Posts Tagged ‘Pearl Jam’

Maybe it’s a sign of aging, but I find myself longing for music of the past more and more these days. I’ve never hidden the fact that the current state of music is deplorable compared to when I grew up. But this isn’t a post about that. It’s a post about trying to (rhetorically) figure out what truly connects a person to music, and if that changes over time, across generations and through individuals.

(Note: Everyone’s experience with music is different; I’m not trying to make all-encompassing blanket statements. These are just my observations over the years.)

When I was a kid, all my musical influences lay in the hands of my older family members. As such, it was all 80s rock – U2, INXS, Duran Duran, etc. At that time, cassette tapes were the only vehicle for music, and I still remember this INXS tape we had – 1987’s Kick album, loaded with classics like “Need You Tonight” and “Never Tear Us Apart.” I used to play that tape over and over and over again on my small pink tape player (that came with earbuds!) I would just lay on the ground, headphones in, and listen.

I continued on like this, album after album (including The Little Mermaid Soundtrack) until U2 essentially took over my entire world. I had this one U2 mixtape that I spent hours upon hours crafting, timing every track to perfection. I must’ve listened to it countless times over years and years. At the time, I had a shiny silver Sony Walkman that automatically switched the tape’s sides. I knew every single word to every single song on that tape – they were my first favourite band of all time, and felt like a part of me.

Adolescence is a time when one is easily influenced, inspired. We hang on to things that (we think) mean something to us. If we’re angry, we like loud music. If we like to dance, we pick dance music. Our minds are so malleable and spongey, we can absorb anything. During such a precious time, it’s also easy to just follow what your friends are doing, so you won’t feel left out. For me, it was a combination – my entire school listened to grunge in the 90s, therefore I did too. However, I also enjoyed the music, and felt some connection to it, because it became about learning about an entire genre, and all the bands involved.

But here’s what I’m trying to figure out: when I hear 90s music now, do I love it because of that previous connection to it, because of nostalgia? Is it attached to specific memories, or a more care-free time? Or do I truly think it’s better than a lot of the music of today? If I heard that same music now, what would I think? Would I enjoy it the same way, would it speak to me in the same way? Or was it just a right time, right place scenario? Let’s be real, grunge doesn’t exist anymore (in spite of some pitiful attempts at a comeback); it died a long time ago – is that why it has such a pull over me?

Same would go for those who are fans of 60s-70s music – maybe that attachment comes from the notion that there currently isn’t any music out there that resembles anything from back then. Maybe they feel like they experienced the birth and demise of a genre. Its evolution and inability to survive in the current world. Maybe they just miss it. In previous decades, music had so much more to say. Musicians used their voices to make statements.

Nowadays, the industry has gotten soft. No one (rather, not many) talk about anything real, which is why everything is so interchangeable and unrecognizable. It all kind of blurs together. For example, millennials all think Drake is the almighty – but will they still think that in 10 years? Or is it because they hear his songs at clubs and bars right now? In 10 year’s time though, will they still be going to clubs? Moreover, even if they did, would Drake still be playing over the speakers? Has the music scene just changed now?

These days, music can be heard anywhere and everywhere – which is great. But that also makes a lot of room for noise. I wonder if in this day and age, it’s possible to really connect to an artist, and still feel connected years later. If it is possible, I feel like it’ll still be different than how music was felt in the past; when you earned the ability to listen to a track over and over. You had to save up. You had to really want it, and if the album wasn’t all that good, you wouldn’t delete it or toss it, you’d make yourself listen because you invested in it. You would give it a real, solid chance.

Year after year, there’s so much turnover in tracks too, so many singles released, that it’s tough to really feel the impact of any of them, due to so much output volume. It seems as though Selena Gomez releases a track every week, so how does one even keep track? With programs like Spotify, essentially every single song you could ever want in life, can be found there. You don’t have to buy the album and only play it on your CD player, or if you’re lucky, in your car. You don’t have to commit to an artist.

You can download a track just as easily as you can delete it. No one has Walkmen/Discmen (RIP) anymore, so all music on-the-go comes from their phones. The flow of which can easily be interrupted by phone calls, txt msgs and taking photos. How are young people supposed to understand how to truly value music? People these days don’t get obsessed with albums; they get obsessed with songs. One track.

Don’t get me wrong, I use Spotify too – guilty as charged. It’s the easiest, fastest way to get a track I want when I want it. I don’t have invest so much time/energy in its acquisition. But here’s the thing: I kind of miss that process. I kind of miss getting to know the music, the artist. I kind of miss opening the plastic wrap around the CD. I kind of miss analyzing the album art, and flipping through the lyric books and footnotes. I kind of really miss that connection.

 

 

Is it just me, or is there a hankering for everything 90s in the music world? It seems to be a general consensus. Not that I’m surprised, because let’s face it, 90s music really was everything. Grunge, Britpop, true Rap/Hip-Hop, girl/boy bands all saw their rise (and some, even their demise) in the 90s. There has been a lot of music between now and then, so why the resurgence? Could it be a simple case of nostalgia? Or maybe music these days has lost its charm, its wonderment. Maybe 90s bands need to make some of that cash money, and know nothing makes that happen more than a new album + reunion tour. Whatever the reason, it’s happening.

Green Day

One of the original, ultimate 90s bands, who whined their way into our hearts with their album, 1994’s Dookie. The 14-track album was essentially the same song over and over, with the same chords, just in different arrangements. It was full of anthems for the lazy, bored teenager, but somehow struck a chord with so many young people, it sold upwards of 20 million copies. Since then, the band has released a few other albums, the most memorable of which was 2004’s American Idiot (mostly because it was full of political commentary.) So yes, technically they’ve been around in the 2000s, but their sound has never changed. Now they’re up for another release – Revolution Radio due out later this year. Its first single “Bang Bang” proves their 90s sound is about to take over the radio again.

