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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Grunge Ii It Looks Like Pearl Jam/Nirvana; It Sounds Like Pearl Jam/Nirvana; But It’s Really Something Completely Different (Sort Of)

J. Freedom Du Lac Mcclatchy News Service

The copycats are coming! The copycats are coming!

In case you haven’t been paying attention, this just in: It smells like teen spirit … again.

Yes, grunge is back in a major, chart-busting way, thanks to a new wave of copycat grunge bands. (Note: This is not to be confused with the first wave of grunge imitators; see: Stone Temple Pilots and Candlebox.)

Leading the latest charge are Silverchair and Bush, two groups that sound and look incredibly familiar.

Consider the facts:

Silverchair, a teenage trio from Australia, is led by 16-year-old vocalist/ songwriter/guitarist Daniel Johns, who looks like Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, but sounds a lot more like Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. And the group’s songs, particularly the hit “Tomorrow,” recall early Pearl Jam, what with their meaty Sabbath-with-distortion riffs, soaring melodies, earnest lyrics and husky refrains. The group’s debut album, “Frogstomp,” recently surpassed the 500,000 sales mark and currently sits at No. 9 on the Billboard Top 200.

Bush, a late-twentysomething quartet from Britain, is led by 28-year-old vocalist/ songwriter/rhythm guitarist Gavin Rossdale, who looks like Pearl Jam’s Vedder but sounds more like Nirvana’s Cobain. And the group’s songs, particularly the hits “Everything Zen” and “Little Things,” recall Nirvana, what with their loud-soft-loud dynamics, pretty melodies, somewhat whimsical lyrics and edgy refrains. The group’s debut album, “Sixteen Stone,” is closing in on the 2 million sales mark and currently sits at No. 19 on the Billboard Top 200.

Fueling whatever grunge conspiracy theory you may have, both Silverchair and Bush performed sold-out shows here recently. Both also spent precious interview time downplaying their similarities to Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

“We’re not anything like Nirvana. We’re more like Primus or Helmet,” Silverchair bassist Chris Joannou told the San Francisco Examiner, changing the group’s usual response to the grunge comparison question.

“We don’t sound like Pearl Jam anymore; it’s more like Helmet and stuff,” Johns has been saying recently, although the group’s Slim’s set sounded more like Pearl Jam than the harder-edged Helmet. Johns also told Rolling Stone that “at the start, we were really influenced by Pearl Jam, and I was trying to sing like Eddie Vedder. Now, we don’t like them. … It’ll only take one more album for people to realize we don’t sound like any of those (Seattle) bands.”

Echoes Bush drummer Robin Goodridge, in between bites of a greasy two-egg breakfast: “I think our biggest defense will be our next record. Then you’ll know what we REALLY sound like. It’s easy for people to lump you in with a whole group of other (bands).

“But we’ll make another record, and we’ll stand up on our own. We’ll just be Bush - not Bush, that band that sounds like Nirvana or whoever (music journalists) want to tell us we sound like. Like Eddie Vedder, or whatever.”

Goodridge - who actually looks a bit like Vedder himself (no, really; insert conspiracy theory here) - is asked if the next Bush album will purposely sound un-Nirvanalike. Suddenly, he looks like he’d rather be elsewhere; thank the music-journalism gods he’s still hungry.

“We’re only going to do what we do,” he says, rather hastily. “That’s what happened on our first record. We only made the music we wanted to make. Some people must think that we sat there and filtered through loads of records and decided that that’s what we wanted to sound like. You can’t do that.”

Goodridge is reminded that Silverchair did just that, copying the sound of Pearl Jam’s debut record, “Ten.”

“Well, they are like Pearl Jam,” Goodridge says. “Fair enough. They did that, but they’re only 16 years old. We credit ourselves with a bit more maturity. Well, we are more mature - we’re older.” Which, Chris Ballew says, is exactly why Bush shouldn’t sound like Nirvana.

“I admire Silverchair, because they’re unashamed and really have no choice, being as young as they are, to imitate what they admire,” says Ballew, the bassist/vocalist for the Presidents of the United States of America, a decidedly un-grungy Seattle band. “Their point of reference is Pearl Jam-Stone Temple Pilots kind of stuff. My prediction is that Silverchair is going to be massively influential in five years, when they grow up and find their own voice.

“But I don’t see any redeeming qualities in Bush. Bush is older. I would write off Silverchair, too, if they weren’t so young.”

To be fair (sort of), Bush and Silverchair aren’t the only new-generation grunge bands out there now.

The Toadies, who opened for Bush, recall Nirvana on certain songs, including their hit “Possum Kingdom.” Hum, which was also on the Bush bill, occasionally sounds a bit like another grunge veteran band, Soundgarden.

And the Foo Fighters sound a whole lot like Nirvana on their self-titled debut album. Unlike the other sound-alike bands, though, the Foo Fighters have an excuse: Dave Grohl, who wrote and sang all of the songs and played almost all of the parts on “Foo Fighters,” is the ex-Nirvana drummer.

Says Bush’s Goodridge: “My influences are diverse,” he says. “I’m far more in tune with punk bands. But we don’t sound like a punk band. That’s my point: My influences were punk bands, but we don’t sound like Rancid.”

Actually, Rancid’s much-anticipated new ska-punk album, “And Out Come the Wolves,” sounds a lot like the Clash.

“Exactly,” Goodridge says. “We don’t sound like the bands that influenced us. That’s as honest as I can be about that.”