I'm not sure whether to call this a review or an article or what. It's certainly not flattering, and even though it appears to be about the Ten Reissue, the article mentions Ten about as little as an article about Ten can.
So “Grunge” is back, they tell us. The early 1990s movement that, like its stepfather, punk, came to be associated with both music and fashion, is back in the record stores (where such things can still be found) and on the runways.
The fashion part of this revival strikes me as just plain silly: the grunge uniform of flannel shirts and threadbare jeans was a fashion statement made by a group of young people who wore those clothes first because it was all they could afford and then as a kind of badge of honor, a kind of emblem of street cred. Unless the current designers are being very ironic and I’m being very dense, any sort of real revival of grunge fashion will have to come from the streets of Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, or some other city hit hard by the current recession.
But what about the musical revival? That’s a bit more serious. Look, we’ve covered the music industry’s trials and tribulations on Soundcheck for years. Record sales have been tanking, the industry hasn’t known what to do about file sharing and illegal downloading, and as a result, the new media landscape left the industry flailing even before the economy headed south. But the early 90s? Man, those were good times. CDs were king. If you liked Nirvana, or Pearl Jam, or Soundgarden, you went and bought their records. And millions of us did. Though no one could have known it then, it was the last highwater mark for the record business. Of course they’ll be nostalgic for that time.
And for the rest of us? It’s tempting to say that it’s a reminder of another time when money was tight and a popular Democratic president was saying he’d fix it. And for people who were in their teens and twenties in the early 90s, and who are now staring middle age in the face, it is certainly a powerful form of nostalgia for that time. But there’s more going on: the classic Pearl Jam album Ten has been reissued, mainly, it seems, because of its use in the video game Rock Band. And for folks either too young or a little too old for grunge to have hit them in that teen/twenties sweet spot, grunge is a kind of missing link between the punk movement of the 70s and the DIY aesthetic of today’s indie rockers.