Tag Archives: Sub Pop

The PeeChees – Vinyl Played to Death

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Remember life before the internet? For music lovers the web turned the world inside out. Where did you go to check out new music before you bought it? In fact I know I’m part of a huge minority that still does go and buy the physical product. I’m being dramatic, this wasn’t quite pre-internet days and I could get online at university by visiting the computer room in my building. Yes, there was one room with about eight computers in it for a department of about 300 students. Dial-up. Searches took forever. Searching for the PeeChees didn’t result in many hits and if I wanted to actually listen online I’d probably still be waiting. Still though, I wanted information on who these people making this incredible racket were and if I remember correctly the Kill Rockstars website was the only place I could find anything.

Back in the olden days I’d often just take a chance on a record. Do the Math, the first album by the PeeChees (or the PeeChee All-Season Sensations to give them their Sunday name) was one such record. I’d seen it on the shelves of Glasgow’s Missing record store a few times . I liked the band name although I had know idea what a Peechee was. The cover appealed to me, simple,  a real cut and paste look even though it was printed with a nice glossy finish. I particularly liked the monochrome faces. Molly Drums Vocals. Carlos Guitar. Rop Bass. Christopher Vocals. No messing about, it looks like a band that will get straight to the point. I also knew the record label and would’ve been happy to take a chance on anything on Kill Rock Stars.

The PeeChees formed in California in 1994 when Chris Applegren and Molly Neuman, who co-owned Lookout Records, got together with Carlos Canedo and Rop Vasquez. All four had played in various bands previously, the best known of which was highly influential Riot Grrrl band Bratmobile who Molly played with (Incidently, the first Bratmobile album, Pottymouth, is being reissued on pink vinyl right about now on Kill Rock Stars).

 

First spin of the unknown record. What on earth have I bought? The album kicks off with a muffled, distorted, chewed up riff and even messier vocal. I love it now but my first reaction was that it’s almost unlistenable.  However, a few seconds later and the first song kicks in properly. It’s still a chewed up racket but it’s no longer muffled and it comes screaming out of the speakers. The guitar sound is as raw as  I’ve ever heard, like you’re in the studio with your head taped to the amp and you can’t get away. The bass and drums pound unceremoniously while the guitar tries to keep up. Then there’s the vocals, coarse as sandpaper, sneering, spitting and snapping over the music. I’m hooked after a minute and there’s still a whole album to go. This sounds perfect. This is what I always thought punk rock should sound like.

Do the Math is one of my all time favourite records. It’s a relentless blast of energy. Songs like Pepper,  I Could Have Loved You and Slick’s Living It Up are stand outs but there isn’t a weak song on there.  I would imagine the vocals may be an acquired taste for some but hey, it’s a punk record, it’s not meant to be soothing.

These days it’s easy to know everything about a band by clicking a button or two. In 1996 it wasn’t quite that simple. One of the most exciting things about finding a new band was finding out what else they’d been up to. I couldn’t find anything else in Glasgow but got lucky by finding three 7″ singles on a record shopping spree in London. These were the Cup of Glory 7″ on Kill Rock Stars, The Scented Gum EP on Lookout records and Radio Disappears on G.I.Productions.

The Radio Disappears single was particularly special. This was a split 7″ with garage punk band The Drags where each band covers one song of the others. The PeeChees cover of Well Worth Talkin’ About is one of their finest moments. The bass and drums intro is backed by the screaming feedback of a guitar that sounds desperate to explode into action which it soon does. The vocals are frantic and it’s perfectly topped off with Molly’s “Hey Hey” backing. Also well worth a listen is The Drags cover of the PeeChees Slick’s Living it Up, a great rocky cover and a bit more accessible than most of this bands other recordings.

These singles did nothing to diminish my appetite for this band and I wanted more. Shortly after that I got lucky when a friend gave me the Love Moods 7″ on Rugger Bugger Records, a single I must have played thousands of times. I’m amazed it still plays at all. This single featured two songs, New Moscow Woman and Quadruple Heart Bypass. In my humble opinion New Moscow Woman is one of the best punk rock blasts ever recorded. There’s an almost false start with vocals only before the band crashes in and tears through one minute and twenty seconds of high energy racket. The vocals sound desperate and bitter all the way through right to the cruel ending “you don’t impress me, you don’t astound me, you don’t arouse me, you’re just around me”.  The band come to a clattering halt and it’s over almost as soon as it’s begun. Breathless from beginning to end.

 

A second album called Games People Play was released in 1997 and to say I was disappointed was an understatement. I grew to like it more over time but never felt it came close to living up to the debut album. The songs were fine (New Moscow Woman was one of them but re-recorded from the aforementioned version) but the production really lacked the punch of the first album and it left the record feeling short of energy. A real shame.

