Tag: Sub Pop Records

Now, if you’ve frequenting this site over the past four years or so, you’ve come across a number of posts featuring the Seattle, WA-based JOVM mainstays Shabazz Palaces. Comprised of Digable Planets‘ Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire, the son of Dumisani Maraire, the project continues Butler’s long-held reputation for being uncompromisingly different and for crafting material with pro-Black messages.

The duo of Butler and Maraire quietly released two albums in 2009 — their self-titled debut and Of Light, which caught the attention of renowned indie label Sub Pop Records, who signed the act, and released 2011’s Black Up, an effort released to critical applause for its kaleidoscopic and hallucinogenic production paired with Butler’s witty and incredibly dexterous flow. While continuing to cement Butler’s and Mariare’s reputation for crafting incredibly weird, psychedelic hip hop, 2014’s Lese Majesty was a decided change in sonic direction with much of the material possessing an eerie cosmic glow with even heavier low end — intergalactic trap, perhaps? Along with the decided change of direction, the duo offered a bold challenge to contemporary hip-hop artists. As Butler told NPR during an interview about Lese Majesty, “This endeavor that I pursue, that we all pursue in Shabazz Palaces, make no mistake, this is an attack. We’re trying to show off and really stunt on all other rappers and let them know that this is our style, this is what we do and we’re ready to put it up against anybody else’s stuff.”

Some time had passed since I had last written about Shabazz Palaces; after all, both Maraire and Butler had been busy with their own separate creative pursuits — in 2015 Maraire and a group of collaborators wrote and released material with his side project,  Chimurenga Renaissance and Butler has been on a reunion run with the members of Digable Planets, which has continued through this year with several stops in NYC. (Digable Planets played a free show at Greenpoint Brooklyn’s House of Vans earlier this month and they’ll be playing a SummerStage later this summer.)  Somehow, Butler and Maraire managed to set aside some time to write new material and record material for two albums —  Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star and Quarzarz vs. The Jealous Machines, which will see a simultaneous release on July 14, 2017 through Sub Pop Records.

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Shine A Light,” the first single off Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, and while continuing the duo’s long-running collaboration with soul outfit Thadillac, who contribute a lush, dusty, old-school soul-leaning arrangement featuring shimmering strings, a strutting bass line, warm psychedelic guitar blasts, shuffling drum beats, and a retro-futuristic-like hook consisting of distorted, vocoder-filtered vocals, the single thematically is part of a surreal yet politically-charged concept album that introduces the listener to and then tells the tale of Quazarz, a sentient being from far away, who’s sent to be an observer and musical emissary with a mission to explore and chronicle the things he sees and experiences,subtly echoing the  cult-classic film The Brother From Another Planet and Alexis De Tocqueville‘s Democracy in America; however, what our otherworldly emissary finds is a bizarre, cutthroat landscape of brutality, conformity, alternative facts, hypocrisy, greed, suffering, selfishness and death masquerading as patriotism and connectivity. And as result, Quazarz finds himself feeling increasingly horrified and out of place and within a world that is unfathomably hellish and unfair.

Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines is for all intents and purposes, a spiritual and thematic twin of sorts. Produced by Butler and Sunny Levine and recorded at Seattle’s Protect and Exalt Labs: A Black Space and Dror Lord Studios in Marina Del Rey, CA and featuring guest spots from Chimuregna Renaissance’s Fly Guy Dai, Amir Yaghamai, John Carroll Kirby, Thaddillac, Morgan Henderson, The Shogun Shot, Laz, and Purple Tape Nate, the album continues with the tell of our otherworldly musical emissary Quarzarz and in his further explorations of modern life, he discovers a world in which humankind’s relationship with technology has become both co-dependent and strangely sensual, as it seduces people to be sedentary, thoughtless, uninspired to do anything to change their individual plight, let alone change the world, and having their creativity and life stolen from them. Along with a bunch of misfit cohorts, the protagonist leads a rising collective “hell no,” to the device and the guilds that proliferate them. The album’s first single “30 Clip Extension” was arguably one of the strangest songs that Butler and Maraire as the song featured a minimalist producing consisting wobbling and tumbling low end, stuttering drum programming, enormous beats and shimmering synths paired with Butler’s imitable flow alternating between surrealistic poetry and rhyming — while describing an arrogant, vain, ostentatious, drug addled rapper, who’s controlled by an unseen conspiracy of exterior and interior forces.

