Screaming Trees – Sweet Oblivion
So early in 1993 I was drumming in Epitaph, a band that consisted of some of my best friends. It was fun being in a band with those guys, especially since we always basically agreed on everything that we wanted to play. Good times had by all. The only real problem I had was that I wanted to play out. Sure we did the occasional party here and there but I wanted to get into some clubs. We were certainly good enough but those guys didn’t have much interest in it and it wasn’t too big of a deal. I understood where they were coming from.
So one day I cruise over to Mark S’ house and hang out with him a while. I had known him for quite a while as we worked together at the grocery store in 1986 and there weren’t that many drummers in our small town, therefore we all knew each other. Mark was/is an incredible drummer, definitely someone I’d love to be drumming for me now (I can’t play anymore; I should blog about that sometime). So we’re in his garage and doing some drum tradeoff stuff. I was dazzling him with my double bass skills and he was dazzling me with his overall drum badassedness.
Anyway, to make a long story longer, he told me that he was playing in a band (I AM I from Virginia Beach, VA) but had to quit it for whatever reason and hooked me up with an audition. I got the gig and it was fun while it lasted (1993-1995). We played out a lot. It was what I would call a progressive rock band. It was tough to quantify as we all had such different influences. We had quite an array of songs, 4+ sets of material which were about 50/50 originals to covers.
One of the covers we did was Nearly Lost You by Screaming Trees. I had not heard this before but I liked it. I ultimately heard the song again in the soundtrack to the movie Singles (great film). Screaming Trees got pigeonholed as being a grunge band but personally I think they were heads and tails better than most of the bands that came from that NW rock scene and they were doing their thing for several years prior to that wave of music. They had a certain something that was very different. They were dark, depressing, heavy at times but not in a Nirvana kind of way. I ultimately bought the album Sweet Oblivion and instantly loved it. There was something in Mark Lanegan’s voice that just screamed that he was hurting deep down. It reminds me a little bit of Hank Williams, Sr. No matter how upbeat the song sounded, you could hear the pain in his voice.
This album has that front to back. Great hooks and melodies, Lanegan’s haunting vocals. It’s a perfect album in my opinion. Oddly enough for as much as I adore this album, I never delved into the rest of their catalogue. I remember hearing Uncle Anesthesia a few times when it first came out, but it didn’t stick with me, nor was I ever really trying to listen to it as it was always background music to something else. I heard some of Lanegan’s solo stuff and it’s very dark and moody. I briefly jammed with Drew from Unicorn Records in Portsmouth, VA and we did a few of Lanegan’s songs. I never got into his work with Queens of the Stoneage.