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September 3rd, 2008 NATHAN CARSON | Special Section Stories
 

Steel Pole Bath Tub

1 a.m. Thursday, Doug Fir

     
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[FORGOTTEN LEGENDS] There was a time when Steel Pole Bath Tub was renowned on the same level as the Melvins, Jesus Lizard and other influential early-’90s rock acts that incorporated noise and experimental elements. Of these, Steel Pole was one of the most stylistically fearless, its signature sound revolving around churning bass lines, frenetic, pounding drums, squalls of guitar-feedback riffs, shrill vocals and incessant sampling from movies and television. Early albums featured all manner of borrowed materials, from the iconic Marcia Brady image on the cover of the band’s first album, Butterfly Love, to a plethora of unlicensed samples (before these things were actively prosecuted).

The trio originally formed in Bozeman, Mont., and after a short stint in Seattle (crossing paths with early incarnations of Mudhoney and the like) settled in the Bay Area to make their deep, ugly mark. But as Nirvana changed the industry, the lure of major-label contracts suckered even the least commercial acts into testing the changing waters. SPBT’s first album for a major was mostly stripped of the signature samples, and its second wouldn’t even be released until years after it was recorded—deemed unlistenable by the label execs. But even this latter era was glorious onstage, as anyone who caught their legendary late-’90s Satyricon performance (with Gern Blanston!) can attest.

Steel Pole reunited several years ago for a Beyond the Pale festival appearance curated by the ever-hardcore Neurosis. It’s great to see a new generation discovering a classic act that was nearly swept under the rug for no good reason at all.

 
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