Let’s rewind the clock, go back in time, to the good ole days. The 90’s. Now everybody who says they’re a 90’s kid, didn’t really experience the 90’s. Pokemon, Nintendo 64, Fox Kids, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and roller skate rings that was my experience.
I was born in 1992, so I didn’t experience Grunge. I kind of experienced 90’s Hip Hop through my Mom because she liked that music. But other than that, everybody who is nostalgic about the 90’s is really nostalgic for their discovery of the 90’s. Where they heard Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio, youtube, or MTV (back when it played music). Everybody cherishes that discovery, because it was so meaningful. To hear music that isn’t garbage, that’s not only sincere and angsty, but also incredibly popular. It’s still mind boggling that it even happened.
So when a millennial hears something that is “Grunge inspired”it means a lot to us. Because it was something that was always in the background, that we never paid attention to. Yet when we did it was at an emotional period in our lives, where we were receptive to Grunge music.
So when reviewing Death and Daddy Issues, it’s like when a widower dates a woman that reminds him of his late wife. Do you date someone who reminds you of what you lost? Obviously it’s hyperbolic, yet it’s a question that has to be asked whenever a throwback to an earlier sound is heard. Grunge has avoided the burnout that most music genres have felt, mainly because the bands from Seattle were REALLY THAT GREAT. And secondly, when the voice of a genre, and a generation commits suicide, it takes the breath out of the room. Yet with all of that baggage, does Death and Daddy Issues make something worth retreading old ground? And the answer is yes.
Now because I’m at heart a romantic person, I’m going to frame the album review as the widower who dates a woman who reminds him of his late wife. The first track on this album, O//X//Y//G//E//N is the first date. The grungy guitars, angsty lyrics, and borderline punk vocals is the first impression. If you wanted to listen to a great modern take on grunge this would be the song to go to. This would be dating a woman who reminds you of your late wife.
Nearly everything is perfectly done. From the dripping wet reverb of the bass, to that Weezer-like lead guitar, to the soft verse and loud chorus structure, to even the nihilistic vocal performances everything is perfect. It’s so perfect that it reminds me of a really great comedian who makes such an astute observation, parody, or imitation–that both gets both awes and applause from the audience.
The reason for that kind of reaction is because it takes a lot of knowledge on the subject matter. You gotta do your homework. You have got to be a fan. It’s in this track that you see how much Death and Daddy Issues are fans of music. If you don’t believe me, try to listen to other bands with “Grunge” in their titles. Nearly all of them will sound something like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, or Soundgarden. Or maybe a combination of all three. Yet it’s the details that are in this album that separates Death and Daddy Issues, from an Alice In Chains cover band like Godsmack.
Yet as I’ve said before this is a first impression. Back to the widower metaphor, this is the first date. While the woman exhibits the same superficial similarities, it’s only when you spend more time with her that you see her own individualism. While this album is influenced by Grunge it doesn’t mean that it defines them. Which is why it would be insulting to say to the woman, “You’re my Dead Wife.”
Which brings us to our next song, 3:09 AM which is where we see the individualism of the artists begin to flourish. But before I get into that, let me bring up an old clip of Alice In Chains.
Now notice how the drummer in this video says, “We’re not just a rock band. We’re country, and western, and a rock band.” Yet what do you think of when you hear about Grunge music? You think of a very hyperspecific sound. A sound that was heavy like metal, melodic like the Beatles, and with the intensity of punk. Yet here’s Alice In Chains saying that they’re country, and western. Straight from the horses mouth, they are stating something that we as listeners don’t comprehend. We don’t comprehend it, because as humans, we all want to label things, we all want to give things neat little categories, so it makes sense to us.
Yet within every band there are two goals, one is to sound like the music they like, and the other is to make music of their own. 3:09 AM is where you see the larger picture with Death and Daddy Issues. That this is a band that is made up of people who REALLY do love the music they are influenced by. Yet they are creative enough to make something completely different from it.
Immediately from the beginning where the track forms this kind of groove, you immediately know this isn’t Grunge as we know it. From the sweet guitar tones, to the RHYTHM of the track (which is something rock bands have forgotten to do), to the bittersweet vocals, to even the faint organ keys. This isn’t grunge. This isn’t a song you can neatly categorize. It’s just a great song.
Which is really the ultimate compliment you can have for a song. It doesn’t feel like it’s stuck to the past, it doesn’t feel like it’s something strange and foreign from the future, it just sounds great. Which if we go back in time, isn’t that what made Grunge so successful? We can all say it was because it sounded futuristic, it stripped down rock n’ roll to it’s bare essentials, etc. Yet if it didn’t have great songs, then who cares?
Another reason why I think this song sounds so great is because it does an excellent job of capturing being fucked up. It can be on drugs, alcohol, or whatever vice. Where, at the moment, everything feels absolutely great. Yet in the back of your mind your conscious gnaws at you that this isn’t great. It’s sad. The lyrics, vocals, and music does such a great job of capturing this very specific feeling that you don’t have to have synesthesia to see this picture so clearly before your eyes.
Then finally we get to No Fear where all preconceived notions of this band being “Grunge, “Indie”, or whatever label is stripped away. It’s where the widower comes to peace with his dead wife, and to love the new woman he’s with as the person she is, and not the person he wants her to be.
Before I mentioned how 3:09 AM had a great groove. Yet it’s in this track where the groove morphs into a waltz. Which gives it this theatrical edge that most rock bands seem to miss out on. This coupled with the distorted guitars/synths in the background, circus like piano keys, the sinister lead guitar notes, and distorted vocals gives this track a creepier feel. Like imagine a 19th century ballroom filled with ghouls, and that’s the kind of vibe you get.
The comparison seems campy, yet the song is anything but campy. It’s got enough style and substance where every decision enhances the song. The subject matter is about a person who feels isolated in depression, only to be rescued by their fiance. Which the waltz kind of beat fits so well with. Because if you hear a waltz that romantic picture of dancing in a ballroom with a pretty girl/handsome guy flashes in your mind. Then with the distorted vocals, angsty lyrics, and sinister production it culminates in a song where the lyrics, and music coalesce in such a harmonious way.
So in the beginning I mentioned how as a millennial, I, like many others had to discover this background music of Grunge. That the reason it resonated with me, and so many others was because it hit me in the feels. We can all look back and see the flannel shirts, greasy long hair, goatees, and teenage angst. But really, if the songs didn’t speak to a generation of kids, then it wouldn’t have gotten as popular as it did.
Death and Daddy Issues, is a band that WILL hit you in the feels. Nearly every single lyric, guitar, and production choice was made in such harmony to create this wonderful emotional landscape that I cannot recc this album enough. When people bemoan the death of Rock, modern music, or whatever. They are oftentimes not looking hard enough. Because there are bands who are out there, making real music, that is sincere, honest, original, and an absolute joy to listen to. And Death and Daddy Issues is one of those bands.