step on a Bug record. The band also released the Idiodyssey split single with Smegma in 1989 on Portland’s Rockport Records (#002, 950 pressed) and the Paver EP in 1991 on T/K records (TK917003). By the time of the Paver EP, Sean Croghan of Crackerbash/ Junior High was playing in the band. The band also appeared on a couple compilation records. They contributed the song "Shortnin' Bread" to SST's 1988 Melting Plot compilation, which also included songs by Sonic Youth, Das Damen, and Painted Willies, and they included the song "The Five" to Tulpa's 1990 Fog 3 EP (TP #11), which also included songs by Wayne Roger's amazing band, Crystalized Movements, way outside free jazzers Paul Flahery and Randall Colbourne, and the Larry Mondello Band.

Pre- and post-Hellcow history is a bit hard to find, but all of the band members were involved in many other bands or the Portland art/book scene. We sorely regret not mentioning Carl Annala’s brief involvement in Earth in our otherwise brilliant post and that the bands played some shows together. Carl and Eric also reunited in a band called Plastic Horn Devil (a nod to Captain Beefheart’s song “Telephone”), who put some cool records.

Since we are still feeling the Holiday spirit, we thought we would include the Hell Cows/Smegma split single as an extra gift to you. In a perfect world, there would be tens of thousands of blogs devoted solely to Wolf Eyes’ godparents, Smegma, but our society is just not there yet. We also relish at the opportunity to tell our great, great grandkids about the time we saw Smegma, Ghost, and Six Organs of Admittance at Chop Suey or Smegma and Caroliner at the Re-Bar. I’m sure they will be impressed.

*THIS JUST IN* You can buy the Fog 3 Comp here.

G-Spot Crush EP



Hellcows - "Black Pearl" (parts 1 and 2)
Smegma - "Tent"

--MC Tom