Quick Hitters…forgotten grunge gems from the 90’s

In this day and age, you can easily log on to your Compaq Presario and read about the infinitely influential musical era that was the 90’s grunge movement. In this article that is most likely being viewed on Wikipedia, you will read how transcendent this movement was and how it changed the course of rock music forever. You will undoubtedly read about bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters, Green Day, and many, many more. If it’s a more astutely written article by someone who is looking to inform the reader beyond what is already known, the focus will be more along the lines of groups such as Sonic Youth, The Pixies, or Mudhoney. The videos I’ve posted for today will be for the bands that got off to a good start and put out some bitchin’ tunes, but never seemed to gain much notoriety and most people today wouldn’t know who they are.

No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be as cool as we once thought we were

Paw-Jessie

“Jessie” appears to be a sad song about a boy and his dog. His exploits include, but are not limited to, losing him, leaving him out in the cold, and being emotionally neglectful in general. Paw, however, is able to take this depressing concept and turn it into a rather  enjoyable track. It starts out raw but has a redeeming chorus that was a staple of being  a quality grunge hit back then. Introducing some country elements (@1:52) was not. Along with the guitar, it is pulled off very well and does not take anything away from this stellar track.

Swervedriver-Girl on a Motorbike

Now for a group I’d bet the ranch on you never hearing of before (hate it when I find myself using idioms such as this. I mean, in what day and age did ranch owners recklessly use their family owned lots of land as wagers in their seemingly meaningless bets against one another? It seems a tad rash to me, but hey…I’ve never owned a ranch before. Perhaps the power that goes to one’s head after becoming the solitary proprietor of said ranch unleashes a cavalier side of them that was previously undiscovered and is just too much for any human man to keep in check).  Back to the song…”Girl on a Motorbike” grabs you right from the git-go and takes you to downersville. The lyrics are slightly darker than Paw’s “Jessie” and the song’s more down-tempo as well. Despite all this grimness taking place, I think the song still has a rather pleasant flow to it. The guitar riffs are smooth and not overbearing. The verses are the best part of the while the chorus is serviceable. Adam Franklin is a talented vocalist and his efforts should not go unnoticed.

A little comic relief intermission for the post, a reminder of what we had to put up with before grunge’s arrival…

Pavement-Frontwards

Pavement could probably have at least 5 songs that would fit the distinction of lost gems from the 90’s. The only song of theirs that I hear on the radio anymore is “Cut Your Hair.” It must be the shouting lyric of “NO BIG HAIR!” that has allowed to stand out amongst the rest. The song I’ve posted is “Frontwards”. The songs consists mostly of some of the best guitar riffs to come out of that era, and that’s saying something. It also contains classic Pavement lyrics that are funny and not to be taken seriously.

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Quick Hitters: A tad past their prime…

This edition’s spotlight is on some groups that were pivotal during the early 90’s grunge movement. However, I am going to focus on some of their work that was released post 2000. Yes, “Possum Kingdom,” “Far Behind,” and “Violet” will always go down as some of their most influential works, but they also produced some noteworthy tracks on their newer releases.

Toadies is a group that is mainly known for their efforts from their album Rubberneck. Not too many people besides their hardcore fans would be able to name very many of their songs besides the ones on that album. They produced some all-around good, gritty alternative. They hail from Texas and a southern feel is evident in their work. The track I’ve posted is “So Long Lovely Eyes” , which is off of their 2008 release No Deliverance, made a mere 14 years after Rubberneck came out. It’s a fun, fast-paced song that features plenty of grungey guitar riffs. Frontman Todd Lewis delivers a fine vocal performance. The energy and angst in his voice gives off the impression that he’s ready to kick somebody’s ass at any moment. The highlight for me is when the pitch change @2:38 that just follows a killer and under-appreciated bass solo (is there any other kind?!). The guitar takes the song in a different direction but it then it comes back to the original tone for the final chorus. Great song to get pumped up to.

Next up is Candlebox. I’m almost certain that anyone born before 1989 has some memory of heartbreak that  “Far Behind” best encompasses. Anytime they hear it, they remember that lonely summer night they were sitting up against their cavalier parked in a gas station pissed off after they just had gotten dumped…and that song came on. Anyway, their 2008 album Into the Sun has some quality offerings, most notably “Stand.” The song starts off eerily similar to the way that “You” did back in ’93. It goes in a different direction after that. The song features excellent guitar and exceptional vocals by Kevin Martin. It also features a high dose of the f-bomb, which fans of Candlebox have come to expect. Take a trip back to the 90’s with “Stand”

A lot of people don’t know this, but HOLE IS BACK! Well, they were back in 2010 anyway. Darling little Courtney Love, while having some highly questionable viewpoints, sure knows how to keep putting out that vintage grunge sound. “Skinny Little Bitch” received some radio play when their newest album first came out, but I was never too crazy about that song. I much preferred “Pacific Coast Highway,” which is more of a mid-tempo ballad. “Malibu” was always one of my favorite songs by them and this reminds me of that one.  It’s a downer for sure, but not every song has to carry a positive message. In fact, I’ve found that downer lyrics can actually have a calming and relaxing feel to them, which is quite contrary to the message that they carry.They are well-written and heartfelt for sure. See what you think, I’ve always liked this song and didn’t think it got the airplay it deserved.

