Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave). RIP

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crumbsroomWhile early/mid nineties alternative rock is a flavor that hasn't aged well for me, with there only being a small handful of that scenes albums I still truly love (Siamese Dream, Last Splash, Jar of Flies, maybe In Utero), Badmotorfinger was absolutely one of them and Cornell is very much one of the reasons for that. Seeing the video for Jesus Christ Pose may have been one of the highlights of 90's hard rock me, this long haired beast in the desert screaming right through the television screen at me, shocking me into the present music scene like few other bands were able to do. I could no longer pretend music didn't exist after 1979.

It's funny that you feel this way, because I think that the "alternative rock" umbrella of the early 90s was one of the last truly eclectic explosions of talent in what could be considered the mainstream music business. Full of bands from Stereolab, Jesus Lizard, Ween, and Tortoise (three of them inexplicably signed to major labels) that sounded nothing like each other, signature music that sounded like no one but themselves. The unexpected success of Nirvana had deepened the industry's taste insecurity, and they responded by giving virtually anyone a shot, and allowing a remarkable amount of creative freedom in doing so. The fact that Daniel Johnston was offered one of the, on paper, most lucrative and liberal recording contracts is only slightly more stunning than the fact that he was too crazy to sign it. Even among the artists that became stars, any genre that can claim such a diverse stylistic territory that included both R.E.M. and Red Hot Chili Peppers (in their respective primes of Out of Time and Blood Sugar Sex Magic) is proof enough of the era's fecundity. No, for me it was only about the mid-90s, 1995 in fact, when "modern rock", an artificially designed radio format, took over the popular playlists while the music started to become stale, formulaic and as homogenized as Bush and Creed (the epitome of the very worst 90s rock cliches).

I remember reading about Soundgarden when Louder Than Love came out, and SPIN had a dual list of "The Best and Worst Led Zeppelin Rip-Offs". The Worst list came first, and was a long list of the regular hair metal of the day - Motley Crue, Warrant, Aerosmith, Def Leppard. The Best list included only one name, Soundgarden. That was the first album [cassette tape] that I bought of theirs.

Badmotorfinger was released last year - the 25th Anniversary - and included a DVD of a full-length concert from Seattle, partially released on a VHS at the time called Motorvision. Watching the band here, in its prime and without its studio tricks, is a powerful reminder of what a great band they were, grunge's most technically intelligent band and Seattle's finest singer in Cornell. I recommend the show for anyone looking for wake material.
May 19, 2017 3:14 PM
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The 90s was the last great decade for rock. There's been plenty of great indie rock albums gone under the radar since 2000, but the great outsized anthemic rock albums pretty much disappeared after Rage Against the Machine disbanded. I think the 90s rock bands said all there was left to say with your standard amped 4 man setup.

You know who is fuckin great though is a band from the 90s that never really got mainstream exposure, Built To Spill, but again they're more indie sounding.
May 19, 2017 10:27 PM
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Janson Jinnistan
It's funny that you feel this way, because I think that the "alternative rock" umbrella of the early 90s was one of the last truly eclectic explosions of talent in what could be considered the mainstream music business.

I definitely like a bunch of rock bands from that time period (Jesus Lizard and Ween definitely being two of them) but I was mainly talking particularly about those bands which could be pigeon holed as having that distinctly 90's rock sound. Where in any other decade I generally like many of the radio stalwarts along with the forgotten gems, underground darlings and could-a-been-a-contenders, the bands that generally seem to get the lion share of press from the 90's I either am left completely cold by or don't really find any great interest in revisiting. The Pearl Jams and Holes and STPs and NiN's, even most of Nirvana's, Alice in Chains and Soundgardens work. With the exception of Pumpkins and Breeders, none of them would ever get put on a list of my favorite bands, not top 100, probably not top 200. Badmotorfinger though would be a serious contender for one of my favorite albums from the period, and would rank at least somewhere on my favorite albums of all time.

