10
Jan 13

STILTSKIN – “Inside”

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#707, 14th May 1994

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Pop’s triumph is when a private language turns out to have been public all along. When the way you express yourself – visual, lyrical, physical, vocal – becomes something hundreds of thousands understand, like a word that was somehow always waiting to be said. This was Nirvana’s triumph too, and part of Kurt Cobain’s doom. His scraping, negating, self-scouring howls and sneers turned out to be a Rosetta Stone, a way for his fans to start making sense of themselves.

But the language he’d helped discover was too powerful – it went too far for him, made him fans he hated, and then rippled out still further, beyond Nirvana and Seattle. “Grunge” mutated quickly, from music to catch-all generational tag – I bought a lumberjack shirt from a British chainstore sometime in 1992, not really understanding why. It was very comfortable. I would never have had the nerve to buy Levis, though. They were for the fashionable, not the misfits.

As grunge spread, and labels moved past their initial panicky gambles, the ideological booby-traps Cobain set in his music (for himself as much as anyone) were quickly cleared away. No more self-questioning, no more gender politics, no more playing rock like you hated rock. What emerged was a brute, very male sound: a glowering take on hard rock – more commercially burnished than grunge but just as sullen.

Utterly charmless to my ears, but here’s the thing about pop’s new-language moments: the people who come in their wake are copyists but also largely sincere. The legion of post-Elvis clones were fulfilling commercial imperatives but, I bet, their own urges too. Which makes the curious affair of Stiltskin – grunge’s great mocking cameo on Popular’s stage – all the more remarkable.

This record seems to be a case where the “manufactured” label – and all its tiresome baggage – is completely deserved. Writer Peter Lawlor put the track together specifically for the Levi’s ad “Creek” (old-timey, women, trousers, bathing hunk, twist ending – it’s a great commercial, I admit). He needed a singer and found Ray Wilson – later Phil Collins’ replacement in Genesis, closing some kind of circle of grudgeful blokiness. It’s Ray’s clench-arsed voice you hear being “broken minded” on “Inside”, but every other instrument is Lawlor.

The result is a spectacularly brazen jacking of grunge tropes, ribboned and bowed in a preposterous choral intro. Guitars thresh, drums thud, quiets loud, Ray’s butt flexes. Midway through there’s a tiny break where the bombast stops and a tres Novoselic bass lick pokes in – just a little memory trigger, a brand reminder: KIDS do you remember GRUNGE it made you buy CLOTHES. Cobain’s body was found in his garage a couple of weeks before “Inside” was released, the kind of sad coincidence that – if you were as serious as Ray Wilson, or grunge – might make you reframe song as insult.

And the lyrics – my God! Pick your favourite – “Seam in a fusion mine / Like a nursing rhyme / Fat man starts to fall” – nursing rhyme, not nursery rhyme, you’ll note, and perhaps feel unreasonably cross at. “Ring out in a bruised postcard / In a shooting yard”. Actually I think the best bit might be “strong words in a ganja sky”. It’s a cataract of nonsense – somewhere, Simon Le Bon sucks air through his teeth in awed admiration.

But look on songmeanings, YouTube, tumblr – you’ll see “Inside” quoted sincerely, cited for its “meaningful lyrics”. Act serious enough, and with enough intensity, and you become serious – no matter how debased your origins. And anyway, the advert teaches you how to appreciate “Inside” – ride the crescendo and grin – and for most of its buyers that’s all you needed.

I never liked grunge, I never even listened to Nevermind until twenty years later. What I remember was how it fitted into a world and an attitude I caught a flavour of, even in Britain. Angry, mistrustful, painstakingly suspicious of authority and commerce but reflexively against turning those feelings into a ‘movement’. “Generation X” was diagnosed with apathy – on the ground it felt more like paralysis: all stances and ideas riddled with their opposites. Nirvana’s records found a language for that. But this gross, shameless, blackly hilarious record is speaking that language too.

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Comments

  1. 1
    flahr on 10 Jan 2013 #

    It’s unusual for you to be quite as concerned with sincerity & authenticity as you seem to be in this review. Possibly* you feel it matters more for a ‘fake’ grunge record than it does for a ‘fake’ dance record – a dance record that’s shamelessly tooled for mass appeal and hits every genre convention still results in you dancing to it and is therefore on some level a success, whereas grunge is a genre more rooted in sentiment and personal feeling and not really going for mass appeal so a grunge record manufactured in that way feels like a bit of a con.

    I had just turned one when this came out, and while I’d describe myself as fond of grunge now (from what little I’m aware of and with history largely having filtered out the true dross) I of course had no conception of it at the time, either as music or as movement; the obviously ‘grubby’ origins of this song don’t (and can’t) really make a difference to me in that way. Perhaps if I felt there was any meaning it was attempting to convey I might find it more damaging, but as you point out yourself the lyrics are entirely devoid of meaning already. What “Inside” is – at least in the sense I like it for – is entirely obsessed with its own sound, the rock equivalent of a Mariah record where she might be singing sad lyrics with a big melismatic grin but it doesn’t matter because the words are entirely a vehicle for her style. So I like “Inside”, because it’s so layered, because that Nirvana-rip-off bassline sounds so great, because of the church organ in the verses, because of the “wucca wucca” distortion after the second line of the choruses, because of its incredibly basic solo… because even if this is an entirely cynical** record, and an entirely meaningless one, its confidence that it sounds good means that it sounds good, and that, I think, is enough for me. [7]

    Less importantly: isn’t it “Ganges sky”? Although debating the exact lyrics of this song seems more pointless than with most.

    *this ‘possibly’ is a bit of a sham really: I’m pretty sure the statement that follows it is merely a rephrasing of what you’re getting across in the review, but if I’ve read it wrong I think it would be a bit rude to say what you feel as if I know it better than you do

    **blah blah cynical is an entirely meaningless term when applied to a record blah blah

  2. 2
    Kay on 10 Jan 2013 #

    It’d be lovely to hear an analysis of grunge with a sincere effort at categorizing the movement beyond the overused comparison to Nirvana jag. Is the article about Nirvana? Were they the only big band? Neither of the above. People criticized, say, Pearl Jam as much as Nirvana. Alice in Chains got bad press. Hell, other people even died, all with their own share of MTV hits. The main point I have to make is: The ‘bigger picture’ is fine—just don’t be cliché. Referencing everything to Cobain has been…pardon the pun…done to death.

  3. 3
    Tom on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #1 – You’re right, I don’t care about sincerity except inasmuch as I care about the ground rules genres seem to set themselves (or their audience tend to set for them) – so as ‘danceability’ seems a good thing to think about for a dance record so ‘sincerity’ seems a good thing to think about here. But I’m not giving the record a 3 because it’s insincere – I’m giving it a 3 mostly because I hate the style: sincere bands like the ones Kay mentions would do as poorly or worse :)

    #2 – Point taken, it’s a tale told too often. But this isnt really about grunge, it’s about the circumstances in which grunge became the lingua franca of a part of 90s youth to the extent that an advertising agency might specially commission something like “Inside”. And like it or not Alice In Chains or Screaming Trees or whoever are not the motors of that story.

  4. 4
    flahr on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #3 – I imagine the sincerity but-it-doesn’t-matter! but-Cobain-says-it-matters! but-do-the-Cobain-copyists-say-it-does? thing is a lot more interesting to write/read a review about than ‘well, here’s a bag of grunge tropes’ :)

  5. 5
    Tim Byron on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I don’t ever recall hearing ‘Inside’ at the time – it apparently got to #40 in the charts in Australia, but I don’t think we got that particular Levi’s ad, and didn’t hear the song. But a couple of years later, as a big Smashing Pumpkins fan who discovered them circa Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, I read a bunch of interviews where Billy Corgan was really angry indeed at ‘Inside’:

    “Bands who are basically making a simplified Smashing Pumpkins sound are now having hits in England and America. There’s the famous Stiltskin story where Levi’s approached us to do a commercial and when we turned it down, they hired a band to imitate ‘Today’ and it was a hit. What are you supposed to do? Imitate yourself. We just shrug our shoulders.” (from Juice Magazine, 1996)

    I don’t think I actually heard ‘Inside’ until 4-5 years ago, looking at it on YouTube. It wasn’t *quite* as much like ‘Today’ as I was expecting! (Musically the sound of the mix of instruments and the guitar distortion is very Smashing Pumpkins, rather than Nirvana-ish stuff, but the lead singer is all hurrrr instead of Corgan’s whine). 1990s pop-grunge is a nostalgic semi-guilty pleasure of mine; once I finally listened, I was sort of expecting I’d like ‘Inside’ much more than I actually liked it. The melody is particularly unmemorable, isn’t it?

  6. 6
    Sabina on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Haha, oh *this* song — I’d never heard it before you guys started going ballistic at the party. :P But then, I also never listened to Nevermind til 10 years after the fact.

  7. 7
    flahr on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #5 – Kutner & Leigh claims that Billy Corgan started some gigs in the weeks after this was released with “Hi, we’re Stiltskin…”, which seems the sort of authentically petty gesture that marks True Grunge.

  8. 8
    Chelovek na lune on 10 Jan 2013 #

    A masterful review of a only vaguely tolerable song by a group of substandard pub-rockers who momentarily (and yes, cynically) hit the big time.

    Not won over even by “authentic” grunge any more today than I was as a teenager, then. The in-your-face nihilism and posturing – and its sheer overwhelming base essence of intense self-pitying narcissism – that went with a lot of it….in retrospect…always lent itself to adoption by advertisers/those pushing a particular type of style, not universal in appeal but restricted by both age and class. Maybe they sometimes meant it, man, but it might have better if they didn’t.: which is almost a point in favour of this number with its clipped lyrics and gratuitous incidental flourishes.

    Robert Forster, in his (later,and really damn good) song about Patti Smith, “When She Sang About Angels” , noted archly

    “When she sang about a boy
    Kurt Cobain
    I thought what a shame it wasn’t about
    Tom Verlaine”

    Indeed.

