I’m a late eighties and super early 90’s kid for the most part at heart – some 80’s new wave and 00’s Deftones type stuff aside. Today I was revisiting Living Colour‘s excellent Time’s Up release, perhaps my favorite of their records. It so captured various rising sounds of an era. People forget the band worked with everyone from Don Byron to Mick Jagger to Little Richard and were so much more than an easy to pigeonhole hard rock band. They went 2x platinum with Vivid and have other great records but to me Time’s Up is kind of their Incesticide – full of characteristic examples of their range and some popular cuts for die hard fans but overshadowed by other records.
With the exception of Soulside (who never broke into mainstream conversations) and mighty Bad Brains, who laid the groundwork but didn’t get their full due until much later despite influencing everyone from Jane’s Addiction to Scream and Nirvana, there was really nothing that sounded at all like rowdier Living Colour except some of the rhythm tracks on Appetite For Destruction or, again, some of the frenetic early funk-a-fied alt rock of Jane’s, Faith No More or RHCP. That sort of funky side has all but been whitewashed out of a lot of indie rock and punk these days but the freak flag is still flown by, say, Stephen Bruner/Thundercat or a lesser known band like Joey Eppard’s 3, for example. Plus, it is always awesome to see black men owning rock n roll as a genre since they are the ones who really created it first. I saw Corey Glover live at O+ Festival in my city of Kingston a year or so back and the fluidity of his vocals even now was astounding.
Living Colour’s best material reminds us of a time when bands were unafraid to be themselves and find different, but like minded peers, each band thus becoming underscored as special for their similarities and unique qualities. Seattle grunge was also very much like that. Seeing the Living Colour version of “Blow Up The Outside World” really moved me. The band do their own interpretation but the love is so strong for the material, the moment they are sharing with fans and for the departed Cornell. The best covers are usually when a band does their own caring but unique take, from Moby’s take on “New Dawn Fades” to Dax Riggs’ Leonard Cohen covers to Macy Gray’s jazzy version of a Metallica song . Heck, Robert Trujillo quoted “Black Hole Sun” in a section of a patented Metallica-style bass solo to nod to Soundgarden and the world’s huge loss, for example.
Soundgarden were so special because they wore their Sab and Beatles influences and didn’t pretend they were God’s gift sent from a void without giving credit, but they forged a unique sound from the clay of their roots. I wish more bands today still cared enough to try to do that.
There is something about this Living Colour version of a not as obvious choice like “Outshined” though that brings the immediacy of the loss and also the bittersweet but beautiful nature of this life we are all in to a head. The crowd singing along so strongly to a lesser known hit should move even the staunchest black metal snob or blog hipster with a heart of entitled stone. Please watch it and remember that music can make us all family.