JOVM celebrates Kurt Cobain’s 51st birthday.
Mark Lanegan is a Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as one of the founding members and frontman of renowned Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and as a solo artist who has collaborated with an incredibly diverse array of artists and bands throughout his lengthy career including Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind. Along with that Lanegan is also known for being a member of the grunge rock, All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam‘s Mike McCready and for joining Queens of the Stone Age after the breakup of Screaming Trees, contributing on five of the band’s albums — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork. Lanegan has also collaborated with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins and has collaborated with former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, he has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-Bird, Creature with the Atom Brain, Moby, Bomb the Bass, Soulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight Singers, UNKLE and others. As a solo artist, Lanegan has released 10 studio albums that have been critically applauded and have seen a fair amount of commercial success.
Lanegan’s 10th and most recent album Gargoyle was released this past summer through Heavenly Recordings. And interestingly enough, the Ellensburg, WA, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter can take the origins of the album’s overall sound and aesthetic back to early last year. As the story goes, the grunge rock legend was working on ideas for what could be a new, solo album, when he received an email from his friend and collaborator, British-based musician Rob Marshall, who he met several years before when Marshall’s former band Exit Calm had supported Soulsavers, a band that Lanegan had been fronting. Marshall’s email thanked Lanegan for his participation on a Humanist album — and in the email, Marshall offered to write music for Lanegan, if he needed it to return the favor. As Lanegan recalled in press notes, his response was along the lines of “Hey man, I’m getting ready to make a record, if you’ve got anything? Three days later he sent me 10 things… !”
Interestingly, the music Marshall had written had managed to fit perfectly with the direction Lanegan had been thinking of for some time — an expansion of the Krautrock-inspired electronic sounds and textures of his previous two albums Blues Funeral and Phantom Radio. Eventually Marshall wound up co-writing six of the album’s 10 songs with the remainder of the album being written and produced by Lanegan’s longtime collaborator Alain Johannes at 11AD Studios in West Hollywood. Gargoyle‘s second single “Beehive” pairs Lanegan’s imitable boozy, growling baritone vocals with a bluesy and swaggering production featuring shimmering guitar chords and enormous tweeter and woofer rattling beats, essentially pushing Lanegan’s recent forays into the blues into the 21st Century; but in a way that feels both warmly familiar and yet new.
Gargoyle’s latest single “Emperor” finds Lanegan and his backing band pairing Lanegan’s imitable, boozy and growling baritone with the sort of old-timey, bar room blues that brings to mind Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” complete with jangling and shimmering guitars and a propulsive backbeat; but much like its predecessor, the song possesses a weary and existential weariness just underneath the surface.
The recently released video continues a string of cinematic yet surreal visuals — in this case, the viewer is thrown into a vaguely Russian styled dictatorship, full of state sanction violence upon innocent people while also nodding at Julius Caesar. While being fictional, the video manages to evoke our dangerously strange and uncertain times.
Last month, I wrote about the Seattle, WA-based grunge rock band Gruntruck. Initially formed in 1989, the band’s original lineup featured featured founding members Skin Yard’s Ben McMillan (vocals) and Norman Scott (drums), The Accused’s Tommy Niemeyer (guitar) and Final Warning’s Tim Paul (bass), and can trace their origins to when the band’s founding duo wrote a song while on tour with Skin Yard that they felt was worthy of forming a new project around. At around the same time Scott was briefly in Soundgarden and collaborated with Chris Cornell on a lesser-known project, the low frequency power trio Bass Truck. And interestingly enough, with the new material that McMillan and Scott started to write for their new project, they decided to blend the sound that Norman developed in Bass Truck with their then-primary project’s sound to create a harder, more metal-leaning grunge rock sound.
1990’s Jack Endino and Gary King-produced debut Inside Yours was released through Seattle-based label Empty Records with a simultaneous release through German label Musical Tragedies, and it featured album single “Not a Lot to Save,” which received airplay on MTV. Interestingly enough, the members of Gruntruck had opened for Pearl Jam throughout 1991 — and famously, they opened for Pearl Jam the night they filmed the video for “Even Flow.”
