Enough With the ‘Grunge Revival.’ Rock Bands of 2017 Should Look Ahead

grunge revival

It’s time for some tough love for the grunge and emo bands of 2017, and here it is: merely recycling the sound of a bygone era is not enough. Sure, if your band does a decent job of recycling Pinkerton or Daydream Nation in 2017, nostalgic saps like me might enjoy it for a few spins. You might find some moderate success as your band wins over fans of the artists that you’re aping. But regurgitating nineties grunge and emo isn’t going to get you far. It’s not going to pay your rent, it probably won’t fulfill you creatively, and it definitely won’t get you a seat next to Lemmy in rock heaven. To get that stuff, you have to innovate and push forward.

I had a revelatory experience at a Code Orange show recently. In case you’re unfamiliar, Code Orange is an innovative hardcore band with a skull-crushing new record that draws on punk and metal history while breathing fresh life into those genres. At NYC’s Webster Hall, Code Orange left everything on the stage during an incandescent performance that whipped the crowd into a frenzy. I left thinking, “Oh, right – that’s how good a band can be.” Code Orange reminded me that much of the music we hear during the course of an average day simply pales in comparison to the heights that rock and roll should aspire to. All great bands interpret the past while carrying it forward into the future.

Here’s another example. Title Fight’s 2015 record Hyperview did an inspired job of deconstructing the band’s hardcore, shoegaze and grunge influences. Hyperview refracts all of those styles through the contemporary prism of Title Fight’s voice. But for every Hyperview, you’ll find a thousand straight-up modern retreads of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine albums. There’s an entire Grunge Revival Subreddit devoted to these modern-day grunge-agains. It’s great to pay homage to your idols, but the majority of those bands are lazy retreads of the past. And it’s not the first time we’ve had to endure these flannel-clad doppelgängers.

In the immediate wake of Nirvana’s impact, we endured a slew of Nirvana clones. First came Bush, who reduced Nirvana’s abstract lyrical poetry to dimwitted word salad. Then we got Silverchair and, later, The Vines (whose frontman Craig Nicholls was perhaps the most inspired of the Cobain acolytes). That kind of market impact is natural for a phenomenon with the Earth-scorching impact of Nirvana. Once upon a time, The Beatles begat The Monkees, and that’s just how rock and roll works. But contemporary rock in 2017 kinda feels like the reflection of a photocopy of a diluted rehash. Maybe that’s why most ‘Best Albums of 2016’ lists suffer a dearth of rock records. Meanwhile, hip hop and pop innovators like Frank Ocean and Solange are reinterpreting the past while looking to the future.

So here’s hoping we get more innovation in rock this year. Code Orange are modern innovators, and so are Title Fight and Radiohead and many more.

The past just sounds more exciting when you push it forward.

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