Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wayback Whensday:
Return of the 90s Alt-Rock Stars

Sifting through the Spring 2008 album release schedule, I noticed something peculiar: an inordinate number of "old" bands have albums ready to unleash on the world. Of course I expect a certain amount of these career resuscitation attempts. There just seems to be a rash of them lately. Blind Melon? Presidents of the United States? Sister Hazel? Do we really need to traverse those paths again?

Perhaps even more distresssing is the fact that all those alt-rockers I obsessed over in my teens seemed to have congregated as if to say, remember us? Why don't you listen to us anymore? I read an intriguing column recently about cleaning out your Mp3 collection and starting anew, like a rebirth of the musical soul. In the spirit of this column, I figured I'd set aside my pretensions for a minute and check out some of these new releases from old bands.

For some reason, this feels like more of a confession than anything.

R.E.M. - Accelerate (4/1)
Any time my friends and I get into the old "Is it better to burn out or to fade away?" discussion, I think of R.E.M. By the Reveal era I was pretty bored with the band (which is, incidentally, the one and only tour on which I saw them live). My decision to "give up" on the band was only furthered by snippets here and there of lackluster singles. I adore the band's early catalog, which only makes the newer tripe that much harder to stomach.

After hearing first single "Supernatural Superserious," I doubt I'll be clamoring to hear the rest of the album, though I'm happy to report the band has remembered they can rock.

Maybe Modest Mouse and The National concur, which is why they plan to open for R.E.M.'s spring tour? (Note: Aside from a 6/6 Chicago date, we Midwesterners are out of luck.)

Seven Mary Three - Day&NightDriving (2/5)
Remember these guys? There was a time I obsessed over their 1997 release Rock Crown. I still think about the closing track "Oven" sometimes: "This Kansas wheat won't break me / And another drink won't take me."

Of all the tracks I listened to on this little sojourn today, I'd say "Hammer & A Stone" has impressed me the most. Ultimately I'd say the band seems to be doing what they used to very, very, well here. If only that were enough for me.

Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid (3/17)
This technically isn't a 90s band, but they might as well be. I first heard Elbow in '02 when they opened for Pete Yorn, which is perhaps another conversation/confession altogether. I enjoyed Asleep in the Back quite a bit at the time, Cast of Thousands wasn't awful, and Backdrifter's reported that a couple tracks off Leaders of the Free World weren't too shabby. It's just with so much new music to collect and digest, why would I want to listen to something that I can at best call "not awful"?

Anyway, I just heard "Grounds for Divorce" on the band's Myspace. (Hey, isn't that a Wolf Parade song? I wonder what they're up to these days?) The track has an intriguing stomp-and-chant structure leading up to your classic Elbow croon-and-swoon moment. And repeat. And rock. And repeat. If it sounds like I'm not keeping an open mind here, I'm sorry. I just don't want to listen to this anymore.

Counting Crows - Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (3/25)
This one should be good. Maybe this is just self-masochism, but here I am, about to discuss the Counting Crows on my beloved indie rock blog. You see there was a time when I had nearly a thousand CC tracks on my computer, including rarities and B-sides and countless live sessions. I can distinctly recall a boyfriend at the time snidely saying, "You know, there's more to music that the Counting Crows." Well, yeah. But I was a woman --or perhaps child -- obsessed.

I must say there was a spark when I first heard August and Everything After. Maybe Mr. Duritz tapped into my future love for folk, I don't know. I can't explain it away, other than the CC were undeniably a stepping stone in the evolution of my music taste -- along with Dave Matthews Band, Better Than Ezra, and a host of other 90s rockers. Believe it or not, at the time I thought the music I listened to was kind of "underground."

So here we are fifteen years after the release of August, and the Crows have a new album due out next month. The band has quite a few tracks up on its Myspace, which incidentally has had an incredible 7.7 million listens (looks like I'm not the only one guilty of a CC fetish). "You Can't Count On Me" and "1492" seemed to be trying way too hard and failed to stir much within me, though "Dreaming of Michelangelo" reminded me a bit of what I once loved about the band: intimate lyrics, stripped down acoustics. Again, this isn't what I would call mind blowing, but I could listen to the whole song, you know, without completely hating myself.

Nothing I heard today shattered my world as I know it, though I kinda feel like Rob from High Fidelity when he revisits all his old girlfriends. I had a chance to sort things out with some of my old favorite bands, to make sure there weren't any hard feelings, and perhaps more than anything, to say goodbye.


Girlfriend said...

I loved Blind Melon. Back in the day I felt like I was the girl in the bee suit. No joke.
Who doesn't love a long haired hippie boy who is too waisted to lipsync correctly?

diana lyn said...

I love this post, because I've recently been going through a load of cds I listened to back in the day and wondering if I should bother adding them to my itunes. Bob Mould's recent release brought it all on But Belly? Spin Doctors? The Replacements? Nope

SonicRyan said...

There's a new Breeders album coming out, but at least they have Kim Deal to their credit.

Hackworth Artifex said...

I remember that Counting Crows phase distinctly. Has it really been that long? Good lord.

The Moon said...

Does any one else think its in poor taste for Blind Melon to get back together? I mean they even found a guy that sounds just like Hoon? It just seems disrespectful.

Why didn't they just start a new band and try something different???

I never really liked any of the other bands so I can't say much about their poor choices...

Femme Fatale said...

Moon, I agree. This feels like that INXS reality show shit all over again. Let's keep the same band after our lead singer kills himself, but get someone who sounds EXACTLY like him? I agree that even if they do plan to perform similar music, they need to grow a pair and get a new name rather than clinging to whatever fame the old one has brought them. Arg!

Yes, Hackworth, at the time I believe you were hoarding Radiohead mp3s in a similar fashion. If only I had been so cool with my nerdiness. SIGH.