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Looking back at late 90s, there must have been a sense of frustration brewing amongst angst-ridden teenagers at the state of things (not that this writer is old enough to remember, admittedly).
It was a time when grunge had been supplanted by new phenomena like Britpop and nu metal; post-hardcore and garage rock were yet to re-ignite and the music world was still reeling from the shock of Kurt Cobain’s suicide.
Of the bands that emerged from the grunge-shaped wreckage, only Foo Fighters would enjoy long-term success. However, there were a few notable bands that deserve a second look. Here are five that are worth your time.
Essential Album: ‘On the Turn’ (1997)
Hey, Billy, yes it’s me // Come around, we’ll have a field day // I’ll meet you around the back…
Yes, grunge really did makes its way to Ireland. When you consider Kilkenny band Kerbdog’s influence on the likes of underground heavyweights Reuben and Biffy Clyro in the 2000s, it’s surprising that they aren’t more widely respected.
Their dynamic and off-kilter approach to grunge was years ahead of its time, particularly on this side of the Atlantic. Tracks like ‘Sally’ and ‘Mexican Wave’ exemplified their appeal: big, driving riffs and awkward rhythms delivered in a catchy pop-rock package.
The band’s defining album, ‘On the Turn’, was continually pushed back for release until 1997, which perhaps explains why it didn’t make much of a dent in terms of record sales. Irrespective of context, though, Kerbdog remains a fun listen.
Essential Album: ‘Neon Ballroom’ (1999)
I hate you and your apathy // You can leave, you can leave, I don’t want you here…
Most people remember this Australian trio as a fairly bog-standard grunge act, although their breakout single ‘Israel’s Son’ was an incredible accomplishment when you consider some band members were as young as fifteen.
However, they really came into their own by the end of their teen years, releasing a series of progressive records that went under the radar. Incorporating strings and piano into their grunge sound, Silverchair forged a path that would help them sustain a career for at least another decade.
It’s a shame that their reputation is mostly informed by their early years of Nirvana-worship because even as youngsters, they were more tasteful than most of their peers.
Besides, tell me you don’t feel a whiff of nostalgia seeing those hairstyles.
Essential Album: ‘Interiors’ (1997)
I could have written a story out of I love you, yeah // I could have given, I could have given something new…
They may have hailed from grunge’s birthplace but Seattle’s Brad were far more indebted to blues and soul than their contemporaries. Another band on this list that preceded a wave of similar-minded acts, their Southern-tinged melodic sound was defined long before the likes of Kings of Leon hit the mainstream.
Brad’s approach was compared more to that of 70s-inspired bands like Pearl Jam rather than Nirvana or The Melvins, even though they shared the same fuzzy riff templates as both of those bands.
Then again, songwriter Shawn Smith even called Snoop Dogg a key influence, so take from that what you will!
‘Interiors’ bombed with bad reviews in 1997, yet deserves a better hearing these days. If you like Foo Fighters’ more melodic material, this is infinitely preferable to Puddle of Mudd or Nickleback.
Essential Album: ‘The Medicine Is All Gone’ (1998)
I used to be so cruel // But now it’s you who’s breaking all the rules // Tell me why I want to hold onto you…
While many remember Caustic Resin as a vehicle for Built to Spill’s Brett Netson to vent his pent up anger, they were more than just a moody side project. ‘The Medicine Is All Gone’ presented an entirely different beast: groovy, psychedelic, and highly innovative for a grunge act.
While most bands sought a cleaner production style, Caustin Resin went in the opposite direction. Netson’s vocals were wild and unrefined, recalling the raw intensity of early grunge.
Fading away in the early 2000s, the band never made much noise outside of the Idaho scene that Built to Spill dominated. The wonders of the internet mean they can be your little secret (okay, mine too).
Essential Album: ‘As Good as Dead’ (1996)
Your haircut is atrocious, been the same since ’83 // Your glory days are over and so’s your stonewashed jeans…
When a lot of people say they want grunge recommendations, they really mean they want to hear bands that sound like Nirvana. Googling ‘bands like Nirvana’ can leave you wading through a lot of treacle, so allow me to show you an alternative route: just listen to Local H.
With only two members, they managed to emulate Nirvana’s attitude and passion, whilst still displaying a sense of adventure and their own unique sense of humour.
‘As Good as Dead’ is a good place to start, with tracks like ‘High-Fiving MF’ showcasing frontman Scott Lucas’ talent for cutting lyricism. Every single one of their long play releases are pretty much as heavy and essential as each other, though.
No matter how many times ‘Lithium’ has been blasted at your local rock club, you’re always bound to get that same flashback to your teen years. The best grunge had a moodiness and energy that has never quite been captured since.
There are plenty of authentic grungers (or grunge-heads) that never received the plaudits they deserved, and the five above only scratch the surface.
If you have any other suggestions, please comment below.
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