Posts Tagged ‘grunge’

The New Face of Grunge Rock

March 1, 2009

Yes readers, grunge rock (or whatever you want to call it) is still going on strong. Thanks to the fine folks over at Sub Pop Records and the resurrection of the vaunted “Sub Pop Singles Club” where they send you vinyl of up and comers that they just signed. There have been many great singles to come from that (as well as a few duds). One single has always stood out as the best ever since I heard it. Despite being only the second single in the series, it is still the best. I am talking, of course of the band Unnatural Helpers. They are the same do-it-yourself no-nonsense style that came to summarize what was known as the grunge movement in the late 80s and that dominated all aspects of mainstream music in the early 90s.

I got their single from Sub Pop in September. I have just about worn down the vinyl playing it so much. Thankfully, Sub Pop records come with download codes so you can download tracks to your computer and listen on yor iPod. Old school meets new school in a really cool way. I truly think this is the future in music. Anyway, back to Unnatural Helpers. They combnie punk and pop that hasn’t been seen since the earlier days of Mudhoney. They are fast and furious with their songs. The Singel had 4 tracks on it and it lasted about 6 Minutes.

I was intrigued by them so I reached out to Sub Pop via Twitter to see if I can find out when the were going to drop their first album. They informed me that they already self-released an album in 2005. Doesn’t get anymore grunge than that. Hearkens back to the early days of Beat Happening.

“Grunge” is more than a term to describe music form Seattle from 87-91. It is a style of music that breaks away from the mainstream. Strips out the overdubbing and overproducing and leaves you with raw emotion. That can happen at any time from any place. I hope that Unnatural Helpers are the start of the Grunge Revival the music and fans so desperately need.
Todd Thurman

The Doors

August 27, 2008

The combined elements of the Doors’ music has transcended time and place to become more than a relic of American psychedelic sound. A ceremonial tone in John Densmore’s tribal drumming — both earthy and jazzy — evoked the mysticism and carnal pleasure of Sunset Strip’s Sea Witch. This held the rhythm for Ray Manzarek’s jazz/R&B organ (shot direct from Mother Neptune’s Coffeehouse) and the Insomniac brew of Robby Krieger’s nimble flamenco guitar lines, mixed with crunchy garage-band chords. But it was the baritone tremolo and lusty howl of Jim Morrison’s vox that took the music of the Doors to a subconscious level. Long after the shimmering klieg lights of L.A.’s psychedelic era went out, the Doors’ music continued to influence sub-culture on record.

By 1977, New Jersey’s the Misfits debuted their own brand of keyboard-driven psychotronic punk at Greenwich Village’s CBGB’s club. The single “Cough/Cool” b/w “She” featured somber, poetic prancing akin to the Doors’ earliest hits, while infusing an experimental art-rock indicative of the times. The Misfits glamourized sex and violence, as their increasingly guitar-driven sound pointed to a bleak, dystopian world at the dawn of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. As their brooding style began influencing the oncoming swarm of ’80s goth-rock, Misfits singer Glenn Danzig moved away from the B-horror garaginess of their best material, instead preferring the nascent death metal sound popular by the mid-’80s.

Britain’s Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy launched their band, the Cult, in the early ’80s, offering up a new-wave/goth sound that was heavily influenced by Native American mysticism. The Cult’s 1984 singles “Spiritwalker” and “Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles)” hit big enough to launch a revived interest in the type of sex/death/rebirth gravity that had critics talking about the ’60s Doors sound again. Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman’s book No One Get Out of Here Alive (1980) had already launched Morrison and the Doors into popularity with a whole new generation. The book would be adapted for the big screen in 1991 with Oliver Stone’s The Doors, and the Cult’s Ian Astbury would later front a ’90s Doors reunion, but neither were viewed as being inspired on the level of the book or earliest Cult records. The indie-spirit of neo-psychedelic, however, had more authentic offerings on the horizon.

In 1986, Seattle’s Screaming Trees unleashed the DIY garage-psych LP Clairvoyance — a foretelling of the ’90s grunge explosion, iconoclastic and haunting all at once. The Middle-Eastern flair of Gary Conner’s guitar on “Standing on the Edge” laid the perfect backdrop for singer Mark Lanegan’s baritone intensity. It wasn’t until Pearl Jam’s 1993 Vs. album that another Seattle act would equal the raw absorption of Calirvoyance. Eddie Vedder’s passion and self-conscious immediacy on Pearl Jam numbers like “Dissident” and “Indifference” harkened back to the crunch-chord spontaneity of the best of the Doors. That same year, Glenn Danzig’s eponymous band had a surprise MTV hit with a live version of “Mother” (originally on their 1988 debut LP), though at this point, his sound was so far gone into death metal that it would doubtless fail to connect with anyone searching for the everyman blues of the Doors sound. Worse yet was the baritone banality of mainstream alternative bands like Stone Temple Pilots, and later, Creed. But by this time, there was a feeling that the sexual, good-time exploration of the Doors’ initial influence had reached a corporate rock nadir. The Sunset Strip’s mid-’60s inspiration continues to this day, but its purity in music has gone underground, as with most of the best sounds in rock, post-alternative.

