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By: Ian Pinchback

Ah the nineties, back when life was far less complex and far more fun. I have many fond memories of being a carefree twelve year old riding my bike to the park to play basketball. In those days my friends and I could flip on the boom box and hear the latest track from great bands like Soundgarden or King’s X issuing from the speakers, a perfect backdrop for our game. When something really grabbed my attention, I would make my way up to the music store and purchase the entire record. Buying an album was an experience in those days. Not only did I get the great single, but I could discover all the hidden gems that would have otherwise gone unheard. Bands and artists really put thought and creativity into their album’s cover art back then, not to mention the inside sleeve of the CD booklet. In this modern day era of Clear Channel-dominated airwaves which pump a bland flow of mediocre one hit wonders out of the speakers, it’s no wonder that today’s youth often opt for downloading the single rather than purchasing the album. None of today’s artists, recording industry execs, or consumers seem to have the same passion for creating or investing in a truly artistic and inspiring product like the bands of the 90’s did. Let’s take a look back at a couple artists who didn’t necessarily receive the praise they deserved during that time period but who have withstood the test of time and continue to thrive and make great music even in this era of banality.

Screaming Trees

Mark Lanegan, the gravelly throated singer of the grunge band Screaming Trees has had quite an illustrious career since parting ways with the Conner brothers in 1996. With six solo records under his belt and a seventh on the way, he has also worked with such varied artists as Queens Of The Stone Age, Isobel Campbell, Soulsavers, PJ Harvey, and perhaps most notably longtime friend and collaborator Greg Dulli (formerly of The Afghan Whigs). The duo called themselves The Gutter Twins, and their debut record Saturnalia still stands as one of my favorite records of 2008. Screaming Trees were an absolutely incredible band. While they didn’t garner the same attention as some of their Seattle contemporaries like Nirvana, they did manage a few radio singles like Nearly Lost You, All I Know, and Dollar Bill. While the Trees released a number of records on smaller independent labels during the late eighties and early nineties, they are best remembered for their three major label releases on Epic/Sony, 1991’s Uncle Anasthesia, 1992’s Sweet Oblivion, and 1996’s Dust. While many bands of the grunge era took large influences from the first wave of punk and early proto-metal, Screaming Trees opted for a more psychedelic bluesy approach. Many of their songs echo such varied influences as The Doors, Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, Junior Kimbrough, and Captain Beefheart. Brothers Gary Lee Conner (guitar) and Van Conner (bass) as well as drummer Mark Pickerel provided the perfect musical backdrop for Mark Lanegan’s whiskey and cigarette growl. His dark presence on stage resembled that of Jim Morrison meets Tom Waits, and often times he would hardly talk to the audience, preferring instead to let the music speak for itself. Screaming Trees may never be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they will definitely go down in history as one of the greatest indie rock bands of all time.

Acid Bath

Changing gears a bit, some of you may recall the great stoner metal band Acid Bath. While they only released two records (1994’s When the Kite String Pops and 1996’s Paegan Terrorism Tactics) frontman Dax Riggs has had a slew of successful projects since then. Hailing from the swamps of the Louisiana bayou, the band was able to take that hot sticky atmosphere and channel its myths and grit through their amps. I think their sound is best described by a line from their song “Dead Girl” in which Dax croons out in a creepy warble “Like zombies eating dust in Mexico”. At times their sludgy churn harkened back to the days of bands like Black Sabbath. Riggs’ dark poetic lyrics and eerie voice would settle over the gloomy riffs and feedback like a blanket of ash. In songs like “Jezebel”, “13 Fingers”, and “New Corpse”, the band opted for a more blast-beat laden form of death metal. In these instances Dax would howl like a banshee, determined to lay the listener to waste with an aural assault. Their album art was just as morbid as the music itself. In fact, the cover of When the Kite String Pops is a painting by the infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy. This is actually quite fitting as many of these songs sound like the soundtrack to a sadistic murderer’s nightmares. Subsequently, the cover of Paegan Terrorism Tactics features a piece of art by Dr. Jack Kevorkian. It depicts three rabbits who appear to be using Jesus as a puppet, an obvious stab at Easter. Unfortunately bassist Audie Pitre was killed in 1996 by a drunk driver, effectively putting an end to Acid Bath. However, Dax Riggs went on to form several bands, all of them varied in genre and feel. Agents of Oblivion was the closest to Acid Bath in style, but tended to stay more on the doom and gloom end of things, the death metal aspects of the past gone. Deadboy and The Elephantmen gave Dax a chance to flex his punk muscles, drawing more on influences like Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. In 2007 Dax released an incredible solo record entitled We Sing of Only Blood or Love. This is without a doubt the most varied record of his entire career. With rocking scorchers like “Radiation Blues”, punk-flavored tidbits like “Living Is Suicide”, and dark acoustic ballads like ‘Dog-Headed Whore”, there is definitely something on this record for everyone. Go pick it up, you won’t be disappointed. The next time you get sick of the modern airwaves (which if you’re still reading this is a distinct possibility) just dig into your collection of old 90’s records. They’re like fine wine, they just keep getting better with age. Grab a corkscrew readers. Mahalo.


All opinions expressed by Ian Pinchback are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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