“Since C.A.Y.A.,” Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star‘s latest single continues on a similar vein as the preceding singles, in the sense that it’s trippy and odd as hell but with an elastic-like looseness that nods at the Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — although just under the surface is a subtle sense of menace. Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner contributes wobbling hyper-futuristic bass lines to the sparsely minimalist production that allows Butler enough room to rhyme both about his narrator’s  legendary and surreal past and present, but in which he sees himself as a black person in a dangerous and weird world that fetishes and abhors him.  And they manage to do so while nodding at the weirdness of Beck and The Flaming Lips.

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Comprised of Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, Norlan Olivo, Mary Regalado and Victoria Ruiz, the Providence, RI-based punk rock quartet Downtown Boys have developed a growing national reputation for writing protest music centering on their own experiences as young, queer, Chicana and Latino artists, musicians and people within an extremely whitewashed, cis-male, heterosexual world — especially within rock; in fact, throughout the course of the band’s first two albums, they’ve called on their fans whether newfound or diehard to join the struggle to smash racism, homophobia, queerphobia, exploitative capitalism, fascism, ignorance and boredom and more that have closed people’s minds, hearts and souls off to themselves and others.

Produced by Fugazi‘s Guy Picciotto, the band’s forthcoming third, full-length effort Cost of Living, which is slated for an August 11, 2017 through Sub Pop Records will further cement their reputation for crafting serious, incendiary and cathartic yet fun music in which their youthful, urgent and passionate energy is paired with their sociopolitical ideals.   Lyrically inspired by Assata Shakur’s poem “i believe in living,” Cost of Living‘s opening track and first single “The Wall,” finds the band sonically drawing from The Clash, Wire and others while the chorus and hook is repeated mantra-like “A wall is just a wall/A wall is just a wall . . .” boldly calling out Donald Trump’s “Great Wall,” and his supporters for its blatant stupidity; but it also serves as a righteous and powerful reminder that though the wall is symbolically meant to crush the humanity, dreams and desires of an entire groups of people, that as long as people are people, brick and barb wire can never crush their humanity.

As much as we all may want and need to have mindless fun, the members of Downtown Boys are actively creating some of the most forceful and necessary material of the resistance.

The band will be on tour throughout the entire summer and fall and it includes two NYC are stops — June 9, 2017 at the Pitchfork Northside Festival Showcase at Saint Vitus and July 12, 2017 at House of Vans. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Tour Dates
6/9: Brooklyn, NY @ Pitchfork Northside Fest Showcase @ St. Vitus
6/16: Ashfield, MA @ The Ashfield Lake House
6/17: Providence, RI @ Aurora
7/12: Brooklyn, NY @ House of Vans
8/19: Omaha, NE @ Maha Festival
9/2 – 9/3: Philadelphia, PA @ Made In America Festival
9/15 – 9/17: Chicago, IL @ Riot Fest
9/23: Los Angeles, CA @ Summer Happenings at The Broad
10/9: Leffinge, Belgium @ Cafe De Zwerver
10/10: Paris, France @ Le Point Ephemere
10/11: Brighton, UK @ The Haunt
10/12: Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
10/13: Edinburgh, UK @ Sneaky Pete’s
10/14: Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
10/16: Dublin, Ireland @ The Workman’s Club
10/17: Liverpool, UK @ The Shipping Forecast
10/18: London, UK @ Dome Tufnell Park
10/19: Sheffield, UK @ Picture House Social Club
10/20: Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute
10/21: Bristol, UK @ Simple Things Festival
10/22: Birmingham, UK @ All Years Leaving Festival
10/24: Munster, Germany @ Gleis 22
10/25: Berlin, Germany @ Urban Spree
10/26: Hamburg, Germany @ Hafenklang