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Thankfully there was better to come in the form of another couple of singles. Sing Like Me was a 7″ picture disc released on Damaged Goods in 1997 and  Dallas was released the following year as part of the Sub Pop monthly singles club.  A compilation album called Life was released jointly between Damaged Goods and Kill Rock Stars in 1998 which collected all the various material recorded and released as singles across various labels over the short few years the band was active. By this time the Peechees were no more.

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I was lucky enough to see the PeeChees when they played Glasgow’s 13th Note basement in May 1998, not too long before they broke up. I don’t remember the gig in as vivid detail as I’d like. It was deafeningly loud, the music was even faster than you could imagine, you couldn’t make out a word that was being said or sung and I think half of my view was a pillar, the other half being Molly drumming and a bass player I never knew (someone from Comet Gain I think, possibly Rop had had visa problems and couldn’t tour). I loved every second of it. I’d like to tell you more and show you the photos but nobody had a camera phone in those days, nobody even had a phone at all. I also had a PeeChees t-shirt that I wore until there were only threads left. My friends band were touring the states and playing with the PeeChees somewhere in California. I was eternally jealous but made them promise to bring me back a souvenir. They came through, as all good friends do.

 

So it was all fairly short lived for this band. There’s the odd video clip of live performances on YouTube that sound pretty awful but do occasionally capture the energy and spirit of the band in action. The best bit is having the records to treasure and there’s a split single with a band called Long Hind Legs that I’ve yet to track down, I’ll need to get that sorted. All in all it probably only amounts to an hour or so of music. Thirty or so songs but good enough to keep me listening right up into 2014 and undoubtably we’ll beyond that.

  •  Cup of Glory – 7″ single on Kill Rock Stars 1994
  • Spend Some Time With – Split 7″ with Long Hind Legs on Skinnie Girl Records 1995
  • Scented Gum – 7″ single on Lookout! Records
  • Radio Disappears – Split 7″ with The Drags on G.I.Productions 1996
  • Do The Math – Album on Kill Rock Stars 1996
  • Love Moods – 7″ Single on Rugger Bugger Records 1997
  • Antarticists – 7″ single on Roxy 1997
  • Games People Play – Album on Kill Rock Stars 1997
  • Dallas / If You Don’t Know – 7″ on coloured vinyl – Sub Pop Singles Club Nov 1997
  • The PeeChee All Season Sensations – 7″ Picture Disc on Damaged Goods 1998
  • Life – Compilation Album on Damaged Goods (Vinyl) and Kill Rock Stars (CD) 1998

 

 

Sleater-Kinney – Start Together 1994 – 2006 Box Set

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I remember reading an article in one of the UK’s music weeklies or monthlies back in 1997  or 98 about what was going on in the U.S. alternative music scene. Sleater-Kinney’s third album Dig Me Out had just been released and the article exclaimed that we just needed to sit back and wait for endless more bands to appear having been inspired by this record. Such bombastic praise is perhaps not particularly unusual within music journalism but in this case it was correct. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sleater-Kinney is that they went on to repeat this across several more albums, the quality of their output hardly ever wavering right up to their final album The Woods.

A year or so later I saw them play at King Tuts in Glasgow as part of the Dig Me Out tour. The band I played in at the time were opening for them on a bill that also included The Yummy Fur (Oh my god were we excited..) and they were equally breathtaking live as they were on record. This gig was busy, but not exactly packed out. The critical acclaim around the band at this time had not yet translated to record sales and bigger venues than clubs but that was to come over the following years. Dig Me Out and the introduction of Janet Weiss on drums seemed like the major kick-starter for that process.

The rate of development from their 1995 debut Sleater-Kinney and 1996’s Call the Doctor to Dig Me Out is incredible and it all happened across such a short space of time. Ok we’re not quite at Guided by Voices levels of productivity here but the songwriting partnership between Corrin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein provided so much quality in so short a space of time.

After Dig Me Out the standard didn’t drop for a second. The three albums that followed, 1999’s The Hot Rock, 2000’s All Hands on the Bad One and 2002’s One Beat were all fairly similar in nature, sometimes a little more subdued (the Hot Rock), sometimes a little more noisy (All Hands on the Bad One) and perhaps slightly more angry than usual (One Beat). Never any less brilliant. It was only 2005’s The Woods, the bands’ final album at the time and rooted in classic rock, that made any significant departure from their most recognised style. By this time Sleater-Kinney’s popularity had grown considerably over the years. We’re not talking Pearl Jam levels of fame here but certainly a major departure from their Olympia Riot Grrrl roots. Then it all stopped. Their unwavering presence across 12 years would come to an end in 2006 and many hearts would be broken. Until now of course as excitement builds towards the bands 2015 return.

