I said at the beginning of our Grunge Week feature that Alice in Chains is frequently my default answer for Favorite Seattle Band and they are but Screaming Trees will forever have a special place in my heart and it starts with the voice of Mark Lanegan. His work with Screaming Trees is incredible and yet he eclipsed it in his solo career and that is saying something.
I've also got a special place in my heart for this band because of Barrett Martin. My love for Trees made me curious to follow what he was doing when he started releasing solo records in the jazz/ World music vein. My love for those records has expanded my musical listening palette considerably and I've had the opportunity to interview him, meet him, and talk music with him a few times over the past several years and those are special experiences for me.
That "personal" connection is nice but it's the music that drew me in all those years ago and the music that continues to speak to and inspire me. Here are my Top 5 Screaming Trees songs. Feel free to jump in the comments and share yours!
- Halo Of Ashes: Few grunge classics rock the sitar. I doubt seriously it would have occurred to your Nirvanas, your Alices, your Soundgardens to even try but Screaming Trees did and the result is a sprawling epic in four minutes. "Halo of Ashes" is grand and has a sense of movement and motion created by that sitar and the wonderful percussion work of multi-instrumentalist Barrett Martin.
- Shadow Of The Season: This is another signature moment for Martin and his use of unusual rhythmic structures and percussion instruments inside a standard rock song ("Nearly Lost You" from that same record has another cool example of this). Lineman's voice is perfectly suited for any song using the word "shadow" and the guitars are just massive.
- Crawlspace: I never would have signed off on the idea of putting distortion on Lanegan's inimitable voice but damn if it doesn't make this song feel creepier and more claustrophobic. It's a shame these will be the Last Words from this great band but they went out on a high note, even if it took another decade for the music to surface.
- Sworn And Broken: Dust is an album filled with elegiac epics and this is the most mournful and beautiful of the bunch. Benmont Tench makes a lovely cameo but Lanegan's weathered voice, something we hear more in his solo work than on Trees records, is a perfect vehicle to deliver the words and emotion of this lovely song.
- Where The Twain Shall Meet: It would have been easy to come up with five songs using only Sweet Oblivion and Dust, but Screaming Trees but I do enjoy some of the earlier work from the indie days with Mark Pickerel on drums. Lanegan recently dusted this off for a few of his solo shows in the UK and reinterpreted it. He sings with less force and more nuance now, making both versions worth your time.