Thursday, 23 July 2009

V/A - Sub Pop 200 (1988)

^ Monkey? Back? Geddit?

Apparently in the 80's some American people started a label as a launch pad for this thing called 'grunge' that sounds a bit like punk and a bit like metal, whilst not quite settling for either. I never understood all the hoo-hah myself... I lie of course, early grunge is a wondrous, marvellous thing, second only to a testosterone drip.

Sub Pop 200 is the second label sampler from, er, Sub Pop. Still one of the most successful independents to this day (one might argue that's down to major-label distribution deals but this is beside the point), the music may have broadened out a bit and calmed down for the most part, but there are still some great bands on their roster, the Flipper-meets-Jesus Lizard antics of Pissed Jeans being a favourite.
Here's the list.

This compilation though, is a five-star snapshot of the times, capturing the nascent Seattle grunge scene when it was still a homegrown explosion of scuzzy distortion, tattered jeans and plaid. No international unit-shifters here in 1988, no copycat, watered-down nonsense, and a fair few surprises.

^ Great fat blokes in rock & roll - how many can you name?

For the most part you get hot and heavy, revved-up, slowed-down hardcore mixed with 70's hard rock theatrics; but look out for an acid-munching wall of FX from Screaming Trees, lo-fi college radio stalwarts Beat Happening with easily their least annoying song (a Suicide-esque dirge), the tedious spoken word of Steven J. Bernstein and the de-tuned home recording of the Thrown Ups (great track).
The best thing about Sub Pop 200 though is not just the quality of the obscure bands, but also the total absence of sheen that would characterize the later albums of the more successful groups, bar the obvious exceptions. I guess in 1988 they were still young, filthy and hungry... that's certainly how it sounds.
Oh, and almost all of these songs are exclusive to the compilation. Whatever happened to the fine tradition of the label sampler? Cracking semi-relevant article here.

So, Sub Pop 200 - yet another reason to thank our lucky stars that Black Flag decided to grow their hair...?

@320 + art

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