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The Name Game

June 07, 1998

Since when did "grunge" become "accepted" as the term to describe '90s independent rock groups!? Better yet, when did the Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, etc., become independent rock groups?! This is one of the most absurd statements I've ever heard ("Beyond the Grunge," by Robert Hilburn, May 31).

Grunge was a media and a fashion event. Basically the country, facilitated by the greed of the corporate establishment, looked to the Northwest and bit the style of a bunch of kids making music. It happens all the time. It's still happening now--Bush and other "post-grunge" bands continue their attempt at capitalizing on the "grunge" phenomenon.

Why must the media insist on pigeonholing and categorizing trends in music? They are always looking to "discover" a movement so they can have something to latch on to. Doesn't anybody realize that by doing this, they are killing it?

ANTHONY PUGLISI

Pasadena

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Hilburn so overglorifies the rock stars he deems important, it's almost as if his impulse behind such an attitude is that if he makes them out to be gods, he can then regard himself as the Moses who brings down the Ten Commandments from the burning bush to the multitudes. And the best commandment, excuse me, rock lyric, he's ever heard/read is very likely worse than the worst poem in each issue of the Paris Review. I mean, come on!

I think David Geffen's take on rock stars (in the Feb. 23/March 2 New Yorker magazine) is the accurate one: "Most of the artists were trying to make a living, trying to get laid, trying to figure out who they were. They weren't trying to change the world. That's what other people put on them. I knew them all, intimately and well. Bob Dylan. I would say that Bob Dylan is as interested in money as any person I've known in my life. That's just the truth."

CRAIG FURNAS

Corona del Mar

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"Grunge" was merely a marketing attempt aimed at those poor bastards who define their musical tastes, clothing and philosophies according to Rolling Stone and Spin. Just because Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden all emerged from the same area doesn't make up for the unassailable fact that those three bands sound nothing alike. As for the "attitude" associated with grunge, well, where did it come from? It's fairly obvious that Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell quickly developed a loathing for the ceaseless coverage devoted to pigeonholing them into some useless category while at the same time burdening them with the mantle of "generation spokesmen." They figured out early on that the money coming their way hardly compensated for the pressure or the loss of privacy. What they did in reaction shows just how different they were from the beginning.

Cobain (the one who wrote the unintelligible lyrics) killed himself. Vedder (the one who wrote anthems) became a leader of causes until, perhaps embarrassed that he was not as charismatic or smart as he figured himself to be, decided to withdraw from the attention and just make music. Cornell (the one who wrote songs that any heavy-metal act in the '70s wrote) decided to cut albums, tour, and take the money without becoming too emotionally distraught. True, they all seemed to be moody and depressed at times, but how unusual is that given these modern times?

Rather than lump them all in the same category, the argument can be made that they were all genuine and uncalculating, but just happened to shun the sunny side of things (because there ain't no sun in Seattle, right?). This is why all the wannabe rip-off bands and their lead singers look so silly. The big three cannot be blamed because some guy from sunny L.A. with a college degree got his band to switch from pop to "grunge" so he could cash in on the media wave (see Everclear, Bush, STP and many others). My point is that no one who enjoys rock music should waste their time worrying about the "birth" or "death" of grunge unless they are marketing something.

SCOTT HAVIS

Columbia, Mo.

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