Review: SPIN

Afternoon of the Roar
?? 1995, by Robert Christgau

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Evolving folkie Beck fronted a piano-augmented punk band whose healthy willingness to fool around didn’t prevent it from making the appropriate noises at the appropriate times. Superchunk also seemed relatively generic, but where Beck’s best moments too often involved barely audible words, the Chapel Hill standard bearers regularly transcended themselves in rushing hyperdrive raveups. Both the straight-ahead Dambuilders and the expressionist Fibbers augmented their guitar onslaught with violin. And if Elastica’s retro punk-pop Roared mostly by association–this was the only band propelled by its drummer, who banged with irrepressible precision–Hole’s pomo grunge-pop epitomized the sonic idea: at once inescapably, singalongably catchy and gloriously, unkemptly clamorous, a sound bath that heightened the consciousness as it enveloped the spirit. Courtney also blathered some, natch; eventually, the vigilant Lollapalooza timekeepers pulled her plug and she was carried off by security. But don’t let anyone tell you she’s not a musician first. None of this melodrama–which seemed somehow expected, almost normal–was as memorable or as meaningful as the focus she applied to the songs of her life.

Hole also covered Nirvana’s “Pennyroyal Tea” and the Replacements’ “Unsatisfied,” perfectly, and played two new songs that traded catchiness for an implosive force that recalled In Utero without living up to it. Lollapalooza’s unchallenged masters of internal-tension Roar remained Pavement and Sonic Youth. Steering away from the theoretical teen anthems no one now doubts they can write, the godparents topped the show with its most avant-garde set, a clanging two-guitar barrage (three-guitar on the new songs where Kim Gordon put down her bass and strapped on a man’s instrument) that evoked their symphonic mentor Glenn Branca more than anything they’ve sold in years. Which was gutsy, but in the wake of Pavement, also artsy.