1993

’93… summer… Lollapalooza. still have that shirt

In the 90’s Lollapalooza was a pretty big deal. It was a traveling fest, and 1993 was perhaps the year it really hit its stride. It was the first year I went anyway (and I didn’t go to another one til ’06!). Being from a town of about 6,000 (and from the boondocks of that town no less) I wasn’t super aware of other music fans. Although I had a few friends that were pretty cool, so I learned a lot from them. After getting into hard rock, rap, metal, etc there were new sounds everywhere, especially by ’93. It was time to branch out and hear new sounds.

Rage Against the Machine and Alice In Chains were two of my favorite bands in high school. Now, I don’t listen to them much at all… but back then it was a daily ritual. Throw in the groundbreaking RATM debut on the way to school; listen to AIC’s ‘Dirt’ on the way back through my ridiculous self-wired soundsystem (complete with blinking lights!).

Nirvana was everywhere in ’93.

Another memorable was the DOOM craze…

a banned Bill Hicks on Letterman:

Michael Jordan mania! 64 points!!!!

the interwebs ’93… a series of tubes (and modems wailing an “electronic scream”)

Also of note, ’93 was kind of a rough year, with the Great Flood of 1993 causing tons of damage along rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri and many more. Also, it was the first World Trade Center bombing.

Also, this came out, but no one I knew heard of it (and neither did I):

Instead I was hanging out listening to stuff like this with the town Metal Dude:

Quicksand!

SLEEP (this is one of the coolest videos ever, watch):

miles to go…

 

 

Posted in 1993, 90's, alt rock, alternametal, Bill Hicks, Carcass, Del the Funky Homosapien, early computer graphics, funk, Great Flood of '93, groove metal, grunge, high school, hiphop, holy wars, internet, Lollapalooza '93, Michael Jordan, Nirvana, politics, punk, radical, rock, Sleep, sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1992

1992 was my sophomore year in high school. I was listening to mostly albums like ‘And Justice For All’, AC/DC, and a lot of the usual stuff a teenage guy waiting to be able to drive and buy a car would want to hear. I got my music collection started through Columbia House mail order, and maybe the occasional taped alternative music tv show from a catalog or magazine. I didn’t have cable, but was not unfamiliar with MTV and whatnot (yes I did get out of the house). But anyway, most of my music info came from friends at school.

A lot of new music was happening outside of rural western IL (I tend to utilize the power of understatement). This Soundgarden show from ’92 would have been a great experience… but I did get to see Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and plenty of other bands while I was in high school. We would drive over to Davenport, IA and see a lot of bands ranging from alternative rock or “grunge” to heavy metal and industrial. (also saw Megadeth, Danzig, Marilyn Manson, STP, Smashing Pumpkins, Korn, etc). I started working pretty early in life so I guess I could afford lots of shows.

Speaking of Marilyn Manson, this NIN video has Brian what’s his name as well as the dude from Filter. I remember when I got ‘Broken’ I thought it was the most futuristic, technological sound imaginable. Nine Inch Nails sounded very new and different in the early 90’s to the average rock fan, when most bands were going for almost a more primitive approach.

Which really was controlled chaos with most of the indie alt-rock and alternametal bands of the time. One of my favorite bands, Polvo, released their first album in 1992. ‘Cor-Crane Secret’ was not discovered by most until years later. But at the time it would be a truly groundbreaking sound to witness live. They had two high level wizard guitarists who seemed to play at odds from each other, but it all worked because their guitar tones were quite different, and they knew how to create interlocking guitar parts. You could say one was a rhythm guitarist and the other was a lead, but it’s not that simple. The “lead” guitarist would often do gauzy overlays of distortion while the other guitarist played more clean but no less rockin’ parts. With the driving bass and drum rhythm section, Polvo were one of the more underrated rock bands of the 90’s.

While they have reformed, their sound is no longer quite the same after the long hiatus. After the rebirth was a new sound and a new drummer (all I can say is, the new drummer sounds great live; but the new tunes were not quite as energetic or concise). Polvo is one of the few bands I’d label indescribable. They often get the mantle of math rock godfathers, but they eschew that notion. They are more like a more taught and noisy version of Sonic Youth; who were informed by a newer sound like the Jesus Lizard or Big Black/Shellac. They also incorporated many eastern elements and melodic passages into a sound that could even seem like a western at times. A cut-up, temporally and spatially displaced western. Later they would also throw psychedelic pop into the blender much like Unwound did on their last album.

Another one of my favorite bands released an album called ‘Lysol’ in ’92. It’s a tremendous slab of low-tuned, sludgy rock n roll. Dale Crover and Buzz Osbourne are at the top of their game here:

Not to say the Melvins peaked back then; but this was their archetypal sound. They influenced a lot of great bands and still play today (should be obvious to most, but I’m always surprised that people don’t know they are still together or are aware of their legendary status). Having seen them 8 times or so, and having bought just about everything they’ve released, I can definitely say I’m a Melvins superfan. Also, this is one of my favorite songs of all time (and their best album!).

Another band that debuted an album in 1992 was Helmet. I’ve actually seen a show with Melvins and Helmet, but that’s beside the point. Here’s one from ‘Meantime’ (one of the best albums of the 90’s). This is one of my favorite transitions into a surprise chorus:

Another anthem for the time that was the early 90’s was Pantera’s ‘Vulgar Display of Power’. The ultimate groove metal album of 1992. Or was it? I was slightly offended by this notion when I first heard about it from a friend. But, Exhorder (the band many would argue that Pantera ripped off) was just as good, and arguably better with their 1992 album ‘The Law’.

…and Exhorder were better live, apparently:

Special Thanks to PP for noting that I had forgotten to include probably the best album of 1992: ‘Angel Dust’. I listened to this album over and over like a year after it was released. Still one of my favorite albums, it is a real “grower” of an album. Some have said that it was not a very heavy album, but I disagree. The keyboards gave it a darker sound, and it was the heaviest riffing from Jim Martin, their best guitarist.

The album ran the gamut between atmosphere, heavy metal, random genres such as country for one song, pop, and soundtrack covers.

Posted in 1992, 90's, alt rock, alternametal, amphetamine reptile, groove metal, grunge, heavy metal, helmet, high school, industrial, live, melvins, noise rock, radical, rock, soundgarden, thrash | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1991

1991 was overflowing with new music and sounds, as well as more of a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s but mixed with new combinations. Fashion started to change yet again, bands were going for different sounds (but partly rooted in the past; perhaps reinterpreting the past is the main theme), and everything began to change a bit faster, as the world both became a smaller place and continued to grow by leaps and bounds. I think whatever was going through people’s minds at the time, they were actually striving for novelty. Just check out this tv talk show set:

I actually kinda like it. Probably for nostalgia’s sake; as a teenager in high school, tv had oddball backgrounds like this practically as a norm. Although I admit, this one is extra weird. ‘Nevermind’ is known as the album of the 90’s… but, time has given people more listens to other great albums of the past. And ‘Loveless’ is actually the higher rated album by rateyourmusic.com (which I think is one of the more reputable music sites, since similar to sputnikmusic.com it has hundreds (maybe even thousands of music reviewers, thus doing away with any kind of critic gatekeeping); it is one of my favorite albums as well.

I really was not familiar with this band at all in high school… but years later in college it really started to grow on me. The thing about My Bloody Valentine it that their albums keep getting better on each listen; a feat very few bands can accomplish. You can hear the layers, sound sculpting, and care given to the creation and production of this album. The production and arrangements are nuanced and layered. The melody always appears immediately, even though there are a trillion layers of distortion, layers of guitars including both electric and acoustic; buzzsaw bass guitar; ethereal keyboards and a multitude of effects. At times, their songs feel as if they are pulling and stretching you a million miles. The material was, however, pretty difficult (to say the least) to pull off live.

While I’d say this video is one of their better live performances from ’92, as far as I can tell by most youtube videos, they were pretty hit and miss live (keeping the vast array of sounds at balance in volume is an art in itself, as Kevin Shields has related in interviews; the blending of their sound and ways the instruments interlock are a bit like walking a tightrope). The reunion tour sounded pretty amazing though, from what I’ve heard… I lament missing that; especially since it is unclear if they will ever release new material or tour again, and that with newer PA systems and sound techniques they probably are making it sound much much better live. I wouldn’t bet on it… although it would be a shame if they never released any more new material, ‘Loveless’ would be a masterpiece of a swansong.

