It’s been 20 years since the high-spirited Paul Westerberg song, “Dyslexic Heart,” became a jingle for the movie, “Singles.”
If you really want to see the best movie ever made about the Seattle music scene that was Grunge, then you must see Doug Pray’s 1996 classic, “Hype!“
Sure, we people who write about media can sometimes overdo calling something “the best ever.” I picked up a copy of “The Seattle Weekly” and, bam, their cover story is about the best movie about the Seattle music scene ever made. It’s a joke, in a way, since Mike Seely actually writes about the authenticity of 1989′s ”The Fabulous Baker Boys,” which is also a movie about music and set in Seattle. It’s a very contrived little piece of work by Seely full of chirpy movie commentary and loathing for himself and Seattle. But that is truly par for the course for “The Seattle Weekly,” a supposedly “alternative weekly” that behaves more like an out-of-touch company newsletter than anything else. This article, in its smug insularity, even manages to be homophobic. Is that really what Seattle is about? Uh, no, not the Seattle I believe in.
I will say this for “Singles,” it is good at what it does. It is supposed to be about a bunch of beautiful young people and it nails it. What’s so funny is that I remember, a year or so before “Singles” came out, while it was filming in Seattle, there was one record shop guy who went crazy thinking that a super cool movie was being made about records! Oh, how far from the truth that turned out to be. “Singles” has absolutely nothing to do with vinyl and everything to do with singles, as in being single, carefree and ready to spawn into the hit sitcom that was to become, “Friends.” Yes, there’s the “Singles” soundtrack and the movie is chock full of cameos with Eddie Vedder and the gang. But that is besides the point. And, if you’re looking for a major motion picture that does justice to the sort of mindset that was feverishly in play in Seattle some years back and still is today, as well as in any number of cities, then check out “High Fidelity.” That is the major motion picture that my record shop friend would definitely endorse.
Anyway, getting back to “Hype!” It’s there for you to enjoy on YouTube. Just like, in the future, “The Seattle Weekly” will be remembered as a chronicle of uptight Seattle, “Hype!” provides you with an inspiring look back at the DIY world of Grunge and beyond. Because, make no mistake, Grunge, that spirit of shedding away all constraints, lives on. You just have to see it to fully appreciate the vibe. For any Eddie Vedder haters out there, the big guy comes off very genuine in making the case that it really isn’t about the fame and money. Art Chantry, known for his landmark graphic design of grunge, shows off some vintage posters worth hundreds of dollars that he promptly destroys on his chopping block. A Sub Pop employee describes a call with “The New York Times” asking for the latest on the Seattle scene whereupon she makes up a bunch of current slang terms, stuff like “dish” for cute guy and “kickers” for boots, and, word for word, it gets printed. Does she care? No, because that’s what grunge is all about. It’s just good-natured pranking, not soulless snark.
What have we learned in the last 20 years? As “Hype!” makes perfectly clear, the best in rock is yet to come. We are not in any danger of losing new generations of disaffected youth. We will still have plenty of entertainment like “Singles” but we will also have new generations asking for a lot more. So, ask for more! Let’s start with this: the “Hype!” end credits song, “Dark Corner of the World,” by Young Fresh Fellows!
And, just for fun, let’s compare the track lists for the soundtrack to “Singles” and the soundtrack to “Hype!”