Essential New Music: U-Men’s “U-Men”

No less an authority than Mudhoney’s Mark Arm has called U-Men a relic of the “old, weird Seattle,” and this boxed set definitively captures the shaggy, psychobilly garage-stomp of the U-Men during their decade-long ’80s run as the foremost representatives of the Emerald City underground. It’s all exhaustively captured here: all of the band’s singles and out-of-print EPs, its lone album (1988’s Step On A Bug) and the contributions the group made to now-legendary compilations such as Deep Six, C/Z’s pre-grunge sampler that somehow managed to document Green River, Soundgarden, Melvins and Malfunkshun all in one place. It’s most certainly not grunge—probably a closer cousin to the Sonics or even the Cramps, who developed in a shadowy parallel world—but, as tracks such as the fuming “Cow Rock” and “U-Men Stomp” make perfectly clear, U-Men steered their own bloody-minded and influential path for other freaks and geeks (such as Butthole Surfers, who named a song in their honor) to follow.

—Corey duBrowa