Live Footage: Husky Performs Their Gorgeous New Single “Splinters In The Fire”

Over the past five years or so, I’ve written quite a bit about the Melbourne, Australia-based indie folk/indie rock act Husky. Initially formed as a quartet featuring is founding members and primary songwriters Husky Gwenda and Gideon Preiss (keys, vocals), along with Evan Tweedie (bass, vocals) and Luke Collins (drums) filling out the band’s original lineup, the quartet quickly received national attention and acclaim after they won Triple J’s Unearthed Contest. As the result of a growing national profile, the band played at The Push Over Festival, one of their homeland’s biggest music festivals and they’ve opened for several internationally known touring acts, including Devendra Banhart, Noah and the Whale, The Shins, and Gotye.
The band’s remarkably self-assured and gorgeously lush full-length debut Forever So was released globally through Sub Pop Records — and the album was interestingly enough recorded in a loving DIY fashion with reclaimed recording gear in an abandoned bungalow near Gwenda’s house. The band’s sophomore effort Ruckers Hill further cemented the act’s reputation for incredibly crafted songs possessed effortlessly gorgeous melodies paired with anthemic hooks; however, as you may recall, with the release of “Late Night Store” late last year, the band revealed a massive change in thematic and sonic direction that was influenced by a lineup change that left the band’s founding duo as its sole members, and from the year that Gawenda and Preiss spent living in Berlin. And one of the first things you’d notice if you had been familiar with the renowned Australian band is that while the material off their first two albums was melody-driven, “Late Night Store” was much more hook-driven and featured Gawenda and Preiss employing the of analog synths and electric guitar in what may have been one of their most rock-leaning songs they’ve written and released. Thematically, the song captured the wild array of sensations and emotions most commonly felt when you’re far away from home — in particular, awe, reinvention, danger, of being in the words of Paul Salopek “a traveler, a man from far away” — while evoking the sensation of wandering around all hours of the day and night from jet lag, excitement, boredom and loneliness from hotel room to cafe, from cafe to bar, from bar to nightclub, observing everyone and everything around you; the strange and profound bond you have with others, who are like you, far away from home and are wandering around with the exact same thoughts and feelings reverberating in their heads.

“Ghost,” the band’s first single of 2017 and the second single off the band’s third full-length album Punchbuzz continued in a similar vein as its preceding single as it features shimmering, arpeggio synths, a propulsive bass line, thundering drumming and a rousingly anthemic hook — and while pushing the sound that won them international attention into a contemporary, rock-leaning take, both “Late Night Store” and “Ghost” are among the most personal yet ambitious songwriting of Gawenda’s career.

“Splinters In The Fire,” the soon-to-be released third album’s third and latest single can trace its origins to a guitar line that had been repeating in his head for weeks while the line “Splinters in the fire, summer days in the smoke” kept making its way into the lyrics had been writing. As Gawenda explains in press notes, there was “something about ruthlessness of fire — and time.” And as a result, the song possesses the wistful and sober mood of one coming to grips with the end of relationships, the passing of time and the acceptance of one’s own mortality; after all, all things pass and all things die, and this is is the way of things.

The duo, along with their backing band released a live video of them performing of the song, shot in the gardens of an old, somewhat abandoned mansion near their residence in Melbourne — and from the video, it’s a big rambling place, in which ghosts and spirits haunt and wander about.

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past five years or so, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts featuring the  Melbourne, Australia-based indie folk/indie rock act Husky. Initially formed as a quartet featuring founding members and primary songwriters Husky Gawenda (vocals, guitar) and Gideon Preiss (keys, vocals) with Tweedie (bass, vocals) and Luke Collins (drums) filling out the band’s original lineup, the band quickly received national acclaim after winning  Triple J’Unearthed Contest and playing at  The Push Over Festival, one of Australia’s biggest music festivals. Adding to a growing profile, the band opened for severally internationally known touring acts including Devendra Banhart, Noah and the WhaleThe Shins, and Gotye.