As far as what I was actually listening to at the time: Dinosaur Jr., while not one of my favorite bands, were a key band to knowing the feel of the early 90’s. One of my friends from my home town listened to all the cool kid music, and is one of the key people in influencing my choices in music listening (RIP Chad). In 1991 ‘Green Mind’ was released, one of Dino Jr’s best albums. The song that sticks out the most for me is “Water”:

The only music that could rival the alt rock movement of this time period was the continuing evolution of heavy metal. 1991 was pretty ridiculous for the metal realms: 4 of the best metal albums of the 90’s were released this year. Granted, 1990 was also quite metal; but ‘Arise’ by Sepultura, ‘Blind’ by Corrosion of Conformity, ‘Prove You Wrong’ by Prong, and the less pure metal of Mr. Bungle’s self titled major label debut make 1991 a very important turning point in the genre.

Again, new realms of sound are explored. Sepultura take death metal to new levels of creativity; C.O.C. changed their sound to one of the heaviest thrash albums ever (the only album with that vocalist, and the stopgap between their hardcore punk sound and their heavy southern rock sound); Prong’s most unique sounding album and one of the more original sounding and envelope pushing heavy music releases; and Mr. Bungle, while hardly metal per se, reinvented the sound with very advanced and strange musical performance abilities. So to end this posting, check out this youtube metal extravaganza I’ve collected:

“Arise” by Sepultura, live in ’91:

the psychotic sounding “Painted Smiling Face” by Corrosion of Conformity:

“Unconditional” by Prong:

And last but not least a live performance circa 1991 by the late, the great, Mr. Bungle:

Posted in 1991, 90's, alt rock, Corrosion of Conformity, heavy metal, Mr. Bungle, My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana, Prong, Prove You Wrong, punk, radical, rock, Sepultura | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1990

The 90’s I remember to be split into 2 halves: the first half beginning with what looked to be a hypercolored extension of the 80’s, where extremeness had just begun to outdo itself, over and over and over again. The haircuts were similar but different, and the fashion just grew brighter and more neon colored. One of my favorite bands from this rich cultural period of time was Primus, and “To Defy the Laws of Tradition” is one of my choice anthems; the song just does not get old or dated. ‘Frizzle Fry’ is one of the few albums that seems truly timeless, in a sense that it is just that creative and unique as well as masterful musically (made even more impressive by the fact that this was their official debut!).

Another vaguely similar band (in that they reassess the bass player role) is the Jesus Lizard. My favorite album of theirs debuted in 1990, titled ‘Head’. The world would never be the same:

And their live shows were legendary:

Singer David Yow was and is a raving lunatic, and also a performer like no other. To me he encapsulates the feeling of the late 80s early 90s quite well, while being quite entertaining. His mixture of comedy, weirdness, and all out disturbing behavior is just as punk now as it was then; a nightmare barker against the status quo. The rest of the band were an air tight rock monster; one of the best rhythm sections in rock history with one of the better guitarists. Few rival the original yet traditional guitar techniques employed by Mr. Denison; and fewer still have that perfect tone.

In addition to new and original cultural movements, the movies looked even more futuristic… as much as I don’t really like Arnold today, one has to admit he was in some pretty great movies:

Or, on a less obvious note, you could check out movies like Hardware that at the time were just totally alien looking, yet it represented a future that was not unimaginable.

The 90’s started as a more absurd late 80’s… it’s impossible to really section off decades, as much as people like to do it. It’s the main reason why people got confused about the year 2000, which was NOT the first year of the 21st century. 1990 was my transitional year from Jr. High to High School… I didn’t get made fun of as much, as I got a job delivering newspapers hours before I had to go to high school (the beginning of my sleep deprivation turning into insomniac decade and a half)… and sprung for things like Reebok Pumps.

Things got even more surreal, considering 1990 was the debut of David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’. While I did not watch it much at the time, the show was extremely influential in a not so direct way; it was on network television but it wasn’t exactly a household name either. (also, Stephen King’s ‘It’ was on television as well). The show’s first season was perhaps its best, as the plot and characters became more and more distorted over time.

Obviously, even the advertising was trying to be different in the 90’s by watching this promo video. Also, check out Bobby‘s haircut… it is the stereotypical early 90’s teenage male haircut.

Shifting gears…. Ministry, like Primus, is one of my all time favorite bands. The first half of the 90’s was just overflowing with great new sounding bands. But Ministry took the influence of other “industrial” bands such as Killing Joke and hammered it into a distorted and gnarly new shape… It was just more punk, more metal, and more over the top, if some might say less tasteful. As far as this listener goes though, Al Jourgensen and company have had few botches on the album front… except probably ‘The Dark Side of the Spoon’ (which really is not as bad as most make it out to be). What may be the quintessential Ministry album, ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste’ was ahead of its time, and its sociopolitical commentary is among the best in the musical sphere of influence.

On “Breathe”, much tension and texture is explored, while technotribal drumming is dominant. In its hypnotic precision it was touching upon some new ground, reminding me of dark trance techno as well as very metallic metal with subtle keyboard work and lots of samples… which is pretty much their trademark. Also thought this was a pretty excellent live performance that represented this incarnation of Ministry quite well.

1990 was also when Persian Gulf fever was starting to really rear its ugly head. While on its surface, Megadeth’s “Holy Wars” was quite objective in describing a holy war, Dave Mustaine seems a little more real-life patriotic in this clip (but the live footage of this early performance of the song is amazing… along with those white pants).

I must admit, ‘Rust In Peace’ is the main reason I love Megadeth. Sure, the album after was the one that got me hooked on Megadeth’s brand of metal; but R.I.P. is their true masterpiece. It really is still in my top 5 metal albums of all time; the remaster only solidified this. The lineup seen here in these two youtube videos will always be THE Megadeth lineup. Marty Friedman and Dave Mustaine made up one of the best two guitar attack; and the rhythm section was tighter than tight. If “Holy Wars” was not enough, “Take No Prisoners” surely would convince the most jaded of metal heads.

You just witnessed one of the greatest metal songs of all time.

And now, the other side of nerd-dom:

“Woo! Yeah, you ready?? Woooo!! I don’t get this at home.”

Notice how back then, the video game competition did not go above age 17.

Posted in 1990, 90's, action movies, david lynch, desert storm, heavy metal, high school, holy wars, horror movies, live, movies, Nintendo, Primus, punk, radical, rock, sci-fi, social commentary, television, the jesus lizard, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1989

Many things happened in 1989… some of which were rather important.

Reagan’s farewell speech… thus ending the Reagan years. The actor president had many quirks (astrology, superstition, infatuation with outer space and extraterrestrials, contradictory views, etc) but was quite celebrated as some sort of American archetype.

1989 was a year of change.

On a personal level, 1989 was all about entering jr. high and leaving grade school. And of course, the Batman:

I remember reading comics a lot during lunch and breaks at school, thus resulting in being made fun of by jocks and bored thugs. This was when I was really getting into Marvel and DC, and starting to really flesh out the comic book collection. Around this time I started drawing quite a bit. My best friend was also really into comics and comic book art.

Other friends were already growing beards and listening to stuff like this:

Death metal was being pioneered and molded on new levels by bands like Morbid Angel, changing the heavy metal paradigm. Countless bands would use their blueprint as inspiration. Other bands like the Melvins would slow down the metal into a sludgy crust more akin to Black Sabbath, when it was totally not cool to do so (very punk).

The King Buzzo ‘fro just beginning at fledging levels.

On a related note, another one of my favorite bands, Faith No More, released ‘The Real Thing’… the first album featuring Mike Patton. I think 1989 is a great example of where a year starts to seem like it is actually from the next decade… it really has a 90s vibe to me.

Also, there was this:

I leave you with a youtube video of Frank Zappa on Arsenio Hall. It’s always interesting to see the man interviewed by a tv personality for mass consumption.

Posted in 1989, 80's X-Men, 80s, 80s music, action movies, Berlin Wall, comic books, Faith No More, Frank Zappa, funk, heavy metal, live, melvins, Mike Patton, Mr. Bungle, punk, radical, reagan era, rock | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1988

Over time, My Bloody Valentine has grown to be one of my favorite bands. I didn’t actually hear ‘Loveless’ until around ’98, and I had a good 5 years of listening to just that album and none of their other ones. As with many music fans I was pulled in with the critic’s darling and most celebrated album, but eventually discovered their varied material beyond that.

MBV exists in a blissful medium, between gorgeous melody and awe-inspiring experimentation and depth; creating a sublime, perhaps even spirit-enhancing experience for the listener. This sound is exemplified on their landmark opus (their best overall album), but also touched upon in 1988 and even earlier. What existed on 1988’s ‘Isn’t Anything’ hinted at what was to come, but was  a little more streamlined and a lot more catchy (i.e. “I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It)”).

