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Good Grunge Music (2000-05): The Hardy Few

Jonathan Rimmer itcherIt’s easy to think of grunge as a solely 90s sensation. Even Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl, gradually moved away from the sound with Foo Fighters. But there were a handful of acts that remained religiously attached to grunge’s original characteristics. ~ Jonathan Rimmer

Nickel-Who?

Music goes in waves, so while established genres generally manage to retain their fan bases to some extent, some movements have less staying power.

By the 2000s, grunge was well past its heyday: the style wasn’t trendy and most Nirvana-worshippers had either moved in a heavier post-hardcore direction or the more commercialised post-grunge style.

It’s almost become a cliché to moan about bands like Nickelback, who pretty much dominated this period, but what of the grunge bands less enamoured with pop hooks and clean production?

Here are a few gems that you may well have missed.

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Impervious Grunge Recommendations

Post Stardom Depression

Essential Album: ‘Prime Time Looks a Lot Like Amateur Night’ (2005)

“I was lost alone without you // I don’t stand a chance // I confused myself in a reckless romance.”

Seattle is remembered as the home of grunge – the city didn’t just spawn Nirvana but also Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and countless others. Post Stardom Depression evoked pretty much all of them.

You could tick off their credentials one by one: brooding vocalist, check; sludgy guitar tones, check; intense, bass-driven grooves, double check. However, they were also of their time, utilising the stomping indie rock rhythmic style that was popular at the time.

The band also relied greatly on a charismatic frontman like so many classic grunge acts. Though being dropped by a major label scuppered their chances at wider success singer Jeff Angell has recorded with new acts and remained one of Seattle’s most respected songwriters.

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Katastrophy Wife

Essential Album: ‘All Kneel’ (2004)

“Good God I had the guts to // So glad I finally got to fuck with you // Sweetheart what did it feel like // So good the Devil even got a part.”

Bear with me as I punt an abstract simile here: Katastrophy Wife were like a mattress, frequently slept on (by critics) but not so easily discarded. Despite being often overlooked by the mainstream press, they maintained a passionate fan base throughout the 2000s.

You could compare the band to Hole due to Kat Bjelland’s wild vocals and the scuzzy riffs that complimented them. This is hardly surprising given Bjelland was a previous collaborator of Courtney Love and fronted her own punk outfit, Babes in Toyland.

Katastrophy Wife was arguably her most grungy project of all, though, her rebellious lyrics and vocal delivery at the forefront. If grunge died in the late 90s then nobody told her.

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Nothink

Essential Album: ‘Bipolar Age’ (2005)

“I’m feeling like I lost a whole decade to let you know // I’m here since then // Let’s forget, will you forgive me? // Things have changed.”

I’d be remiss of my duties if I restricted myself to American bands from this period. In fact, Spanish trio Nothink were probably closer in sound to post-hardcore acts from the UK around this period, at least in terms of song structures.

The band’s love for grunge was evident, though. Their power chords and progressions were straight from the Soundgarden playbook, but they also recalled revivalists like Vex Red and (early) Reuben.

Perhaps their origin had something to do with it (their lyrics were actually sung in English) but their debut, ‘Bipolar Age’, didn’t see them break out to an international audience in the way they deserved. It’s a shame because their songs were brimming with passion and energy.

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Vex Red

Essential Album: ‘Start with a Strong and Persistent Desire’ (2002)

“Why can’t I say what I need you to hear // Find it hard to dream // I know that you are here // You are here.”

Vex Red often get called a post-grunge band but could only be considered so in that they incorporated other styles – to associate them with the likes of Puddle of Mudd seems almost insulting.

Riding a wave of UK rock acts like Hundred Reasons and My Vitriol, the band even briefly enjoyed radio and MTV play. It’s not hard to see why: their songs were catchy while carrying the intensity of classic 90s material, and frontman, Terry Abbott, had a sensational voice and presence.

Their success was short-lived but the band are remembered fondly by those that remember their first stint. They were cult favourites, sure, but for good reason.

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Intwine

Essential Album: ‘Perfect’ (2004)

“Cause I’m a cruel man I‘ll take it all away // And I’m a king I’ll make you pay // Cause I’m the cruel man I’ll burn it all away.”

Hopping over to the Netherlands, Intwine were another fleetingly successful grunge act in their own country. Gaining national attention from a controversial spat with ‘Idols’ (the Dutch Pop Idol) and later mixing reggae and other Caribbean styles, they were nevertheless rather different from the others on this list.

Despite their fondness for hip hop rhythms and occasionally eccentric instrumentation, they predominantly recalled bands like Silverchair and Pearl Jam. Vocalist Roger Peterson had a rich baritone voice that anchored the band’s whole approach, but you could still easily pick up his influences.

Fans of post-Nirvana grunge will probably take a greater liking to Intwine than purists, partly due to their proclivity for ballads. However, their ‘Perfect’ LP showed that they knew how to rock out as well.

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Is There Anybody out There?

Finding decent grunge music from the 2000s is a somewhat thankless task but grunge’s recent revival proves that it never really went away. As much as these bands released material in a transitional phase, they would have stood out in any era.

You could also make a case for many ‘post-grunge’ acts being far more like the first wave than many give them credit to be. Either way, who else would you recommend?

Comment below.

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