Today is kind of a slow news day. And so, today, you get… rock stars in drag: the superlatives.
Most natural: Bowie
Most disturbing: Queen
Most frequent: Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones
Best homage: Blur (as Blondie)
Most dudes: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
Best pout: Ozzy Osbourne
Most confusing to high school jocks in 1994: Kurt Cobain
Most committed: New York Dolls
Best looking: Bono
In case you weren’t aware, American culture has been in the midst of a ’90s revival. This has been a long time coming, friends. We were bound to sober up a bit after the glammed out ’80s revival we experienced for the better part of the last decade. There have been hints of this as well, from Nickelodeon’s relaunch of nostalgia-baiting shows like All That, Doug, and Kenan and Kel to grungy fashion trends like giant boots and women in denim jackets.
But how has this impacted the world of music? I’m glad you asked.
The ’90s revival has been going on across nearly all genres of music for over two years now, but it’s not something that has had a regional basis. There is no ’90s revival scene in NYC or LA or Chicago. You could be forgiven if you missed it. Indeed, many even bristle at the term “’90s revival” and question the existence of such a “revival” at all. But it’s here. It’s been here.
In a way ’90s music never really went away. The typical rotation of tracks on any given rock or alternative station is going to be heavy on the favorites of yesteryear. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Green Day and a slew of other bands are still getting radio play with tracks that are nearly two decades old. It’s also no accident that there’s been a rash of recent reunions from the likes of Eve 6, Garbage, and that dog., amongst others.
But rock radio isn’t the only place where the ’90s thrive. If you’ve listened to Top 40 radio in the past few months then you’ve gotten a taste of this latest revival. Sure, bands like fun. and Gotye don’t sound particularly ’90s. In fact, Gotye sounds way more ’80s, like a love child of Paul Simon and Sting. But when was the last time the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 was occupied by back to back alternative artists? What makes this even more huge is the fact that many declared rock music dead and buried in 2011.
In his 2011 Midyear Report, Jay Frank of FutureHit.DNA noted that the only artist with any presence in the Top 40 that could even be considered close to rock was Adele. In a more recent posting, Frank remarked on the unheralded popularity of “Somebody That I Used To Know”, stating that, “[i]t doesn’t really fit modern Top 40 theories, but it has that compelling special something.” My personal theory? Trends are cyclical. Listeners tired of the R&B flavored pop that dominated the late ’90s and early aughts. While rap and hip-hop are still huge, those styles aren’t having the same moment as when they were dominating the airwaves from 2002-2008. EDM is in the middle of its own moment but look what happened when producer ATB played Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in full during his set at the Electric Daisy Carnival.
People lost it.
The radio is not where the ’90s revival started. We have indie rock to thank for that. When UK indie rock act Yuck dropped their self titled debut in 2011, you couldn’t read a review that didn’t mention their debt to ’80s and ’90s bands like Dinosaur Jr. or My Bloody Valentine. Michigan-based three piece (power trio?) Cheap Girls, whose most recent album Giant Orange came out this past February, proudly list uncouth but so ’90s influences like Gin Blossoms and Lemonheads on their Facebook page.
So all hail the ’90s revival! People that are into it, enjoy it while it lasts. For everyone is scratching their heads over this most recent cultural obsession, fear not, for we are not experiencing a revival in dial-up connections. Thanks to our short attention spans brought on by cat videos and broadband, you can rest assured that we’ll revive another trend soon enough.
On May 9, 2012, Josh Weaver was just about two weeks out from the release of CVI, the first full-length with his band Royal Thunder on Relapse Records. That evening he took some time out of his day to have a chat with OurStage to answer questions about the new album and summer touring plans. Royal Thunder are one of many doomy, sludgy, heavy rock ‘n’ roll bands hailing from the south, and they have already received some great press from the likes of NPR, Paste Magazine and BrooklynVegan. Going on their first full national tour this summer with Holy Grail and Valient Thorr, the band faces an eventful season.
OS: You’re quickly approaching the release of your first full-length with Royal Thunder, how are you feeling about it?
JW: I’m super excited to get it out, man. We worked really hard on it so from the time we got done with it ‘til now we’ve been anticipating it. We’re all really excited.
Continue reading ‘Metal Monday: Royal Thunder Interview’
YouTube and music have gone hand in hand for a while now, helping break new stars (Gotye), and giving music lovers one more place to stream poor quality versions of their favorite songs. But perhaps YouTube’s greatest contribution to the music industry all started with the Chinese Backstreet Boys and their hilarious rendition of “I Want It That Way,” the video that spawned a sensation.
Six and a half years later, YouTube is no longer just a teenager, but hilarious lip syncing videos can still win over the crowd. Another sports team has lip synced another top 40 gem and have become mini-superstars themselves.
