Scrunged: Days Of The New

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Scrunge (second-rate rip-off grunge) is a largely forgotten genre, and every few weeks I’m going to examine a scrunge act or two and see if they deserve a second chance. Today’s band: Days Of The New.

I feel safe in saying Days Of The New is the last “scrunge” band. In fact, with their first album coming out in 1997, the case could be made that the group isn’t scrunge at all, and are in fact post-grunge like Creed or Fuel, whose albums also came out around the same time.

But to me Days Of The New is a scrunge band simply because they were trying so damn hard be a grunge band. I don’t think you can say that about Creed or any of the countless forgettable bands that came after them. They were never attempting the realness or rawness of grunge. They just took the broadest and most radio-friendly aspects of the genre and slapped 50 coats of polish and sheen on it. It’s a cliche to say it, but the post-grunge bands come off as being in it for the money more than anything else.

And while you can say a lot about Days Of The New (and trust me…I’m about to) overly commercial sure as hell isn’t one of them. No one goes out to make predominately acoustic depressing rock ballads under the assumption that it’s going to lead to top 40 success. It just kind of worked out that way, for a thankfully brief period of time.

I might as well just come right out and say it – I think Days Of The New are the worst of the scrunge bands. In fact, I might go as far to say that Days Of The New are worst rock band of the 90s. Yes. Worse than Creed. Worse than Limp Bizkit. Worse than Lifehouse, Eve 6, Incubus, Spin Doctors, Hootie And The Blowfish, Nickleba – okay, maybe not that bad, but plenty damn bad.

I’ve been referring to Days Of The New as a band, but the core of the group is just one man; Travis Meeks. Meeks formed the band 1995 and began recording their self-titled debut just a year later.  It was released in 1997 and scored a massive hit with “Touch, Peel and Stained.”

I feel that it’s worth mentioning that Alice In Chains began their hiatus that very same year.

People seem to forget this, but when Alice In Chains vanished, thanks to Layne Staley’s slow suicide via heroin, they were one of the biggest rock bands in the world. Sure, if you asked someone now who the big three of grunge were, they would probably say Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, but Alice In Chains were fucking huge. Not only that, they remained in the popular consciousness a hell of a lot longer than those other groups did. And the fact that they can still pack arenas speaks well to their influence and success (and their new records aren’t half bad either).

And Alice In Chains were entirely unique…at least until 1997, when Days Of The New helped to usher in the era of Alice In Chains rip-offs, a profitable sub-genre of modern rock that would subject us to acts such as Staind, Puddle Of Mudd and, most notably, Godsmack – a band that named themselves after a damn Alice In Chains song.

Defenders of Days Of The New (if such people exist) probably point to the fact that Days Of The New were primarily an acoustic act, and that set them apart from Alice In Chains. To counter that, I would like those people to listen to Alice In Chains’ seminal 1996 unplugged album, which was released in the immediate months preceding Days Of The New going into the recording studio to work on their debut album. I cannot fathom that to be a coincidence.

With the self-titled debut, Days Of The New tried their damnedest to ape the sound of that record, while tragically forgetting the two things that made Alice In Chains so great: amazing lyrics and stunningly beautiful harmonies. The way that Layne Staley’s and Jerry Cantrell’s vocals fed off each other was a wonderful thing. It added an almost Beatlesesque quality to even their darkest and most grim songs. Days Of The New attempt as much on their album, mostly chorusing Meek’s voice (he’s the only credited vocalist on the album) and adding layers upon layers of guitars in a fruitless attempt to give the songs depth and make them sound like more than the acoustic demos they really are. But even if the production work did somehow manage to echo the haunting and beautiful highlights of Alice In Chains, the lyrics just aren’t there.

Take the hit, “Touch, Peel And Stand,” a song that beats the listener to death with a hideously clumsy and repetitive chorus ad nauseam. “I finally found a reason now I need an excuse/I got some time on my hands, you are the one to abuse?” Who the fuck likes a line like that other than the world’s biggest assholes? People who identify with “Touch, Peel and Stand” probably think Puddle Of Mudd’s “Control” is hot. When a good band writes a vindictive or mean-spirited song, it sounds like a well-deserved catharsis, or a genuine threat spoken by a madman who might hurt you. Travis Meeks whines out his threat like the drunken prick at a party who everyone wants to go home.

And apparently that’s a pretty accurate description of Meeks. Not soon after the success of the group’s debut album everyone else in the band up and quit (to form the not as bad but far more forgettable Tantric) because they were sick of his shit. Meeks recruited a new backing band for the band’s follow-up (also self-titled) in 1999, but it sold a third of their first album. In 2001 he released another record (with yet another line-up) and it was a flat out bomb.

Since then, things haven’t been all that good for Meeks, thanks largely to what appears to be a pretty serious drug habit. Sadly, the only aspect of Alice In Chains that Meeks seems to be successful in replicating is a slow suicide via intravenous drugs.

Earlier I said that Days Of The New are the worst band of the 90s, and while that may seem harsh, I stand by it. Say what you will about the other infamously bad bands of the post-grunge/nu-metal/rap-rock era, but their success at least makes sense. There will always be angry teenage boys, so groups like Limp Bizkit will always find some measure of success. There’s a sucker born every minute for pseduo-spiritual inspirational nonsense, and Creed were able to ride that not-quite-Christian rock wave to glory. And sure, Nickleback are horrible, but give them credit – their songs are catchy, and for some people that’s more than enough.

But who the hell is Days Of The New for? Who on earth hears vaguely angry acoustic rock written from the point of view of a druggy asshole? It’s not sad enough to appeal to sad bastards, and it’s not angry enough to draw in the angry assholes. It’s just mopey garbage.

The thesis statement for this series has been “does the band in question deserve a second look” but I think this is the first band I’ve featured who didn’t even deserve a first look. A band  whose legacy as a minor one-hit wonder, relegated to flashback weekends on pop/rock radio stations, is overstated. I mean, I shit all over Seven Mary Three, but they were sadly prophetic when it came where rock music was headed in the late 90s and early 2000s. Days Of The New just exist in a vacuum now.

Which is really appropriate, since they suck.

3 Responses to Scrunged: Days Of The New

  • I love Days of the New and I think they had they’re own approach, similarities with Alice in Chains acknowledged. I have no idea why you’d get so worked up over this, but I guess that’s your ulcer, not mine.

  • Draagull Westerly says:

    I agree with Andrew. Days of the New were in fact a fresh approach. Not sure of the blatant hatred, but do understand the lack of love for Travis Meeks. However the music does stand alone and holds up

  • Edward jones says:

    Scrunge?:;€¥&?dotn have a sound no other band comes close to,Travis has taken acoustic drop d original rock to a level that’s been unsurpassed since,his music is timeless,with depths and subtleties both dark and thought provoking,he is a genius,days of the new for life!!!

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