Click the image to see an amazing time-lapse video of the moonlit, frozen falls of Bad Urach, Germany.
If a fortyish man ever asks you, “Were you a Nirvana fan or a Pearl Jam fan?”, you’re talking to a Nirvana fan. Pearl Jam fans never ask this question. Much was made of this early grunge rivalry, which was almost entirely manufactured by posers who pretended they had more cred than other posers. Cobain briefly expressed disdain for Eddie and Co.’s anthemic style, then retracted that disdain, had a nice talk with Eddie on the phone, and said he liked him. What remained was a lot of Nirvana fans who swallowed a media-conjured debate and pretended their favorite Top 40, MTV-darling, Rolling Stone-cover band was, you know, like, realer. But they’re both seminal bands with lots of great tunes, and it’s worth remembering that Pearl Jam (a) jumped off the MTV-video machine with their second album, and (b) gleefully released a genuinely weird and subcultural third LP that cost them legions of casual fans.
Is In Utero better than Vs.? Was Nirvana’s Unplugged more electrifying than Pearl Jam’s Unplugged? I’ll leave those debates to guys who are still trying to prove their Pixies/Westerberg/Sex Pistols taste is cooler than other guys’ Neil Young/Kiss/arena-rock taste.
Vs. is a gangbuster album. There’s so much tension and propulsion in “Go”, “Animal”, and “Rearviewmirror,” and so much heartfelt, oddball pop-hookery in “Daughter” and “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”, it’s hard to believe the album came from a band who was, at the time, badly dazed by the music world’s ludicrously high expectations. Vs. holds up.
In junior year of high school, a couple of friends and I exchanged copies of The Cure’s “Mixed Up” for Christmas, which was strange because the three of us were metalheads and rarely listened to anything alt or arty. Maybe we instinctually connected with Robert Smith’s theatrical appearance. The dude looked genuinely weird in the most charming, comical way: like Edward Scissorhands singing goth tunes about Wynona Ryder. Plus the singles from the “Disintegration” era were especially good and had memorable videos in heavy rotation. Whatever the explanation, “Mixed Up” was an odd, remixed intro to The Cure’s catalog, and soon I bought a few of the real LPs and got properly hooked.
I received a heavy-vinyl reissue of “Disintegration” for Christmas. It’s split over two records, and that’s good: I’ve been told the original ’89 pressings were iffy because the album is too long for a single disc and the grooves were packed too tight. Here’s my favorite song:
First up is The Wrens’ “The Meadowlands”. How many times did I play this on CD or MP3 over the last eleven years? Many. We played this album for our now eleven-year-old, electric-guitar-playing son in utero, and I cranked “Everyone Choose Sides” on the car stereo driving home from the hospital several hours after he was born. The Wrens are great guys. My wife and I saw them play a small gig in CT, and then they agreed to play (for free) at a benefit for one of my wife’s friends, who was battling cancer. Both times the band members were personable and low-key, and both shows were terrific. The Wrens are set to release their followup album, at very long last, in 2015. For now, here’s one of my favorite songs off “The Meadowlands”:
Hey, all. Enter to win a signed advance copy of BELL WEATHER at Goodreads. Contest ends December 31.