Tuesday, September 27, 2016

THE SOUNDS OF '96 (20 Years in the Rear View)

(20 Years in the Rear View)

Clinton was running for President.
KISS was out touring in makeup.
And Tom Hanks had a box office
smash. Uh, wait. What year was
it again? Oh yeah, it was  1996.

After surviving the infamous "grunge scare" of the early 1990s, popular music was finally becoming fun again back in '96 — well, sorta. Seems like only yesterday. Hard to believe it's actually been 20 years.

I opened an indie record shop in February 1996 Serious Sounds, in Palm Bay, Florida. With 13 years of personal, hands-on experience in the retail record business, I expected that my operation would "blow up" big time. And it did. But not in a good way. To say the least, times had changed (considerably) since my last days in the biz, just five years earlier. Simply put, my old school REO mentality made me ill-prepared to succeed in a modern-day Wu-Tang world. And honestly, I just never thought that the budding Internet craze would actually bring the entire industry to its knees in, 3-2-1 — BOOM! By the summer of 1997, I was out of business. As a result, I could probably write a bestseller BLINDSIDED: How to Burn Through $127,000 in Just 18 Months.

Although some light was beginning to peek through the cracks of popular music's crusty shell, I recognized that most of what was being produced in '96 was still aural refuse. But the records that did stand out at the time, continue to hold up nicely  20 years later. Here are a few of my personal picks from '96 — the records that remain among my go-to favorites.

Top 10 Picks of '96

- Load

The first Metallica record in five years
met with mixed reaction — to say the
least. It wasn't Kill 'Em All, but thank
goodness, it wasn't St. Anger, either.

Tiny Music - 

STP-meets-Cheap Trick at a methadone
clinic "Big Bang Baby" alone makes it
worth the current $3.99 thrift store price.

- 311 -

White boy hip hop / reggae — "all
mixed up" with '90s era, baggy pants
alterno rock. And it stills sounds fresh.

- First Band on the Moon -

Songs so sweet and so catchy, they'd make
Brian Wilson's chest swell with pride. One
of the most delightful soft pop records ever!

- Tidal -

Sexy-sounding earworms from an
artist who's likely nutty enough to
have been one of my ex-girlfriends.

- Heavy Petting Zoo -

The ultimate Warped Tour poster boys.
Raucous, rude and TOTALLY legit.
Holy crap, I (still) love this record! 

Garbage -

Great songs. Great production. Great band.
PLUS a pretty and pink cover! What all
'90s pop / rock should have sounded like.

-Three Snakes and One Charm -

An iconic American rock and roll
band at the top of its game. Arguably
the group's best work to date.

- Sparkle and Fade -

Singer / songwriter / guitarist / frontman,
Art Alexakis, is a freakin' genius! And this
is one of rock's most pockmarked and piss-
soaked records of all-time. Although it was
released technically in '95, it didn't blow
up fully until '96 — so it makes the list.

- Tragic Kingdom -

Crisp and catchy, poppy and punchy,
Tragic Kingdom provided a much-
needed breath of fresh air — just
when I needed it most. And it still
tastes as sweet, juicy and delicious
as the day it was first picked from
the O.C. citrus grove back in late
1995. This record will live forever!

I hope you enjoy my little rear view recap. And I encourage readers to chime in and offer your own thoughts, stories and personal picks in the "Comments Section" below.

-Christopher Long
(September 2016)

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