Seattle has had a healthy underground/punk/garage/rock ’n’ roll scene for the last few years, but documentation of it has been sparse at best. Most of the worthy local garage labels like Regal Select and Bag Of Hammers were defunct, punk mainstay Empty records scaled back and moved, and SubPop was deaf to 95 percent of what was going on in its own back yard, leaving Dirtnap Records about the only Seattle label with an ear to the underground. This disc is a compilation of 31 bands from the Seattle, Portland and Vancouver areas.
Dirtnap mainly focuses on catchy, classic punk, represented here by the Triggers’ VKTMS/Lewd-style clunky thud, the Briefs’ 999/Gen X meets early ’80s SoCal sound, Fliptops’ Rip-Off records-style singalongs, and the Stuck-Ups’ Eyes/Bags-influenced female vocal jagged punk.
Armed with jittery guitar and time changes, the Pulses mod/New Wave/pop collision “Stuck” is reminiscent of the long-lamented Suicide Commandos; the Cripples sound like ’75-era Devo using ’82-era gear to play pop; the Intelligence 4-track take “The Universe” could fit snugly on a Ralph Records sampler between Renaldo & The Loaf and Snakefinger; and the Cinch sports a Stereolab-like song structure beset with a rockist guitar whop.
The Hunches’ “Like I Could Die” is a standout here, not as overdriven as some of their stuff — more Chris Bailey (Saints) singing over a bed of Real Kids/Richard Hell-era Television guitars. The Exploding Hearts cover “Sniffin’ Glue” by FU2 (aka ’60s beat-punk greats the Downliners Sect doing a punk cash-in).
With this number of songs, there’s no way for it to be as concise a distillation of a scene as something like Cleveland Confidential (high-water mark for regional comps). A few of the best bands in Seattle (Right On, Head, Fallouts, A-Frames) are excluded and a few of the worst are included but it’s an accurate representation of the Northwest scene and a generally enjoyable listen.
E-mail Heath Heemsbergen at firstname.lastname@example.org.