Various Artists

No Seattle: Forgotten Sounds of the North-West Grunge Era 1986-97

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It was in the mid-'70s that the first underground compilations of obscure '60s garage rock gems began to circulate, and collections of little-known power pop, disco, and old-school hip-hop tracks have been making the rounds for years, so the fact it has taken roughly two decades for folks to start unearthing the overlooked artifacts of the grunge explosion of the late '80s and early '90s is a bit surprising. But the folks at Soul Jazz have finally taken the flannel shirt by the horns and compiled No Seattle: Forgotten Sounds of the North-West Grunge Era 1986-97, which collects 28 tracks from 23 bands with roots in the Pacific Northwest who were playing various stripes of alternative rock during the years when grunge went from a fanzine catchphrase to last year's marketing scheme. Thankfully, compiler Nick Soulsby has put his focus strictly on independent bands, and this collection is devoted to acts who grew organically out of the Northwest scene rather than those who rolled into Seattle hoping to get signed in the wake of Nirvana's breakthrough (though the booklet does include a helpful sidebar, "Six Degrees of Nirvana," which explains how several acts were connected to Kurt Cobain and pals, and notes that all 23 groups had at least one member who played on a bill with Nirvana, which demonstrates how tightknit this scene was). That most of these bands are all but unknown outside their home turf suggests these folks were grunge's B-team, but there are a few bands that could and should have gone further, including Starfish (crashing poppy grunge produced by Bob Mould), Thrillhammer (hard and heavy with a dash of math rock), Medelicious (noisy pop with solid hooks and buzzy guitars), My Name (chant-along punk with bent hard rock guitars), Calamity Jane (sounding like the unholy spawn of Tad and early Hole), and Treehouse ("Debbie Had a Dream" has all the earmarks of a breakout single). Even the lesser bands are instructive of the overall aesthetic of the scene, especially the influence of metal and hard rock (particularly Helltrout and Attica, the latter featuring original Nirvana drummer Aaron Burckhard) and the undertow of arty influences (most audible in Small Stars, Same 18, and Pod). It doesn't flow quite like the Nuggets box set, but No Seattle does a pretty good job of documenting its time and place, and at the very least reveals there were a handful of worthwhile bands that managed to avoid the glare of the media during Seattle's days as the center of the rock universe.

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