Blink 182

Similar to Green Day, Blink 182 saw their glory days in the 90s, starting with their 1997 hit single “Dammit.” What really made their name, however, was 1999’s Enema of the State, which catapulted them into superstardom selling 15 million copies. They made music videos imitating boy bands, and running through the streets naked; they wrote songs about teen suicide. Mostly, they were a trio of young guys, making money acting silly, because they could. They continued to release music into the early 2000s, their popularity decreasing with each album. In 2016, in spite of an indefinite hiatus in 2005, and subsequent break up, plus a change in the original lineup, Blink released California, and its lead single – totally 90s sounding – “Bored to Death.”

Prophets of Rage

This is a bit of a different take on the 90s comeback, because Prophets of Rage is a newly formed supergroup consisting of members of Rage Against the Machine, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy. They released their debut EP, The Party’s Over this year. A 5-track work of art, consisting of a cover of Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep till Brooklyn,” Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” Public Enemy’s “Shut ‘Em Down” and “Prophets of Rage.” Don’t worry though, they also have an original track, “The Party’s Over.” It’s classic 90s rock-rap at its best.

Temple of the Dog

If there was ever a true, quintessential 90s grunge supergroup, Temple of the Dog was it. They got together in 1990, in Seattle of all places, and brought together band members from both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, including lead singers Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder (before he was the Eddie Vedder.) They released their debut self-titled album in 1991 (also their only album,) which came about as a tribute to a roommate of Cornell’s who had died of a drug overdose. They haven’t released any new material, but during 2016, the band is reuniting to tour in honour of the 25th anniversary of Temple of the Dog. “Hunger Strike” alone is reason enough to go – it is everything 90s.

Music’s history is generally created by movements. The birth of new genres developing into entire music scenes, all capable of defining an entire generation. Here’s a look at two institutes of music that happened simultaneously in different parts of the world.

Grunge

Origins:  Late 80s, early 90s. Seattle, Washington.

Affiliated Bands: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden

Sound: Punk, heavy metal, indie and alternative rock influences

Attitude: Apathetic

Grunge music was all the rage in the U.S. during the early 90s, when it made its way into the mainstream. Its heavily distorted, static noise sound became recognizable anywhere, and it started to take over the music charts,. Grunge music deals with feelings of discontent: with the ways of the world, with society, and with appearances. Thematically speaking, grunge gave voice to issues like social prejudices and unpopularity, apprehension, depression and carried over punk music’s notions of anarchy and revolution. No sugar plums and fairy tales here. They were not in it for the fame or the glamour. Their shows did not have fancy lighting or pyrotechnics; it was just a group of friends, dressed in ripped jeans, with long unkempt hair, headbanging and playing music together.

Nirvana went on about reality vs. expectations in “Come As You Are;” Pearl Jam discussed social outcasts in “Jeremy;” Soundgarden spoke up about depression on “Fell on Black Days.” There was no way they could predict  the number of people who shared their angst and would respond to their lyrics. They approached real issues and it struck a chord with more people than anyone could have imagined: they were the classic tortured soul. Teenagers and young adults related the most – as we all know, high school can be a very dark and difficult time. These kids finally had someone who understood them, who represented them, who made them feel less alone. Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, unwilling poster boy for grunge, committed suicide on April 5th, 1994. That single event would be the start of the demise of grunge music. Post-grunge (think Bush) developed in the mid 90s, but did not have the same foundation as grunge, as it only springboarded off of it, and catered more to the radio-friendly crowd. In the late 90s, grunge faded out and was replaced by the unfortunate comeback of boy bands.

Britpop

Origins: Late 80s, early 90s. England.

Affiliated Bands: Blur, Pulp, Oasis

Sound: Punk, pop, indie and alternative rock influences

Attitude: Optimistic

The roots of Britpop began with the Madchester scene in England in the 80s. Bands like The Stone Roses and New Order fused dance music and rock ‘n roll, paving the way for a more uplifting sound compared to moodier bands of the time, like The Smiths. In the early 90s, England was finally looking to a brighter future:  Margaret Thatcher and her radical conservatism were on the brink of being ousted, multiculturalism was on the rise, and England seemed to be opening up. The British were finally in a good mood. However, once American grunge music started crossing over and invading the British music scene, they wanted to dispel all that angst and negativity, and prevent it from poisoning their country. Britpop started in an effort to defeat grunge music by being the exact opposite: spreading cheerfulness, positivity and promise. Their sound had heavy elements of guitar pop, and infused British pride throughout their music.

Blur basked in the glory of “Park Life;” Oasis wanted to “Live Forever;” Pulp wanted to see the world through the eyes of “Common People.” Their music was fun, lively, and likely to cause a dance party wherever it went. When anyone reaches a certain amount of success, however, their demise is usually self-inflicted. Once Britpop was well established, Blur and Oasis took it upon themselves to get into a bitter battle. They each released a single – Oasis’ “Roll With It” and Blur’s “Country House” – on the same day to see which one would sell more copies. Blur won that battle, but Oasis was overall much more successful commercially. In 1997, Oasis’ third album Be Here Now was released and poorly received for its unpleasant sound.  Blur released their self-titled fifth album, with a sound far deviated from their previous albums. British fans eventually lost interest and turned their attentions to Spice Girls and the more mystic sounds of Radiohead. Britpop disappeared into the background.

Keep in mind folks, this is just a brief insight into the histories of these genres. But what’s most interesting is the idea that one movement was created out of the disdain for the other movement. Britpop would not have existed without Grunge. Who knew?