Seaweed may very well be one of your favorite bands from the ‘90s, and you’ve never even heard of them.
It’s a safe bet to slap down a 20 during a discussion of quintessential ‘90s bands and say no one’s heard of Seaweed. It may be more worth your while to bet on the length of time it’ll take to garner a response to something most folks equate to a slimy, unseen excuse to run squealing from the ocean. No, unfortunately, Seaweed—the band, not the plant—is overlooked and underrated, and their 1999 album Actions and Indications doesn’t get the attention nor the praise it deserves. The truth is, though, Seaweed may very well be one of your favorite bands from the ‘90s, and you’ve never even heard of them.
Not only did they carve out a ravenous following in their home state of Washington, they toured with some of the most influential acts of the period: Green Day, Bad Religion and Superchunk, to name a few. They released five LPs, countless singles and yet, these days, they’re not known for much else aside from their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” in Clerks—and most wouldn’t even know them for that.
Sixteen years after Actions and Indications’ initial release, Merge Records has pressed up a vinyl reissue of Seaweed’s masterful final album. While most couldn’t give a good hot damn about this news out of sheer ignorance, rabid fans—and yes, there are many—will certainly be thrilled. Equal parts punk, grunge and alternative rock, Seaweed struck a nearly perfect balance of grit, melody and energy. They refined and perfected their stylistic tightrope walk for Actions and Indications. By the time of the album’s original release, however, most audiences had traded their taste for the early ‘90s juggernauts for post-grunge poppycock that still plagues the few rock stations left on FM radio.
Standout rockers “Antilyrical,” “Red Tape Parade” and “Warsaw” draw parallels to contemporaries like Jawbreaker and Quicksand. Nasty but catchy, they hum with a sort of intensity that is unique to the ‘90s. All gelled hair, baggy clothes, clove cigarettes and flailing in place, these are throwbacks to times both strange and endearing. These songs also recall a period that is on the cusp of a resurgence in bands like The Menzingers, The Weaks, and Dinosaur Pile-Up.
“Hard Times” and “Against the Sky” are nearly timeless examples of major chord and hooky singles that anyone and everyone can enjoy. Simple and tasty, this style of tune was perfected in the ‘90s and is still used to draw-in audiences today. While they may not be the most inspired songs on Actions and Indications, they’re just a flat-out treat.
“What Are We Talking?,” “Let Go” and “Stay Down” round out Actions and Indications nicely, offering a slower pulse that’s still able to capture a snotty punk attitude frosted with grungy depression. These are easily the most powerful songs on the album without being held down under their own weight.
The only drawback of the reissue is the inclusion of three unreleased tracks from the Actions and Indications sessions. These tunes could work as b-sides, but tacking them at the end of the album as a courtesy to those fearing they may be buying a second copy of the same record was a poor choice. They add on to and disrupt the otherwise flawless flow, and are lesser songs to boot. They were overlooked in ’99 and should be overlooked today.
Seaweed needs to be included in your discussions of quintessential ‘90s bands. They’re a bookend to an era that’s looked upon as the last great leap in the evolution of popular music. Actions and Indications not only deserves our attention, it’s required listening to better understand the period and the reasons why musicians today are looking to that time for inspiration. Remember that bet from earlier on? Yeah, you may win that bet. But think of it as a sort of musical pyramid scheme. Get people to buy-in to Seaweed, give them the confidence to place that bet down the road. Before long you could be standing atop a tower of people waiting in line to buy future reissues of all the band’s records with the gambled winnings.