I have a vague recollection of Gas Huffer from back in my initial infatuation with Sub Pop – though they never recorded an LP or EP on Seattle’s most famous label, they did do a single and for some reason I think I owned it at one point. Regardless, the tale of woe that is my selling off my Sub Pop singles collection has been told here before, and there’s no point in reopening old wounds. If I had that Huffer single before, I sure as hell don’t have it any more.
Janitors of Tomorrow (1991) was the Huffer’s first LP, and while the CD version has 19 tracks, only 13 of these appear on the vinyl record. The sound is sort of lo-fi-garage-punk… with a bit of a country-rockabilly element. It’s certainly not grunge, though I suspect Gas Huffer gets lumped into that overall category a lot of the time. They actually remind me a bit of early Tad, but without nearly the weight that band brought to their records (both the heaviness of the music as well as Tad Doyle’s large size)… I also get a bit of Gun Club here, especially in the sort of country vibe they have going on. The mix seems a bit low, but the band’s sound is low too so it’s not a major flaw. Guitarist Tom Price was previously a member of what may have been Seattle’s very first punk band, the U-Men, who were cited as an important influence by a number of guys from Seattle who went on to have successful bands.
The album is concise – it clocks in at around 32 minutes with only one song coming in at longer than 3:05 and almost half the tracks at under two-and-a-half minutes. Gas Huffer is known for straight forward and often funny songs, such as “Shoe Factory” which is about, well, how much it sucks working in a shoe factory, and the clearly named “Night Train to Spokane” (and please don’t forget the self-depricating album title, Janitors of Tomorrow). On the B side “Insidious” caught my attention, a majorly slowed down bluesy song on which Matt Wright’s vocals take on a crooning quality that sounds really old school. “Love Comes Creeping” has what is perhaps my favorite lyric on the album, one that is repeated through almost the entire length of the song – “Love comes creepin’ across the kitchen floor”. The other, of course, is “My brain’s a caesar salad mama, and it’s bein’ tossed”
Gas Huffer is pretty cool. Janitors of Tomorrow has a different sound that what was “popular” and coming out of Seattle at the time, almost a reaction against the explosion of grunge that all of a sudden brought different types of people into the clubs… something that many artists admit made them uncomfortable. Kurt Cobain for one frequently commented about how shocking it was to see “jocks” suddenly coming to their shows – I don’t have the exact quote in front of me, but it was something to the effect of “these are the guys who used to beat me up, and now they’re in the front row at my show”. For a lot of Seattle punk/grunge artists this was unsettling. They’d grown up in a subgroup of outcasts, outsiders, and punks, and while all they wanted their bands to be successful, the realization that “success” would bring with it an entirely different demographic shocked and dismayed them. Anyway… Gas Huffer never had that same level of commercial success, but you know what? I don’t think it bothered them one little bit.