Saturday, July 23, 2011

Teriyaki Asthma

Having focused aplenty on Washington DC, let's move now across the country to Washington state, where we find Seattle's C/Z Records, a small label founded in 1985. C/Z may be overshadowed by its city's other indie label, Sub Pop, but it can in fact lay claim to some serious milestones in the development of indie rock in the Pacific Northwest. According to the label's website, C/Z released the first recordings by such heavy-hitters as Soundgarden, the Melvins, and Built to Spill - not bad. Perhaps more historically, they were the first label to put out a song by Nirvana - namely the track "Mexican Seafood," which appeared as the first song on the first volume of the label's singles series, Teriyaki Asthma, in 1989.

That's a pretty momentous way to start out a singles series, and over the next four years the label did well to keep up, including songs by Babes in Toyland, L7, Helios Creed, and others, as you will soon see. The majority of the Teriyaki Asthma tracks fit squarely within the grunge aesthetic of late-80s/early-90s Seattle, but there are some pleasant surprises, and overall I have to say there is a very high level of sonic quality here. I am not fortunate enough to own all the whole series (the first volume goes for over $100 these days), but I have amassed four of them, which I am presenting here. These and the rest of the singles, including the never-released Teriyaki Asthma X, have been released on CD by the label and seem to still be available here - as always I encourage you to go get those clean and pristine digital versions. In the meantime, have a gander at volumes five through eight below.

I may already have to eat my words about these records featuring mostly PNW bands, as Teriyaki Asthma V opens with a rager by Jonestown who were, from what I can tell, actually from Philadelphia. There's not much information out there about them other than that they featured Tom Greenwood, who went on to co-found Jackie-O Motherfucker in Portland. Gas Huffer actually was from Seattle, as was Daddy Hate Box, which was a side group formed by the singer from Coffin Break and the drummer from Tad. (Their band name is a play on Mother Love Bone, get it?) Porn Orchard hail from Athens, GA and for this single turn in a similarly raucous track, making this single a fine introduction to what Teriyaki Asthma has to offer.

Teriyaki Asthma V, 1991
C/Z, no. 25

A1. Jonestown, "Fuck Your High and Get You Up" (2:24)
A2. Gas Huffer, "Hijacked" (2:11)
B1. Porn Orchard, "What Kills" (3:57)
B2. Daddy Hate Box, "Look Like Hell" (1:56)

Things get interesting on Teriyaki Asthma VI. The first track is by The Thrown Ups, a band by this point in decline thanks to two of its three members devoting themselves to their more well-known act, Mudhoney. They turn in what is apparently a typically manic performance here, on what must have been one of their last recordings. Olivelawn is a bit more obscure, but came from San Diego and, as their song title suggests, clearly have some aggression to work out. Pain Teens are described on Wikipedia as "an experimental noise rock band from Houston, Texas" which I suppose sums up their song here, which sound great - but not as great as the single's last track. That one comes to us by none other than Unrest, who here turn in an instrumental noise groove that foreshadows some of their Imperial ffrr tracks. I'm always excited to post a rare Unrest track!

Teriyaki Asthma VI, 1991
C/Z, no. 36

A1. The Thrown Ups, "Walrus Head" (3:48)
A2. Olivelawn, "You're a Dick & I'm Gonna Kill You" (1:24)
B1. Pain Teens, "Come Up & See Me Sometime" (3:14)
B2. Unrest, "Caitlin Bums" (3:13)

Teriyaki Asthma VII continues with some of my fave indie heavy-hitters, including, on side B, Superchunk and Tsunami, who have been posted here numerous times already. Both these bands' tracks have been anthologized on their own singles comps. Side A features Poster Children, an Illinois trio (sometimes quartet) that has a surprisingly complete website covering every detail of their long history, so I don't feel much need to go on at length here, and C/Z standard-bearer Hammerbox. All these bands, I'm happy to report, prominently feature female members, making this record a nice antidote to the all-guy indie/grunge trend.

Teriyaki Asthma VII, 1992
C/Z, no. 41

A1. Poster Children, "It's True" (2:50)
A2. Hammerbox, "Promise to Never" (1:51)
B1. Superchunk, "Sister" (2:45)
B2. Tsunami, "Punk Means Cuddle" (2:28)

Our last entry from the Teriyaki Asthma series features another great selection. Starting us off is Treepeople, the band that spawned Doug Martsch of Built to Spill - though I am not sure he was playing with them this late in their career. I can't find any information whatsoever about Dose (anyone have any clues?) though MX-80 seems to be better documented, though largely in their later incarnation as MX-80 Sound. But wait, I skipped the most important track - Ween! What the fuck are they doing here? Making a holy racket and sounding like they don't give a shit and/or are as high as kites, surprise. Anyway, this is classic Ween circa Pure Guava and I believe not otherwise compiled. Good stuff!

Teriyaki Asthma VIII, 1992
C/Z, no. 49

A1. Treepeople, "Drawing Lessons" (1:37)
A2. Dose, "Eyesore" (3:30)
B1. Ween, "Long Legged Sally Was a No Necked Whore" (2:47)
B2. MX-80, "Surfin' Pope-X" (2:06)

Phew - get all four singles here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Machines (two of them)

Following on the heels of my Level Records posts, here are two absolutely stunning singles from the "Machines" series put out by Simple Machines records back in the day. This series comprised the first six releases on the label, one for each of the eponymous devices: wedge, wheel, pulley, screw, lever, and inclined plane. These were later compiled on CD, so if you want a cleaner copy, you should go get that. In the meantime, I'm posting the two entries from the series that are in my collection, with all the snaps, crackles, and pops like you're sitting listening to your own copies.

