Friday, February 01, 2008
Listening Post: Last Decade, Dead Century Edition
Whenever I want to bore the hell out of my wife while at the same time reminding her and myself of the somewhat disconcerting age disparity between the two of us, I bring up one thing.
Despite technically coming of age in the 80s, I consider the decade that followed it to be the the most noteworthy period of personal growth and adventure when my entire time on this planet is taken into account. Maybe it was the fact that in spite of working hard in television and moving around quite a bit because of it, I wasn't forced to actually "grow up," my seemingly professional career belying the fact that, at heart, I fit the label that had been so casually attached to my entire generation: I was a surly and disinterested slacker. I've always joked that when it comes to that all-important level-of-maturity, I'm now and have always been about ten years behind where I should be. If you dealt with me at 27, you may as well have been talking to a 17 year old; sure I had a good life and a great job, but I was basically a fucking kid. (Keep in mind, I'm a 38 year old guy whose prized possession at the moment is his XBOX 360, much to his wife's dismay.)
It could very well be because it's the era for which I hold so much nostalgia, but I consider the early to mid-90s to be the period which spawned the best music of the last three-and-a-half decades. Although a lot of great bands and great movements came out of the 80s, for the most part popular music -- even the music that's become popular in hindsight -- wasn't anything spectacular and in reality hasn't stood the test of time. The early 90s on the other hand were my generation's version of the 60s only, dare I say, better in some ways. While we had nothing to protest (as The Replacements once famously said, "You got no war to name us"), musically and culturally at least, we saw an exhilarating, first-of-its-kind clash of styles, sounds and aesthetics.
And it all came together -- marking a strangely simultaneous beginning, end and crescendo -- in 1992.
Put simply, '92 was the single best year for music in my lifetime.
I'll prove it to you.
These are some of the albums that were either released or broke wide open in 1992:
Beastie Boys -- Check Your Head
Pearl Jam -- Ten
Cypress Hill -- Cypress Hill
Soundgarden -- Badmotorfinger
Red Hot Chili Peppers -- Blood Sugar Sex Magick
Nirvana -- Nevermind
Faith No More -- Angel Dust
Rage Against the Machine -- Rage Against the Machine
The Lemonheads -- It's a Shame About Ray
White Zombie -- La Sexorcisto
Ice Cube -- The Predator
Ministry -- Psalm 69
Living Colour -- Time's Up
Tool -- Opiate
Singles -- Original Soundtrack
Alice in Chains -- Sap, Dirt
Pantera -- A Vulgar Display of Power
Dr. Dre -- The Chronic
A Tribe Called Quest -- The Low End Theory
U2 -- Achtung Baby
My Bloody Valentine -- Loveless
Death -- Human
REM -- Automatic for the People
Mudhoney -- Piece of Cake
Jesus Jones -- Doubt
Pixies -- Trompe le Monde
House of Pain -- House of Pain (Fine Malt Lyrics)
Nine Inch Nails -- Broken
Seal -- Seal
Ice T -- O.G. (Original Gangster)
Fugazi -- Steady Diet of Nothing
Smashing Pumpkins -- Gish
Stone Temple Pilots -- Core
Sepultura -- Arise
Toad the Wet Sprocket -- Fear
Matthew Sweet -- Girlfriend
Del tha Funkee Homosapien -- I Wish my Brother George was Here
Hole -- Pretty on the Inside
Guns N' Roses -- Use Your Illusion I & II
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy -- Television (The Drug of the Nation)
In the few years that followed, dozens and dozens of spectacular albums were released. For some reason though, '92 stands as the watershed year in which so many genres -- many emerging for the first time -- saw the release of exceptional, transcendent material.
I haven't seen, or heard, anything like it since.