And I don't know about this talk (jasper's post) about it being the last stand of great rock and roll bands. I think the last 15 or so years has had an endlessly long list of top notch bands, both those that are very well known and slightly under the radar.
May 19, 2017 10:40 PM
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crumbsroom
Janson Jinnistan
It's funny that you feel this way, because I think that the "alternative rock" umbrella of the early 90s was one of the last truly eclectic explosions of talent in what could be considered the mainstream music business.

I definitely like a bunch of rock bands from that time period (Jesus Lizard and Ween definitely being two of them) but I was mainly talking particularly about those bands which could be pigeon holed as having that distinctly 90's rock sound. Where in any other decade I generally like many of the radio stalwarts along with the forgotten gems, underground darlings and could-a-been-a-contenders, the bands that generally seem to get the lion share of press from the 90's I either am left completely cold by or don't really find any great interest in revisiting. The Pearl Jams and Holes and STPs and NiN's, even most of Nirvana's, Alice in Chains and Soundgardens work. With the exception of Pumpkins and Breeders, none of them would ever get put on a list of my favorite bands, not top 100, probably not top 200. Badmotorfinger though would be a serious contender for one of my favorite albums from the period, and would rank at least somewhere on my favorite albums of all time.

And I don't know about this talk (jasper's post) about it being the last stand of great rock and roll bands. I think the last 15 or so years has had an endlessly long list of top notch bands, both those that are very well known and slightly under the radar.

This is a bit of a pivot. You initially said early 90s alt rock, but here, you're limiting yourself to not just (mostly Seattle) grunge, but mostly popular Seattle grunge, which gives you barely a handful of bands. In that case, OK yeah, I mean it's not like I'm constantly playing back STP, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana albums either.

But to Janson's point, when you look at the wider context of "alternative" rock more generally (or let's just call it 'rock music in the early to mid 90s'), you have a bastion of (eclectic) talent and an era that is one of the high water marks in terms of overall talent / output of great music in the music business (which I'll draw all the way across the indie-to-commercial continuum, since I find the demarcations tricky, and also find there is actually a pretty strong correlation between talent indie and mainstream). I wouldn't go as far as Janson though as saying this was the last explosion of eclectic talent in the music business (indie or mainstream), nor even in rock music itself (although one might make the case that the post-punk / garage rock explosion in the early aughts lacked the eclecticism or diversity in sound to that of 90s alt-rock, but I'm pretty skeptical of that). Nevertheless, it was a special time in music, I think.

As for grunge itself, it's pretty clear to me it's got a paradigmatic sound, and I know exactly which bands fall into that fold (viz. the ones your mentioned), but I'm much less confident about which bands might be considered less-than-paradigmatic cases, or what to make of borderline cases. I don't think it's of much help to use the label 'grunge' (and much, much less the the label 'alt rock') to pick out a collection of popular bands in the early 90s and say something especially substantive about their place in the larger music scene if its meant to be used to the exclusion of bands like Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Slowdive, Radiohead, The Cranberries, PJ Harvey and so on (and especially if we include the massive number of late 80s bands still in their creative peaks in the very early 90s like The Jesus and Mary Chain). Then again, if you mean to include these bands and others along that continuum, and still find yourself shrugging with a 'meh', then OK, I guess. In that case, I just think you're nuts!
May 20, 2017 3:05 AM
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Izzy BlackThis is a bit of a pivot. You initially said early 90s alt rock, but here, you're limiting yourself to not just (mostly Seattle) grunge, but popular Seattle grunge, which gives you barely a handful of bands. In that case, OK yeah, I mean it's not like I'm constantly playing back STP, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana albums either.

Not really so much a pivot as just clarifying how I expressed myself badly in my initial post. I was speaking from a personal place, where I was talking very specifically about the music me or my friends were listening to at that point in my life. When it came to that stuff, stuff I liked quite a bit at the time, only a few of those records I loved so much back then have retained any kind of real fire for me all these years later.

But it's true, I do generally have a bit of a ingrained 90's music negative bias. If someone were to ask me what my least favourite decade in popular music is (starting with the 50's) 90's is usually the one I gravitate to. Even the bands from the nineties that I discovered I really liked after the fact, are disproportionately under represented when I gush about albums I get really excited about.

