Posts Tagged ‘sub pop’

Mudhoney – Still Going Strong

December 11, 2013

Mudhoney

Once on the verge of super-stardom, Mudhoney now sticks to mostly small clubs, but every once in a while (like right now) they get back to the top and do an arena tour opening for Pearl Jam. Not too shabby for a band who started in 1988 and practically started grunge and was (and continues to be) the poster boy Sub Pop. While never making the highest of heights like their contemporaries did, they still have left an indelible mark on music, and continue to put out great music.

I had the tremendous opportunity to go see them in concert in he fall in a tiny little cracker box known as U Street Music Hall. It was amazing to see a band like Mudhoney  at a venue as small as that, especially since they were about a month away from an arena tour with Pearl Jam. I wasn’t about to complain, though. The venue was so small that it could have taken place in 1988, or 89 when the band, and Grunge Rock as a whole, was just finding it’s legs.

Some will tell you that Grunge began with Mark Arm’s previous band Green River and the other bands of that era. That’s the best starting point this blogger has come across, but it really didn’t break out of Seattle until Mudhoney’s 1988 single “Touch Me I’m Sick“. Even though the song is 25 years old, when they played it in 2013, the place went just as nuts as they would have in 1988. It was an incredible thing to witness.

They have not slowed down at all. After trying their luck at a major label with limited success, they found themselves back at their roots – Sub Pop. They have released and re-released several albums in the latter part of last decade, and show no signs of slowing. They’re newest album, “Vanishing Point” hits just as hard as their earlier albums. They have not lost their edge and are great to see live. Giving up on Mudhoney would be a huge mistake.

One last thing. It would be a huge mistake if I didn’t mention that I had the tremendous opportunity to meet their legendary drummer Dan Peters after the show in the fall. It was an amazing experience to met one of my musical heroes. He was extraordinarily nice.

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Album Review: Soundgarden’s Screaming Life/Fopp EP

December 9, 2013

Soundgarden Screaming Life

Sub Pop Records did everyone a favor and, at long last, re-released Soundgarden‘s debut EPs “Screaming Life” and “Fopp“. It wasn’t the first time they were recorded (they had singles on a few compilation albums before this), but it was the first time it was just them. These two EPs set the stage for one of the most popular bands of all-time.

If you are only familiar with Soundgarden from “Superunknown“, then these two EPs will be a much different sound than you are used to. They are must more straight-forward rock where “Superunknown” is a more brooding album. “Screaming Life” was produced by the “Godfather of Grunge” Jack Endino and “Fopp” was produced by another grunge veteran, Steve Fisk.

Screaming Life is very hard-hitting. It is as ‘in your face’ as the album cover suggests. One of the more fun tracks is “Sub Pop Rock City”. It was originally not on the EP and was only on the seminal Sup Pop 200 album, but they included it for the re-issue. The song features cameos from Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman. The EP also has the first Soundgarden song ever recorded, Hunted Down.

Fopp provides a slightly different, more experimental sound. It shows signs of what would become “Ultramega OK” and the perennially underrated “Batmotorfinger”. It is a much shorter EP than “Screaming Life”, but it’s just as good. It really only has three songs as one of the songs is a “Fopp” remix. The title track provides a lot of fun and the remix is a great listen, as well.

These EP provide an early glimpse in to the early days of Sub Pop and the formation of what would be come to be known as “Grunge Rock.” Soundgarden played as big of a role, if not much bigger, as any other band and now we have a chance to listen to some of their earliest work and find out what helped shape their sound. It should’t be passed up.

Sub Pop 25th Anniversary Silver Jubilee

November 20, 2013
Surfing640

Photo by: John Pusieski

Living on the East coast, I didn’t give much initial thought going to the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee. Sure, it’s my favorite label, but the concert was in Seattle, nearly 3,000 miles away. A friend of mine shared the link with me and the seed was planted. Fortunately, my family lives in Southern Washington, but Seattle was still very far away from them. I made the mistake of looking at the lineup. I knew I HAD to be there. The same friend who planted the seed happens to live near my parents so we made plans to drive to Seattle.

