From a marketing standpoint, Truly’s claim to fame is that it features original Soundgarden bassist Hiro Yamamoto and ex-Screaming Trees drummer Mark Pickerel. While comparisons to both of those bands (and other Seattle peers) are inevitable, there’s a lot more to Truly than its family tree. The band’s focal point is Robert Roth, whose dark, semi-mumbled voice (not unlike a sleepy Mark Lanegan), oddly tuned guitar riffs and affection for wheezy vintage keyboards shape an unusual and varied sound. At different points, Truly sounds like it’s from 1974, 1989 and 1999.
Actually formed in 1990, the band dribbled out a single and two EPs during the five years it took to record the sprawling and obscurely conceptual Fast Stories…From Kid Coma. The band’s reference points are fairly obvious (Zeppelin, My Bloody Valentine and all things psychedelic) but never dominant — Truly exists pretty much in its own little world. The droning, low-end riffs contrast nicely with Roth’s soft, multi-layered vocals, and although the elaborate instrumental work sometimes blurs the fine line between clever and stupid, Pickerel’s strong, steady drumming holds it all together in places where a less tasteful player might have driven the band into complete overkill. (With thirteen songs splayed over 72 minutes, the album is excessive enough.) Oddest of all is the production: although Truly is essentially a driving, riff-heavy rock band, the sharp edges are subtly blunted by a miasmic, narco-haze mix. Heavy but never bludgeoning, melodic but never cheesy, excessive but never ridiculous, Fast Stories is an extended trip into several of rock’s outer dimensions.
Although Truly has not existed formally as a band since 2000, all three members play on an EP Jim Carroll released that same year. Helpfully overshadowing the frontman’s stubborn lack of talent, Roth (who also produced) and Pickerel take part in a very cool studio rendition of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” Roth, who also backs Carroll (with Kurt Bloch) on three live originals here, has since released a solo album.