Showing posts with label grunge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grunge. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

video review: 'my love is cool' by wolf alice

Man, I don't expect the reception to this review to be great, but you get those on occasion.

Next up... well, I was going to do Kamelot, but I really should deal with Carly Rae Jepsen or Vince Staples or Miguel. And then Tyga decided to drop an album out of fucking nowhere to the general indifference of everyone, so there's that too.

Eh, we'll see - stay tuned!

album review: 'my love is cool' by wolf alice

So I've mentioned a number of times, mostly on Billboard BREAKDOWN, that rock radio is basically irrelevant to the mainstream pop charts, at least in terms of defining larger trends. Yes, there are rock songs that are big that might even do well on the charts, but rock music doesn't tend to go viral in the same way a hip-hop track or pop song can, or mutate at the same rate that country currently is. And part of that is because rock doesn't grip the popular consciousness in the same way it has throughout other decades, to the point where the rock songs that take the charts are so wildly different that it's hard to pin down a distinctive sound. When I look at the top ten 'rock' songs on the charts right now, three are folk with the barest hint of rock, three are outright pop rock, one is closer to soul or blues than actual rock music - doesn't make Hozier any less awesome, but it's true - and 'Shut Up And Dance' would have been called new wave synthpop thirty years ago. Of the two remaining, one is Muse's 'Dead Inside' and I'd be stretching to say its sour brand of electronic rock with emo lyrics is quality, and the other is 'Believe' by Mumford & Sons and is just terrible. And that's it - no metal, no punk, nothing close to grunge or hardcore, and god help you if you're looking for one of the subgenres.

What I see when I look at the rock charts is no clear direction and nothing resembling hierarchies or leaders except maybe The Foo Fighters out of sheer longevity - mostly because 'rock' is becoming a catch-all for whatever has a guitar and is too rough-edged for pop or too heavy for country. And I'm not saying I want rock to be monochromatic or dominated by one sound - I lived through post-grunge and I don't want that again - but I get no sense of defined identity when I look at rock radio, and this has been an issue for a good few years now. It looks a lot less like diversity and more like throwing whatever they've got at the wall until something sticks - and this is an American issue. Us Canadians never really marginalized rock radio in the same way, and the indie folk rock boom is solidly entrenched up here. 

And honestly, it doesn't seem like a bad direction for the US to go either - at least indie rock is more colourful and interesting, and there's plenty of upstart acts looking to break in. Case in point: Wolf Alice, a UK-based band that started off in the poppier side of indie folk before drifting towards heavier, grunge-inspired instrumentation and signing to the same label as The 1975. Like Misterwives, they spent last year building buzz and now have dropped a debut album that has come highly recommended from a few other critics, so I took a look at My Love Is Cool - do we have our new indie rock leaders?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

video review: 'lightning bolt' by pearl jam

Man, I had so much fun making this review. It really did remind me why I like doing this, and I had a ton of fun talking about a band I like and a genre of which I'm not the biggest fan. Not gonna lie, I feel really invigorated going forward.

Next review is for Icon For Hire, then I'm going back to country with Scotty McCreery. Stay tuned!

album review: 'lightning bolt' by pearl jam

Well, I knew this was only a matter of time. With the onset of 90s nostalgia, I knew it wouldn't be long before one of the iconic genres of the decade would come back. It's also a genre with which I have a, well, let's call it complicated relationship.

Of course, I'm talking about grunge.

It's hard to argue that grunge didn't play a huge role in 90s music and culture, particularly considering its explosive birth in the underground in the late 80s and its eventual mainstream debut in the early 90s, smashing hair metal, synthpop, and whatever was left of the 80s into the dust to be deemed as 'gay' for a good decade to come. Centered around Seattle, grunge led alternative rock into the mainstream to dominate throughout a good portion of the 90s, with some iconic anthems and classic albums... before devolving into post-grunge in the latter half of the decade and ultimately being responsible for allowing acts like Nickelback and Three Days Grace to become popular.

But in all due seriousness, every time I return to grunge, I find both more and less that I like each time. Yes, the riffs can be potent, yes, the anger can sound righteous, yes, it contributed to the rise of the second punk wave in the mainstream and gave critical acclaim to a bunch of acts that would have remained lodged in the underground for decades otherwise... but man, grunge can get pretty damn insufferable at points, particularly lyrically. Perhaps I'm not blinkered by Gen X's nostalgia for grunge, but too much of the genre just doesn't connect with me, mostly because the instrumentation was at best simplistic (drawing from hardcore punk roots crossed with heavy metal) and at worst haphazard and drowned in feedback. And that's not even touching on the lyrics, which were dour, humourless, more pretentious and serious than they had any right to be, and only capable of touching the idea of 'fun' if it was approached ironically. 

So maybe it's not entirely surprising that my favourite of the grunge bands to explode out of Seattle was the one that did the most experimenting and drifted furthest from the traditional grunge sound - which, of course, brings us to Pearl Jam. To me, they've always been a band I've liked but never quite loved, and also yet another act that peaked with their first album Ten (which, despite my hangups with grunge, is awesome). They followed it with Vs. and then decided they were too good to be popular, so they started experimenting with Vitalogy and never went back. It's a shame, then, that their next six albums... well, they weren't bad but they weren't anything all that special or mind-blowing, even with some of the U2-esque bits of experimentation. Out of the selection, I probably like Riot Act the most, but I couldn't help but feel that even on that album that some of the hard rock edge was gone and it wasn't coming back.

Thus, I had some trepidation when going into Pearl Jam's newest release Lightning Bolt. On the heels of the The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here from Alice In Chains - which was basically a heavier version of what they had done before - I had the feeling that Pearl Jam wasn't about to attempt to recreate Ten or Vs.. They were going to make a rock album, not a grunge album, which could be both bad and good: on the one hand, Pearl Jam's experimentation has tended to be interesting, but it has also left the band without a definitive identity besides that of a grunge rock act that isn't really aging gracefully. So, is Lightning Bolt an experiment that bears fruit, or just another grunge rock album that slides into the grey morass of mediocrity?