I was getting excited. I was about to live out my dream of seeing all these pioneers of the grunge movement in a single day. We quickly made our list of who we needed to see. That list included: Jack Endino’s Earthworms, TAD, Mudhoney, Father John Misty, and if we had time, we wanted to check out J. Mascis and Greg Dulli.

July 13 came quickly and we were ready. We got to Georgetown Park, the location of the festival, about an hour before the first band was scheduled to get the lay of the land. After looking around for a bit, we stopped in to a local record store and saw the most amazing Nirvana/grunge vinyl collection I have ever seen. Right around the corner from that store was the infamous Sub Pop Mega-Mart. I picked up some 45 adapters and a Sub Pop Jones Cola and I was on my way.

Fortunately for us, Jack Endino’s Earthworms and TAD were playing on the same stage right after each other, so we didn’t have to move for a while. The stage was sponsored by the Elysian Brewing Company, so we helped ourselves to some Loser Pale Ale and their Nevermind Pale Ale. Now it was time for Endino’s Earthworms! While they were getting ready, I got to meet one of my heroes:

Jack Endino

Photo by John Pusieski

Here is a video of the man and the band playing. The entire show was awesome. They played a lot of original stuff, a Mudhoney cover, and, the highlight for me, a Screaming Trees cover featuring Connor brother Pat.

Tad, who was touring with his current band Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, came on next and he came on heavy with a hard-hitting set that pleased everyone. There was even a mosh pit and crowd surfing – a rarity at shows that I usually go to these days. Here’s a little taste of what he brought to the table. Our ears were ringing for sure.

After Tad, we have some time to mill around. We bought some more merchandise, caught a bit of J. Mascis and Greg Dulli. We then went to stake out a spot for Mudhoney. We did not have the best view, but it did not lessen our experience at all. We were still able to rock out like we were half our age.

After Mudhoney, we were ready to head back to our hotel. We had been there, standing, for eight hours, had three full concerts, bits and pieces of several others, and  walked about five miles just back and forth around the event. to put it mildly, we were exhausted. We were able to see a tiny bit of Father John Misty on our way out, so it wasn’t all bad.

Thanks to Sub Pop for making a bunch of losers feel like a king for a day. If the next 25 years are even half as good as the first 25 years, we’re in for some awesome music.

For more photos by John, visit his website at http://personal-spectrum.com/

The New Face of Grunge Rock

March 1, 2009

Yes readers, grunge rock (or whatever you want to call it) is still going on strong. Thanks to the fine folks over at Sub Pop Records and the resurrection of the vaunted “Sub Pop Singles Club” where they send you vinyl of up and comers that they just signed. There have been many great singles to come from that (as well as a few duds). One single has always stood out as the best ever since I heard it. Despite being only the second single in the series, it is still the best. I am talking, of course of the band Unnatural Helpers. They are the same do-it-yourself no-nonsense style that came to summarize what was known as the grunge movement in the late 80s and that dominated all aspects of mainstream music in the early 90s.

I got their single from Sub Pop in September. I have just about worn down the vinyl playing it so much. Thankfully, Sub Pop records come with download codes so you can download tracks to your computer and listen on yor iPod. Old school meets new school in a really cool way. I truly think this is the future in music. Anyway, back to Unnatural Helpers. They combnie punk and pop that hasn’t been seen since the earlier days of Mudhoney. They are fast and furious with their songs. The Singel had 4 tracks on it and it lasted about 6 Minutes.

I was intrigued by them so I reached out to Sub Pop via Twitter to see if I can find out when the were going to drop their first album. They informed me that they already self-released an album in 2005. Doesn’t get anymore grunge than that. Hearkens back to the early days of Beat Happening.

“Grunge” is more than a term to describe music form Seattle from 87-91. It is a style of music that breaks away from the mainstream. Strips out the overdubbing and overproducing and leaves you with raw emotion. That can happen at any time from any place. I hope that Unnatural Helpers are the start of the Grunge Revival the music and fans so desperately need.
Todd Thurman

Nirvana Pt. 1

September 16, 2008

Let me start out and state, in my opinion, there would be no Nirvana without the Melvins. Would Kurt have started a band? Probably. However, the chances of that band being with Krist Novosellic, and Kurt getting to record a demo would be extremely low had it not been for the Melvins. Now then, let’s dice right in.

