Despised is the debut album from Tacoma punk rockers Seaweed. Released in 1991 on Sub Pop, the band would inevitably be lumped in with grunge, which is, in fact, how I came to be familiar with them. And actually that categorization isn’t too far off: it’s 10 tracks and 28 minutes of melodic punk with some downtuned guitars on a couple of tracks. The band had little in common with Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, or Pearl Jam, but it’s not far at all to Green River or Mudhoney, or even a garagier Nirvana. Furthermore, the band produced the album with Jack Endino, who also did Nirvana, Gruntruck, Skin Yard, Babes In Toyland, Tad, Green River, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, Mark Lanegan, Love Battery, Gas Huffer, Kerbdog, Malfunkshun, and Zen Guerilla.
This is how I like my punk. Short, sweet, with great melodies. These melodies aren’t as all-out catchy as those by Green Day or even Ramones, but lead singer Aaron Stauffer has a flat, strained voice that he makes the most of, finding unique paths through the band’s tight-as-hell musical pounding, itself driven primarily by the awesome Bob Bulgrien on drums. The muscular, tight sound shares enough with hardcore punk of the 80’s and 90’s that I can’t help but imagine Stauffer as a skinhead. (I actually did see Seaweed at SP20 and remember the singer (assuming that’s Stauffer) as a big, muscular guy with a full head of hair.) But it’s also quite warm, with the lyrics taking a more personal bent than political, humanizing the band amid their pec-flexing sound.
Now comes the time for me to write about individual songs, but I’ve already taken longer to write this review than the actual album is. So let me start to wrap it up by saying “One Out Of Four” (where the band shines at what it does best: tight, hard-hitting beats to end a bit of a delay in a way that almost borrows from the metal of the time) is probably the best song on here, though it’s got competition in “Stale.”
There’s a load of performance and recording talent in this group. And the songwriting’s pretty good, though that’s the aspect that keeps this disc from four full clowns. The album fades in quality quite a bit over the second half, and it’s a bit monochromatic, playing into preconceived notions of what a hardcore punk band is about. They’re different enough in their style to be very good, but not quite different enough to be great. At least at the point of their debut.
Appendix 1: Song Notes
- Selfish –
- One Out Of Four –
- Rethink –
- Stale – “I’m becoming what I once despised”
- Bought It –
- Sit In Glass – This kinda sounds like one from Weak. Well, there’s one part that’s like “Squint” (I think).
- Installing – One of the ones that sounds like it may have a dropped D tuning.
- Patchwork –
- Inside –
- Lovegut –