Quick Hitters: Long Live the 90’s Spectacle

Quick Hitters…well, not this time. I hope you have some time on your hands because the next three songs have some length to them. But believe me, when there is as much musical talent displayed throughout the entire song as three tracks have below, that is most definitely a good thing. One thing I have never prided myself in is my remarkably short attention span. I become bored rather easily. This is especially the case with music. It takes a lot of gall to release a song filled with some of your prime material that is over six minutes in length. First off, you are limiting its radio play as most popular radio stations don’t like to play songs much over 4 minutes. I suppose they either presume that all listeners will lose interest and change the station or perhaps it creates too long of a gap between advertisements. Either way those stations can fuck off. This post is a salute to the artists who, at the risk of it not being exposed to the masses, produced unique, memorable tracks that reward the listener for buying the album. I’ll never forget the first time I listened to Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia. I’ve never heard that song played on the radio and I only saw the music video on TV once…complete travesty (highlight for me is Billie Joe’s distinct voice singing out “lost children with dirty faces today” with Mike Dirnt yelling out “Hey!”  in the background).

But today, I would like to celebrate some of the most memorable 90’s (as much as I hate to say it…uh…) EPIC songs. The first is a track by an artist you probably haven’t heard of if you were born after 1990. Their name is Ride and their song is “Leave Them All Behind” Prepare to be taken for a trip. It starts out with some keyboard and some bass almost leading you to believe it’s of the techno genre but it ends up being very grungey. That mark starts roughly @ 2:16 (see top comment @ link for excellent description). The vocals are sub-par. They take little away from what is an instrumental masterpiece.They do enough to mix it up and hit you with many different combinations of meaningful lyrics and guitar riffs. My interpretation of the lyrics is that the vocalist is describing  an unearthly experience such as departing this earth for the afterlife and not really caring about what has happened up until then. Turn your headphones up and tune out to “Leave Them All Behind”

The next track I have known about only for a short time thanks to a childhood muddled by car rides where I listened to less-than-inspirational artists. I heard from Chicago more than once that “I” was the inspiration and that Londonbeat has been “thinking about me” when I should have been more exposed to groups like My Bloody Valentine. Let’s take a peak at their closing track “Soon” from their album Loveless. Little description is needed, the quality of the song speaks for itself. Especially Kevin Shields’s gloomy vocals and the kick-in of the guitars, they’re what really make this song (@3:04). My Bloody Valentine is a mysterious group. We were not exposed to all that much and then they disappeared completely it seemed. It was Siruis XMU that re-acquainted me with this artist and the very reassuring fact that they are releasing new material! I still have high hopes for this group and think that their best is yet to come. Time will tell but for now, give “Soon” a try and leave your comments on this beautiful, elongated for the sake of their listeners, work of art.

The last song I will post is by Smashing Pumpkins. They seem to be my crutch when it comes to signifying momentous works of art. The work they produced though their 1st-3rd albums still leaves me speechless…it’s that remarkable. I wanted to use “Thru The Eyes of Ruby,” however, I have already posted a track from Mellon Collie and this appears to be a good opportunity to share what is and will always be my favorite Smashing Pumpkins song “Hummer.” The intro is misleading; it’s a scrambled mess that, while intriguing in itself, does not exemplify the clarity that is achieved for the duration of the song. The first episode of this occurs @ 1:44. Notice a theme between all three songs I’ve posted? They all have long running times, yet by comparison, there are not a whole lot of lyrics. That is because all three artists have the capability to say more than most of us ever could with some simple yet thoughtful lyrics mixed in with powerful instrumentals.  The best part of an already brilliant song starts @3:12 and goes on through the 4:00 minute mark of “Hummer.” It doesn’t drop a beat when the guitars kick right back in @4:04 and rehash the grass roots of this masterful track.  After that, it’s mostly low-key the rest of the way. Still, one cannot downplay the effect that listening to “Hummer” will have on your whole perspective of things…literally (on the link, sit through the ad…it’s worth the excellent sound quality of this player)

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5690210/smashing_pumpkins_hummer_1993/

So young…even they may not have known at that time how much influence they would ultimately have on the alt rock/music scene for years to come