Between 1987 and 2006, Northwestern trio Dead Moon churned out some of the most silently influential records of their era, creating a sound that would directly foster the grunge movement and generations of punks to come. Their stripped-down sound was raw and grizzly, taking cues from both Portland's dreary punk scene and wistful psychedelia legends like Love and 13th Floor Elevators. Self-sufficient to an almost shut-in degree, Dead Moon recorded and released all of their own music, going so far as to cut the master plates for reproducing their records on their own mono lathe cutter. Dead Moon's legacy grew as more commercially successful bands like Pearl Jam covered their songs or dropped their name in interviews, but during their early existence, they were mostly unknown, touring mainly in Europe and playing gigs locally. Tales from the Grease Trap, Vol. 1 captures the band in one of those amazing early local gigs, playing a blistering set at Portland's divey punk rock bar Satyricon in April of 1993. This archival evidence of one of the more important and self-made rock monsters of the time has a tellingly low-key feel to it. Instead of the uproarious applause that comes at the end of every song on your typical "live album," the club sounds a little bit empty here, bassist/vocalist Toody Cole offering mumbly stage banter while they tune up and even casually searching out a friend in the crowd whose birthday it is. It's a real, raw document of Dead Moon at the height of their powers, ripping through dark tunes like "Parchment Farm" and "Don't Burn the Fires" like their lives depended on it. Their insanely minimal approach just adds power to every turn, with the spacious beat of "Echoes to You" emphasizing how tender and optimistic it is compared to the manic, bluesy death dirge of "Room 213" that immediately follows. Tales from the Grease Trap, Vol. 1 is the complete Dead Moon experience in all its ragged intensity. Their singular, self-contained vision was almost a mission, and this astonishing live document proves they were going to go full force for themselves and no one else, whether 30 people showed up or 3,000 did.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas