It seems recently that bits and pieces of Kurt Cobain‘s life have slowly been rising to the surface. Artwork by the Nirvana frontman himself has been discovered and is set for auction by his late wife Courtney Love in the near future. Former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson just released a book of prose and poetry entitled Letters To Kurt, including details about Cobain’s life and death, as well as Erlandson’s relationship with Love. In an interview, Erlandson also revealed that, in the months before his death, Cobain had been at work on a solo album, which he hopes might someday be released to the public. “It would have been his White Album, Erlandson says in an interview with Fuse.
Courtney Love speculated in a recent interview (“unprompted,” according to her interviewer) about where her late husband would be today if he’d lived (“I don’t fuckin’ know,” she concluded). Now, Love has managed to burn her last remaining shred of dignity, accusing David Grohl, via Twitter, of inappropriate behavior towards her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. Both Frances and Grohl have of course denied the accusations, with some dismissive words for Love in return. “Unfortunately Courtney is on another hateful Twitter rant,” says Grohl, while Frances says that “Twitter should ban [her] mother.”
In light of what would have been Kurt Cobain’s 45th birthday, how do you think the grunge icon would react to all of this? Do you think his demos are ever going to be released?
Every decade lives twice. Each one seems to get a second shot about twenty years after the fact. The ’50s were hot again in the ’70s (which might be why Happy Days was one of TV’s biggest hits). The ’60s resurfaced in the ’80s (as did tie-dye t-shirts and the British invasion), and Saturday night fever flared up one more time in the ’90s (though that didn’t stop the film 54 from flopping).
We’ve been stuck in the ’80s for a while now, but the ’90s are coming around again. I recently attended a ’90s party at a nightclub in Sydney, Australia, and the dance floor was packed with the retro-obsessed. The beats were technotronic indeed, but thanks to the varied playlist, I remembered that there was so much more to the decade in music than grunge and Europop. (Bell Biv DeVoe‘s “Do Me” and Elastica‘s “Connection” provided particularly pleasing trips down memory lane.) Here are five reasons why the ’90s rocked even harder than you might recall.
1. Sisters with voices ruled. And I’m not just talking about Sisters with Voices (otherwise known as SWV). TLC was arguably the most unique multi-platinum girl group ever, while En Vogue was the most glamorous one since the Supremes. Solo stars like Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan joined the hit parade, and Whitney Houston could still raise the roof”and she did with the soundtrack for The Bodyguard. Aside from Adele and Beyoncé (when she’s not huffing, puffing and trying way too hard to bring the house down), none of today’s female hitmakers can match the fierce ruling divas of the ’90s for sheer vocal power.
2. Rock & roll was king. Grunge may have been a relatively short-lived turning point, but for a moment there, the music was actually more important than the marketing. Thanks to bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Radiohead (all of whose platinum success seemed more accidental than calculated), Britpop (Blur vs. Oasis was so much better than Kings of Leon vs. Glee or the lead singers of Coldplay and Muse being married to Hollywood), and the grrrl power of female and female-driven acts like Bjí¶rk, P.J. Harvey, Alanis Morrisette, Hole, Belly, the Breeders and L7, rock and alternative music was both popular and interesting.
3. Stars were born, not manufactured on television and YouTube. This year, Rebecca Black went viral on YouTube and became a “star” without ever actually having a hit. (“Friday” topped out on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 58, 24 notches lower than the Glee remake.) And nothing against American Idol” it’s given us some bona fide, hit-making talents (Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert, among them)”but it’s also gave us William Hung! When music stars are created instantly (in Hung’s case, due to an extreme lack of talent) or groomed in front of our very eyes, pop stardom starts to lose its mystique. Clarkson’s fame will never seem as hard-won as Celine Dion‘s; Carrie Underwood will never be as good a story as Shania Twain; and I’d trade soulful, one-hit wonders like Dionne Farris and Des’ree for Fantasia every day of the week. At least we never had to watch them almost self-destruct in public. Which brings us to…
4. Less was more. Before Twitter, YouTube and tabloid media overload, pop stars always left us wanting more. Now they reveal every thought and all of the minutiae of their lives via endless Twitter updates. (Sean Kingston recently tweeted a photo of himself surrounded by medical equipment while recovering from a jet-ski accident in Miami that nearly cost him his life. Too much?) The tabloids give us 24/7 access, showing them doing just about everything except going to the bathroom (including having sex!). And we can catch them whenever we want to on YouTube (and make them seem more popular than they actually are by continuously pressing play in order to increase their “views”) and watch them falling and bombing onstage, tangling with the paparazzi, and getting prickly with TV interviewers before doffing their shirts and hitting the streets of New York City.
