Did Grunge Kill Rock & Roll? New Photo Exhibition Captures All the Sullen Anti-Glory

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Image by Jesse Frohman

 

It would be too easy to point a finger towards the whiffet-like nothingness of Vampire Weekend and Imagine Dragons, attempting to tie them up together in a bow labeled “the demise of rock & roll.” But the seeds of rock’s downfall were arguably planted all the way back in the early ’90s, when a pair of American cities – New York and Seattle – played host to the unintended castration of the counterculture’s greatest ever weapon.

In NYC, a band called Pavement, in league with their entire irritating ilk, quite successfully cultivated the notion that rock should seem more like a university bookstore reading of The Catcher in the Rye – incidentally, one of the most insufferable texts ever to take up space on a shelf – packaging college boy irony and perpetual complaining into one tidy, confoundingly sexless package. While over in Seattle, an assortment of sourpussed, grumpypants castoffs from the West Coast hardcore scene hatched the collective idea to combine grimy sludge rock with a lot of incoherent, sullen grumbling, and, um…denim shorts.

The latter fueled a whole new “pity party” zeitgeist to the tune of tens of millions of record sales, by bands mostly fronted with dudes who sounded like they were really, terribly constipated (comedian Chris Hardwick explicates it perfectly in a biting 2016 routine). A new exhibition titled Grunge – The Rise of a Generation opens March 8 at the Morrison Hotel Gallery, and thoroughly captures all the brooding, anti-glory of that time. Featuring images by world class snappers including Lynn Goldsmith, Lance Mercer, Bob Gruen, Danny Clinch and a dozen more, it pictorially follows the general ’90s goings on of the likes of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, L7, Alice in Chains, and, of course, Nirvana.

 

Image by Danny Clinch

 

Now, let’s be clear – merely lumping the monumental Nirvana in with the rest of the grunge pack is like suggesting that Led Zeppelin were just some metal band. To wit, a most rankling feature of grunge was its overarching maleness – especially startling after the fervent feminist revolution that accompanied punk. Tellingly, Kurt Cobain famously remarked, “Because I couldn’t find any male friends that I felt compatible with, I ended up hanging out with girls a lot.”

To be fair, Soundgarden did at least throw some striking poses, and churn out a few impressively big riffs. But with Eddie Vedder & Co. leading the way, rock & roll was nevertheless sent careening unstoppably towards a flannel-clad “Bummersville,” never to return to its previous heroic, subversive, flamboyant, glamorous, ridiculous and dangerous manifestation.

Perhaps Rob Zombie said it best in a recent interview with TeamRock Radio: “When the grunge rock thing hit, everybody thought it was cool to be anti-rock star. [But they] anti-rock starred themselves right out the door, because the rap guys came in and they said, ‘Fuck it. We’ll be the rock stars then, if you guys are going to wear flannel shirts and stare at your feet.’ And truthfully, rock has never recovered from that.”

Grunge – The Rise of a Generation runs from March 8 – 31 at the Morrison Hotel Gallery locations in New York City, Los Angeles and Maui.

 

Top image by Henry Diltz; above image by Lance Mercer

 

Will Sweet Reason Change the Way We Think About CBD Drinks?

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On January 18, the Globe And Mail ran a story titled CBD: The Trendy Cannabis Compound That’s Blurring the Law for Canadians. It addressed the seemingly significant gap between the public perception of its unbounded legality, and the reality that CBD is actually still highly regulated.

In Toronto, the same city where the newspaper is based, entrepreneur Hilary McCain (who had formerly worked at Chobani and the Boston Consulting Group) had been prepping for quite some time to introduce what she and her partners believed would be a new milestone for the CBD movement: an urbane, attractively packaged sparkling water, Sweet Reason, which would offer all the mental and physical health benefits of CBD, yet with the taste of a refined, upmarket soft drink product. Until, unexpectedly, Canadian regulations made it a suddenly an untenable proposition.

McCain and Co. quickly shifted their focus to the U.S., and now specialty food retailers – for instance Dean & Deluca – are enthusiastically embracing it.

The current flavors – grapefruit, cucumber mint, strawberry lavender – are genuinely a taste revelation, with an exuberant vivacity and playful effervescence…and none of that “artificial” sweetness of so many bottled beverages. And for those not familiar with the effects of cannabidiol, it offers a vividly calming, stress relieving after-effect.

So, at a time when workaday stress has us too often reach for alcohol-based or, worse, prescription med solutions, Sweet Reason can be said to be a part of an urgent, healthier revolution – one which McCain was all too eager to discuss with us.

 

 

What was the catalyst for creating Sweet Reason?

