Sub Pop certainly signed more bands and survived the demise of grunge to emerge a pretty powerful label, but for my money Seattle’s C/Z Records put out the best cops from the grunge era, period. Their first ever release, way back in 1986, was called Deep Six and included the likes of Green River, The Melvins, and Soundgarden, they got Nirvana for their 1989 Teriyaki Asthma 7″ comp, and put out regular releases by bands like Skin Yard, Coffin Break, and 7 Year Bitch. That, my friends, is quality.
I recently came across a vinyl copy of their 1989 Seattle comp Another Pyrrhic Victory, and as soon as I saw that Malfunkshun was included there was no question that I was buying it. The front cover says it all – “The Only Compilation Of Dead Seattle God Bands.” And these are the bands that died two years before Nevermind came out, put grunge on the map, and pissed off one of my friends for kicking off flannel and hiking boots as a fashion trend among the girls at his midwest high school. Trust me, he’s still mad about it to this day. But he can’t blame the bands on Another Pyrrhic Victory, because they were all long gone by time grunge took over music.
Some call me Georgie-boy,
Some call me Landru…
— “My Only Fan” by Malfunkshun
So opens the first track on Another Pyrrhic Victory, the trashy “My Only Fan” by Malfunkshun, led by bassist and vocalist Landru, aka Andy Wood the future frontman of a little sleaze band called Mother Love Bone. You can hear a bit of that future in “My Only Fan,” though Wood’s vocals advanced by leaps and bounds by time Mother Love Bone’s first EP came out in 1989. Green River follows that fancy guitar, high pitched rocker the way that only they could, by slowing it down, way down, with plodding weight and Mark Arm’s moaned vocals on “Bazaar,” a song I’ve never heard before. In fact I’m almost positive I’ve never heard any song on this comp before.
Things get really interesting for me with the next two bands on side A, 64 Spiders and My Eye, neither of which I’d heard of before. 64 Spiders keeps it slow and heavy for the first minute or so of “Bulemic Saturday” before the song kicks into high gear… and then slows it down again, all part of an up-and-down pattern. Their second song, “They Ain’t,” immediately follows the first, a raspy, angry, driving number that reminds me a bit of early Tad (which is ironic, because Tad is a member of one of the bands on this comp… but it’s not 64 Spiders!). My Eye closes out the side with another slower track, and the lead singer sounds like he’s channeling his inner tormented Alice Cooper. This one kicks into gear for a bit as well and is a decent rocker.
H-Hour (featuring one Mr. Tad Doyle on drums) opens up side B with the most interesting song on the comp, the 10+ minute “Medley,” which sounds like a more rock version of The Cure. And I mean that in the best way possible, because I think it’s killer. Musically the band is tight as a drum, keeping a steady driving pace for vocalist Johnny Clint, whose voice is what drives this to the top of my list. They contribute a track to another C/Z comp called Secretions, and I may have to try to track it down just to hear more H-Hour.
Next up is Landru’s second appearance with Malfunkshun’s “Shotgun Wedding,” a much less sleazy song than their first track, but still a bit of dirty little rocker. My Eye then steps forward with another decent number before we get to the pièce de ridiculousness, Green River’s irreverent version of the Christmas song “Away In a Manger,” which is preposterously awesome. Words can’t do it justice. They don’t change the lyrics or anything – it’s all in the presentation and attitude and impertinence. My favorite part is the one that sounds like an old-timey country song…. which is immediately followed by some Jimi Hendrix style guitar work. If you’re easily offended by the idea of someone mocking this religious Christmas song, I’d suggest you skip this one.
Another Pyrrhic Victory might be the best early grunge comp out there, every bit as strong as Deep Six, so if you find it, buy it.