You could absolutely be forgiven for thinking that every band that came out of Seattle during the late 80s and early 90s performed some variant of grunge. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden were arguably the Big Four, and it seemed like you couldn’t turn on MTV, get into a car, or walk into a record store without hearing one of them.
But, of course, just as Seattle wasn’t the only city producing grunge bands, so too is it true that, believe it or not, not every band in Seattle during that time was trying to do the grunge thing. I mean, you only had to go an hour south down to Olympia and there was a whole different scene happening there, with sort of weird proto-minimalsit-shoegaze and riot grrrl breaking out. Bellingham had it’s own scene… as did Portland. There was a lot of great music being made in these places (still is…), and it covers the gamut of styles.
With that in mind the gang over at Soul Jazz Records put out this two volume, four record set of those “other bands” from the Northwest, the ones that didn’t get huge and famous but were nonetheless important in their scenes. I read some pre-release reviews and it sounded pretty cool, so when I saw these the other day at Silver Platters I picked ’em up.
No Seattle: Forgotten Sounds of the North-West Grunge Era 1986-97, Vols. 1-2 are a pair of high quality releases. Sturdy, clean vinyl, full color sleeves, and each has a two sided full color insert about the curation of the collection and the bands involved. I found the latter particularly helpful since the only one of the 24 or so different bands included that I’d ever heard of was Bundle of Hiss. While Soul Jazz was going for a somewhat diverse collection of artists, almost all of them fit comfortably within the overall “rock” genre. Different flavors of rock to be sure, but it’s not like there’s any EDM or hip hop or metal or what have you on No Seattle. Arguably the two least rock songs included are Hitting Birth’s “Same 18,” which is some pretty trippy, pretty industrial awesomeness, and “It’s Getting Late” by Small Stars, which has violin and has more of a modern folk feel to it. But that’s about it.
No Seattle gives us a bit of everything in the way of rock. We’ve got punk by bands like Attica, Soylent Green, and Vampire Lezbos (“Stop Killing the Seals” is one of the best of the 28 tracks, alongside the previously mentioned “Same 18”), punkabilly from The Ones, some stuff that sounds like Rush (Yellow Snow) and Weezer (Nubbin), old school trippy garage rock from Chemistry Set, and frankly stuff that sounds like pure grunge to me – Shrug, Calamity Jane, and Starfish. The one thing I would have really liked to see is a bit more non-rock stuff, though I get that makes it a bit harder to market and sell. But I think that was one of the interesting things about some of the early Seattle comps, like Seattle Syndrome – you never knew what the next track was going to bring. Don’t get me wrong – I like the type of music that’s on No Seattle. I just would have preferred a bit more variety.