On 1 April, 1988, the Muzak Corporation's tape returns co-ordinator and a Kinko's copy shop manager quit their day jobs and opened a tiny office in downtown Seattle. Their new venture was
a record label that would change the sound of rock music, though on many occasions Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman must have recalled that date and wondered if the April Fools were themselves.
Sub Pop flirted with bankruptcy for years ("Going Out Of Business Since 1988" was a company slogan), as it juggled outlaw finance with the imperative of documenting the revolution then stirring on their doorstep. First Soundgarden, then Mudhoney and finally Nirvana: Sub Pop nurtured them all. When the buzz around their bands' unselfconsciously primal rock'n'roll spawned the mainstream grunge phenomenon, Sub Pop lost direction. But the new century saw a renaissance heralded by the pastel psych of The Shins, and today Sub Pop remains an independent music beacon, with a US roster including Beach House and Seattle's latest stars Fleet Foxes: still going out of business after all these years. Keith Cameron
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, 1991
The album that saved Sub Pop from ruin by selling 100,000 copies also proved its creators could deliver their splattershot power consistently. Its enraged garage rock smarts still sound remarkably du jour.
Download: Who You Drivin' Now?
"They're young, they own their own van and they're going to make us rich!" chortled the Sub Pop catalogue. Bleach's bludgeoning rhythms, catchy melodies and plaintive vocals did indeed prove strangely popular.
Download: About A Girl
Oh, Inverted World, 2001
Albuquerque outfit The Shins breathed new life into Sub Pop with the haunted dream-pop songs of James Mercer. The gushing approval of Natalie Portman's character in the 2004 cult movie Garden State guaranteed it a hit.
Download: New Slang
The Afghan Whigs
The 'Whigs swaggered in from Cincinnati, Ohio to spike the grunge cocktails with steaming soul-infected wah-wah grooves and Greg Dulli's guttersnipe brand of sex appeal. Arguably the era's most underrated album.
Download: Conjure Me
The Winding Sheet, 1990
His solo debut revealed Screaming Trees man Mark Lanegan's mastery of acoustic desolation. So sinister was the arrangement of Lead Belly's Where Did You Sleep Last Night that Kurt Cobain subsequently used it for his own.
The sticky sound of Sub Pop's original era got updated and magnified for Web 2.0 kids by this experimental Los Angeles duo's first offering, a compulsive puzzle of abstract noise and timeless melodies, dug by loser and hipster alike."
Download: Teen Creeps
For the connoisseur
Red Red Meat
Bunny Gets Paid, 1995
Overlooked as the grunge genie went rampantly mainstream, this Chicago quartet's deconstructed blues actually make more sense now. Their second Sub Pop album delivers spook and swagger by the bottle.
8-Way Santa, 1991
Pulverising riffs and mainman Tad Doyle's robustly rude charisma seemed to guarantee stardom, but Tad got derailed by lawsuits and drugs. This Butch Vig-produced set remains salacious yet tuneful good fun.
Download: Jack Pepsi
10:39 AM | 29/12/2011
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