Everybody Loves Our Town
As a music related site it's perhaps a little surprising that the Devil has never posted a review of a music related book in the five years since the site was launched. Well that anomaly is corrected today with a review of Everybody Loves Our Town subtitled, very accurately, "an oral history of Grunge" by former Blender magazine senior editor Mark Yarm (his real name and no relation to Mudhoney's Mark Arm).
I wanted to tell you that Mark Yarm spins a good yarn because it sounded appropriate and was a nice neat introduction. But unfortunately it's not true, Mark doesn't spin anything he just let's the people who created, participated in and eventually helped to destroy grunge tell their tales. It's an unadulterated journey into a scene that changed music, fashion and the world we live in forever.
Letting the participants tell the story provides insights like no other approach . The unique grunge sound, a cross between punk and heavy metal, is traced back to the opening of the Gorilla Gardens venue with it's metal and punk stages. This lead to the two genres bleeding together to spawn the Grunge sound we know and love today. It also provides possibly the best one line description of the genre as "complaining set to a drop D tuning". There's little mythologising and a lot of truth telling, although as you'd expect from an oral history one grunge aficionado's truth is another's lies and there is frequent disagreement over arcane elements of the grunge phenomenon.
This authorial hands off approach both helps and hinders when it comes to chronicling the relationship between Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. It is refreshing to see the story through the eyes of those who were closest to the development and ultimate destruction of the two main players in the drama but it also serves to confuse as positions have become entrenched and the participants are unable to take a sober, detached view of events.
My only gripe with Yarm's approach is that it can get a little difficult to keep up with the references and a little more help via the tried and tested publishing technique of footnotes would have made the story a little easier to follow. But hey maybe that's a little too mainstream for a book on the outsiders art form of grunge.
Everybody Loves Our Town is a book that's not just for fans of grunge it's a book for fans of life.
The book has made me ponder my favourite 5 grunge spawned tracks and, after much deliberation and arguing with myself here they are in some sort of order...
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit by Fenerium
Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
"Touch Me I'm Sick" - Mudhoney (vinyl) by Scottreks3
Pearl Jam - MTV Unplugged Session - Jeremy by kcr666