Brian Chidester

Review: MOJO Magazine: Aug. 2008

August 16, 2008
August 08

MOJO Magazine August 2008

The current issue of MOJO Magazine is devoted to the 20th anniversary of Sub Pop records. It does not just mention the anniversary, it tells the story of the history of the label and its influence on music. Of course, it is impossible to talk about Sub Pop without talking about Nirvana, so the magazine also dedicates the cover and a feature story about Sub Pop’s most famous band.

For the Sup Pop interview, they got together “grunge royalty” if ever there was such a thing. They brought in former Nirvana drummer Chad Channing, Mudhoney and Green River frontman Mark Arm, and TAD frontman Tad Doyle. They also brought together the founders of Sub Pop Records Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt. The article talks about the very humble beginnings where they would ship orders from the Musak Corporation where Pavitt worked part time until 1988. It is a true DIY label and pretty soon the Major labels could not avoid it.

The article really starts with the culmination of Sub Pop’s efforts: Lamefest in 1989. The Lamefest show sold out the iconic Moore Theater in Seattle headlined by all local bands, a feat that was thought to be out of the question. This showed Pavitt and Poneman that they were on to something. Bands like Green River, TAD, Mudhoney, Nirvana, and Mother Love Bone really helped define the Seattle Sound as well as Sub Pop itself.

Sub Pop has had its ups and downs over the last 20 years, but with bands like Iron and Wine, Flight of the Conchords, Mudhoney, and The Gutter Twins they are as strong as ever. The magazine also comes with a free CD titled “The Sub Pop 300.” It has some of the same tracks as the Sub Pop issue “The Grunge Years” but there are some great tracks including: “Change Has Come” by the Screaming Trees, “Shove” by L7, and “Retarded” by the Afghan Whigs. There are also tracks by other Sub Pop artists like Pissed Jeans, Red Red Meat, and Flight of the Conchords.

Todd

Gutter Twins Concert – Hollywood, CA

April 9, 2008

On a cold, rainy night, a cold, dark band came on stage. OK, so it wasn’t that cold, and it was barely drizzling, but the ambiance of the night seemed just right for the Gutter Twins (nee Greg Dulli, the Afghan Whigs, and Mark Lanegan, the Screaming Trees). I got to the Avalon (after spending $25 to park… that’s not a typo) about 9:20 or so, just in time to hear a number of really good songs from Great Northern. They worked hard and the crowd seemed to be getting into it. My anticipation grew as the roadies were tearing down the Great Northern gear and setting up the Gutter Twins set. After a long, drawn out process, the full band finally appeared.

They started off heavy singing “The Stations.” I, as well as others in my section, seemed to be really into it. They continued with “All God’s Children” and “All Misery/Flowers.” One of the few songs that were song that were not on the album was “Live With Me,” which appeared on the Twilight Singers Stitch in Time EP. They also played a breathtaking version of the St. James Infirmary blues made famous by many including jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong and more recently, Isobel Campbell. The slow, brooding nature of the Gutter Twins’ vision fit that song really well.

Highlights of the night, for me, included “Seven Stories Underground” and “Bete Noire.” Dulli seemed to be frustrated with the audience when he asked for participation and got a very timid response from the hipster LA scene, at one point asking, “You guys still out there?” I was sitting almost directly in front of Jeff Klein playing keyboards. What a joy to watch. Some songs playing keys, some guitar, some playing his recorded loops from the laptop, all while smoking a cigarette. He really is an underrated and under appreciated musical talent. After Dulli introduced the band, Lanegan uttered the only non-singing words he uttered all night – “This is Greg Dulli.

Dulli closed the set with an amazing version of “Front Street” that blew me away. The band went offstage, to what seemed to me, great applause. The band went backstage. The applause lasted a few minutes, it seemed, and all of a sudden, the lights came on and the roadies started dismantling. I did not want to believe it, but then the curtain came down. There would be no encore tonight. There is a difference between going to a Mark Lanegan concert and a Greg Dulli concert. Dulli wanted the crowd to clap, and move and show emotions, and the crowd reacted like they were at a Lanegan concert, quietly listening to incredible songs. Still, even with no encore, it was a great show, packed out at the legendary Palace Theatre, now the Avalon venue.