With the growing buzz on all things Seattle, the members of Gruntruck signed a multi-album deal with Roadrunner Records, who re-released Inside Yours later that year. Their follow up effort, 1992’s Endino and King-produced effort Push featured album track “Tribe,” which received regular rotation on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. And building upon a rapidly growing profile, Gruntruck opened for Alice in Chains during their 1992 US and Canadian tour and Pantera‘s Winter 1993 European tour. Immediately upon their return to Seattle, the band went through a number of lineup changes but they managed to release a video for “Crazy Love,” which received airplay on MTV — including an episode of Beavis and Butt-head, in which a stunned Butthead mused “I must be hallucinating now. I can’t believe they’re playing something cool. These guys rock!”
Sadly, at the height of their popularity in 1996, the members of the band were struggling to make ends meet while fulfilling their contractual obligations to Roadrunner Records. As the story goes, Polygram Records offered to buy out Gruntruck’s contract for $1 million, but Roadrunner Records refused. Based on the advice of their lawyer, the band filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to break free of their contract. Unsurprisingly, that was promptly followed by Roadrunner Records suing to block the band’s bankruptcy with the result being a precedent-setting case that’s been cited in subsequent cases, written about in legal journals — and eventually inspired congressional legislation. And although the court eventually ruled in Gruntruck’s favor, their various legal issues exacted a deep financial and emotional toil on the band, as well as stalled the band’s momentum.
By 1997, the band’s original lineup reunited, and began working on new material; some of which wound up comprising their self-titled third album, an effort that the members of the band envisioned as their breakthrough effort. Recorded and finished over a two year period in five different studios in and around the Seattle area with Jack Endino and Martin Feveyear taking up production duties, the band decided to build up buzz for the album with a busy live schedule, playing shows in and around Seattle; however, just as they were about to build up some buzz, the band went on a hiatus in 2003 to allow Ben McMillan to recover from a number of health issues.
Sadly McMillan died from complications related to diabetes in 2008, and the third album languished in the vaults until last year, when Jack Endino mentioned its existence to Found Recordings head, Scott Blum, who pushed to get the album released, over a decade since the initial recording sessions. Now, as you may recall, the album’s first official single “Bar Fly,” featured an ambitious, arena rock-based sound consisting of enormous power chords, and a shout from the mosh pit worthy course — and while nodding at metal, the song manage stop remind me of Dirt-era Alice in Chains and Purple-era Stone Temple Pilots. “Noise Field,” their self-titled album’s latest single continues in a similar vein — a quiet, loud, quiet song structure that allows room for enormous power chords and thundering drumming. However, the one noticeable difference to me is that the song manages to sound as though it were influenced by Core-era Stone Temple Pilots.
“Noise Field” much like its predecessor will remind many listeners of grunge’s high point of 1991-1994 or so and simultaneously its low point of 1996-1999 or so; but underneath, there’s a sad reminder of what could have been for the band. After all, for the first, second and even third wave bands that find some level of success, there are many more bands, who get a brief taste of recognition but never quite make it further than that.
Interestingly, the song will strike many as a remanent of a decidedly particular period — 1996-1998 or so — but underneath that, there’s a sad reminder of what could have been; after all, for the rare Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgardens, etc., there’s countless bands, who get close to making it and many more that never make it.
Initially formed in 1989, the Seattle, WA-based grunge rock band Gruntruck featured Skin Yard’s Ben McMillan (vocals) and Norman Scott (drums), The Accused’s Tommy Niemeyer (guitar) and Final Warning’s Tim Paul (bass) can trace their origins to when founding members Ben McMillan and Norman Scott wrote a song while on tour with Skin Yard that they had was worthy of forming a new band around. Interestingly enough, around the same time Scott had a brief stint with Soundgarden and collaborated with Chris Cornell on a lesser-known project, the low frequency power trio Bass Truck. And with the new song and other material that McMillan and Scott started to write together, they decided to blend the sound that Norman developed in Bass Truck — in other words, a harder, more metal-leaning grunge rock sound.