I guess I just like other stuff better.
May 20, 2017 3:19 AM
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Janson JinnistanNo, for me it was only about the mid-90s, 1995 in fact, when "modern rock", an artificially designed radio format, took over the popular playlists while the music started to become stale, formulaic and as homogenized as Bush and Creed (the epitome of the very worst 90s rock cliches).


Tough time for rock, but it was short lived, I think (basically last five years of the 90s). Nowhere near as bad as the complete dearth / death of rock music of the past 10 years. And, honestly, I think Bush gets an unfair rap. I think they're source of spawn of post-grunge, fair enough, but I actually liked their first two albums. Candlebox is also often thrown in that category, but I liked their debut too. Obviously when Creed, Stained, Nickelback, and whatever rolled around, it was overkill formulaic bad, and they put the nail in the genre's coffin, but again, that's a pretty short span in music all things considered. It seems much less offensive as an era (to me) in hindsight, unless of course you blame these bands for the death of commercial rock (I know you're not doing that here), which I think would be a mistake.
May 20, 2017 3:23 AM
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Stu
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Izzy!
May 20, 2017 3:39 AM
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Also liked Throwing Chopper. *shrug*
May 20, 2017 3:39 AM
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crumbsroom
Izzy BlackThis is a bit of a pivot. You initially said early 90s alt rock, but here, you're limiting yourself to not just (mostly Seattle) grunge, but popular Seattle grunge, which gives you barely a handful of bands. In that case, OK yeah, I mean it's not like I'm constantly playing back STP, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana albums either.

Not really so much a pivot as just clarifying how I expressed myself badly in my initial post. I was speaking from a personal place, where I was talking very specifically about the music me or my friends were listening to at that point in my life. When it came to that stuff, stuff I liked quite a bit at the time, only a few of those records I loved so much back then have retained any kind of real fire for me all these years later. ?

But it's true, I do generally have a bit of a ingrained 90's music negative bias. If someone were to ask me what my least favourite decade in popular music is (starting with the 50's) 90's is usually the one I gravitate to. Even the bands from the nineties that I discovered I really liked after the fact, are disproportionately under represented when I gush about albums I get really excited about.

I guess I just like other stuff better.

You're missing out! 90s music is awesome.
May 20, 2017 3:41 AM
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especially if we go off rock and talk music generally, but I know you're a hip-hop head, so I don't need to tell you that (and I'm going to assume, given this, you're probably electro/house/trip-hop friendly too, e.g. Portishead, Massive Attack, what have you)
May 20, 2017 3:44 AM
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StuIzzy!

Hi
May 20, 2017 3:45 AM
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Izzy BlackAlso liked Throwing Chopper. *shrug*

I was just about to approve of the supporting hand you offered Bush, they really weren't that bad, but now I'm pretty sure we're enemies.

That being said though, I actually think I kinda liked the album Live put out after this, so I should probably offer up my own *shrug*
May 20, 2017 3:49 AM
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Izzy Blackespecially if we go off rock and talk music generally, but I know you're a hip-hop head, so I don't need to tell you that (and I'm going to assume, given this, you're probably electro/house/trip-hop friendly too, e.g. Portishead, Massive Attack, what have you)

Yes. This is 90's music that is more in line with what I like about that decade now.
May 20, 2017 3:50 AM
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crumbsroom
Izzy BlackAlso liked Throwing Chopper. *shrug*

I was just about to approve of the supporting hand you offered Bush, they really weren't that bad, but now I'm pretty sure we're enemies.

That being said though, I actually think I kinda liked the album Live put out after this, so I should probably offer up my own *shrug*

haha, fair enough.
May 20, 2017 3:51 AM
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Also, I should note: I have a pretty forgiving ear when it comes to popular music, pretty much all across the spectrum. It's peculiar I don't extend this same level of charity to popular film.
May 20, 2017 3:55 AM
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Izzy BlackAlso, I should note: I have a pretty forgiving ear when it comes to popular music, pretty much all across the spectrum. It's peculiar I don't extend this same level of charity to popular film.

