Cooker – Setting the Head on Fire

The post grunge landscape of the late 90’s / early 00’s is littered with Nirvana-lite failures – bands that grabbed the limelight for a brief moment with catchy songs full of faux pain, then disappeared – missing the roots and point of the Seattle original scene. Puddle of Mudd didn’t fit within that convenient narrative. Formed in 1991 by Wes Scantlin, Jimmy Allen, Sean Sammon, and Kenny Burkitt it’d be another decade before the band had a breakthrough with the Jimmy Allen / Doug Ardito / Wes Scantin penned song, Blurry. By this time, Jimmy Allen was no longer with Puddle of Mudd, having moved on to writing for other bands and working with independent projects. The late 00’s saw Jimmy Allen form Against All Will, which released various EP and singles from 2007 through 2013 to critical acclaim. Late 2019 saw the release of a new project – Cooker featuring Jimmy Allen on guitar and former Puddle of Mudd bassist Troy McCoy. This is the real deal – it might be the finest album Jimmy Allen has been involved with.

The album kicks off in high gear with Settle the Score – intricate guitar work, a killer bass line, and howled vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place in Seattle circa 1989 (or 2019 – Seattle’s like that). Choke Up is the single getting spins on hard rock radio – and no wonder. It has the catchiest melody and has the verse chorus verse structure that Kurt Cobain famously talked about in Nirvana’s music long ago. This isn’t retro – it is an invigorating and decidedly modern anthem. The musicianship is outstanding – everyone is firing on all cylinders. Brown Girl is another highlight – a mid-tempo stroll through the emotive side of the band. The song builds and builds until it reaches a crescendo 2/3 of the way through, truly allowing the listener to experience the same catharsis as the performers. Roach is a perfect way to end the album – a pure visceral outpouring that serves as an encapsulation of the band’s strengths. It leaves the listener wanting more.

The album is out now and comes highly recommended. Jimmy and Troy are calling this a side project, but I hope to hear more from them in the future.

Verdict: Masterful

For Fans of: Puddle of Mudd, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Mudhoney

Tracks:

  1. Settle the Score
  2. Sugarmilk
  3. Bad Unit
  4. Choke Up
  5. Robot
  6. Brown Girl
  7. Loop
  8. Subconscious
  9. Roach

Mudhoney – Digital Garbage

I first fell in love with Mudhoney in the summer of 2013. You could say I was about 25 years late to the party. I’d owned their records and liked them. But it wasn’t until I was at my first Mudhoney show at the Sub Pop Festival in Seattle that everything clicked for me. The perfect unholy alliance of garage rock, punk, and grunge. Fortunately, Mudhoney play a ton of local shows and I’ve had the opportunity to meet members of the band, catch their live show over a dozen times, and even appear in one of their music videos. Digital Garbage is the band’s first album in 5 years and reflects the uncertain times in which it was recorded.

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Nirvana – Negative Creep

negativecreep

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Like many people in high school in the early 90’s, I first heard about Nirvana through their world-changing 2nd album, Nevermind. Simultaneously killing the hair metal scene and bringing attention to the Seattle scene, it was an event that is unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime (I hope I’m wrong though). I did what any music obsessed 14-year-old would do – I took my paper route money to the local music store and asked the owner for anything relating to Nirvana and bands from Seattle. Bleach was the band’s 1st album, released in 1989. Dave Grohl is nowhere to be found (though he is on the live version embedded below). The sound is the rawest Nirvana would ever be (and for my ears, the best they ever would be). This is the sound of Aberdeen, WA. Where the bay leads to the sea. Gray mornings, rainy days. Negative Creep is quite possibly the most aggressive song Nirvana ever cut. An unholy blend of Sabbath riffs, Melvins sludge, and Mudhoney-ish lyrics. This one’s made for the mosh pit. The chorus positively kills “I’m a negative creep and I’m stoned!” Some of the other lyrics seem to pay homage to Mudhoney – can there be any doubt that “Daddy’s little girl ain’t a girl no more” owes a debt to Mudhoney’s “Sweet young thing ain’t sweet no more”? Only a positive in my book. Notable cover versions include Velvet Revolver’s and Machine Head’s. A deep album cut by Nirvana that deserves more attention.

Death Threat Cassette – Dial M for Masham

Masham

About 3 years ago or so I was sent the debut album by Death Threat Cassette, a 1 man band based out of North Yorkshire, England. I was instantly blown away by the originality on display – a perfect meshing of violence & beauty, 90’s inspired yet modern. It was one of my favorite albums of 2013, and I’ve been patiently waiting for a follow-up ever since. Dial M for Masham arrives unheralded yet once again makes a case for being album of the year. It will feel instantly familiar to those who have heard the 1st album, yet mixes it up enough to rope in new listeners. Lee Pecqueur aka Death Threat Cassette disproves the theory of the “sophomore slump”.

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The Wipers – D-7

thewipers

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was famous for promoting the bands he loved while growing up in the coastal town of Aberdeen, WA (just drove through there a few days ago). It’s safe to say that quite a few people wouldn’t have heard of The Raincoats or Vaselines without the prompting of Mr. Cobain. For me, the best band that he introduced me to was The Wipers based out of Portland, OR. Nirvana covered two songs by The Wipers – Return of the Rat and D-7. Both songs appear on the band’s 1980 debut, Is This Real?. Both songs are insanely strong (as is the entire album), but I prefer D-7 just a tad. The song seemingly features the template Nirvana would use to take over the world just 11 years later – dirty guitars, pop-like melodies, and pure emotion. The Wipers were Greg Sage on vocals & guitar, Dave Koupal on bass, and Sam Henry on drums (Henry would later go onto play with pre Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows band, The Rats). I love Nirvana’s version, but I REALLY love The Wipers version. The song just smokes – a guitar riff that won’t quit, and emotion bleeding out of Sage’s vocals. Seven dimensional space refers to a place without any notion of distance. Sage’s lyrics take this idea and add appropriate vague statements that heighten the dread: “Standing on the stairs / Cold, cold morning / Ghostly image of fear / Mayday mayday / Gonna leave this region / They’ll take me with them / Dimension seven”.  An unheralded masterpiece that deserves a wider audience.