Tuesday, October 9, 2007

That little thing called the 90s

The 90s was a strange and exciting time for me.

Fresh out of school, weaning off flea-infested metal and senseless movies with young pretty actors filled with oddball dialogue that amounted to nothing. But more importantly, many nights sitting in front of my beat up stereo, catching the 8pm show on Time Highway Radio with my hand on the record button, waiting for those killer tracks.

There was a new sound on radio then. A new sound that was loosely classified by This is Alternative stickers stuck on their albums. The idea was that this was the 'alternative' to the mainstream. Gradually, the alternative became the mainstream. And the mainstream became the alternative to 'indie'. And I became bloody kick-ass on Raiden.

It's hard to explain the sound. It's meat and potatoes rock music but not played with the kind of pomposity that 80s hair bands used to. Neither were they angsty and flannel-laden like their Seattle grunge counterparts. They took bits off The Replacements, bits off Neil Young and created a sound that was exclusively 90s.

As a tribute, here are my essential 10 non-grunge/non-punk tracks from that era.

Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy (from New Miserable Experience)
A bastion of warm tube amps and Westerberg-approved melodies, these Arizonians redefined guitar-playing in the 90s with their twinkly lines and two-step harmonies, all under a colorful straw hat.

Foo Fighters - Big Me (from Foo Fighters)
Dave Grohl's post-Nirvana pop statement packaged with an award-winning music video. Still remains as probably the best song he ever wrote.

Live - Selling the Drama (from Throwing Copper)
These Pennsylvanians tittered between grunge angst, R.E.M.-like melodrama while also finding the time to piss-off Christian fundamentalists with their scathing lyrics.

Counting Crows - A Murder of One (from August and Everything After)
Adam Duritz made poetic lyricism relevant again in the 90s. But the band's hardly just about the words on a paper written by a bearded/braid-haired socialite, as this mid-tempo Americana rocker proves. Might just be worth a wink from Dylan.

Soul Asylum - Runaway Train (from Grave Dancers Union)
Dave Pirner's heartbroken ode to missing American youths. The track that helped him trade-in his punk boots for an acoustic guitar.

Toad the Wet Sprocket - All I Want (from Fear)
Sure, the band's scored at least a top 5 on every edition of those VH1 silly band-name shows but hey, no one made brooding rustic odes like them. Long live the housewives and pretty dresses of Santa Barbara.

Collective Soul - Forgiveness (from Disciplined Breakdown)
The obvious choice would've been 'Shine' but Disciplined Breakdown, while marking the end of the band's relevancy, produced many a good track. This jangling sweet ballad is but one of many.

The Lemonheads - Paid to Smile (from Come on Feel The Lemonheads)
We certainly need no such compensation as Evan Dando time and again proved that he remains the king of cheeky punkabilly tunes and that soft long-haired look. A smile and some cotton candy should follow.

Better than Ezra - Good (from Deluxe)
Kevin Griffin may have committed the cardinal sin by sporting Michael Knight's hairstyle but the man knows his way around those four magical chords and an incredibly infectious chorus. Yeah it was so good.

Blind Melon - No Rain (from Blind Melon)
Shannon Hoon may have the lungs of a banshee and guested on a certain Guns 'N' Roses hit but the man's all Lennon on this one. The kind of strumming campfire chorus that just reminds you of toys, playgrounds and a warm home.


Pj Perez said...

Great post, great songs. I saw Soul Asylum on tour last year and they were still amazing. Thanks!

The Geek said...

oooooo ... can I say I am seriously jealous? Don't think they will roll over to this part of the world unfortunately.

Ryan said...

I saw them open for Keith Richards back in the day. They simply rocked.

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