“Hype! Boxed Set” (1996)

I’ve bemoaned the selling off of my precious Sub Pop singles many a time on Life in the Vinyl Lane. I’m not entirely sure how many I had, but it was maybe around 20 or so, probably a few more, most of which came to me via the great indie record store Cellophane Squire (RIP). I had some great stuff – Nirvana, Mudhoney, Dwarves…. tons of if on colored vinyl. <sigh> I promised myself I’d stay away from the nostalgia train and wouldn’t spend a bunch of money trying to reacquire that group, and so far I’ve been pretty successful in sticking to that. The only one I have is a newer release, the 2013 Mudhoney 7″ “New World Charm” / “Swimming in Beer.” But then I went to Easy Street the other day with too much time on my hands and not enough common sense in my back pocket, and walked out of there with the 1997 Sub Pop 7″ box set called Hype! Boxed Set.

But how could I resist? Mudhoney, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Gas Huffer, U-Men… all in one box set!? Eleven songs on four different color 7″ records. Nestled all snug in a nice little box, with a poster inside. It’s like the warm embrace of flannel and a mullet to keep the back of my neck warm on a cold fall day circa 1989.

Hype! was a documentary about the grunge scene that came out in 1996, and this box set is a shortened version of the full length soundtrack. As such most of the material dates from between 1987 and 1992, with only Girl Trouble’s “My Hometown” (1993) and “Return of the Rat” by Portland’s The Wipers (1979) falling outside that range. “Return of the Rat” may seem like an odd choice, but the song is widely cited by Seattle musicians from the late 1980s as an influential track, perhaps most notably by Kurt Cobain, so it definitely fits.

One of the cool aspects of this set is that four of the songs are live recordings – Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick,” Gas Huffer’s “Hotcakes,” Mono Men’s “Watch Outside,” and Fastbacks’ “K Street.”

TANGENT: Holly says The Wipers’ “Return of the Rat” reminds her a lot of the Ramone’s “Beat on the Brat” (1976). I want to disagree, but she might be onto something here in a weird way.

The Mudhoney track is a bit trebly, but otherwise captures all the angst and sneering power of “Touch Me I’m Sick.” The Wipers may have been the “Lucy” of grunge, but Mudhoney wiped out the Neanderthals and established its supremacy with this song. The fact that that song is on a 7″ alongside “Negative Creep” and “Return of the Rat” may make this the coolest 7″ record ever. Ever. To me it’s 1980s punk rock in one little 7″ vinyl package.

I have to give some props to the Mono Men and Gas Huffer, both of who kill it with their selections (both live) in this set. I have a Gas Huffer record, but I don’t think I’ve ever owned anything by the Mono Men before. Bravo too to Fastbacks for their brand of lo-fi pop punk.

TANGENT: Note to self. Don’t try to eat a cup cake with gooey frosting while playing 7″ records.

This set of singles definitely took my way back, and while I’m still not a huge fan of the 7″ format (too much work!), it was a great way to recapture my Sub Pop glory days. It’ll get spun again for sure, especially that Wipers/Nirvana/Mudhoney record.

“Sub Pop Rock City” Compilation (1988)

There are two things you should know about being a record collector in Seattle:

1. It’s easy to find Seattle and Sub Pop stuff here.
2. It’s impossible to find Seattle and Sub Pop stuff here.

Ok, that makes no sense on the surface, but play along. You’ll probably find more Seattle and Sub Pop stuff here than anywhere… but rarely the stuff you’re looking for. And on the off chance you do find what you want, it’s way more expensive than anywhere else in the record collecting universe. Case in point – I’d like to pick up the Sup Pop 100 vinyl. I finally ran across it the other day at a local shop for $175. Now, I’m all about buying local. I’ll pay more to buy local. But not when I can find this same record on eBay for $55-75 all day long. Welcome to Seattle

So this is why I ended up buying the elusive Sub Pop Rock City comp on vinyl not in Seattle, the home of Sub Pop and lots of the bands on the record. Oh no. I bought this record in Stockholm, Sweden, where I ran across it in the absolutely incredible punk store Trash Palace. I laughed when I first ran across it. Then I realized that for the price, the Glitterhouse version of this release was reasonable and worth picking up and schlepping back home with me. Go figure.

Sub Pop Rock City was released in 1988 (though the Green River track “Hangin’ Tree” was recorded in 1986), just before the Seattle scene blew up nationally. I had this record back in the day, back before I sold my original vinyl collection. So I was kind of stoked to add it to my new, growing vinyl library this summer. The selection of bands is impeccable. Sure, Nirvana is here. And so is Soundgarden. But let’s not overlook not one but two classic Mark Arm grunge bands, Mudhoney and Green River, alongside Tad, The Fluid, and Blood Circus. Also included are some early bands on the scene, Cat Butt and Thrown Ups. If you’re looking for a true grunge primer, Sub Pop Rock City is it.

I’m embarrassed to say I missed most of these bands live back in the day, but I’ve seen Mudhoney twice in the last couple of years (and I’m going to see them again in February), and they’re still amazing. I also caught Tad Doyle in his current band, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth (the first time as an opener for Mudhoney in a classic double-bill). And while the crowds still have a ton of energy, watching a bunch of 40-somethings mosh isn’t quite the same thing as what you see on the cover of Sub Pop Rock City. No matter how much we try, there’s always the danger of someone breaking a hip.

I know a lot of people don’t like comps, and I get it. It’s not the same thing as getting a real feel for a band over the course of an entire album. Regardless, the mix here is solid, and unless you’re a serious student of grunge you’re not going to try to track down albums from all these bands – I mean, I only have albums by seven of the eleven bands featured. I don’t pretend to be the be-all-end-all grunge fan, but I like it… and I still don’t have all this stuff. If for no other reasons it’s worth picking up for Tad’s “Sex God Missy” and Green River’s “Hangin’ Tree”.

Put on your flannel shirt and work boots, grab a PBR tallboy, and put this sucker on the turntable. Sure, your hair isn’t long like it used to be… but you can still rock out.