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Screaming Trees

Early '90s Pacific Northwest grunge-rock behemoths the Screaming Trees always took a backseat to fellow flannel-bearing brethren Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains because of their lack of visual appeal, on-stage presentation and overall record sales. But their underrated, delicately balanced amalgamation of the '60s psychedelic/garage do-it-yourself aesthetic; weird, pompous '70s hard rock excess; and dynamic, underground '80s post-punk aggression are melded seamlessly, and righteously applauded on this single-disc, 19-track retrospective of near-hits, which includes two never-before-heard Don Fleming-produced rarities ("Watchpocket Blues" and "Paperback Bible"), all recorded from 1990-'96. during their major label tenure with Epic Records.

The original lineup was led by gruffly mournful singer Mark Lanegan, steely drummer Barrett Martin and the beefy Conner brothers--churning guitar marauder Gary Lee and stoic Van on bass. They were one of the most influential, uncharacteristic and underappreciated bands to spawn from the post-Nirvana explosion of major label alternative rock signings--except mainstream America barely noticed. Matching equal amounts of melody and power, darkness and restraint, they briefly hit paydirt with the neo-classic "Nearly Lost You", and the equally misunderstood "Alice Said" and "Butterfly," both of which brought hypnosis and sophistication to a disputable, contented and sometimes self-imploding band wavering on the edge of the arena rock stardom that barely escaped them.

More by Ron Bally

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