  9. 9
    punctum on 10 Jan 2013 #

    John Peel’s Friday night show had just ended; it was time for the Radio 1 midnight news bulletin; we were at home in Oxford, up and awake, when we heard what had happened. Verging on the thirtysomething border as we were, I cannot say that we were particularly surprised by the news – after all, it had only been a matter of weeks since he had attempted to OD in Rome – and rather we shook our heads in mutual sadness.

    Had we been ten or fifteen years younger our reaction would of course have been much more naked; we couldn’t forget the numbness we’d felt when we read about Ian Curtis and how that seemed to coat the entire summer of 1980 in sheets of grey. Had we still been of that age we would have wept openly, as millions did, against the backdrop of an elderly media which didn’t quite understand all the fuss, had in effect been caught out; that weekend the Guardian’s obituary column gave him substantially less space than Dan Hartman and Lee Brilleaux.

    And I think of the words of Ian McCulloch, not long afterwards, a man to whom rapture and awe are hard won, describing how he felt that he looked like Jesus, that he was the real thing, an unutterably beautiful creature, someone for whom the world wasn’t quite good enough. When considering the event now the words of that Guess Who song come back strongly: “I’d rather be in hell than be a wealthy man this morning.” He had money in the bank, a wife and a young daughter, and all of it was still not enough, could not begin to compensate for the fatal treachery he believed himself to have wreaked on the music he loved, breathed, worshipped, the music which he helped to mass popularity far more than anyone else, the music on which the major record companies promptly jumped and sanitised into the clean arena of bad impersonations. Why, he pondered in that last note, couldn’t he be like Freddie Mercury, a natural showman who could simply go out onto a stage, take total command of the arena and thoroughly enjoy himself and the love he radiated out into his audience and which they duly radiated back?

    He felt a traitor, he felt that he’d let everybody down, sold everyone else out. As with the near-concomitant passings of Bill Hicks and River Phoenix, his death seemed to fill the world with reservoirs of self-directed shame; the astonishment of those cynics who finally and too late realised that he really meant it. He was too hurt to see himself as any kind of a martyr.

    His death coloured most of the important American rock records of 1994; most obviously on the MTV Unplugged In New York album, routinely received as his last words to the world. There remains something of a suspicion that the Unplugged exercise was a means to clean him up, to explain him to nascent Fifty Quid Man, to make him somehow presentable, more secure in the umbilical cord of Rock History. But in the performance he is never at rest, either audibly or visually; the last will and testament analogy comes from the sense that he is quietly tidying up his desk drawers before leaving, revealing his history of “The Man Who Sold The World,” the Vaselines and the Meat Puppets (complete with the actual Meat Puppets themselves guesting) who made him want to do anything in the first place, before slamming down the shutters with that horrifyingly, wretched, ahuman scream on “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” to signify that he will shiver no more. Then there was Hole’s Live Through This, recorded and named before his death but which could hardly be perceived as anything other than a post-post mortem wail of intangible loneliness; the explicit tributes paid by Neil Young on the title track of Sleeps With Angels and by would-have-been collaborator Michael Stipe on “Let Me In,” the only ray of paradoxical passion amidst the otherwise dark treads of R.E.M.’s Monster, and an aura of iron vulnerability which fed through indie (Sebadoh’s Bakesale) and mainstream (Vitalogy, Pearl Jam’s most concentrated and urgent-sounding album) rock alike. And there was Sinead, quietly singing “All Apologies” on her Universal Mother album as a gently wracked lullaby. Even Nick Hornby, who in that year’s High Fidelity drew a line in his musical sand at 1993, would go on in his later novel About A Boy to produce an untidy but brave attempt to understand why people young enough to be his son or daughter, out in the Home Counties golf suburbs of compliant nowhere, would love and mourn such a spirit so radiantly and ardently.

    Some people still feel that rock, full stop, has not yet recovered or really moved on; for tangible honesty and naked emotion, how could anyone hope to top what he ended up doing? I have placed an especial emphasis on his death here because “Inside” demonstrates one very clear reason why he felt that he might not have any further truck with this world. He looked around and saw the music he adored like a wife fall prey to cash-ins, cheap shots, ambulance chasers. One particularly pressing pursuer were the Levi’s Jeans Company, who had lately switched the emphasis in their advertisements from Classic Rock to specially-commissioned new tracks. Stiltskin were essentially manufactured by a couple of long-serving backroom boys; writer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Peter Lawlor and session singer Ray Wilson, though they did subsequently hire a rhythm section for TV and tours. Commissioned by Levi’s to come up with something “grunge-like,” they produced “Inside,” which, from its foreboding choral intro (“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” clearly in mind) lumbers along artificially like a horrendous Frankenstein’s monster comprised of second-hand nuts and bolts; the slowly throbbing pace of “Heart Shaped Box” (from which Nickelback would subsequently prosper; I have been told that the popularity of this tempo arises from its coincidental timing with the optimal hip-to-thigh-to-inside rate of movement in the act of lovemaking), the two-note high guitar clarion from “Teen Spirit,” the unison basslines from Nevermind passim – it feels like an act of necrophilia, with all the original sentiments, emotions and feelings, amongst the most starkly real in all of rock, reduced to meaning-free soundbites of lyrical cliché (“And if you think that I’ve been losing my way/That’s because I’m slightly blinded,” “blue sports car,” “black slate time,” “falling along straight town as the ice comes down”) and a wearily leaden chorus of “Don’t keep it inside/If you believe IT!/Don’t keep it all inSIDE!” which Wilson attempts to sing in his style but barely disguises the time-serving pub-rocker within him.

    More offensive than any of this, however, is that while Nirvana never got beyond number five in our singles chart (with the aforementioned “Heart Shaped Box”), “Inside” leapt to number one in a fortnight, bought, no doubt, by people who felt guilt about living longer than Kurt and ignoring or dismissing him when he was alive and needed the opposite, who couldn’t actually face scaling the steep steppes of In Utero and went for the bargain basement Xerox instead; it may sound like him from a distance (to those who have long since opted to block up their ears) but close up it is a disgraceful insult. Perversely I am glad that he didn’t live to hear this wretched ransacking of a soul; realistically I wish he could have kept on, somehow, but then I wasn’t him and never will be; the fact that Wilson went on to join a shortlived post-Phil Collins Genesis proves that he knew and believed it, all inside.

  10. 10
    James BC on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Reading the verse lyrics for the first time, they remind me of Beck. I never know if Beck has a meaning for his lyrics, or if he’s just putting words together like this group (probably) were.

  11. 11
    Mark G on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Great post, Marcello. You don’t need me to say that, but I always feel bad about posting something that follows a great breakdown, as it then gets displaced on “New Messages” by me and mine. Nevermind..

    I thought the record alright, on the surface. Bringing it to mind it seems to murph into bits of “You know you’re right”..

    It’s a lot like punk 1: When the ‘common vocabulary’ becomes an established language for the bands that follow, it is up to the originators to change the language. That is why Sex Pistols 2 (i.e. PIL) made the album that made all the 2nd gen bands go “um, I don’t get it” (now, of course, we do)

    It’s a lot like punk 2: piqued by this ‘new’ metal style, I found a stall at the record fair that had tons of grunge singles. I picked 6 at semi-random, tried to persuade a discount, got none, ended up with “Touch me I’m sick”, “I need you” the Muffs, and “Here she comes now” Nirv. There was variety here. The central core had similarities but the branches were wide (and I think I played the Melvins’ “Venus in Furs” the most out of the tracks on those singles)

    3: Recently saw a documentary, all the original bands were hating on the current Seattle Grunge scene. It seemed churlish/charmless until one of them pointed out “have you actually heard them?” and it was true, they all had the same vocal style! Not Kurt, but the one that is represented by “whoah, ah-ha I’m stil alive”…

    So, Kurt could have been liberated by those copyists to doing exactly what he wanted, and he certainly was making plans for his future aaat the same time as wanting his exit. Marc says he couldn’t and isn’t Kurt, ne neither but I did have a debilitating stomach complaint and had the advantage of not being in a worldwide touring band to assist me in my recovery. So part of me can understand/empathise self-medicating in those circumstances.

    In conclusion, what ‘did’ for grunge? Heavier drugs? that seemed obligatory?

    Not Stiltskin. (nearly typed Nickelback there!)

  12. 12
    Kat but logged out innit on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I have no shame in admitting that I only became a Nirvana fan after Cobain’s death, and that I bought this single before borrowing Nevermind off my sister. I was INCREDIBLY ashamed of being a latecomer at the time though, even though the previous three years spent listening to Eurodance and rave instead was certainly not a waste of time (in retrospect).

    As it was, I quite happily bought both Stiltskin and The Grid’s Swamp Thing on cassingle in the same shopping trip to Our Price. Maybe I should write to HP Baxxter and suggest a double-sample whammy of the two? Anyway, summer 1994 was my peak cassingle-buying period – including the next #1, which was a far more dodgy purchase than Stiltskin ever could be. Today I’d give ‘Inside’ at least a [6] for its ridiculousness.

  13. 13
    Hazel on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I loved this song when I was tiny Mog (well, smaller Mog at least) and I continue to love it- I never thought it was grunge so much as in the same vein as, say, Rocket From The Crypt or other sort of quasi-classic rock revival around at roughly the same time.

    That bit where the first heavy riff kicks in is fantastic and anyone who denies this fundamental fact is wrong.

  14. 14
    Cumbrian on 10 Jan 2013 #

    There was a death in early 1994 which profoundly affected a large number of people, worldwide, and lead on to a funeral in the man’s hometown attended by multitudes with an outpouring of grief. It changed me too, albeit in minor ways. Before Ayrton Senna hit that wall on the Tamburello at Imola, I loved to watch Formula 1. That someone so talented, so daring and (to many people) so heroic, could die in this manner ended Formula 1 for me as a sport. I didn’t watch anything of the remainder of that season and I haven’t watched a full race ever since.