Lauryn Hill was one of the biggest stars of the late ’90s yet she always managed to sidestep overexposure. Where is she now? God only knows (though it recently was revealed that she’s pregnant with her sixth child). If only Amy Winehouse, her critically acclaimed late-’00s equivalent, had been able to fall apart in the privacy of her own home.
5. Courtney Love was far more daring than Lady Gaga. I’ll admit it: I miss Courtney Love. Whatever you thought about her music, the lead singer of Hole was never boring. Take away Lady Gaga’s freaky-creepy visuals, though, and all you’re left with is a talented but over-earnest, politically correct pop star. She’s says all the right things, but listen closely”none of it is even slightly provocative. Her carefully considered soundbites are intended to be up with underdogs and offensive to no one. Even her pro-gay agenda is as respectful as possible to the political right. Just once, I’d like to see Gaga get naked and sexy (for someone who wears so little clothing, she’s remarkably, and safely, asexual), or totally lose it, throwing good intentions out the window and engaging in a public bitchfest. Isn’t the moral majority asking for it?
20 Essential ’90s Albums
Annie Lennox – Diva
Babyface – For the Cool in You
Belly – Star
Bjí¶rk – Post
The Cardigans – Gran Turismo
Dolly Parton – The Grass Is Blue
Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach – Painted from Memory
John Anderson – Seminole Wind
Kate Bush – The Red Shoes
k.d. lange – Ingenue
Mary J. Blige – My Life
Morrissey – Vauxhaull and I (or Your Arsenal)
Neil Young – Harvest Moon
Neneh Cherry – Homebrew
Portishead – Dummy
Radiohead – The Bends
R.E.M. – Automatic for the People (or Out of Time or New Adventures in Hi-Fi)
Sarah McLachlan – Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Suede – Coming Up
With Shia LeBouf, explosions, robots and more explosions, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is guaranteed to be a huge summer blockbuster. But even though we’re pumped for the latest installment in the Transformers franchise”and believe us, we are”we’re almost more intrigued by the soundtrack, which features the first single from Paramore since Josh and Zac Farro left the group in December.
For those who have forgotten (or never cared in the first place), the Farro brothers quit Paramore amid a swirl of controversy at the end of 2010, calling the band a sham, and frontwoman Hayley Williams a manufactured product of a major label. (You can read their full statement on Josh’s blog.) It might seem tough to recover from the kind of bad publicity the Farros saddled the band with, but their new single “Monster” sounds just as raw and Paramore-esque as any of their material when the brothers were still members, and Williams just told BBC Radio 1 that they plan to release a new album in early 2012.
Of course, Paramore are far from the first band to make a triumphant return after a rocky lineup change. Remember a little album called Back in Black? AC/DC made what is to this day the second highest-selling album of all time, and they did it after the untimely death of frontman Bon Scott. Can you even imagine a world without Hells Bells or You Shook Me All Night Long? Scott may have appeared on six AC/DC releases before Back in Black, but his replacement Brian Johnson helped create what is arguably the most iconic record from the Australian rockers. And they’re not the only classic band that’s had to survive personnel messes” Guns and Roses have had an almost constantly rotating lineup since 1985, and Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd have had more than 20 different lineups since 1964. Courtney Love is no stranger to change; since 1989 she’s remained the only consistent staple of Hole while drummers and bassists have come and gone. Even longtime lead guitarist Eric Erlandson, who was with the group for their first 10 years, declined to be a part of their 2009 reunion and actually tried to keep Love from using the Hole name.