Todd

Love Battery

March 10, 2008

In the midst of the “Seattle Scene” of the late-80s-Early 90s there were a lot of bands that were well known, and A lot of bands that were swooped up by major labels intent on capitalizing on the new wave sweeping over music. Sadly, Love Battery never reached the pinnacles of success that the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Melvins, Afghan Whigs, or even the Screaming trees reached (More on those bands at a later date).

The band formed in 1989 at the height of he indy explosion in Seattle. Their debut single, Between the Eyes, was a moderate hit for Sub Pop (and a great song that you need to hear) and Sub Pop included it on their venerable grunge retrospect CD, The Grunge Years (1991). Love Battery scored with their first full-length album, “Dayglo”. While not commercially as successful as they would have liked, it was a critical success and gave them credibility as a band. Their next release was disappointing for a few reasons. The first, and most glaring, is that after “Dayglo”, the band signed to a major label (Polygram) and wanted to release “Far Gone” on their new label. However, there were contract disputes with Sub Pop and the label dumped it. Sub Pop released their own, rougher, version of “Far Gone” but it was not well received. They planned to re-release the album on Polygram in 1994, but the never materialized.

In 1994, they continued on with Atlas, a subsidiary of Polygram, and released “Nehru Jacket EP“. the label did not get behind it, however, and it suffered due to lack of exposure. Another bad break for a great band. Their last effort on Atlas was 1995’s “Straight Freak Ticket”. This was a great release that, once again, received little fanfare. By the mid-90s the tide of grunge music had ebbed and the record industry was looking for something different. Love Battery was too connected to the Grunge movement and was lost in the shuffle. too bad, its a great record.

After a hiatus for 4 years, Love Battery released “Confusion Au Go Go” in 1999 for the C/Z label. You might know C/Z for the “Teriyaki Asthma” releases. Because it was an indy label, it did not have the money or the resources to really promote the album. Several stand out tracks including, “Colorblind”, “Snipe Hunt”, and my personal favorite, “One Small Step”. This is a great album that came out in the midst of a lot of terrible albums. (you may remember 1999 for acts like Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, N*Sync, Backstreet Boys, and the like unless you have blocked it from your memory). This is one album that is not to be missed.

Currently, Love Battery is on hiatus and have not recorded an album since “Confusion Au Go Go. I, for one, hope that they make another album because I have never been disappointed with a release of theirs.

Todd.

The Soulsavers feat. Mark Lanegan

March 2, 2008

On Sunday night, December 2nd, I had the privilege of going to this amazing concert. The night I had been waiting over a year for had finally come to pass. The show started with the band Spain playing the opening act. They were good, but I could not wait for them to be over because I, and the rest of the packed Troubadour, knew that the Soulsavers were coming on next. For those who do not know the Soulsavers, let me tell you who they are. The Soulsavers are a British electronica/hip hop/gospel band. They are incredibly talented musicians who have received overwhelming critical acclaim for their first release, Tough Guys Don’t Dance (2003) as well as their newest CD It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land (2007). They received a lot of notoriety for their second album because, not only is a phenomenal album, but also because of Mark Lanegan’s contribution. Mark wrote and sang on most of the album. Mark is the kind of musician that brings instant credibility to any label he is on, or any band that he sings with and the Soulsavers are no exception, even though they are very good on their own.

They started off the night with a rocking version of the instrumental “Ask The Dust” that was awesome. When that song was completed, he man himself, Mark Lanegan, walked out and began to sing “Ghosts of You and Me”. They played Lanegan’s cover of Junior Kimborough’s “All Night Long” and then went back to their own “Paper Money”. The gospel singers they used for backup were simply amazing. Instead of doing all their own stuff, the band took risks and were rewarded greatly when they covered “Effigy”, “Codeine”, and “Feels So Good”. The song, “Spiritual” (written by vocalist Josh Haden who appeared on their first CD, “Tough Guys Don’t Dance”) really took the crowd into another world as Lanegan, desperate for companionship, cried out to Jesus to help him. Really powerful. They even spliced in Lee Hazelwood’s “Some Velvet Morning” to their own “Cabin Fever”. “Cabin Fever” is the only song they played from “Tough Guys Don’t Dance”.

After “Cabin Fever” the band walked off stage only to come back out a minute later to blow us away with the lead single off “It’s Not How You Fall, It’s the Way You Land”, “Revival“. they ended the show with a gospel version of “Midnight Special”. I pity the man who has not heard a gospel version of “Midnight Special”. It was a great way to end the show. The show was just amazing. The band was extremely tight and the musicianship was outstanding. Nothing like being five feet away from your favorite musician.

Todd

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