Grunge Comes Back With a Vengeance

It was 1992 when Kurt Cobain posed with infant daughter Frances Bean wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with three words: grunge is dead. Of course it was a goof; at the time, the major labels were in full thrall with grunge, lustily courting greasy-haired Seattleites.

Years later, after Cobain took his own life, the phrase became an accepted truth. Labels started dropping grunge acts en masse. Bands imploded or slid into irrelevancy—few survived the decade.

Cut to 2012. Grunge’s influence has peppered popular culture for years, but the comeback began in earnest last fall with the hoopla surrounding the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s game-changer Nevermind and Pearl Jam, who celebrated two decades of Ten with a Cameron Crowe documentary, a best-selling retrospective book, and a festival in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin.

Of the Big Four grunge bands, three are active concerns working on new albums: Pearl Jam never went away; Soundgarden reunited in 2010 after a 13-year break; Alice in Chains have fully integrated singer William DuVall, who replaced the late Layne Staley. A Nirvana reunion is out of the question—replacing Cobain would be a crime against music—but Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and producer Butch Vig collaborated on the Foo Fighters’ Wasting Life last year.

In April, Vig tweeted that he’d spent the day recording with Grohl, Novoselic, and an unnamed “special guest” (the session was likely to do with Grohl’s forthcoming documentary on Sound City, the studio where Nevermind was recorded). After a surprise reunion at the Williamsburg after-party for the grunge-era rock documentary Hit So Hard, which chronicles the travails of Hole drummer Patty Schemel, the band’s guitarist, Eric Erlandson, hinted at the possibility of a “White Album” featuring unreleased Cobain solo material he hopes will someday see the light of day.

But it’s not all ’90s nostalgia. GrungeReport.net estimates 40 percent of readers are under 20, some of whom weren’t even born when Kurt Cobain killed himself. Patty Schemel, for one, witnessed the younger generation’s grunge love firsthand as she traveled the country promoting Hit So Hard. “Maybe it’s a backlash to what’s going on with pop music today—everything is so packaged and slick. Something dirty needs to show up,” Schemel says. “It’s weird seeing a Nirvana T-shirt in H&M. For kids, Nirvana are what Jimi Hendrix was to me. Grunge has become classic rock.”

D’Angelo’s ‘Black Hole Sun’ Cover is Very Good

Close your eyes and envision watching MTV back when music videos existed outside of Vimeo. There’s a strong chance that in your imagination you are viewing an iconic video like the one for Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” or D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does it Feel?).” You would think those songs share nothing in common besides the videos that defined their respective slices of the past 20 years. Now, via Head Nodz, we have D’Angelo’s neo-soul cover of “Black Hole Sun,” which was just leaked onto the Internet to bring these two artists together.

D’Angelo and Soundgarden, it turns out, go together like pineapples and pepperoni pizza. You can’t figure out how the combination will work in your head, but then you take a bite and—BOOM—you realize how delicious Hawaiian pizza is. Take a taste:

This cover is reportedly from 2003 or 2004 (while other outlets suggest 2008), but languished on some hard drive before its recent leak. That’s an interesting time frame, considering it straddles D’Angelo’s rehab stint for alcoholism that was documented in this Spin story.

Funny how a cover of a mid-nineties alt-rock staple recorded years ago by a soul artist who reached the apex of his fame in 2000 sounds fresher than anything else being released nowadays. Hawaiian pizza truly is timeless.

CBGB Resurrected in L.A. for One Night

What to do on the hottest night ever in Los Angeles? How about pretend you’re in a city where it’s actually autumn, like say, New York. Activision and Soundgarden teamed up on Monday evening to throw a bash inside the storied gates of Paramount Studios, where the video game-maker spared little expense in dressing up Paramount’s “New York” back lot, where multiple films have staged NYC scenes.

Invited guests braved the heat by drinking vodka, eating what I suppose Angelenos think passes for New York “street food” (pastrami sandwiches, mini hot dogs, and horrible pizza), and sitting on the stoops of faux Brooklyn brownstones, taking in the fake street scenes, while a cacophony of sounds (DJs playing cuts from the Beastie Boys vs. people trying out the newest version of Guitar Hero, “Warriors of Rock”) echoed through the night—all competing for partygoers’ attention.

And while multiple parties over the years have been held on the fake New York “block,” the most talked-about part of the faux-cityscape was the latest addition to the ‘hood: Activision brought back CBGB’s for one night specially for Soundgarden to play a set. Hasn’t the storied New York club been commodified enough? Coincidentally, I had a friend in town from New York, and the scene was enough to make her sigh heavily at the sight of the once-real Bowery bar reduced to a Hollywood prop.

Regardless, it was the most-talked about part of the party, and it generated the requisite heat to make for a memorable night out. Inside the sweltering “club,” Soundgarden played several of their best known hits, including “Black Hole Sun,” as well as songs from their new record, Telephantasm, out today.

This being Los Angeles, a few celebrities turned out as well—if you count Carmen Electra, Mark Salling, and Joy Bryant as famous. But my favorite local celebrity was out braving the heat at Paramount: whenever you see Sunset Jesus at a party, (that’s him next to the DJ) you know you’re probably in the right place.

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19 Bands We Miss from the 1990s

From pump sneakers to hypercolor clothes to sexual predators in AOL chatrooms, the 90s had it all. But many of the decade’s self-indulgent fads have been lost to history, much like many of the era’s formerly memorable musical acts. Some were really good, some were so bad they were good, and some were bad enough that it’s good they’re gone. There are many ways for a band to die, but dead or not, a few still hold a special place in our memory and/or playlist.

(‘DiggThis’)image1. Beastie Boys – What other band on earth could get away with a line like “I want to stir fry you in my wok” and not sound insane, pathetic, or both? The Beastie Boys helped define rap for the white kids of the 90s, paving the way for Eminem and the like. We miss the Beastie Boys, but at least this band had a good reason for dipping out of the pop scene: Rapper MCA had a difficult bout of cancer. Since he’s alive and well, we think the band needs to breathe the same life back into their careers and put out another album. image2. Soul Asylum – Many people think Soul Asylum was a one-hit wonder. This is totally false. They had two good songs: “Runaway Train” and “Black Gold!” And we’d like to hear more of those two songs on the radio. Where did that runaway train end up, anyway?

image3. Better Than Ezra – This was the perfect middle-of-the-road 90s band. They were not too edgy, not too bold, not too flamboyant, and not too flashy. That may be the reason they fell into obscurity. We may never know, but what’s clear is that “it was good living with you,” Better Than Ezra. It was damn good.
image4. Soundgarden – Soundgarden helped create the grunge rock scene, but they always seem to get overlooked. Nirvana and Pearl Jam somehow managed to squeeze Chris Cornell and the boys out of the limelight. For years we’ve longed for the day when Soundgarden would darken our sky once more with a “Black Hole Sun.” And with a reunion plan in the works, it looks like our pathetic little prayers may have been answered.

image5. Nine Inch Nails – While Nine Inch Nails didn’t completely disappear, Trent Reznor and the gang sure seem to have been in hiding over the past decade. Perhaps his pale skin keeps him from coming out into the open. Sure, he used to spend a great deal of time on social networking sites like Twitter, but he swore off them in mid-2009 after having one too many run-ins with a group of internet trolls. From the looks of it, he may have sworn off getting his music on the radio as well. image6. Björk – Björk is actually still around, but she’s not doing anything notable. In our opinion, the world needs more music videos with cute rocker chicks dancing on moving semi trucks. While Björk wasn’t the biggest hit of the 90s, she certainly made her mark. She’s by far our favorite 90s rocker to come out of Iceland anyway.
image7. Smashing Pumpkins – The world needs more old-school Smashing Pumpkins. We’re not just talking about the band. We should all go out and smash some more pumpkins. The radio of the 90s was dominated by the swill of watered-down ska and pseudo-big bands. Luckily, the Pumpkins were there to cut through the crap. They broke up in 2000 and have since reunited, but it’s just not the same. Oh well, despite all my rage, yada yada yada.

image8. Rage Against The Machine – Rage was just too angsty to stay together for a whole decade. It wasn’t that their music was dated or anything, but after Tibet was freed (right?) their mission as a band was accomplished, and they all decided to concentrate on other things. Recently, they did get together to play some of their old songs, but a complete reunion hasn’t happened. We want our Rage. image9. 311 – 311 had some serious hits, but we hardly ever hear them on the radio anymore. This is probably due to their name. Since it’s comprised only of numbers, it doesn’t show up on the alphabetical lists used by modern DJs. If they had been named AAB, we’d hear them all the time, and it would be awesome.

image10. The Pixies – When people think of the Pixies, they tend to imagine buildings crashing down while Edward Norton holds hands with Helena Bonham Carter. Considering the song used in Fight Club is one of their best, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, “Where Is My Mind” wasn’t their only good song. Maybe if today’s DJs would play more of their catalog the world would know that.
image11. Guns N’ Roses – Despite the recent release of Chinese Democracy, Guns N’ Roses has been under the radar for a while. All that’s left is Axl Rose and a bunch of people you don’t know. Slash and the rest moved on and currently play in Velvet Revolver with Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots. But we still have an appetite for destruction, and right now the world could use some G.N.R. image12. MC Hammer – Who could ever forget the pants that this man popularized? They were so big and flashy that the aeronautics industry tested them for parachute durability. Somehow, Hammer blew all the money he made off of songs like “Can’t Touch This” and “Hammer Time.” Luckily, later in life he found Jesus and made some of it back. Now maybe Jesus can get him back on the radio.

image13. Ace of Base – I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes to the fact that we haven’t heard from Ace of Base in more than ten years. It’s too bad. They made catchy girl music that didn’t pretend to be anything it wasn’t. We’re not trying to say that it was riveting, life-changing music, but we hummed along when it came on the radio, and so did you. Admit it! image14. Counting Crows – For many bands, there comes a point in time when dreadlocks just won’t carry the music any longer. The Counting Crows reached that point in the 90s, which explains why you don’t hear from them. Seriously though, we could all use a little more air time for “Mr. Jones.” And considering that the band is still touring, there’s always hope. image15. Crash Test Dummies – No one here is claiming that the Crash Test Dummies are any good. But you have to respect a band whose first hit has a refrain that’s simply humming: “Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm.” Bold move.

image16. Live – Live hit it big in 1994 with their breakthrough album Throwing Copper. Although they fell out of the spotlight soon afterwards, no one bothered to inform the band. Apparently they’ve been touring and recording music all this time. It was only in November of 2009 that guitarist Chad Taylor announced he was leaving the band.
image17. Oasis – Only the Beatles can claim to be bigger than Jesus and get away with it. Oasis learned this the hard way. But despite their self-indulgent tendencies, they were still a decent band. Unfortunately, no one remembers them beyond select singles (ahem, “Wonderwall”), so Jesus wins.

image18. House of Pain – Seriously though, couldn’t you go for a little “Jump Around” right now? Come on, it’s an easy song. The lyrics are the same as the title, and the only other words you have to remember are “I came to get down.” There’s something to be said for simplicity.

image19. Gwar – Are the days of massive costumes and crazy face-paint over? If so, that explains why we haven’t heard much from Gwar. Kids today just don’t want a sci-fi/horror spectacle when they listen to music. They’d rather listen to Adam Lambert while they watch Avatar. Pussies.