My personal favourite Sleater Kinney album? Usually depends which one I’ve just listened to although I think it’s fair to say I go back to Dig Me Out slightly more than the others. Every song on that album is memorable, no more so than the devastatingly sad One More Hour.

Now for the geeky part. The Start Together box set is a large slice of heaven for vinyl lovers. Sub Pop love to produce a special edition or two, a “Loser” edition as they lovingly refer to these things. The contents of this box are beautiful and the perfect tribute to Sleater-Kinney and their career thus far.

Front Cover of the Photo Book
Front Cover of the Photo Book

Vinyl aside there is a fabulous hard-back photo book crammed full of previously unseen pictures of the band. It’s all presented in chronological order with photos representing the times and tours for each album. There’s also a nice foreword from each of the band members. It’s a great pictorial history of the band in a format that works far better than any online gallery ever could.

The box also came with a white vinyl 7″ single featuring Bury Our Friends from their forthcoming album No Cities to Love. I’ve written about this elsewhere in this blog so I’ll not write any more here.

As for the seven albums, each is produced on a different coloured clear vinyl with a marbled effect. Each comes with an inner lyric sleeve as well. The One Beat LP also includes a poster of the photo from the front cover of the box set. The Woods is a gatefold cover, double green vinyl with music on 3 sides.

The box set isn’t a complete musical history of the band. Sleater-Kinney did release other songs on various singles and compilations. A particular favourite of mine is a split 7″ with Cypher in the Snow as part of the Free to Fight singles series on Candy-Ass Records.

Free to Fight #1 7"
Free to Fight #1 7″

Overall Sub Pop have clearly put a lot of love into this collection. Fans of the band who also love their vinyl will treasure this collection forever.

Next on the want-list will be the Loser edition of the new album, out in Jan on Sub Pop of course!

  • Label – Sub Pop
  • Released Monday 20th October (UK)
  • Format – Limited Edition of 3,000 box sets containing 7 x LP albums on various coloured vinyl + Book + Art Print + 7″ single on white vinyl (one side etched – 500 random copies of this 7″ were signed by the band)
  • Note – After the initial 3,000 boxes sold out the set is being reissued with each LP on black vinyl. Each remastered album has also been released individually on black vinyl

Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends 7″

7" signed on side A
7″ signed on side A

Perhaps it’s cheating to write about this 7″ on it’s own? It is part of the “Stay Together 1994-2006″ box set    released by Sub Pop on 20th Oct 2014 (more on that particular treasure chest in another post) so it’s not like you could pick this single up on it’s own for a few quid. However, it’s a special one and of all the music in that retrospective collection this was the only new song.   This 7″ was a surprise addition to the Stay Together box set. Pressed on white vinyl and completely untitled other than the date 01/20/2015 it sparked a bit of a social media frenzy regarding whether this meant Sleater Kinney were coming back after so many years. Of course we now know the answer to that and that this 7” was a clever way of marketing the re-launch of the band. It’s a single sided record with the song Bury Our Friends on A and the signatures of the band etched onto side B.Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 16.54.43 Somewhat excitingly according to a Sub-Pop tweet 500 random copies of this single were autographed by the band. Looks like I was one of the lucky ones!

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Side B with etched signatures

As for the song itself I admit to much trepidation when first playing this. Hearing new music from one of your all time favourite bands after such a long time can be a big let down. No such worries here. Immediate relief turns very quickly to hyper excitement as Sleater-Kinney flow straight back into form. The guitars are jerky and angular. The music slows during the verses but the pace is maintained by a determined self-assured vocal sung almost in a staccato style. The chorus stomps, pounds and grins with defiance. “We’re wild and weary but we won’t give in” sums up the tone of this song. It’s a departure from their last album “The Woods” but that album was a bit of a departure from the bands previous style. Bury Our Friends is brash, confident and marks a very exciting return. There’s absolutely no sign that Sleater-Kinney have lost any of the spark that they always displayed all those years ago.

  • Label – Sub Pop
  • Edition of 3,000 7″ Singles on White Vinyl in paper sleeve (500 copies signed by band)
  • Released on 19th October 2014 (UK) as part of Sleater-Kinney Start-Together // 1994-2006 box set
  • At time of writing this song is available as a free download at http://www.sleater-kinney.com
  • Sleater-Kinney’s album No Cities To Love will be released on 19th Jan 2015 on Sub Pop