Seattle Syndrome Volume One was released in 1981, and followed by Seattle Syndrome Volume Two (separate review to follow) in 1983. The two records can be viewed as almost a prequel to the grunge scene that grew in the mid 1980s before exploding onto the national scene around 1990. The records are valuable as a snapshot of Seattle’s punk/new wave scene. While most of the bands on Volume One had at least one 7″ or album of their own, most left behind very little in the way of recorded music, so having them all together in one place becomes an important time capsule.
I came across a reference to this record in a book on Nirvana, which is what first prompted me to look for it. I tracked down this copy which, based on the stickers on the upper left of the jacket, I presume was part of a radio station library at some point. It cost a little more than I usually pay for vinyl, as I’m trying to avoid becoming a “collector” acquiring valuable records – I’m really just a listener looking for stuff that is different. However, given the fact that this isn’t available on CD or iTunes, nor are most of the bands, and the obvious tie to my hometown, I thought it was worth it to splurge. Ironically, I ran across Volume Two at Easy Street Records the day after I purchased this one on eBay and picked it up as well.
I can’t speak specifically as to how the band selection was made for Seattle Syndrome Volume One – though it was compiled by Seattle based Engram Records which was founded by Danny Eskenazi, who was also a member of K7SS, one of the bands featured. Engram specialized in Northwest bands, so that much makes sense. There’s actually a fair amount of info about the record on Wikipedia that I’m not including here, though I encourage you to go check it out. Fifteen different bands each contributed a track, and at around 42 minutes it’s a pretty healthy amount of music. Arguably the most famous band included is The Fastbacks, who also feature the most famous person on the record. Their drummer was a kid named Duff McKagan (who was also in The Fartz, though I don’t think he played on the song they have on the record), who later moved to Los Angeles to get serious about his musical career and ended up in a band you may have heard of called Guns N’ Roses. I think they put out a couple of albums that did OK. Two members of The Blackouts also later surfaced in a much more famous band, Ministry.
One thing you have to say about the bands – they had some odd names. The Pudz, The Refuzors (all three members listed with the last name of Refuzor or Refusor… how very Ramones), The Fartz, Student Nurse, and Body Falling Downstairs are certainly funny, while X-15 is just strange.
Stylistically there’s a bit of a mix here. Some new wave, some punk, even a little bit of pop. Highlights on side A include “Take Me To Your (Leader)” by The Pudz, a song notable for it’s use of the taunt “neener neener neener” in its lyrics. The two most punk songs on the side (and my two favorites) are “White Power” by The Refuzors and the 50 second hardcore burst that is “Campaign Speech” by The Fartz. The side concludes with a song by The 88’s (“Party 88”), which is sort of a spastic rockabilly. Like I said, it’s all over the board.
Side B is also strong, though much less punk. “I’m 37” by The Macs, is a depressing description of the life of a 37-year-old working in a grocery store, done in what feels to me like a sort of Gary Numan style. “Stationary Dance” by Savant is probably the song that fits the least with the rest of the album, being more of a techno type track. Body Falling Downstairs reminds me a lot of Iceland’s KUKL (though Holly says the Tom Tom Club), complete with car crashing and glass breaking sound effects. K7SS closes the album with “21.252”, an electronic and saxophone (played by none other than Danny Eskenazi) instrumental that includes some sampled vocals from unknown sources.
Holly gives it an overall thumbs up, though I’m not sure it’s something most people would seek out unless they have a strong interest in the Seattle scene given the cost – copies listed by US sellers on Discogs are running $55-60 each, which is roughly what I paid for mine as well. But if you can find one in a generic comps bin somewhere at a reasonable price, it would be a great pick-up.