Thursday, April 1, 2010

The grunge/Seattle revival

It may have escaped some of you, but around about 17-18 years ago music was in the grip of (for want of a better word) grunge. Led by Nirvana, from around 1991 to 1994 there was a lot of great music, largely inspired by a mixture of Black Sabbath, punk and classic rock.

Of late, many of these bands are returning. The sole survivor, Pearl Jam were one band who never went away. Much derided as corporate rockers at the time, the band ploughed their own furrow. They drew far more on classic rock style bands than Nirvana did, and released a consistent string of albums (most recently last year’s Backspacer) while shunning the spotlight for the most part.

Alice in Chains split in the late 90s due to singer Layne Staley’s inability to record an tour. Unfortunately he passed away in 2002 but the band reformed in 2009 with a new singer William DuVall and released a fairly decent album, Black Gives Way to Blue, which compares reasonably well with their previous studio albums.

Soundgarden split in the late 90s, and Chris Cornell joined the band Audioslave, while also embarking on a solo career with decidedly mixed results. His solo career culminated in last year’s god-awful Scream, produced by Timbaland of all people. Having shredded his credibility, it seems like the only thing to do is to reform his old band. Cynical?

Courtney Love has also put Hole back together, without any of the original members. It’s hard to imagine them improving on 1994’s Live Through This, which was without doubt their finest hour.

Even the Stone Temple Pilots have got in on the act. Unfairly criticised as bandwagon jumpers (mainly due to them not being from Seattle), they produced a poppy variant of grunge, which I have a real soft spot for. They continued till 2003 when singer Scott Weiland jumped ship to rockers Velvet Revolver. Having reformed mainly to tour, the band found the chemistry was still there and have a self-titled new album due out in May. Though the fact that Weiland recorded separately from the rest of the band doesn’t augur well.

Mark Lanegan trudged through the late 80s and 90s in superb classic rock band Screaming Trees, who were lumped into the grunge category due to the fact that they were from the northwest of America. Yet their music was not particularly grungey. However by the time the band fell apart, Lanegan had substance abuse issues, and had proved wholly unreliable. It is remarkable that, having cleaned up, he has turned his undoubted talent away from drugs to focus entirely on making music with whoever he chooses, and has become one of the hardest working men in rock.

Smashing Pumpkins split in 2000. Billy Corgan then formed Zwan with Pumpkins’ drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, and subsequently released a solo album before reforming Smashing Pumpkins in 2005, again with Chamberlin. After releasing one album, Chamberlin has now left, leaving the band as pretty much just Billy Corgan.

As for Nirvana, former member Dave Grohl has been plodding along for years in the Foo Fighters, though has made some fantastic drumming appearances on Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf and also last years’ Them Crooked Vultures album. Krist Novoselic has dabbled some musical projects (Eyes Adrift, Sweet 75, Flipper) while also turning to journalism, writing a column for the Seattle Weekly. Although according to his blog he is reforming Nirvana, though he will be the only original member (!).*

Is it a case that, having exhausted the 80s revival, that it’s 90s revival time? And do we really want this?

* Obviously he was taking the p*ss.