Skin Yard

  • Skin Yard
  • Skin Yard (C/Z) 1986 
  • Hallowed Ground (Toxic Shock) 1988 
  • Fist Sized Chunks (Cruz) 1990 
  • 1000 Smiling Knuckles (Cruz) 1991 
  • Jack Endino
  • Angle of Attack (Babock) 1990 

Stuck between rock and an art place, this Seattle contingent — led by guitarist Jack Endino, whose pivotal role as the Sub Pop scene’s leading producer has overshadowed his musical efforts — has borne the bridesmaid’s mantle for years as others have taken turns on the city’s Next Big Thing pedestal. It’s hard to see why: Skin Yard is every bit as powerful (and dopey and ponderous) as anyone tilling the Northwest passage.

Positively glacial in both temperature and speed, the self-titled debut should appeal to fans of, say, Swans or Saint Vitus, but more ambulatory types may have difficulty weathering a side. (Just for laughs, the CD adds five tracks.) Hallowed Ground boasts more structure, and a drummer who can marshal the music along more effectively. Endino’s great wall of wail buckles and lurches when pummeled by Daniel House’s steamrolling bass. The rough’n’tumble interplay works best on the swirling “In the Blackhouse” and “G.O.D.” Elsewhere (and more frustratingly on Fist Sized Chunks), singer Ben McMillan bears an uncanny vocal resemblance to Dick Smothers attempting to imitate Jack Bruce — pristine, but laden with melodrama.

Endino’s solo outing is far more compelling, with a wide swath of humor (“Naive Bid for HM Stardom #2”), a good understanding of atmospherics (“Create What You Fear”) and, most importantly, a strict avoidance of solo guitar excess.

[Deborah Sprague]