Thursday, October 18, 2012

Nineties Blogfest: 1995-1997

Day Four: Nineties Blogfest (which at this point I've extended far beyond the original one day!) Today: 1995-1997

Billboard Top Song this week in 1995: Mariah Carey: Fantasy
She was the first female to debut at #1 on Billboard's Hot 100
1996's top song this week: Los del Rio: The Macarena (groan!)
1997's top song this week: Boys II Men: 4 Seasons of Loneliness 

1995: Oasis: What's the Story Morning Glory?

I can't talk about '90s music and not mention Oasis. Definitely Maybe was a hit, but this album really won them fans outside the UK. It's like every song on this album was engineered as a hit. At least for rock bands at the time, which were mainly squeezed out of mainstream chart success in the US by R&B and pop. The Gallagher brothers were massively confident, and probably rightly so.
More music from 1995: Foo Fighters: s/t (more my style than Nirvana ever was), Pulp: A Different Class, Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill, one of the biggest selling titles of all the 1990s, No Doubt: Tragic Kingdom, Garbage: s/t, Sonic Youth: Washing Machine (this is the of Sonic Youth that I remember most), Elastica: s/t. Oh, now I really want to listen to Elastica!

TV Factoids of 1995: The WB TV network is established, Seinfeld airs its 100th episode, The Drew Carey show and the Mad TV sketch comedy show debut.

1996: Beck: Odelay

How do you sum up Beck? He's everything: a deconstructionist folkie who raps, sings and mixes it all into a music hodge-podge ... and it works. Loser might have been his breakout hit, but this album shows he has years of material to work with. Where It's At, with screeching feedback over his lyrics "got two turntables and a microphone." It's fun, like a dance record for those of us who don't go to clubs. 
More music from 1996: Cake: Fashion Nugget (a truly original, quirky band), The Wallflowers: Bringing Down the Horse (where have you disappeared to, Wallflowers?), Fiona Apple: Tidal, Counting Crows: Recovering Satellites.

TV Factoids from 1996: The O.J. Simpson trial takes over American daytime TV, The Daily Show debuts with Craig Kilborn (remember him?)

1997: Radiohead: OK Computer

This album, besides still being my favorite of Radiohead's, made the top 10 of many Best of the 1990s music lists (Rolling Stone for example). It's a complex concept album that I still think works best as a whole rather than a collection of singles, as the ipod generation has skewed us toward. This is probably the opposite of Weezer's Blue Album, no real catchy hooks here, but it's beautiful, atomospheric, disturbing at times, but not in an assaultive kind of way; more like a slow-burn of thinking about ones self and place in the world. 
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my submersion into Christian indie rock in the late '90s. For some of you, you have no idea this subgenre exisited; it's largely gone now, but in the hey-day of Tooth and Nail records, Christian rock was not your grandmother's church music. As the music industry in general changed, this niche in Christian music has mostly disappeared, I think rightly, given the Christian music label is a rather strange one. We no longer live in an era where the concept of Christian rock is radical; churchgoing musicians--mainly Evangelical--in the 80s and 90s responded to an atmosphere where rock music was shunned by the church as "the devil's music." Now, it's commonplace to find a praise and worship band at church complete with guitars, drums and effects pedals. Also, given the disillusionment with marketing in the Christian market (big fish in a small pond syndrome) artists clamoring to cross-over to the mainstream found it difficult to shed the stigma related to Christian music--copycats, watered-down, overtly dogmatic, etc. These days, many cross-over type artists simply start in the mainstream and work in any religious affiliation later.

1997: Starflyer 59: Americana 

Starflyer 59 is one of the bands whose success I think suffered most for the Christian label. Starflyer is essentially Jason Martin, singer, performer, producer, who's collaborated with an incredible roster of musicians. His first three albums: Silver, Gold and Americana, were represented by a single color artwork. Droning guitar, excessive feedback, floating, disconnected vocals. I was blown away when I found out music like this existed in the Christian market. Later albums shifted to more of a mix of surf rock and soaring melodies. Old is an excellent example of an album that should have had success in the indie rock market, but alas, that affiliation with "religious music" tends to keep a lot of people away. Martin's albums from 2002-on are all self-produced and increasingly show more depth and artistry.

More music from 1997: The Verve: Urban Hymns, Ben Folds Five: Whatever and Ever Amen, U2: Pop, arguably their last truly innovative album, and of course, The Spice Girls.

TV Factoids from 1997: Most importantly: Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuts. I remember thinking this was another lame attempt at cashing in on a movie (Clueless tried the transition to TV the year before). Now, it's the rare circumstance where a TV show outshines its movie version. I had no idea who Joss Whedon was or that he'd become a demi-god among pop-culture geeks. Thankfully, the whole series is available on DVD, Netflix and in reruns on several cable channels. What are you waiting for?


  1. I lean toward hard rock and metal but I do like the Foo Fighters!

    1. That first Foo Fighters album is so good. Need to add it to the ipod.

  2. This brings back memories. I got the Mariah Carey CD. I used to watch Clueless the movie and the tv show. Jagged Little Pill was the jam. That Ironic song is still my song. I used to watch Mad TV, too. Lol.

  3. Love these posts -- thanks for stopping by my YA 90s roundup!

    1. Absolutely! I didn't realize so many YA books were reflecting on the 90s already.

  4. Ah, mid-90's alternative. Elasica is a name I haven't heard in years! I was a big fan of Toadies...remember them? And how awesome was OK Computer? Best Radiohead album EVER!

  5. I know, I'd forgotten about them too. I must have sold their album, I know I had it at one point. I remember the Toadies but never got into them.


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