Monday, March 26, 2007

Screaming Trees' Golden Tongue

Anybody who has semi-seriously collected music eventually performs a periodic purge, when he or she loads up a box of CDs and LPs that rarely earn time on the stereo and takes it down to Cellophane Square or wherever. Most of the time, we don’t regret these purges; if we did, then the “P” section wouldn’t be stuffed with dusty copies of Primus’s Sailing the Seas of Cheese. Every now and then, though, we make hasty decisions based on superficial needs (e.g., rent, tuition, bail) and stupidly unload something of real value. We then feel like total boners for years and years to come.

At least we got $40 for Screaming Trees’ Change Has Come double-7”.

Six months ago, the blog Sweet Oblivion posted a two-part history of Mark Lanegan (here and here) that included two of the four songs (five, if you’re using the cd version) from the EP. I downloaded ‘em and then called Tom to see whether we still had the original 7”s.

“Dude, I sold that like ten years ago.”

Luckily, one of our readers, Casey, traded me the remaining tracks. While it was great to hear those tunes again for the first time in a decade or so, it also increased the amount of regret I felt about parting with the EP in the first place.

I won’t go into too much detail about the history of Screaming Trees, as the Sweet Oblivion posts cover that material already. I will note, however, that they became an awfully good band during the second half of their existence, and that improvement started with this single. In the early 90s, the samples I heard of their SST records didn’t impress me much, and I recently purchased the SST collection and found that, save for a few tracks here and there, my initial impressions weren’t too far off the mark. Once Mark Lanegan’s voice deepened and ashened and Jack Endino muscled up the guitars, the band hit their stride.

"Change Has Come" live, sometime in 1990.

“Days” and “Flashes” recall their earlier, more garage-y material the most, albeit with an improved ear for melody. “Time Speaks Her Golden Tongue” mixes 60s psychedelica with grunge nearly perfectly; there’s a Mojave Desert quality to it not heard elsewhere in their catalog. Best of all, however, are “Change Has Come” and “I’ve Seen You Before.” The former has such an amazing melody that you don’t notice the simplicity of the underlying guitar riff. The latter builds atop a drone that wouldn’t sound out of place on Soundgarden’s Ultramega: OK; this is the aforementioned fifth song that didn’t appear on the vinyl.

We do still own a few Screaming Trees odds and ends, including the cool EP they did with Beat Happening, but we’ll post those later because we’re a bunch of teases, and we plan to string you along for months and months.

Change Has Come

Time Speaks Her Golden Tongue
I’ve Seen You Before

The zip file can be found here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mort’s Pre-Mono Men Rock History and Why Lou Guzzo Still Sucks.

As a long-time Lamestain reader, you probably know that Bellingham holds a very special place in our hearts. While we hated living up there at the time, we have since realized that Bellingham is actually a pretty cool town. Really, most of the hatred was because of Sehome High School and the fact that none of their cheerleaders would ever talk to me about Blood Circus or Tad. Sigh. Besides that, Bellingham has some great things going for it. Perhaps the greatest thing to ever come out of the ‘Ham were the Mono Men. Yes, before Idiot Pilot took the world by storm, the Mono Men were voted Bellingham’s Most Likely to Succeed Band. For it was through Crider and Company’s awesome cover songs that we learned about the Nomads, the Scientists, and the Outsiders back in ye olde days, and we are forever grateful for it. If it weren’t for the influences of the Mono Men, Estrus Records, and the sorely missed 3B Tavern, we’d probably be boring doctors or Senators instead of hot-shot rock & rollers. And while Dave Crider was considered the “cute” Mono Man, we always favored the “smart” one, Mort. Lamestain will eventually get to the Mono Men, but right now we are going to give props to Mort’s earlier bands, the legendary Seattle hardcore band the Dehumanizers and Bellingham’s garage rockers Game for Vultures.

The Dehumanizers formed in 1984 and recorded a few records, swapped out some band members, played a ton of shows, and then broke up in the late 1980s. Our favorite line-up was the one featured on the 1986 Kill Lou Guzzo EP (Subcore Records SUB7EP0001) and consisted of Mort (bass/vocals), Zoli (guitar), Infra Ed (drums), Intense (bass), and Gobot (vocals). They played fast hardcore punk with a slight thrash metal influence that was creeping into the scene by the mid-80s. Their label, Subcore Records, is also long gone, but at the time, label honcho David Portnow had a bit of a record label empire. Besides Subcore, he ran Ever Rat Records (metal), Ever Dread (reggae), and Ever Rap (uh, rap), and he released records by the pre-Treepeople band State of Confusion, Coven, A.M.Q.A., the Accused, the Mentors, Lethal Dose, Dumt, and the Metal Metaldown compilations. The Kill Lou Guzzo EP was probably his most infamous record because it set off a legal brouhaha.

