And it occurred to me that I got the promo for Sandrider’s debut, what, about a year ago? Seriously? Holy fuck? When I thought about the slew of other releases I’d gotten from Seattle’s Good to Die Records in that span I kind of couldn’t believe it. Typically as you get older, time speeds up — but in regards to this action, the exact inverse was happening. It felt like this had been going on forever. Quite a lot of fantastic shit from a label in its inaugural twelve months or so. Since I don’t want to get yanked from the distribution list, I figured I’d better earn my keep and write a retrospective here.
Truth be told, despite being a lifelong fan of loud rock (I grew up in the freaking ‘90s), I must profess my profound disappointment in how incredibly trendy craptastic thrash metal became in the early ‘aughts. I know nu-metal was heinous and a backlash was obviously necessary, but I guess I just grew up listening to shit like Barkmarket, Drive Like Jehu, Cop Shoot Cop, and Soundgarden rather than Slayer and Titanica. Slayer have a good song, I get it — it’s just never been something I geek out on in anything more than small doses. All in all, that stuff strikes me as sort of dumb-fuck-white trash-y a lot of the time (not that there’s anything wrong with that, just not my vibe). As Kim Thayil stated in a recent interview with regards to Soundgarden: “We’ve always tried to explore how to make this really heavy, aggressive music without sounding like a bunch of knuckle-dragging meatheads.” Exactly.
Which is why I think Good to Die Records is resonating with a lot of folks so far. It’s all loud music, but none of it succumbs to cookie monster/chug-a-chug metal genre clichés. Also, let’s face it; to this day, you still can’t read an out-of-town article about a Seattle group without grunge coming up in some capacity, even if it’s about a lesbian trip-hop. What most people don’t conceptualize is that because of the supposed “grunge explosion” in the ‘90s, crap tons of artsy people moved here, and a lot of them brought an amplifier-worshipping, booze-chugging blue collar spirit with them in droves. The fading mirage is what attracted them in the first place, often subconsciously. The word becomes flesh, as they say. What are you going to do? Ever since I’ve lived in Seattle, which has been over a decade now, there’s always been a thriving scene of stoned underground agro super freaks.
So leave it to an unabashed Pearl Jam fanboy to point out to us all that music louder than louder than love not only never went away in the Jet City but also spread to Portland and just kept spitting out kids.
5. Rabbits – Bites Rites
PORTLAND, OREGON — RELEASE DATE: 2012 September 18
Okay, it should be mentioned to anyone thinking about checking this band out that the vocalist has one of the most bizarre vocal styles imaginable. It’s more than a tad startling at first, and I found myself wondering what in the absolute fuck I was listening to for several run-throughs, although I was admittedly intrigued. Eventually the hilarity of it all started to sink in and turned their pummeling Melvins-y sludge into tongue-in-cheek amusement. None of this stuff takes itself very seriously at all which is why it works. It’s just so off. What am I talking about? Imagine Sweetums from the Muppets singing to chunky volume punk riffage.
In fact, just do bong rips and listen to this album while imagining that Sweetums is “singing”. It’s kind of awesome. A lot of people do cookie monster; Rabbits do Sweetums. I can’t say I’ve ever heard that before.
4. Dog Shredder – Brass Tactics
BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON — RELEASE DATE: 2012 April 17
If this album had more than three songs on it, it’d easily be number one on the list. I’ve never been a fan of EPs, but Dog Shredder are the most exciting loud band I’ve seen come up in the Pacific Northwest over the last several years. Jaw-dropping shit! It’s the kind of thing where you just kind of sit and watch them wondering how much they must practice to pull off their ridiculous technical acuity. Dudes can throw down prog rock freak out style. Of course though, my favorite part is that they also quite often nonchalantly break down into jarring stoner mind fuck noisescapes for the heads (as you might guess from the album art). In fact, the third song on this is a mellow outer space jam that sounds like the band’s being beamed in from a ghostly dimension behind the surface of normal sonic reality. Kids really need to put out a full length here ASAP. Get to it.
3. Brokaw – Interiors
RELEASE DATE: 2012 January 24
This is the sort of melodic “hard rock” (I’ve always hated that term but what are you going to do?) I’ve missed recently having grown up in the ‘90s, as it basically got replaced by horrible metalcore crap at some point in the early ‘aughts. So who’s going to bring it back? Seattle rock lifers who were doing it back in the ‘90s, of course. The experience shows. Brokaw is one of those groups where each individual component delivers: unique guitar riffs, complicated driving bass lines, air-tight drums and debauched lyrics that oscillate between humorous and vaguely political, including those on “No Morphine Doctor”. As far as I can tell, this is a song about a doctor who won’t prescribe the singer recreational morphine. Those doctors are dicks.
2. Absolute Monarchs – 1
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON — RELEASE DATE: 2012 APRIL 17
Vice recently quipped that metal music is made by heterosexual men for the sole purpose of impressing other heterosexual men. I’ve been saying that for quite some time, but I guess I don’t have much of a problem with it. It’s not like you see a lot of hetero dudes lining up at fashion week, watching Oprah, and buying Vogue. Any girl who pretends she’s into football is either insane or lying to impress her boyfriend. Men and women are quite different. I’ve come to terms with that. Absolute Monarchs is the one GTD release that maybe your special lady friend might be into (if she’s not a part of the 5% of women who actually like metal; my wife quite enjoys doom for some reason). The influence bands like the inhuman Guided by Voices have on these guys is obvious in their attention to detail paid to the songwriting. I could actually see myself making out to some of these jams. It’s an impressively minimal record, compellingly layered with the vague presence of opiates and THC. 1 takes the long-standing spirit of classic NW bands like Unwound, strips the extended dual guitar riffage down to brass tacks, and focuses on the shouted hooks. Good call.
1. Gaytheist – Stealth Beats
PORTLAND, OREGON — RELEASE DATE: 2012 August 21
From the first second of this album onward, it utterly fucking destroys, and in a completely unexpected way. Just when you think you’re going to get sandblasted by angry political punk, Gaytheist shift gears and start beating you up with major key great space coasters about chasing double rainbows. What is it about metal bands and their odd resistance to major keys? It’s finally okay, apparently. I call it the Torche-i-fication of metal. The reason this owns so hard is that the rhythm section never takes the pedal off the floor for a second, and the production couldn’t be more retardedly crisp. At first, I was only vaguely catching the lyrics, but then I realized the guy was doing post apocalyptic sci-fi comedy, angry gay rights sex confusion stuff, and tomes about heavenly laziness and detachment. Brilliant, I say. The song “Post Apocalyptic Lawsuit” should be a loud rock radio staple until the end of time.