Sometimes bands can do more than just survive a lineup change, using a bit of new blood to actually improve. Take Sid Vicious”the infamous bassist’s name is synonymous with the Sex Pistols despite the fact that he wasn’t even one of the original members of the band. Of course, there are times when a change in the lineup can bring… well, let’s just say “mixed results.” Frontman Michael Hutchence of the Australian rock group INXS died in 1997, and in 2005 his band embarked on a search for a new lead singer on the TV show Rock Star: INXS. But despite the program’s popularity both of the albums recorded with new singer J.D. Fortune earned reviews that were mediocre at best, and many INXS fans thought the show dishonored Hutchence’s memory. (Two Australian radio hosts called the program “broadband urination on Michael Hutchence’s grave.” Ouch.)
And then there are the occasions when a member’s loss is just too great for the group to overcome. Led Zepellin decided to disband in 1980 following the death of legendary drummer John Bonham, despite a surge of rumors that the rockers were replacing him. In a statement, the group said, “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.” Nirvana made the same decision after Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994. While former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl has proven to be an outstanding vocalist for the Foo Fighters, replacing a singer who has been hailed as the voice of a generation would have been a tall order.
But it seems like more and more often, bands will lose a member or two and decide to forge ahead. Florida-based punks Against Me! are selling out shows along their current summer tour, even though their lineup looks nothing like the one that started putting out cassette demos in ’97. Several longtime members of Taking Back Sunday have parted ways with the band over the years, yet their self-titled album”out June 28”is one of the most highly anticipated rock releases of the year. In fact, bands like U2, Radiohead or Green Day that have had a consistent lineup through their career are the exception rather than the rule these days. But judging from the work some of these bands have done after weathering massive lineup changes, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
You can try, but you probably can’t put an accurate label on Foxy Shazam. Their eccentric and eclectic mix of punk, soul and straight up rock ‘n’ roll has earned the band critical praise and performances at Lollapollooza, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Reading & Leeds. Following a summer tour with Hole and the release of their smash self-titled album, the band recently finished a two-month cross-country stint with Free Energy and is preparing for another huge year in 2011.
One might expect that outrageously energetic 24-year-old frontman Eric Nally lives an equally wild life. On the contrary”offstage, he is a soft-spoken, friendly father of two. We had the pleasure of speaking with Eric about touring memories, writing with Meat Loaf, modern day rock stars and what it’s like to lead a double life.
OS: You’ve just finished your fall tour with Free Energy. How were the shows and what were some of your favorite moments from the tour?
EN: We went to the UK for a week in between this tour and that was awesome. I loved that because we sold out London for the first time. It was big for me because we’re from Cincinnati, Ohio and it’s just really far from home. To sell a place out so far away is an awesome feeling; to bring your music to a different country and do that. I liked playing Montreal because Hollerado, the band that’s opening on this tour, is from there. All their crowd was out and it was just really fun.
OS: Foxy Shazam is well known for its incredible, off-the-wall performances. What inspires the band to become so theatrical on stage?
EN: I usually tell people, “that’s just the way we were born!” It’s just natural to us. We don’t have to do any preparation or any pre-show rituals to summon these things on stage, they just come out naturally. It’s just the way we came out of our moms, I guess. When I’m on stage, I’m an entertainer…when I’m off stage, I’m a spectator. So I just kind of sit back and watch and soak everything in. When I go on stage, I let it all out.
OS: You’ve stated that Foxy Shazam are “not concerned with what category it falls into.” Do you often find that people are trying to fit you into a genre or compare you to other bands because they’re not sure where to place you?
EN: Yeah, that happens all the time. Anybody I ever meet that’s an artist…everybody wants to be themselves. But really, in the way that everything works now, it’s just what people have to do. I accept that. Everything needs to be compared to something else just so you can wrap your head around it easier, I guess. Either way, I don’t mind it, but people do try to compare or group us into a category. Every time it’s different, so it’s cool.
OS: You’ve said that you would never want to make the same record again and the evolution of the band’s music has certainly reflected that. How do you see Foxy Shazam’s music evolving in the future?
EN: I don’t know…every record we make kind of stands for where I am at that moment. I’d have to kind of be in the moment to understand, but that’s exciting for me. I really like not knowing. It’s kind of cool to not think about it and not prepare.
