We titled a previous lamestain entry “Always the bridesmaid: Jason Everman.” While the appellation “bridesmaid” certain applies to Mr. Everman, one could argue (as the Trouser Press Record Guide did) that it befits grunge progenitors Skin Yard even more. Indeed, Skin Yard guitarist Jack Endino was the primary architect of the Seattle sound because of his work behind the boards for Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Tad, Love Battery, Green River, and everybody else. It would be difficult to underestimate his sonic contributions to grunge. Skin Yard, however, never really attained anything more than cult status.
That cult has proven to be remarkably resilient. More than a decade has passed since Skin Yard folded, yet I still encounter people who love them. Of the bands from that era that I never saw live, the two I most regret missing were Dickless and these guys. But I can understand why they appeal deeply to some people yet failed to get much traction with larger audiences. For one thing, they took a 14-month hiatus right as the attention on Seattle reached its fever pitch. Also, grunge borrowed elements from the subcultures of metal and punk rock. Skin Yard added a third prong—they started as an “art rock” band, and I use that term only because it captures eclectic music that doesn’t comfortably rest in any particular genre.
Skin Yard formed in 1985 with Endino on guitar, C/Z Records president Daniel House on bass, Ben McMillan on vocals, and future Soundgardener Matt Cameron on drums. They appeared on the landmark Deep Six compilation shortly thereafter and released their eponymous debut the following year. Daniel House wrote that this record “bears only limited resemblance to the band which we later became. Not as heavy, more intricate and arty.” He neglected to mention that they’re also not as good. Personally, I do not like this record. At all. Nonetheless, it’s worth a listen, as Skin Yard arrived at grunge from a very different direction than other bands of that time, and this LP documents that sound.
Much better is their 1998 Hallowed Ground LP. Norman Scott had replaced Matt Cameron (with Jason Finn’s nine-month tenure falling in between), and the band had discovered their strengths. The paranoia of their debut remains, but they propel it forward with more urgency and volume. I found it difficult to choose representative mp3s from the first record because I don’t care for it; with Hallowed Ground, I like the entire LP so much that limiting myself to a small number of songs proved to be difficult.
Skin Yard released a few more records that we’ll cover at a later point. It’s interesting to note that, although Endino played a massive role in Sub Pop’s success, Skin Yard released only one 7” (“Start at the Top”) on that label, and House’s C/Z label released only the first record. Most of their records came out on Greg Ginn’s Cruz Records, a label better known for sunny Southern California pop-punk, like Big Drill Car and Chemical People—bands that couldn’t be more different from Skin Yard.
Deep Six compilation
Skins in My Closet
We’re experiencing a serious bandwidth crunch right now, so your best bet for obtaining these songs is by downloading the zip file here. To be honest, I had more misgivings than usual about posting mp3s for this post, as Skin Yard’s cds and mp3s can all be purchased via Jack Endino’s homepage. Plus, he may even throw in a freebie with your purchase. Consider these tracks an introduction or a reminder of the band’s greatness, and make your way to Endino’s garage sale post-haste and buy everything he’s selling. Twice.