They’d also bust out a heavier punk rock sound with buzzing, distorted bass lines and dissonant chords, but all arranged with their familiar pop sensibilities… check out “You Made Me Realize”:

Also, there is an entertaining interview with production masters Kevin Shields and Colm Ó Cíosóig being questioned about their methodology.

Music production is almost as important to this band as anything else, infinite sustains and multiple-layered drones are expertly (or luckily?) placed forming a sound that has extraordinary depth and detail. Using the studio as another instrument was not a totally novel idea by this point, but the controlled chaos of distortion, delays, reverb and numerous other effects has been rarely duplicated with such mastery.

If My Bloody Valentine were the ethereal new realm of rock n’ roll, Lemmy’s Motorhead continued to truck along a well worn, exhaust fume laden path. By 1988, the band was about 13 years running (coincidentally, I am almost as old as Motorhead). It is always amazing to think how many shows Lemmy has done… at top speed:

Motorhead are the originators of high octane, quick paced heavy metal. They are arguably just as important as Black Sabbath for the wide array of sounds from the heaviest music genre on earth. Having recently just watched the ‘Lemmy’ documentary, I was impressed at how genuine the guy is, if there was any question. One of the world’s greatest rock n’ roll stars, he’s a living legend still living in the same apartment.

But 1988 was more about new sounds, such as Living Colour’s debut album ‘Vivid’. Perhaps the birth of something I would probably call Soul Metal if I had been a writer at the time, virtuoso guitarist Vernon Reid‘s band Living Colour combined very tuneful, powerful vocals with a complex, hard rock meets heavy metal sound. On wikipedia, they go with the term “funk metal”, but at the center of their sound is the rhythm section of Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish, who can play just about any style, and the vocals of Corey Glover. In 1988 their sound was popularized (but never really duplicated by other bands), with “Cult of Personality”, still one of their greatest songs:

1988 was also the year when Bill Hicks started to really rip into the establishment. This performance is full of fiery wit, and harsh criticism of Ronald Reagan in an era that was dominated by republican politics (which seem quaint by comparison to today’s neocons and might morphin power tea baggers). But part of Hicks’ appeal is his live presence: his comedic timing and entertaining sound effects… not just his philosophy or thought-provoking material:

(I wish I could time travel to see a live Bill Hicks at a comedy club!)

A blog post on 1988 would not be complete without a reference to Weird Al’s album, ‘Even Worse’, and the subsequent hit video that went with it. Nor could I possibly neglect to mention one of my favorite movies… They Live!

Posted in 1988, 80s, 80s music, 80s pop, action movies, Bill Hicks, funk, heavy metal, jazz, live, Living Colour, My Bloody Valentine, punk, reagan era, rock, sci-fi, social commentary, They Live!, Uncategorized, Weird Al | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1987

Robocop is one of the greatest movies of all time. It is ahead of its time… it tackles as subject matter corrupt corporatism, man’s struggle with technology, rampant violent crime, and a futuristic democratic society trying to find itself amidst the chaos of change.

Predator was also one of the greatest sci-fi/action crossovers. If nothing else for the groundbreaking special effects of the predator’s technology and suit, and the super cool gatling gun scenes (and of course one of Arnie’s best movies). All in all there was a lot of character to this movie, and it was just flat out really entertaining and captivating.

World Wrestling Federation was wildly popular in the 80’s. The main question was, were you a maniac or feeling the madness. Looking back a Macho Man Randy Savage talking to the Hulkster seems much more surreal and absurd even, than I would have thought possible at the time.

Despite the maniacal madness, We Care A Lot!

And… just another 60+ point game for Jordan:

Also, in 1987 Sonic Youth released a concept album called ‘Sister’ about Philip K Dick. Sonic Youth by this point had hit their stride and were causing waves. Obviously today they are known as one of the most influential bands of the latter half of the 20th century, but at the time it took them a while to catch on with their blend of noise and odd tunings with evolving punk aesthetics.

Towards the middle of the video you can see a young Steve Albini standing just off the stage checking out Sonic Youth.

Posted in 1987, 80s, action movies, Faith No More, Michael Jordan, movies, Philip K Dick, Predator, reagan era, Robocop, rock, sci-fi, Sonic Youth, sports, steve albini, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment