The Screaming Trees weren’t the most fucked-up band to come out of the grunge scene, but they were close. Between drug addiction, combustible sibling rivalry and Olympic-level dysfunction, it’s a wonder that they managed one album, let alone seven.
Originally released in 1996, Dust was supposed to be the one that made them mainstream stars – a big ask even without the band’s stone-faced antipathy to the notion of rock stardom. But then the Trees never fitted in with prevailing trends anyway – Dust was less goatee’d angst, more classic rock in flannel-shirted drag. The backwoods pyschedelia of Halo Of Ashes and dustbowl gothic of Gospel Plow sounded mighty then, and they’ve lost none of their potency.
Possibly because they never actually gave much of a shit themselves, the Trees’ back catalogue has remained largely uncelebrated. This two-disc expanded edition goes some way to making reparations for that. Granted, there’s nothing that hasn’t appeared before on a B-side, compilation or soundtrack album, but Watchpocket Blues and the uncharacteristically chipper Silver Tongue expand the Trees’ story. And while you might think the world doesn’t need another cover of Working Class Hero, their Northwestern Gothic overhaul ensures they get away with it.
Dust didn’t just not make the Screaming Trees rich and famous, the commercial apathy that greeted it prompted them to split a few years later. But if nothing else, it stands as a near perfect epitaph.