In yesterday's Line Out post I admitted I now hate Fugazi. Well, in the comments, it was suggested I perhaps then also might hate Squirrel Bait?! Wait...WHAAAAA?! NOPE!! I actually love Squirrel Bait!! It's true. I DO. In front of GOD and FAMILY I publicly profess my undying love for Squirrel Bait. How could I not, c'mon, JUST FUCKING LISTEN....
I have no idea when I bought their first EP, Squirrel Bait. Sometime in the '80s, obvs, and I know I got it used 'cause I can remember peeling off the store price sticker! Right, and I still remember how, on first listen, it was obvious THIS EP was different, thus mandatory. It's LOUD, brutal, affecting, melodic, dynamic, catchy...all the songs sprint forward with an immediacy. It's a pivotal EP AND it has held up; Squirrel Bait is still as arresting NOW as it was then.
For the past decade, on teh internet, Squirrel Bait often have been described both as "pop-punk" AND (ahem) "grunge." Both are revisionist, as "pop-punk" and "grunge," in 1985, were terms that were effectively still years away. Also, they've been kinda shoehorned into the DC Revolution Summer, when hardcore shifted to more considered melodies and personal/direct action politics (and effectively ended) as their songs are quite melodic. However, in proper context of their first EP, Squirrel Bait, as it was issued in 1985, I think the group were prolly more on par with the Descendents rather than anything concurrently happening in DC. At the time, Squirrel Bait were just another hardcore group, however one which DID sound DIFFERENT.
They had a proper LP come out later, Skag Heaven, and while it was ALMOST as good as Squirrel Bait , I'm not quite as obseesd with the LP. It had all the same elements, but the prodcution was just a tad slicker and the immediacy was lost. By '88 or so they had split and would turn into a BILLION other AWESOME bands. I'm not sure if it was since they lived where the midwest meets the South, in Louisville, KY, but Squirrel Bait ended up being one of THOSE bands, a watershed group. Members Brian McMahan and Britt Walford later formed Slint, while gutarist David Grubbs was in Bitch Magnet*, Bastro, and Gastr del Sol; drummer Ben Daughtrey played, at some point, in the Lemonheads.
*Think Star Booty, not Umber, and the jump makes sense.