SONIC YOUTH – DIRTY (1992)

TRULY – FAST STORIES…FROM KID COMA (1995)

June 20th, 1995, TRULY released their debut studio album Fast Stories..From Kid Coma, on Capitol Records imprint Revolution Records. The rock music landscape is littered with bands that should have been bigger but, for whatever reason, never quite reached the mass appeal they deserved. The name Truly should have been tripping off everyone’s tongue in 1995. And today, we should celebrate them as the mind-bending, brilliant band they are alongside the sacred cows of the era.

Truly formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990 after a meeting between former Storybook Krooks member Robert Roth and drummer Mark Pickerel of the Screaming Trees. Pickerel was on his way out of the Screaming Trees fold, having been in the band since the mid-’80s, eventually leaving for good in 1991.

Before meeting Pickerel, Roth had auditioned for the second guitar slot with Nirvana, but they chose to continue as a three-piece. Roth said, “At that point, I was just going to go in and record a solo record, and Mark ended up quitting the Screaming Trees that week.” Bassist Chris Quinn was added to the line-up, and the band found themselves in the studio without a band name.

Roth recalls, “I already had a song called “Truly.” Chris said, ‘How about calling the band Truly?’ Mark was at work, and Sub Pop Records owner Jonathan Poneman said, ‘Why don’t you call your band Truly?’ Two different people came up with the same name at the same time, so I figured that was fate.”

Soon after, Chris Quinn insisted on playing guitar, which left an opening for a bassist. Enter Hiro Yamamoto. “I was out of music for a while”, Hiro reflects, “I just didn’t want to play. I was pretty tired of it. Mark called me and said, ‘I’m playing with this guy, and we’re looking for a bass player.’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll give it a shot.’ I hadn’t played for a couple of years. I listened to their stuff and thought, ‘This is kinda cool.”

As a founding member of Soundgarden up to the recording of Louder Than Love, Hiro Yamamoto knew a thing or two about cutting-edge rock. With Yamamoto in place, Truly released their debut EP, Heart and Lungs, through Sub Pop Records in 1991. Soon after its release, Chris Quinn departed, after which the band chose to continue as a three-piece.

The trio signed to Capitol Records in 1993 and released their debut album, Fast Stories…From Kid Coma, in 1995. It’s a blistering masterpiece of ’90s alternative rock, shot through with an earth-shattering groove and kaleidoscopic doses of psychedelia. It’s a slow-burning triumph and some of the very best material each member ever committed to tape, which is saying a lot considering their lineage.

The album opens with the seismic groove of “Blue Flame Ford” Robert Roth’s hypnotic guitar ripples and burns, drenched in rhythmic delay, while Yamamoto and Pickerel drive a guttural, insistent groove. Blue Flame Ford is one of the very best songs of the era. A perfect blend of jet-black hooks and euphoric release, it’s dark, sexy and infinitely cool.

“Four Girls” follows with a punk intensity. Roth’s voice sounds like he’s been gargling shards of broken glass. It’s an exhilarating ride through fuzzed-out punk meets hard rock psychedelia. The song ends in a breathtaking cacophony that seamlessly rolls into the next song, “If You Don’t Let It Die,” which can only be described as The Doors meets MC5 on the way to a Can concert.

The scale of Truly’s approach on “Fast Stories…” only becomes evident on repeated listens. Such is the melting pot of sounds on offer. The galvanising stomp of “Hot Summer 1991” burrows into the listener’s soul with a simple groove and beautiful vocal melodies that glide across mammoth guitars. “Blue Lights” features Mark Pickerel’s marching snare and molten heavy swirls of guitar and bass.

“Leslie’s Coughing Up Blood” is a vital stab in the heart. Roth’s speaker-shredding guitar tone and blood-curdling vocal delivery send shockwaves billowing from the speakers. It’s the sort of rock song that grabs you by the lapels and shakes you back to life. The hypnotic swing feel of “Hurricane Dance” glides across a stunningly cinematic soundscape. Roth’s layered vocals sound distant and disembodied before the song picks up in intensity and speed as he repeats, “Elevate me to your plane.”

“Angelhead” perfectly mixes the disparate worlds of 60s trippy psychedelia and 90s grunge thud. Roth’s spiralling Wurlitzer resembles Ray Manzarek’s deft touch during the Doors heyday. “Tragic Telepathic (Soul Slasher)” opens with Pickerel’s percussion and a seasick sliding guitar and bass riff. The off-kilter intervals create a magnetic hook, which gives way to blasts of thin, crisp guitar stabs washed with interstellar space laser effects.

The beautiful lone arpeggiated electric guitar that opens “Virtually” is stunningly evocative. Roth’s voice enters, sounding reticent but not devoid of hope, singing, “I have the power to wish you away / I have the power to wish you to stay / Sometimes I have the power to make wishes come true / The starlight knows it / If I’m wishing for you.”

“So Strange” is exactly that, a druggy haze. It’s the perfect soundtrack for an inebriated midnight swim through molasses, “In your room, on your floor, under the moon / In the rain, in your hair, in my brain / I’m reeling, this feeling is strange / I’m reeling in your violet ray / So strange.”

Pickerel’s powerful, tom-heavy drumming opens “Strangling.” Roth’s savage buzzsaw guitar tone is blistering, sounding like his amp speakers may give up the ghost at any minute under the weight of each note. Yamamoto weaves a monstrous low-end groove as Roth’s lacerated, gargled acid screams cut like a thousand knives.

The album closes with the incessant creep of “Chlorine.” Pickerel channels his inner John Densmore as Roth knits beautifully dark, odd interval guitar playing into the brooding soundscape. The intro stretches for three minutes, adding strings and percussive stabs as it intensifies before Roth’s vocal enters. Its atmospheric build finds new gears throughout its eleven-plus-minute runtime.

“Fast Stories…From Kid Coma” is a lot of things, but it’s not a run-of-the-mill, dumbed-down, easily digestible rock album. Its brilliance unfolds after repeated listens. Its hooks are subtle but sharp, and once they trap you, you’re done. The songwriting and performances are stellar throughout. Adam Kasper and John Agnello’s production is dense, crisp, and warm, accentuating the band’s psychedelic nature as much as their pummelling savagery and blissed-out beauty.

In a 2013 interview, Robert Roth considered Truly’s place in the Seattle scene of the early ’90s, saying, “I did see us as the next answer to grunge. Even when we started before things got really big internationally with Nevermind and everything, my impression locally in Seattle was that the classic grunge style had been done by 1990. And then a new decade came along, and people were like, “OK, now what?”

Truly did offer a new perspective; theirs was an expansive soundscape. They brought the fuzzed-out sludgy riffs integral to that first wave of grunge, ramped up the psychedelics, deepened the hooks, and reached further back into rock history for inspiration. In doing so, they created their own place and sound among the many voices screaming for attention in the mid-’90s.

“Fast Stories…” has aged beautifully; it’s a testament to its creators’ considerable talents. In a perfect world, this album would sit alongside the millions of copies of Nevermind, Superunknown, and Ten, which litter the record collections of so many worldwide. Those who know and love this record cherish it. It’s a rich, rewarding journey that continues to reveal new layers decades after its release.

Essential…!!!