120 Minutes – Pre-grunge

The title of the documentary summed it all up neatly– 1991: The Year Punk Broke.  1991 was the year that both Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten hit the shelves and the rest is, as they say, history.  But what about the pre-history?  It’s not like either of those bands just sprang forth from a completely heretofore unknown musical sensibility.  The path was, in fact, well-trod.

Neither of those $ales $hattering records can hold a candle to Soul Asylum’s 1988 proto-grunge masterpiece, Hang Time. “Sometime to Return” may not have captured the zeitgeist in the same way “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would a few years later, but it’s an infinitely better song.  The rolling, rhyming wordplay of the melancholy yet uplifting lyrics beats anything Kurt Cobain put on paper.  And the tune is just spectacular.  Unfortunately, it was all downhill for Soul Asylum from here.  But Hang Time is still great from beginning to end.

Mary My Hope was one of the many bands that never really went anywhere.  Maybe because “Wildman Childman” was such a stupid name for a single.  It rocked, though, and it wasn’t even the best song from their debut album, Museum.

Das Damen was another band that I never understood why they weren’t bigger.  I saw them on the tour for this album, Mousetrap, and they were excellent.  There were maybe 15 people there, but they were fantastic and completely unphased by the lack of a crowd.  It was a great show.

Dinosaur Jr.’s third album, Bug, changed my life.  I swear the tape didn’t leave my car cassette deck for at least six months.  I also swear I saw this video on 120 Minutes, albeit with the naughty words bleeped out.  I can’t remember whether I discovered them because of this video for this or their cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” or from the Homestead Records various artists compilation, The Wailing Ultimate, that I picked up in a Hastings cutout bin.  Either way, Dinosaur Jr. was the soundtrack to my just-out-of-high school life and I still love every song on Bug.

Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love record from 1989 was a strange thing.  It was almost metal, but the dudes who were into metal at the time didn’t dig it.  I bought it and wasn’t sure what to make of it at first.  I eventually came to love it, but I can’t listen to it now.  It certainly hasn’t aged as well as Bug.  But it’s way better than anything they’ve done since.

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2 Comments

Filed under 120 Minutes, Music, Sound + Vision

2 responses to “120 Minutes – Pre-grunge

  1. Wow, this post triggered my memory in a big way. This was the soundtrack to my life for a short but very chaotic period of time. I graduated high school in 1989 and in October of that year I moved into an old fucked up two-story house with three musicians for about six months. The house was about a hundred yards from the Arcadia theater in Dallas and neither the house nor the theater still exist. That place was simply one big non-stop party. Everyone we knew were musicians and I barely remember a time when there was less than ten people there. Band practices along with a (un)healthy dose of Schaefer beer, pot and psychedelics were what I mainly remember about the place. But then there was the music on the stereo that never seemed to stop playing… All of these bands are very specific to that time period in my memory. Here are a few I might add to the list: Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers and the Meat Puppets (second album)… And then “Bleach” by Nirvana and “Superfuzz Bigmuff” by Mudhoney had both just come out at that time and were grunge before grunge went to shit.

    It’s funny, both before and after that particular time period I was interested in much more experimental music, but there was just something about living in that house that made you want to rock-out. Thanks for the post.

  2. One of my biggest regrets to this day is not going along with a friend who invited me to see Scratch Acid and the Butthole Surfers play a free show at some park because I went to see a movie with a girl.

    I remember you talking about Prospect House back in the day and its nonstop party environs. For me, I started out with rock getting progressively heavier and then getting into experimental music. And unfortunately, I think the only Butthole Surfers video they ever played on 120 Minutes was “Jesus Built My Hot Rod.”

    But yeah, these tunes were the soundtrack to my life at the time, too. This was probably just a year or so before we met, right? Fuck man, I wish I still had the tapes of you and me playing music together. That would be a good laugh.

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