Tuesday, April 17, 2012

BACK TO THE '90s (Dynamite Records From a Dopey Decade!)

Dynamite Records
From a Dopey Decade!

In my latest book, C'MON! - My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation, I express in great detail my total disdain for the 1990s. So why on earth would I want to embark on a potential long term blog series dedicated to a decade that I perceive as representing doom, despair, death, darkness and disaster? Well, for starters, the '90s were now so long ago that a semi-lighthearted overview just might prove to be cathartic. Also, I realize that those days weren't nearly as traumatic for everyone else. In fact, some people actually loved the '90s — and I get that. But, my girlfriend Michelle informed me recently that NONE of my readers (or anyone else for that matter) would have any interest in a retrospective blog series about the 1990s (and she liked the '90s). However, I strongly disagreed with Michelle and I've taken her reaction as a personal challenge. If I'm right on this one, we'll be waxing nostalgic via various posts in the weeks to come about all things '90s. If Michelle is right, well, this will be a very short series.

BTW, whatever happened to all of those amazing bands that were going to forever shape, mold and define world culture? You know — those crappy, hookless '90s bands that seemingly exterminated the hair band scene overnight. Remember? MTV VJs Matt Pinfield and Dave Kendall swore that those bands were here to stay. Hey, did you see that new guy working the graveyard shift at Speed-E-Mart? I heard that he used to be in the band, Pavement.

Anyway, even I can recognize that not all '90s rock sucked completely. In fact, a few records from that era were actually quite good. And after considerable soul searching, I've even been able to amass my personal Top Ten favorites from the 1990s. Some of these releases were hugely successful. Some of them tanked. Some of the artists have become iconic. Others never even made it onto rock's radar screen. Some are fun and poppy. Others are dark and heavy. But I personally ga-ron-tee that each of these albums is supremely awesome — despite having the dubious distinction of being released during an otherwise crappy decade.


The Texas trio served up heaping portions
of snappy, well-written and hooky pop /
rock. This record comes closer to channeling
The Beatles than any other since Cheap Trick's
Heaven Tonight back in '78. Featuring the
hits, "The Way" and "Fire Escape," this is
THE quintessential record of the '90s.



Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Life, Sex
and Death successfully combined arena
rock melodies with hard-driving, grungy
guitar riffs (and an offensive-smelling
homeless frontman) to create one of
rock's most unique bands and one of
the '90s greatest records. An Amazon
customer reviewer referred to LSD as
"the greatest band you never heard."
A spot-on observation, for sure.



These guys deserve praise
for two distinct reasons:
A) They're from Seattle 
and they DON'T suck!
B) "Santa Monica" is just
about the coolest, most
rockin' track of any decade.



Hillbilly/surf music born and bred
at a tractor-pull. Think B-52s-meets-
Skynyrd at a Dick Dale concert.
This was a powerful life-changing
record for me. A fun and unique,
high-energy band that continues to
be too hip for mass consumption.
All I wants is just one
more oatmeal pie!



Johnny Depp's longtime actress / model
girlfriend teamed up with producer
Lenny Kravitz when she was just a wee
lass to create the ultimate retro-sounding
pop record. Imagine if a smacked-out
Karen Carpenter made a record with
Smokey Robinson in 1967. One of
the most fabulius records EVER!



At some point, somewhere between
being garage / ska / punks and becoming
an over-produced airbrushed name
brand, this So-Cal combo knocked out
a classic —  at a time when I really
needed a new crunchy pop record
from a fun band with catchy hooks,
big guitars, a sexy-meets-skanky
chick singer with a dot on her forehead
and a drummer with  no pants. Tragic
Kingdom featured numerous hits and
currently has sold over 89 billion copies.



Although this Florida-based quartet
would discover gold with their 1992
sophomore effort, their masterpiece
debut went relatively unnoticed.
Psychedelic glam / grunge / pop at
its best. While "What You Say" and
"What Do You Do" are both hard-
hitting earworms, "Come Take Me
Now" defines "brilliant."



More influential than even Nirvana's
NevermindCowboys From Hell was
to the '90s what Van Halen's debut
was to the '70s. Dimebag Darrell's
groundbreaking, drop "D" mega riffs
combined with Vinnie Paul's signature
double-kick style and  Phil Anselmo's
distinctive scream-o vocals made for
a perfect chemistry in which to create
a ferocious, high-octane classic. Often
imitated, never duplicated. Sledge!



If Fastball was channeling The Beatles,
it can also be said that Barenaked
Ladies' sound was equally reminiscent
of Brian Wilson. Featuring the chart-
busting single, "One Week," Stunt
became a platinum-selling smash and
took the band from Canadian cult
status to international headliners.
Wonderful, well-crafted, occasionally
smart-ass pop songs.



This one proves beyond a shadow of a
doubt who wore the nuts in the Cobain
family. High-energy, low-fi garage rock,
cooked up in a meth lab ("Miss World").
Generally speaking, the musicianship on
this record barely measures up to a second
grade level and during some of the quieter
moments, you can almost hear the needle
going into Courtney Love's track-marked
forearm. Oh, how I used to love this record!

I look forward to hearing from readers on this one. So feel free to offer comments or share your own related personal stories. There were some interesting books and movies and such from those days that might be fun to revisit — that is, if I'm right about this one. If there's interest, we can milk this goat for some time. However, if Michelle's instincts are on-point and nobody cares about the '90s anymore, well, I guess we can talk about something else. I've recently collected several interesting facts and photos regarding artichokes that might make for a compelling series.

-Christopher Long
(April 2012)

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  1. I challenge anyone to listen to Santa Monica (at the appropriate volume for truly enjoying such a tune), to try and not be pumped and or at least smiling afterward. Love that tune and is also one of my favs from the 90's. Some other good picks as well, Sir.

  2. p.s.- I issue the same challenge with "Banditos" from the Refreshments, also from the 90's

  3. You know I love the 80's but there are two 90's bands in my top 10 list: Foo Fighters and Alice N' Chains (especially facelift - sans Man in the Box)

    --Heather Charron

  4. Hey Heather,

    Yes, you and Todd have been HUGE Foo fans from day one. I remember him forcing me at gunpoint to listen to their records back in the early Garudio days. Good times! I love you and I'm glad you chimed in.


  5. Ah I fondly remember the 90's........Nothing like listening to Pearl Jam or The Offspring on my way to rehearsal or to going to watch several different local acts put on a show.( FHM, Dead Serios, Toilet, Scooby Doo's, Riff Raff, or Kyd Trygger) to name a few!!!!

  6. I have great respect for Vanessa Paradis as a well-rounded artist, but I have yet to discover her music. Thanks for the heads-up!

    -Barb the French Bean