We did a little round up of some of the best/funniest/most clever music-centric vids on the web, read on for the rest:
As reported by Variety, Grohl was inspired to make the film after purchasing a 1972 Neve 8028 recording console from the studio, when they closed for commercial use in May of last year. The console is known for legendary sound quality and was the workhorse on albums by everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Tom Petty, Neil Young, Guns N’ Roses, Rage Against The Machine, Nine Inch Nails, and Metallica. Grohl himself recorded Nirvana‘s 1991 revolutionary album Nevermind at the star studded studio.
“Sound City is a film about America’s greatest unsung recording studio,” Grohl said. “Deep in California’s sun-burnt San Fernando Valley, it was the birthplace of legend. It was witness to history.”
The documentary will focus on the albums recorded there through interviews with the artists and producers, as well as featured performances, and a discussion on the human element of music in such a digital age. Still no word on a release date, but we’re hoping it’s because they are taking their time mixing the audio on that gorgeous Neve board that Grohl has laying around.
It seems recently that bits and pieces of Kurt Cobain‘s life have slowly been rising to the surface. Artwork by the Nirvana frontman himself has been discovered and is set for auction by his late wife Courtney Love in the near future. Former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson just released a book of prose and poetry entitled Letters To Kurt, including details about Cobain’s life and death, as well as Erlandson’s relationship with Love. In an interview, Erlandson also revealed that, in the months before his death, Cobain had been at work on a solo album, which he hopes might someday be released to the public. “It would have been his White Album,” Erlandson says in an interview with Fuse.
Courtney Love speculated in a recent interview (“unprompted,” according to her interviewer) about where her late husband would be today if he’d lived (“I don’t fuckin’ know,” she concluded). Now, Love has managed to burn her last remaining shred of dignity, accusing David Grohl, via Twitter, of inappropriate behavior towards her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. Both Frances and Grohl have of course denied the accusations, with some dismissive words for Love in return. “Unfortunately Courtney is on another hateful Twitter rant,” says Grohl, while Frances says that “Twitter should ban [her] mother.”
In light of what would have been Kurt Cobain’s 45th birthday, how do you think the grunge icon would react to all of this? Do you think his demos are ever going to be released?
Veteran photographer Jesse Frohman isn’t easily fazed. He may have become adept at photographing the “beautiful people” in celebdom, but he first began making a name for himself in the late ’80s by capturing colorful moments on the fly with hip-hop provocateurs. So, when a drugged-up, freakishly attired Kurt Cobain strolled into his shoot three hours late in November of 1993, Frohman didn’t flinch. After all, Jesse Frohman is the man who invited a militant-era Chuck D. into his house and insisted on putting a gun in the Public Enemy mastermind’s hand. Fortunately it was all in the service of an iconic photo.
“That was a funny shoot,” recalls Frohman, “because I told whoever was doing the props at the time, ‘You’ve gotta get a gun,’ because I wanted to do that [Black Panthers founder] Huey Newton-style picture, and he comes back with this grandpa gun, and Chuck D. was like ‘Where’s the Uzi?’” Frohman had some strange but memorable shoots with LL Cool J in those days too. “LL Cool J would say the funniest things, he would just call me randomly and say ‘Okay, I want to get my Pathfinder up in the woods and we’ll put a deer on the hood, and I’ll get camouflage clothes’ [laughs]. Just one thing after another, it was just a real crackup.”
But even Public Enemy’s intimidating image didn’t rattle Frohman. “People really thought these guys were very much that way,” he explains, “and it made me realize they’re putting on a show— they were natural entertainers. When you’d meet them in person they’d drop their guard a little bit. I really didn’t have any problems with anybody, I had more problems with people like Dee Dee Ramone out at my house; he picked up the brass knuckles that he gave me as a gift and tried to use them on me. He was having a bad reaction to some drugs he took.”
Frohman doesn’t even betray an ounce of chagrin when he recalls getting kicked out of a shoot by the artists themselves. “Green Day was a great band to shoot,” he begins. “they get the attitude, they’re zany, they don’t care what they look like, they just want to have fun in the pictures, and they put on a show a little bit.” Then he drops the other shoe, continuing, “The funny thing about Green Day is, a magazine said, ‘They’re on tour,’ would I mind going to the show and doing a few pictures there? I went to the show and Billie [Joe Armstrong] says after the first couple of songs, ‘How about we kick the goddamn photographer out of here?’ I’m trying to say, ‘No, it’s me Billie! We just had this four-hour shoot!’ He either didn’t see me or he didn’t care, and I was kicked out, so I didn’t get concert pictures.” But Frohman wasn’t just fattening his portfolio by banging around with all these enfants terrible, he was gaining combat experience. “They were colorful,” he says of the aforementioned artists, “they were interesting, they were great subjects, and it really set me up for a shoot like Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.”
Frohman sets the scene for his short but momentous Cobain encounter, “I think it was November 15, 1993,” he remembers. “The London Observer magazine asked if I would do a cover story on [Nirvana]. They set up a shoot that we all agreed would be five hours. They were in New York performing at Roseland that night, so we had the late morning/afternoon to do the shoot. When I arrived at the hotel, I met the manager at the lobby and he said, ‘The plans have changed, and we don’t have anything close to five hours now, and we have to shoot in the hotel.’ He had reserved a conference room for us. We were planning on shooting in Central Park and on the street, that’s what I was set up for, and he nixed all that. So that was the beginning of the experience.”
