MONDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2015
WEEK 45: GRUNGE
In the late eighties, both rave and hip hop were evolving at a phenomenal rate. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of indie rock. After a decade of ugly noise and cutesy pop it had become synonymous with a mass retreat to any number of styles from rock history; the musical equivalent of reproduction antiques. Yet incredibly, when grunge first arrived from Seattle there were still those who truly believed it was the future which was somewhat ironic given how it so obviously drew just as much from hard rock as it did from punk. And when grunge hit big in 1991, neither of them were even remotely new.
In the early hardcore years, the likes of Black Flag and The Dead Kennedy’s had formed in direct opposition to, and as the antidote for, groups like Aerosmith. Grunge sheltered behind the same idealism but with more than its fair share of opportunists, those ideals turned out to be nothing more than window dressing. Of course, lack of ideals never did break a song, a group or even a whole genre but grunge’s hypocrisy became so obvious so quickly that long before ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ pushed the burnt out loser aesthetic into orbit, any remaining lip service had been wiped away.
Nirvana were the best and only group to transcend grunge, their success due to the fact that they embodied the appreciation of both populism and obscurity by purposefully mashing the two together. And not just sonically either. Kurt Cobain did what his contemporaries like Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder could not by harnessing cock rock towards cleverer, more sensitive and subversive ends, even if that impulse for paradox wound up contributing to his own self-sabotage and destruction.
Kurt Cobain was the last in a line of great rock’n’roller's stretching right back to Elvis. Nonetheless, grunge was still nothing more than another blind alley, the predilection for long hair and paying homage to all kinds of crap, rock excess making the early nineties feel uncannily like the early seventies. There was no getting around it, grunge was the return of hard rock, an evolutionary dead end that was built on nothing, stood for nothing and ultimately would come to nothing; the ethos of negation its sole reason for being.
Discounting Dinosaur Jr. who were never really grunge in the first place, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam (no matter how much I like ‘Jeremy’), Mother Love Bone Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and most of the other grunge groups were all ponderous, second rate, seventies acolytes. Even Kurt Cobain’s much adored Melvin’s were out and out stoners. The sad thing is that twenty years later, apart from the obvious exception of Nirvana, none of them are worth anything more than a cursory listen. Grunge no longer matters to anyone or anything, and if it ever did, it could only have been as a brief twinge of conscience midway through yet another meaningless stage-dive.
01 GREEN RIVER ‘This Town’ (Dry As A Bone EP July 1987)
02 MUDHONEY ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ (A Side August 1988)
03 DINOSAUR JR. ‘Budge’ (Bug LP October 1988)
04 TAD ‘Wood Goblins’ (A Side July 1989)
05 SOUNDGARDEN ‘Hands All Over’ (Louder Than Love LP September 1989)
06 MOTHER LOVE BONE ‘Capricorn Sister’ (Apple LP March 1990)
07 THE AFGHAN WHIGS ‘Retarded’ (Up In It LP April 1990)
08 BABES IN TOYLAND ‘Dust Cake Boy’ (Spanking Machine LP April 1990)
09 JESUS LIZARD ‘Seasick’ (Goat LP February 1991)
10 TEMPLE OF THE DOG ‘Say Hello To Heaven’ (Temple Of The Dog LP April 1991)
11 MELVINS ‘It’s Shoved’ (Bullhead LP May 1991)
12 SMASHING PUMPKINS ‘Siva’ (Gish LP May 1991)
13 PEARL JAM ‘Jeremy’ (Ten LP August 1991)
14 NIRVANA ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (Nevermind LP September 1991)
15 ALICE IN CHAINS ‘Brother’ (Sap EP March 1992)
16 L7 ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ (Bricks Are Heavy LP April 1992)
17 SCREAMING TREES ‘Shadow Of The Season’ (Sweet Oblivion LP September 1992)
18 STONE TEMPLE PILOTS ‘Plush’ (Core LP November 1992)
19 THE BREEDERS ‘Saints’ (Last Splash LP September 1993)
20 HOLE ‘I Think That I Would Die’ (Live Through This LP April 1994)