Top Ten Mediocre Post-Grunge / Alternative Bands
s our upcoming installment of I Love 1995 will attest, post-grunge (or mid-90s alternative, whatever) is some of the most reviled shit on earth. Most critics, however, seem to mark the suicide of Kurt Cobain as the death of worthwhile modern rock, and have since viewed nearly every trend to briefly control the airwaves, whether it be pop-punk, emo, nu-metal, ska, or post-grunge, with skepticism and disdain. I don’t believe that any of these sub-genres are totally dismissable—what are the chances that out of an entire movement, there wouldn’t be a single worthwhile single?—and this is especially true with post-grunge, the first music I could ever really call my own. For this reason perhaps it’s hard for me to be objective about Spacehog or the Toadies, but then again, maybe it’s everyone else, with their force-fed fear of modern rock, that lacks true objectivity. In any event, here is my list of the top-ten mediocre post-grunge/alternative bands—they were derivative, yes, and ultimately spelled doom for anyone still believing “our music won,” but damned if they didn’t write some great songs.
A very unique case in the saga of post-grunge—Silverchair started out as your typical 2nd-rate Pearl Jam hacks in the mid-90s before fading away from the public consciousness with a flop album in 1997. But somewhere along the line, pretty boy lead singer Daniel Johns started fancying himself the Brian Wilson of post-grunge, and started making anthemic, orchestral teen anthems, one of which (“Ana’s Song (Open Fire)”) briefly returned them to public adoration. Supposedly he even collaborated with Van Dyke Parks on their new album, I should really check that out.
Post-Grunge Classic: “Tomorrow”
Oooh, I can already feel the hate for this one. Maybe one of the five bands left on the planet that has yet to have a single good word ever written about them by anyone. True, they are the obvious progenitors to evil bands of today like Creed and Nickelback, if not all bad nu-metal, but you know, I liked a couple of their songs pretty good. Enjoyable stuff. And that’s what this list is about. So sing with me: “now BAY-YA-YA-BAY! Oh, DID I MEAN TO TREAT YOU OH SO BAD??”
Post-Grunge Classic: “Far Behind”
I suppose not technically post-grunge—Filter were sort of industrial (industrial as in derivative of Gravity Kills, which basically barely even registers) but they were in the right period in the right time with an awesome single, so they make the list. Filter also became the most unexpected two-hit wonder in history with 1999’s pop-crossover “Take a Picture,” but that’s another story.
Post-Grunge Classic: “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
7. Better Than Ezra
This was when post-grunge started to really cease to contain any grunge in them at all—Semisonic and Fastball were only a couple steps away. But still, these guys were great—they wrote a bunch of urgent, instantly nostalgic love songs that still sound quite fine today. So their Empire Records credentials can be forgiven.
Post-Grunge Classic: “Good”
6. Soul Asylum
Yeah, technically these guys were pre-grunge in addition to post-grunge, but since barely anyone cared about them until “Runaway Train” made them one of the most popular bands on the planet, they count. That song’s great, but it’s only one of Soul Asylum’s classics. Basically, the band knew how to write a fabulously over-serious chorus, which was the key to pretty much every one of their songs. Tell me you never found yourself strangely moved by “I’m waiting by the phone/I’m waiting for you to call me up and tell me I’m not alone.”
Post-Grunge Classic: “Somebody to Shove”
I’m actually starting to hear some nice words said about these guys here and there, and it’s about damn time. Killer songs with great production and amazing guitar hooks—what’s not to like? I might even have to get Rotting Piñata one of these days.
Post-Grunge Classic: “Molly (16 Candles)”
4. Stone-Temple Pilots
Because they were the first (and arguably the biggest) of the post-grunge bands, they caught a lot of flak from critics that they simply didn’t deserve—lyrics were kind of dumb, but everything else was perfectly in place—great riffs, production, videos—the whole bit. They were just a great singles band, and one of the most overdue bands on this list for a re-evaluation. Stephen Thomas Erlewine agrees, apparently.
Post-Grunge Classic: “Interstate Love Song”
Yes, these guys fell off pretty fast. Razorblade Suitcase was a disappointment to everyone, producing some lousy singles and what is arguably the worst music video ever made (anyone remember “Greedy Fly”?) and they have yet to regain the momentum they had in 1995. But come on: “Comedown”. “Everything Zen”. “Machinehead”. And most of all, “Glycerine”. Lyrics like “we live in a wheel / where everyone steals / and when we rise / it’s like strawberry fields” aren’t going to hold up well to analysis, but for me, that song is the anthem of the post-grunge era.
Post-Grunge Classic: “Glycerine”
2. Goo Goo Dolls
Like Soul Asylum, Goo Goo Dolls existed way before Nirvana broke, but barely anyone cared, so whatever. As far as I care, their existence started with A Boy Named Goo and extended to some of the most emotionally powerful singles of the decade before petering out at the beginning of the 00s. One listen to “Name,” “Naked,” or “Iris,” and I’ll be singing at the top of my lungs, a total emotional wreck. They may or may not have earned this place in my heart, but they’ll have it for all-time.
Post-Grunge Classic: “Name”
1. Gin Blossoms
Though these guys don’t necessarily come from grunge’s lineage—certainly the power-pop of “Allison Road” and “Til I Hear it From You” could have happened decades earlier—they’d deserve this #1 if only for their obvious post-grunge masterpiece, “Hey Jealousy,” which is simply one of the greatest songs of the modern rock era. Unlike most of the other bands on the list who I will readily admit don’t necessary carry the emotional weight I attach to them, anybody who wants to identify a single flaw in this song has to get through me first. There aren’t any—almost every line is a classic, the chorus sounding like lead singer Doug Hopkins is singing the most important thing he has ever said to anyone, the riffs are golden and perfect, and the end is absolutely devestating. Even the title is great. This is one of rock’s great glory shots, and it deservedly brought the Gin Blossoms to post-grunge fame, along with further classics “Found Out About You,” “Lost Horizons” and “Follow You Down”. And still no one understands why New Miserable Experience was worthy of a two-disc deluxe edition re-issue. The fools.
Post-Grunge Classic: “Hey Jealousy”