The back-story on Seattle's Gruntruck is a complicated one, and one that I'm not going to rehash here. Still, it's worth recalling that lead singer Ben McMillan died on the verge of the band making an attempt at a comeback in the post-grunge years of the mid-Nineties, and the band's album from that era was never released. At least not until now. Produced by studio whiz Jack Endino. the self-titled album is out now on Found Recordings and it's a rewarding slab of loud, raucous rock-and-roll.
If "Bar Fly" and "Trip" roar in the manner of early Soundgarden singles, Gruntruck strike a more unique, and less peer-influenced, vibe on the lurching "Noise Field" later in the record. At moments here, like on "Build A Hole", the material sounds a bit like stuff that Alice in Chains produced, even if Gruntruck seem a bit harder to my ears. Still, at their best here on Gruntruck, the band infuse a number like "It's Alright" with a fair degree of melodic heft, while the superb "Flang" hints at the sort of material that this band could have produced had McMillan lived. His vocals here are sublime as the tune unwinds behind him, far more hard rock that grunge sludge, thankfully.
Gruntruck feels familiar in a good way. A welcomed reminder of the power behind this band's brand of Seattle rock, the album is concise and punchy and a pretty good example of exactly how to make a grunge record that doesn't collapse under the weight of the usual genre conventions.
[Photo: Karen Mason Blair]