SCREAMING TREES WAS THE TRUE EPICENTER OF GA-RUNGE, AND “UNCLE ANESTHESIA” WAS THEIR MASTERPIECE
Back in the day, I must have listened to this album a few hundred times. And probably about seven this weekend. There was (and still is) something about it that was (and is) just so perfectly listenable, over and over again, in varying forms of concentration. They are hardly the best players out there, and their melodic songs don’t even hold a candle to Soundgarden’s, but there was something about Screaming Trees that somehow perfectly typified the genre label (grunge, not alternative) — an air, an affect, a goddamn easily-relatable ethos that pretty much hit the collective Seattle conscious party and music scene and created…our generation’s transcendent 70s-style (un) awakening? I hate to say it but the motherfucking blood’s on the wall and I might as well just admit it.
Understated enough to warrant a coveted “garage” description, yet earnest and emotionally insightful enough to inspire, this Screaming Trees album is chock full of viscerally varied goodness throughout. Most of the songs are pretty damn simple, and the tone effectively shifts throughout (from deep dark rock to doomy, fuzzed-out ballads to fantastic melodic grunge-pop gems), but there is a consistent sound to the tracks, an almost intangible street level quality that most of the other huge bands associated with grunge really never had. All of the greats had their unique style, but it’s sad to say that the status achieved by Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Soundgarden/Alice In Chains essentially stripped them of their raw authentic sound (at a certain point), if even simply by glorification’s sake.
Follow me inside and listen to the entire fucking album…
The fact remains (according to Wingerschmidt) that the only other band we’ve mentioned this weekend aside from Screaming Trees whose music actually sounds/feels like the word/genre “grunge” is Alice in Chains, even though AIC were more on the metal end of the sound, while Screaming Trees fell comfortably into the category of ga-runge (garage meets grunge, coined by yours truly yesterday). And I like to think about these two bands chillin’ together back then, keeping it painfully real and making music to move the underground masses. The scratchy tone of the vocals from Layne Staley to Mark Lanegan has some slightly similar, pretty gutter-trash quality, but in addition Lanegan strangely channeled Jim Morrison, poetically telling the story of each track from his heart, while Staley definitely brought the rage (wasted or not).
Let’s not forget about the totally fucked-up, Alice-in-Wonderland mythology purvading throughout Uncle Anesthesia — we the listeners are essentially taken through a kalaidascopic, slightly twisted roller coaster ride, during which the sunlight occasionally peeks in through the cracks in the coaster track and offers a silver lining to the darkness…this is a mood and a moment, and as many great songs as there are on Ten, its level of maturity in terms of artistry pales in comparison to the Trees on this one….
Think about the titles of the songs and how they open up a dark tale of a poor girl who has lost her way into another dimension, likely been drugged by an evil toadstool-lovin creature (umm, look at that guy, Uncle Anesthesia — somethin ain’t right with that guy), who will undoubtedly have his way with her, spiraling Alice to pursue her inevitable future of honor, shimmering and “pure”, even though nine mere months down the road she would likely give birth to an alien child permanently stuck on sedatives; how the hell is our girl gonna breast-feed that fucker?
But I dissect. From time to time, if they’re yappin’ on and on about some rigamarole, half-brain nonsensical madness from the third eye. And I suspect you would too.
Though the Screaming Trees’ other material is often hit or miss, I am going out on a limb to proclaim Uncle Anesthesia as the true center point of the grunge movement…and one bloody hell of a rock album. Pay no mind nor matter to the media-starved need to subgenrify and box it up — if we’ve learned one thing this weekend it’s that genre as an imprint simply takes away everything that same genre was fighting for.
So here’s what I want you to do: first take the tracks from below, arrange them in order, and cue em up. Then go find the ganja in the house. Establish a chillable arena with a very potent sound system. Roll that shit up. One small pull for good measure before the album begins…and then we’re off…all the way into wonderland where we’ll find grungy creatures and demons from our past and future, since the present doesn’t exist anymore — until Alice herself returns, and then everything is gonna change.
SCREAMING TREES/Uncle Anesthesia:
What a grungy weekend; thanks for being down with our nonsense! Now let’s never speak of this again, and when we pass each other in the hallway, we’re not gonna do that whole ‘silent nod’ thing — that’s weak. Instead we will drop the subtleties to the nth degree and only use 1/16th of our ocular muscles to acknowledge that this happened.
UP NEXT: Axl’s Escapades in EMO!!