Recently, Nirvana’s distant 2nd place record, In Utero, celebrated its 20 year anniversary. Along with some kind of remaster thing, a letter was also unarchived. It was from Steve Albini—a Chicagoan, a musician (the main guy in Big Black, who was amazing, and Shellac, who had cool album covers, to name just a couple of his projects) and an engineer. Significantly, he’s the guy who tracked In Utero. The letter, penned to Nirvana as a sort of ‘mission statement’ of how he’d like the recording process to go, went into great detail, including how he’d like to be paid (one lump sum, no points on the record) and how long he’d like to take to do the entire thing (seven intense days). A couple of weeks ago, when this letter first hit the interwebs, people went CRAZY talking about how radical the contents were, how punk the whole sentiment was, how refreshing Albini’s attitude was and, by extension, how much music has lost its way and so on and so forth. And they’re kinda right. Steve Albini is incredibly funny, smart, articulate and by the time he wrote that letter, he was already rich enough that he could afford to be super idealistic, even in the face of a potentially major payday (even if In Utero did ultimately end up sounding kinda crappy). The letter was cool. And in turn, it’s made motherfuckers remember when grunge, helmed of course by Kurt Cobain (and to a vastly greater extent Eddie Vedder, a fact that has been completely historically rewritten in the wake of Kurt’s untimely death), burst out of the pacific northwest and absolutely dickslapped the shit out of the bullshit pop-blues-masquerading-as-metal that had been dominating the rock charts since white guys with guitars stopped being hippies.
But here’s what no one is mentioning: right now (right now) there is not a lamer band on the earth than Nirvana or Pearl Jam, and there is no lamer scene than grunge. Now. Not always. Just now. Calm down. It’s true. And I will prove it to you. Ready? Okay good. When I was a kid, I liked a lot of different stuff. In fourth grade, my favorite tapes were Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet and Run DMC’s Raising Hell. By fifth grade, I’d added Appetite for Destruction, Bucky Felini by the Dead Milkmen and Open Up and Say…Aah by Poison. By sixth grade, my favorite bands were Fugazi, Guns N Roses, Jawbreaker, Poison, the Dead Milkmen, Naked Raygun, NOFX, Mother Love Bone (sigh), Bad Religion, the Red Hot Chili Peppers (the most embarrassing band on this list and easily, easily as lame as Nirvana and Pearl Jam for the exact same reasons I’m about to go into here), Metallica and Minor Threat. My point here is that I had no fucking clue about subgenres or anything. I didn’t have an older brother to give me Pixies tapes or tell me that something was lame. I just liked the stuff I liked and it was a weird mix of everything. The ONE type of music that was totally lame to me though, even as a nerd (and I was a total nerd), was the bullshit classic rock guitar garbage that was on the dad-era radio stations. Even though Boston’s first album is inarguably one point six zillion times less embarrassing than Mothers Milk, there was no way that I was gonna be caught dead listening to that fucking Uncle Mark rock and roll bullshit. It was just Uncool with a capital U.
As I got a little older, I started to appreciate Buddy Holly and the music on the oldies station. I liked Sam Cooke, songs like “the Mighty Quinn” and “Red Rubber Ball” and shit like that, that seemed to me to be more of a ‘safe’ distance from the present, more timeless. These were the songs of my parents’ youth. Songs that my grandparents listened to back when they had small kids were okay to like, because my grandparents were cool as hell. I even dressed like them, because, as we all know, everything skips a generation, especially fashion and style and baldness. It was okay to love that stuff. It was classic and distant and so old that it was kinda new again, and that’s the cycle, bro.
But Foghat and Foriegner and Queen and Zeppelin, that shit was GARBAGE with a capital L-A-M-E. It was so uncool that when Adam Sandler wanted to exemplify exactly how to be as uncool as possible, when infiltrating highschool in one of his crappy movies, he wore an REO Speedwagon jean jacket and blasted Foghat from his musclecar like some kind of classic rock dude in the Judas Priest parking lot, and in the 90’s that 70’s shit was the PINNACLE of lameness. Never mind that Led Zeppelin is a zillion times cooler than whatever bullshit songs were popular at the time of Adam Sandler’s dumb movie (and Queen and Priest smoke the shit out of Zeppelin), it was uncle rock, and uncle rock is just never cool. It’s actually the least cool thing on earth. Look it up in the bible if you want to.
“But dude, Nirvana and Pearl Jam may be uncle rock now, but they destroyed fake pop metal and made the airwaves subversive and they dressed cool etc.“ You’re saying right now.
ORLY? Lemme tell you what grunge did: they took all the sexiness out of rock and roll…they essentially slutshamed dudes and chicks to the point that everyone wore gigantic bags of terrible pants and stinky hats around and started trying to be aggressively gross. When rap jumped in and filled the sexiness void, kids were stoked, and since sex is uh….what number is it again?—in terms of making things marketable/interesting? Oh, right. Number one. Since sex is what sells everything, from lifestyles to pants to college majors to dental work to what you’re gonna eat for dinner (maybe not that last one), when rap and R&B co-opted sex as inherently part of the genres, a claim that the completely castrated rock and roll radio couldn’t POSSIBLY try to dispute, rap became the mainstream music of youth, and rock became this marginalized, lame ass, unsexy thing. Don’t believe me? Name a rock band that has come out since the Foo Fighters that can fill stadiums now that will still be able to in ten years. Didn’t think so. Thanks grunge.
As for grunge style, I got 2 words for you: Sammy Hagar. That motherfucker was dressed EXACTLY like Eddie Vedder years before Eddie Vedder was Eddie Vedder, and there is NO ONE ON EARTH, besides Guy Fieri, who’s undeniably lamer than fucking Sammy Hagar. He took Van I’m-fucking-your-teacher-and-she’s-loving-it Halen and turned it into a band that old nude moms light scented candles for and masturbate to in the whirlpool while their sons are away at college. Barf.
So there you go, folks. In about ten years, Nirvana and Pearl Jam may be cool again and everything will be great for you dorks that like that bullshit, but for now, you’re your own uncle, shutting off your nephew’s Master Of Puppets cassette and playing the solo from Stairway to Heaven to show him “what real rock and roll is” every time you fly that lame ass grunge flag.
Pfft. Grunge. When one of the pinnacles of the genre is a douche like Chris Cornell, you KNOW you gotta get another genre. Shut it down. I’ll be in the Judas Priest parking lot with the real uncles, bro.