The year was 1985. Kurt Cobain was in high school without hardly any friends and was being shuffled around relatives for a place to stay. He had heard of the band called the Melvins and went to a practice of theirs (a common hangout place for music people). He saw a really tall guy (6’7″) that he recognized from school. This guy was Krist and he listened to punk rock and could play bass guitar.

Kurt really wanted to start a band with Krist, but Krist showed little interest. He went down to Reciprocal Recordings with Dale Crover (100% of the reason Endido gave this Kurt guy the time of day) and they recorded a demo called “Fecal Matter”. Kurt gave this tape to Krist and he was finally convinced. All they needed now was a drummer.

They had simple requirements – someone who was willing to practice 5 days a week. They found a Chad Channing. He had a goofy drum set, and he didn’t do everything exactly the way Kurt would’ve liked him to, but he was there 5 days a week. Now that they had all the pieces in place, they were ready to rock.

They performed at a few clubs under numerous names (Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew…etc) until they finally settled on a name – Nirvana. They felt pretty confident about their songs and started shopping themselves around to labels. They sent tapes to Touch & Go, K Records, and Sub Pop. Sub Pop was the only label to bite and signed Kurt. They went into the recording studio with Jack Endido.

They recorded their first single, “Love Buzz” and wanted the song “Blandest” to be the B-Side. However, Endido thought the title resembled the song and balked. Nirvana decided to go with “Big Cheese” instead. So the first installment of the Sub Pop Singles Club was Nirvana’s Love Buzz b/w Big Cheese. the 7 inch vinyl’s were hand numbered to 1000 and were quickly snatched up. Nirvana was pissed because they were at shows and people wanted their stuff, but they had nothing to give them. the ploy worked though because there was so much demand that when Bleachwas finally released, there was a lot of underground hype for it.

When Nirvana was recording Bleach, they had to come up with $606 dollars to pay Endido for the studio time. Well, being completely broke, Nirvana did not have that kind of money. Enter Jason Everman. They struck a deal with Everman. If he paid the money, he could join their band. They even gave him a guitar credit on Bleach despite not playing on it. After Bleach came out, they went on tour to promote it. They were living their dream. Kurt noted that the tour was great, but wouldhave been better if “Jason wasn’t such a prick”. Everman was kicked out of the band shortly after the Bleach tour.

After the Bleach tour, they had another problem. They grew increasingly frustrated with Chad Channing, so they wrote him a letter effectively kicking him out of the band. So now they had no drummer again. They played shows with Dan Peters, but h had to go back to Mudhoney. They played some shows with Dale Crover, but he had to go back to the Melvins. They let Aaron Bruckhard play with them, but he still wasn’t what they were looking for. Buzz, from the Melvins knew a guy.

DC Punk band, Scream, was touring LA and their band literally fell apart, and they broke up in Los Angeles. Kurt called their drummer, Dave Grohl, and told him to come to Seattle to be in their band. Grohl had nothing to lose so he went up to Seattle. He was everything Nirvana was looking for in a drummer, and now in 1990, 5 years after “Fecal Matter”, they were complete.

To be continued…

Todd

Beat Happening

August 24, 2008

Simply put, this band is just about the coolest band ever. No other way to describe them. They did whatever they wanted, however they wanted, and they did not care how many fans they had. They recorded their songs on Calvin’s crude recording devices. They used no multi-tracks (with the exception of 1992’s “Godsend” which featured guitar overdubs). They had no bass guitar. Their drummer had no musical experience prior to joining the band. Guitarist/Vocalist Heather Lewis once commented that you could tell the story of Beat Happening through the drum sets they borrowed. Even with all that going against them they still managed to make incredible music as well as influence the Seattle sound that briefly took over the world.

Calvin Johnson and Heather Lewis both went to Evergreen State College. They had both previously been in a band together, but that band faltered and they needed a drummer to make a trip to Japan. They called on their friend and classmate Bret Lunsford. He had no musical experience but that didn’t matter. Beat Happening was formed. They recorded an EP in Japan, and it got critical acclaim, so they made more albums.

