Hello Beautiful World,
Let me open this week’s editorial by quoting a passage from the liner notes of the recent Soundgarden Anthology “Telephantasm” which is as follows:
“Then someone had to go and wreck it by giving it a label. The word “Grunge” was like talking to someone with bad breath. You could put up with it but you still wanted to distance yourself. In the 80′s / early 90′s, grunge was a wholesale term slapped on every Seattle band like a “My Kid Is an Honor Student” bumper sticker. That Time magazine in October of 1993 – and nearly every rock publication in the world at the time – headlined the shortsighted categorisation meant that they didn’t really get it. Or they just didn’t comprehend the myriad of intensely creative sounds and expressive “I don’t care”-isms. Can’t sell soup without a label.”
This quote is the best way for me to introduce how much I dislike the genre tag of “Grunge” and the way it has evolved over the past twenty years.
Now, let me begin by saying that I know nothing about nothing. I think on that basis alone I am the best qualified person to discuss the myth that is Grunge. Let it be known that a lot of the bands lumped into this Genre Tag – Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Alice In Chains, Screaming Trees, The Melvins and The Smashing Pumpkins (not a Seattle band but most young folk lump them in with the whole Grunge movement) – are some of my favourite bands of all time. These are bands that helped introduce me to punk rock and heavy metal and the basic sophisticated guitar music that came before it. The alternative nation of the 90’s was my entry point to listening to music for its emotional resonance rather than its entertainment value. It started when I was just eleven years old (I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing this story by now) and it hasn’t stopped. All of the musicians in these bands are iconic to me and are people I still idolise to this day no matter what phase of musical evolution I’m in.
Beyond the above mentioned bands, I’ve also spent a good portion of my life exploring all the bands Seattle offered, not just the ones that got popular during the whole “Grunge” movement. I’m talking about bands like The Wipers, Girl Trouble, Pigeon Head, The Posies, The Gits, Some Velvet Sidewalk, Dead Moon, 7 Year Bitch, The U-Men, Skin Yard, Tad and many many more. You see, when the Seattle scene came to my attention at a young age, I became obsessed and instead of just sticking to the surface I decided to dig deeper into the whole scene in order to get the full picture. What you had was an incredible scene of independent bands that drew from all corners of the music world to make some very loud and interesting rock n roll. Like every scene or movement however, a lot of those bands didn’t get the full spotlight and you could argue that this was a positive but it ultimately just highlights how much commerce was involved with the idea of “Grunge.” In short, the bands from Seattle didn’t stop being adventurous and progressive the media and record labels did and instead of investing and digging deeper into some of the more adventurous bands from Seattle, they moved on to the next thing that was going to make the money.
All of that aside, my job with todays editorial is to illustrate why I don’t like the word “Grunge” as a genre tag.
One of the main reasons I have such a dislike for the genre tag, is because of how lazy it is from both a punters point of view and journalist’s point of view. The last two bands I’ve played in over the past seven years have played sophisticated guitar based music. Any band I’ve ever played in has never set out to have a sound or a style or a genre tag. The only goal was to write honest sounding music. It seemed that every time we played a show where someone reviewed it, the first genre tag dropped was the word “Grunge” which ultimately frustrated me to no end. I didn’t mind being compared to the bands from Seattle because god knows I love a lot of them, but to simply refer to what we did as “Grunge” just because we had loud guitars and a bit of intensity and weirdness and did not really give a fuck about image or appearance really didn’t sit well with me.
Now, you could argue that I’m being harsh for feeling this way and for the most part you’d be correct, but let me elaborate why it was so annoying to be referred to as a Grunge band. Quite simply, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the pool of influences that each band member is accessing to create our sound. To me it was a sign of incredibly lazy journalism when we got lumped into the Grunge category. It also allowed punters and people who read it to assume certain things about our band and the kind of music we played, which is just incredibly false. Being classed as grunge allows people to assume that you must be a Clone Temple Pilot. That is not the case and let me assure you that although Galapogos have a healthy respect for all of the wonderful music of the 90′s, we’re not a fucking nostalgia act. We believe in making future punk, the same way the bands from Seattle did. Hence the dilemma, you align yourself with a band like Soundgarden who are just simply an awesome Psyche Rock Band and all of a sudden people assume certain things about what you are like as people and as a band. Those bands inspire us because they are all individual sounding and had a lot of character. That is the inspiration we take from them. ‘
This brings me to my next point, the dreaded Grunge revival.
