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THE GRUNGE MATCH - Conclusion

This has certainly been a heck of a thing.

Writing this started out as a labor of love to a subgenre of rock and roll that came along at the perfect time for me (both when I was entering middle school in the bottom 5 of the popularity pecking order and when I started buying albums at the impressionable age of 11).  It obviously took a long time to put together: August 29th, 2016 is when I began planning, May 24th is when I wrote the last entry, the wee hours of August 1st, 2017 is when I finished proofreading and uploading the entries to the blog with video links, and here I am typing these words on August 15th.

The elephant in the room is this genre seems to be built on death.  Three of the four frontmen of these bands are dead, one of which occurred during the run of this series.  (Shouts to Alice In Chains bassist Mike Starr as well.  R.I.P.)  On top of that, Pearl Jam only exists because the lead singer of Mother Love Bone died, causing that band to break up.  If you go down the nex…

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 127

Match 127:

Alice N' Chains "Lip Lock Rock" (1987)
Nirvana "Seasons In The Sun" (1993)
Pearl Jam "Future Days" (2013)
Soundgarden "A Splice Of Space Jam" (1996)

In 1984, a band called Sleze auditioned a new singer named Layne Elmer.  Elmer would later change his name to Staley, but you've probably already figured that out.  What you probably didn't know is the history of the band.  Johnny Barcolas played guitar, James Bergstrom played drums, and later members Nick Pollock and Jim Sheppard would join on guitar and bass respectively, but not necessarily concurrently.  (This is further complicated because Barcolas left, then rejoined as a bass player at one point.)

The band decided in 1986 to rename themselves Alice N' Chains.  (I'm not kidding.)  They recorded two demos, with the lineup of Layne Staley on vocals, Nick Pollock on guitar, Johnny Barcolas on bass and James Bergstrom on drums.  This demo is where today's song comes …

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 126

Match 126:

Alice In Chains "Choke" (2013)
Nirvana "Talk To Me" (1992)
Pearl Jam "Yellow Moon" (2013)
Soundgarden "Night Surf" (1993)

With "Choke", "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" is finally put out of its misery, and not a moment too soon.  If you mashed up "Choke" and "Hung On A Hook", you really would have "Down In A Hole" except not.  MAN this is some lazy shit.

"Talk To Me" is an original song by Nirvana, but the only recording of it that seems to exist is a bootleg camcorder version from a concert in 1992.  It's a lot more poppy than anything they were working on for "In Utero", but it's definitely good, walking that line of early 60's pop rock and 90's cuthroat harshness.  It would have been in the pantheon of Nirvana songs we're sick of if they'd ever bothered to issue it as a single (or, you know, record it at all).

No, "Yellow Moon" isn…

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 125

Match 125:

Alice In Chains "Hung On A Hook" (2013)
Nirvana "Territorial Pissings" (Live '91)
Pearl Jam "Sleeping By Myself" (2013)
Soundgarden "Twin Tower" (1988?)

Holy SHIT that lead is trying and failing to be "Down In A Hole".  The whole song feels like it wants to be "Down In A Hole" part two.  At least they let William DuVall sing a clear lead on this one.  It's not as bad as the dregs of this album, but it sounds like a lesser version of something Alice In Chains has already done.  (For real, it's almost "The Unforgiven II" up in here.)  The other problem "Hung On A Hook" has (besides not living up to its awesome title) is it's too sleepy to be threatening, even during the bridge where they try to tighten the noose, it doesn't rock nearly hard enough to do what it wants to do.

A shitty bootleg of Nirvana's fastest song from 1991.

Dude, if "Infallible" gave me commercial …

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 124

Match 124:

Alice In Chains "Phantom Limb" (2013)
Nirvana "Sappy" (1993)
Pearl Jam "Let The Records Play" (2013)
Soundgarden "I Don't Care About You" (1992)

Yo, "Phantom Limb"'s riff is a ripoff of something I've heard before in 4/4 instead of the original 3/4 (really wish I could place it), BUT...it's so much better than 90% of "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" that I'll TAKE it!  This one is a heavy bruiser without being a dirge, and after seven full minutes it leaves you wanting more.  In fact, it's among their best with William DuVall.  Now that I look, this was his only writing credit with the band besides "Last Of My Kind".  And that was one of the better joints from the last album.  Let DuVall write more!

This is the song I thought was "Verse, Chorus, Verse", but that was because a) It plays perfectly in a loop; like, if you have it on repeat, the song ends and begins again on beat a…

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 123

Match 123:

Alice In Chains "Scalpel" (2013)
Nirvana "In Bloom" (Sub Pop Version) (1990)
Pearl Jam "Swallowed Whole" (2013)
Soundgarden "I Can't Give You Anything" (1992)

Take the most cheesy, uplifting positivity song Jerry Cantrell had in him for his solo career and make it worse.  That's "Scalpel".

This version of "In Bloom" was done for Sub Pop records in 1990.  It sounds like a demo of the "Nevermind" version, but with sloppier drums and not nearly as well produced.

"Swallowed Whole" is a decent little acoustic rock song.  It doesn't punch above its weight or anything, but it's a contender in it's class.  Other than being solid, it doesn't really have too many other attributes.

Sadly, this isn't a cover of Judy Garland's "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", but it is a Ramones song instead, so there's potential.  Man, the vocals don't even sound like C…

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 122

Match 122:

Alice In Chains "Breath On A Window" (2013)
Nirvana "Big Cheese" (Live '89)
Pearl Jam "Pendulum" (2013)
Soundgarden "Homicidal Suicidal" (1992)

"Breath On A Window", despite a cool title, starts off sounding like a cheap retread of "Lesson Learned" (maybe the sixth best song on "Black Gives Way To Blue") and dies a death from there.

Nirvana as a four piece is a sort of weird proposition, being there's not exactly an intricate tapestry of guitar leads or anything, but in a live setting it makes sense to thicken up the sound.  This is a quality performance of one of their earlier songs (even if it's taken from a camcorder) at a Rhino Records store in 1989.

Man, "Lightning Bolt" does live up to its name.  It starts with a brilliant flash followed by loud thunder, then the echo dies real quick.  "Pendulum" is the kind of song that thinks it can coast by on atmosphere alone, and it …

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 121

Match 121:

Alice In Chains "Low Ceiling" (2013)
Nirvana "Immigrant Song" (Band Rehearsal, 1988)
Pearl Jam "Infallible" (2013)
Soundgarden "Can You See Me?" (1992)

Hmm...how can we get people to like this new album better?  I know!  Let's put that Dave Jerden style gated reverb on the drums!  That'll totally make them nostalgic enough to ignore how milquetoast and boring this "Low Ceiling" song is!  (Ron Howard's voice: It didn't.)

This is kind of fucking great.  It's Nirvana at Kurt's mom's house playing Led Zeppelin, Cobain uses his yell of aggro-anguish (aggrish?) to do the famous call in the song, and the best parts are a) There's one guy in shot sitting against the wall looking bored, and b) They have a strobe light going.  This is the level of adorably ghetto that only bands just starting out can get away with.  (Also helps this isn't the worst cover of "Immigrant Song" either.)

"Infa…

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 120

Match 120:

Alice In Chains "Lab Monkey" (2013)
Nirvana "Do Re Mi" (1994)
Pearl Jam "Lightning Bolt" (2013)
Soundgarden "Touch Me" (1991)

"Lab Monkey" is musically pedestrian, but just grungy enough to stand out, I guess.  The lyrics are its real strength (which for Alice In Chains is a HUGE shock).  The title is literal: the song is from the point of view of a lab monkey, with a chorus from the point of view of the scientists.  For this album, this is high fucking caliber.  For this matchup, it's mildly interesting.

"Do Re Mi" is Kurt Cobain's attempt to write a late 60's pop song a-la The Byrds or The Mamas & The Papas.  The recording is a solo acoustic demo, and you can only kind of tell it's Cobain singing because he's trying to do something with his voice that's more sunny, yet somehow haunting at the same time (which, when listening to "California Dreaming" is about right).  This is surp…

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 119

Match 119:

Alice In Chains "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" (2013)
Nirvana "The Other Improv" (1993)
Pearl Jam "Sirens" (2013)
Soundgarden "Come Together" (1990)

The lyric "The devil put dinosaurs here / Jesus don't like a queer" somehow manages to be cringe-worthy and poignant at the same time.  People actually believe this shit.  This isn't about whether or not you believe in God, it's about whether you believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that the literal embodiment of Christian love and forgiveness would draw the line at gay people.  Unfortunately, it's the only interesting thing about this slog of a song that is, musically, the most fitting title track for this album.  And this is one of the better songs on this disc.  It's all downhill from here, I'm afraid.

Continuing with the theme of painfully slow six minute songs, here's Nirvana with a demo recording from Rio '93 again.  You can't make …

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 118

Match 118:

Alice In Chains "Voices" (2013)
Nirvana "Moist Vagina" (1993)
Pearl Jam "My Father's Son"  (2013)
Soundgarden "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)" (1989)

"Voices" gets off to a great start with a muscular and catchy verse, but the chorus is watered down.  It's not horrible, but it feels like they dulled the edge of the blade and then pulled their punch when hitting you with the flat part of it.  What I'm trying to say with this tortured metaphor is it could have been better if they weren't trying to make it a radio single.  Just beef up the chorus and the bridge a little...just a little...and it gets so much better.  Instead we're left with merely okay.

Kurt Cobain moans the opening lyric of this song in as low a pitch as his voice can muster.  Then the second line is an octave higher.  Then the next is about...half a scale?  (Is that a thing?  I got a D in theory.)  It sounds like this song was a half-…

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 117

Match 117:

Alice In Chains "Stone" (2013)
Nirvana "Milk It" (Live In The Studio) (1993)
Pearl Jam "Mind Your Manners" (2013)
Soundgarden "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey" (1989)

"Stone" has the most bad-ass riff of comeback-era Alice In Chains.  That shit sinks its teeth into the listener hard and because I hadn't heard the song in years, I forgot the relatively melodic elements of the...pre-chorus?  Second half of the verse?  Whatever.  This is the best thing they've done with William DuVall.  The middle section kills, the leads are tasteful, the melodic parts are a nice counterpoint...an all around kick-ass song.  I wish they were all this good.

This is a studio session recording from Brazil, ten months before "In Utero" came out.  It has different lyrics than the album version, other than that, there's nothing to say about it.  It's a less good recording of the album version perfor…