I didn't know it, but Jack Endino is a near-legendary producer who engineered some of the best records of the early 90's grunge scene. He engineered Nirvana's Bleach, produced Insecticide, engineered Soundgarden's Screaming Life and more recently some of Zeke's releases. He was a member of Skin Yard until 1991 and has released two previous solo albums - the last being 1992's Earthworm.
This is Endino's third album; he plays guitar, sings, writes all the songs, does all the engineering and even plays drum and bass on a few tracks. On the remaining tracks he enlisted the help of Barrett Martin (Skin Yard, Screaming Trees) and Josh Sinder for percussion and Rob Skinner, Alex Sibbald and Pat Pedersen on bass.
If there's one thing Jack knows how to do, it's create a sexy guitar tone. The guitar sounds wet, slick and grunge-y with just a hint of muddiness. While it's obvious most of Endino's influences stem from the Seattle grunge/alt-rock scene, it appears he has also incorporated a few elements of sleaze-rock, punk and Black Sabbath. His vocals sound similar to a more sedate, softer Scott Weiland.
The album kicks off with "Count Me Out" - an up-tempo, catchy and thrashy track and one of the highpoints of the album. Unfortunately, this song doesn't set the tone for what is to come; directly following is the slower and weaker "Strangelove", a reflection on the state of rock and the world today. Endino may have done better to place that song towards the back-end of the album, because it is the slower tracks that show up Endino's faltering vocal power - whereas faster tracks (like "Elusive") are somewhat protected by the driving guitar riffs.
The fifteen tracks on Permanent Fatal Error vary between these thrashy hard rock and slower, brooding songs, with a few scattered instrumentals thrown in to break things up. The title track instrumental and "Flight of the Wax" are pretty impressive - but the album is still offset by waffling, slow-paced songs that lack direction and the vocal power to maintain my interest. The one song Endino does actually pull off an unhurried, brooding tempo is the 14th track "Swallow the Acid" - though what its doing pushed all the way at the end of the album I will never know.
Its obvious Jack Endino knows guitar, producing and alt-rock; but for some reason this album still misses the mark. In my case, the five or six standout songs are not enough to warm me to release, which could hypothetically been a lot stronger. It is by no means a "bad" release, but it is definitely not a standout in this over-saturated alt-rock scene. Stick to your strengths.