It’s hard to believe the 1990’s were over 20 years ago. Not only because it makes me feel old (I’m not, but I still feel like it), but because there were a lot of great things that came and went and probably won’t be making a come-back. And I find that even though some things from the 90’s are showing up again, they aren’t the good parts. I’ve decided to reminisce a little bit and write out a three, maybe four-part journal of all the things I feel made the 90’s awesome and worth remembering. Let’s start out with something that will (beware) probably take me past 2000 words: The music.
1. The grunge scene started in the mid 1980’s, but didn’t really take off until the early 90’s when bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Pearl Jam came along. It opened up a new genre in the rock world that really spoke to a massive amount of people, usually those in their late teens and early to mid-twenties. With the way the economy was being run into the ground, college graduates not finding jobs, and being forced to pay off their student loans by working shitty, meaningless jobs (much like today), there was a wave of anger and apathy amongst these young adults. Rock icons like Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell stepped in, and in my opinion, gave these young people something to put their hope into. A musical revolution. Gone were the days of hair-metal, and they were sick and tired of boy bands like New Kids on the Block. They were pissed off and tired of “the man”, but it seemed punk had died out. So when the grunge scene made its debut, it was all ripped jeans, baggy band t-shirts, flannel, messy hair, days without showering, and an “I don’t give a fuck anymore” attitude. Maybe this had something to do with the headquarters of grunge being Seattle, where it’s always wet, cold, and gray. It’s just unfortunate that along with the “IDGAF” mentality came heroin binges and suicide (or covered up homicide… RIP Kurt Cobain and Layne Stayley.)
2. Industrial music made its debut way back in the late 70’s to early 80’s with bands like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. It used instruments such as synthesizers, keyboards, and drum machines; however it mixed things up from synth-pop to industrial with things like recording ambient noises and smashing metal objects together to create an avant-garde yet catchy new sound. Throughout the 1980’s, bands like Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and KMFDM quickly caught onto this new and intoxicating style, and helped to bring it further into the mainstream. Actually no. That’s not quite true. While those three bands were very prominent in the industrial world, and they’re much more recognized today, it wasn’t until 1989 rolled around, when a little album called “Pretty Hate Machine” by a one-man band named Nine Inch Nails stepped in and took over. Trent Reznor is arguably one of the most recognizable names throughout the rock and metal world, and especially within the alternative/industrial community. While the grungies were busy being pissed off at the world, the ”goth” kids (for lack of a better term) were depressed and self-destructive. Upon discovering Mr. Reznor’s work, they identified with this man in more ways than anyone in their own miserable lives could (especially in one of the most dismal songs ever written, “Hurt”, later covered and mastered by the one and only Johnny Cash). And due to visually exciting and raw live performances, there’s no doubt it helped bring out new and important forms of expression. Now, anyone who knows me can probably tell that I am itching to do an entire article just on Reznor , but I won’t be biased… I’ll move on… -sigh-
3. Following industrial came a slightly harsher form of rock – Industrial Metal. After Reznor took over the scene with his albums “Pretty Hate Machine” and “Broken”, he decided to try his hand at managing a record label. In 1992, “Nothing Records” was established, and a band that had already started out but needed a push was signed. This band was called Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids – shortened to Marilyn Manson after being signed to Nothing. And thus, one of the most infamous friendships in rock history was formed between Reznor and Manson, which helped the two of them dominate the rock world for the next few years. Manson helped push the already frowned upon “goth” scene into full throttle, with kids terrifying their parents by plastering “Antichrist Superstar” on their chests, wearing black lipstick, and piercing everything on their face that was possible. The music was darker and the lyrics were sacrilegious. Essentially, it looked like Black Sabbath on crack. Following this iconic period of music and a falling out between Manson and Reznor, bands like Rammstein, Fear Factory, and Static-X came out of the woodwork. It wasn’t exactly a genre that blasted through the roof, but there was a large fan base for a while. These bands still tour today, and it’s actually kind of funny to see 30-somethings at these kinds of shows (I shouldn’t say that… I’m not that far behind.)
