Sometimes the music gods command me to mix certain things together. Case in point, the latest issue of Rolling Stone and reading Facebook updates from Popdosers from SXSW combined in such a way that was very difficult not to have grunge on the old brain. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just get the latest printed edition of Rolling Stone and you’ll see mentions of some of the artists who are featured in this mix. Also, if you didn’t bother to check out the artists who performed at SXSW this year, you certainly missed Stone Temple Pilots’ set. But the reemergence of grunge isn’t about reissuing all the music that made these artists popular in the first place. Nope, it’s new music from the grunge set, so let’s get this started, shall we?
“Between the Lines,” Stone Temple Pilots (Download)
Stone Temple Pilots are a band that I’m hot and cold on. When they first came out, it was obvious that Scott Weiland was channeling Eddie Vedder (even though he denies it). However, by the next album Scott was finding his voice, and the band was also finding their identity with great tunes like “Vaseline,” and “Interstate Love Song.” But as we all know kids, heroin is a powerful drug and it was pretty much responsible for canceling STP’s tour because of Weiland’s new found habit. Before “The heroin” sunk it’s teeth into Scott Weiland’s veins, STP was able to release one of my favorites from the band (Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop). Flash forward to the post-Velvet Revolver stint, and STP is back with “Between the Lines” – which I haven’t quite fallen in love with. I’m not sure if it’s because the song lacks those wonderful pop hooks that festooned their biggest hits, but it seems like a toss off when I first heard it.
“Skinny Little Bitch,” Hole (Download)
Courtney Love is kind of like Weiland’s sister. Both are from successful bands, and both have drug addictions that have pretty much ruined their personal and professional lives for a chunk of their careers. Love’s “comeback” single is getting quite a bit of airplay nowadays, but her voice is clearly ravaged from a combination of booze, drugs, cigarettes, and, quite frankly, yelling instead of singing her songs. “Skinny Little Bitch” is quite the middle finger of a song, but it also tries a little too hard to be angry. Still, if you’re a Hole fan (how many of you are out there?) you’re going to love the fact that Courtney is back!
“Valleys of Neptune,” Jimi Hendrix (Download)
I know, you’re probably thinking “Jimi Hendrix = grunge?” Well, considering the long shadow of Hendrix in rock music, his influence in the grunge scene loomed large — and I’m not saying that just because he was from Seattle. I’m sure if you asked members of the bands featured in this mix about their influences, a Hendrix reference would certainly get more than a few mentions.
“Just Breathe,” Pearl Jam (Download)
Yes, Pearl Jam can certainly play loud, but it’s their sensitive side that seems to bubble up more than the songs that rock. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Ten, kind of liked Vs, and enjoyed Vitology. But the songs that seem to really get people launching their iPhone lighter app are the slow jams. “Just Breathe” is classic Pearl Jam (when they are in estrogen mode) and is it any wonder why this song is doing so well on the charts these days?
“A Stitch in Time,” the Smashing Pumpkins (Download)
My god, I loved the early Pumpkins albums! They were wonderful combinations of pure power rock with a trippy underbelly. However, all good things must come to an end, Corgan and company parted ways in early 2000, only to semi-reunite in 2007, and then completely become Corgan’s project in 2009. Now that Billy Corgan is completely free to pursue music under the Smashing Pumpkins’ moniker (sans any of the original members), it’s interesting to see what he’s come up with. Shorn of any of the rock sensibilities, Corgan has taken his music into a more ethereal realm – while toning down his trademark nasally voice. I must say that even though I absolutely love the Pumpkins when they rock, there’s something kind of nice about this song, and I think it’s going to grow on me over time.
“Wheels,” Foo Fighters (Download)
Dave Ghrol recently announced that the Foo Fighters are “going back” to a heavier sound (probably the heaviest in their career). Considering how much this song sounds like Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly,” the announcement that they are going to rock again is a good thing, right? Sure it is, but I hope that they find a balance between their desire to play loud while injecting their songs with memorable hooks.