GRUNGEREPORT YEAR IN REVIEW: A LOOK BACK AT ALTERNATIVE ROCK IN 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, let’s take a look back at what happened in alternative rock

Soundgarden released their first album in 16 years King Animal in November. This was one of my most anticipated albums of all time, but after nearly 2 months of listening to it, it’s just ‘okay’ to me. While I love “A Thousand Days Before” (one of the best songs of 2012) and a couple other tracks from the album, most of it just hasn’t stuck with me since it came out. I listened constantly during the first few weeks of release. But to me a lot of it just feels like middle of the road rock/playing it safe, it doesn’t sound like Soundgarden pushing their sound forward and in new directions. My favorite Soundgarden album is Down on the Upside, on that album the band really ventured into new territory sonically with songs like “Zero Chance” and “Burden In My Hand.” Chris Cornell pushed the boundaries even further on Euphoria Morning. Some of his best lyrical work ever is on those two albums. I’m happy there are fans out there who like the album more than I do, even though I’m not a huge fan of the album Soundgarden are still better than most bands out there today and I will be seeing them live again in February.

2012 was a quiet year for Pearl Jam, with limited tour dates mainly at festivals. Eddie Vedder did quite a bit of touring though, and other members released albums via side projects like RNDM, Brad, Mike McCready’s music for Fat Kid Rules The World, and Jeff Ament’s solo album. In the last couple of weeks I’ve really been missing Pearl Jam as an active live band/recording unit. Been listening to a lot of Binaural in particular, and Vs./Riot Act/Yield/Vitalogy. I guess that’s most of the discography actually. The one Pearl Jam related show I saw this year was RNDM’s free show in Long Beach, where I got to meet and interview Jeff Ament. It was surreal and a dream come true to meet a member of one of my favorite bands and to get a brief interview with him.

Heading into June, I had very low expectations for the release of the new Smashing Pumpkins album Oceania. The Teargarden By Kaleidyscope era produced some of the worst music in Billy Corgan’s career in my opinion, including: Widow Wake My Mind, Owata, Lightning Strikes, and A Stitch In Time. The mediocre new music didn’t help the fact that I was still disappointed that Jimmy Chamberlin had been fired from the Pumpkins. When Oceania finally came out though, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s his most consistent album since Zwan’s Mary Star of the Sea, the songs have heart and sonically have more power than the Teargarden material. You can still hear the sincerity in Corgan’s lyrics about heartbreak and trying to hold onto love on songs like Pinwheels and Violet Rays. BillCo had some bold things to say in many interviews this year. While I totally agree with his views on hipsters and the music industry today, I don’t agree with some of the things he has said about fellow Generation X bands. I’ve got no problem with it though, it’s great for GrungeReport traffic!

In December fans on Nirvana were in shock as the surviving members of the band (Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear) reunited to perform their first high profile gig since 1994 with Paul McCartney on lead vocals/guitar at the 12-12-12 show in New York. Nirvana also performed on Saturday Night Live, and released the new track “Cut Me Some Slack.” The song to me rocks, obviously it’s not anything legendary but it sounds like a hybrid of the heavier side of The Beatles and Nirvana. The performances to me were very inspired as well. This is not about the money. You can tell that Krist, Dave, and Pat really missed performing together. They did it in the most respectful way possible as well to the late Kurt Cobain as well, not performing any old Nirvana songs.

Stone Temple Pilots’ year was pretty terrible for fans. The band did not start working on a new album like many expected, and did nothing to mark the 20th anniversary of their debut album Core. Actually the only thing that really celebrated it was my retrospective. Scott Weiland also started actively campaigning for the reunion of Velvet Revolver, which seems pointless to me since the group ran its course. He even lied and said the band was back together and Slash said he was out of his mind. Anways, STP did a one month tour with the same stale setlist and no new material. A month or two later Slash claimed that Stone Temple Pilots had fired Scott Weiland. Weiland and STP have made no official statement to deny this.

Alice In Chains had a mostly quiet year on the live front, only performing live one time in May. They spent most of the year recording their fifth studio album, they released a track off the album (Hollow) a couple of weeks ago. I don’t really like the song, it’s pretty forgettable to me, and I was a fan of Black Gives Way to Blue. The bright side though is it’s not the lead radio single, but a preview song/digital single to kick off the promotion of the album. I have faith that the album will be better than Hollow.

Mark Lanegan released his first solo album in 8 years Blues Funeral earlier this year. The album is fantastic, Lanegan’s darkness has not gone away as he has aged. “Ode to Sad Disco” is one of my favorite solo tracks of his, my other favorites include: Quiver Syndrome, Riot In My House, Harborview Hospital, and The Gravedigger’s Song. Lanegan also supported the album with a massive world tour.

2012 saw continued touring from Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in support of their latest albums. I saw both bands live (Jane’s for the second time, RHCP for the first time) and both were amazing experiences. Jane’s are still able to deliver live even without key founding member Eric Avery, and Josh Klinghoffer proved to be a worthy replacement live for John Frusciante. Garbage finally returned with a new album and extensive tour, and Bush kept touring as well (unfortunately with Nickelback for part of the year). The Toadies and Local H released new albums, and the Melvins put on a record breaking touring performing in 51 states in 51 days. Mudhoney released their documentary and finished recording a new album. Tool and Queens of the Stone Age were mostly quiet but will have new albums out next year.

