Are the ’90s coming back? That’s a question echoing throughout fashion and music, as some say the recession is leading Americans into a place of cultural nostalgia for a decade that, though it certainly had its ups and downs, held a clear-cut and unique sense of style and awareness. Jon Gorski, guitarist/vocalist for Milwaukee’s Pretty Wounds, which clearly takes its cues from Nirvana, hones in on that band and the ’90s aesthetic.
“I think that it resonates as a turning point in popular music,” he says. “Before that you had music like Michael Bolton dominating the airwaves and other stuff like Scorpion’s one-hit wonders. … Then out of nowhere comes this band, this sound, that sounds completely authentic and gives the sense that these were real people just doing whatever they wanted to. It’s akin to the explosion of the ’80s hardcore movement, except it made it to the mainstream. They just didn’t care what they looked like, and that resonated with a lot of kids.”
Pretty Wounds’ three-piece hardcore punk, although strongly reminiscent, is also gratifyingly refreshing in a music world still full of over-production and overly precious attitudes, its angular and brash sounds at full force on its newest release, Whatever, Go Away. The group recorded it with Shane Hochstetler of Howl Street Recordings, who seems to have the magic touch for bands with a backbone.
“We’ve had a bunch of other releases since we started playing in bands,” Gorski says. “Usually we just record in my basement, but recently we’ve branched out and started going to Howl Street. It keeps my sanity intact.”
Gorski, along with Mike Carini (bass) and Matt Tomashek (drums), also recently released new music with their other hardcore punk band, Armada, a group that’s even more in line with the one they all admired in their high-school days: Nirvana.
“For us, that was sort of a bonding moment in middle school and high school,” Gorski explains. “I think we really sort of resented the music that was prevalent at the time on the radio and looked back at what we saw as something raw and untouched, somehow making it through the mainstream. It’s not just Nirvana. It’s most of those bands from that time— Sonic Youth, The Melvins, stuff like that.
I remember blaring The Melvins in high school and my dad hating it and me telling him it was almost 15 years old. That kind of raw emotion in popular music wasn’t around for us growing up, so we latched onto the past. It was the same way the first time Matt and I discovered The Misfits. Here was this band that was half influenced by doo-wop from the ’50s and at the same time writing unprecedented lyrics at the time. Who the hell would write about The Fly?” “Nirvana was a band that showed me that you could be yourself and do whatever you want in music, regardless of what other bands or trends are happening at the moment,” Tomashek says. “Their ability to write hard-hitting and soft, melancholy songs is admirable. … I love to play music that has a sort of angst to it. I think every musician pulls from that place inside themselves that drives them to write the music they want to write.”
Pretty Wounds plays Quarters Rock & Roll Palace on Friday, March 2, with the DUIs, Whiskey Pig and The Dead and Dirty. Whatever, Go Away is streaming at prettywounds.bandcamp.com.