1990’s Jack Endino and Gary King-produced debut Inside You was released through Seattle-based label Empty Records with a simultaneous release through German label Musical Tragedies. Along with the release of their debut, the band released a Henry Shepherd-produced video for album single “Not a Lot to Save,” which received airplay on MTV. (I should note that Henry Shepherd is the brother of Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd.) Interestingly, the members of Gruntruck had opened for Pearl Jam throughout 1991 — and in particular, they opened for Pearl Jam on the night that renowned grunge rockers filmed the video for “Even Flow.” With the growing buzz on all things Seattle, the members of Gruntruck signed a multi-album deal with Roadrunner Records, who re-released Inside Yours later that year. 1992’s sophomore Endino and King-produced effort Push featured album track “Tribe,” which received regular rotation on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. Building upon a growing profile, Gruntruck opened for Alice in Chains during their 1992 US and Canadian tour, as well as in Europe during the winter of 1993 with Pantera. After the band returned to Seattle, they went through several lineup changes but they released a video for “Crazy Love,” which received airplay on MTV, including a reference on Beavis and Butthead, in which a stunned Butthead mused “I must be hallucinating now. I can’t believe they’re playing something cool. These guys rock!”
At the height of their popularity in 1996, the members of the band were struggling to make ends meet while fulfilling contractual obligations to Roadrunner Records. Polygram Records offered to buy out Gruntruck’s contract for $1 million, but the folks at Roadrunner Records refused. Based on the advice of their lawyer, the band filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to break free of their contract, which was promptly followed by their label suing to block their bankruptcy petition. The result was a precedent-setting case that’s been cited in subsequent cases, written up in legal journals and eventually inspired congressional legislation. Although the court eventually ruled in Gruntruck’s favor, their various legal issues exacted a financial and emotional toil on the band — despite the fact that they were attempting to recapture some of the momentum they had captured before.
By 1997, the band’s original lineup reunited and they had been working on new material together and some of the songs written wound up comprising the material on their self-titled third album, an effort that the band envisioned as a breakthrough effort. The album was recorded over a two year period in five different studios in and around Seattle with Jack Endino and Martin Feveyear, who has worked with Queens of the Stone Age, Mudhoney and Screaming Trees taking up production duties, and once it was finished the band went through a busy live schedule in Seattle, to build up buzz for the album; however by 2003, the band went on hiatus, as McMillan needed time to recover from health issues.
Sadly McMillan died from complications related to diabetes in 2008, and the third album languished in the vaults until last year, when Jack Endino mentioned its existence to Found Recordings head, Scott Blum, who pushed to get the album released. And over a decade since its initial recording, Gruntruck’s self-titled album is slated for an October 13, 2017 release, and the album’s first official single “Bar Fly,” features an ambitious arena rock sound consisting of enormous power chords, a shout worthy chorus and while clearly nodding at metal, the band’s sound manages to be reminiscent of Dirt-era Alice in Chains and Purple-era Stone Temple Pilots. Interestingly, the song will strike many as a remanent of a decidedly particular period — 1996-1998 or so — but underneath that, there’s a sad reminder of what could have been; after all, for the rare Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgardens, etc., there’s countless bands, who get close to making it and many more that never make it.
Filmed by Thomas Engisn and edited by Gary Lundgren, the recently released music video features grainy VHS footage from the band’s original lineup performing sweaty, ass-kicking shows — and it’ll remind you of watching similar videos on 120 Minutes and other video shows.
With the release of their first two EPs, Gloomy Tunes and Crushed, the Portland, ME-based indie rock trio Weakened Friends, comprised of Sonia Sturino (vocals, guitar), Annie Hoffman (bass), and Cam Jones began receiving quite a bit of buzz for a sound that clearly draws from power pop and 90s grunge rock. And in fact, over the past year or so the band has seen a growing profile as they played this year’s SXSW and have shared stages with the likes of CHVRCHES, Silversun Pickups, Beach Slang and Juliana Hatfield, essentially adding themselves to a growing list of contemporary fuzzy guitar pop-leaning acts that include JOVM mainstays Dead Stars and others.
