Chris Cornell – 7/20/64-5/18/17

The morning of May 18th, 2017 is not one that I’ll forget in my lifetime. I woke up to a message from a close friend indicating that Chris Cornell had passed away at some point early in the morning. Puzzled, it took me a few times to understand what had happened. Out of the blue news about a musician who had long seemed to settle into his lifestyle, it shook me to the core. News and articles seemed light on details at first – at first I thought it had been a hoax – but reality soon sank in. Chris Cornell – Seattle’s son – had passed away at the age of 52 by his own hand.

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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.

The Sonics – This Is the Sonics

ThisIstheSonics

A couple of weeks ago in the city of Seattle, WA I bore witness to an aural assault not witnessed since the last time I saw Mudhoney live and in the flesh. That I had just taken part in the live Mudhoney experience just 30 minutes earlier has no bearing on what I am saying. The Sonics – forefathers to garage rock, punk, and grunge were headlining a star-studded affair to launch the release of their 1st full length album in 49 years, This Is The Sonics. Rooted in the 60’s, yet sounding delightfully abrasive and modern, it was easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever had the privilege of attending. Do you know how sometimes artists will insist on playing their new songs and the audience is polite until the better known tracks come along? The Sonics didn’t have to worry about that – the batch of new songs slot in well alongside their covers of Louie, Louie and garage rock classics / originals such as The Witch and Strychnine. In fact, I think quite a few younger bands would do well to see The Sonics and take notes on how to deliver raw, energetic songs that still have the ability to engage with the audience on a visceral level.

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Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

In the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to meet up with some friends and attend the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee celebration in the Georgetown area of Seattle. I certainly made note of a few artists that I absolutely had to see – J. Mascis, Father John Misty, Mudhoney, among others – but it was the artists I had no preconceived notions of that left me stunned and bewildered (except for Mudhoney – I’m still riding on that obsession). I strolled over to the Elysian Stage, oblivious to the bodyguards turning people away from the gate. A tap on the shoulder later, and I was enjoying the set from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth from outside of the filled to capacity main viewing area – along with hundreds of other folks who were lined up in the street and on the hills bordering the I-5 freeway. What we were treated to was a grunge doom metal set that delivered in spades.

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The Sonics – Louie Louie

The Sonics

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.

If you were to ask me where the roots of Seattle grunge lie (and you are reading this, aren’t you?), I’d tell you to look 40 miles to the south in the city of Tacoma and go back in time to the mid 60’s. The Pacific Northwest music scene was a vibrant community that leaned towards the garage rock end of the spectrum. The Sonics were rougher than all of their peers, sounding truly possessed on their records. Abrasive (though melodic) sax by Rob Lind was part of their signature sound, along with Gerry Rosalie’s unhinged vocals. Rounding out the classic line-up were the Parypa brothers – Larry on guitar, Andy on bass, and Bob Bennett on drums. For the recording of their 2nd record, Boom, The Sonics ripped the sound proofing off the walls at Wiley / Griffith studios in Tacoma to get a rawer sound. The cover photo for the record, of course, is one of the most famous record sleeves in history – the handiwork of Jini Dellaccio.  An exhilarating mix of covers and originals, it features the definitive version of Richard Berry’s Louie Louie. Originally an R&B hit from 1955, it was covered in the early 60’s by The Wailers, The Kingsmen, The Beach Boys, and Paul Revere & The Raiders. All of those versions are great and stand on their own – but they pale in comparison to the aggressive version offered up by The Sonics in 1966. A fuzz drenched guitar riff opens the tune with Rosalie’s entering the mix at the 7 second mark sounding like a man absolutely possessed. This is THE definitive version of this song, sounding like a precursor to punk AND grunge. It should be mentioned that even later versions by punk legends Motorhead and Black Flag don’t sound this aggressive. Lind’s sax lines keep the tune from falling apart, while the band creates a storm of white noise. Absolute perfection. I’m looking forward to seeing this performed live by The Sonics at their Seattle show in April (with Mudhoney opening up!).

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Hey Joe

Hey Joe

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.

Born and raised in Seattle, WA. A guitar hero. Died tragically early at the age of 27. You might be thinking Kurt Cobain, but I am referring to the late, great Jimi Hendrix. The mid 60’s had found Hendrix playing with The Isley Brothers and Little Richard, while also providing session work to various artists. It was during a session with Rosa Lee Brooks that Jimi met Arthur Lee, who would go on to form the influential band Love. Frustrated with his inability to break through in the US, Jim relocated to London, England in late 1966 and put together The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Featuring Noel Redding on bass, Mitch Mitchell on drums, and Jimi on guitar & vox, the band was met enthusiastically almost immediately. The debut single was a cover of the Billy Roberts classic Hey Joe. Jimi’s friend Arthur Lee had covered the tune on Love’s January 1966 debut album in the traditional faster tempo. The Jimi Hendrix Experience covered tune in a much slower manner, perhaps based off of the versions Tim Rose and The Creation were playing around the same time period. Jimi’s vocals are emotionally resonant, weaving a tale of tragedy and heartache. Musically, Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding, and Jimi are perfectly in sync, allowing the explosive guitar solo to hit hard when it finally lets loose. The song was a top 10 hit in the UK for The Jimi Hendrix Experience in January 1967 (released December ’66) and did not chart in the United States when it was released there in May 1967. Each version came with a different b-side – Stone Free for the UK and 51st Anniversary for the US. As an added bonus, the video of this song embedded below features Jimi playing the guitar solo with his teeth. Seattle’s original guitar hero.

Mudhoney – You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face)

YouGotIt

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.

At some point I’d imagine this section of the site could turn into “Mudhoney Corner”. For 26 years now, the band has cranked out punk-garage-grunge rock at a healthy clip. Saturday the 15th of February I had a chance to see the band live for the 2nd time in 7 months. A certain benefit to living in the Seattle region is that Mudhoney plays local shows at a regularly, even when not touring the US. I missed out on their opening slot for the sold out Pearl Jam show, and I couldn’t make their small gig at Full Tilt Ice Cream a few months ago so you could say that I was determined not to miss this show at the Tractor Tavern. The show didn’t disappoint – Mudhoney displayed a youthful vigor that would put bands half their age to shame. What had me smiling the most was watching the band (late 40’s to early 50’s) spit out punk rock gems with absolute glee on their faces. “You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face)” was originally released as a single in 1989 and appears on the extended SuperFuzz Bigmuff EP as well as the self titled debut full length. A catchy intro, with lyrics that initially seem positive, it builds to a chorus that is anthem for the ages. This song came out as grunge was exploding, but to these ears it sounds like garage rock with punk attitude. The band is on fire – Mark Arm’s vocals are menacing, Steve Turner’s guitar is melodic yet heavy, Matt Lukin’s bass is perfect, and Dan Peters lends an almost jazzy feel to the drums. What initially sounds like praise – “They say you’ve got it / I see you got it / You got it good” quickly turns to condemnation of the braggart stance “You got it / Damn right you got it / SO WHAT / KEEP IT OUTTA MY FACE”. This, my friends is punk and garage rock perfection. It was one of the highlights for me at the show last weekend, so I’ve embedded the studio version as well as a version from a relatively recent concert. It sounds just as incredible in 2014 as it did in 1989.