Posts Tagged ‘Grunge Revival’

ZEEL

This compilation LP culls together an album and bonus single from Boston’s Zeel and the feeling is both familiar and refreshing. The sounds here could easily have sat somewhere between the output of SST and Homestead in the ‘80s, mixing the hard-scrabble rock of Hüsker Dü with the gnarled weirdness of Dinosaur Jr. The band’s more interested in grit that the shiny promise of a hook and I have to respect that. Guitars are rush through stomp box fuzz and through the speakers in graveled saunter. The vocals fight with the amplifier fuzz for dominance, giving equal footing to riff and ramble.

The record makes a great case for a return to the ripped denim and unwashed tee shirt smell of pre-grunge. Every song here is working hard to hit that sweet spot when punk met head on with the wanting touch of the jangled sweat that was brewing in the backroom of college radio stations and stuck between the pages of zines with more passion that direction. They embrace that moment before the tide turned and the Singles soundtrack came and threw the goodwill into the fan, spreading it far and wide through suburban America. Sure, there’s a case to be made that the sounds have been mined, but there’s more probably more to carve out of the rock. This one sits nicely next to Milk Music and early Gun Outfit on your shelf of new rumblers.





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Flat Worms

There’s something fitting about Flat Worms naming their sophomore album after the last safe space in the world from a human contact perspective, while also naming it after one that’s in dire danger from humanity at large. Antarctica is a brittle, brutal, and quite honestly fair assessment of the predicaments we all find ourselves facing in 2020. Even before the proverbial rug was pulled from the amassed nations of the world, the band found themselves in a pessimistic crouch, uncompromising and unrepentant. Who else to bring these brutalities to fruition, then, but the patron saint of disposition himself, Steve Albini. The veteran producer gives little in the way of softness to the band and, in turn, they give little back. The record is fashioned in the mold of ‘90s rock that seeks to bring on a full body itch like an unwashed wool sweater. Though that doesn’t mean its not without comfort.

There are certainly hooks dug into their disdain, but they wear their frustrations on the surface first and foremost. The fire is warm here, but the smell of lighter fluid makes it unpleasant all the same. The L.A. band has been steadily building their sound over the past few EPs and singles — working up a ferocity that breaks loose on Antarctica. Their debut was lean and lanky, but this one’s put on muscle. The bass thunders but keeps its hips limber. They lay down a bedrock of metal bitten rhythm that traces the tail of the Northwest down a rabbit hole lined with Wipers singles, Mudhoney deep cuts, and Green River nihilism. The leads scream from the strain of feedback and bile. There’s been a revival of ‘90s impulses lately, it was bound to happen, but few of the revivalists have dug into what made the crux of grunge vital like this trio has. With this album Flat Worms find that same match strike that melds the hip-thrust hunger of metal with the careening trajectory of punk. Nostalgia be damned, this one feels like its got a talon in ya, and the twisting is both brutal and glorious all at once.



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Bleached – “Shitty Ballet”

Bleached have been on a constant tumble away from garage their whole career and with “Shitty Ballet,” they’ve rolled clean out. The track is patient and coiled, starting with the spare, yet driven guitar of Jessica Clavin and followed soon by the perfectly exasperated vocals of her sister Jennifer. The track’s a build to an inevitable breaking point. You can feel it coming on from the moment the first strum hits, but its no less satisfying when the band finally breaks down the levee and lets loose with a torrent of fuzz, crashing through with a deluge of frustration that melts into catharsis. They red-line the song without a care for fidelity or formality and it’s the kind of scream along satisfaction that picks at the best scabs of ‘90s indie. Catch the video for the new song above.

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Clowns

Melbourne’s slightly ill-named Clowns shore up their third album with a delightful mix of grit and pop bounce. They’re laying down in the grunge gutter, dredging up dreams of Seattle’s ’90s hangover, but like fellow Aussie’s Dune Rats, they have a rat tail of pop punk hidden in the necks of their tattered sweaters. They ricochet the grunge impulses through a run at SoCal’s skate set, pushing tempos perilously fast, with frontman Stevie Williams screaming like blood through caffeinated veins. They make the combo work almost enviably well, straining the calamitous pop chunks into muscular riffs, roughed up with snotty angst that should shake the walls and drown out even the most persistent parent.

Clowns sprinkle a fair amount polish on this record, despite it’s chaotic crunch, showing an ear for production with acoustic touches, a lite-psych sprinkling, and a penchant to push punk past the four-minute mark. There’s been a rash of sub-Millenial bands cherishing the ’90s through an internet-film filter, and despite their tendency to gloss over the rough patches and the inexplicable ubiquity of Carson Daly, it’s been fun to take the trip to the mall once again. Sure, a good chunk of us have been here before, god knows I have, but its freeing to feel the circle pit roar up again for 40-minutes or so.