I started Sweet Reason because I became obsessed with the idea that, one day, I could replace my glass of wine with a cannabis beverage, and that it would be far healthier than alcohol. And then I discovered the incredible health benefits of CBD. It calms my mind, takes the edge off my anxiety, and helps me focus. So I decided to create a CBD sparkling water that was truly healthy and something that I wanted to drink all day, everyday. For me, that meant simple ingredients and no sugar or sweeteners, so that I wouldn’t think twice about drinking one…or five.

Were you aware that CBD was climbing its way up the zeitgeist meter?

The health benefits of CBD make it appealing to virtually everyone. Who doesn’t have some level of anxiety these days? So yes, I knew it would be a big deal. But I had no idea how fast the market would move and how quickly it would develop mass appeal.

What are some of the mental and physical health issues that Sweet Reason is addressing?

It helps calm the mind, reduces random stress, and eases discomfort. The health benefits of CBD are wide-ranging, so I encourage everyone to try it and see what works for them. Sweet Reason can be very easily incorporated into your life, since it’s a delicious sparkling water with no sugar or sweeteners and only five calories.

What benefits do you hope it can deliver when consumed on a daily basis?

I hope Sweet Reason helps people feel calm and focused.

Why is it better than just drinking water?

After drinking Sweet Reason, you’ll wonder why all sparkling water isn’t infused with some sort of functional health ingredient. There are already enough vitamins and supplements that we are supposed to be consuming everyday. Sweet Reason is a beverage that you would drink regardless of the health benefits, because it’s delicious.

Have people been surprised by how good it actually tastes?

Yes. It is very hard to find a CBD sparkling water with no sugar or sweeteners – which are typically used to mask the flavor of CBD. So people love Sweet Reason. We’re thrilled.

 

 

 

CBD is still caught up in a maelstrom of propaganda and misinformation. What are some of the difficulties you’ve faced getting it to market in the U.S ?

We have faced every startup challenge in the book, mostly resulting from the stigma surrounding hemp and cannabis and the significant regulatory change in the past year. We were originally supposed to launch in Canada.

What are the “politics” of CBD right now?

Because CBD was approved as a drug in June 2018 (Epidiolex), the FDA is still trying to find a path to allow it in food and beverage. So there are a lot of politics around that.
But also, the health benefits of CBD are unlike those you find in most plants. I think the FDA is still figuring out how to handle that. For instance, you can’t claim that something helps with anxiety unless it is FDA-approved. I think we need to start accepting that there are many different levels of anxiety, and there are many ways to reduce anxiety prior, or in addition to taking an over-the-counter medication.

Just to clarify – no one is getting stoned off of CBD food and beverage products?

No, they should not be. But it is important to buy CBD products from a reputable company, so that you know exactly what you’re getting.

But it can genuinely alleviate stress?

It helps calm the mind and reduce random stress. I find it helps take the edge off and keeps me focused.

Do you think it might catch on as an ingredient in creative cocktails? Have you created any based on specific Sweet Reason flavors?

Definitely. People have been obsessed with our Cucumber Mint with Gin, and our Grapefruit with Vodka.

What is the ultimate “manifesto” of Sweet Reason?

Bombarded on a daily basis with forces that challenge our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, many people now feel stressed and anxious; and deep down they don’t feel like they can do much about it. We created Sweet Reason to give our generation tools to push back. Everything we do is driven by a simple mission: to be the most trusted partner in your pursuit of a life well-lived.

 

London Fashion Week: ILFWDA Showcases Sustainable Designers

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All images by John Hylton, hair and makeup by London Makeup School and Hair Academy London 

 

The Guardian reported last week on a growing movement, with an eye to sustainability, urging more second-hand clothing purchases over new. But not quite ready to take it that far, the Independent London Fashion Week Designers Association (ILFWDA) is on its own mission, to promote the use of sustainable fabric and ethical fashion. And with that goal in sight, the designers cooperative banded together once again and returned to London Fashion Week to exhibit their latest ideologically-minded collections.

With the Grand Ballroom of Notting Hill’s flamboyant Beach Blanket Babylon as a backdrop, ILFWDA sent the latest eco-conscious fashions by eight independent designers down the catwalk. Among them was Jeff Garner, of the award-winning American brand Prophetik. The 25 piece collection entitled “Women of the Crown” was inspired by regents such as Catherine de Medici, Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I – and all made with ethically sourced materials such as craft lace, Kirkcaldy Linens, Scottish Tartans and Knockando Wool.

 

Monique Guzman

 

Another highlight was the new collection by Stacey Strahand, well known at London Fashion Week for designing clothes intended for all the “Girl Bosses” of today’s world. While she hews to traditional techniques and sustainable English materials, her styles are utterly unique, and attend to a glam punk power personality.