 

As the story goes, the band’s remarkably self-assured and gorgeously lush full-length debut Forever So was released globally through Sub Pop Records but it was actually recorded in a lovingly DIY fashion with old recording gear in an abandoned bungalow near Husky Gwenda’s house. The band’s sophomore effort Ruckers Hill further cemented the act’s reputation for incredibly crafted songs that possessed elements of folk, pop and indie rock, along with some gorgeous melodies and rather anthemic hooks; however with up until the release of “Late Night Store” late last year, the band revealed a change in thematic and sonic direction that was influenced by a massive lineup change that left the band’s founding duo as its sole members — and from the year that Gawenda and Preiss spent living in Berlin. Whereas the material off their first two albums was melody- driven, “Late Night Store” was much more hook-driven and featured the band employing the use of synths, keys and electric guitar in what may arguably one of the more rousingly anthemic songs they’ve released. Thematically, the song captured the wild array of sensations and emotions most commonly felt when you’re far away from home — in particular, awe, reinvention, danger, of being in the words of Paul Salopek “a traveler, a man from far away” —  while evoking the sensation of wandering around all hours of the day and night from jet lag, excitement, boredom and loneliness from hotel room to cafe, from cafe to bar, from bar to nightclub, observing everyone and everything around you; the strange and profound bond you have with others, who are like you, far away from home and are wandering around with the exact same thoughts and feelings reverberating in their heads.

 

“Ghost,” the second and latest single off the band’s third full-length effort Punchbuzz, slated for a June 2, 2017 continues in a similar vein as its preceding single as it features shimmering arpeggio synths, a propulsive bass line, thundering drumming and a rousingly anthemic hook — and while being an ambitious and contemporary, indie rock-leaning take on the sound that won them international attention, both singles manage to be among the most personal songwriting of Gawenda’s career. Interestingly, as Gwenda explained to the folks at Clash, “‘Ghost’ is about a process of coming to terms with this half-asleep, half-awake, somewhere between the haunted past and the sunlit possibility of tomorrow, mid-air, mid-dream state. Put simply, I was searching for a way to get free. Free of the past. Free of the future. Free of myself. Whatever that means.”  And as a result, the song possesses an urgent yearning for something that’s not quite there in front of you while hinting at the regrets, mistakes and experiences that accumulate to create a messy, lived-in life.

 

 

 

New Video: The 60s Horror Movie-Inspired Visuals for The Afghan Whigs’ “Oriole”

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts on the Cincinnati, OH-based, JOVM mainstay act The Afghan Whigs. Currently comprised of founding members Greg Dulli (guitar, vocals) and John Curley (bass) along with Dave Rosser (guitar), Jon Skibic (guitar), multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson and Cully Symington (drums), the band can trace its origins to when its founding trio of Dulli, Curely and Steve Earle (drums) founded the band in 1986, after the breakup of Dulli’s previous band The Black Republicans. Interestingly, the band has the distinction of being one of the first bands that Sub Pop Records signed outside of the Pacific Northwest, as well as being one of the more highly-regarded and critically applauded bands of the early 90s, with 1993’s Gentlemen landing at number 17 on The Village Voice‘s Pazz and Jop critics list and 1996’s Black Love, which landed at number 79 on the Billboard Top 200 — all while going through several lineup changes.

After the band’s initial breakup in 2001, the members of the band went on with other creative pursuits — with Dulli famously collaborating with Mark Lanegan in The Gutter Twins, his other post-Afghan Whigs project, The Twilight Singers and with a lengthy list of contemporary artists and others. But after occasionally reuniting for one off shows and festival sets, the band released 2014’s Do To The Beast, which marked both the band’s first proper release in over 16 years and the band’s return to their original label home, Sub Pop Records. While being one of my favorite albums that year — and one of the more forceful albums that year, the album’s material was primarily rooted around Dulli’s angst and bile-fueled lyrics, focusing on some of his long-held obsessions.

