Northwest indie rockers back when grunge was still just something that ringed your bathtub, the Screaming Trees have spent their entire career trying to reconcile punk and classic rock. Singer Mark Lanegan, guitarist Gary Lee Conner, his brother bassist Van Conner, and drummer Mark Pickerel erupted from Ellensburg, a dull cow-town on the wrong side of Washington's Cascade Mountains. Like many early indie bands, especially rural ones, the Trees had few prior reference points besides classic rock yet couldn't ignore the siren call of DIY punk.
Released at the height of Seattlemania, produced by Don Fleming (Teenage Fanclub) and mixed by Andy Wallace (Nevermind) , 1992's fantastic Sweet Oblivion promised to be the band's commercial breakthrough. The album contained song after catchy song about self-laceration drenched in Catholic guilt--Lanegan's reading of the old spiritual "Peace in the Valley" on the "Dollar Bill" single (along with an inspired cover of Sabbath's "Tomorrow's Dream") says it all. "Nearly Lost You" was a certifiably great single, while "Dollar Bill," straight out of the "Feelin' Alright"/ "Can't Always Get What You Want" songbook, is a Lanegan tour de force. Slyly quoting bands like the Who, Small Faces, and Cream, the Trees were finally making some classic rock of their own. It never did hit, but Sweet Oblivion is still the Trees' best album by far.


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