Solid Action

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Ask any of the first-wave grunge rockers (Soundgarden, Green River, Melvins, etc.) who their direct competition was during their early days, and the answer is surely to be the U-Men. They may not be name-checked as often as the aforementioned bands (or in Green River's case, the groups they later spawned), yet the U-Men were one of the first bands of the scene to tour outside the Emerald City. Interestingly, although they are considered by many rock historians as one of the first grunge bands, the U-Men had more in common with the Birthday Party than Black Sabbath, as evidenced by the exceptional 1999 compilation Solid Action. Plucking post-punk gems from their brief discography (two EPs, one full-length, and a handful of comp tracks), Solid Action serves as both a superb introduction and career overview of this woefully underrated band. Singer John Bigley can be best described as a merger of Nick Cave and Iggy Pop, as evidenced by the jittery album opener, "Gila," while "Shoot 'Em Down" adds a surprising blues element to the sonic stew, and "Dig It a Hole" is a downright ferocious rocker. Also included in the nifty booklet are recollections and pictures (including an entertaining story of when Bigley introduced "fire" to an outdoor U-Men show). Solid Action shows why many veteran Seattle music scenesters consider the U-Men to be one of the area's all-time finest -- especially when you take into consideration what the rest of the world considered "rock" at the time of their existence. Super-highly recommended.

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