May 21, 2005

It's not that the Screaming Trees were one of the most misunderstood bands of the grunge era (what's there to misunderstand about grunge at all?), it's that mainstream success eluded them by such a narrow margin that today most music fans only remember the Trees as a footnote, possibly something to make fun of when drunk and nostalgic. And should we not make fun of grunge? No, by all means, we should -- as a culture, as a marketing term, and a lot of the time, as a music. But I still maintain that the '88/'89/'90 guys were on to something and if the Pacific Northwest fell into the ocean after that it'd leave us the best musical legacy EVER. Even casual listeners know what I mean: the highlight of the Singles OST was Mother Love Bone's "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns," the little-bit-trashpunk/little-bit-countryblues/little-bit-hairmetal epic ballad that owed more to Nazareth's "Love Hurts" and Vince Neil than to Black Sabbath and rain and espresso.

The Screaming Trees, on the other hand, were all about the doom and gloom and bluesy sludge, but singer Mark Lanegan (as he still is as a solo guy) was pretty smart about it. He's one of those musicians that can hold tight to his own unique sound while doing faithful tributes to his influences. Recently I found a homebrew comp called Old Growth: B-Sides, Covers, and Unreleased (2005; supposedly meant to be a companion to the official band anthology coming out in late May), and while the cover choices themselves aren't that mindblowing by music-geek standards ("Morning Dew," "Peace in the Valley," "Tales of Brave Ulysses"), they prove that a band doesn't have to do "wacky" deconstructive covers to make their interpretations serve some greater philosophical purpose than "we felt like it." As for their originals, the Trees never surpassed their 1990 Change Has Come EP. Take the urban stoner finesse of Urge Overkill, remove any obvious traces of '90s ironic humor, replace with the diligent machine-head of Deep Purple locked in a metallic prog groove, and add Lanegan's double-tracked baritone voice, way more buttery and ingratiating than something so... husky... should generally be.

Screaming Trees - Change Has Come EP (1990)
01- "Change Has Come"
02- "Days"
03- "Flashes"
04- "Time Speaks Her Golden Tongue"
05- "I've Seen You Before"

(If you like these, it would behoove you to SUPPORT ALTURNATIV ROCK and purchase Ocean Of Confusion - Songs Of Screaming Trees 1989-1996. Or, if you don't think Sony is indie enuf, go track down the mid-to-late '80s Velvetone/SST/Sub Pop releases.)


At 3:13 PM, Blogger willem said...

This band can never get enough thumbs up(s). Never heard this ep, awesome (though "I've seen you before" gets cut off after 54 seconds...).

I got to know them through Uncle Anesthesia, which my brother bought at the time. Blew us away (we live in the Netherlands, they received very little press here before that album). After that my brother ordered the SST double vinyl compilation (quite a hussle, creditcards were not commonplace back then. at least not here) which (although somewhat patchy) contained some of their best songs and this ep certainly is up there. Thanks!

At 12:43 AM, Blogger stockholm cindy said...

(though "I've seen you before" gets cut off after 54 seconds...).

thanks for the heads up. i was having connection problems during the upload. i'll fix this asap.


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