“Hate Mail,” the trio’s latest single is a rousingly anthemic, mosh pit friendly “fuck off/don’t you come back here/you were the worst thing that ever happened to me/good riddance” song, perfect for anyone who’s gotten out of a miserable and toxic relationship — with some semblance of their dignity and sanity intact, and the sentiment is complimented (and emphasized) with a fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming and howled, distorted vocals. While the song will further cement their growing reputation for crafting 90s grunge rock-inspired power pop, the song features the Maine-based trio collaborating with Dinosaur Jr.‘s J. Mascis, who contributes his imitable guitar sound to the proceedings.
With the release of “Blue Hell,” the lead single and album opener off their full-length debut effort, Uncontrollable Salvation, the San Francisco, CA-based punk rock/indie rock quartet Pardoner quickly received attention for angst-filled, power chord-based, mosh pit-friendly rock. And unsurprisingly, Uncontrollable Salvation‘s second and latest single, album title track “Uncontrollable Salvation” will further cement their reputation for crafting 90s, inspired slacker rock full of buzzing power chords and rousingly anthemic hooks, and while the song has garnered comparisons to Polvo and Dinosaur, Jr., which are fair, I also hear elements of the beloved, Seattle grunge sound.
The Jack Shirley-produced Uncontrollable Salvation is slated for a September 8, 2017 release through Father/Daughter Records. And to build up buzz for the album, the band has two Bay Area shows in August. Check out live dates below.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock/grunge rock quartet Ramonda Hammer. Comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Devin Davis, along with Andy Hengl, Justin Geter and Mark Edwards, the quartet derive their name from a woman, who was once featured on the early 2000s reality TV show Cheaters. Their self-released 2016 debut Whatever That Means was released to critical applause from Impose Magazine, Earmilk, PureVolume, Fuse TV and elsewhere, and as a result of a rapidly growing local and national profile, the band signed with New Professor Records and released “Zombie Sweater” to applause from Brooklyn Vegan, She Shreds Magazine, Blurred Culture and others. Adding to a growing profile, the band was named one of “LA’s hardest-working bands of 2016” by Oh My Rockness and one of the “best LA emerging bands of 2017 by The Deli Magazine.
Ramonda Hammer’s forthcoming EP Destroyers is slated for an August 4, 2017 release, and the effort’s jagged and off-kilter title track “Destroyers” received attention from this site and elsewhere for a sound that channeled The Breeders, Veruca Salt, The Mallard, Bleeding Rainbow, and others, complete with a rousingly anthemic hook before dissolving into a stormy yet cathartic coda; but at the heart of the song is an emotional ambivalence, as the song manages to be simultaneously feral yet bitterly ironic, triumphantly ass-kicking yet a little sad.
The EP’s latest single “Bender” as Davis explains was written while she was binge-watching Shameless for two weeks straight and she just couldn’t get off the couch to anything remotely productive. “In retrospect, I guess I could call it ‘research’ or whatever, because I ended up writing this song. But yeah, the lyrics are really just a conversation between two opposing sides in one’s brain. The verses ask questions from the more sane, healthy part of one’s psyche, and the choruses respond from the anxiety-ridden, depressed, and very frustrated side. And the reason this person (okay, it’s me!) is so effing frustrated is because they care so so so much, but when crippling depression sets in from time to time, when they get caught in a bender of some sort, it’s so hard to do the things that make you happy. In a final cry, I end the song with, ‘I swear that I deserve good things’ because I think I do and I know other people feel the same.” And while arguably being the most personal song Davis has written, it may be one of the more melodic and anthemic tunes they’ve released to date, sounding as though it could have been released between 1992 and 1996.
The JOVM pays tribute to the great Chris Cornell.