    I didn’t get Nirvana at the time and Kurt Cobain’s suicide was a blip on my radar as a result. I only really connected Senna and Cobain to each other years later, after seeing the (wonderful and, at least for me, tear jerking) Senna documentary and Sid Watkins’ quote that, when tending Senna on the track, he heard him sigh and he “felt his spirit depart at that moment”. At that point, I thought of the sigh just before the final sung lines of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” from the Unplugged album – a sigh pregnant with the interpretations of millions after Cobain’s death. And this, I feel is where grunge disappeared – not because the figurehead departed the stage but because the whole scene was so desperate to “be real”, for things to have weight, for that pause to be more than just a need to be able to get some breath in to sing the final line, that the music itself and the participants left on the stage couldn’t bear the load, so the very thing that grunge was meant to be wound up being what the scene itself could so obviously not live up to.* Indeed, I wonder whether any scene as a whole could ever live up to this. Maybe some artists might merit close analysis of their work but, by its very nature, a scene is more diffuse and maybe not everyone in on it can live up to the standards of the leaders.

    Inside is probably recognised best then in Marcello’s post, in which (if I might be so bold) the song could be summed up as a facsimile of the arse end of the grunge genre. People have said cynical – but it was meant to sell jeans (something that the ad pulls off pretty well I think – and the music is a contributory factor) so I think cynical is, on some level, a given. It’s the superficial weight, masking emptiness that makes this a real turkey for me, and in that sense, I think it neatly encapsulates many of the grunge scene’s problems.

    Unrelated notes in response to others:

    Is the story about Smashing Pumpkins originally being approached by Levis actually true? It sounds like the type of self important bullshit that Billy Corgan has spent much of his career spouting – inserting himself into some story to inflate his own importance (“and of course we would never do something so brazenly commercial so we turned them down” – thus showing himself to be truly of the grunge movement).

    Marcello mentioned “Sleeps With Angels”. I quite like that album. One of the better latter day Neil Young albums. Mirror Ball, on the other hand, where Neil gets Pearl Jam in as his band…well, least said, soonest mended.

    *Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters, at least initially, were pretty smart here. Quite a lot of their early stuff, whilst some is heavy sounding, actually veered away from this seriousness – at least in their public presentation of videos like “Big Me” and on into their mid-career, and with some of their songs (“For All The Cows” is about how cows can actually talk but they try to keep it hidden from humans) – and carved their own niche. Unfortunately, they’ve gradually come back towards the need to be angsty the further they’ve gone into their career and not for the better.

  15. 15
    cis logged out on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #6 – man, if only you’d managed never to listen to Nevermind, that would be amazing.

    at school it was widely believed that Stiltskin “were Swedish” – this I presume to explain the garbled lyrics, not a sophisticated reference to some kind of swedish pop-music manufactory.

  16. 16
    Tom on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #5 I never liked the Pumpkins either, though my first published album review was of their B-Sides collection. I’m ashamed to say, critical objectivity fans, that I reviewed it favourably because I was trying to impress a girl who liked them. (Astonishingly, it failed.)

    #14 Yes, this is what my review is trying to get at – the problems w/this song are to some extent the problems w/grunge (or as Hazel says post-grunge hard rock), the problems with grunge are to some extent what made it so advertisable.

    Re. Kurt – at the time his death didn’t affect me – I’ve probably thought about it, and him, more in the last couple of years than I did at the time (part of general sifting through ones memories, trying to make sense of youth, etc.) I re-read Greil Marcus’ curates egg book Double Trouble at the end of last year, and his pieces across 1994 trying to get to grips with Cobain and his legacy seemed really good. The best post-death piece is still Chuck Eddy’s in The Accidental Evolution Of Rock’N’Roll, though.

    Grunge now feels like a hugely important part of a wider cultural moment – mainly an American moment – with things like Riot Grrrl, a zine revival, particular fashion trends, ‘identity politics’, and what felt like an indie comics explosion all benefiting from some of the energies it released. (The best grunge ‘thing’ is Peter Bagge’s HATE series) But of everything in that moment it’s the part I didn’t actually like.

  17. 17
    Nanaya on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I was probably about as into “grunge” or rather, much of the associated Western US alternative rock as it was feasible to be at the time as a British teenage goth in the Home Counties, so this is really interesting to me.

    I strongly agree with Kat that over-focus on Nirvana is perhaps a mistake; I for one cared a lot about Nirvana but they weren’t my gateway drug or anything, since I already liked some punk. Hole, Nymphs, Babes in Toyland & especially L7 meant far more to me, and I still cherish the memories of the 2004 L7 gig at the LA2 where I jumped the barrier to touch Suzy & got carried off by security while Donita sang “Henry Rollins brings out the monster in me…” …where was I? Oh yes. Rollins. NIN. Probably at least as important. NIN got die-hard American Guitar fans into electronic music (in a similar way to howUtah Saints touring with the Sisters Pf Mercy had a seismic impact on yer early ’90s goths, hence the mid-90s UK goth explosion). For all the concern with authenticity, it strikes me that for newer fans, it was far more about the structures & the systems (evil Ticketmaster & Pearl Jam’s vainglorious resistance) than the specifics of musical style. I for one was just as excited about Suede, MSP & PJ Harvey, although I’m probably a poor example. I *did* stomp about in para boots, floppy  Inge Lorre-style velvet hat, leggings & sprigged cotton dress though, the girl version of the lumberjack shirt. The musical snobbery came more from the traditional Kerrang!-reading rock fans (I should know, I was engaged to one!), complaining about how grunge bands “couldn’t play their instruments”. Implicitly, I’m sure, they found Cobain’s gender-bending far more threatening than, say, Sebastian Bach’s, lacking as it did the overt fuckability styling. It was all Too Political. 

    So by the time Stiltskin appeared, I’m not sure how many of us saw them as a specifically outrageous grunge rip-off. We thought they were manufactured rubbish, but they were a band doing a Levi’s ad, FFS, this was to be expected. I’m not surprised Billy Corgan was annoyed, but really,  I recall far more heated debates about Babylon Zoo’s “Spaceman”. It’s not that grunge lacked sacred cows or ideologies of authenticity, but it was also fighting other authenticity memes, especially from those who had less investment in the sacred buffalo of punk that the British music press of the time. For me, this whole phase of music was what got me thinking more critically about authenticity in music at all & thus it was no surprise to me that Taylor & Barker’s “Faking It” concentrated so heavily on Cobain & Nirvana; so much ambiguity! And we’d all changed so much.

    I’ve inevitably waffled a lot here, but what I’m getting at is while I don’t think Tom’s assessment is wrong here, there’s far more nuance to the grunge reception than this implies. I don’t doubt that wasn’t the case for a lot of fans (see the loathing of the “fake” Stone Temple Pilots, and the entire discomfort with MTV’s role, for more on that), but I think for a large part the different receptions were down to the very personal circumstances in which people encountered grunge. Facile & obvious, I grant you, but there it is. 1994 was also the year of my first Ramones gig. The endless cycle of rediscovery & reinvention continued…

    /pseudscorner

  18. 18
    lockedintheattic on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Of course there’s a good chance many of the people who bought this would’nt have heard the worst bits of this – those plodding verses and awful lyrics.

    Because the ad doesn’t feature any of those – over its 90 seconds, the music only kicks in half way through, is entirely instrumental and focuses on the big guitar riff, which is catchy & powerful enough to appeal to many I suppose.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skWFyop_pxU

    I remember at the time people discussing how much of a letdown the record was once they’d actually heard it.

    This is of course a trick that Levi’s played again in 1996, where the single bore even less resemblance to the version of the ad, leading to similar disappointment. Although of course the bunny stops me discussing that one further.

  19. 19
    thefatgit on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Such wonderful comments already in what appears to be the de facto Grunge Thread. For me, grunge was on the periphery of what I was listening to. I bought “Bleach” quite a while after Kurt’s death, and “Nevermind” quite a while after that, so I guess I’m with Kat. Needless to say, I felt a familiar pang when I heard that Kurt had found the exit door, as it is when any artist decides to take their own life, but I couldn’t say I was deeply affected. Sadly, though I was hip enough to recognise he was wearing Converse when he died. That’s all that stayed with me, when I think about it, the soles of a dead man’s shoes.

    The Stiltskin Levi’s advert was evidence if any were needed that the genre called “grunge” was a “then” thing rather than a “now” thing. MTV had played Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, but none of these bands really fitted into my preferences until long after Kurt’s death. Perhaps the constant re-runs of the Unplugged sessions and the visual barrage of the vid to “You Know You’re Right”, made me feel sad for the guy. I was perhaps too old; too familiar with Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, too enamoured with Metallica and Anthrax, too intrigued with Nine Inch Nails to regard grunge as The Thing That Spoke To Me. What’s more, the dancier end of the music spectrum adorned with eye-watering day-glo and sharp primary colours drowned out the muted earthy browns and greens and greys of Grunge.

    Looking back on the thing, through the eyes of others, I could understand how it had become “their” Punk. And as I have mentioned before on the GSTQ thread, I was too young to “get” Punk. So there I was, late to Punk and late to Grunge. Visiting the museum, rather than dodging the actual bullets. For the life of me I can’t figure out if I’m missing out or not?

  20. 20
    mintness on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #17 Yes, yes, yes. All of that.

  21. 21
    Tom on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #17 – great comment, I wasn’t trying to downplay the richness of the scene – but obviously a tight focus on Nirvana has that effect. I think because I wasn’t that into a lot of the music you talk about I glide over it, so corrective memories from the actual fans are (as usual!) one of the great things about doing Popular.

  22. 22
    anto on 10 Jan 2013 #

    re:18 That’s how I remember it too. Once the piledriving gutiars had settled there was a sludgy dirge of a song to negotiate. I don’t remember much discussion about it either. If anything “Inside” vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
    There was a Stiltskin album which was panned. They printed adverts for the album with joke complaining quotations from made-up magazine reviews. Iain Banks had allowed real quotes from negative notices to be printed in the second edition of The Wasp Factory which seemed witty because it was mocking the way comments from reviews are hand-picked and spun out of context while also sticking two fingers up.
    In the case of Stiltskin though it just seemed unfunny and defensive.

