As the legendary Seattle label Sub Pop celebrates its official 25th birthday, we choose 25 significant records, beginning with Nirvana, ‘Bleach’. Kurt Cobain might have only written the raspily snarled lyrics on Nirvana’s debut the night before recording when he was “pissed off”, but the attitude’s there. All the potential was intact for later, more propulsive records.
Mogwai, ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’. Some cracking titles including ‘You’re Lionel Richie’ – apparently named after the exact words Stuart Braithwaite used when he bumped into the soul singer at an airport – and a more stripped-down feel mark Mogwai’s 2011 classic. It still makes a gargantuan noise but veers away from their usual post-rock, embracing synths and motorik rhythms.
Washed Out, ‘Within And Without’. Ernest Greene’s chillwave outfit Washed Out released ‘Within And Without’ in 2011, and it’s fertile with sedated grooves, a hazy sunscreen dream.
The Postal Service, ‘Give Up’. Nodding towards the new wave and synths of the 80s, indie supergroup The Postal Service’s ‘Give Up’ was Sub Pop’s bestselling album since Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’.
CSS, ‘Cansei De Ser Sexy’. You may recognise the Brazilian-electro tunes ‘Alala’ and ‘Off The Hook’ on CSS’s ‘Cansei de Ser Sexy’ from FIFA 08. There was a time back then when Lovefoxxx and the gang seemed as if they would soundtrack all our summers.
Flight Of The Conchords, ‘Flight Of The Conchords’. So much more than a TV offshoot, Flight Of The Conchords’ debut album forensically pastiched everything from Bowie to hip-hop and saw the duo consolidate their formidable cult following. It was hilarious too.
Mudhoney, ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’. This delightfully titled album from Mudhoney is named after the band’s two favourite guitar effects, the Univox Super-Fuzz and Electro-Harmonix Big Muff. It’s a compilation of sorts, a snapshot of the stickier end of grunge’s golden age.
King Tuff, ‘King Tuff’. King Tuff’s eponymous album, released in 2012, features sounds from ‘Jazijoo’ – that’s his guitar’s name. Kyle Thomas (that’s his real name) spearheaded a glam rock revival that, well, is still about to happen.
Pissed Jeans, ‘Hope For Men’. Pissed Jeans’ second album, released in 2007, was a crushing slab of Sub Pop-friendly noise-rock, big on laughs and buzz-cut riffs.
Dwarves, ‘Blood Guts & Pussy’. ‘Blood Guts & Pussy’ drew as much attention for its controversial album sleeve featuring three nude models covered in animal blood – and its title – as for its music, a headlong speedfreak punk rock, with hooks.
Tad, ‘God’s Balls’. Regarded by some as pioneers of the grunge movement, Tad released ‘God’s Ball’s in 1989. Their debut album was grinding, lurching slo-mo punk, an unlikely but powerful forerunner to a new scene.
Earth, ‘Earth 2’. Opening number ‘Seven Angels’ was relatively short at 15 minutes on an album that wove together three mammoth instrumental tracks of feedback-packed drone-doom. ‘Earth 2’ came out in 1993, an early take on post-rock.
Chixdiggit, ‘Chixdiggit!’. Apparently named after the ‘metal’ way of writing “chicks dig it”, Canadian band Chixdiggit unleashed their debut album in 1996, bringing perky pop-punk to the Sub Pop catalogue.
Beach House, ‘Teen Dream’. For their third album, dream-pop duo Beach House held back on the reverb to make a wonderful, soaring record of straight-up – but ghostly – melodies, heartbreaking and euphoric in equal measure.
Shabazz Palaces, ‘Black Up’. Interweaved with intricate lyricism, Shabazz Palaces ‘Black Up’ bust out in 2011, and was saluted by erudite critics for its dedication to progressive hip hop.
Eric’s Trip, ‘Love Tara’. Named after a track on Sonic Youth’s avant-grunge masterpiece ‘Daydream Nation’, Eric’s Trip emerged from Canada in the early 90s and put out debut ‘Love Tara’ in 1993, swamping Sub Pop with sweet lo-fi vibes.
Green River, ‘Rehab Doll’. 1988 album ‘Rehab Doll’ is Green River’s only full-length effort, but it’s more than just a curio. Vocalist Mark Arm and guitarist Steve Turner would go on to form Mudhoney, bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard would be founder members of Pearl Jam. Truly a seminal band.
The Vaselines, ‘The Way Of The Vaselines’. A canny move from Sub Pop, who collected everything Scots lo-fi alt-pop duo The Vaselines ever recorded for this compilation, mainly prompted by Kurt Cobain expressing his love for the band.
Sebadoh, ‘Bubble And Scrape’. Led by ex-Dinosaur Jr man Lou Barlow, Sebadoh used their 1993 album ‘Bubble And Scrape’ to mark their sly move from lo-fi sounds to more sophisticated indie rock.
Radio Birdman, ‘The Essential Radio Birdman (1974-1978)’. Radio Birdman were around when punk was in its most embryonic stages, and the compilation ‘The Essential Radio Birdman’ is still considered a cornerstone of Australian rock music.
Sunny Day Real Estate, ‘Diary’. A homegrown Seattle band, Sunny Day Real Estate made waves with debut album ‘Diary’ in 1993, eschewing prevailing grunge motifs by going for a more heart-on-sleeve style. Call it the birth of emo.
Constantines, ‘Tournament Of Hearts’. Ontario’s Constantines softened their heavy, dark-hued barrage for third album ‘Tournament Of Hearts’ in 2005, dropping the blasts in favour of delayed pleasures and even trying out an acoustic number.
Soundgarden, ‘Screaming Life’. Another grunge blueprint, Soundgarden’s debut EP ‘Screaming Life’ is led by ‘Hunted Down’ – reputedly the first ever song on Sub Pop’s telephone hold music tape. So there you go.
Niki And The Dove, ‘Instinct’. Swedish duo Niki And The Dove’ released long-awaited debut album ‘Instinct’ in 2012, marrying glacial Scandipop with more meditative tribal excursions and unabashed 80s FM rock.
No Age, ‘An Object’. Due to be released on 20 August this year, keepers of the lo-fi flame No Age’s ‘An Object’ was recorded in their hometown of Los Angeles with long-time collaborator Facundo Bermudez at Gaucho’s Electronics.