I've got no issue with pop music at all. I take deep pleasure in 90's Euro dance music, like more boy band songs than I should, think the Spice Girls "Say You'll Be There" is one of the songs I'm most fond of from that decade, and untold other amounts of embarrassments With both music and film and I can be very much about what many might consider lowest common denominator shit. Of course the critics are all wrong, though.

Unfortunately I don't have this allowance with books and paintings. I'm pretty limited in what I will tolerate in either of these fields. I really dislike way too many respected authors and visual artists and I actually sometimes wish I could stop thinking so many of them are so unbearably awful.
May 20, 2017 4:08 AM
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Yeah it's interesting. It's not that I simply tolerate bad music more than I tolerate bad cinema, but it's more that I seem to find ways to appreciate and find value in popular music in ways that I don't seem as equipped to do with film, even when, from a distance, it would seem the one is as guilty of formulaic conventions etc. as the other.

Popular literature is an utter abomination though. Completely worthless. I'm a savage when it comes to popular literature. It even makes me uneasy calling it "literature". I'm the worst kind of snob in that domain.
May 20, 2017 4:38 AM
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Izzy BlackTough time for rock, but it was short lived, I think (basically last five years of the 90s). Nowhere near as bad as the complete dearth / death of rock music of the past 10 years.

I think that the reason why I describe it in terms of "the last explosion of eclectic talent", lalala, is largely due to this fact, which is that the creative trend has seemingly been diminishing. Even considering the 00s, which offered a potent surfacing of talent, I think that many of these artists seemed to burn not quite as bright or in as many directions.

Izzy BlackAnd, honestly, I think Bush gets an unfair rap.

My condolences to Mr. Stefani, but at my most generous, I would say that he was able to formulate the Cobain/Corgan/Reznor affectations into something that was commercially very palatable. I thought it was pretty boring. I haven't, honestly, bothered to revisit it to see how it's aged.

I don't want to make a strict barrier between commercial and creative, because that can be the default for these things. I like a lot of music that is "pop", as long as it's inspired. What I see as the more derogatory form of commercial or pop is when you can see the calculation, whether formula-wise or demographically. I like music that touches on less-marketable emotions, and there's a lot of popular music that still conveys intimacy and sincerity. The personal can sometimes be considered the opposite of broad appeal by those wishing to attract the latter.

Izzy BlackIt seems much less offensive as an era (to me) in hindsight, unless of course you blame these bands for the death of commercial rock (I know you're not doing that here), which I think would be a mistake.

No, I think those bands are the symptoms of the problem, which goes back to the kinds of commercial considerations that flatten and narrow the expression. And more recently, in our downloading environment, I've even seen where some of the more ambitious work from some artists fail to sale and its the scope of the ambition placed at fault rather than the economic environment.

I think back to the neo-soul era of the late-90s/early 00s, and there's been some revision over how much popular resistance there was to this. D'Angelo's Voodoo outclassed R. Kelly, but when it came to hip-hop, there was strong backlash over Common's Electric Circus and The Roots' Phrenology because so-called "fans" didn't want to hear their artists do something new outside of what had gotten them an audience in the first place. This restrictive dogma was touted over and over every time another ground-breaking album came out. Did N.E.R.D.'s first album even chart? Maybe eventually? Q-Tip couldn't get released. Andre 3000 was ridiculed, not just for the poppy "Hey Ya" but because his Love Below went the gauntlet from Bootsy-funk to faux-jazz. Mos Def chooses to sing on New Danger and fans act betrayed. (Meanwhile, these days Chance the Rapper can squeak his tuneless crooning on SNL and no one says anything).

I think that this kind of restriction is across the board in the 21st century music industry, and it's the reason why seemingly fewer and fewer artists emerge year after year. In addition to the economic challenges in the technology, it doesn't seem to be a very welcoming investment for young artists.
May 20, 2017 5:25 AM
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First Izzy praises Live. Next Janson disses Chance the Rapper. What is the world coming to?
May 20, 2017 5:30 AM
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Izzy BlackAlso liked Throwing Chopper. *shrug*

I played Mental Jewelry about five or six times, and thought that this could very well be a great band someday.

That's about as far in this direction as I'm capable of going.
May 20, 2017 5:33 AM
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