June 21, 2011

I Still Love the 90s Part II: Harder.


Sorry, I can't hear you. You're going to need to speak up.

Oh. The music? Yeah, it's pretty great, isn't it?


No, I...uh, I can't turn it down until the song's over, man. Sorry, it's...it's too good!

But in the meantime, let me tell you what I love about the alternative rock scene of the 1990s. In a word, it was overwhelming. There was so much of it around, so many bands who all sounded a lot like each other while somehow sounding remarkably different. Sure, Alice in Chains resembled Mother Love Bone, but you would never confuse the two if you heard their songs back to back.

I've lauded the shinier, happier version of 90s alt rock, but let's not forget this was also prime time to get up to your elbows in sludgy rock anthems about disappointment, depression, and distaste for everything that preceded. It was a time to wear your heart on the sleeves of your flannel. Sorrow was now a badge of honor. Lyrics about burning loins and drowning livers were ousted in favor of ones about tortured souls and wrecked childhoods.

Basically the 90s.

Here's what's problematic about all this, though: the 90s grunge/alt rock/whatever scene usually tends to separate people into extremely differing camps. There's the hardcore, slightly elitist who view Mudhoney, Pixies, and Dinosaur, Jr. (and other bands no one not in those bands has ever heard of) as the only alt-rock music worth listening to. Then there's grunge traditionalists who cling to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and maybe Alice In Chains. The recluses look to Radiohead and Sonic Youth. The goths love Manson and White/Rob Zombie. Those who wandered in late to the party can't get enough of Bush, Stone Temple Pilots, and all the other "grunge-lite" acts.

And then there was Nickelback and Creed. (But we're not going to acknowledge them any further.)

And then, of course, there's the relentless number of sub genres trying to incorporate every Neil, Chuck, and Mark to ever pick up a guitar: industrial rock, college rock, ska punk, post-grunge, post-punk, Post Cereal rock (bringing us such greats as Honey Bunches of Shotguns and Shredded Guitar Wheat), and so on.

Categorizations and individual preferences aside, though, I think it's safe to say everyone can agree on one thing: Hole was a fucking awful band. Right? I don't even care what you think about Courtney Love as a person--if you want to call her that--but you absolutely do not enjoy Hole. Every copy of every Hole album is now on a Goodwill used CD rack. That's not hyperbole, it's fact.

And every hole in Courtney Love is currently filled with a Goodwill employee...

But I'm not here to dwell on the rotten apples. I also realize that hate is subjective. So while I proclaim Hole to be the worst thing to happen to the 90s (at least until Sugar Ray came along), there's going to be someone out there shouting some combination of the words "stupid," "douchebag," and "charlatan" at their computer screens once I confess how much I loved the first Linkin Park album. (Luckily, I won't hear any of this because your laptop speakers do not link directly to my inner conscience.)

So on with the love! 

Though there's far too much to point out individually, I'm going to run down a list of the great music that was made to incite, emote, and make ears bleed. We, as a people, learned about "Sex Type Things" and "Bullets With Butterfly Wings." We were fed Cake, Crackers, Placebos, and Pearl Jam. (Just like grandma used to make.) Some of us even ate Korn and Bizkits but regurgitated it all a few years later.

Much of the decade was a Blur, a rather "Cumbersome" Orgy of "Teen Spirit" that took quite awhile to "Comedown" from. We had "Machineheads" that doubled as Radioheads. We planted Soundgardens and Screaming Trees. Dave Grohl became "My Hero" after Nirvana was no more. Eddie Vedder "Led Better" (and longer) than his grungy counterparts.

Whatever you called your poison, whether it was "grunge" or "heavy alternative" or "space blood rock," there's no getting around the fact that, for better or worse, it was an infinitely cool era to plug in a guitar, dress like a lumberjack, and get your bummer on.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go put on some Our Lady Peace and take a trip down Bleak Lane. Join me?