Monday, 27 August 2007



Originally released as a triple vinyl album this was the second compilation that Sub Pop put out as a showcase for the label’s wares pushing the Sub Pop brand in a similar style to Motown in the sixties.

Consisting of twenty songs by twenty acts it is a very strong lineup boasting most of the acts that made the label a critical if not commercial success on its way to representing grunge.

The collection opens with Tad and “Sex God Missy” who the powers that were at the company really thought was going to be the act to make the biggest dent. Physically it was no-brainer but ultimately it just wasn’t going to happen that way.

Soon Nirvana come rolling along with a studio version of “Spank Thru” which is passable but not a shade on live versions of the song that have emerged elsewhere (not least on the “Sliver” EP). This however is probably why most copies of the CD re-release were purchased post Nevermind.

Following comes the truly astounding Steven Jesse Bernstein (billed here as Steven J. Bernstein) sounding like the angriest man in history as he growls out a spoken word piece called “Come Out Tonight” that appears to be putting him the place of a horny JFK going unfulfilled. Maybe.

The first of a number of cover versions follows with the sound of the tide beckoning Mudhoney to drawl out their version of “The Rose” that Bette Midler was so well known for. To the song Mark Arm brings much pained emotion as fuzzed up drone of Steve Turner’s guitar suggests just what may have been missing from the life of Mary Rose Foster all the long.

A collective/scene/label feel is most staunchly brought to the table by Soundgarden who do their Kiss thing by transplanting the rock city from Detroit to Sub Pop with their contribution “Sub Pop Rock City”. This is the first truly great song on the compilation as Cornell screams about his hometown sounding like Paul Stanley in overdrive. A wonderful chorus arrives before mid song a telephone call is made from the Sub Pop office and their bosses regarding the band’s sideburns before Kim Thayil goes wah crazy in a manner most righteous. These guys were always great.

Despite having mutated into Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone by this point Green River appear on the compilation with “Hangin’ Tree” which demonstrates the weird and dark humour that inhabited the scene at the time, one that outsiders would be troubled to understand. “Hangin’ Tree” is most definitely one of the finer moments of Green River’s career as a looping guitar line accompanies Arm’s demented subject matter before going slightly metal towards the conclusion.

Sub Pop evergreens The Fastbacks follow Green River with a cover of a Green River song in the form of “Swallow My Pride”. I have read in the past that this song was always hoped to be a kind of “Louie Louie” for the scene, a song that defined and brought everyone together. The Fastbacks version is a speeded up version that you begin to question is even a cover at all sounding very removed from the original. In other words, they made it there own.

From here two more great cover versions arrive in the form of the Girl Trouble take on “Gonna Find A Cave” by the Banana Splits and the Screaming Trees version of “Love Or Confusion” by Hendrix. The former is a thumping surf joyride of a track while the latter is a feedback infused modern take on an already pioneering original. Also obviously Jimi never had Lanegan’s voice.

Coming in from Olympia the Beat Happening supply “Pajama Party In A Haunted Hive” in suitably disturbing manner before Mark Arm and Steve Turner return for a third time this time with the Thrown Ups who deliver the incredibly drunken and regretful sounding “You Lost It” that explodes to the life in the fashion of a person bursting into tears while doing the hoovering. Remorse and common sense does not appear to be their thing.

So twenty songs later and Sub Pop have delivered a party of some of the sickest and most backwards sounding music in history. This is why we loved them so.

Thesaurus moment: coterie.

Sub Pop

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