And everywhere ? Because if the headlines of the news of 1994 hinted at a dark era for heavy music, the albums released that year told a far more inspiring story – one of the scenes coming true and the bands fulfilling the promises they made. had barely hinted at. The phenomenon has been proven to be as true for Bay Area punk, as it has been for the wasteland of Norwegian black metal, as it has been for the murky industrial scene – a sense of myriad casseroles boiling, simultaneously.
The bigger story was Dookie, catapulting three snotty San Francisco punks into the same multi-platinum, heavily toured celebrity who had so recently destroyed Nirvana. While few had predicted the success of Dookie’s unit change, his radio friendliness was impossible to deny. Like Nirvana, Green Day performed pop songs, albeit veiled in maximum distortion and decibelings, and delivered in a pungent voice with disdain and prickly wit.
Much like Nirvana, Green Day had not evolved in isolation, and their escape brought to light California’s fiercely independent punk-rock movement – fortuitously, as many of their contemporaries recorded their best records. The Offspring was the first to follow, the third album by the then unknown band, Smash, which propelled by the hits Come Out And Play and Self Esteem to 11 million copies, making it the best-selling independent album of all. the temperature ; these benefits gratefully received by their label Epitaph, created by Bad Religion guitarist and composer Brett Gurewitz, 14 years earlier. After spending hours in his car listening to the mixes on the album, he greeted his wife saying, “Honey, we’re going to be rich.”
This wave of interest in West Coast punk was a boon, as the label also recorded hits with NOFX’s fifth million-selling album, Punk In Drublic and, the following year, the overwhelming… And Out Come The Wolves by Rancid. The title of this latest album winked at the majors surrounding Rancid as they remained loyal to Epitaph. Bad Religion, however, joined Atlantic for their eighth album and late breakthrough, Stranger Than Fiction.
The West Coast pop-punk explosion was momentous and influential – that year a then-unknown blink-182 recorded their debut album, Cheshire Cat, on Westbeach Recorders precisely because heroes Bad Religion and NOFX were there. had recorded – but across the United States other bands of melody and caustic dynamics were coming of age. Rivers Cuomo, a geek born in Connecticut, had moved to Los Angeles, formed Weezer, and was committed to recording a batch of songs that combined pure pop melodies with alt-rock crunch and emotional lyrics. Rivers was a die-hard Nirvana fan, but not a slavish copyist, and Weezer’s blue album reinforced Kurt’s savvy mix of noise and vulnerability, but with a voice of their own.
Emo – a national movement, unrelated to any state or city – resurfaced in 1994 with two key albums that defined the genre. Jawbreaker’s third album, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, was 37 minutes of bellowed punk-rock intensity, swapping polish for passion, but still drenched in bruised air. Sunny Day Real Estate’s debut album, Diary, was a gnarled, anguished but often brilliant beast, with a rhythmically complex uproar sent skyward by the brooding voice of frontman Jeremy Enigk.
Neither album broke the charts – “I know a lot of bands that started because of our influence,” Jawbreaker drummer Adam Pfahler recently told Pitchfork, “but we were [only] selling in the tens of thousands ”- although both have since been recognized as landmarks. Among this “class of 94”, Kurt Cobain’s spirit could perhaps be heard most clearly in their fusion of visceral punk dynamics with anguished lyrical chiaroscuro. SDRE imploded during the sessions of their second album, but rhythm section Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith later joined the Foo Fighters, whose debut album Dave Grohl had recorded alone in Seattle in October.