Bust out your cardigan and your Greasies. Jarad Dewing’s grunging it up.
We bought drawers full of flannels from Salvation Army, we let our jeans rip and fray. We wore t-shirts over long johns and never wondered if anyone saw war in these combat boots. The jocks didn’t even deign to push us around because we weren’t on their radar. Our side-swept hair covered one eye and yet we still saw more than anyone else.
This is dedicated to the men who rocked the friendship bracelets and the vintage Chucks, the old man sweaters and the eyeliner.
Let’s revel in our shared angst, our remembered misery of a time that – in hindsight – probably wasn’t all that bad, but damn did we feel everything so very hard and so very deeply. We’ll get through this together, we unappreciated artists and tortured souls, with some flashbacks to the alternative scene. (I’m not ALTERNATIVE, that is a shitty label and it means something OTHER than what’s going on, I hate you all for calling me that, and it’s so VAGUE! Ahem. Continue.)
“Fell On Black Days,” Soundgarden. Nothing says introspective awareness of one’s own deep-seated darkness like langurous fuzzy guitar riffs and black-and-white cinematography. We all either wanted to be Chris Cornell or sleep with him, or both, although both would be weird because it’d be anatomically impossible and probably a little creepy. Something tells me Cornell would approve. Look at those eyes!
“Tomorrow,” Silverchair. Dream come true: a bunch of highschool blokes hit it big. Doesn’t hurt that they’re Australian and a boy-band version of Nirvana. The video looks like they filmed it in somebody’s parents’ basement and were told to “look angsty,” but that can’t detract from the unadulterated awesome of the anthemic chorus. They might’ve started in the cellar, but any angsty Gen-Xer secretly hides this song in his belt for the perfect karaoke moment.
“Creep,” Radiohead. Two words: CHA CHUNK. That guitar crunch holds steady in the annals of musicdom as one of the most genius transitions of all time. “I want you to notice / when I’m not around” — who among us, the torn-jeans and slouching boys in the hallways of life, haven’t wished for recognition? Jesus. This is mopey brilliance at its introverted best.
“Polly,” Nirvana. Is Polly tied to a bed? Is this a song about lethargic bondage sex, where no-one is satisfied and both parties listlessly shamble about nakedly and complain about unmet physical needs while contemplating self-mutilation in the name of feeling something, anything? Why are there no crackers?
So many unanswered questions, Kurt. Miss you.
“Black,” Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder claimed this as one of the hardest songs to sing, not because of the warbling throaty melody, but because the material requires 100% of his emotional wherewithal. And it’s not that complicated; it’s a break-up anthem, and we’ve all experienced break-ups. Can you remember, though, that very first teenage heartbreak? That absolute loss and sudden vacancy coupled with hormonal rage that made you want to tear up the grass and shriek at the moon?
The falsetto background vocals underlying the scratchy angst is a perfect metaphor for adolescence.
“Wonderwall,” Oasis. The Gallaghers taught us that even famous brothers fight, that Great Britain is still cool, and that any ugly fool can pick up a guitar and play this song. Everyone’s seen some outcast strum and mumble their way through this at an open-mic night, and guess what? Yeah, that guy found a girl. It’s the inestimable power of this song. The loner needs saving, he sings his need, he puts it out there with nasal arrogance, and BAM. Just goes to show you can’t go wrong with a blatant display of vulnerability.
“Plush,” Stone Temple Pilots. Scott Weiland was the Britney Spears of our generation. Remember when he was husky and healthy? Nope, me neither. I always remember his heroin-chic svelte figure, discombobulated hip sway, and fiery hair. “Plush” was the first song I ever learned on guitar, because it wasn’t “Wonderwall” and I could swallow my notes like Weiland. I even mastered the quasi-humping of the mic stand., ignorant of its phallic symbolism. And I once tried to rock the red spiked hair, but the Kool-Aid washed out after a while.
“Hurt,” Nine Inch Nails. For the pained ones. For the sinners who don’t understand sin, and for the saints who can’t feel love for fear. For the dirty, and the guilty, and the gutterpunks we cringe at and admire in cognitive dissonance.
Have you made Trent your personal Lord and Reznor?
Go on, Xers, rock your tattered All-Stars and your hairy knees showing through holy jeans. Roll around in it for a bit, the crashing cymbals and the filthy riffs. Paint your fingernails, contemplate throwing something at a moving car and decide against it because it would cause property damage and maybe hurt someone’s feelings. Write some terrible poetry in a speckled composition book. Buy an ear cuff and wear it to work someday. Embrace your inner flannel. It’s cozy in here.
photo Nadiah Abuswai / Flickr