Pop Music Reviews : Singer Softens Impact of Screaming Trees


The music of the Northwest’s Screaming Trees is a dense, sodden version of the Meat Puppets’ sun-crazed anthills of sound. Though their attack wore a bit thin halfway through Wednesday’s set at the Coach House, the quartet churned out a similarly skewed melodic/metallic mix that also draws from psychedelic-era sensibilities.

Gary Lee Conner may be the most frenetic large-guy guitarist since the Minutemen’s late D. Boon--matching their rampaging musicianship, he and his similarly rotund bassist brother Van caromed about the stage like renegade meatballs. By comparison, singer Mark Lanegan seemed like a dry bread stick, immobile as his mike stand and doing little to inhabit the band’s lyrics. The group did some of its most powerful material, but Lanegan, despite a strong, husky, Jim Morrison-like voice, dampened their impact.

He was a virtual volcano of emotion, though, compared to second-billed Luna 2 frontman Dean Wareham. He looked about as engaged as someone working a bar-code register at Ralphs, and his impassive vocals nearly fell to the floor and curled up.


But matched to his lyrics of tired hopelessness (say, there’s a novel idea!) and fronting his softer, intelligent though not especially inventive guitar-based music--sort of like a Watchman version of Television--his effortless style sometimes connected, notably on “Anesthesia” and “Slash Your Tires.”

* Screaming Trees and Luna 2also play tonight at Iguanas in Tijuana, Saturday at Bogart’s in Long Beach.