Scrunged

Scrunged: Stone Temple Pilot’s Tiny Music…Song’s From The Vatican Gift Shop

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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: Stone Temple Pilots.

As I’m writing this, it’s been less than a week since Scott Weiland was found dead in his tour bus at the too fucking young age of 48. As such, I’m awash in a sea of tributes, eulogies, think pieces and listicles celebrating his legacy. Sadly, I wonder how many of them were on file and ready to go, minus a few key dates and recent events, considering the singer’s long-standing issues with drug and alcohol abuse.

When these articles look back on Weiland’s time with STP, they all seem to touch on the same points. The band’s first two albums were wild successes that outsold many of their contemporaries. At their peak, the band’s success was stymied due to Weiland’s legal issues related to his various addiction. When the band was finally able to continue with a (questionably) sober Weiland in the early 2000s, the spark was gone and they broke up. Weiland went onto record a couple of albums with Velvet Revolver, briefly rejoined STP for a self-titled reunion album, and then left the group again, this time on seemingly even more hostile terms.

Then the band recruited the guy from Linkin Park for an EP and tour and everyone was like “what the fuck.”

That’s a pretty accurate summation of the group, at least from a popular perspective. But it’s criminal in that it leaves out the band’s third LP, Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop. Coming off the massive success of the band’s first two albums, which sold eight million and six million copies, respectively, Tiny Music was widely seen as a disappointment when it came out, as it sold “only” two million copies. Thanks largely to the previously mentioned drug issues, the band barely toured for the record, and the singles for the album were released erratically, making it difficult for the album to gather momentum.

And that’s a goddamn shame. Continue reading

Scrunged: Silverchair’s Frogstomp

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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: Silverchair.

In my very first “Scrunged” post I made a dismissive comment regarding Silverchair’s “Open Fire (Ana’s Song),” calling it “decent but dour.” A commenter misunderstood what I was trying to say (shocking, I know) and claimed that I “owed them a revisit.”

And he may have been right, but I hope he wasn’t thinking I should start with Frogstomp. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Scrunged: Candlebox

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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: Candelbox.

It’s really hard to write about Candlebox. Continue reading

Scrunged: Bush’s Sixteen Stone

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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: Bush

When I was 15, Bush were on tour with No Doubt and the Goo Goo Dolls. My school seemed to be split into three camps: people who were going to that show; people who desperately wanted to go to that show; and people who were livid and angry that such a show existed and that anyone would possibly find any of those bands worthwhile in the least.

All of these facts blow my mind, because Bush is a band that I cannot imagine anyone having any strong feelings about in any way whatsoever. Continue reading

Scrunged: Toadies’ Possum Kingdom

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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: The Toadies.

One thing about grunge that most scrunge acts seemed to miss the point on was that a lot of it was really dark and creepy in a menacing way. Nirvana frequently sang from the point of view of serial killers and rapists. Soundgarden’s metal influences frequently came to life with nefarious tracks like “Gun,” and of course there was the entire Alice In Chains discography, with its unhealthy focus on heroin and the joys that come with it. Shit, even Pearl Jam would often dive into the deep end of the disturbing with tracks about child abuse, incest, and murder.

You didn’t see Bush do shit like that. STP did on occasion with songs like “Sex Type Thing,” but they had too many love songs to really be all that down in the dumps. Sometimes Paw came close with their debut album, but while they nailed the mood of grunge, that was about all they got right.

No, the only scrunge act that really hit grunge’s darkside was The Toadies.

Makes sense, they are from Texas after all. Continue reading

Scrunged: Paw’s Dragline & Seven Mary Three’s American Standard

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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 bands: Paw and Seven Mary Three.

Most grunge bands were from the greater Seattle area, with the occasional stray coming from Portland. But scrunge cast a far wider net. STP were from LA. The Toadies hailed from Austin Ft. Worth/the greater Austin area.  Sponge repped Detroit. Very different cities to be sure, and they all had their own unique musical histories that they were known the world over for. And it showed up in these bands’ music.

Sure, The Toadies obviously crib their sound from The Pixies, but they also sound like a band who grew up on the sounds of The Buthole Surfers and the indie Austin scene. STP were never as earnest or thoughtful as Pearl Jam or Nirvana, but their aura of LA sleaze gave them an attitude few grunge bands had. Even Sponge, who are as derivative as they come, carry a bit of the Motor City – you can hear a hint of Iggy Pop’s wildness in them.

But some bands weren’t as lucky as to come from a city with a strong alternative (or any) musical legacy. Paw, for example, was formed in Lawrence, Kansas. You know what famous musical acts are from Kansas?

Kansas. I mean, the band, Kansas, they’re from Kansas. That’s about it.

That’s more notable than Seven Mary Three’s hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia though. They got nothing. Actually, maybe I should check Wikipedia just to be sure.

Okay, I’ll give them GWAR, but that’s it.

Continue reading

Scrunge Retrospective: Rotting Pinata & Throwing Copper 20 Years Later

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A few years ago I read an issue of Spin that had a retrospective on grunge rock. Part of that retrospective was dedicated to “scrunge” or “fake grunge” that blew up in popularity immediately following the mainstream embrace of Nirvana and Pearl Jam in 1991. Most scrunge acts were reviled by critics, but many of them went on to become phenomenally huge, albeit for a very brief period of time.

Looking back, the era of scrunge was incredibly short-lived. I would say it started not soon after grunge itself, probably in 1992 with STP’s debut album, peaked in popularity just two years later in 1994 with Bush’s Sixteen Stone, and then vanished without a trace by 1997, being replaced by post-grunge and fellow flash-the-pan genres nu-metal and rap-rock.

So five years in total, and while that’s not much, as someone who was a teenager at the time, I really can’t overstate just how big this kind of music was. Soul Asylum, Candlebox, The Toadies and their ilk, they may have been shooting stars, but sure shined bright while they were here. So in that regard, I’m disappointed to see just how much they’ve been forgotten in the years since.

At the same time, I’ve been wondering if my somewhat positive views of these bands is nothing more than the rose-colored tinge of teenage nostalgia. Because, while these bands played a crucial role in my development as a music-obsessed geek, to be honest I’ve rarely re-visited most of them in the years since their prime. So maybe their continued snubbery in the annals of rock history is justified? Continue reading

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