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Ecstatic Ephemera: Nu Grunge
Reviving the 'dirty millennial slackers in flannel shirts' revival.
I was watching the four-part docu-series Punk (2019) this week and one interview stuck with me. During the final episode, Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman, lead guitarist for California pop-punk outfit The Offspring, comments on the rise of the Seattle grunge scene in the early 90s, going so far as to declare that Nirvana were more like a “punk band.”
This got me thinking about the intersection of punk and grunge, and, in particular, the grunge revival movement—call it post-grunge, neo-grunge, or some other sub-genre moniker—that swept through the alternative scene during the 2010s. It was a period that saw bands from hardcore and pop-punk interpolating sounds from alt-metal, shoegaze, grunge, and elsewhere.
Here’s a list of some of those standouts and honourable mentions, along with some new nu bangers to boot. Enjoy!
Higher Power – “Fall From Grace”
“2020’s stellar 27 Miles Underwater LP was a revelation for UK outfit Higher Power, bridging their crossover hardcore roots with a fuzzed-out, 90s alt-rock revivalism in the vein of legacy acts like Jane’s Addiction, Filter, and Far. This progression continues in earnest on their latest cut which offers up massive grungey hooks with thunderous drum work.” (Weekly Roundup)
Basement – “Covet”
Teenage Wrist – “Earth Is A Black Hole”
“On their sophomore follow-up, Teenage Wrist push past the hauntological drive of easy nostalgia, reaching instead for a more modern and aggressive sound. What makes Earth Is A Black Hole such a revelation, however, is how it refuses to let the gloom of the current moment dull the record’s emotional impact. The record’s title track may give nods to tipping points and climate doomerism and the ‘sign of the times,’ but it does so with a kinetic chorus riff that should come with an explicit safety warning.” (New Noise)
Citizen – “Sleep”
Superbloom – “Whatever”
While it’s easy to confuse Brooklyn’s Superbloom with their other ‘Super-’ nu grunge counterpart, there’s a distinct Nirvana-esque timbre to 2021’s Pollen, the group's debut album. “Whatever” is a perfect example of this anachronism, pinning an array of vocal lines together over a straightforward riff progression and an irresistible chorus hook. Not-so-90s slackerism at its finest.
Balance and Composure – “Parachutes”
Hum – “The Summoning”
In the vein of other artists with notable comeback albums—think Sleep, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, and American Football—90s alt-metal luminaries Hum returned to the fold in 2020 with one of the most acclaimed and sonically consistent additions to their lauded discography. Inlet packs in galaxy-spanning grooves, stellar riffs with plenty of supernova kick, and guitarist/vocalist Matt Talbott’s lofty, hypnotic croon.
Sainthood Reps – “Headswell”
Nothing – “Famine Asylum”
On “Famine Asylum,” Nothing’s Domenic Palermo gets downright philosophical: “Existence hurts existence.” Now, this might seem like a self-defeatist attitude, but it’s hardly surprising when you front one of the loudest dream-pop/shoegaze bands on the planet and title your latest record The Great Dismal (2020). All bummers aside though, it’s an excellent collection of tunes that strengthens the group’s already strong ties to their 90s grunge roots.
Superheaven – “In On It”
Violent Soho – “Dope Calypso”
Holding down the fort for the Aussie grunge revival, Mansfield’s Violent Soho were grinding away in shitty pubs and clubs until 2013’s Hungry Ghost put them over the edge and kicked their career into the stratosphere. The band’s Gold-certified, third LP is stacked with bangers from front to back, but nothing hits quite like the blood-pumping, dials-to-11 rush of album opener “Dope Calypso.”
Onslow – “Let Me Rust”
Soul Blind – “Third Chain”
“If you’ve already worn out your copy of Earth Is A Black Hole, then Hudson Valley quartet Soul Blind have a new jam just for you. ‘Third Chain’ is the lead single off the New York band’s upcoming EP of the same name. It’s got plenty of big, grungey riffs and soaring hooks, perfect for the inner ‘90s slacker in all of us.” (Weekly Roundup)
Title Fight – “Leaf”
Softcult – “Perfect Blue”
Back in January, I wrote about Softcult’s latest single “Gaslight” and how excited I was for their upcoming EP, Year of the Snake. Well, now that I’ve listened to that six-track effort from the Ontario “music for mall goths” duo close to fifteen times through, I can now say with supreme confidence that “Perfect Blue” is my favourite track. Hands down. Just pure nu grunge perfection.
Drug Church – “Weed Pin”
Stream the full playlist on Spotify below: