“Here’s to the Losers – A Storeroom Comp” Complilation

I lived in the Seattle area at the perfect time to experience the city’s musical ascendency. I was the right age (late teens/early 20s), was maybe a 20-30 minute drive from the city, and bought pretty much any Sub Pop single that came out (my one regret of having sold my first record collection years ago was the loss of those singles…). But I didn’t go to live shows. I just didn’t. At the time I wasn’t a big fan of live music, and I really wasn’t into the bar thing. So despite being at ground zero of an amazing music scene, I more or less missed it. So goes life.

That being said, the one small live show I did go to during that period was in a tiny rented hall to see a band called Bone Cellar. I made the trek out to that show because I sort of knew one of the members of Bone Cellar, guitarist Dave Keppel. He lived down the street from a good friend of mine, so I’d see him from time to time hanging out at the house when we were skating, listening to music, drinking beers, and all those other things we did to pass the time. Man, I don’t even remember where exactly that show took place. If I recall correctly, there wasn’t even a stage – the band was on floor level with the audience. And it was loud. Really loud. I was impressed that someone I knew was actually good enough to be in a legit band that played live shows that people actually paid to see. Plus Dave was a very cool guy, so it was fun to see him play.

So… while I was digging through records at Easy Street Records on the Black Friday Record Store Release Day, Holly was poking around among the used CDs. As she’s wont to do, she made sure to check out the comps, and showed me this gem. What caught her eye is that it included a Bone Cellar track, which was awesome. Plus at $3 it seemed like a bargain. Normally I try to keep my ramblings confined to records, but some stuff just never came out on vinyl, so you have to work with what you’ve got. And the music is the important part, not the format.

The Storeroom was a Seattle tavern located at the south end of Lake Union. I’m not sure if it’s still there or not… might be worth a field trip to take a look someday. One of the bartenders described The Storeroom in the CD insert this way: “A grand ole time was had by all especially if you liked hot, sweaty, stinking masses of people packed in like sardines, getting all tanked up and throwin’ cheap beer or diving off the bar (or any other available surface) at you.” Which sounds both interesting and intense. Regardless, The Storeroom hosted a lot of live bands back in the day, hence the Here’s to the Losers compilation which includes 33 tracks from, as near as I can tell, 23 different bands, all recorded between 1991 and 1994. Most of the songs are short (only six are longer than three minutes, with Bone Cellar’s track the only one longer than 3:31), but the album still clocks in at a rather robust 77 minutes, so it’s got a ton of music on it.

Stylistically this probably is not what a lot of modern fans of Nirvana and Pearl Jam would expect. A lot of musicians bristle when their music is described as “grunge”, and frankly I think that by the time grunge became popular it had sort of spun off into a totally separate genre. You could call it whatever you want – post-grunge, pop-grunge, indie, alt, etc. While genres are perceived as limiting by musicians, they’re valuable reference points to at least give people a rough idea of what a band’s sound is like. So how would I describe the music on Here’s to the Losers? Well, there are a lot of bands here, so it sort of requires some broad generalizing. I guess if I had to label it I’d call it something like punk-grunge. This is more what the genre sounded like before it got cleaned up and popular on the radio. And please don’t take this as me trying to be pretentious about that – I really love a lot of that music that became popular grunge. This is just something different. Earlier. Rawer. Coming from someplace deep inside. Someplace darker and aggressive. Someplace that smells like stale beer and floors that haven’t been cleaned in a decade. There are a few exceptions, such as Nothing’s “How Long”, which is basically a straight up pop song.

The bands vary enough that I think there’s at least something here for most punk/early grunge fans. Among my favorites are Lectra Shave’s “Idiot”, Patchouli Sewer’s “Golden Boy”, and Zulu Chainsaw’s “Jack Dammit”. One really positive thing about the comp as a whole is the quality of the recordings – the mix sounds really good. It’s not blown out, nor is it recorded way too low, two typical faults of live recordings, especially those made in smaller venues. It sounds like it was recorded in a studio, but while still maintaining that raw sound and energy of live performances.

He’s an outcast,
An oxymoron,
An oddball,
— Patchouli Sewer, “Golden Boy”

Most of these bands are long gone as near as I can tell (though I confess I didn’t try to find all of them), but the Piss Drunks are still alive and well, and I believe a version of Bone Cellar (minus Dave Keppel) is around too.

If you want to get a feel for what was going on in the small bars and clubs in Seattle in the early 1990s, Here’s to the Losers gives it to you. Finding a copy is another matter entirely though… you’ll have to hunt around online or dig through the compilation bins, I guess. But if you can get your hands on one, buy it!