Grunge Bands: Where Are They Now?
Torn jeans. Long underwear worn under cargo shorts with combat boots. Remember the early '90s? OK, so maybe it wasn't the best time of our lives fashionwise, but musically, it rocked. Yes, we're talking about the heyday of grunge, when a rainy city in the Pacific Northwest became the center of the musical universe, unkempt hair and clothing were the uniform of choice and angst reigned. With Pearl Jam re-releasing "Ten," one of the albums that helped to define the movement, here's a look back at the six biggest Seattle grunge bands and what they've been up to since flannel faded.(To see our full package on grunge, including an interview with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, a look at growing up a Pearl Jam fan and a gallery of famous grunge bands, click here.)
Alice in Chains
Representative lyric: "I'm the man in the box, buried in my s--t"
Breakthrough-album cover art: Dead hippie in the desert
Most likely to: Cancel a show at the last minute because of "illness"
Where are they now? In the mid-'90s, Alice in Chains more or less dropped off the radar, with troubled lead singer Layne Staley appearing occasionally with Seattle supergroup Mad Season and guitarist Jerry Cantrell releasing a solo album. On April 19, 2002, Staley was found dead in his Seattle condominium, apparently of an overdose of heroin and cocaine. In 2005, the three surviving members added William DuVall as vocalist and guitarist; the revamped Alice in Chains is currently working on a new album, set for a summer 2009 release.
Ah, that takes me back.
Representative lyric: "Touch me, I'm sick"
Breakthrough-album cover art: Retro '60s lounge (even though Mudhoney never really broke through to the mainstream, "Piece of Cake" was their major-label debut)
Most likely to: Remain much less widely known than their fellow Seattle grunge stars
Where are they now? Still going. Even though they got a major-label deal during the height of the grunge craze, Mudhoney didn't make it as big as their well-known peers, possibly because their sound had become less radio-friendly and more abrasive, including elements of garage rock. After Reprise dropped them from their roster in 1999, bassist Matt Lukin left, citing his dislike of touring. Mudhoney wasn't dead, though; Guy Maddison signed on as new bassist a few years later, and the band has been steadily releasing albums and touring ever since, with "The Lucky Ones" hitting record stores in 2008.
Representative lyric: "Oh, well, whatever, never mind"
Breakthrough-album cover art: Naked baby
Most likely to: Cause self-injury onstage, such as by, say, smacking themselves in the face with their instruments
Where are they now? Nirvana disbanded after singer Kurt Cobain shot and killed himself on April 5, 1994. Drummer Dave Grohl subsequently formed the Foo Fighters, a band with which he has seen substantial critical and commercial success (they released their sixth album, "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace," in 2007). Bass player Krist Novoselic turned to more political endeavors, organizing a musicians' lobbying group, the Joint Artists and Music Promotions Action Committee, and, more recently, joining his local chapter of agricultural association the Grange. He also writes a column for the Seattle Weekly.
Representative lyric: "Daddy didn't give attention to the fact that mommy didn't care"
Breakthrough-album cover art: Cheer squad high five
Most likely to: Not only pause between songs to make a public criticism of an allegedly waste-dumping oil company, but actually to perform a 30-second song exhorting listeners not to patronize said company
Where are they now? Perhaps the most down-to-earth-seeming of the grunge bands, Pearl Jam combined political activism with their music not long after they became superstars. Band members testified on Capitol Hill as part of a Justice Department investigation into alleged monopolistic practices by concert ticket distributor Ticketmaster in 1995, and they've continued to back liberal causes. In 2008, the band (sans Eddie Vedder) even recorded an only mildly cringe-worthy cover of Billy Haley classic "Rock Around the Clock," titled "Rock Around Barack," to show their support for the Democratic nominee. They've just re-released their debut, "Ten," and they're reportedly working on their ninth studio album.
Representative lyric: "Did you hear the distant lie, calling me back to my sin?"
Breakthrough-album cover art: Band in the machine
Most likely to: Brawl backstage, kick each other out of the band and then rejoin
Where are they now? After a tempestuous 15-year run, the band announced their official breakup in 2000, but they'd been on and off ever since "Sweet Oblivion" in 1992, the album that featured the MTV hit "Nearly Lost You." Brothers Van and Gary Lee Conner often fought, and on one occasion drummer Barrett Martin was nearly crushed beneath a refrigerator in the crossfire. Van currently plays guitar for the band Valis, and singer Mark Lanegan has been something of a gadfly, collaborating with musicians as diverse as Queens of the Stone Age, Belle & Sebastian's Isobel Campbell and former Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli. Lanegan and Dulli currently perform as the Gutter Twins.
Representative lyric: "I'm lookin' California and feelin' Minnesota"
Breakthrough-album cover art: Spiky, angry, vehicular
Most likely to: Make a pretentious video with creepy CGI effects distorting people's faces much like those strangely terrifying commercials with talking pets
Where are they now? After "Badmotorfinger," their breakthrough, Soundgarden only got bigger, releasing "Superunknown" in '94, which sold millions of copies and won Grammys. Unfortunately, by 1996, when the band released "Down on the Upside," grunge was fading, and the members agreed to call it quits the next year. Since then, singer Chris Cornell has been the most visible, performing with three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine as Audioslave and launching a successful solo career that has included the theme song to Bond movie "Casino Royale." Drummer Matt Cameron joined Pearl Jam shortly after Soundgarden's breakup and has played with the band ever since.