Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yeah, I'm in my 40's, what of it?

So, I hit upon Hammerbox on my Ipod twice today, and it got me thinking.
Ask a 20 something about Grunge, and they might talk about Pearl Jam, Nirvana or Soundgarden. Fair enough, I guess. Those of us who were there could name a dozen better bands, but tastes vary, don't they?
Where it gets more interesting is if you ask about female fronted grunge bands. I'm willing to bet that if they can name any, it'll be Hole. Unfortunately, let's just get this out of the way- Hole sucks. Not "Courtney Love sucks". No, Hole as a band sucks. The "songs" at best are derivative of Courtney's collaborators, the playing is tired and vapid, and the image is a lousy attempt at what others did better. Now, I truly loathe Courtney, as only those who know her real name do, but there's enough gossipy bulldada out there. I mean that the best that Hole could do as a band, in a just universe would be overshadowed by several dozen better bands.
So, in an effort to bring about a little of that justice, I'd like to bring up just 4 of those bands that are better. Maybe it'll inspire someone. Heck, maybe, in my little dream world, someone will read this, hear one of these bands and form a band inspired by one of them, and good music will live on.... Yeah, right.
So, first is Hammerbox. They're one of the top 100 bands ever for me. Considering that I've heard literally tens of thousands of bands, just since 1990, when I first heard Hammerbox, let alone the thousands of bands I heard before, it means yes, I really really like them. See, first let's talk dynamics. Most Alt bands just learn dynamics from the Pixies. LOUDquietLOUD, you know? Hammerbox do that, but they also do slowFASTslow, MAJORminorMAJOR, and Oddmeterevenmeter. Think of it as Alt rock with a prog rock education. But that wouldn't work if the songs didn't gel, but they do because of an unerring sense of what feel fits the dynamics- country, jazz, punk, rock, whatever suits. Also, Carrie Akre could sing in ways I've not heard before nor since. She could croon, bellow, snarl, screech and chirp all in the course of one song. For an example, here's their meisterwerk- When 3 is 2. Tell me it's a bad song, go on. Especially the first guitar solo, and the final bridge where Carrie is incoherent. Between those two moments alone, Hammerbox blows away the competition.
Then, There's the Nymphs. Imagine if Courtney Love had actual talent, could focus her rage at targets, and was versed in pagan rites. You're getting close to Inger Lorre. The band played a more metallic version of alt-rock than most. It ends up sounding a bit like a gothic punk version of Led Zeppelin. If that doesn't get you, you might be Sad and Damned. Heheh. Honestly, they had the potential to be the band to inherit the throne Jane's Addiction were abdicating, at the time.
But, we're talking about Grunge, right? When I think of "grunge", more than I think of Nirvana or Alice in Chains, or even Mudhoney, I think of L7. I mean, look at them. Yeesh. But the music? Well, if you like Black Sabbath, Motorhead, The Runaways and the Germs- this would be the result of combining all the above.I read something about some female metal band the other day, about how heavy they were, and I chuckled. L7 were heavier than the Melvins, and never got the credit for it. I can't really explain why people have been so quick to forget L7, except maybe it's that they don't fit preconceived notions- but I cannot think of a single sludge/stoner/doom band that carries over nothing from L7 (yes, the multiple negatives has a meaning) So, listen and decide.
Again, it's not about Courtney. She was actually in a much better band than Hole. Babes in Toyland render Hole completely moot. Virtually everything on the first two Hole records had already been done better by Kat Bjelland's band. There's something dark, chthonic and twisted about Babes in Toyland that places them more in a post-punk setting than grunge, yet, there's enough earthiness that yes, I think they qualify. What they really remind me of, more than music, is the super-gritty horror/exploitation films of the 1970's- Last House on the Left, I spit on Your Grave, Texas Chainsaw massacre- that sort of thing.

See, and that still leaves out at least a dozen bands. I didn't even have to raise the dead, and talk about the Gits, or Seven Year Bitch. But, this little exercise isn't just about some 45 year old's nostalgia- the point is that there are thousands upon thousands of bands, so there is no need to settle upon a single one as representation of any one thing. On top of that, it's to your detriment to accept whatever the mass marketing machine just throws at you. You could do this same exercise wit ummm, Mongolian Hardcore bands, or African Techno artists- the mass media likes for things to have a face put on it- so when Grunge became a thing, they could prepackage it with Kurt and Courtney as the face on it. That did a huge disservice to not only all the bands who were actually better, but also to all the people who were ignorant of the reality of being a small-scale independent rock band in 1992- because they were robbed of getting a rich, and vibrant experience. That's only part of the injustice of accepting mass culture, but I'm not trying to be didactic, just having some fun....

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