The Screaming Trees are well known to close watchers of the alternative scene in the US in the early nineties. While other Pacific Northwest bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden were achieving nationwide success, the Trees attained notoriety only among the more discerning fans. Part of the problem was that while they cuts some amazingly great tracks, none of their individual albums rated as indisputable masterpieces. Their first several albums especially contain many weak tracks alongside utter gems. Even their two best albums, SWEET OBLIVION and DUST, had their weak moments. The problem is that the Pacific Northwest scene was on one level focused on album-oriented bands, while the Screaming Trees made great singles but less-than-spectacular albums. Their other great disadvantage was that they were simply not a good-looking group. Some of their were big, either in height or girth, and the frankly looked a bit menacing.
That is why OCEAN OF CONFUSION is a nearly perfect introduction to the Screaming Trees. And although I've enjoyed their albums, I find I almost never listen to any of their music except this compilation disc. In fact, if someone gets this and is truly blown away by what they hear, the next album I recommend them getting is not one of the individual albums, but a second compilation, ANTHOLOGY: SST YEARS 1985-89. That disc covers their earlier years just as this one covers the second half of their career. If one wants more after that, I recommend instead of more Screaming Trees, exploring the solo albums of the band's singer and songwriter Mark Lanegan, especially WHISKEY FOR THE HOLY GHOST.
But though the individual albums weren't great as albums, all contained a few spectacularly great singles. This anthology collects enough of these to prove that while other bands of the time like Nirvana, Mudhony, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains achieved more popular success, they were the equal of any of these bands musically and probably their superior. They in fact exerted considerably influence on Nirvana in general and Kurt Cobain in particular, who was quite the fan of Mark Lanegan. For anyone who wants to own the central works of alt-rock from the time when it moved from the periphery of popular music to its center, this album is indispensable. Few of the songs will be familiar, though "Nearly Lost You" was a minor hit at the time.
Another remarkable thing about this album is that there is utterly no filler. Every song is at least very good, while a number of absolutely spectacular. "Nearly Lost You," as I mentioned, was a minor hit, but should have been a major one. If you aren't hooked after the first two songs on the album, "Who Lies in Darkness" and "Alice Said," there isn't much point in going further. The rest of the album is more of the same, almost all of it very nearly as good. And some of it better, in my humble opinion. The three songs "Nearly Lost You," "Dollar Bill," and "More or Less" are about as good as any three consecutive songs you'll ever hope to find on a grunge album.
If you don't know the Screaming Trees but enjoy any of the bands associated with the Seattle scene in the early nineties, you will love this album. I personally consider this to be some of the greatest music produced by that movement. No one who loves music should be without this.