Eyes and Ears
By Michael Henningsen
Various Artists Sub Pop Video Network: Program 1 (Sub Pop DVD)
Longing for a return to the Golden Age of grunge? A tour through the annals of Sub Pop history? A reminder of how a handful of incredible (and incredibly resourceful) bands created the most significant musical movement since '70s punk rock? Sub Pop Video Network: Program 1 is just what you're looking for. Yes, long before the grunge look could be purchased from the Gap, and prior to bandwagonesque bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Bush ruled the airwaves, bands like Mudhoney, Beat Happening, Tad, Afghan Whigs and, yes, Nirvana, were busy meshing balls-out hardcore and punk rock with '80s metal in direct response to the Silly String 'n' Aqua Net era of rock music that nearly ruined an entire generation of MTV babies. And much of it is collected in video form on this first DVD installment from the good folks at the label that stated it all: Sub Pop.
At first, viewing these tracks is a little like flipping through your high school yearbook: There's plenty you instantly recognize as having had some kind of lasting effect on you (Nirvana's "In Bloom," Mudhoney's "Here Comes Sickness"), and a bunch of other stuff that has slipped through the cracks in the ensuing years since graduation (Beat Happening's "Hot Chocolate Boy," Fluid's "Black Glove"). Most of the stuff here is almost guaranteed to make you nostalgic in the same slightly melancholy way you recall your last psylicibin trip, and some of it will probably blindside you: Anyone remember The Walkabouts' "Ahead of the Storm" or Thee Headcoats' "Girl of Matches?" Didn't think so. Former Screaming Trees/Queens of the Stoneage vocalist Mark Lanegan contributes the most quietly affecting vid ("Ugly Sunday"), while Afghan Whigs serve up what is perhaps the most disconcerting, uncomfortable footage ever edited into a music video ("Sister Brother"). On the whole, Sub Pop Video Network: Program 1 is a resounding success both in terms of track selection and as a quasi-historical document. Watch it for context, watch it again for the only Dwarves footage you'll ever see until Sub Pop puts out their full-on documentary later this year.
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Erika Wennerstrom • singer-