  23. 23

    Grunge largely coincided with my editorship at The Wire, so I missed the scene detail and really only picked up a handful of much-discussed critical highlights — we had so many other fish to fry at the time, I guess. What I notice now, about the way the music is used in the ad, is that it zeroes in on something no one much has discussed here so far — there’s a zoom in (horny-girl POV) onto water droplets on the semi-naked guy’s skin, and the sound with this is less the BIG ROCK RIFF than the granular detail of amplified guitar sound that’s the body of said riff, its actual honeyed yet abrasive texture. I think I’d say (now) that a lot of the Big Rhetoric surrounding rock in the early/mid-90s was simultaneously a platform for the unspoken enjoyment of such elements (because you could find lots of it, on everything from Hole to GnR), and a distraction from it (because no one much discusses this aspect, at least before they’ve got all the punk/authenticity/alienation/commodification stuff out of the way). I always kind of took it that this was Albini’s beef — a lot of his shtick and his real-deal anti-PC outlier bullshit were actually also his version of the rhetorical teaser-platform, the on-its-head mere sugar-coating, but his actual deep love was/is the analog sound of layered amplified guitars, the thick rough sound of all that (which shifts in recording practice and sound fashion were sidelining). Which is hard to stay zeroed in on when you’re arguing.

    That’s the central hook in the ad — which for a few moments suspends itself round the small-scale and the sensual, with a genuine witty pull (OMG the LIGHT on his SKIN) — before it also slides off into mere cartoonish sexual politics (“politics”) and the manipulable silliness of the kinds of desire you can publicly discuss and giggle about (“cute boy with shirt off alert”)

  24. 24
    Tom on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #23 – Bravo, you’re completely right about the sound/texture of it.

    Just struck me – my first para:

    “Pop’s triumph is when a private language turns out to have been public all along. When the way you express yourself – visual, lyrical, physical, vocal – becomes something hundreds of thousands understand, like a word that was somehow always waiting to be said.”

    This is also exactly how some people feel advertising works – the ‘consumer insight’.

  25. 25
    lonepilgrim on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I enjoyed watching the advert again, for old times sake – and the music works efficiently in that context, if nothing else. Listening to the whole ‘song’ is a bit of a trial, although it does have a strong riff. It sounds to me like a cross between grunge and U2 and the singer looks like a cross between Bono and FIsh which is not a good combination.

  26. 26
    Tom on 10 Jan 2013 #

    He started his career on Fish’s own record label! DOLLY THE SHEEP TO THREAD.

  27. 27

    Re ‘consumer insight’: thing is, when much-repeated, the element yr drawn to as revelation can become repulsive (like a too-much -repeated joke). And when deep scholars of amplified guitar texture present us with the texture stripped of the “disposable” framing — Metal Machine Music to thread! — most people are baffled and/or turned off and angered.

  28. 28
    tm on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #22 – I didn’t know about the fake quotes in the ad, though I remember the album getting one star everywhere.

    Ricky Gervais did a similar thing twice, two and five years ago: Stewart Lee went through a wierd phase of saturating his PR with negative quotes about him which started with the odd diss from sources yr average SLee fans wouldn’t like anyway (The Sun etc) and reached a peak with him listing pages and pages of critique, some of it actually quite insightful about the shortcomings of his work, on his website. Anyway, shortly after that, Gervais put out a poster for a DVD of his MSG gig with a string of glowing quotes and, shock, horror, The Daily Mail calling him ‘unfunny and tasteless’ – which is probably as close to accurate reporting as you’ll get in The Mail.

    A few years earlier at the Ed Fringe, Tim Vine had bought a giant billboard just off the Royal Mile which said “TIM VINE” in giant letters and then much smaller ‘…is not performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year’. The following year, there was an even bigger banner, if I recall, draped from the Castle proclaiming “RICKY GERVAIS AT THE CASTLE HAS SOLD OUT. What a pointless advert”. It was around then I started thinking Ricky Gervais was a humourless prick.

    I quite enjoyed Inside, despite thinking it was pretty daft even at the time “We march in line as the ice comes down…etc”

  29. 29

    (Tho come to think of it MMM came supplied with a whole bunch of other framings: viz not just the sleevenotes, and the fuck-off-note-to-the-music-industry story. You had to recognise these were a disposable wrapping you were very much MEANT to dispose off, which is a big ask…)

  30. 30
    tm on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #27. Layered guitars can get really boring the more you listen: the shock of all that grainy saturated distortion fades into the background and becomes just another layer of production heft clagging to the song. One of Nirvana’s best tricks was never letting the loud bits of their slow songs go on long enough to be boring.

  31. 31
    tm on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Although, I ‘spose you can go the MMM route of just playing the noise long enough to hear all sorts of wierd sonic blips wirthing around in the fog: I remember Joey Ramone saying in End Of The Century that Johnny played so loud, he could hear all sorts of horn and string parts in the harmonics created by the layers of distortion and reverb.

  32. 32

    Well my argument is the opposite I think, that you enter the room for the antics of the singer but it’s the subtleties of the texture (and other small things) that ultimately keep you there (assuming something keeps you there, or keeps you coming back) when newer and different antics beckon elsewhere — which of course in pop/rock they likely always do. But yes, lots of people do texture very badly and boringly — and some people probably do it well, but do antics very badly. I love Joan Jett primarily for the grain in her voice — it’s what reignites my adoration every time. There’s plenty of other cool stuff in her story — but that’s actually what I’m attached to.

  33. 33
    Steve Mannion on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I always thought Stiltskin were equidistant between Marillion and the likes of Cracker myself.

    Levi’s though were proudly trendhopping though usually focussed on depicting some bygone era to reflect the authenticity and durability of their product. The US alt-rock sound was just another fad amongst these to such a market-leading behemoth.

    Some ironing is in how stylish and ad-like the bigger grungey bands videos had also become prior to ‘Inside’ (no more than any other genre but it did seem to glaringly contrast if not betray the musical aesthetic more).

    I’m still unsure how much advertisers anticipated run-off success for the songs they chose to use. It sounds like ‘Inside’ was crafted more with this in mind than the company’s previous and subsequent choices which had more of a life of their own before ad association however powerful it turned out to be. This suggests Corgan’s anecdote is true, and it may even have led Levis to focus on using existing songs by hipper more obscure acts like Biosphere and Smoke City.

    It’s a bit of a relief how varied the ads were from the likes of Levi’s and Guiness and whoever else over these years because it suggests they weren’t really concerned with creating instant massive hits more than just getting the right fit of sound and vision for the ad itself. Think how many more #1s would’ve occurred via impulsive reactions to striking marketing campaigns otherwise.

    This shone more light on how a huge portion of the nation’s song-buyers whims could be fuelled by specific musical moments that could stand out in the crowd (certainly on both TV/the cinema screen and radio) urgently – a burst of heavenly choir (would ‘Inside’s studiously rowdy guitars alone have sold it quite so well? I doubt it) or a freaky high-pitched singsong being the prime examples.

    In some cases, if the song as a whole and the imagery it was attached to were deemed novel enough (and perhaps for this reason it’s a good idea of Tom’s to post a still from the advert for ‘Inside’ rather than its actual cover…although perhaps the cover was also a still) it could follow suit (as ‘Guaglione’ very nearly did a year later). Somehow though a few more years on it worked with just a conventional, unremarkable rock guitar hook and the affirming harmonies from a man struggling to retain relevance barely ten years after breaking through.

    So locating the rhyme or reason behind how these things happened never really got any easier and it just underlined the unpredictability of the market further (however much Cowell or whoever would seek to rein it in themselves). Perhaps the surprising (not because the song is good/bad) popularity of Bowie’s new single this week only echoes this again (or would if it were chart eligible)…should anyone still care.

  34. 34
    fivelongdays on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I wrote this back when The One And Only was the contemporary Popular entry, and I’ve saved it until now, because this is the best, and only time to say what I have to say. It does go on a bit but, from a purely selfish perspective, I need to say it.

    I have an odd relationship with grunge. Sure, I was only 12 – and not into music – when Kurt Cobain shot himself, but getting into music around that time, and having what is probably (to use Tom’s wonderful phrase) a vocation towards general loud guitaryness, grunge was a path that, after my indie phase, I took for a bit, mainly around 1997, the year of ULTIMATE TEEN ANGST, when I turned 15.

    I was in a band with a bunch of AC/DC fans, but I always wanted to go more ‘alternative’. I wanted to listen to bands who were ‘alternative’. Part of this was the way things were, and part of it was I developed a horrible case of unrequited love for a girl at my school who declared that she was ‘alternative’ (too ‘alternative’ for me, sadly). And, in my never-ending, and ultimately doomed, quest to get near this particular girl (who will not be named) I decided I would embrace being ‘alternative’ and explicitly reject all this big-haired poodle pomp corporate -Yes, Corporate, not like St Kurt of Smack – dinosaur that they called Cock Rock. Totally. Down with it, down with its bombast and its desire to have a good time. How shallow! How non-alternative!

    A few weeks before I turned 16, late February, I got a free CD with Kerrang! On this CD, was the song “Bombed (Out Of My Mind)” by Backyard Babies. As I listened to it, I felt shock, anger, confusion, and joy. What was this? Was this band *gasp* having fun? How non-alternative! Are they allowed to feel this way in this day and age? Are they allowed to sound this way in this day and age? Oh my God it sounds really good, though…No, it IS really good! Oh, sweet God, there needs to be more bands like this! Where’s my copy of Appetite For Destruction? Do I have a blank cassette so my pal (and band’s vocalist) Chris can tape me Skid Row’s debut? THIS FUCKIN’ ROOOOLZ! Where has this been? Jesus, I get it now. Grunge. Is. Fuckin’. Dead.