Now, don’t take this wrong because ultimately I’m thrilled that a younger generation of people are getting into all the Seattle bands and are feeling empowered by the emotional connection they are feeling with those bands, but don’t call it a fucking revival. Don’t make it a fashion parade and piss on the legacy by simply wearing flannel and wearing doc martens. Seattle was anti-image and the recent Grunge Revival is all about the image. It plays by the rules instead of breaking them and it produces some of the most pedestrian sounding bands I’ve heard in recent times. It’s more Puddle of Mudd than it is Nirvana. I hate anything retro and to see youth culture slide the Seattle movement or grunge bands (blah) into this realm of cultural consumption is disgusting.
The Basic disdain I have for any human being who indulges in retro nostalgia is the way that they don’t offer anything new to the sound they are trying to mimic. Somehow modern youth culture adopted a rather devolved idea of creative evolution by buying into the idea that in order for something to be psychedelic it has to sound 60’s / 70’s or to sound Grunge it has to mimic the 90’s or to be Shoegaze it literally has to be My Bloody Valentine. Well done humanity, you have successfully missed the point of creative evolution, but hey at least you look great doing it, nothing says revolution like a cool pair of pants and intense haircuts.
Simply putting an old formula into a new era is not fresh or exciting, it is dull and predictable and if it was a colour it would be grey or a really dull beige. It’s incredibly unattractive and is the furthest thing from creative evolution. A lot of bands it seems just pick a handful of groups to mimic and then just do their best to interpret that formula. These are some of the same bands that complain about lack of success from their music and it surprises me that it hasn’t occurred to them as to why. Then there are of course the few nostalgia acts of the recent years that have ripped off an established sound, done it note for note and had it sold to youth culture as the new happening thing. It is a machine that makes me want to vomit all kinds of disgust but you know, I’m just an alien, this isn’t my planet so I’m free to shit on the carpet if I want to.
Bringing back to point, I find it to be an incredibly lazy and a cheap way to cash in on rock n roll history. I don’t believe any era is better than another. I don’t yearn for the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s or 00’s, I just yearn for the moment and what that can provide. No era of music is better than another, each decade has had great above ground and below ground sounds that were influential to the evolution of music. I see the need for genre segregation as the perfect mirror to the equality issue we face in our society. The more we try to segregate what we do the further we drive away from equality. It’s very simple for me, you either make good music or you make bad music. Colour it with any genre tag you like, it is a simple as this. Show me your soul, not how you put a million genres in a style blender to erupt into some new happening thing. I don’t care how popular or unpopular your band is, just show me your fucking soul through your music. Every inch of music no matter where it comes from has that ability to connect and no genre is of more worth than another, it is all fucking equal. Next time you go to sit down and make your genre health shake just remember what damage you are doing to equality, trust me on that one you are either part of the solution or part of the problem.
So, all I’ve done is list my complaints and not offered any real solution. Well, the truth is there isn’t a solution because the strength of the Seattle Sound is forever implanted in the word “Grunge.” I can’t change that and a lot of people will find the time and the words to tear my argument to shreds, you know those reigning world champions of the internet, the keyboard crusaders or as I like to call them, thundercunts. The truth is, I dislike that Grunge is a lazy way for people describe intense or loud rock n roll that isn’t quite indie and isn’t quite metal and isn’t quite punk. In the modern era, I just believe that in the spirit of evolution we should bury the past and move towards making new movements and new ideas. The bands from Seattle detested the way Grunge turned their town into a trend and into a fashion and I agree, because it was a tragedy at the end of the day. Ultimately, it was a cheap way for journalists to refer to one of the most vital movements in music.
I guess it’s all still rock n roll to me.
Fuck, I think at the end of the day I just really can’t stand human beings, where the fuck are the aliens?
Big Love xo
By: Dan Newton