Tue, 7 Jul 1998 14:03:02 -0400
Nirvana was the Beatles of alternative. The Beatles reshaped popular
culture and redefined the popular-music business - emphasizing albums
instead of singles, writing their own songs and then consistently
reinventing themselves musically. Nirvana introduced alt-rock to the
mainstream, making angst the best-selling hallmark of Generation X. And,
like the Beatles, Nirvana never can reunite because one key member is dead.
U2 is the Rolling Stones: much-hyped albums occasionally tinged with a
calculatedly trendy sound, self-important videos, mammoth stadium
spectacles - all engineered chiefly by the lead mouthpiece (Bono/Mick
Jagger), who has great business sense to go with his artistic vision, and
his less talkative but essential guitarist (the Edge/Keith Richards).
R.E.M. is the Who. The guitarist (Peter Buck/Peter Townshend) shapes
the music, while the lead singer (Michael Stipe/Roger Daltrey) delivers the
lyrics with a charismatic exhibitionism. Both bands have shown a sense of
adventure and never hesitated to introduce unexpectedly new instruments
(synthesizers for the Who, mandolin for R.E.M.) that ended up elevating
their music to new heights.
Metallica is Led Zeppelin: heavy, mystical, relentless and dangerous.
Smashing Pumpkins' antecedent is Neil Young. Billy Corgan and Young
have vital voices that some listeners find grating. Corgan and Young are
prolific conceptualists with a fearless sense of experimentation. And both
operate with a higher sense of purpose.
Pearl Jam is a composite. Singer Eddie Vedder has the intellect and
edgy spontaneity of the Doors' Jim Morrison, the showmanship, charisma and
visionary powers of Jagger, and the idealism and
I'm-only-in-it-for-the-music attitude of Neil Young. Pearl Jam bassist Jeff
Ament has the musical openmindedness of Zeppelin's John Paul Jones;
guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready are as proficient and anonymous
as former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. As for Pearl Jam's Matt Cameron, well,
he's the latest in a succession of drummers - No. 4 - just like Spinal Tap,
the ultimate commentary on classic rock.
It came from a longer piece run in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune June 30.
There's more to it; if you're interested, email me and I'll send it your
way. Personally, I think U2 is more like The Who, but who are we to judge?
Teresa in Richmond
'he looked at me as if I were the one who should run. . . ' (comment on
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