Palehound – Dry Food
So at some point it became fashionable to dig through the ruins of the Nineties for inspiration. A certain part of the Nineties, mind you: no one is out there trying to get a revival of New Jack Swing going, and those horrible early Nineties outfits are the fodder of Bojack Horseman jokes rather than actual modern fashion choices. Nineties indie rock, however, is quite obviously the in thing in certain circles these days. How many bands hyped by the Interwebz lately have been dead ringers for 90s alt-rock underground acts? Yuck, Twerps, Jeff The Brotherhood, California X, Speedy Ortiz – the list keeps going, long after I’m tired of naming them off. Is this Twilight‘s fault? I noticed people wearing dour flannel outfits after the movies gained traction, and after you finish listening to Alice In Chains for the umpteenth time I guess there’s nothing to do but dig through digital crates.
Either way, Palehound is another entry into the canon of bands that really wish it was 1995 again. Even the name sounds like something the alt-rock scene would have vomited up, like Keanu Reeves’ band Dogstar (remember them? No you don’t). If Jeff The Brotherhood wants to be early Weezer (with the cock rock worship intact) and Yuck wants to be Dinosaur Jr., Palehound seems fixated on early Cat Power, mediated through the latter Pavement records. It’s okay. I realize that’s a meme but there’s really no better way to describe the album. It’s not offensive. It rises slightly above mediocre. It will find some fans, and people who are nostalgic for a time period that they were infants in will pick it up and talk about how authentic it is.
Here’s the thing: I didn’t listen to Pavement or Dinosaur, Jr. until 2002. My friends and I didn’t grow up listening to Built To Spill, and I didn’t realize that Chan Marshall was a person who made exquisite music until 2006. If you grew up outside the city core, you grew up on the radio and on mainstream alternative rock: your Nirvana, your Pearl Jam, your Soundgarden, your Alice In Chains. The Nineties that bands like Palehound are imagining were a decade reconstructed after the fact, subtracting crap like the Nixons and Creed in favour of Guided By Voices and Sebadoh. For most of us, it never happened, but Palehound wants to spin a world where it did, a world of winsome vocals, messy guitars, and skinny flannel indie-kid poetry. Good on them for trying, but it’s a pale imitation of work that was obscure the first time around.