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.


jen said...

how is it that billy corgan went from rock god to total joke? i am a huge SP fan of their stuff prior to Adore; they kind of lost it for me there, and by the time Machina came around, i was pretty disinterested.

i can sympathize with your wife on the xbox front: i bought my husband an original xbox for his birthday back when they first came out 5 or so years ago. he wasn't a video game player so i thought i was safe. he now has 3, including the coveted 360. i have more than once had some devious daydreams about them mysteriously disappearing...

TK said...

Huh. I still own every. single. one. of those albums. Seriously. I don't listen to many of them anymore, and I've actually grown rather tired of Nirvana, but still. You're right, that was a hell of a year.

kalei said...

strange too cause much to my fiancees dismay my prized possesion also happens to be my xbox 360 and halo 3 helmet.

girl with curious hair said...

This is your best musical post so far, and you have had some pretty good ones. I was a freshman in college that year, fresh off the boat (plane) and I felt like I had stepped into a completely different universe.

Anonymous said...

Fuck, that was a great year for music. Thanks to my husband having been a radio dj with a successful metal show, our collection of '92 releases is complete.

And I fucking LOVE that Fugazi album. Oh, and Tool. AND Nine Inch Nails.

Hard to believe I was only 12 then...


Thomas said...


Gotta say thanks for pointing me toward Ken Andrews; I forgot to do post that when it was more relevant...

As far as '92 goes, I was 12 and all this music activated the hormones and rebellion of my preteen self and left a huge imprint on who I am. I still hold a grudge that I wasn't able to drive and take full advantage of what was going on at that time... If I could time travel, I would go back to '92/'93 to see as many of those bands as I could without causing the universe to implode.

And for the XBox... Not my prized possession, but there is a palpable sense of jealousy between my wife and it. The 360 always wins though, because it knows when to shut up and let me do my thing :)

jen said...

there is a halo 3 helmet?? oh god please don't tell my husband.

i now have a serious hankering to listen to siamese dream, in its entirety, at the volume it was meant to be played - 11.

Unsung Hero said...

Not only is there a Halo 3 helmet, but if you pay Bungie 10,000 dollars they will send master chief to your house to deliver it and then golden shower you.

slouchmonkey said...

I'd forgotten what a great drummer Jimmy Chamberlain is when he's on.

John said...

Thanks for this post. I’ve always felt that the music of my college years was better than most of the crap you hear today.

Spring break, 1992. I took a road trip to Arizona with some friends. We bounced around the state, camping in a different place every night. I remember driving around Grand Canyon National Park, windows down, Siamese Dream blaring as loud as my Alpine could possibly go:

“Today is the greatest
Day I’ve ever known”

Siamese Dream never left the changer. Ever since, SD has reminded me of the beauty and the majesty of the Grand Canyon. It’s an emotional experience every time I hear it.

dick_gozinia said...

I remember hearing both RATM & Tool for the first time during the same hour long radio show that year. It was a watershed moment in my musical existence.

I probably spent the largest percentage of my shitty KFC fry cook paychecks on this list of music than anything else in my life. I think the good majority of that list was on the Lollapalooza tour that year. What I wouldn't give to go back and see that show.

After writing that last paragraph, I was reminded of Lester Burnham (American Beauty) talking about how the greatest summer of his life was driving around listening to great music, etc.

Good times.

jen said...

my favorite thing to come out of the xbox is red vs blue.

anniescam said...

Uhm, am I crazy or did you forget Angel Dust?

Chez said...

Oh you are so, so right.

How could I?

I'm adding it now -- I couldn't remember everything ya know, but that is absolutely one of my favorite albums of all time.

Al said...

A fellow WVUM DJ and I debated if Arrested Development or Disposable Heroes were going to break. I was SURE DHoH would prove the success...I was wrong.

But I was still right.

Was at the 1991 and 1992 Lollapaloozas...still have great memories. =D

MelodyLane said...

I was 11/12 when all of this came out. Most of these are still some of my favorite albums. My Ipod is a veritable minefield of 90's music. Rage's self titled album is their absolute best.

This was the year that I discovered Pearl Jam and Tool. Both bands that I still love to this day.

Dammit, Everybody Hurts always makes me sad, but I love that song.

Such a good year for music. I miss the music.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget our own little version of Woodstock...

Lolapalooza. Not enough sex, but certainly enough mud.


jen said...

pearl jam became a fast favorite of mine as well. the opening guitar on yellow ledbetter always hits me like a brick wall somewhere in the middle of my chest for some reason.

my husband says it sounds a bit like little wing to him. i can see that.

demondoll said...

We still have most of these, too. A magical year in music.

Anonymous said...

No new tales to tell, 26 years, on my way to Hell...

Damn, I'd totally forgotten some of these songs, and even bands. Your legend continues to grow sir! Keep up the amazing work before someone starts paying attention to the dangerous sedition you do, so well...

The Firefaery said...

I have to admit, I was about 6 when this year happened. This kind of music was a little beyond me then, but I can still remember hearing The Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time, and Smashing Pumpkins. Songs from the 90's as I was growing up, have stuck with me for years and years. These days, I can't tell one alternative band from another, because they all look the same with all that stupid eyeliner.

RickySilk said...

Incredible post. I was a sophomore at FSU listening to V89 in '92. When college radio was good. doh!

This post caused so many memories to come streaming back. Incredible year.

Clay said...

You left out Dream Theater's Images And Words. For shame. ;-)

Great blog, btw...

Izar Talon said...

I missed this the first time around, but, damn! STP's Core? Faith No More's Angel Dust? Red Hot Chili Pepper's Blood Sugar Sex Magic? (which I still have the t-shirt for somewhere around here... ) Pantera's Vulgar Display???!!! These are all still part of my daily mp3 rotation.

All that and Nirvana still being around and the X-Files just beginning?!

All I had left to wait for was Reel Big Fish, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and the rest of the Third Wave of Ska in '96-'98 (the other component of my daily mp3 playlist.)

For me, this is part of a continuum between He-Man and G.I. Joe, X-Men and Ghost Rider and other comic books, and the Internet, EverQuest, and the present day.

I think I agree with you about the greatness of this year in music, though. The only thing to rival it was the abundance of Ska-Punk that came out about 4 years later.

Ahhh, the music, the life, and the day long D&D sessions of 1992.

Is this how old men feel all the time?

Anonymous said...

In 1992 I was in 9th grade and I knew something momentous was happening in music. My husband (who is now nearly 29) is in love with that era, too. He always jokes how he's stuck in the 90s. Out of all the landmark 1992 albums you listed, he owns 16 of them! And some of your favorite current bands (Our Lady Peace, God Lives Underwater, Muse) are his favorites, too. And then there's 1993 ... Siamese Dream, In Utero, Pablo Honey! My husband is my grunge god, and I love him for it!

Anonymous said...

Slackers are sexy.