OS: In the song “Wannabe Angel” from your self-titled record, you sing, “For you I wear this mask, at home I take it off.” Is it difficult to transition between your life as a rock star and your life as a dad and husband?
EN: Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say with that. I feel like I’m a completely different person when I’m on stage. It’s kind of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type thing and that’s awesome to me. It’s like how actors do…entertainers, really. It’s just who I am. Being a dad compared to being a professional touring musician…it’s just the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I feel so different when I’m not on stage.
OS: Earlier this year, you helped write some songs for Meat Loaf’s album Hang Cool Teddy Bear. What was your role in the writing process? Would you be interested in writing for other artists again?
EN: Absolutely! I love being associated with people that have rich history in music and Meat Loaf is obviously one of those people. I just co-wrote two songs with Justin Hawkins who used to be in The Darkness”he’s one of my best friends now. It was just awesome. We went there together and we wrote together and sat with Meat Loaf. It was great, I made a lot of good friends through that whole experience. A lot of the other writers that were there were a lot older and have done stuff like that before. That was something that I couldn’t believe I was experiencing so early in my career.
OS: Are there any artists in particular that you’d like to write for?
EN: I would love to, whether it’s writing or whatever, work with Cee-Lo Green sometime. I think he has the best voice in music right now. I think it’s just awesome, it hits me in the right spot. It’s the perfect voice for me. I’d love to work with him someday.
OS: Foxy Shazam was one of the first bands featured on ChatRoulette for album promotion, but you aren’t a huge proponent of bands using social media. Can you share your thoughts on that?
EN: I feel like the rock star is kind of a dying breed, we’re becoming extinct. You don’t seem them very much anymore. I think one of the most important things about what that persona was, was that you didn’t know them. It was almost like a mythical creature. People would gather backstage for hours just to catch a glimpse…and you don’t get that anymore. People know everything that everybody does because of Twitter and Facebook and they’re updating constantly. Everybody’s so human now, I guess, which is fine. That’s how it’s always been, everybody’s just a person. But I think there was this certain mysteriousness about the artist and that’s not really around anymore. So I kind of try to keep that going. I think it’s important to have people make their own stories about you rather than know the hard facts because chances are the hard facts are extremely boring (laughs).
OS: Foxy Shazam has recently announced some big touring plans for 2011. Can you tell us about the tours and festivals you’ll be playing next year?
EN: In January, we have a tour with Circa Survive. That will be awesome because I’ve heard their new record is great. I haven’t heard it but I’m really anxious to! I’ve heard a lot about that band and I know a lot of people who know them and they say they’re great guys and that’s really important to me, to share a tour with people that are nice. I’m really excited about that one, I think it will be awesome. Then we go to Australia [for the Soundwave Festival] in February and I’m really looking forward to it. I just love taking my music to different countries. I’ve never been to Australia, so it will be awesome. We have a bunch of days off in between the shows there so I’m going to do a lot of sight-seeing.
Check out this live video of Foxy Shazam performing “The Rocketeer” and don’t miss them on their upcoming tour dates, listed below!
Dec 16 Detroit, MI – Shelter
Dec 17 DeKalb, IL – House Cafe w/Victorian Halls & ‘Richardson’ Richardson
Dec 18 Minneapolis, MN – Popsickle Festival w/Motion City Soundtrack, Minus The Bear & more!
Dec 19 Kalamazoo, MI – The Strutt w/Their Teeth Will Be of Lions
Jan 14 Richmond, VA “ The National w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 15 Charlotte, NC “ Amos Southend w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 16 Ashville, NC “ Orange Peel w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 18 St. Louis, MO “ Pop’s w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 19 Omaha, NE “ The Slowdown w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 20 Des Moines, IA “ People’s Court w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 21 Grand Rapids, MO “ Orbit Room w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 22 Columbus, OH “ Newport Music Hall w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 24 Cincinnati, OH “ Bogarts w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 26 Baltimore, MD “ Rams Head Live w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 28 Rochester, NY “ Water Street Music Hall w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 29 Albany, NY “ Northern Lights w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 30 Allentown, PA “ Crocodile Rock w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Feb 26 Brisbane, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
Feb 27 Sydney, AU- Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 4 Melbourne, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 5 Adelaide, AU- Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 7 Perth, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!