They came, they rocked and they vanished – or did they? More than 20 years after the 90s pop and rock boom, we find out what some of its ambassadors are up to now.
BABES IN TOYLAND
In a nutshell, these all-girl grunge legends succumbed to intra-band conflict and subsequent legal issues before going their separate ways and surprisingly announcing their reunion in 2014, 13 years after calling it quits. The breakup of the Babes was a devastatingly extended affair and from a PR standpoint, a lesson for all bands wherein discord is unquenchable. The trouble began when frontwoman Kat Bjelland’s new band Katastrophy Wife began to displace Babes as her main concern, costing the band their record deal. After leveling lawsuits each other, the band was quiet until their 2014 ‘everything’s OK’ announcement.
Nirvana’s non-existence is one of the most enduringly mourned tragedies not just in music but in all of pop culture. Kurt Cobain is the cornerstone of the idiom of 90s alternative rock and when he put himself on the business end of a shotgun on April 5 1994, a huge part of the sound and sensibility of the movement died with him. Unlike most rockstar deaths, Cobain’s demise wasn’t a result of hubris. Unable to stomach a level of fame and scrutiny he never asked for or dreamed about, he eventually exited it all, irrevocably. The blame game is still afoot but the loss is final.
THIRD EYE BLIND
Shockingly, the creative force responsible for “Semi-Charmed Life” is still at it. Later this month, 20 years after its name-making hit, the alt-rock outfit will unfurl its new EP We Are Drugs. This band’s story is a vastly encouraging one because, save for the messy and public ousting of founding member Kevin Cadogan and their outspoken critique of the Republican Party, nothing the band has done has been tabloid-worthy in a bad way. 2015’s Dopamine, its last studio album, was a critical and commercial success, indicating its vitality and viability at a time when its peers have long ceased to exist.
Some of you Tame Impala diehards weren’t born when Australia’s biggest non-AC/DC band ruled the roost. But from the early 90s to 2011, the band’s brand of pop-filtered rock and metal was a consistent presence on charts and stages all over the world. Unlike their one-trick peers who didn’t evolve beyond the constricting parameters of grunge, Silverchair very successfully crossed over into the mainstream with lusher, more pop-oriented arrangements while maintaining their hard rock bona fides. Case in point: its final album Young Modern featured both orchestral and glam elements throughout. But in 2011, citing a loss of the proverbial creative spark, the band announced its “indefinite hibernation”.
Don’t be fooled by the media silence of Ireland’s second biggest — to U2, of course — stadium rock band – it’s still an ongoing phenomenon. Six years after its hiatus, the original lineup got together in 2010, with tours in North and South America and Europe as well as its sixth album Roses to show for it. Those looking for drama will be disappointed to know that nothing acrimonious led to the six-year time out. With the solo careers of frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan and lead guitarist Noel Hogan taking off, it was group consensus to take a break, until it was time to go again.
THE GOO GOO DOLLS
Despite a loss in hype and a significant shake-up amongst its members, these pop rock giants are still actively touring and releasing music. Frontman-guitarist John Rzeznik’s universally relatable songwriting and ear for catchy hooks is why The Dolls continue to be covered by every bar band worth its salt. But as a scene-defining act, the contemporary Dolls are unable to transcend the hits of its past. While its last two albums, including this year’s Boxes, met with modest commercial success, critics bludgeoned the works for their formulaic nature and lack of timeliness. Sadly, the Dolls of today serve as a lesson to all those hawking an era-specific sound.
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
Billy Corgan is insufferable – that’s an inescapable conclusion. Remember how, during the recording of Siamese Dream, he ordered drummer Jimmy Chamberlin to play until his hands bled? But, as it seems, time heals most wounds and in a recent Facebook Live video, Corgan revealed that he spoke to bassist D’arcy Wretzky for the first time in 16 years, and that the band’s original lineup is back in contact. Besides Corgan, Wretzky is the first member to publicly state that she would consider the possibility of a reunion. As the replies of Chamberlain and guitarist James Iha are incoming, it’s with utmost ardour that we hope their answers are affirmative.
Consider how the times have changed: Though Collective Soul typified the long-haired, deep-voiced, flannel-draped aesthetic of the ‘alternative’ 90s, it’s since released an album on Roadrunner Records, the stable of a slew of metal bands including Slipknot and Dream Theatre. This is not indicative of a consciously heavier shift in the band’s sound—which, truth be told, hasn’t changed much— but of the displacement that ‘90s legends like Collective Soul encounter in the industry today. Undeterred, and with new guitarist Jesse Triplett replacing longtime lead guitarist Joel Kosche, the group is soldiering on and has promised to release an album next year.
Easily one of the most successful bands of the 90s, Bush enjoyed a level of ubiquity that led many critics to wonder, ‘alternative to what, exactly?’ The slip from critical opinion occurred after the band’s fifth album Golden State, a commercial flop that established the need for a break a year later, in 2002. During this time, lead guitarist Nigel Pulsford and bassist Dave Parsons exited the band for good and frontman Gavin Rossdale cheated on bae Gwen Stefani with their nanny. In 2010, Rossdale declared that a reconfigured Bush lineup was ready to tour and record again. Later this month, its sixth album Man on the Run, will enter the world.
Simply put, The “Godfathers of Grunge” are no more. After its 1996 album Dust, the Mark Lanegan-led quartet languished in a four-year-long creative drought before they were dropped from their label, and eventually, retired. The silver lining in all this is that Lanegan has established himself in a solo capacity as one of the most distinct voices in the rock world. His leathery, whiskey-burnt baritone is instant recognisable, and besides his trove of solo albums, has graced records by Queens of the Stone Age, Unkle, Moby and Melissa Auf der Maur, to name just some acts that have sought out him out. His presence ensures that his old band will never be forgotten.