Calvin started K Records to make his and hid friends’ music available to the world. He did not know the amount of influence his tiny little record company would end up having. The do it yourself style really appealed to bands that were starting to pop-up in Northern Washington who were tired of the over-dubbed, bland music that was being force fed to the population through endless rotation on radio stations and the emerging MTV. Beat Happening was the thing they were looking for. (That and Steve Albini’s band RAPEMAN). The minimalist approach was a direct contrast of everything that was popular in the mid-late 80s.

Their first album was self titled and came out in 1985. This caught the attention of a band from Ellensburg, Washington (where the cows live) known as the Screaming Trees. In a 1986 interview, Van Conner (or Gary Lee Conner) mentioned to the interviewer that Beat Happening was making some great music in Olympia. Their second album, “Jamboree” (produced by Screaming Trees members Mark Lanegan and Van Conner) really got the attention of the rest of the Seattle sound. This is the time when Kurt Cobain got into them, right when Nirvana was starting out. After that, they decided to make a split EP with the Screaming Trees. It has not title beyond “Beat Happening/Screaming Trees Split EP” “Black Candy” came out in 1989 and I consider that one to be the best. Also, in 1988, they began a relationship with Sub Pop records. They still released records through K, but they had a cut on the legendary “Sub Pop 200” album and 1991’s “The Grunge Years” compilation. “Black Candy”, “Jamboree”, and 1991s “Dreamy” were all re-released through Sub Pop.

1992 was a change for Beat Happening. “You Turn Me On” was released by K and Sub Pop at the same time and they also featured multi-track recording in their songs. Something they had never done before. I wasn’t around Washington, or their core fan base at the time, so I can’t say what the reaction was, but it was modest enough for me to not let it be a deal breaker for their sound. The lead single “Pine Box Rock” still was the same formula they had been using and it was a great song. After “You Turn Me On” there was a hiatus for Beat Happening. Calvin claimed that they were still practicing everyday, but nothing ever came out. There was nothing until 2002 with the “Crashing Through” Box Set. In 2003, they released “Music to Climb the Apple Tree By” which featured songs they had previously recorded including the entire EP they recorded with the Screaming Trees.

Hard to tell if there will be another band like Beat Happening. I hope there is not. A band like them deserves their own place in history without watered down imitations. Their minimalist approach influenced some of the most popular bands of all time. To overlook them would not only be a disservice to music, but a disservice to yourself.

Todd

Review: MOJO Magazine: Aug. 2008

August 16, 2008
August 08

MOJO Magazine August 2008

The current issue of MOJO Magazine is devoted to the 20th anniversary of Sub Pop records. It does not just mention the anniversary, it tells the story of the history of the label and its influence on music. Of course, it is impossible to talk about Sub Pop without talking about Nirvana, so the magazine also dedicates the cover and a feature story about Sub Pop’s most famous band.

For the Sup Pop interview, they got together “grunge royalty” if ever there was such a thing. They brought in former Nirvana drummer Chad Channing, Mudhoney and Green River frontman Mark Arm, and TAD frontman Tad Doyle. They also brought together the founders of Sub Pop Records Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt. The article talks about the very humble beginnings where they would ship orders from the Musak Corporation where Pavitt worked part time until 1988. It is a true DIY label and pretty soon the Major labels could not avoid it.

The article really starts with the culmination of Sub Pop’s efforts: Lamefest in 1989. The Lamefest show sold out the iconic Moore Theater in Seattle headlined by all local bands, a feat that was thought to be out of the question. This showed Pavitt and Poneman that they were on to something. Bands like Green River, TAD, Mudhoney, Nirvana, and Mother Love Bone really helped define the Seattle Sound as well as Sub Pop itself.

Sub Pop has had its ups and downs over the last 20 years, but with bands like Iron and Wine, Flight of the Conchords, Mudhoney, and The Gutter Twins they are as strong as ever. The magazine also comes with a free CD titled “The Sub Pop 300.” It has some of the same tracks as the Sub Pop issue “The Grunge Years” but there are some great tracks including: “Change Has Come” by the Screaming Trees, “Shove” by L7, and “Retarded” by the Afghan Whigs. There are also tracks by other Sub Pop artists like Pissed Jeans, Red Red Meat, and Flight of the Conchords.