If you’re thinking it got worse after that, you’re right. Nirvana rhythm section Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic showed up for the shoot only to find their fearless leader MIA, so they departed. When they returned some time later, the singer had still not turned up. Finally, a chemically-enhanced Cobain wandered in with only twenty minutes left in Frohman’s alotted time. He arrived with an absurd, garish ensemble including a leopard jacket that looked like it belonged to someone’s grandmother, an earflap-adorned aviator hat of the sort pilots sported in WWII, and a pair of huge plastic sunglasses that would have been better suited to Jackie Onassis. To make matters more difficult, Frohman recalls, “Once he put those glasses on he wouldn’t take them off, so I didn’t get any pictures with his glasses off except when I went to Roseland and shot him on stage.”
Fortunately, Frohman’s luck soon turned around, and he found himself getting some great, soon-to-be-iconic images of the bedraggled rock star. “Maybe not the most flattering pictures,” he allows, “but he was very expressive. He was nice, and he was fine to shoot. It was definitely a partnership in making a picture, but he wasn’t demanding, he wasn’t difficult. He was really very easy to photograph, and that was really my saving grace, because I didn’t have enough time to work with somebody that wanted to change outfits or wanted to take a break—he just walked in and stood up against the wall and he was a happy camper.”
Following the band along to their Roseland gig for some stage shots, he marveled at Cobain’s ability to operate in his impaired state, even though Frohman had no way of knowing how dire the situation really was at that point. “There’s a lot of people out there that have problems or have moments where they’re in that state,” Frohman says, “and he was a rock star, so you just accepted it, and I was really just concerned with my shoot. And then I traveled with him to Roseland and there was no problem, he was fully functioning. He got up and he conducted rehearsal and he performed that night. To me it was remarkable that he was able to do that with such ease. I don’t know how he was able to do it.”
Of course, he wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer. on April 5, 1994, Cobain made the jump from superstar to rock & roll martyr. To memorialize the eighteenth anniversary of that tragic event, Frohman decided to partner with the renowned Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City, famed for featuring rock-oriented photo shows, to present his complete collection of images from that fateful day in ’93. “It was interesting to look at a shoot from that long a period ago,” says Frohman of putting the exhibition together. “There’s lots of memories about the shoot, about the day and what I expected and what I finally got out of it, and I think that some shoots take on a life of their own. It’s really because of him, not me, to a large extent, but it definitely was a partnership. Had I done some snapshots of him at Roseland, or on the street, I wouldn’t have had the shoot that I had, so I’m fortunate that I had to shoot in a conference room and I made the best out of it. It was a twenty-minute shoot, you don’t know that it can become something.”
Even so, the decision to do the show was not an automatic one for Frohman. “I went back and forth,” he explains, “‘Do I want to do this or not,’ then I said ‘I really do.’ I think it’s the time that there’s enough interest in Kurt and it makes sense photographically. I think it makes sense in this time and place to do something like this.” Allowing all of his rare, raw images of the rocker’s endgame to be seen together like this for the first time (the show will be up throughout the month of April) Frohman not only makes a major photographic statement, but marks a strange, sad, stirring juncture in rock history.
Last night, The Voice brought us back to the battleground for the next round of intense and emotional vocal warfare.
The night kicked off with a battle as epic as last week’s final matchup between Anthony Evans, Jr. and Jesse Campbell. Sera Hill and Geoff McBride both brought their soulful and powerful voices to the stage for Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” in a battle that either one could have walked away from victorious. Sera’s vocal acrobatics were a perfect compliment to Geoff’s unbelievable tenor, but she ultimately took home the win.
The next jaw-dropping battle came between seasoned rocker Juliet Simms and androgynous folk singer Sarah Golden. Juliet, whose audition left the coaches fighting over her, seemed to have the upper hand from the beginning, as the pair were assigned a song by rock legend Rod Stewart. Sarah’s smooth and rustic tone made her a sharp contrast to Juliet’s dynamic, raspy growl, but—to paraphrase Christina Aguilera—Juliet was the “no-brainer” winner.
Indie rockers Lindsey Pavao and Lee Koch performed a sleepy and “creepy” (Adam Levine’s words, not ours) version of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” Their performance really didn’t give us any reason to look up from writing this post…but Blake Shelton’s comment about never having hearing the original, did. No, he wasn’t kidding. Kurt is rolling in his grave…
Thankfully, the night ended on a literal high note, with Jamar Rodgers taking on good friend Jamie Lono on Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” Jamie’s nerves got the best of him and caused his voice to crack, but Jamar picked up the slack and murdered the song on his own.
Next week, we’re promised “a shocking battle round first.” We can’t wait to see what goes down!