Screaming Trees


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Screaming Trees' full-length debut is a surprisingly accomplished affair. Unlike many Northwest acts of the time, it doesn't seem to be haunted by the ghosts of the Stooges or the MC5, instead the Doors, perhaps, or possibly even the Teardrop Explodes (Mark Lanegan's deep voice is somewhat reminiscent of Jim Morrison or Julian Cope, but with a slight twang). The one contemporary act they most closely resembled at this point in their career would have to be Norman, OK's the Flaming Lips, another gang of iconoclasts who released their first EP in 1985 and first full-length (Hear It Is) the following year. They were neither fish nor fowl -- not exactly punk and not exactly grunge. Like the Flaming Lips, Screaming Trees weren't '60s throwbacks either, despite the occasional tambourine or organ flourish. The album starts off with the bang of the Thirteenth Floor Elevatorsish "Orange Airplane," which bears the unmistakable stamp of producer Steve Fisk (Pell Mell, Pigeonhed). A child yells the title over and over again as Screaming Trees plunge into a neo-psychedelic rave-up over and around it. The combination of sampling and garage rock works better than it should. "Standing on the Edge" is another standout track with a seductive hook and slow buildup in intensity. Gary Lee Conner's guitar playing has a Middle Eastern feel throughout (à la the Doors' "The End"). Some of the other numbers are a little on the dull side ("I See Stars," "Lonely Girl"), but for the most part, Clairvoyance proves that Screaming Trees would merely be refining -- not developing -- their sound during their higher-profile years on SST and later Epic. Although it doesn't feature any songs quite as catchy as "Something About Today" or "Nearly Lost You" (from their major-label sojourn), this release reveals a band who didn't have far to go to get there.

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