The band, like a lot of decent people, thought Lou Guzzo, a former newspaper journalist/KIRO commentator/Washington governor Dixy Lee Ray salad-tosser/professional curmudgeon, was an annoying windbag. Mr. Guzzo, who we feel helped pave the way for other irritating Seattle TV blabbermouths like Ken Schram and John Carlson, polluted the local airwaves for most of the 80s and was known for his grumpy old man rants. One of his most notorious commentaries was when Lou Guzzo, miffed about a recent Circle Jerks/Dehumanizers riot, came out in favor of the Teen Dance Ordinance and basically called punk rockers losers who need to find better hobbies than music. On the song “Kill Lou Guzzo,” the band sampled the commentary and included some lyrics about dating Lou’s daughter. Lou, being the square fuddyduddy that he is, caught wind of the song and promptly sued the band for copyright infringement and defamation/invasion of his daughter’s privacy. Subcore, smelling a hit, promptly pressed more records, which further pissed off KIRO and Lou.

While kids are now free to enjoy all-ages shows, during the mid-eighties, all-ages shows and dances were a source of controversy amongst lame Seattle politicians and dumb Seattle media members. To the Seattle elite, punk rockers were a source of all that was evil in this town, and the elite claimed that all-age venues were dens of drug, alcohol, sex, and deviant behavior. This led the city council to write the draconian Teen Dance Ordinance in 1985, which essentially put the kybosh on all-ages shows by making them unprofitable via requiring club owners/promoters to purchase million-dollar insurance policies, to hire two off-duty police officers for security, and to restrict entry to persons aged 15-20 years. Outside of some trouble at the occasional punk show, most of the ordinance was aimed at places like the Monastery, which was a nonprofit Universal Life Church that held all-ages dances and was allegedly a hotbed for child prostitution, drug and alcohol use, and other abuses. Since I prostituted my teenage self at a different Catholic church, I cannot comment on whether the Monastery allegations were true or exaggerated. Of course, Seattle’s dumbass politicians never bothered to legally define the difference between a dance and a concert and also allowed an exception for nonprofits and schools, so technically, the ordinance didn’t affect places like the Monastery. So good job, geniuses! Anyhow, this law lasted until 2002, when it was replaced by the All-Ages Dance Ordinance, which eased restrictions by quite a bit, and kids have been happy ever since. Not only that, but the city now subsidizes the all-ages venue, the Vera Project, which probably pisses that old geezer Lou off to no end. Anyhow, back to the Man of the Hour, Mort.

After leaving the Dehumanizers, Mort packed his bags, moved north, and formed the garage rock power trio, Game for Vultures. Along with guitarist/singer Mort, the band featured bassist Shauna and drummer Jeff. Their sole EP, Goin’ My Way, was recorded by Conrad Uno at Egg Studios in 1989, released by Estrus records in 1990, and reissued in 1994. The band also contributed “He’s Waiting” to the 1989 Here Aren’t The Sonics tribute record (Estrus/Popllama), the Easybeats cover “Sorry” to the 1990 Estrus Lunch Bucket 3x7” boxset, and “Don’t Bring Me in There” to the 1991 On the Rocks Volume One 7” (Estrus). The song “Arizona,” which was recorded live at the Up & Up Tavern, was included on the Gritty Kitty Records compilation cd, North of Nowhere. The band lasted a few years before Mort joined the Mono Men and Shauna and Jeff formed Medelicious, who recorded a couple singles in the early 90’s before disbanding.

Former Dehumanizers have since formed the surf band, the Manatees, and there is talk of a re-mastered, re-mixed Dehumanizers retrospective. Regarding Lou, he is still alive and kicking and busies himself with a blog where he spouts off on random topics and provides the answers for every goddamn problem in the world. His daughter’s current whereabouts are unknown.

Kill Lou Guzzo EP

"Everybody Fight"
"Sing Thru Me"
"Grandma (I'm a Drug Fiend)"
"Kill Lou Guzzo"
"God Men of the Future"

"Goin' My Way"
"I Need You"
"Surfin' Bellingham Bay"


Get Dehumanizers EP as a .zip file here.
Game For Vultures .zip file here.

-- MC Tom

Monday, March 12, 2007

The alarm for H-Hour

Perhaps the biggest challenge that our interns have faced here in the lamestain research department has been finding detailed information about the Seattle-via-Idaho pre-grunge band H-Hour. The band is often mentioned yet seldom described, and they left a meager recorded output (three songs). If they released a proper record, single, or even a demo tape, I’ve never heard or seen it--I can’t even find any documentation about other material.

So why are they still often cited? Here’s why: H-Hour were the vehicle that drove Tad Doyle from Idaho to Seattle in 1987, four years after the band formed. Mr. Doyle, who studied music in college, played drums for the band before joining Bundle of Hiss, where he first played with Kurt Danielson, and then forming TAD, the greatest goddamn band in the universe. (Doyle played the skins on the first few TAD recordings, but the H-Hour songs display his considerable proficiency a lot better.) Biographies about Doyle often mention his tenure in H-Hour.