Slated for a May 5, 2017 release through Sub Pop, In Spades is the band’s second post-reunion album, and the album, which was produced by the band’s Greg Dulli reportedly finds the band emphasizing a decidedly pop/arena rock-friendly sensibility while retaining the dark, seductive and urgent feel that they’ve long been known for. “It’s a spooky record,” notes Dulli. “I like that it’s veiled. It’s not a concept album per se, but as I began to assemble it, I saw an arc and followed it. To me, it’s about memory — in particular, how quickly life and memory can blur together.” Earlier this month, I wrote about the album’s first single “Demon In Profile,” a single that evokes life’s long-lingering ghosts — the electric touch of a lover’s skin against your own; your former lover’s smell and the sense of loss that seems to permeate everything, once they’re no longer in your life; how loss and longing are inescapable and make simply letting go difficult. And while clearly drawing from classic soul, thanks to an explosive horn line, the song possesses an anthemic hook and a sweaty, seductive nature.

In Spades’ latest single “Oriole” pairs Dulli’s occult riddled lyrics with a gorgeous and moody arrangement featuring acoustic guitar, xylophone and a gorgeous and soaring string section with a power chord-based, anthemic hook and chorus, and as a result, the song manages to sound as though it subtly nods at both 60s bubblegum pop while drawing from 90s alt rock, thanks to a quiet, loud, quiet song structure.

Directed by NYC-based director and artist Amy Hood, the recently released video is a straightforward visualization of the song’s occult references as it follows Hood, who stars as a 60s horror movie-like protagonist, who leaves her life behind for a life of a somewhat sapphic cult full of dark, psychosexual fantasies and desires and a bloody sacrifice — but told within a horrifying series of acid-tinged/hallucinogenic fueled flashback.

New Audio: The Afghan Whigs Return with a Tribal and Darkly Seductive New Single

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few years, you’d likely be familiar with the Cincinnati, OH-based indie rock act, The Afghan Whigs. Currently comprised of founding members Greg Dulli (guitar, vocals) and John Curley (bass) along with Dave Rosser (guitar), Jon Skibic (guitar), multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson and Patrick Keeler (drums), the Cincinnati-based outfit can trace its origins to when its founding members — Dulli, Curley and Steve Earle (drums) founded the back in 1986, after the breakup of Dulli’s previous band The Black Republicans. As the story goes, Curley introduced Dulli to Rick McCollum (guitar), a frequent jam partner of Curley’s, who had developed a reputation within the Cincinnati scene for his use of effects pedals. With their initial lineup complete, the band went on to write material that Dulli has publicly described as being a cross between a cross between The Band, The Temptations and Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Although the band has since gone through several lineup changes, a lengthy breakup and a recent and very fruitful reunion, the Cincinnati-based band has the distinction of being within the first batch of bands that Sub Pop Records ever signed outside of the Pacific Northwest, and one of the more highly-regarded and critically applauded bands of the early 90s with 1993’s Gentlemen landing at number 17 on The Village Voice‘s Pazz and Jop critics list and 1996’s Black Love, arguably their most commercially successful effort landed at number 79 on the Billboard Top 200. Interestingly, while being their most commercially successful effort, Black Love was praised for sound that reportedly drew from 1970s Rolling Stones while setting themselves apart from the rock music being released that year.

After their breakup in 2001, the members of the band went on towards other creative pursuits — with Dulli frequently and famously collaborating with Mark Lanegan and others; but after reuniting for a series of festival tours, the band released 2014’s Do To The Beast, which marked both the band’s first proper release in over 16 years and the band’s return to Sub Pop Records. And while being one of that year’s most forceful and seductive albums, the album continued Dulli’s long-held reputation for writing angst and bile-filled lyrics, focusing on bitter, lingering memories of relationships gone sour and on his own long-held obsessions with drug addiction, sexual deviancy, suicidal ideation and bleak, gallows humor. And because most of the lyrics are written and sun from the first person, it gives the material a disturbing and deeply personal air, as though the song’s narrators are confession their darkest, most fucked up secrets, desires and fantasies.

