Kids of the '80s have to face the fact that it's time to put that "Beat It" jacket in cold storage, because the '90s are officially all the nostalgia rage. While the editor of this blog was vacationing last week, he happened to take in a screening of the very funny The World's End, whose plot pivots on the Soup Dragons' "I'm Free," and whose soundtrack is flush with prime Britpop from big guns Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Blur and Pulp to bit players the Housemartins and Saint Etienne.
Photo by Mark C. Austin Pearl Jam at the 2009 Austin City Limits Music Festival
On these shores, Britpop's sullen, lank-haired Yankee counterpart, grunge, is as omnipresent as it's been since The New York Times attempted to educate its readers in alleged Seattle slang like "hangin' on the flippety-flop." Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Mudhoney have released excellent to better-than-average albums within the past 12 months, and Pearl Jam's Lightning Bolt is due next month and already drawing raves from the likes of Rolling Stone. Even Nirvana is back in record stores, sounding more visceral than ever thanks to the brand-new In Utero reissue.
Often grossly oversimplified as a hybrid of punk and metal, grunge turned out to be an extension and/or reinvention of plain old classic rock, the multifaceted kind of music Led Zeppelin and The Who used to play. Either way, the shadow it cast over current rock is so pervasive it borders on suffocating, but scrape off all the barnacles of watered-down derivative crap and you'll find grunge produced plenty of bitchin' tunes. (Maaaaan.)