First up is Lever, which opens with a great rager by Severin, followed by Scrawl's cover of "Reuters" by Wire, which if not an improvement on the original (how could it be?) is an interesting and worthy entry into the legions of Wire acolyte-ism. Autoclave, who showed up here on the Teenbeat 50 comp a while back, reappear with another hit, and finally the disc wraps up with the real wonder of the bunch, Circus Lupus, whose song "Pacifier" I first heard on a mixtape in 1994 and is still blowing my mind all these years later. Who'd have thunk that you'd hear the influence of Steve Albini and Alain Jourgensen on a Simple Machines release? Listen and learn, my friends.

Lever split 7", 1991
Simple Machines, no. 5

A1. Severin, "Me & You" (4:10)
A2. Scrawl, "Reuters" (2:17)
B1. Autoclave, "Summer" (2:20)
B2. Circus Lupus, "Pacifier" (3:58)

For the final single in the Machines series, those Simple Machines folks really pulled out all the stops, squeezing four of the heaviest hitters of the early 90s indie scene into one amazing single. Inclined Plane boasts a cover of Flower's "Beauty pt. II" by Tsunami (featuring the label's stalwart leaders Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson), followed by (yet another) great Superchunk track. On the flip side is a tremendous instrumental by Louisville's Rodan, and finally, fantastically, Unrest's reworking of the Family Fodder hit "Debbie Harry", which is updated to become "Winona Ryder". Anyone who reads this blog knows how I love Unrest, so this is a very happy finale indeed.

Inclined Plane split 7", 1993
Simple Machines, no. 6

A1. Tsunami, "Beauty pt. II" (3:04)
A2. Superchunk, "Baxter" (4:04)
B1. Rodan, "Darjeeling" (4:16)
B2. Unrest, "Winona Ryder" (2:30)

Get both singles here. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Commemorative Rodent Series

Blame this one on completism. After I got the Load cassette from my grandmother and started corresponding with Damian at Level Records, I got their first 7", a compilation called Hamster that featured one of the Load tracks and was intended as the first in the Commemorative Rodent singles series. Turns out the series never really took, and there was just one more entry before Level closed and Damian et al moved on to bigger and better things. A few years ago I found Squirrel and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had an otherwise-unavailable track by one of my favorite Teenbeat groups, Tuscadero. That song, along with the Chisel song on the same record, is the true highlight here - with all apologies to readers who may feel otherwise, I'm afraid that most of the recordings here, especially on Hamster, simply aren't that good. So consider this post more of an anthropological study - you've heard the hits of the indie rock scene, now remember what it's like when things don't quite gel the way you wish they would.

With that said, a few words about the bands on Hamster: The back of the record lists both Worlds Collide and Ashes as animal rights activist bands ("hence Hamsters: don't kill 'em!") and sure enough I find a listing of Worlds Collide on a Krishnacore website. Apparently WC's singer Ken Olden also fronted such DC bands as Battery and Damnation AD, hardcore/emo bands that I am not at all familiar with, being more interested in the pop-side of the indie equation than the pure punk side. This might explain why I'm not crazy about "Effect of the Age". The Ashes track, on the other hand, is pretty good - and apparently band members Brian McTernan and Matt Squire have gone on to make names for themselves as producers and whatnot (check the wiki links). Load you know about from the last post. Finally, I Spy was (surprisingly) from Winnipeg of all places and were another hardcore/emo band (the singer went on to play in Propagandhi), represented here with a reggae-tinged song that predisposes me not to like the band, because I've never heard a reggae song I liked.

Hamster split 7", 1993
Level, no. 1

A1. Worlds Collide, "Effect of the Age" (3:20)
A2. Ashes, "Tainted Skies" (5:16)
B1. Load, "The Strike" (4:25)
B2. I spy, "Everything" (3:18)

Things improve considerably on Squirrel. For starters there is a very good - if not great - track by Tuscadero. This song sounds like it could have been their first release, though I believe they had already had a few singles out on Teenbeat by the time this came out. While they don't quite have their bubble-gum/girl-group/Joan Jett nostalgia-trip thing down yet here, they are clearly having a good time. Following their song is a great track by Ted Leo's early band Chisel, which beautifully marries a punk-pop vibe with white guitar noise - turn it up loud! On side B we have a track by Frodus, who it seems have recently reformed and who are here evidenced with a pretty good, mathy discordant number. The final track is one-off collaboration between the hardcore bands Bloodlet and Damnation, which brings us full circle back to Worlds Collide. But enough with the chatter, check out the tunes!

Squirrel split 7", 1995
Level, no. 5

A1. Tuscadero, "Island Girls" (4:04)
A2. Chisel, "Out for Kicks" (2:37)
B1. Frodus, "22-D10" (3:02)
B2. Bloodnation, "Flesh of Another" (4:17)

Get both records here. Enjoy!