    Of course, I was already a die-hard Manics fan, so really it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me, this realisation that the music I’d been told to dub as Cock Rock was actually awesome, and Grunge was so much miserable corpse-fucking. My obsession with the girl died out soon after largely because I realised being ‘alternative’ was, basically, wank.

    Nowadays I can see both sides of the musical coin. I can see that Glam Metal was dying, and something needed to replace it. I can appreciate a lot of grunge. But I still can’t listen to any of the major acts of grunge, great though they may be, without feeling slightly shameful, like I’m listening to the music that stopped rock’n’roll being fun.

    So, where does this leave Stiltskin?

    Well, they certainly weren’t some hyper-cool bunch of misfits from the Pacific Northwest. They looked like a bunch of competent, but basically uncharismatic, session musicians who turned up at their studio’s fancy-dress party as a grunge band. This is because, basically, they were. They were pulled together by Peter Lawlor at the last minute when his Levi’s soundtrack needed a band to promote his (really rather corking) song. They were, in many ways, the antithesis of what grunge, and St Kurt of Smack, stood for.

    That really doesn’t matter.

    What of the song? Well, it’s lyrics are a bit daft, and it his a choral bit at the start for no real reason, but it does have a very, very nice bit of crunching guitar that you don’t get at the top of the charts much. Basically, it rocks, maybe its calculated, but rocking is rocking. And this certainly does rock. Immensely.

    Don’t believe me? Just check out that ascending riff. It fucking rocks.

    More to the point, for people my age who have taken a more rocking path, this is basically the same thing as The One And Only. It’s the song we all pretend to like ironically, but in actual fact, we all really like it. I suspect it served as a bit of an Introduction To Loud Rock Music for many, fwiw.

    Stiltskin, and this song, weren’t on a mission to make you realise that having fun was bad, they weren’t attempting to show you that greyness was better than technicolour, they weren’t developing angst over writing a bunch of songs that people liked, and they weren’t taking fuckin’ heroin because they had a poorly tummy. All they wanted was for you to buy a nice pair of jeans. The world, and this song, is all the better for it.

    Because it does rock, and because it annoys smug, snotty hipster types, it’s a surefire…

    10.

    And if that particular girl is reading this: I bought a Bush album, just because I thought it would impress you. For this, I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed. You know who you are.

  35. 35
    Tom on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I don’t agree with your mark (obv) but I LOVE the phrase “people my age who have taken a more rocking path”

    (& definitely the urge to enjoy the Rocking Path where you find it not where you’re told it is.)

  36. 36
    MikeMCSG on 10 Jan 2013 #

    A couple of years after this I started seeing a number of pub bands around Manchester because it was the only way of keeping in touch with a friend after the social group we were in had acrimoniously cloven in two and we’d chosen opposite sides. A lot of them had assimilated this into their sets – whether because they recognised Stiltskin as one of their own or because it was easy to play I couldn’t say.

    I liked the idea of grunge but I was that bit too old for it and Nirvana apart – and some of their stuff is unlistenable – it produced few songs that really stand the test of time. That’s why I was indifferent rather than outraged by this.

  37. 37
    wheedly on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #5 The chorus of Inside is built on a similar rhythm and chord progression changes as Today by the Smashing Pumpkins (albeit in a different key), which suggests that Corgan may be telling the truth here.
    What interests me, though, in the light of that story (which I’d never herd before) is how Lawlor uses the guitars compared to Corgan. Corgan was a professed fan of British indie music and often uses a bed of guitars in a My Bloody Valentine shoegazey kind of way: as a comfort blanket. His guitars are soft. Lawlor uses them more like Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell – to be aggressive, for impact, which is one of the reasons that it sounds more like a Nirvana or Alice in Chains rip than a Pumpkins one. The latter weren’t from Seattle and never really had much in common musically with either the punky Seattle bands or the classic rock/metal-influenced ones.
    There’s way fewer of them on Inside than on Today (some songs on Siamese Dream feature over 40 guitar overdubs in different voicings, textures and frequency ranges, many of which needed to be submixed along the way to all fit on the 2x 24-track master tapes), and as a result they sound bigger, as they have more room.
    Inside is wretched, but to be fair to Lawlor he knew about the sound he was emulating and does a fair job of getting it.

  38. 38
    Tom on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #37 I think I read somewhere – during my actually-more-extensive-than-usual research for this one! – that Lawlor worked as a sound effects guy before this, so that would make sense.

  39. 39
    tm on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #32. Yes, grain is definitely good. When I listen to Rod Stewart I always feel like a dirty junkie, going to a shameful, squalid place to get my fix of ‘grain’. I don’t know why I feel Rod is such a guilty pleasure, lord knows there’s lots of equally uncool music I like without such feelings of shame.

  40. 40
    Chelovek na lune on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #39 same here re. Rod, but with him (when he’s on form) I find that it’s the “grain” and more than keeps me coming back. Intense expression of heartfelt suffering and sincerity, and other things that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the record that this thread was instigated in response to.

  41. 41
    flahr on 10 Jan 2013 #

    re 33: actual sleeve – no Levi’s logo in sight! stiltskin were UNE PROPER BAND whose success was nothing at all to do with the advert HONEST

  42. 42
    anto on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I always think of the Pumpkins as being paralell to grunge rather than belonging to it. There was a delicacy and meticulousness about Billy Corgans work which seemed contrary to some of the heavier groups if anything. I think he’s a rather misunderstood figure in some ways. What I like about his take on rock is that some of his songs have an almost nineteenth-century preciousness about them as if he was trying to make heavy metal sound as elegant as possible.

  43. 43
    logged out knitter on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Now even the knitters are in on it:

    This year we’re doing a club based on 90′s alternative rock & grunge. Remember the 90′s? The plaid jackets and torn jeans, Kurt Cobain belting his lyrics out unintelligibly and being so great at it? Well, we want to celebrate some of the innovations from the music industry from that era through yarn. We hope you’ll join us for this ride. It’s going to be more fun than Adam Sandler at a hacky sack competition.

  44. 44
    will on 10 Jan 2013 #

    ‘Ring out in a bruised postcard/ in a shooting yard’? A ‘ganga sky’? My God, those lyrics are priceless! Inside is even more like the Fast Show parody of grunge I always thought it was.

  45. 45
    wichita lineman on 10 Jan 2013 #

    All I have to add is that the source of the riff/hook always seemed to me to be the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Hey Joe, a record Lawlor and Wilson were probably more familiar with than any chunk of grunge.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQf4hzKpF1c

    2 mins 3 seconds in – played by Noel Redding (I presume) rather than Hendrix. Or possibly both.

    Having never heard Smashing Pumpkins’ Today until five minutes ago, I’d say it sounds far too light and major key to be the inspiration for Inside.

    Gosh, what a good thread.

  46. 46
    fivelongdays on 10 Jan 2013 #

    The Pumpkins were a Chicago band whose main songwriter was as (openly) influenced by Classic Rock as he was with anything the US punk scene threw up which, for me, made them odd bedfellows for the likes of Nirvana/Mudhoney et al.

    The relationship between the lovely pretentious Corgan and Cobain/Vedder/et al was, I believe, always somewhat strained.

  47. 47
    Izzy on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Fabulous article, Tom, and a great set of comments too.

    #5 and #39: the impact of this track and its advert in my circles (meaning school and NME I guess) was electrifying. Smashing Pumpkins were definitely the reference point for it, and I remember massive excitement that they had come back and come up with something brilliant. I was tired of grunge by then – I’d been playing it with my band all year – and I suppose sick at what Kurt did, and never got beyond admiration at the riff. Of course it only took one look at the band, or one breath of the vocal, for the excitement to dissipate, though I remember it taking a few weeks for the less hip kids to catch on.

    #14: yes, Senna’s death was the really devastating one. It took a day or two for the Kurt news to wash around provincial Britain – preInternet seems like a different era, somehow – meaning you got the news through rumour, or comment, or osmosis. It was like the creeping onset of dread, with Senna as the devastating payoff. The more so because it didn’t make sense, whereas Kurt’s was full of adolescent meaning. Anyway, a horrible month (I feel like there may have been others too); it felt like being knocked down once, then again, by the horror; being worse for knowing by then what it was.

  48. 48
    Cumbrian on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #47: I could probably go on for hours about Senna. He’s one of the few sports stars I can think of, in my lifetime anyway, who you had to watch because he was capable of something heart stopping at any given moment (I’d put Usain Bolt in this bracket for what it’s worth).

    The worst thing, amongst several close competitors, about Senna’s death is that, unlike Cobain’s – which as you say took a little bit of time to spread – was the immediacy of it all. Those races are broadcast round the world. Once he hit the wall and the doctors got there, you knew that here was big trouble – his death basically played out live on TV and a large number of people watched it. I think I’m right in saying that they’d declared him dead even before the (restarted) race had finished (and if not, it was announced a matter of minutes afterwards).

    It capped a bloody awful weekend. Rubens Barrichello nearly died earlier in the weekend – he was right at the start of his career at that point. Then Roland Ratzenberger died in practice (one of the few great things Max Mosely ever did was skip Senna’s funeral – held on the same day as Ratzenberger’s – to go to the Austrian’s funeral instead, on the grounds that everyone would be at Senna’s funeral; someone needed to pay respects to the other guy) and, some of us said, well they’re both inexperienced. How unsafe can it be? And then Senna swept that line of thought clear away.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that, even though I knew what was coming in that documentary, I wept seeing it all again. Fabulous film though – would recommend even to those with no interest in motor sport.

  49. 49
    Izzy on 10 Jan 2013 #

    I’ve got the documentary but I haven’t yet dared watch it. I did make myself watch footage of the crash and aftermath on youtube once, with the sound off, but I’ve no appetite for it. I wasn’t watching on the day, though it was on elsewhere in the house and I was aware of it unfolding, but I couldn’t bring myself to go and see – it was all too horrible, a nightmare really happening.

