’95 was kicked off by the World Trade Organization replacing the General Agreement on Tarriffs and Trade. It had the usual large earthquakes, avalances, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Hackers hacked some of the US’s most secure computer systems. The Dow closes above 4,000 for the first time. The Unabomber bombs a lobbyist. The latest movie delivery vehicle, the DVD, is announced. OJ Simpson is found not guilty. The Metra slams into a school bus. The Dow Jones breaks the record again by going over 5,000, surpassing 2 millennium marks in one year. Galileo probes Jupiter.
But anyway, it was another superb year for music. Let’s go back in time, on a musical voyage, shall we?
Tool – ‘Aenima’ is what I’ll remember most nostalgically. Not only was it listened to many times in 1995, it also served as soundtrack for a couple years after that during my community college years, which were crazy on all kinds of different levels (still living at home, working a lot, full time college, lots of partying, and much more). I suppose that’s what Aenima does, too. It sure sounds like a Tool album, but it is still their most varied album to date. And arguably their best album (although I do like Lateralus and Undertow quite a bit).
Here is one of my favorite songs on the album. The enigmatic title of ‘H’ is to be interpreted as half empty or half full (and is also Maynard’s son’s middle initial).
That was then, this is now. Having evolved into a music devouring freak of nature, or musician, Don Cab’s archetypal album ‘II’ is what I would choose as my favorite album now. I keep going back to it, and can never hear it too many times.
Don Caballero – ‘II’ is an absolute beast of music… it is already a cult classic, but I’m sure it will be musically analyzed for years. I do not know exactly what to say about it, because no one has done anything quite like this album, which incorporates nearly all styles of music while still sounding like a distinctive statement all its own. It strikes me as being very avant garde for an indie rock album (I hesitate what to call it, but I suppose that’s what it is in the general sense) yet is catchy enough to keep you coming back. It’s heavy, but it’s not heavy metal. ‘II’ creates specific moods, but they are very abstract.
The band (which will be remembered primarily as Damon Che and Ian Williams’ band, unfortunately) are masters of tension, timing, and nuance, as well as bombastic over-indulgence. When top notch musicianship actually creates something this interesting and profound, it is a very rare occasion and should be celebrated and absorbed as often as possible. Interlocking patterns weave musical textures, with Damon Che (being one of the drumming greats of my generation) leading the charge, while guitarists Ian Williams & Mike Banfield, and whatever bassist they had at the time (Matt Jencik) intuitively create living tapestries of stringed brilliance. If you haven’t heard it, here it is:
But back to the nostalgia… If instrumental music is not your cup of tea, the only album that (imho) is maybe better than ‘II’ is Mr. Bungle’s – ‘Disco Volante’, which was released upon the unsuspecting world in 1995. An artistic realm that no one has come close to touching upon to this day… I’m not sure how I can stress just how weird it sounded at the time, other than this:
And that just barely scrapes the surface of the madness that is ‘Disco Volante’. It is one of the first “soundtracky” kinds of albums I really enjoyed. At the time I was really not into anything like soundtracks, or even Pink Floyd. This album was musically captivating enough to really pique my interest, and weird enough to be utterly unique. It was the album that got me into jazz, oddly enough. At the time there was a lot of great heavy metal coming out, and that played a big part in my musical tastes, so my jazz appreciation was smuggled in by Mr. Bungle – ‘Disco Volante’.
This album basically had everything: soundtrack, jazz, metal, experimental, theater of the absurd, rock… writing about it, I feel compelled to listen to it again; there’s a lot there. Even platypus. (One last thing: the synth on “Desert Search For Techno Allah” was literally the coolest thing I’d ever heard at the time.)
Tricky – ‘Maxinquaye’ … I really was not into this album at first, but eventually when your friends are listening to it almost every day, you follow suit. Especially when it is a great album, and it features the seductive Martina Topley-Bird’s vocals. The collection of songs is chock full of strange textures, obtuse lyrical observations, abstract meanderings in a triphop format. It is by far Tricky’s best album, a debut that would be rather difficult to top, to say the least. The production is both crisp and abstract in sound, analog and digital.
But anyway, this song is just as good as any Massive Attack song (high praise indeed):
I especially like the beats and simple melodies on “Overcome”. Great intro/album opener. Really the album works great as a whole, which is perhaps why it is so good. The compositions are really tight as well, and did I mention Martina Topley-Bird? Oh yeah, I did.
Down – ‘NOLA’ Another band with an amazing debut they would never come close to topping. NOLA to me is a classic metal album with great songwriting, memorable riffs, and to top it all off, it’s one of the few supergroups that were able to do something cool. It’s a must have album for anyone into the mid to slower tempo metal grooves that Black Sabbath spawned. Also, this is back when Down was basically half of Crowbar plus COC mainman Pepper Keenan leading guitar duties. Phil Anselmo is actually in top form here, and the band is killing it:
Unwound – ‘The Future of What?’ arrived in ’95. I didn’t get into these guys until a few years later, but Unwound was one of the greatest bands around in the 90’s. Here’s “Natural Disasters”:
Wonder if Unwound will ever do a reunion show/tour/album? Something? They’re one band that I’m sort of surprised haven’t done it yet, especially after seeing Polvo reunite. My hunch is that they won’t do a reunion tour though. If they did, I’d be one of the first to get tickets, because the time I did see them at the Fireside Bowl they were freaking amazing. Masters of feedback and nihilistic guitar noise mayhem, they even have a female drummer that is actually really good. That might sound sexist, but let’s face it, there are not many good female drummers. Yikes, Meg White!
Heavy Vegetable – ‘Frisbie’ Another really great rock album of 1995… I found out about Rob Crow by hearing the band Thingy on epitonic.com probably around 2000, and not soon after that I heard this album. In my mind, ‘Frisbie’ features some of the most fun and playful as well as skillfully created music I’ve heard. There are many changes, interesting rhythms, and expert use of dynamics and fuzz. Add to that a super tight band with great riffs, smoothly blended female backing vocals, Rob Crow’s golden voice, and amazing distortion tones and a fine recording, it sums up to a special album.
Was also into 1995’s ‘Exit Planet Dust’ by Chemical Brothers, which was pretty much my introduction to electronic music. I don’t know whether to call this a guilty pleasure, since I haven’t heard it in a long time. But I just about wore out my cassette copy of it. Ah, to party like it’s 1995! Wow, it’s been a while 90s.