In Spades, the band’s forthcoming album is slated for a May 5, 2017 release through Sub Pop Records and the album, which was produced by the band’s Greg Dulli reportedly finds the band at their most soulful and urgent and while being darkly seductive, emphasizing a pop leaning sensibility. And much like their previously recorded work, the material manages to be veiled. “It’s a spooky record,” notes Dulli. “I like that it’s veiled. It’s not a concept album per se, but as I began to assemble it, I saw an arc and followed it. To me, it’s about memory — in particular, how quickly life and memory can blur together.” Last month, I wrote about In Spades’ first single “Demon In Profile,” a single that evoked life’s uneasily lingering ghosts — the electric tough of a lover’s skin, their smell, their very physical presence, and the sense of loss and confusion that permeates everything once that person is no longer in your life; that hurt and ache are inescapable parts of our lives that makes the necessary process of letting go and moving forward seem ridiculous and impossible; and that worse yet, even when you’ve moved forward, you can’t possibly forget. Drawing more directly from soul — thanks in part to a horn section — the song manages to be evoke Quiet Storm soul-like sexiness with a bold, arena rock friendliness. In Spades’ second and latest single “Arabian Nights” is an enormous, arena rock-friendly song that indirectly nods at Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and The Who’s Who’s Next and Who Are You — thanks in part to Keeler’s swaggering, tribal-like stomp drum work, propulsive synths and blistering guitar work; but just underneath the stormy and swaggering surface is a vulnerability and sensuality that Dulli evokes through crooned vocals.

New Video: The Darkly Seductive and Soulful Visuals and Sounds of The Afghan Whigs’ Newest Single “Demon In Profile”

Currently comprised of founding members Greg Dulli (guitar, vocals) and John Curley (bass) along with Dave Rosser (guitar), Jon Skibic (guitar), multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson and Cully Symington (drums), the Cincinnati, OH-based septet The Afghan Whigs can trace its origins to when its founding members — Dulli, Curley and Steve Earle (drums) founded the band in 1986 after the breakup of Dulli’s previous band The Black Republicans. Curley introduced Dulli to Rick McCollum (guitar), a frequent jam partner, who had developed a reputation across the Cincinnati scene for use of effects pedals. With their initial lineup finalized, Dulli has publicly described the band as intending to be a cross between The Band, The Temptations and Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Although the band has gone through several lineups, including a lengthy breakup and a recent reunion, the Cincinnati-based band has the distinction of being among the first batch of bands that Sub Pop Records signed outside of the Pacific Northwest, as well as being one of the more highly-regarded and critically applauded bands of the early 90s, with 1993’s Gentlemen landing at number 17 on The Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop critics list and 1996’s Black Love, which landed at number 79 on the Billboard Top 200, while being critically praised for a sound that reportedly drew from 1970s Rolling Stones while setting themselves apart from the rock music being released that year.

After their breakup in 2001, the members of the band went on towards other creative pursuits — with Dulli frequently and famously collaborating with Mark Lanegan and others; but after reuniting for a series of festival tours, the band released 2014’s Do To The Beast, which marked both the band’s first proper release in over 16 years and the band’s return to Sub Pop Records. And while arguably being one of that year’s most forceful albums rooted around Dulli’s angst and bile-filled lyrics, evoking the bitter, lingering and fucked up memories of a relationship gone terribly sour; but while also focusing on Dulli’s long-held obsessions.

