As Eddie Vedder releases a cute little ukulele album, we contemplate the inevitable descent into mellowness.
Eddie Vedder's new album, Ukulele Songs, came out yesterday, and mood-wise, it's a long way from the Angry Eddie of the early 1990s. Obviously, as artists age, their tastes may expand or retract, just like their waist- and hairlines. But the following artists have changed so radically from when they made their impact that, if they're ever confronted by their past selves in some kind of Bill and Ted-esque time-travel situation, things will get ugly.
5. Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder has always been a sweaty, angry, working-man's rocker. From his willingness to jump from nearly anything onto anyone to his endearing attempts to single-handedly defeat Ticketmaster, Eddie's always been a combative type, even when his battle tactics have been a little puzzling (i.e., fighting for abortion rights by planking). But starting around his soundtrack for Into the Wild, he's been jumping off things less and melodiously crooning more, aided by the most adorable tiny guitar around, the ukulele. Enjoy his positively precious lead single, "Longing to Belong," with a glass of warm milk and three-week-old kitten.
4. Paul Westerberg
Known first for their sometimes thrilling, sometimes shambolic performances, and second for their drinking habits, The Replacements were the kind of charming, sloppy but smart band that the term "college rock" was invented for. Westerberg masked the sincerity of his songs with a matching wildness, often dumping blistering anthems like "Unsatisfied" directly next to gag songs like "Gary's Got a Boner." Then, around the time of Replacements guitarist Bob Stinson's death, Westerberg began contributing far more maudlin songs to Friends and Melrose Place. He reached the nadir of his dad-rock phase in 2006 with the soundtrack for the animated film Open Season; it's hard to imagine the drunk twenty-one-year old who wrote "Kids Don't Follow" taking that one sitting down.
3. Elvis Costello
Once, Elvis Costello was quite the firebrand, spitting out "Radio, Radio" on Saturday Night Live and earning himself a twelve-year ban from the program. His signature was his sneer, which gave a deliciously cruel edge to his tight pop songs ("Alison," "Watching the Detectives," et al). Since then, though, he's become an affable elder statesman of nerd-rock, collaborating with Burt Bacharach, gently poking fun at himself in films like Talledega Nights and appearing in a bear costume to sing "What's So Funny ('Bout Peace, Love and Understanding)" on The Colbert Report. While his younger self was probably never much for violence, he almost certainly would react to all this mellowness with some biting remarks in intricate rhyme.
2. Henry Rollins
Henry, don't hurt me for saying this. Your transitions from pool-ball-squeezing rageaholic in Black Flag to serious dark poet to ubiquitous alterna-dude in no way diminish the fact that I am still terrified of you. But at this point, you've been trading on your time in Black Flag for far longer than you were actually in that band, and some of your tirades seem a little cranky-old-mannish at this point. A little mellowing can go a long way, but when you were drinkin' black coffee and staring at a wall, did you at any point anticipate drinkin' kombucha and staring at your IFC microphone? In conclusion, you could still probably wring my neck, but your younger self might wring yours.
1. Ice Cube
Once, Cube was white America's ultimate idea of a scary rapper. To that guy, a good day was a day that you didn't have to use your A.K. Now, even random internet smartasses are making fun of him, just because he chose to star in a bunch of bad kids' movies. I understand — convincing people how tough you are all the time is exhausting, especially considering that no one in N.W.A. except Eazy-E had a criminal record. But Cube's next reported project is a movie version of Welcome Back, Kotter, which really seems like the kind of thing that would have inspired the young rapper to use his aforementioned A.K.