Also notable was the presentation by French Algerian designer Nadira Mehjoub, who focused her runway show on evening gowns and two-pieces, heavily adorned with embroidery and embellishment. Throughout the collection, beautifully delicate yet sustainable fabrics such as lace and silk were stunningly employed.

That same Guardian article pointed out that in the UK alone, 38 million new garments are purchased each week, and another 11 million go to landfill. So we applaud the ILFWDA for taking the opportunity of London Fashion Week to remind us that some designers are indeed trying to make a difference.

Carry on then.

 

From top, Nadira Mehjoub; Stacey Strahand; Jeff Garner for Prophetik

 

New Clean Bandit + Ellie Goulding Video For ‘Mama’ Posits Donald Trump as a Grownup Damaged Child

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In keeping with the cultural zeitgeist, pop music has mostly taken a pass on whipping up commentary on our current socio-political turmoil.

But Cambridge dance-poppers Clean Bandit have just released a politically-charged new video for the single “Mama” – from there album What is Love and featuring fellow Brit Ellie Goulding – which attempts to explain Donald Trump’s abiding, well, meanness, as the product of a particularly messed up childhood. Damaged kid = damaged adult, as the saying might go.

The video shows a bratty, sullen youngster, getting himself into trouble, then maturing into a bratty, sullen teenager; the hair is a dead giveaway as to his identity. It ends with “Donald” and “Melania” dancing across a “presidential seal” that reads “Damaging Our Children Can Damage the Entire World.” And ain’t it the truth, really?

The band’s Grace Chatto explains, “We wrote this script about a boy whose power was taken away from him as a child, and he grew up determined to take that power back. We directed it ourselves and we found it to be a really interesting experience.”

Perhaps fittingly, the Latin-inflected music seems like it could easily have been conjured on a street corner in Caracas or even Havana. Feel free to dig out a whole other layer of critique there – or just get up and dance in a way that would make VP Pence deeply uncomfortable.

 

Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis Has Passed Away

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Mark Hollis, frontman and primary songwriter of exalted British post-punk icons Talk Talk, has passed away at age just 64, as was reported by the NME today. No cause of death was given.

One of his generation’s most misunderstood, but also genuinely revered geniuses, Hollis was introduced to the world via the band’s 1982 album The Party’s Over. The single “Talk Talk” enjoyed significant international success, and launched the enigmatic Hollis into reluctant stardom. A follow up, It’s My Life, produced the massive worldwide hit of the same name – later famously covered by No Doubt.

 

 

Subsequent albums found his songwriting becoming increasingly equivocal yet more intensely visceral, ideologically stark, yet more fascinatingly labyrinthine. Record companies agonized over arcane singles, only to see albums like The Colour of Spring and the incomparably brilliant Spirit of Eden sell in the millions. The latter featured the piercing hymn “I Believe in You,” about Hollis’ struggles with heroin addiction.

The band’s final long player Laughing Stock was released in 1991 to much acclaim and even more bafflement. An eponymous 1998 solo album was adored by fans, but mostly came and went. Still and all, it’s not in the least an exaggeration to say that he was perhaps the Ludwig van Beethoven of his generation, both in artistic and personal temperament.

In the end, Hollis’ manifesto is perhaps best summed up in one quote: “Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note, you know? It’s as simple as that really. And don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it.”

He will be desperately missed.

 

 

 

 

Moby Is Honored w/ ‘Adopt the Arts Sound and Vision Award’

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Image by Jonathan of Nesvadba

 

In spring of 2018 Moby released his 15th album, Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt – also one of his best, and most poignant to date.

In a revealing interview with BlackBook at that time, he held forth thoughtfully on animal rights, his love of early Simple Minds records, and humanity’s ongoing spiritual and ethical struggles. But in addressing why he has carried on doing what he does for this long, he answered eloquently, “I love making music, and if I make an album, there’s a chance someone will listen to it. Also music is the perfect way to represent the seemingly ineffable things that can’t be communicated in linear or literal ways.”

Now, 27 years and 20 million sales after his self-titled debut introduced him to the public in 1992, Adopt the Arts will honor him and his truly astonishing career. Indeed, he will be the 2019 recipient of the Adopt the Arts Sound and Vision Award, with a ceremony to be held at Los Angeles’ historic Wiltern theater on March 7th. The organization raises money to provide access to musical instruments and education to children in need.

 

Image by Jonathan Nesvadba

 

“Moby’s music resonates with a broad and wide range of people,” enthuses Adopt the Arts Co-founder Abby Berman. “He has collaborated with many of the top names in the industry, and he has been using his voice for good for years for many philanthropic causes. I couldn’t think of a more deserving artist to be honored this year.”

Actresses Jane Lynch and Miam Bialik will co-host a gala that will feature performances not by just Moby himself, but also The Crystal Method and Kate Nash. In between, artworks by the likes of Camille Rose Garcia, Rowan Daly, Danny Clinch and Shepard Fairey will be auctioned off, and the latter will DJ an after party at The Line Hotel in Koreatown.

Adopt the Arts Chair and Co-founder Matt Sorum offers, “Along with his activism for global warming and animal rights, among other causes he stands for, Moby also advocates music therapy as a healer. He continues to lead in music and art, but his vision and voice for a better planet is what helped with our decision to honor him this year.”

 

Karl Lagerfeld Has Died

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Image courtesy of ‘Lagerfeld Confidential’

 

The word “legendary” gets tossed around rather carelessly these days – but if anyone was deserving of the title, it was Herr Karl Lagerfeld, who, it was sadly announced, passed away yesterday at age 85.

An unparalleled fashion designer above all, Lagerfeld was one of the last of a fading breed of European Renaissance Man: a photographer, artist, intellectual and, what we particularly appreciated, stinging wit. But surely he will always be associated with Chanel, the fabled house he took over in 1983, transforming it into the citadel of modern style it remains to this day.

“We have lost a creative genius who helped to make Paris the fashion capital of the world,” said LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault in a statement. “The death of this dear friend deeply saddens me, my wife and my children. We loved and admired him deeply.”

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1933, Lagerfeld began his career working for the likes of Pierre Balmain and Chloé, before a stint at Fendi. beginning in 1967, forever made his name. He launched his own namesake label in 1984. In 2007, Vogue produced the film Lagerfeld Confidential, and this past December, Netflix released the documentary 7 Days Out – Chanel, following the designer for a frantic week before his final Paris Haute Couture show.

No cause of death was released as of yet.

 

The Cure Announce ‘Disintegration’ 30th Anniversary Shows

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No sooner had we begun to ponder the question, than came the thrilling announcement that The Cure were in fact paying their landmark 1989 album Disintegration its proper 30th anniversary due.

Indeed, Robert Smith and cohort have just divulged that this coming May 24-28, they will play a series of four obviously monumental concerts under the title Disintegration – 30th Anniversary, at the equally monumental Sydney Opera House, as part of the annual Vivid Live festival.

Disintegration, indisputably, is one of the important records ever to be set to tape – and for the dark-hearted, is the absolute pinnacle of everything that matters viscerally, aesthetically, psychologically. From the desperate longing of “Pictures of You,” to the eerie musings of “Lullaby,” to the majestic chill of “Plainsong,” to the enigmatic cool of “Fascination Street,” it remains the standard bearer for all those lurking on the more haunted perimeters of existence.

 

 

Smith himself refers to the success of The Cure’s 2011 Reflections tour, for which they played their first three albums in full – and which was also kicked off with a pair of shows at the Sydney Opera House.

“Our Reflections shows in 2011 were truly memorable experiences,” he says. “And with the excitement surrounding those early album performances in mind, we are more than delighted to be announcing our return in May to present the world premiere of Disintegration – 30th Anniversary.”

He also teased that these will be “the world premiere of these performances.” And so despite a busy festival/touring schedule this summer, one expects they will indeed be taking the Disintegration shows around the world. For our part, we’re already shivering with anticipation.

In Her New/Old ‘Rocket Man’ Cover Video, Kate Bush Plays the Accordion in Space

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The near hysteria surrounding the release last November of Kate Bush’s Remastered box sets merely confirms the towering love still reserved for music’s most iconoclastic enigma.

Surely not keen to let the momentum fizzle, Rhino is now breaking up the set and selling it in pieces. Indeed, in what will actually be the final installment of the series, the rarities half of CD Box 2 has been separated out, and re-titled The Other Sides. With an official release date of March 8, the the four disc set will flaunt such under-the-radar gems as “Lyra,” from the soundtrack to The Golden Compass; “Be Kind to My Mistakes,” featured in the Nicholas Roeg film Castaway; early demo “Humming”; and, extravagantly, one entire CD devoted just to covers of the Elton John classic “Rocket Man.”

To emphasize the latter, the video was at last released for her 1991 version of “Rocket Man,” showing Kate in a surprisingly animated state, bouncing about in front of her band, ukulele in hand – that is, when she’s not, um, playing the accordion in space. With this particular version, she’s reinvented it as something of a country-reggae track…which one can reasonably guess Sir Elton had never imagined.

The Other Sides is available for pre-order today.