Todd

Nirvana…on Vinyl

May 7, 2008

Recently, I was able to purchase a record player at a flea market, and I got it hooked up and ready to play records. Only one problem. The only record I owned was a scratched up Leadbelly record my brother bought for me a few years ago for $1.99. Quite the steal, if you ask me. So, as you can see, I needed to build my vinyl collection up from nothing. I went to my local record store, that has one of the widest selections of any record store in the country. I went to the vinyl section and searched for the Nirvana sub section. To my surprise they had new copies of the “Bleach” album (the one that most people don’t own). So I snatched it up, even though I already had it on CD. I got a few more Jazz LPs and called it a night and went home.

When I got home I went into my room and dropped the needle on “Bleach”. I was blown away. The sound was so rich and full I felt like they were in my room. Sub Pop’s use of the 180 Gram Vinyl was a stroke of genius because it provides the best sound possible. A regular vinyl already provides a better sound than CDs, but the thicker vinyl gets better grooves and the needle picks them up better. The only way the sound could have been better would to be on the needle picking up the vibrations myself.

Sound ranges I had never heard on “Bleach” before came in crystal clear. Tracy Marander’s front cover photo is so detailed on the 12 inch cover. The inner circle art on Side A gives us the old school Nirvana logo they used before adopting their infamous logo for the “Bleach” release. Side B has the artwork for The Seven Layers of Hell from Dante’s Inferno. The ONLY drawback to this vinyl is that it does not include “Big Cheese” or “Downer”. I did not expect it to have “Downer” because it was not included on the original pressings of the vinyl, tape, or CD of “Bleach”, but I would have liked “Big Cheese” especially since it was the B-Side to their first single. Oh well, still highly recommended.

Todd

Love Battery

March 10, 2008

In the midst of the “Seattle Scene” of the late-80s-Early 90s there were a lot of bands that were well known, and A lot of bands that were swooped up by major labels intent on capitalizing on the new wave sweeping over music. Sadly, Love Battery never reached the pinnacles of success that the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Melvins, Afghan Whigs, or even the Screaming trees reached (More on those bands at a later date).

The band formed in 1989 at the height of he indy explosion in Seattle. Their debut single, Between the Eyes, was a moderate hit for Sub Pop (and a great song that you need to hear) and Sub Pop included it on their venerable grunge retrospect CD, The Grunge Years (1991). Love Battery scored with their first full-length album, “Dayglo”. While not commercially as successful as they would have liked, it was a critical success and gave them credibility as a band. Their next release was disappointing for a few reasons. The first, and most glaring, is that after “Dayglo”, the band signed to a major label (Polygram) and wanted to release “Far Gone” on their new label. However, there were contract disputes with Sub Pop and the label dumped it. Sub Pop released their own, rougher, version of “Far Gone” but it was not well received. They planned to re-release the album on Polygram in 1994, but the never materialized.

In 1994, they continued on with Atlas, a subsidiary of Polygram, and released “Nehru Jacket EP“. the label did not get behind it, however, and it suffered due to lack of exposure. Another bad break for a great band. Their last effort on Atlas was 1995’s “Straight Freak Ticket”. This was a great release that, once again, received little fanfare. By the mid-90s the tide of grunge music had ebbed and the record industry was looking for something different. Love Battery was too connected to the Grunge movement and was lost in the shuffle. too bad, its a great record.

After a hiatus for 4 years, Love Battery released “Confusion Au Go Go” in 1999 for the C/Z label. You might know C/Z for the “Teriyaki Asthma” releases. Because it was an indy label, it did not have the money or the resources to really promote the album. Several stand out tracks including, “Colorblind”, “Snipe Hunt”, and my personal favorite, “One Small Step”. This is a great album that came out in the midst of a lot of terrible albums. (you may remember 1999 for acts like Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, N*Sync, Backstreet Boys, and the like unless you have blocked it from your memory). This is one album that is not to be missed.

Currently, Love Battery is on hiatus and have not recorded an album since “Confusion Au Go Go. I, for one, hope that they make another album because I have never been disappointed with a release of theirs.

Todd.


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