Friday, February 08, 2008

FDF Vol 1 Issue 85: Screaming Trees - Uncle Anesthesia

Album - Uncle Anesthesia
Artist - Screaming Trees
Key Players - Mark Pickerel - drums, Gary Lee Conner - guitar and backing vocals, Van Conner - bass and backing vocals, Mark Lanegan - vocals.
Produced By - Terry Date, Chris Cornell and Screaming Trees

Release Date - January 1991

What caused me to blow off the dust?
- A few nights ago I couldn't sleep so I got up and sort of shuffled thru a pile of cds, going track to track..but on this one, I stopped and listened to most. Glad I did.

Overview - Seattle band Screaming Trees had churned out four albums, before releasing their major label debut on Epic. The band would gain some success commercially as Seattle became the "it" city for a while. The band would never reach the superstar level of some of the bands but fans and critics knew they were the real deal. Sibling rivalry, drugs and actually being let go by their label were just a few of the factors for the bands demise. They left some stunning rock songs in their wake. The band would play their final gig during an opening ceremony for the Seattle Experience Music Project in June of 2000.

FDF Comments (aka the songs)

A single fuzzed out guitar layers riffs down before the marching drums and bass line come in to open "Beyond This Horizon". The intro seems to have a certain speed before the band almost slows down for Lanegans whisky/smoke stained vocals. The music keeps the same formula but the listener will immediately be pulled into the strong vocal work from Lanegan. The song quickly fades out and right back up with "Bed of Roses". Here is a little example of the gentle side of the Screaming Trees but none the less powerful. Mark still shines vocally and the band is tight, maintaining equal balance of heavy yet poppy. Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave) offers some of the high harmonies on the chorus but as the track plays its the drum work and vocal tracks that shine before Gary Lee and Van feed off each other coming out of the guitar solo. The title track "Uncle Anesthesia", follows and again is a sort of a mellow (for this band) track. The guitars and bass have a good punch, and the drums, albeit seemingly simple, hit with authority. The pace gets picked up as "Story of Her Fate" is off to the races almost immediately. The vocals have sort of pitch bending effect on them and the band buzzes along strong not breaking stride until a heavily distorted solo from Gary Lee (and the backing line sounds a smidgen like Barracuda from Heart). With one hard cough the track ends. Two guitar notes shimmer over the top of "Caught Between" before Gary Lee locks down for a crisp guitar intro. Cymbal splashing bring in the bass and the song has a very smooth tempo to it. That changes as the song progresses as the guitars bass and drums get heavier, before it all tightens down once more. The intro on "Lay Your Head Down" has the same feel as "Bed of Roses" but the bass stands out more. Its more a smooth/sweeping line and the guitar has more a chime to it than a crunch of previous songs. There are some higher harmonies splashed about as well. Overall its a strong track. Cornell appears again on the dark "Before We Arise". It howl of Lanegan is the stand out as the single guitar leads the way on the track. The band rushes back to form on "Something About Today". The rhythm section all feeds off each other and Lanegan pushes himself on the chorus (which will happen on other tracks to only heighten the greatness). The rat-a-tat drum fires off stand out track "Alice Said". There is little I can say about this track as it has always been a favorite of mine. The bass punches under everything while at the same time the drum work, basic as it is, is very tight. The bass and drums are the best parts of this track, that is until you really listen and hear the barrage of riffs Gary Lee lays down in the solo. Great song. The acoustic guitar intro under some radio static of some sort on "Time for Light" adds a good touch, before the band all comes in. As the chorus approaches the band alters the tempo and the drums seem to go off as the guitars and bass remain tight. Lanegan shows some of his strong pipes on this track as well. A chaotic outburst from everyone wraps up the track. We mellow it out once more with the trumpet! opening on "Disappearing". Drum sticks may way for brushes and the guitars a quieter. Sort of an odd song, but it doesn't feel out of place either. The pinnacle of this record lies in "Ocean of Confusion". This track absolutely rips. The bass rips, the guitar wails and Lanegan lets you know once and for all he is a behemoth rock vocalist. Seriously, check the freaking down load and listen to the harmonies and the tail end when Mark bellows the word "time". This song beckons your down load and repeated listen. (As an aside I was in a band in college and we covered this song, I sang and played bass..hardest song ever to do). The album wraps up with "Closer", a mellower but still solid track.

Where are they now? Oh boy, where does one even start? Van Conner formed the band "Valis" and have released four records to date. Mark Pickerel has been busy as well. His official site (see links) list him as musician, magician, mortician?!? He also is working in a band called "Mark Pickerel and his Praying Hands". Upon doing some searching it appears Gary Lee Conner lives in Texas and is/was working on a band called Amanita Caterpillar. The bands myspace page is down. Mark Lanegan has been a very busy guy. Even during the Screaming Trees run Mark was releasing solo albums, his last full on on solo album was released in 2004. Mark was a touring member in Queens of the Stone Age for a few years. He also released an album with Isobel Campbell (former member of Belle & Sebastian) to critical acclaim. Currently Mark is working with former Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli on a project called "The Gutter Twins". Their album is due in March of 2008.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - Screaming Trees were a great live band. Van and Gary Lee are both, ummmm rather large guys, but they'd freak out on stage. I mean full bore, rolling around stuff..and not just once..but a bunch of times. Lanegan always held on to the microphone for dear life. I used to joke he was going to fall over with out it (and not because of booze or what have you) he'd just hold on. The first time seeing them live was a the Paradise on October 17, 1992. The place was packed and the band was on tour for the follow up to "Uncle Anesthesia" and were about to be about as "big" as they'd ever getting when "Nearly Lost You" would be added to the "Singles" sound track. The show was electric and stage diving was abounding. My buddy Scott kept getting up on stage and trying to engage Mark in dance. To this day I have no idea how he lived that night. The second time was on the bands tour for the final studio album "Dust" at Avalon on June 11, 1996. Before the show a smaller bar near the club was having a listening party for the new cd and the guys (well new drummer Barrett Martin) as well as Gary Lee and Van showed up and signed stuff. The show was good, but I had no idea it would be the "last time" (does anyone?)

FDF Overall Take - When people talk about "Seattle" and "grunge music" the Trees are often mentioned more in passing that with the others. It is sort of a shame they didn't get as big as the "others" but at the same time the band probably would have imploded all the sooner. Fans that know of the Screaming Trees seem to like the fact they were not "huge".

Band - myspace
A fan site for Mark here

Mark Pickerel - Praying Hands on myspace.

Marks stuff
Gutter Twins on myspace
Mark's myspace page

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

All mp3's have been removed...

Bed of Roses
Alice Said
Ocean of Confusion

These tunes are from "Uncle Anesthesia" which you can buy here

The Screaming Trees
-The Viper Room, LA,CA
February 4, 2000

This is an audience sourced show and features Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age on guitar(s).

These mp3's have been removed....
Halo of Ashes
Dying Days
Sworn and Broken
Caught Between
Anita Grey
Cold Rain
Shadow of the Season
No One Knows
Dime Western
Gospel Plow
Julie Paradise
Where the Twain Shall Meet
Dollar Bill

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


At 5:11 PM, Blogger Ello said...

Your album covers have been scaring me lately.


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