  50. 50
    wheedly on 10 Jan 2013 #

    #46 Strained between Cobain and Corgan because Corgan was Courtney Love’s ex, and she’d been said some flattering things about his, er, prowess in the press.
    As for relations between Corgan and everyone else, Corgan’s been more than a little bratty at certain points and is the kind of person who doesn’t know when to shut up and so has managed to offend just about all his peers at one point or another.
    That said, I remember him praising Vedder and co. for their stand against Ticketmaster in the late ’90s.

  51. 51
    thefatgit on 10 Jan 2013 #

    The Senna film is hugely affecting. I watched the events unfold on TV like many others, as Ayrton came to grief at Tamburello, what made it more tragic was of course, Tamburello had claimed Roland Ratzenberger that same weekend. It also brought to mind the death of Gilles Villeneuve at Zolder in 1982. Gilles’ death was perhaps the most shocking I have ever witnessed. A rear-end collision with Jochen Mass catapulted Villeneuve’s Ferrari into the air before nosediving into the ashphalt. The car disintegrated with the main body of the car including the cockpit tumbling in a sickening somersault which launched its driver into the catch-fencing at the edge of Terlamenbocht corner. The force of the impact had caused his helmet to fly off.

    After all the death, finally safety became paramount in the sport and Senna still remains F1’s most recent fatality.

  52. 52
    speedwell54 on 10 Jan 2013 #

    Who’d have thought such a thread for this. Though Nirvana are the “go to” grunge group I think this single is right up there as a “go to” track. I know “Ray” doesn’t sound particularly Scandinavian, but he looked a bit that way, and the lyric sounds like it might have been farmed from a dictionary. I can understand the confusion about their origin up thread somewhere. Good spot about Hey Joe.

    Do Wah Diddy Diddy, TheTwelfth of Never, World In Motion, Inside, Bunny- connection?

  53. 53
    ciaran on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I don’t mind this track too much but oddly I’d agree with the 3 mark.the length of the piece and criticism by Tom had me preparing for a Belfast child ‘1’.

    a decent riff but appalling lyrics. The relevance to Kurt cobains death is a little bit unfair.surely it was being put together before the day in question.

    inside to me always had more of a classic rock feel to it than Seattle leanings although I’d base that on it appearing on the best rock anthems in the world ever released around that time. (sharing CD space with queen, Boston, huey Lewis et al-more in line with that than pearl jam, soundgarden and Alice in chains)

    it has had more life as a sports anthem than anything.thing I remember inside for is the chorus being sung by a tartan painted child on a sky sports Scottish football highlights show in the mid to late 90s.(might leave the football references alone for now.gonna be plenty of heated discussion related to the beautiful game coming on here very soon.

    this has been a very bleak run of number ones. great discussion on here though it must be said.

  54. 54
    Billy Hicks on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Well, for possibly the only time in the 1990s, chalk me stumped.

    No contemporary memories – it’s not one to appeal to the five year old PJ & Duncan fan I was – and even having listened to it recently nothing sticks in the mind for me to remember. Give me any pop or dance track of the decade and I’ll go on about it forever – and indeed a fair few of the Britpop classics too – but this? The only other song I can name you classified as ‘grunge’ is Smells Like Teen Spirit.

    Never in my Popular lifetime have we come across something so completely opposite to my tastes before, and rarely will we again – as of January 2013 anyway. If I could describe ‘Inside’ as anything it’s four and a half minutes of guitar feedback with someone shouting over the top.

    Come back Take That, all is forgiven!

  55. 55
    fivelongdays on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I suppose this is as good a point as any* to mention that my two favourite albums EVER were released by British rock bands in 1994, and therefore tip my hat to the Manic Street Preachers (who I’ll bang on at length about when we get to them) and Therapy?, whose The Holy Bible and Troublegum hit the shelves about four months after, and one month before, this.

    The whole authenticity thing could apply to both bands – The Manics are famously ‘4Real’, whereas T? are famously jovial fellas who happen to write songs about feeling screwed up, violence, and wanking.

    Not sure what the point of this comment is, but I don’t really need an excuse to mention British rock bands of the 90s.

    *If only ‘Tequila’ had made it to number one!

  56. 56
    hardtogethits on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #52 Who’d’ve thought it indeed, Speedwell? Couple of thoughts:

    I remember hearing Robin Gibb and Barry Gibb interviewed by Johnnie Walker (broadcast Dec 31 2010), and the Gibbs explained how they began writing songs by imagining how the next record of their favourite act would sound, and trying to compose it. It sounded so sweet and brotherly. They weren’t being cynical, and I don’t think the creator of this work – following a similar process but perhaps with less affection – was either. Maybe I’d feel differently if I felt someone was getting too close to one of my favourite acts. Which brings me to point 2.

    Since this has become about Nirvana: Is it now impossible to just think Nirvana were ok – to sort of “get” them, to respect how others view them, but still only like and not love them? Consider them a bit of a curate’s egg, even, since someone uses the phrase above? For me, Lithium is utterly brilliant; SLTS, On A Plane, Heart Shaped Box not far behind. But not because those songs say Something To Me About My Life – they don’t – they just connect. And after those 4 songs – that’s enough. I could see how in 1991 Nirvana truly represented an alternative to what else was about at the time, and I bought Nevermind at a time I could barely afford albums. I was simply a bit disappointed. All that noisy noise annoys. But, still, 3 great tracks.

    PLUS! #52 – I know that one – must have takena while to identify? -I wonder if others care / know etc.

  57. 57
    Ed on 11 Jan 2013 #

    @23 On the pleasures of the “thick rough sound” of amplified guitars; it was explicit at the time that that was really the whole point of Nirvana: detoxifying traditional hard rock so that a generation that grew up with the ethics – and especially the sexual politics – of the 1980s could enjoy it. Cobain’s guitar-playing is great for that, actually: because he was never particulalrly innovative or flashy – no fiddly solos – most of the pleasure in his playing lies in the texture and weight of it. (Plus there’s Grohl, who really is one of the last great rock drummmers.)

    I remember the NME making the point to its readers in 1991, with what was probably Nirvana’s first cover. The headline: “The Guns’n’Roses it’s OK to like”.

    And – God bless the interwebs – here is that NME story: http://obitbday.tripod.com/articles/nme911.html

    It turns out to be a great piece, written by Mary Ann Hobbs. Whatever happened to her?

    All the thoughts about Nirvana that other people have been trotting out for the past two decades, right there six weeks after Nevermind came out.

  58. 58
    swanstep on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Is it now impossible to just think Nirvana were ok – to sort of “get” them, to respect how others view them, but still only like and not love them? …..For me, Lithium is utterly brilliant; SLTS, On A Plane, Heart Shaped Box not far behind. But not because those songs say Something To Me About My Life – they don’t – they just connect. And after those 4 songs – that’s enough.
    I think that’s a perfectly respectable position to have, and not just about Nirvana but about a lot of other consensus, all-time-great groups. There are plenty of people who dig the four best-known Kraftwerk songs, or the best four Guns and Roses songs or the best four Joy Division songs, but then say ‘that’s enough’ (‘all those bleeps and bloops/yelps/moans and groans just annoy’) to all the rest. There’ll always be people who’ll threaten to excommunicate you from, what?, the church of pop-culture-commentary for not having or pretending to have completely catholic tastes, but most people will be more reasonable than that.

    Anyhow, I’m really enjoying everyone’s comments (esp. #34). I hate the Stiltskin for more or less the reasons Marcello essays, but I did enjoy the ad.. It’s so very funny to see something like grungy style, as it were, pasted on to a very hunky, uber-healthy male body, when the wasted-away, smacked-up male body was quite vividly associated with the music at the time (and later in 1998-2000 I’d occasionally see Alice In Chains’ Layne Staley around the U-district in Seattle, frighteningly thin and haggard and apparently – one didn’t want to stare – missing fingers and God knows what else).

    I had a couple of tracks from Smashing Pumpkins’ latest album on my 2012 top 20 ballot. Since they’re rather unlikely to make the FT hive-mind top 10, check ’em out (they sound a lot like SP in 1994, slightly influenced by Weezer would have sounded!).

  59. 59
    Tommy Mack on 11 Jan 2013 #

    sukrat @ 32: For me, it’s often the opposite of what you say: a new texture will grab my attention, but once that texture becomes familiar, it’s only the tracks with great hooks/interesting singing/something more subtle that stand out.

    If a raw punk/garage track comes up on random play, there’s always a real buzz to hearing the crunch of the guitars leap out, especially if it comes straight after something much more polished but listen to a Ramones album all the way through and by about track 6 or 7, it’s only the catchiest/funniest songs that stand out.

    Similarly I enjoy Skrillex for his bag of silly noises but I’m not sure I’ll still be listening to him in 20 years like I (occaisionally) still listen to old-school jungle now because I’m not sure there’s much more to Skrillex than silly noises (though I haven’t really listened to him enough to say fo sho)

  60. 60
    hardtogethits on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #58 thanks Swanstep, that’s illuminating and helpful. The Kraftwerk reference delivers some home truths to me. I suppose really the “excommunication” fear is the specific fear of being frozen out from this particular forum whilst NOT being excommunicated. I could go on and on because I like your church analogy so much – but that’s what it boils down to.

  61. 61
    Tom on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #56 your description of “getting” but not loving Nirvana is pretty much how I feel – I absolutely see why they were good and why people adore them, but I’m not even into their best songs that much. I wrote a Guardian column in 2011 on listening to Nevermind for the first time, 20 years late, and a bunch of people thought it must be a put-on, but I’d honestly never been bothered.

  62. 62
    fivelongdays on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Since we’re talking about Nirvana, am I really the first person to post This? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8DP_MyPddo

  63. 63
    DietMondrian on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I have most of Nirvana’s recorded output but I find the only songs I really listen to these days are the covers on the MTV Unplugged album, most of which I prefer to their original versions (in particular the Meat Puppets’ tracks). Which makes me ponder an alternative universe in which Kurt lived and is now releasing albums of cover versions (would I like to imagine in the style and substance of Johnny Cash’s American Recordings rather than Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook series).

