Seattle 1993 was the famous grungy playground for dudes in beer-stained flannel while Portland, Oregon, was the scrappy underdog that no one cared about (read Chelsey Johnson’s recent Stray City to feel the vibe) but had an ace music community. It was a place where bands like Hazel and Heatmiser recorded in damp basements. The Spinanes were Portland OGs singer-guitarist Rebecca Gates and drummer Scott Plouf, who met via mutual friends and started playing music together a few months before their performance at the legendary International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia, WA, in 1991, and were snapped up by Sub Pop in the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy.
Gates was a guitar manipulator more artful and poetic and sensual than her peers, with a voice full of emotion and warmth—a deep, distinct standout among the samey girly-girls. Plouf was a powerhouse drummer, with a giant collection of shades and enough mod swagger to make Paul Weller proud. Like slightly scruffy, slightly glam thrift-store siblings, the Spinanes came off as smart and serious. When they recorded their debut album, Manos, with Brian Paulson at AmRep in Minneapolis, they brought a ridiculous amount of energy. A college radio hit, Manos was characterized as indiepop or indie rock or “alternative,” but also had a touch of art rock, folk, emo, math rock, postrock, even jazz, nearing the same spiritual space as ’90s bands like Unrest, Sebadoh, and Versus. Gates told our zine (chickfactor) in 1993 what kind of record she wanted to make: She wanted it to be “really magical—the way the first Verlaines record is or a Replacements record—things that you can put on when you feel horrible.” Named after a misheard Jesus Lizard lyric, Manos is just that: It sounds like smoky venues and dance parties at punk houses: woozy, tight, fraught, wrought, tense, intense, swoony, breathy, fast, worldly/weary—sophisticated and primitive, stressful and soothing. Twelve songs and nary a dud: “Noel, Jonah and Me,” the epic title track (a hip-swayer full of lust and longing), the rifftastic “Grand Prize,” the catchy “Sunday.” Manos was an original in a crowded market in 1993, and the Spinanes seemed to be everywhere. All hail its reissue, one quarter century later.
2. Noel, Jonah, And Me
4. I Love That Party With The Monkey Kitty
9. Basement Galaxy
10. Grand Prize