“YANKS GO HOME!” shouted Select Magazine in April 1993. The heading “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Cobain?” saw Stuart Maconie put the case forward for ignoring the nascent grunge movement and instead focusing on the “crimplene, glamour, wit, and irony” of British bands. The future were listed as follows: Saint Etienne, Suede, Denim, Pulp, The Auteurs and it was called Britpop. And just in case you need a reminder…
Greetings From Uncle Sam was compiled by Terry Felgate and Roger James with much assistance in all legalities by Johnathon Cross. It was released during the summer of 1993. There’s a brief essay by Andrew Collins who outlines the manifesto: “This album traces a rich seam of 90s alternative US rock whose success – whether under or overground – is, in part thanks to Nirvana’s late wham-bam arrival centre stage.” The CD consists of 13 tracks lasting just under 50 minutes. On this site, it is ironically categorised under Pop UK.
We start with Sugar’s Changes. See my review of NME Singles Of The Week 1992 for more on that subject. Unlike there and Indie Top 20 Volume 16, we get the longer album version here which can only be interpreted as the compilers taking an excessive rockist stance. Next “a catchy confection of bubblegum pop, all sky-scraping solos and upbeat strummed riffs” AKA Dinosaur Jr and the radio friendly unit shifter Start Choppin’, a beguiling taster for Where You Been. Sadly we don’t get the radio edit here either; the version which is used on the heavily-caned music video. It is noted that the 7″ included the 5:40 take and the shorter version can be found on the promo CD. Meanwhile L7’s Pretend We’re Dead is the real deal; a nihilistic grunge anthem that will always pack a punch. Of course we remember the infamous Reading Festival tampon into crowd and bottomless performance on The Word too. But the music is none more ’90s.
“It means to take advantage of someone, say in a relationship, where you are like a vampire draining them of everything inside.” (Debra on Suck You Dry). Kings of fuzz, Mudhoney, make a welcome appearance next with a prominent cut from Piece Of Cake. It’s neatly paired with the more laidback Soul Asylum who come across like a cross between Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain on the reflective Black Gold. Memorable video by Zack Synder which I recall airing constantly on 120 Minutes. As did Buffalo Tom’s depressingly anthemic Tailights Fade, a melancholy masterpiece. The next track (and Start Choppin’) share some DNA with Loaded, a seminal compilation even in his youth. Belly’s Feed The Tree, a glorious almost poppier side to the 1993 mirror of blackness. Also appearing on that jukebox banger were The Lemonheads; here with catchy & crunchy Confetti. They’re logically followed by Juliana Hatfield who played on It’s Shame About Ray; we get the infectious Everybody Loves Me But You. Evan Dando on guitar.
The remainder of Greetings From Uncle Sam focus on heavier sounds. There’s shades of Cameron Crowe’s Singles floating around on Alice In Chains’ Them Bones (Would is on the soundtrack) and Soundgarden’s Rusty Cage (they contributed Birth Ritual). Jerry Cantrell on Them Bones: “I was just thinking about mortality, that one of these days we’ll end up a pile of bones. It’s a thought for every human being, whether you believe in an after-life or that when we die, that’s it. The thought that all the beautiful things and knowledge and experiences you’ve been through just end when you end scares me, the thought that when you close your eyes for good, it’s gone forever.” Meanwhile Rusty Cage is the one with the white room video. And then Firehose with the bomb that is Blaze, produced by J Mascis and a lot more palatable than previous output. Finally we end with Epic, Faith No More’s stylish 1990 smash. A somewhat unusual choice given the recent Angel Dust LP had spawned three excellent singles. But it’s one that lives up to its name, still enduring today. “You want it all but you can’t have it.” Happy Independence Day.
Dedicated to the memory of my friend Mitchel Walsh who passed away on 4 July 1995.
L7 – Pretend We’re Dead
Buffalo Tom – Tailights Fade
Lest we forget
Juliana Hatfield – Everybody Loves Me But You