  64. 64
    hardtogethits on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #63. Based on the emotional impact Rod makes on his latest album, I’m anticipating he’ll release “The Great American Phonebook” in 2013.

  65. 65
    tm on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #63 My favourite Nirvana album these days is Muddy Banks..up there with The Rmaones’ It’s Alive as an unnoficial greatest hits!

  66. 66
    Cumbrian on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Another question whilst we’re discussing Nirvana. I heard a (possibly made up) tale that Pete Tong reckoned you could play Teen Spirit in the middle of any DJ set of any type of music and, it would not clear people off the dance floor and potentially add people to it. Did he actually do this in his DJ sets? And if so, and we have people who were there when he did it, was he right?

  67. 67
    Tom on 11 Jan 2013 #

    The intro would get people on alright (tho I never played it in a superclub) – who stayed rather depended on whether it was SLTS or “Call It What You Want”.

  68. 68
    Steve Mannion on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Cumbrian: Depending on when Tong’s tale dates from he may have been referring to this interview of Chicagoan record store owner Kevin Starke who confirms that House luminary Armando was at least one DJ known to drop SLTS in the middle of a set and get a hugely positive reaction.

    http://www.5chicago.com/armando/transcript-kevin-starke.html

  69. 69
    Cumbrian on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Cool – thanks for that. That story was always one that I thought might be a bit of a push but turns out it might actually be true.

  70. 70
    tm on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I saw James Lavelle do similar with Song2 at Fabric about 10 years ago to generally positive effect.

  71. 71
    tm on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #63: Unplugged is my 3rd fave Nirvana album after Muddy Banks and Reading ’92. Although it has the worst acoustic guitar sound I’ve every heard on record: like a student gig with a couple of cheap electroacoustics plugged into a little PA, but then I don’t like many of Kurt’s electric guitar sounds either except the gorgeous underwater chorus effect on Come As You Are.

  72. 72
    Cumbrian on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Tom: maybe it says more about my musical taste that when I hear the opening riff of SLTS, I don’t think of either Nirvana or Credit to the Nation but am waiting expectantly for Destiny’s Child to start cranking Bootylicious out. I have been known to hit the dance floor for that.

  73. 73
    Steve Mannion on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I’ve been known to roll my eyes and demand Tinman’s ’18 Strings’ instead.

  74. 74
    Tommy Mack on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I listened to this for the first time in (10? 15?) years today and to my embarassment I bloody loved it, silly lyrics, cheesy nods to Nirvana, streamlined driving-compilation rock sound and all. Others have said they thought the band were Norwegian, I remember enjoying how Scottish Ray Wilson sounds on the first verse!

    I’ve never been as viscerally repelled by any music as the first time I heard Nirvana (a copied tape of Nevermind from a cooler schoolmate appalled that I like Meatloaf…) I was a proper wuss back then and I can honestly say it genuinely made me feel physically sick: the raw anguish in Kurt’s voice, the queasy churn of his guitar FX pedals and the thunder of the walls of guitar and drums: it was probably the first time I’d heard properly loud rock music, I was scared and repelled and I turned it off and didn’t play the tape for a couple of years.

    This would have been autumn/winter ’92 and I still disliked most rock music for a couple of years after that: the kids I hated most at school were those who worked hard at being teenagery: dealing in affected posturing nihilism, smoking, drinking coffee to be more grown-up(!), Kurt Cobainish-ness for the middle class ones, don’t-give-a-fuck would-be hooligan shit for the council eastate kids. I found it pathetic and, well, teenage and I guess I associated grunge and alternative with that: going out of your way to have a bad time coz it’s cool.

    I can’t remember when or why I softened to Nirvana’s music. I’ve always remembered it that I had just started getting into them and then Kurt died, but it was probably more likely that all the hoo-ha around him dying convinced me that maybe I was wrong and Nirvana were worth another listen. Either way, I’m sure this silly and cynical record helped break down my suspicion of noisy guitars and shouty angst-blokes. Like I said, I wasn’t a cool kid…

  75. 75
    Another Pete on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #55 Of course around this time the music press were looking for a band to slap the label of the British Nirvana on (even though theoretically in terms of namesake such thing existed back in the 60s-70s). For all the many bassist/drummer want ads down the local guitar shop spouting the usual Sixth Former band listing of ‘must like Pearl Jam/Nirvana/Mudhoney etc’ Stiltskin aside, a British grunge act never broke through. Therapy? were probably the closest but probably count the same Glasgow indie scene of the late 80s (Vaselines,BMX Bandits,Pastels etc) that Cobain coveted, as near neighbour contemporaries.

  76. 76
    swanstep on 11 Jan 2013 #

    @73, steve mannion. Or maybe some atari teenage riot?

  77. 77
    wheedly on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #75 Bush surely count as the British grunge band that broke through, don’t they? They only had a hit or two in the UK, but they were absolutely enormous in the US. Their second album (Razorblade Suitcase – an album title that Stiltskin would’ve appreciated, I’m sure) got to no. 4 here, according to wiki.

  78. 78
    Steve Mannion on 12 Jan 2013 #

    #76 ha ha, that just makes me want to listen to Senser…

  79. 79
    Another Pete on 12 Jan 2013 #

    #77 Sound wise you are right Bush probably were. Though Bush for me appeared too late on the scene in 1995 and the title was no longer up for grabs. By 1995 the scene was very much on the wane thanks in part to Nirvana being no more and Pearl Jam having a few internal issues and working with Neil Young. Bush along with other bands such as Live and Stone Temple Pilots were only huge in the States as they provided them with their grunge fix whilst we in the UK had moved on to our own scene.

  80. 80
    nixon on 14 Jan 2013 #

    Two bits of trivia, and I’m not sure how pertinent either of them is.

    1. There was a whole Stiltskin album released in the wake of this, which – rather than crashing and burning as might be expected for a group with literally no following, history, or anything else to grab hold of – went top five. I’ve long had a pet theory re Stiltskin and the commoditisation of grunge, much in line with what Tom and others have said: this is not only an access point, a way in for the uninitiated or more accurately the sort-of-initiated-but-daunted, not just because of its accessibility but because there’s no baggage, nobody knew anything about the “band” and so they could be a blank canvas in the way Nirvana never could: perfect for teh n00bs. I wanted to say something about Julian Cope’s Scott Walker compilation there too.

    2. In a neat tie in with the next entry, about 3 years later, Sky Sports chose this as the soundtrack for their Scottish football coverage, with a bunch of kids running over the Forth Bridge lip synching to “Inside”. This years after Stiltskin were declared unhip again due to the manufacturing thing; once they were uncool, they were finished. But it retained its power as an advertising jingle, even with its baggage.

  81. 81
    hardtogethits on 14 Jan 2013 #

    #80. That’s a great point about “no baggage … blank canvas”. I’ve often thought that about new album releases by new artists, and most especially in January’s soft market when the market and the marketers are in equilibrium. Neither has much to lose in investing in someone who had no public profile at Christmas but who could, after all, have made The Album Of The Year So Far. Stiltskin’s album only got to 17 though, not top 5. (Bait? I bit!)

  82. 82
    Mark G on 14 Jan 2013 #

    I think it was one of those situations, like the “New wave of new wave”, in that people generally wanted it to succeed/happen. And gave it more chances than it/they deserved, maybe.

    But also, perhaps they took that album and enjoyed it enough to seek out the ‘real’ stuff, and never needed to go back.

  83. 83
    Izzy on 14 Jan 2013 #

    #80: Scottish football coverage … makes some kind of sense, on some level. It fits in my mind with the rock’n’roll produced by a certain kind of Scottishness – the dour kind. Characterised by fire and heart, and above all passion, it takes the corporeal form of gravel-voiced pub rock. Made by and for the kind of guy whose secret aim in life is still to own a Harley.

    The humorous, fey, shambling kind of Scottishness, or the double-breasted militant strain, don’t feature anywhere in this image. Nor in fairness does the place get marketed in general terms on its new towns or its winebars. So it’s not too surprising that Sky should’ve opted for the safe option of ‘Inside’, rather than say ‘Star Sign’ or ‘Sweet Dreams’, when deciding where to pitch their product.

  84. 84
    Cumbrian on 14 Jan 2013 #

    Coming from Carlisle, the local leisure centre that doubled as a gig venue would sometimes put on “big in Scotland” acts for the border population – so when I think of the type of rock ‘n’ roll Izzy is talking about, I invariably think (perhaps unfairly) of Runrig. Did they get used on Scottish football as well?

    Other thing Izzy is talking about – the different expressions of Scottishness – the one I think about is the “Local Hero” sort of Scottishness. A bit knowing and eccentric but ultimately good hearted, that you tend to see in the rural areas of the country (more experience myself of the Borders than the Isles or Highlands though). Might be the influence of my Scottish Granny that, mind.

  85. 85
    Chelovek na lune on 14 Jan 2013 #

    The Scottish act from this period who really remain in my mind (as unavoidable, almost, north of the border, and invisible, almost, south of it) were of an entirely differnet genre, being for kids all pepped up on Irn Bru and too much tablet: TTF aka The Time Frequency. Cumbernauld’s finest. Still better than Stiltskin, actually, perhaps.

  86. 86
    Brendan F on 14 Jan 2013 #

    Stiltskin begat Biffy Clyro

  87. 87
    Izzy on 14 Jan 2013 #

    I found a Time Frequency megamix on youtube and good lord, it’s nigh-physically painful. The overall arrangement, even genre, isn’t even that far from a much-loved 1995 rave no.1, minus a breakbeat and adding some blocky synths, but the feel of the TTF music is horrible – there’s no space in it at all, no shade; everything’s turned up to eleven at all times. I don’t think it’s been overcompressed, other than the bass drum perhaps, but it’s the same sore head I get from Oasis or Keane.

