Welcome to Review Revue, where every Thursday I dig through the KEXP stacks to share DJ reviews and comments written on the covers of LPs (and occasionally CDs) in the ’80s and ’90s, when the station was called KCMU, the DJs were volunteers, and people shared their opinions on little white labels instead of the internet.
Based on my research, you probably shouldn't be talking about Seattle Rock since the '80s without talking about U-Men. And fortunately, you don't have to listen to me — a guy who wasn't even here and was too young anyway — talk about them. We have what they call primary sources!
Normally I would try to cobble together at least some sort of minimal narrative about the band, but why would I do that when we have this glorious essay by Mark Arm (of Mudhoney and KCMU DJ fame) to give you the entire story in full, living color? (You'll notice, when you click that link, that it takes you to an enormous release that appears to maybe be everything U-Men ever released? You should probably buy it.) You should really go read the whole thing, but here's a little taste just to get you started.
"From 1983 to 1987, the U-Men were the undisputed kings of the Seattle Underground. No one else came close. They ruled a bleak backwater landscape populated by maybe 200 people. They were the only band that could unify the disparate sub-subcultures and get all 200 of those people to fill a room. Anglophilic, dress-dark Goths; neo-psych MDA acolytes; skate punks who shit in bathtubs at parties; Mod vigilantes who tormented the homeless with pellet guns; college kids who thought college kids were lame; Industrial Artistes; some random guy with a moustache; and eccentrics who insisted that they couldn’t be pigeonholed: all coalesced around the U-Men."
And now, as always, let's hear from the KCMU gang of yore.
"Finally a full-length U-Men LP that rocks and funks it up in a big way!"
"Full-length? No." [Well, technially, yes.]
"This LP shows off the best and worst aspects of the U-Men. The not-so-great side is in plain view on 1.5, 2.3 (pathetic Cramps/Birthday Party apings), 1.1-3, 2.2 (these cuts plod and have poor segueing). But 1.4, 2.1 and 2.4 show that this band can make original sounds and is still progressing. I don't enjoy this as much as Stop Spinning or Blight."
"Got a lot of grease in here. Sweat too, but more grease and rock. Does little for me."
"Some great, and some not. NOTE: Tom does not look like the promo pic enclosed. Imagine about a week's more facial growth and a glassier stare. Almost the LP I wanted, but NO. Damnit."