Noise From the Underground: A Secret History of Alternative Rock
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Music.
I can’t really call this a book review, because this isn’t really a review, and some have noted, that frankly, this isn’t much of a book. The story of this book, for me at least, goes back to when I was in junior high school. I was really enjoying bands like Primus, White Zombie, Pantera, pretty much anything that my parents wouldn’t let me listen to. To make a longer story shorter (but still long) I found this book, and looked through the pictures. Noting the link above, some feel that this book offers a worthless view on a music scene from a worthless writer. To be honest, when I re-ordered this book I didn’t even remember that it was anything more than a picture book. The pictures, which are still amazing, were what really got me going with a deeper interest in music. Up until then, I had only heard of bands like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, and Dinosaur Jr., but I had never actually heard them (or seen what they looked like). This book’s vibrant colors, distorted photos and tongue in cheek presentation interested me to find more about what wasn’t being played on the radio station I listened to. This book helped me find two bands that would join the ranks of my top five all time, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and The Reverend Horton Heat (both, have sadly become lesser versions of their former selves). What really got me looking for new music is what was in the back of the book: “Selected Discography – Following is a list of records that define, explain, and embody alternative music…” I remember typing out a list of these records and bands so I wouldn’t forget the names when I went shopping for new tapes and CDs. Who were these bands, I thought:
The Afghan Wigs, Babes in Toyland, Beat Happening, Big Black, Blur, Butthole Surfers, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Elvis Costello, Devo, Fugazi, Green River, Jesus Lizard, Meat Puppets, My Bloody Valentine, Liz Phair, Portishead, Lou Reed, Urge Overkill and The Velvet Underground.
No matter what the criticisms of the writing in this book, it took me to a place that I don’t think I could have gone to on my own. There was no internet for me then, the local radio station I listened to was playing versions of versions of Collective Soul, and my friends listened to the exact same things I listened to. There were very few outlets to find new music. A show on MuchMusic called “The Wedge” helped me in a similar way. Along the way I’d find books like The Trouser Press and search out even more links to the past. For the 1995 Grammy Awards, I still remember that I wanted Primus’ “Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver” to win Best Hard Rock Performance. They lost to Pearl Jam’s “Spin the Black Circle.”
I look back at this, after actually reading the sporadic paragraphs about grunge related reminiscences, I returned to the “sporadic Discography” and found bands that have influenced my tastes even further in more recent times: Black Flag, The Cramps and Ween.
“Somebody once said that Nirvana meant that we’d won, and by that, they meant that punk rock had defeated the System. It’s a sweet thought, but the truth is more complicated. It’s true that the Meat Puppets, after years of playing terrible clubs for too little money, are at last being treated like musical heroes. but so are manufactured insta-grunge bands like Bush, Filter, and the Stone Temple Pilots. Courtney Love is on the cover of Vanity Fair instead of Madonna, but I’m not sure this is a good thing. Retro-punk bands like Green Day can now sell millions and millions of records, but the coolest and most genuinely rebellious youth that I see in the clubs are ravers, who only listen to guitar-less, electronic techno. Ask a raver about rock, and he’ll tell you that Pearl Jam is the System.” Page 135 – Pat Blashill – 1996