Cory wrote the following post; I’ll be continuing the conversation with questions and thoughts in the coming days. -h
Recently, I was listening to Pocket Full Of Kryptonite by the Spin Doctors, who are from New York, interestingly enough. I got to thinking about how there is a conjuction of properties of early- to mid-nineties pop music that isn’t really seen in any bands these days. But in order to paint a better picture of what I mean, here is a short list of bands I have in mind:
The Smashing Pumpkins
Goo Goo Dolls
Keep in mind also that some of these bands proceeded to make music that doesn’t adhere to the properties I’m about to describe, so when thinking of these bands and their catalogue, try and think of songs from 1990-1995 or so.
The early nineties were a time of a collective cynicism, it felt like; every popular band at the time had at least a slight grunge-sound, and it reflected a community of dissatisfied Gen-Xers fresh of the heels of 80’s music. The lyrics presented this attitude of “it sucks being in your teens/early 20’s, growing up blows, but we’re kind of all in this together.” It felt really paradoxical, because the music behind these lyrics was usually warm and uplifting.
Take songs like “1979” from The Smashing Pumpkins, “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors, and “1,000 Miles” by The Proclaimers. All of these songs were anthems for kids in their late teens, trying to find a community to be a part of. These songs were catchy, mass-marketable, and musically optimistic. The lyrics, however, contradict everything about the music. “1979” was about teenage apathy that led to delinquent behavior and a “it’s like whatever” outlook. “Two Princes,” while slightly more uplifting, was a song about two men pining for the same woman, one of whom will inevitably be rejected. “1,000 Miles” is even weirder; it’s one of the most energetic, inspiring songs I’ve ever heard, yet the lyrics are all about an intense desperation for a girl.
Another song that exemplifies the early 90’s music perfectly is “Dreams” by The Cranberries. You know: “Oh my life, is changing every day, in every possible way.”
It’s interesting to figure out what led to this short but prolific musical period. Before the early nineties, you had the beginnings of rap (gangsta rap in particular) and cheesy metal bands like Poison and Motley Crue. After the early nineties, you still had grunge, but after the death of Kurt Cobain, the only “alternative” bands worth listening to were bands like Foo Fighters, Superdrag, and Green Day, and these bands that were grungy AND popular were few and far between.
I don’t think that early-nineties alternative music was easy to do; bands now that try to emulate the early nineties usually end up sound really trite and cheesy (Puddle Of Mudd, Nickelback, Creed), even though they might’ve fit right in with Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam, aesthetically, even if without the same value.