Sound of the 90s

I discovered toys and cartoons in the ‘80s, but I discovered music in the ‘90s, especially Grunge. Janet asks for the best bands of the ‘90s this week, and it's a topic I'm well versed in.

10Guns N' Roses
I included them in my '80s list, but my full appreciation of the group developed in the early ‘90s. I've chosen an iconic video of the era, November Rain, off of Use Your Illusion I, which feature's Axl's girlfriend at the time, gorgeous model Stephanie Seymour. Note to self: learn to sing and play guitar.

9Wu-Tang Clan
Yes, I realize one of these bands is not like the others. While you won't find much hip hop in my collection, the Wu was one of the more significant groups I was introduced to in college. 36 Chambers of Death featured a blend of kung fu movie references interspersed with a large and talented group of collaborating rappers. There was a point where I heard the album every day in school. I've selected one of the more mainstream tracks here, C.R.E.A.M. The Fugees don't make this top ten, but they'd be another other significant hip hop ensemble I was listening to back in the day.

8Smashing Pumpkins
Though more Alternative than Grunge, I definitely include them alongside my favorite Grunge groups, especially since Billy Corgan could switch from mellow jubilation to grinding angst on a dime. I chose Bullet with Butterfly Wings because it's a marvelous anthem applicable to any situation in life in which we feel angry but helpless, be it traffic, deadlines, relationships, or other insurmountable obstacles. Also, the chorus really makes me want to jump around and mosh. Those were the days.

7Stone Temple Pilots
One of the benefits of being an art major was the ability to listen to music during class. Whether painting, sculpting, drawing from a model, or etching metal plates, we had the option of listening to music instead of a professor, either on a shared radio or, preferably, through headphones. I still remember one class where I put Core on and the puzzled professor picked up the cassette box and read off the names in a confused voice, exaggerating the underlying message of “I don't get this stuff”. It was a proud moment. Though the group was still something of a Pearl Jam clone with the first album, an album I quickly tired of, they peaked with their own sound by their second or third release. When I think of the early days of listening to their music in school, I think of Creep, my second favorite song by that name.

6Temple of the Dog
I'd list this group higher if I didn't need room for Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, whose members collaborated for one album dedicated to deceased singer Andrew Wood. Hunger Strike is one of the top three songs that come to mind when I think back on the 90s. Even now I may quote it from time to time to indicate that I'd like to get some food. “You know, I don't mind stealing bread from the mouths of decadence.” Sadly, fewer and fewer people get the reference. It's a habit I either picked up from an old high school friend, or Rey, or possibly from both.

Yes, I know I listed them among my 80s favorites, but I'm listing them again, especially since this is a more accurate category personally for me to place them. If I heard Wu-Tang clan every day in school, I heard Metallica every day traveling to and from school. I was finally driving, albeit my dad's car, but more importantly I had a tape deck. The Maroon Monte Carlo speeding along the Grand Central a little over ten years ago blasting Wherever I May Roam and other songs from the Black Album repeatedly before 8 AM or after 7 PM would have been me.

The group might have broken up, but Chris Cornell is still out there wailing with the awesome Audioslave, keeping that sound alive. There was a time in my life that I tried(and failed) to look like Cornell. An even more unlikely truth is that I played basketball every day with my friends in my neighborhood during the Summer, and we'd often blast Soundgarden for motivation. I still couldn't dunk, but at least I was hearing great music like Fell on Black Days while my friends did. In school, I once had a graphic design assignment that called for combining my portrait with either a quote, poetry, or lyrics, and I chose Fell on Black Days, maintaining a “cool” image of unhappiness during some of the best years of my life.

This is the group that started it all for me in high school and defined my musical tastes in subsequent years. Rather than the more obvious Smells Like Teen Spirit, I've chosen a later work, Heart-Shaped Box.

2Alice in Chains
Like Nirvana, Alice in Chains too lost their lead singer. While Kurt Cobain shot himself, AiC's Layne Staley died of a drug overdose a few years later, coincidentally on the same date, April 5th. His harmonies with Jerry Cantrell produced a unique and mesmerizing sound, unlike anything else in the decade. Would that we could have heard more of it....

1Pearl Jam
Finally, we reach my #1, the only group on the list I've ever seen live. I (tried to) dress like Eddie Vedder, and even tried to sing like him, throwing in mumbled “eyeah”s into whatever song I was singing, even if it didn't fit. There are so many good songs to choose from, but they've only done two official music videos in the years they've been together. The most popular one at the time was, of course, Jeremy, a memorable story of a boy who gets picked on by everyone until the day they push him too far. When he has finally “spoke in class,” his message is heard.

* * *

Narrowing things down was tough, and this post has transported me back to some great years in my life. I'm sure I've missed a few groups too(Chili Peppers, U2), and I'll close with an honorable mention to Bush with Glycerine:

Don't let the days go by....



Blogger Lyndon said...

Wow, I'm amazed how much our lists would overlap if I decide to do one. Plus I think I've covered all those bands at sometime in my blog.

One question though, no Radiohead?

10/17/2006 8:07 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

Kind of a one hit wonder for me, but I did mention that at the end of the STP section. It was sort of my theme song for a bit.

10/17/2006 8:15 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

By the way, Alice In Chains is together again with a new vocalist. I'm not sure how much I trust the accuracy of the article I linked, though. They refer to the band playing the song "Nutshell" from the album Dirt. No such song on Dirt, my far and away favorite AIC album.

10/17/2006 10:47 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Oh, yeah... if you wanna check out the new vocalist, here's some cruddy video of a live performance of Dam That River ... which is the only song on Dirt that I'm not wild about, but this is the best clip I've seen.

10/17/2006 10:52 AM  
Blogger Otis said...

You really should do yourself a favor and see Metallica live. They are the best. I've seen them six times and have always gotten my money's worth.

I think your list mirrors a lot of males aroung our same age. Smashing Pumkins never get the respect they deserved.

10/17/2006 3:08 PM  
Blogger Lorna said...

Well, we listened to different music in the 90s, but we both liked Smashing Pumpkins. By the 90s I was looking for something I could still dance to, and, not apropos of that, I fell for the Lilith Fair stuff.

10/17/2006 3:36 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Call me crazy, but I never saw the mass appeal in the Smashing Pumpkins. I liked 1979 but that was about it. I always found Billy Corgan's voice to be so...whiny.

10/18/2006 7:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home