On the heels of Skyscraper’s relaunch, we’ll be reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked records. This is one of those.
Founded 23 years ago from the ashes of Bay Area favorites Isocracy and Sweet Baby, Samiam continue to be a much-loved product of the Gilman scene that spawned contemporaries like Jawbreaker and Green Day. Samiam made the same run Jawbreaker made for the big time during the post-Dookie East Bay boom, sadly achieving lukewarm major label crossover success despite stronger material. The fallout of said dalliance with the big time resulted in the same untimely break-up around the turn of last century. While Jawbreaker stayed dead, Samiam enjoyed a curious period of Frankensteinian undead activity, eschewing Stateside shows but consistently undertaking yearly tours of South America, Australia, and Germany, where Samiam are looked upon not only as contemporaries of Green Day but equals.
The year 2007 found Samiam recording a new release called Whatever’s Got You Down for Hopeless Records. Recruiting ex-Split Lip drummer Charlie Walker to man the drum stool, the band undertook their largest tour in years. Appearances at The Fest and various one-off shows followed, allowing the old school to bask nostalgia while affording younger fans who had never seen the band an opportunity to get their live fix. On the heels of that renewed activity and with a new studio album in the works, Samiam has released a collection of rarities and live recordings called Orphan Works. Arriving courtesy of the lovable nerds at No Idea, the compilation collects nine tracks from Clumsy-era radio shows and two covers circa You Are Freaking Me Out (for those who long to hear our heroes cover The Stooges and The Pixies in Billie Joe Armstrong’s basement). Things wrap up with a six-track 1996 set recorded in front of a rabid German crowd.
That adds up to 18 tracks of ace Samiam for your ear-hole. “Stepson” makes two appearances, as do crowd favorites “Mr. Walker” and “Capsized.” Personally, there are a number of tracks from the Astray era I would have liked to have heard, but as Orphan Works seems catered to either undercut or just make readily available their (out of print?) Atlantic and Ignition era material, I can see keeping this within the realm of their late-1990s output. The band is negotiating currently to regain control of those recordings, and hope is high amongst the collector nerd set for an expanded Astray reissue.
The live radio recordings contained on Orphan Works are pretty top-shelf, capturing a tighter Samiam than I’ve ever encountered. There seems little in the way of re-recording or editing, capturing some pretty concise performances alongside snippets of the Beebout live banter, which keeps bandmates and more sensitive audience members wincing. The opening “Ain’t No Size That Small” is particularly strong, as is the romp through “Full On” from Weisbaden in 1996.
Orphan Works seems best acquired by Samiam die-hards and lovers of gatefold vinyl, but there is little here to scare off anyone who still carries a torch for the late-1990s Bay Area sound.Visit: Samiam | No Idea
Purchase: Insound | eMusic