Garage Rock (or how the pencil drafted the grunge canvas)
What is this sound that remained with Barry, and fuzzed along with the “boy bands” making music in the obscurity of their garages… Because they didn’t had cash to afford a commercial studio. Turning the home studio of today into a facsimile, did they knew history was being made ?
The portrait goes beyond Monalisa’s cocky smile: The acoustic roughness, the high volume, the headache for parents and neighbours (blessed the ones which tolerated) echoed from the garage walls through the upcoming decades. Acts like “Paul Revere & The Raiders”, “The Troggs” and “Berry & The Remains” were worthy of shouting “Eureka!” like an obsessed scientist who made a discovery either because of lack of it or none material at all. Disclaimer: Do you see a 2020s musician doing any work that’s not “in the box”¹? So were these guys during the 60’s: Not time travelers, rather pioneers, the bands focused in the composition process before production (the recorded material a.k.a the final result - as neat as it could be for the time, stereo driven, for hi-fidelity consumers ²), disregarding trends and providing opportunities for engineers who understood their expression, and gave it to them a hands-on approach in retribution. The proof can be heard in “All Good Things” by Barry and the Remains³.
A marginal Beatles artistic concept raised the “good to be unadjusted” flag. Garage Rock leaders were not concerned to sound distorted or having an ugly voice; but embracing their inefficiencies (or seemed as from the public) and turning into qualities. Composition was gravely taken into consideration: “Troggs” singer Reg Presley makes us all wear the character shoes in “Hi Hi Hazel”, when he sings “Hi, hi hi Hazel” [“I’d say you won’t be short of a dime / Big time” […] or “Mind, you’re lookin’ different class / What a gas” and the outro “Don’t seems so long ago I knew ya […] Won’t ask what happened to ya”] positioning the character farther away from Hazel, the antagonist, his muse, the uptown girl that he impartially observes, certain that he’s a loser and won’t match her standards (except if he finds oil in the desert, like Jett Rink I suppose⁴). Who’s the man that never felt like this ?
And that’s not everything that fills the artwork. From a musical theory perspective, the introduction (lead by a wind instrument, or similar) presents a feeling of “ hopeless comedy” to the listener, while the always-present walking bass denotes what was being played by convention during the 60’s. The fingered guitar, in opposition to the relaxed drums, aggregating all instruments, prepares a harmonic universe for the storyteller. The vocalist, with support of other members backing vocals, remarked the style of that era.
Disclaimer ²: Differently from “Wild Thing”, which turned into a hit. The original tune could be nowadays in the “Old Spice” deodorant commercials. Thanks to Jimi Hendrix behaviour, it was pitched sooner⁵. Similar to the statement “The day destroys the night and night divides the day⁶” or when Baroque intervened the period between renaissance and classical music⁷, Garage Rock didn’t reached mainstream at the time; except for a few composition cases. Thirty years later, although, Grunge movement rose. The term derived from Garage, first applied to music by Lester Bangs in a 1972 CREEM review of the band “White Witch”, (invented by him or not), it serves as a synonym for dirty, buzzed sound, not precise as their predecessors. But still, with a definite form of expression. “Touch me I’m sick” by Mudhoney ⁸ might hurt erudite ears - But by accumulating some wax, the buzz (a low-end frequency predominance in rough recordings) will be prominent and thus the literate will understand what is this all about. Regarding the 90’s apathy, an opposite force dominated the market after the deaths of Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and Chris Cornell. Hedonistic-driven lyrics now provokes an insatiable search for power and a perfect body in boys and girls. For the alternatives, it sounded like there wasn’t anything last to say… Until global disaster have hit the table: Never-predicted happenings over the 20’s “Brave New World⁹” population might give the last scream humanity will ever hear, or maybe give hope for new beginnings.
Suddenly Mud hits the fan: Mudhoney returns with “Plastic Eternity”, kickin’ the front door with hits like Souvenir of My Trip [“Everyone tells me it’s nice to have me back / I can’t tell that I’m sure where I’m at […] What’s left of me / What’s left is the souvenir… Of my trip”], and environmentalist anthems Almost Evrerything [“I’m beside myself on the edge of your world / Enlisting your help as the lines start to blur […] We’re at the core of the pulse and in constant flux / We feel like an infant, 14 billion years old / Discovering everything that will ever been known / We feel like an infant born before time / Everything seems new even though we’ve always been alive”] and Cascades of Crap ¹⁰. The year is 2023.
The questions are not rhetorical and urgently need answers. How mankind will solve world catastrophe ? When people will realize that divided we will fall ? The return of Mudhoney and the direction they’re pointing brings hope. Maybe, like Garage Rock, their noises will echo beyond the studio walls.
“Flush the fascists… Down” - Mudhoney, 2023
Never mind the software in question, but the history. “Ryan Picks (Reason Studios), video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNxhfTKIrew
“All Good Things”, by Barry and The Remains. https://open.spotify.com/track/4mcVOX5AOOWrQIMUvqLFQ1?si=2ff8ce5db44f4b2e
Giant, movie. Jett Rink, character. A “poor” wealthy man : “The fictional character Jett Rink was inspired partly by the extraordinary rags-to-riches life story of the wildcatter oil tycoon Glenn Herbert McCarthy (1907–1988)”. See full info. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_(1956_film)
Morrison, Jim. The Doors - Break on Through (To the Other Side) : https://open.spotify.com/track/0ja1dJM5gBTjk5U9wsMP9r?si=9aaa95d109874a47
From Renaissance to Baroque. From Baroque to Galant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_from_Renaissance_to_Baroque_in_instrumental_music
“Touch Me I’m Sick”, by Mudhoney. https://open.spotify.com/track/2x5FYXo5rL4Phmn3UPdkK3?si=464e1c3cc1ff48a7
Huxley, Aldous. A “Brave New World” is the world of today: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World
“Plastic Eternity”, by Mudhoney. Press play… https://open.spotify.com/album/7fZmi0BsBSDhX9AwQmJdb7?si=nSMT1vgHQTq5k0yPUr3fXA