Thursday, April 17, 2008

Singles Going Single #s 29 & 30 - Solomon Grundy (1991, New Alliance) & Dr. Janet (1990, Ringers Lactate)

The Screaming Trees will always be defined not only by Mark Lanegan's husky bellow, but it's colossal backbone, namely brothers Gary Lee Conner and Van Conner, rounding things out on guitar and bass respectively. Circa the Trees Uncle Anesthesia album in 1990, the Conners produced two worthy spin off outfits.
Van Conners's baby was dubbed Solomon Grundy, ostensibly named after the brute force villain in the Legion of Doom, but I won't go into that any further. Van's axe-squalling, pysch-freakouts that colored many a Screaming Trees tune were also adorned on Grundy's one and only album, unofficially known as Stone Soup and Other Stories. More hard rock than grunge, the band surged forth with sturdy, mid-tempo finesse, but as a whole, far from a classic. Alongside Stone Soup, Solomon Grundy also released a companion single, both releases coming courtesy of the SST Records offshoot label, New Alliance. Their lone single featured a rather faithful rendition of Rush's signature hit, "Spirit of Radio," and the non-lp, "I'm Not the Freak." Although a Rush cover seemed ironic at best, at the time anyway, it's arguably more entertaining then Van Conner's original compositions. In fact, if you listen closely as the song trails off, they segue into Rush's "Limelight." Neat. Really neat actually.

Both Van and Gary Lee Conner are of considerable...well...girth. Despite this fact, their vocals are surprisingly fey held up against Lanegan's golden throat. Gary Lee's day in the sun came in the form of The Purple Outside, who like Grundy also recorded one album (Mystery Lane) that happened to bear the New Alliance imprint. However, this intrepid crusader had another trick up his flanneled sleeve. Enter the 1990 one-off, un-super-group Dr. Janet. Spearheaded by Gary Lee, the group was further bolstered with axe/bass slinger Matt Sweeney of the then active Skunk (who you really should check out), and in years to come, Chavez and Zwan. Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan also straps on a bass, while drummer Lyle R. Hysen, formerly of Das Damen fleshes out the ranks. For better or worse, Dr. Janet's "Ten Years Gone" ain't the Zeppelin tune, but "Starry Eyes" is The Records power-pop classic for the ages. A good time was had by all - at least I hope so.

Solomon Grundy
A. Spirit of Radio
B. I'm Not the Freak 
Dr. Janet
A. Ten Years Gone
B. Starry Eyes

1 comment:

evr said...

3 things!

1) Ringer's Lactate was Brian Long's label. We were pals back then. He worked for SST in the late '80s and moved to Geffen around this time (they may have been something inbetween). Awesome dude!

2) If my memory serves, the other RL release was the first Velvet Crush album.

3) Lyle Hysen is one of my favorite people from my NYC days. I gotta look that guy up again!

Great post buddy!