Screaming Trees Clairvoyance

It’s hard to believe that Mark Lanegan has emerged as the most compelling figure of the grunge scene (of the survivors, at least), given that his former band, Screaming Trees, never fully achieved the same success as their peers. Still, even hearing this first-time CD reissue of the band’s 1986 debut reveals clear glimpses of the Jim Morrison-esque charisma, and likeminded boozy poetic conviction, that has since became Lanegan’s trademark. But like all of the earliest efforts of the Seattle scene, Clairvoyance is mostly a time capsule showing a bunch of ambitious kids attempting to write a new chapter in American rock’n’roll with whatever means were at hand. Mark Pickerel’s drums are straight out of the basement and Gary Lee Conner’s noodling solos are sub-J. Mascis, leaving the main focus on Lanegan. Those used to his whiskey-soaked howl will be surprised by its clarity on some tracks but he sounds unexpectedly contemporary throughout, especially on "I See Stars” and "Lonely Girl.” Clairvoyance shouldn’t be the place to start exploring Lanegan’s catalogue but it’s the necessary beginning that has eluded hardcore fans for years. (Hall of Records)