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Feature

One of the best bands to bubble up from the UK underground in the past few years was the high energy DIY outfit Sauna Youth. As luck would have it the band’s Jen Calleja also sports another outfit in the form of Feature. The trio embraces DIY via a feminist punk vantage and they explore the vein of sexism that permeates female musicianship on the whip-smart Banishing Ritual. Baring a few more teeth than Sauna Youth – the record is rooted in pop but not afraid to get down into the din – flaunting noise as a formidable weapon in their arsenal. Popcorn drumbeats start the tempos skittering into motion, but the guitars don’t rush, finding themselves heavily indebted to Cold Wave and Post-punk’s motorik meets elastic tension.

The record has it’s hooks (plenty actually), but it’s more about setting a mood than lingering earworms here. The band drops in bracing and brash to catch your attention and then lays into the listener with a dose of consciousness and a distortion scrub to to strip away the clutter gunking up your life. There’s been a real return to form of ’90s grunge ethos in the past couple of years, heavy blasts of guitar masking nuggets of pop bubbling under the surface. Like their predecessors in Helium, The Muffs, The Wedding Present (during their Albini dalliance) or Elastica they know how to balance pressure, power and pop into a package that’s worth returning to again and again. Another winner this year from UK label Upset The Rhythm!




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Dude York

Despite the undeniable inevitability that they were pups during its actual occurrence, the members of Dude York are savants for the ’90s. True to form, that’s the way the winds of influence have begun to blow, the kids are cribbing my adolescence and I hate to admit, it’s kinda working on me. The songs on Sincerely are built on a trifecta of bands tied by a qualifying “Super” – shades of Supergrass, Superdrag and Super Furry Animals all bound throughout; each imparting their own sense of distorted, crunch-crusted power pop. The band breezes through a yard littered with the slick pieces of Matthew Sweet’s outsized hooks, cribbing more than a few for their own use. They even snag an unshakeable likeness to Spacehog at one time or another.

Now, the ’90s being a time of radio pop shots and one-offs that pulled bands into the spotlight and dumped them down to a few devotees, these anchor points might seem like a well-worn wast of time. They’d be chalked up as an homage paid to bands people dump in the dollar bin of their memories. But for those of us that got the hook of something better from late night radio waves embracing an new alternative, the crunch of distorted hooks feels like coming home. Between the forgettable punch of Eddie Vedder wannabes there were some true gems that funneled restless energy into spring-loaded pop hits.

This is what Dude York captures, on Sincerely. Along with the production team of John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill) and Cody Votolato, the band have packed up all the right pieces into a tight compilation built for ’90s kids who were too invested in Britpop for their own good. The kids with an NME subscription that caught confused glances in Midwestern lunch rooms. They’ve stacked the hooks high and glossed it all down to a tight sheen. And just like sense memory, this feels good in the headphones, a comfort food crunch that’s part after school snack and part drinking buddy. It may not be breaking any new ground, but it’s digging up the time capsule right.





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Vices – “Cursed”

Chicago’s Vices are tacking their sails into a grunge revivalist wind that takes swipes from Nirvana and The Foo Fighters while embracing both heavier nodes (like Queens of The Stone Age) and decidedly brainier ones (Shellac, Drive Like Jehu). Heralding in their upcoming album with the arrival of three singles, the hard hitting, “Cursed” embraces all sides nicely. They have plenty of pop coursing through the song’s veins, but they coat it in a nice layer of flanneled fuzz and ramp it up with a touch of start-stop dynamics that pound like a grunge hammer. The full album’s out at the end of the month and its clear from these first tastes, that its going to hit heavy and leave them as ones to watch in 2017.

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Jacuzzi Boys – “Boys Like Blood”

Just can’t help myself, whenever there’s a new Jacuzzi Boys on the horizon, the excitement gets a bit palpable. After a solid self-released EP, the band returns with a proper full length for their own Mag Mag imprint and its shifting them away from the garage grit of their past, through the power-pop neon of Happy Damage and into a nineties inflected grunge pop that’s roping in a “Cannonball” groove and Matthew Sweet towers of guitar. They’ve always had those more polished instincts roiling under their past releases but it seems with this one they’re fully going for it. Its often a mixed blessing when bands go in for the pop sheen. It can go too far and feel like a plastic version of what you always loved about them, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here at all. Its big and bright and bold, but with a fuzzed out love of ’90s thickness and a chorus that sticks it all the right brain crags. Can’t wait for more of this one in October.

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