When it comes to GrungeReport.net itself, traffic has continued to go up since we started covering more bands in July, and expanded to more of a ‘Grunge era’ alternative rock news site. We had interviews with Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament, The Smashing Pumpkins’ Nicole Fiorentino, and the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover which were great as well. Our new reporters Mike, Nicole, and Paul have done fantastic jobs as well. Sometime during the first quarter of 2013 we will be changing our name to better represent the bands we now cover. I’m likely going to set up a donation thing to raise some money to help pay for the expansion of the site. I’m not expecting too much from readers, but ANYTHING will help with the amount of money I’m going to need to spend, and there will be some rewards and stuff like that to people who donate. The goal of the site is to have it grow so it can have a voice in the rock community, a site that covers the great bands that are still active and can break in younger bands who carry on that same spirit as well. And I’m not just talking about ‘new Grunge bands,’ I’m talking about bands influenced by Grunge, alternative rock, basically any good rock that carried on that ethos and spirit.

  • Im YUMM

    Cool

  • tyrant

    This year’s Scott Weiland mini-tour was probably the most successful SW tour to date from all of the possible standpoints – performance, setlists, audience reactions, etc, etc…
    While “12 Bar Blues” and “Happy In Galoshes” era tours had their legendary and genius moments of brilliance, they were very close to disaster sometimes.

  • Sitin

    Boy you just couldn’t resist taking your shots at Soundgarden yet again Brett. Gonna keep right on beating that drum… You were disappointed. We get it. MOST of the rest of us weren’t- we loved it. My solid bet is years from now you’re going to love the record after you’re a little older…

  • Tastes Grungey

    I wouldn’t count on a new Tool record in 2013.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ultimatekickback Jake K.

    Could have given the Toadies and Local H more love than one sentence but with that being said, nice read.

  • Raj

    King Animal is a pretty good album, it has a lot of good tracks on it. It might be somewhat safe, but a lot of bands are fearful of alienating their fans. Kurt Cobain was always leery of changing Nirvana’s sound too much.

    Expectations were too high, these guys aren’t in their 20’s anymore, they aren’t going to make another Badmotorfinger. I’m sure they can still move their sounds in different directions.

    I think the Alice in Chains song is great, I don’t think it will be an extension of BGWTB. Hollow is a great track, it sounds like they’ve turned up the volume on Will’s vocals and the dual harmony sounds great.

    STP just needs some time apart, they only now seem to be able to work in spurts. Could still be some issues with Scott, but he sounds like he’s ready to play new music instead of doing a Core anniversary tour and playing old STP hits. We shall see another great STP album down the road.

    It was definitely awesome to see the surviving members of Nirvana on stage with Sir Paul. Cut Me Some Slack is cool tune, it’s a shame Kurt died. I believe the musical landscape would be much different today.

  • versus

    This is very nice look back on the year in music. I agree with your takes on just about every band: KA didn’t have lasting power for me either, though I’m optimistic for the band’s future. Oceania is amazing, Lanegan’s still cool, etc.. I think it’s fitting that Bush toured w/ Nickelback, however, since Bush had the same reputation in the 90s as Nickelback does now (though I think more people disliked Bush back then).

  • Brett Buchanan

    Sitin, this is the first time in an article that I have said that I’m not big on King Animal. Otherwise I have only discussed it in the comments section. Also notice which article I made the headline out of these two end of the year ones. I don’t see the album as being daring or experimental enough to be the type of album that takes awhile to get. It’s basically a mid tempo rock record.

  • Keith

    Anyone remember that band Hum? What ever happened to them? They were great.

  • Tastes Grungey

    Gotta agree with Brett. Not sure if KA isn’t that memorable or I just wore it out the first few weeks it came out. Not to say it’s a bad record, but it is definitely my least favorite from Soundgarden.

    On a sidenote: What’s the best Lanegan record to start with? I haven’t ventured out to his solo work, but I liked Screaming Trees and his stuff with Queens.

  • NickG

    I was happy to see one of my favorite bands, Soundgarden, release new music. The album itself is okay, but I’m more excited about their next album. I wasn’t too impressed with AIC’s Hollow either, and SO wish they would just let Will shine as a vocalist rather than saturating the both of them together in harmony and reverb. I think RHCP needs to try out another producer so they’re next album can feel more fresh sonically, the band certainly has the chemistry to do something truly great again as it appears all of them are on their A-game. And it’s disappointing to see STP kinda drop out of the picture, I wish I knew what gave them the idea that they aren’t valuable in rock music and that no one cares about their back catalogue because they’re a great group. Looking forward to the expansion of the site!

  • Paul

    @Tastes Grungey. It really depends on what you’re into. Lanegan’s first three albums (Winding Sheet, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, Scraps at Midnight) are quiet acoustic albums. Field Songs is mainly acoustic but has more variety. Bubblegum has a mix of hard rock and acoustic songs with different collaborators (PJ Harvey, etc). Blues Funeral is his latest album and has hard rock, blues, disco/synth combined.

    I started Lanegan with The Winding Sheet and went through chronologically. However, his most accessible albums are probably Bubblegum, followed by Field Songs.

  • http://www.myspace.com/electricchildren Ramblin Eddie

    @ Tastes Grungey

    Three essential Lanegan solo albums:
    1) Field Songs
    2) the Winding Sheet
    3) bubblegum

    His 3 albums with Isobel Campbell are classics

  • spifftastic sex

    King Animal was the worst album of the year.

  • unglue

    I’m so unhappy everytime I heard of the news of STP. insetead, King Animal news is interesting for me. and Nirvana’s reunion for one time.

  • Iso

    spifftastic sex ranks as the worst head of the year.

  • GenXLady

    Good, interesting commentary, Brett. Sounds like you’ve got some cool stuff in store for 2013…

  • ThemBoners

    I agree with almost everything, except that AIC Hollow is a great song, in my opinion.