The year is 1989 and grunge is underground. Invoking the visceral bits of proto-metal like Black Sabbath, it wallowed in the sludge while taking on the brazen attitude of punk rock. The purest form of it sounded as if Satan himself was creating destructive little minions to destroy any rosy-cheeked pop-chart cherubs who got in his way. The line was distinct between grunge and the mainstream. And people were just fine with it that way.
Then Nirvana came and ruined everything. Indirectly, of course. It was follow-up bands like Creed, Live, and Candlebox who pulled the trigger and shot grunge execution style like a horse with a broken leg. Pioneering fans were left without a community short of a few mainstays and the general public now wore flannel purchased at department stores. As a viable genre, grunge was extinct for about a quarter of a century.
Then came Vomitface.
The Toronto-via-Jersey trio founded in 2014 to excavate the corpse of grunge and breathe new life into a dormant art form. Their debut full length doesn’t skim off the top by aping Nevermind for a new batch of sullen 21st-century teenagers. Hooray For Me digs deeper and plucks the best bones of old Sub Pop and Touch & Go bands to create a perfect monster. Venerable fans will enjoy re-discovering the cavernous bass of Tad, strangled guitar of Halo of Flies, and shitshow smartassery of Killdozer with all the proper reverence in place. And for the kids, Vomitface is making music as fresh and exciting as it was for their parents back in the day.
There is no “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to launch Hooray For Me, thank goodness. Instead the sparse recording style of anointed aesthete Steve Albini delivers muddy bass and cracking snare drum directly into your chest cavity. The pained wails of “Senior Pictures” demonstrates not only a pure form of present day grunge, but the lyrics sneer at the same insipid concerns: “I like the background that you choose/ A perfect setting for the end times/ I like the way your arms are posed/ I like dispersion”. The most important facet of “Pictures” is that there isn’t some pleasing moment where everything snaps perfectly together. No bothering with crotch-centered guitar solos or an overdriven studio sheen. This is grunge and it doesn’t give two shits whether it pleases you or not.
That is not to say that Vomitface doesn’t wield a heavy handed Nirvana influence. “Dramamine” sounds like a Bleach outtake, ever-churning with crooked chords and imperfect harmony. Dark and tainted imagery rears throughout Hooray, sputtered with phrases concerning dirty sink water, sickening aerosol scents, and car accidents. “Singing sweetly into my bloody microphone/ I will play for you, I will kill your firstborn” speaks to the brutal necessity his vernacular infuses on “If Then”. The intonation of lead singer Jared Micah invokes Cobain’s lost charm, bitter and impertinent while always balanced with a crude artful flair. All of this is purposeful stuff, with each spittled syllable etching that dividing line between the mainstream and outcasts back into place.
The rationale of Vomitface comes across strongest on “Chew Toy”, five powerful minutes of unreleased musical tension searching for a brawl. Micah self-loathes throughout the track while acknowledging the band’s inescapable connection to the past. “Who came before is obsolete/ Hope you never count on me/ I hear the applause, it’s all for me/ Hooray for me” is a lyrical double-edged sword. It reveals his discomfort in exalting his idols while inevitably being called out for a lack of originality. Although Vomitface would never be so conceited as to consider themselves messiahs of grunge, they manage to nail down the genre with more thoughtful accuracy than anyone deemed necessary. They work on their authenticity without faltering into some nouveau hybrid to fit into this post-Nirvana world. Even the band’s name is a double digit salute to the mainstream. Vomitface is not for the basic folk who want their music easy. No, this one is for us.
Aug 29 – Dew Drop Inn ( Washington, DC)
Aug 31 – The Empty Bottle (Chicago, IL)
Sep 1 – Cafe Bourbon Street (Columbus OH)
Sep 2 – Now That’s Class (Cleveland, OH)
Sep 3 – Baltimore, MD
Sep 4 – Jersey City, NJ
Hooray for Me is available now.