The Screaming Trees were an American alternative rock, psychedelic grunge band formed in 1985. Although The Screaming Trees are known primarily as a grunge band their music also incorporated elements of psychedelic rock, folk, country, and punk. The Screaming Trees’ lineup consisted of Mark Lanegan on vocals, Mark Pickerel on drums, and brothers Gary Lee and Van Conners on guitar and bass. Along with The Melvins and Green River, the Screaming Trees are considered to be one of the earliest grunge bands.
The Screaming Trees were signed to former Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn’s SST records along with other alternative groups such as Sonic Youth, Lemonheads, and The Meat Puppets. The Screaming Trees style evolved from alternative psychedelic punk rock to grunge in the early 1990s. The Screaming Trees’ popularity peaked in 1992 with the release of Sweet Oblivion. The Screaming Trees released their final album, Dust in 1996.
The Screaming Trees finally broke up in 2000. The Screaming Trees were highly influential on contemporary artists such as Nirvana and Soundgarden as well as newer groups such as Queens of the Stone Age and Rogue Wave. Mark Lanegan joined Queens Of The Stone Age and provided vocals on several albums before returning to his own successful solo career.
# 10 – Clairvoyance
The final song and title track of The Screaming Trees’ 1986 debut album Clairvoyance “Clairvoyance” was written by Mark Lanegan, Van Conner and Gary Lee. Conners’ “Clairvoyance” is a mixture of folk rock, punk, psychedelia, and metal. “Clairvoyance” has vocals reminiscent of fellow SST band The Meat Puppets with slight touches of the grunge sound The Screaming Trees would eventually refine in the early 1990s.
# 9 – Black Sun Morning
First appeared on The Screaming Trees 1989 album Buzz Factory. “Black Sun Morning” was evidence of The Screaming Trees’ evolution from their psychedelic and folk rock roots. “Black Sun Morning” has a slower tempo than the Screaming Trees’ early work. “Black Sun Morning” features screamed punk rock vocals, garage rock riffs, and a psychedelic lead guitar sound reminiscent of The Stooges’ first album. “Black Sun Morning” is one of The Screaming Trees’ earliest pure grunge songs.
# 8 – All I Know
The first single from the final Screaming Trees album, 1996’s Dust. “All I Know” was written by Mark Lanegan, Gary Lee Conners, and Van Conners. “All I Know” is one of The Screaming Trees’ most commercially successful songs. The single “All I Know” peaked at number nine on both the US Alternative Songs chart and the US Mainstream Rock chart. “All I Know” features Barrett Martin on drums instead of Mark Pickerel. “All I Know” is based around a catchy garage rock riff and driving drumbeats. “All I Know” features The Screaming Trees’ trademark psychedelic rock solos paired with the loud/quiet effect.
# 7 – Butterfly
From 1992’s Sweet Oblivion. “Butterfly” is a catchy hard rock riff-based grunge song. “Butterfly” features loud verses and softer choruses in a style that became associated with grunge music. The lyrics to “Butterfly” are somewhat surreal and psychedelic, yet negative with Lanegan singing “Fly butterfly I’m sick and I want to go home.” “Butterfly” was written by Lanegan and the Conner Brothers.
“Butterfly” is as catchy as it is heavy adding to its mainstream appeal. “Butterfly” stands out as one of The Screaming Trees’ most well-written songs. “Butterfly” features a simple and repetitive piano riff in the background reminiscent of The Stooges. “Butterfly” marks a major departure from The Screaming Trees’ 80’s alternative rock and psychedelic punk music into pure grunge.
# 6 – Dying Days
From 1996’s Dust. “Dying Days” was written by Mark Lanegan and the Conner brothers. The lyrics to “Dying Days” refer to the growing amount of deaths in the mid 90’s Seattle music scene such as Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in 1994 and Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff the same year. The guitar solo on “Dying Days” was performed by Mike McCready, lead guitarist of fellow grunge band Pearl Jam. “Dying Days” starts off with a grungy acoustic riff and some light background organ for a couple of verses before heavy electric psychedelic grunge guitar comes in.
# 5 – Bed of Roses
The only single from The Screaming Trees’ 1991 album Uncle Anesthesia. “Bed of Roses” was written by Mark Lanegan and the Conner brothers Van and Gary Lee. “Bed of Roses” marked The Screaming Trees’ transitional period from an underground psychedelic alternative rock band to a mainstream grunge band. “Bed of Roses” hit number twenty three on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. “Bed of Roses” was produced by Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell.
# 4 – Sworn and Broken
The second single from 1996’s Dust. “Sworn and Broken” was not as commercially successful as the singles from Sweet Oblivion had been. “Sworn and Broken” was written by Mark Lanegan and Van and Gary Lee Conners. “Sworn and Broken” failed to chart in the U.S. but reached number seventy-six on the U.K. singles chart. “Sworn and Broken” features an uncharacteristic folk sound and a slower than usual tempo. As “Sworn and Broken” progresses The Screaming Trees trademark garage rock riffs and psychedelic rock guitar solos come in. “Sworn and Broken” contains a rare keyboard solo as well.
# 3 – Shadow of the Season
The opening track on The Screaming Trees’ acclaimed sixth album Sweet Oblivion. “Shadow of the Season” was written by Mark Lanegan and Gary Lee Conners. “Shadow of the Season” introduced The Screaming Trees’ tight yet raw new psychedelic grunge-based sound. In “Shadow of the Season” the guitar playing is heavier and Lanegan’s vocals have improved significantly since the 1980s.
“Shadow of the Season” has a much heavier hard rock sound than their earlier work as well as a slight country influence. “Shadow of the Season” was well produced by a major label, showcasing Screaming Trees’ considerable talent at the height of their career.
# 2 – Dollar Bill
Released on Screaming Trees’ sixth album 1992’s Sweet Oblivion. “Dollar Bill” is a grunge song with elements of folk and country music in it as well. “Dollar Bill” highlights Lanegan’s considerable vocal talents.“Dollar Bill” uses the loud/quiet format typical of grunge music.
The lead guitar in “Dollar Bill” has a psychedelic rock style to it. “Dollar Bill” is one of The Screaming Trees’ most commercially successful songs. “Dollar Bill” reached number forty on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts, number twenty eight on the U.S. Alternative Songs Chart and number fifty two on the UK single charts. “Dollar Bill” was written by Mark Lanegan and Van Conner.
# 1 – Nearly Lost You
Also from 1992’s Sweet Oblivion. “Nearly Lost You” features Lanegan’s emotional vocals and sincere lyrics over grungy garage rock inspired rhythm guitar riffs. The lead guitar on “Nearly Lost You” has a psychedelic feel to it that set The Screaming Trees apart from their grunge contemporaries. “Nearly Lost You” was written by Lanegan and the Conner brothers. “Nearly Lost You” helped The Screaming Trees gain wider mainstream recognition due to its popularity.
“Nearly Lost You” hit number twelve on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts, number five on the U.S. Alternative Songs chart and fifty on the U.K. Singles chart. “Nearly Lost You” and Sweet Oblivion cemented The Screaming Trees’ position as a major grunge band.
Updated June 12, 2023
Top 10 Screaming Trees Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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