Until two weeks ago, I had assumed that the other members had simply disappeared, perhaps returning to Idaho and quitting music, so it surprised me to find that singer Johnny Clint and bassist Darren Peters later formed Willard, a band so heavy and grungy that they make Mudhoney sound like Katrina and the Waves. (If you’ve heard both Willard and H-Hour, you would not believe that they shared a singer.) Oddly, Willard’s myspace page doesn’t mention H-Hour. Danny Brown played guitar, and I don’t know what happened to him after H-Hour split in 1988.

I just learned twenty seconds ago that future President of the United States of America Jason Finn played with them at some point. So how about that?

So you’re thinking, hey, H-Hour included future members of TAD, Skin Yard, and Willard—they must be the shit, right? Well, kind of. I wish that I could endorse this band enthusiastically, but the disappointing truth is that H-Hour weren’t all that great. I consider the second part of the medley that appeared on the excellent Another Pyrrhic Victory compilation to be the best of their three songs; they rock the hardest here. The worst? “Overlook,” from the Secretions comp. Why? Two words: slap bass.

Yes, Tad Doyle played in a band with poppin’ bass lines.

In closing, we started following local music in 1988 and 1989, so we missed the boat on a few important early bands, but we also know that some of our readers witnessed this stuff front and center. I’m awfully curious to know more about H-Hour, whether these songs represented their overall sound well, what they were like live, whether they released other material, etc., so please leave a comment if you can enlighten us a bit about the band.

Next week, we promise to return to records that rule.

From Another Pyrrhic Victory

Medley (part 1)
Medley (part 1)

From Secretions


And, of course, you can get the songs via zip file here.


Monday, March 05, 2007

A serious discussion about the merits of Cat Butt’s first single

"Come on over tonight/We'll put on some Cat Butt 'n' do it up right." -- Guided By Voices "Pendulum"

A few years ago, a friend saw Guided by Voices at the Crocodile CafĂ© and mentioned that Robert Pollard went off on a drunken rant about disliking Bob Mould and Kim Deal and loving Cat Butt. Even in the birthplace of Cat Butt, I can’t imagine many of the show’s younger attendees knew what the hell Bob was talking about. Outside of the occasional joke about their band name, you don’t really hear much about Cat Butt these days. Their two records (which never made it to compact disc) are long out of print and are probably treasured more by dorky Sub Pop completists than by dorky modern indie rockers. So, Sub Pop, if you are reading this, please put some of that Shins money to good use and do a definitive Cat Butt reissue. In exchange for this project, we’ll pretend that you had nothing to do Big Chief, the Yo Yos, the Ten Minute Warning reunion CD, or that Moby single where he butchers a Mission of Burma song.

Anyhow, Cat Butt’s story begins in 1987 after Girl Trouble fill-in singer David Duet met up with 64 Spiders singer/guitarist, Brother James Burdyshaw at a party. The band, hugely influenced by Tim Kerr’s infamous Austin blues-punk band Poison 13, was filled out by guitarist John Michael “Amerika” and U-Men members Tom Price (bass) and Charlie Ryan (drums). This lineup didn’t last too long before Tom and Charlie left to reactivate the U-Men, but they did manage to record a 5-song demo with Endino’s Earthworm guitarist, Jack Endino. Except for the song “Big Cigar,” which ended up on the 1988 Sub Pop 200 compilation, nothing else from this recording session was ever released. Dean “Fly-Daddy” Gunderson and Erik Peterson then took over the bass and drum duties, and Cat Butt released their debut single, “64 Funny Cars” b/w “Hell’s Half Acre” on Volker Stewart’s Penultimate Records and Empty Records (Germany) in August 1988. Along with helping start Empty Records, Volker released some Derelicts, Stomachpump, Love and Respect, and Vomit Launch records on Penultimate before fleeing this one-horse town and opening a brewery in Baltimore. This marked the end of Cat Butt, version 2.0. Mr. “Amerika” was replaced by future Dwarf Danny Bland, and the band got called up to Sub Pop for their next record.

Even though we take an adamantly pro-Cat Butt stance, we also pride ourselves in our honesty, so we have to admit that this single isn’t very good. The band crowds the songs with too many riffs, and the performance isn’t very convincing. Really, you have to wonder why Bob Pollard would try to invite someone over with the promise of listening to this record. Luckily for the band, Bob, and us, Cat Butt improved with the Journey to the Center of Cat Butt EP, but that’s another story for another time, sonny. You can get off my lap now.

"64 Funny Cars"
"Big Cigar"

Get all three via a zip file here. Buy Sub Pop 200 here.

--MC Tom