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Sweet Oblivion

Screaming Trees

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Album Review

The Screaming Trees one-upped their major-label debut, Uncle Anesthesia, with this solid, vastly underrated effort. Sweet Oblivion's lead single, the jumpy hard rocker "Nearly Lost You," proved itself a highlight on the hugely successful, Seattle-themed Singles soundtrack. But even though the Screaming Trees stacked up quite well against their more famous peers in that particular showcase, the exposure didn't make them stars. Perhaps it was because Sweet Oblivion had been released several months before Singles, and the band thus couldn't build a sense of anticipation for a new album release, the way Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins did for Dirt and Siamese Dream, respectively; nor could they capitalize on the extra publicity that goes along with new releases. For whatever reason, Singles didn't push sales of Sweet Oblivion, as the latter only scraped the lower reaches of the Billboard charts. And that's a shame, because the record is quite good — the best songs here are easily among the best in their catalog, and the songwriting was their most consistent yet. "Nearly Lost You" is a standout, of course, but "Dollar Bill," "Shadow of the Season," and "Butterfly" are nearly as impressive. Mark Lanegan's raspy voice conveys a weary wistfulness that adds an unexpected dimension to the group's otherwise macho garage-psych grunge. The Trees no longer sound all that punkish, trading in some of their early, noisy fury for a more '70s-indebted hard rock sound, but it's done with a graceful power that proves they were at least the equal of their more famous fellow scenesters. Unfortunately, the four-year hiatus between Sweet Oblivion and its follow-up, Dust, ensured that the band would be forever relegated to cult status.

Biography

Formed: 1985 in Ellensburg, WA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Where many of their Seattle-based contemporaries dealt in reconstructed Black Sabbath and Stooges riffs, Screaming Trees fused '60s psychedelia and garage rock with '70s hard rock and '80s punk. Over the course of their career, their more abrasive punk roots eventually gave way to a hard-edged, rootsy psychedelia that drew from rock and folk equally. After releasing several albums on indie labels like SST and Sub Pop, Screaming Trees moved to Epic Records in 1989. Though they were one of the first...
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Sweet Oblivion, Screaming Trees
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