Sub Pop

Nov 20, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

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A few years before some provincial Pacific Northwest punks decided that Aerosmith rocked and ruled roughly as much as Black Flag, deigned to commit the scurrilous act of combining those two inputs, and eventually went on to worldwide stardom for said efforts, Seattle had U-Men. A different (if not altogether separate) beast from the Seattle grunge to come, U-Men's garbled, rockabilly-damaged art punk was nonetheless one of the Seattle scene's first great unifiers, bringing together the town's pasty goths, college radio dweebs, and skate punk creeps (among others) perhaps for the first time. Beefheart, The Cramps, and Pere Ubu are clear forerunners, and even more common ground is trodden by The Birthday Party and Texan peers Scratch Acid, but there's also an element of U-Men's mania which uniquely reflects their water-damaged home base, and which serves to make them a distinctive pleasure. Herein, Sub Pop, those occasional paragons of local pride, corral the band's recorded output to remind you of what you (probably) missed the first time around.

While U-Men themselves insist that there would have been no benefit to them sticking around to see their hometown scene become an international phenomenon, some of those who did were definitely building on the template the band had laid out before throwing in the ol' towel. You can hear the roots of Green River and Mudhoney most of all (Mark Arm is an avowed fan), but the band's grunting angularity seems to have had an impact on Aberdeen's most tragic golden boy, as well: anyone who can't hear some of the building blocks Nirvana used on Bleach in tracks like "Dig it a Hole" simply ain't listening.

Whatever the case, U-Men only ever managed to become legends in the minds of local scenesters and collector dorks, which is really quite a shame. Their songs can sound a bit samey lumped together in one big set, and they seem like a band for whom the live show was an essential part of the story, but seeing as how we've yet to devise a way to travel back in time, this is just about the best evidence available on these mean muggers. It's well worth the investigation. (www.subpop.com)

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November 27th 2017