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Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music by Greg Prato

by Kevin Wierzbicki

With music it's always best to just let the thing itself do the talking. Similarly, when you're writing a book about music it's best to hear right from the horse's mouth. And that's how Prato has structured this comprehensive look at the overall Seattle music scene with an emphasis on the grunge days---he offers brief introductions to each chapter and then fills the rest with comments from those who were there.

And the commentary is not limited to Seattle-based musicians; many of the artists opining here are passers-through like ex-Meat Puppets drummer Derrick Bostrom who says that one of the main things he remembers about playing Seattle was that the band always had to scour their van for contraband to avoid arrest before crossing into nearby Canada for their next gig.

Another cool thing about Prato's presentation is that it is devoid of set-up questions; he's painstakingly strung together groups of comments (answers to unseen questions) from diverse sources to form a common theme. So instead of coming across as a history lesson, a reading of Grunge is Dead is more like sitting around and having a few beers with all these folks while they speak candidly.

Over a hundred musicians and scenesters were interviewed for the book including big names like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden but lesser-knowns like Mark Arm of Mudhoney and Chris Cornell's ex-wife Susan Silver offer the majority of the commentary.

Grunge is Dead also acknowledges the role that area record labels played in the scene's development by delving into the workings of imprints like Sub Pop, K and C/Z Records. There are sad moments when the inevitable topic of drug-related deaths and other tragedies arise but for the most part the book is upbeat and fast-moving.

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