It's been just over 20 years since the release of Hype! (out now on a Collector's Edition Blu-ray) and twenty-six years since bands from Seattle took over the music scene. Anyone under the age of 30 will have a hard time fathoming that rock used to be the most popular kind of music and this movie unintentionally captures its last big moment.
Doug Pray (who most recently made The Defiant Ones, HBO's documentary about Dr. Dre and music executive Jimmy Iovine) was just chronicling the bands from his local scene in Seattle and then the scene blew up: Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana topped the charts and dozens of other Northwest bands landed big record deals as MTV and the music labels promoted "grunge" to the masses.
The best thing about Hype! is that Pray treats all bands the same. You may have never heard of Tad, the Fastbacks or Mudhoney but they the same treatment as Eddie Vedder. Producer/engineer Jack Endino and Sub Pop Records owners Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman give valuable background on how the scene got attention while the bands are all just happy to have a camera in their faces.
Hype! would be more fun if the movie had been completed in 1993. Success breeds jealousy and division and the overwhelming popularity that a handful of bands achieved (and the money they made) put strains on longstanding friendships. Pray also has to deal with Kurt Cobain's 1994 death and all the fallout that came after.
A high point in the film comes when Sub Pop's Megan Jasper explains the notorious "Lexicon of Grunge" interview she gave to the New York Times Style section. How she punked the press remains one of the funniest stories from '90s rock.
Hype! features live performances from Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana (their first live performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is here), Mudhoney, Supersuckers, The Young Fresh Fellows and 7 Year Bitch.
It’s been just over 20 years since Doug Pray’s (HBO’s The Defiant Ones) Hype! was released, capturing the story behind the organic rise of the influential movement that would come to be known as grunge. Debuting on Blu-ray on September 29, the release includes a new audio commentary with Director Doug Pray, vintage Interviews and performances, Peter Bagge’s animated short “Hate”, outtakes, and a new featurette with interviews and insights from some of the original characters in “Hype!” two decades later. Hype! gives a deft depiction of Sub Pop Record’s brilliant exploitation of “the Seattle Sound,” and showcases rare performance and interview footage of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana (their first live performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is here), Mudhoney, Supersuckers, The Young Fresh Fellows, 7 Year Bitch, and many more.
Shout! Factory puts a lot of effort into their reissue projects and there's a genuine, must-watch bonus feature on this disk. “Hype! 20 Years After" features new interviews with members of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and The Fastbacks, producers Jack Endino And Steve Fisk, manager Susan Silver, and photographer Charles Peterson. The interviews give valuable context for what came after and the one with Soundgarden's Kim Thayil and manager Susan Silver seems to have taken place after lead singer Chris Cornell's death in May.
Back at the height of the '90s rock mania, there was a lot of controversy about anyone and anything that tried to chronicle the moment. Hype! has aged incredibly well and offers a valuable window into rock's last great moment.