Crowd Control

By The Columbia Chronicle

Michael O’Brien

Staff Writer

In the early 90s Nirvana saved the world. Well, at least it seemed like that to a lot of us. After a decade of rap and candy-coated metal, rock music was back. Nirvana’s “Nevermind” knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the Billboard charts, and a new musical era began.

Nirvana’s fresh sounding brand of poppy-punk was labeled “grunge music.” It’s mid-tempo verses and larger-than-life choruses took over the radio and inspired countless copycat bands. Unfortunately, Nirvana was crushed under the weight of its own fame. Two fellow Seattle bands, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, tried to pick up where Nirvana left off, but there always seemed to be something missing; there was a lack of the pain and passion that made Nirvana magical. That’s when Sunny Day Real Estate burst onto the Seattle scene.

They had an inventive new sound that was more powerful than and just as passionate as Nirvana’s. It was labeled “emo-core” because of the raw emotion in the vocals and the hardcore guitars. Sunny Day Real Estate broke up before the release of their second album in 1995, so commercial success was never realized. However, the band’s two albums, 1994’s “Diary”and an untitled second album referred to as “the Pink album,” inspired countless young bands from coast to coast. Local bands including Braid, Promise Ring, Rainer Maria and Compound Red have all borrowed Sunny Day Real Estate’s sound, a testament to the influence Sunny Day has had on the current music scene.

After Sunny Day Real Estate’s breakup, lead singer Jeremy Enigk recorded a critically acclaimed solo album. Drummer William Goldsmith and bassist Nate Mendel went on to find commercial success with their new band, Foo Fighters.

During the summer of 1997 rumors abounded that Sunny Day Real Estate was back together recording a new album. The rumors were true. The album, “How it feels to be something on,” was released this September, and Sunny Day Real Estate went on tour.

Last Wednesday night, Sunny Day Real Estate returned to Chicago. The sold-out, all-ages Metro crowd contained plenty of kids who weren’t even in junior high when the band’s first album came out. The kids were there to see what all the talk was about, to see if Sunny Day Real Estate could live up to its posthumous hype.

Shortly after 9 p.m., Jeremy Enigk walked on stage wearing a faded pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt, resembling a post-grunge, 90s James Dean. The band exploded into “In Circles,” a song from their debut album, and it was clear that Sunny Day Real Estate was back — older, wiser and ready to save the music world from Bush, Everclear and Matchbox 20.

All this would be a hollow triumph if Sunny Day Real Estate didn’t sound so vital — the present tense once again clamped between their teeth, the future in their sights. Hearing “In Circles” is always going to thrill the fans, but it’s encouraging that the highlight of the show was the new single “Pillars.”

Eight of the concert’s 13 songs were from the new album. The new material is more traditionally structured than the early songs. Sunny Day Real Estate have been able to grow without losing what makes them special. Drummer William Goldsmith is one of the best, he’s the band’s driving force, but the magic comes from the voice. Enigk’s howling is a wonder. He spits out his lyrics with painful passion — a defiant blast for the damaged. A statement of furious intent, it demands absolute attention. When he belts out the lyric “…you’ll always have your time to shine, even in the winter of your darkest hour,” it’s clear that Sunny Day Real Estate will be independent rock’s shining stars for years to come.