Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Brown Eyes Like His


To have lived through the 90s as a rock kid was to have seen something which was then called the Alternative Revolution. The premise of the Alternative Revolution was this: rock, over the course of the 80s, had reached saturation point regarding corporate interests and phony-baloney dinosaurs. To put commercial rock back on the cutting edge, independent rock music would have to cross over and independent bands and artists be willing to sign to major labels, compromising and "going corporate" but putting the music first again. MTV was still huge then, and making commercial videos was seen to be part of the compromise. In terms of what music came out of the Alternative Revolution, I still heavily favor Gish and Siamese Dream, two albums by Smashing Pumpkins which happen both to be sublime masterpieces.

The two Pumpkins albums were absolutely massive in State College, where I spent four years, '94-'98, and el primo years they were for the Alternative Revolution. I wrote Brown Eyes Like His in the summer of '94, while living in South Halls. The chord progression is a tangent variation to the kind of chord changes Kurt Cobain and Nirvana tended to favor; while the subject matter, the torment of growing up in America in a fractured family, was also standard for Alternative Revolution songwriters. I skipped over this tune during the Darkyr Sooner sessions in New York because I thought only a full band arrangement could do it justice. By Main Street West in '04, even with me playing all the instruments, this fell into place the right way. Now that the song has charted, the fourth track from Ardent to do so, I look back at Main Street West as itself an interesting milieu in which to work. Matt Stevenson's own Alternative Revolution had to do with running a studio in a manner as raw, personal, and individualized as he could possibly do it, down to the idea that sessions could be as long or short as we wanted them to be. MSW was not just anti-corporate, it was the complete refutation of the corporate in almost every respect, and uncompromisingly so.

P.S. The picture of me here was taken by Kelly McCabe in the autumn of '94 around the environs of North Halls in State College.

P.S.S. As of October 30, Brown Eyes Like His has the unique distinction of charting solidly both on Soundclick and on Jamendo.

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