I’ve been thinking about it since I saw Daylight play at The Echo in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago. It’s hard to pin what I saw down. I think it’s hard to pin down because there’s no real defined movement without looking at the subsidiaries and generalities of what the original movement was and how it’s being fashioned together and alluded to by today’s contemporary young cult of bands. Daylight isn’t the only band doing it, and doing it extremely well. For the sake of making up genre labels like an asshole journalist looking for flash-in-the-pan credibility, I’ve just been calling it “nu-grunge.” But maybe the more appropriate definition should favor “post-grunge” as the “nu” implies a title of baggy jeans, weird rap-rock hybrids and layers of ego mixed with a wash of douchery.
Still, as I sit here and listen through the early ’90s past – both good and bad – and having watched Balance and Composure tear through one of the best sets I’ve seen them belt out in a couple of years, that old decade as a whole looks sharp again. I mean, fuck, O’Brother is going out with Alice in Chains. Does that seem weird to you? It shouldn’t at all. There is a dirty revival happening between the underground and just below the mainstream right now, and if you don’t see it with the shoegaze of Whirr, the sludge worship of cloakroom. and the “Tomorrow” growl of Silverchair bleeding through the chords and vocal swagger of some these days, then you don’t know your history well, and all of this seems new, yet not new, but refreshing to someone as old if not older than me.
I’m not trying to pigeonhole any of these bands; I’m just making an observation. This month happens to be the birthday of Kurt Cobain, the John Lennon of ’90s bleak songwriting and no fucks given angst, and it’s great to know that that sort of mentality still bleeds through to musicians both young and old. I’m not specifically talking about this “scene” or whatever. Have you heard the tones on Metz’ debut full-length? The snarl of Pissed Jeans’ Honeys, that at times reminds me of early Jesus Lizard romp? Some of these bands allude to the days of an “alt-generation” when Deftones were a skate-punk band and Rage Against the Machine were just hardcore titans – before both got lumped in for a second with the “nu” age that came long after both their blistering inceptions.
Did you listen to Cloud Nothings’ Attack on Memory and think, “I want more bands to just put a mic in the middle of the room and go.” The Sound City documentary shook up some discussion early in 2013, and I think it’ll only steamroll for the next couple of years – I can hope.
The question I have is why, and especially, why now? I don’t mean that in any negative light whatsoever, just in curiosity. I have to ask this question to myself because it lends itself to another question of how well will certain bands pull off this referencing system and which ones will end up writing butt rock in the process? If there’s a line of similarity that can be drawn (and this is a real conversation once held a few years ago) between Mineral’s “Parking Lot” and Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” one has to wonder if we’ll get something as great as Weezer’s debut or as lackluster as any Bush album post-Razorblade Suitcase out of this apparent revival of sorts.
Even an album like colourmeinkindness straddled the line. Don’t get me wrong, I love that record. But there are times when it came off a bit more “The Buzz music compilation” and a little less “120 Minutes” for personal tastes. I think that’s because ten years ago I got out of the radio and into punk and hardcore and all the genres in between because like most, the radio grew stale at the beginning of the millennium and I soon forgot about the mainstream I originally was brought up on. Besides the Foo Fighters and Deftones, I buried the dial beneath my feet for the last decade. Maybe now I’m hearing something that instills faith back into writing a damn good rock song that doesn’t feel like it’s “too cool” or “overly embellished” and/or “by the book ripped jeans.”
I’m sitting here after a weekend with Daylight’s first full-length offering, Jar. Like colourmeinkindness, it has a few “radio too-friendly” moments, but for the majority of its duration, it rips hard. It’s an album that belongs somewhere between Sub Pop and Reprise, but instead it’s being released on Run For Cover – a label that is setting itself up to be, as someone put it perfectly the other night, “the next Sub Pop.” I thought as I grew older, my tastes would build a wall and I would just stop discovering music at some point. That’s not true just yet. What is true is that there’s a part of me that wants to reconnect to the days where elitism wasn’t part of my days punched in and discussions punched out over pissing contests of eye rolling and egotism brought up by the last ten years of sifting through one genre and back catalog of influences after another.
I fully welcome these young bands to write some sharp-edged, heavy low-end rock songs. I’ll be there in the shallows to judge the dirt and grime from the bar rock of radio dial pasts. So far things look good. Tone, atmosphere and great references to why the ’90s were really a supreme time for music both in the underground and right above its surface, whether you were into Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted or Bush’s Sixteen Stone.
I grew up in suburbia. Sixteen Stone was the first album I ever owned. Still rocks. Fuck you.