In Spades, the band’s forthcoming album is slated for a May 5, 2017 release through Sub Pop Records and the album, which was produced by the band’s Greg Dulli reportedly finds the band at their most soulful and urgent and while being darkly seductive, emphasizing a pop leaning sensibility. And much like their previously recorded work, the material manages to be veiled. “It’s a spooky record,” notes Dulli. “I like that it’s veiled. It’s not a concept album per se, but as I began to assemble it, I saw an arc and followed it. To me, it’s about memory — in particular, how quickly life and memory can blur together.” And as you’ll hear on the album’s first single “Demon In Profile,” the song evokes life’s lingering ghosts — the electric touch of a lover’s skin, their smell and the sense of loss and confusion that permeates everything once a person is no longer in your life, and how at times its inescapable, that letting go seems impossible and unfeasible. While being one of the more soulful tunes the band has released, thanks in part to the horn section, its one of the sexiest yet anthemic songs they’ve released in some time.

The recently released video possesses a dream like logic as it follows several characters haunted by both their demons and their pasts in various ways — but spending the most amount of time on a fat, washed up, weary and arrogant pop star, getting ready to perform before a crowd of teenyboppers. But is it the present? Or is it a glorious past that of wild success, drugs and women that fuel this fantasy? And it ends suggesting that it’s main character is stuck within some uneasy, never-ending, dread-filled nightmare.

New Audio: Sub Pop Records and Soundgarden Release Second Single Off Remixed and Expanded Re-Issue of Their Debut Album

Currently comprised of founding members Chris Cornell (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Kim Thayil (lead guitar), along with Matt Cameron (drums), who joined in 1986 and Ben Shepherd (bass), who joined in 1990, the Seattle, WA-based grunge/alt-rock quartet Soundgarden can trace its origins back to the formation and eventual breakup of an early 80s Seattle-based band The Shemps, which featured Cornell on drums and vocals, along with original bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Strangely enough, over the years what seems to have been forgotten is that the members of Soundgarden had started their recording career with Sub Pop Records; in fact, the renowned alt rock/indie label released the band’s first two EPs 1987’s Screaming Life and 1988’s Fopp, two efforts, which the label re-issued a couple of years ago through both vinyl and digital formats, marking the first time in about 25 years that the EPs were pressed onto vinyl — and the first time they were released digitally. Interestingly enough, Sub Pop Records helped distributed Soundgarden’s 1988 full-length debut, Ultramega OK.

And although they had some creative differences with the album’s producer Drew Canulette and the band’s overall dissatisfaction with the final mixes, their full-length effort was a commercial success as it garnered both a 1990 Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance and attention from larger labels — including A&M Records, who quickly signed the band. At the time, the band had intended to spend some time remixing the album for subsequent pressings of the album; but those plans wound up falling by the wayside, as the band went on to write and record their sophomore effort, and major-label debut, Louder Than Love.

Last year, the members of the band acquired the original multi-track tapes from the Ultramega OK sessions and they enlisted the assistance of renowned producer, engineer, long-time friend and frequent, old-time collaborator Jack Endino, who has famously worked with Nirvana, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Skin Yard, The Black Clouds and others to create a new mix of the album that would tie up what the band felt were persistent loose ends — while fixing the album’s overall sound. Interestingly, the band found six early version of album singles that eventually wound up on Ultramega OK and reportedly those early versions, which would eventually become staples of their live sets at the time, capture the band’s sound and songwriting in a much rawer, less polished form — and much closer to the sound on the Screaming Life EP.

Almost 30 years after Ultramega OK’s original release, Sub Pop Records will be releasing the remixed and expanded re-issue of the album, as a long-awaited “correction.” Naturally, for die-hard fans and completists, the re-mixed material will capture the band’s sound as they fully intended it, while the re-discovered early material will serve as a window into the development of the band’s songwriting approach and overall sound. Now, as you may remember, I wrote about the re-issue’s first single “Beyond The Wheel” and the re-mixed version possessed a crisper, cleaner sound, which helped to display Kim Thayill’s incredible guitar work and the interplay between Matt Cameron’s Bonham-like thundering drumming and Cornell’s Robert Plant-like wailing. The re-mixed and expanded Ultramega OK’s second single “Flower” much like its preceding single displays a cleaner, crisper sound, which gives the song the muscular insistence that the band became known for while interestingly enough, the song has moments that nod at Badmotorfinger and Superunknown.