As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as C.J. Boyd.
Proselytizing the beginning of grunge is a mote argument, particularly in the heart of Seattle. Indefensible is what affixed gaze of the collective music conscious brought to the city with its emergence. The transition from overlooked nook into a corporate powerhouse should not be shrugged aside, nor should the significance of what was ground into alternative music. Much like the imagery and culture shock grunge captured, the homogenization of that sound also mirrored the glossy sheen of Starbucks and Microsoft erecting edifices to lavish success.
West Coasting Volume 1: Dreams Like This Must Die does its best not to live in either of these worlds. C.J. Boyd, by his own words, is “re-appropriating the idea of ‘alternative’ music.” He does not enter into nostalgic excess, even as he blankets West Coasting Volume 1 with a flannel dusting (right down to the cover image of Boyd circa 1991). Boyd draws inspiration from his youthful love of grunge and all things Seattle but he is not beholden to it, which makes his latest opus such a magnificent reinvention—one the now generic genre has desperately needed for more than a decade.
Boyd’s bass is the primary substance by which he transforms the crunch of yonder into an aural force of the present. Pained refrains of old grunge classes; the open wound sincerity of Boyd’s screamed “How much difference does it make” as he recites from Pearl Jam’s “Indifference” during A-side’s “Something Indifferent Would” forsakes the sound of his influences while embracing the ethos.
Boyd’s spectral ambition is only heightened by the a cappella wail of Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” that eerily begins the B-side’s “Hunger Crown Pose.” The bass drones with the heaviness of church organs, Boyd rekindling the emotion of Andrew Wood’s death without a hint of irony of exploitation, as if to use the visage of a talent falling to his addictions as a metaphor for alternative music succumbing to the promises of an industry that was in it only for their own fix. Boyd does end on a sour note, coaxing life from his bass, giving us hope that a genre once beloved can be born anew to live out its potential.
West Coasting Volume 1 embraces the mythology of Seattle during its musical heyday, relying on some of its elder statesmen to help reclaim a piece of history. Boyd gives us one last discordant Jesus Christ pose. Here’s hoping we can now bear the cross and resurrect the real meaning of alternative music, rather than repeating a formula is never meant to create.