    I was sure I recalled hearing some indigenous Scottish hardcore from that era, and it did have the same sense of bludgeoning, but in my memory the arrangements were much less lush, even vocalless – this stuff was something akin to flute-band marching songs over an unyielding 130bpm 4/4. It may have been UKwide for all I know, or even never have existed, but somehow it seemed indigenous, traditional even, a beloved old genre given hideous extended life through technology.

  88. 88
    xyzzzz__ on 14 Jan 2013 #

    Don’t recall this at the time but I randomly caught Peter recounting (v proudly I might add) the story of how he made it and then had to assemble the his Monkees at short notice for their appearance on top of the pops. As they looked like bikers and not ‘clean cut’ grungey types it never took off. Might have been a Malcolm Mclaren dream if they did. There was a pop-grunge factory beginning, right there.

    Its this riff that sounds like it has been dis-assembled from the thing that made it — MMM is spot on, other things like Rallizes too except here its highly compressed, indutralized hammering motion almost — with added tone of scream (and this is where the relation to grunge really comes in not so much the guitar as the harshness of ‘Nevermind’ was blunted, much to Kurt’s displeasure blah blah)* and what you have is the beginnings of Limp Bizkit, which sounds to me where this all ended up. For me it works, my ears pick up on it whenever it comes up. I can see the complaints that if you want a song and actual people that say something to you behind it all it might fall short, but surely we can separate that from sound and the pleasure it might give.

    *…and yet after all this time and years later you still see kids with Nirvana t-shirts in the way you never see Oasis or Blur.

  89. 89
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2013 #

    what you have is the beginnings of Limp Bizkit
    Pretty harsh! The pompous intro to the Stiltskin reminded me of (the beginning of guilty pleasure) Vast’s Here from, I think, 1997.

  90. 90
    Steve Mannion on 14 Jan 2013 #

    #85 Some great house and techno coming out of Glasgow at this time tho – mostly from the Soma label (Slam, Otaku, Funk D’Void etc.), who also somehow put out the first Daft Punk tracks in ’94.

  91. 91
    xyzzzz__ on 15 Jan 2013 #

    swanstep – sure, its all part of the erm continuum. Wouldn’t say I was being harsh, as I said its a sound I like.

  92. 92
    Rory on 15 Jan 2013 #

    How great to see a flurry of entries on Popular again. Soon I might even be able to comment on a song I’ve heard before, or even one I genuinely love.

    This is neither, thanks to my being in Stiltskin-oblivious Australia in 1994. But as this is the grunge thread, I’ll add my two cents (the one with the frilled-neck lizard, which was withdrawn from circulation right after Nirvana broke). Not that there were many grunge number ones in Australia; in fact, there was only one, the home-grown “Tomorrow” by Silverchair in late 1994, a band of Aussie teenagers (aged 14 when the song won a TV competition) who absorbed the work of Kurt and Eddie et al. and fashioned their own faithful imitation. I wasn’t much of a fan of that either, but if you’re going to have a single grunge number one that isn’t “Teen Spirit” I’d take “Tomorrow” over “Inside”. In fact I’d take pretty much anything over “Inside” – I’ve tried to get through the video twice but bailed halfway through each time.

    It seems anomalous now, but I was a grunge fan, at least in part – those parts being Nevermind, a couple of Soundgarden tracks, and a lot of Pearl Jam (despite Rolling Stone‘s supposedly scandalous exposé of Eddie Vedder’s foray into funk rock in the late 1980s, Pearl Jam were my favourite). I had the whole Nirvana catalogue, but on checking iTunes find that only two albums have made it into my digital life, Nevermind and In Utero. The rest are mouldering away on cassette, unheard for years. But those two go pretty much unheard now, as well: I never took to In Utero, and know Nevermind so well from my initial year of listening that I never feel the need to return to it… I see the title, hear the tracks on fast-forward in my head, and lose any desire to press play.

    The same is true of a lot of other albums I own from the time. I listen to Pearl Jam more often than Nirvana (though nowadays rarely), but mostly their post-grunge stuff, like No Code. If I counted the Smashing Pumpkins as grunge, which I don’t really, Siamese Dream would be another stayer. And Adore, but that’s even further from grunge.

    Grunge just never really stuck with me. It could have: I wore flannelette shirts in the 1980s (like a lot of Tasmanian teenagers; they were warm), had long hair when it was definitely out but was about to come back in with grunge, was almost the same age as Cobain and got his Gen X vibe, liked hard rock but hadn’t found what I was looking for in hair metal or Guns ‘n’ Roses… it all could have worked.

    But it didn’t, and I think it was because I’d been inoculated by spending 1991-92 in Britain and listening to shoegaze. Not much of that has stuck with me long-term either (Ride’s Going Blank Again and Chapterhouse’s Blood Music being the main exceptions), but as I’d already found some noisy indie rock there was less room in my heart-shaped box for grunge, despite fervent efforts circa 1992-94 to cram it in there. And before long, some different indie rock came along, again from Britain… but that’s a comment for the song I’ve heard before, and the one I genuinely love.

  93. 93
    swanstep on 16 Jan 2013 #

    @Rory. I just checked and Silverchair were the most successful ‘grunge’ act on the singles chart in NZ too. Smells Like Teen Spirit did get to #1, but just for a single week, whereas Tomorrow spent 3 weeks at the top (and another 4 at #2) and Pure Massacre got achingly close, spending 3 weeks at #2. Nirv, AiC, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins all had #1 albums tho’, and Pearl Jam, the big winner, has had 6 albums reach the top so far.

    I resonate with your description of how Nirvana has largely fallen out of your personal rotation. Reflecting recently on why that might be so in my case, I’ve hit on the idea that it’s a combination of the band’s songs feeling very tightly wound around Kurt’s vocal and personality (the music very rarely stretches out beyond that to have an identity in its own right) and then that Kurt’s personality is somehow suffocating. It could just be that the self-laceration that exhausts, but for me, if I’m honest, his prickliness and wiseass-ness while clever did irritate me at the time and hasn’t worn well for me. I listened to the All Apologies B-sides for the first time in ages recently, and exactly *how* deliberately irritating Kurt could be came flooding back. There’s a genius involved in rarking people up like that, but it’s hard to willingly, regularly endure such provocations.

    @xyzzzz__. My apologies; it’s been ages since I’ve heard ‘Limp Bizkit’ used as anything other than a term of abuse!

  94. 94
    Rory on 16 Jan 2013 #

    @swanstep, your take on Kurt definitely strikes a chord for me. I just wasn’t as prickly and disaffected in 1992-94; maybe if I’d heard him at 16 he would have hit closer to home.

    This thread prompted me to listen to Nevermind last night for the first time in ages. A mix of fantastic moments (Teen Spirit, Come as You Are, On a Plain) and wearisome shouting…

  95. 95
    Erithian on 2 Jun 2013 #

    There’s a touch of the Lord Rockingham’s XI about this! Jobbing musician with no particular fondness for the genre being adopted, but happy to adopt it for the sake of a quick buck, and remarkably successful about doing so. Not sure how many Nirvana aficionados they hooked with this, but to anybody hearing the trademark stuff done for the first time on the advert – the bass lick, the drums, the highly-effective riff – it would probably work as something new and startling (and Ray Wilson sounding more convincing than at any time since the 1966 World Cup Final). Again, for how many people this was a gateway to yer Pearl Jams and Korns it’s intriguing to think, but as a one-off number one this sounds fine until you can track down the real thing.

  96. 96
    MichaelH on 26 Jun 2013 #

    If this were judged purely as a record – without the shadow of Cobain, without the context of it being manufactured, without people’s feelings about a genuine underground movement being so perfectly co-opted by the mainstream, and so on – it would be remembered a lot more fondly. It is a genuinely brilliant riff, if nothing else.

  97. 97
    fivelongdays on 26 Jun 2013 #

    @95 – Korn who we can talk about, tangentally, in about six/seven years time, Popularwise, are bugger-all to do with this record or to do with Grunge. Unless, of course, you think all loud American guitar music is The Same Thing.

    @96 Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Although, I as I wrote upthread, this is remembered very fondly by people of a certain age indeed.

  98. 98
    Ray Dawson on 9 Aug 2013 #

    Just a small point, the lyric is “strong words in a Ganges sky” not “ganja sky”.

  99. 99
    Izzy on 9 Aug 2013 #

    How would anybody know, unless … are you any relation to Ray Wilson?

  100. 100
    flahr on 9 Aug 2013 #

    Ray Wilson is the Charlemagne of the 1990s

  101. 101
    thefatgit on 27 Aug 2013 #

    Meanwhile, on the internet…

    http://www.behance.net/gallery/Grunge-Street-Fighters-Project-by-Butcher-Billy/10455943

  102. 102
    hectorthebat on 13 Apr 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 174
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 13

  103. 103
    Pink champale on 13 Apr 2015 #

    Wait, Q magazine declared this to be the 174th best song ever???? One way of shaking up the critical consensus I suppose.

  104. 104
    Izzy on 13 Apr 2015 #

    100: just to let you know, that Ray Wilson/Charlemagne line and link has been a massive perspective lens for me these past eighteen months. To give a rather unlighthearted example, how seriously can one possibly take the various ongoing Charlie Hebdo controversies when very likely all of us, on whatever side, could boast Mohammed as an ancestor if we only knew?

  105. 105
    Auntie Beryl on 26 Nov 2018 #

    Pete Frame Watch: Aubrey Nunn, bassist.

    (pre-Creation) Heavy Stereo -> Stiltskin -> Faithless.

  106. 106
    Jan on 16 Apr 2020 #

    Oh man…

    I love all of your write-ups, but -as a big fan of Calling All Stations- this just made me laugh!
    Thanks, man!!! Lol

  107. 107
    benson_79 on 31 Dec 2020 #

    These lyrics are quite the enigma aren’t they? For instance, who is the corpulent fella with the balance issues? Maybe someone is pushing him very slowly down the stairs.

  108. 108
    Gareth Parker on 3 May 2021 #

    I think this record sort of works. It’s a bit of a loud mess at times, but I think the driving riff is what kind of appeals to me . 6/10.

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