4. Though perhaps one of the most unpleasant forms of metal, I still feel the need to mention nu-metal. When I was 15, one of my favorite bands was Korn. Manson was starting to lose his edge, Reznor was in rehab, Cobain was long dead by now… so then what? Someone said “let’s throw rap and metal together!” for some reason, and all of a sudden, bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Linkin Park were taking over MTV. I look back on it now and ask myself how the hell that ever happened. I mean it’s the most ridiculous concept for music. Yes, I’m totally slamming nu-metal right now. True, I will always have a strange love for early Korn (circa 1997) for some reason, but that doesn’t mean it was ever a good idea. Now, I will give some massive credit to John Davis and the rest of Korn for giving many abused and neglected teenagers something to relate to. One of the most frightening music videos I’ve ever watched was probably “Falling Away From Me”. *Side note: I realize some people might think it’s okay to put Faith No More’s Mike Patton in this based on his mad rapping skills in “Epic”, but… I refuse to agree with that.*
5. Angry girl rock was definitely part of the grunge phase, in my opinion, but I still think it deserves its own mention. Perhaps one of the most angry, psychotic females in the music biz since Nancy Spungen was Courtney Love. This “Kinder-Whore” as she so loved to be called was constantly under the 90’s rock spotlight. Sleeping her way to the top of the chain and having a child with Kurt Cobain, she managed to start her own band called “Hole”. Following her success, bands like Garbage, Veruca Salt, L7, and Jack Off Jill (who was actually taken under Manson’s wing) stormed the scene, and suddenly you could see chicks in baby-doll dresses and combat boots all over the place. I’ll be honest – I loved this part of the 90’s, so much that I still secretly idolize some of these girls (NOT Courtney Love though, F that noise). But, as quickly as it started, it faded out… probably due to the amount of estrogen interfering with their male counterpart’s writing sessions. *Side note: I gotta give props to some of the girls who weren’t fronting their own bands, but were definitely recognized by rocking out with their rock-brethren (or boyfriends): D’Arcy Wretzky; bass and a plethora of other instruments in The Smashing Pumpkins, Rayna Foss; bass in Coal Chamber, Kim Deal; bass and vocals in The Pixies.*
6. Tool. Yeah. I’m giving them their own bullet. Because they were obscure and original for their time that I can’t think of any real way to categorize them. I mean where do I even begin? You can’t just say they were a band that the stoners listened to after smoking themselves into oblivion, hoping to experience the kind of trip you’d get from DMT. That would be far too cliché and incorrect. Sure, there were some kids that were into Tool for that reason alone, but when you take a step back to experience Tool for what they really were and still are… they were so much more than that. Maynard alone was entertaining as hell. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing these guys live. But after watching videos of past performances and hearing my friends who have had the chance of seeing them express how incredible a Tool concert is (SO MUCH JEALOUS!), I know I’m missing something huge. Maynard and co. weren’t about your usual “Screw the man, screw our parents, screw everything, screw you” attitude. They wanted to help you open your minds to everything. To the endless possibilities of the world. To how beautiful, abstract, and fascinating the universe and human beings can actually be. To the fact that the power-hungry men and women in our society need to be taken out. To the fact that Los Angeles is one of the shittiest cities in the United States. In my own personal and humble opinion, I believe this band doesn’t get enough credit for how influential they’ve been to a lot of today’s experimental rock/metal. There’s so much more I could say about these guys, but I’m afraid I just hit the 1600 word mark, and need to move on. *Side Note: A Perfect Circle formed in 1999 and gosh darn it do they kick copious amounts of ass as well.*
7. Ugh. There seems to be a pop music sensation every decade, so let’s get this over with. We have the boy bands that took over every girl’s life at some point. It started with the New Kids on the Block, and lead into the Backstreet Boys. My mother still listens to BSB from time to time, and it takes me back to a very dark, horrible place. That’s a lie. I freaking loved BSB, N*Sync, and Hanson, I have to admit. At the time, they were the cool bands to listen to, and just barely before I hit my metal stage with Pantera, these boy bands (especially Hanson) consumed me. They were dreamy, catchy, and could dance. Then came the girl groups, mainly the damn Spice Girls. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera followed. And I don’t even wanna talk about it anymore. So I’ll change over to EuroPop. Seriously what the hell was that? I actually have a couple of friends who still really dig on Eiffel 65 (except they can’t stand “Blue”), and my siblings will get down to Aqua every now and then. It’s the strangest thing, yet I can’t… seem to… stop… dancing… HELP!!!
While I know there are more genres, notable bands, and music fads I could mention (Radiohead, Jane’s Addiction, Rage Against the Machine, Danzig, Anthrax, White Zombie, Chumbawumba, Moby, Alanis Morissette, Ace of Base, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, the entire rap/hip-hop take over with Eminem, Snoop, and Dre), I’m going to conclude this article and add my list of favorite 90’s bands. What are some of yours?
Alice In Chains
Jack Off Jill
Nine Inch Nails
Faith No More