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.