Saturday, November 26, 2005

Screaming Trees: Invisible Lantern

SST Records, 1988

A creamy slop of early psychedelic and pop sludge in this third full-length from the 'Trees. I never got that they were "punk" but I suppose if you played loud feedback-laden guitars in the '80s you were bound to get that label. This should have come with a warning label: Much Pot Was Consumed in Making This Record. Can't fathom why Lanegan refers to this early work as "crap" (1999 interview) although close scrutiny of the lyrics (quick sample: There's a dark-hair girl on a mattress / and there's a room suspended in the air") might make you throw-up a little but who's really listening except for the choruses.

Otherwise, you can't fault Lanegan's raw singing and Gary Lee Conner's wall of feedback snake charmin' guitar. You also have to acknowledge producer (and ballad pianist) Steve Fisk as the "fifth member" of the group - the sound is absolutely and awesomely sublime especially when you consider that he's running a start-up studio in some small town in the Inland Empire.

In contrast to Lanegan, Gary Lee Conner calls this his favorite Trees record on his website although he traces the band's troubles to this time period:
This is my favorite Screaming Trees record. It is total
psychedelia with a hard rock edge and some pop thrown in
for good measure. Also this is when it start to get hard
instead of fun we had started to tour two or three times a
year and we were all getting sick of each other. We had
fights with Steve Fisk over mixes and there was a general
malaise in the Screaming Trees camp. The worst thing
about the album is that Van quit right after we finished it
and was replaced by Donna Dresch for the fall 88 tour with
fIREHOSE. Luckily he came back after making one too
many donuts at Albertsons (it's not like we made any money
with the band in those days). (source:
If this lacks anything other than groovy lyrics it's a reason to really internalize the music. Most of the songs while technically pretty and musically interesting but just seem to lack a whole lotta soul. It's all a great listen and I'd recommend this most out of their early work but the songs don't really reach out and grab you like their later stuff, even if you think it's slicker. Although most people have said that this band's signposts are the garage psyche bands of the '60s and '70's, I also see much affinity with some of their labelmates - Meat Puppets and Husker Du records sound right filed next to this. Best Meat Puppets tribute is "The Second I Awake" and best Du tribute is "Walk Through to This Side" and those were two bands that DID stick in my craw, they're my choice for sampling. I'd put "Ivy", the opener and "Night Comes Creeping" is more in line with the 60's style stuff - 13th Floor Elevators are the closest touchstone my feeble mind can construct.

  • Van Conner - Bass
  • Mark Pickerel - Drums
  • Mark Lanegan - Vocals
  • Gary Lee Conner - Guitar


And now for something completely different:


peelitback said...
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peelitback said...

Excellent post. There is a much better Lanegan site here:

His solo stuff on Sub Pop is well worth checking out.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the review. My favourite album from the Trees, too! This and "Buzz Factory" are their masterpieces, for me. Steph.