Tuesday, March 07, 2006


As I continue my research on Post and work on rough ideas for my next book (too early to discuss here), I get the feeling that the time period when I was in high school and college was a relative black hole for modern rock music. Before the simplification of the past to make sense of the present (aka, hindsight) sets too far in, let's analyze a few highlights.

1994-1995: 1994 saw the death of Kurt Cobain and in turn, saw the death of grunge for a lot of people, yet bands like Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Weezer and Pearl Jam kept alternarock going. Green Day and the Offspring hit the airwaves mere months after Cobain's death, thus giving grunge kids a lot of pop-punk to chew on.

1995-1996: Major labels tried to replicate blockbuster pop-punk with a number of other bands (some young and some older), but no one truly breaks out. A large number of Britpop acts (ie, Oasis, Blur and Pulp) make crossovers to the US.

1997-1998: Pop-friendly ska and swing make inroads to commercial acclaim and quickly lose flavor. More Britpop exports have relative success in the US. Electronic music is seen as the next big trend in music, but doesn't really happen (though records like The Fat of the Land by the Prodigy and Dig Your Own Hole by the Chemical Brothers sell a lot of copies). Radiohead releases the landmark album, OK Computer, at a time when a lot of music critics were decrying that guitar rock was dead.

1999-2000: Rap-rock/aggro-rock/nu-metal and teen pop are everywhere.

2001: Bands like the Strokes and the White Stripes show that rock music can still rock without fancy studio trickery.

Of course there was plenty of other stuff going on around these times, but that's probably the most of the simplified look that rock historians will give much attention to. To me, this sucks as someone who really grew attached to rock music during this time.

What's really interesting that while rock critics were moaning that rock music was over in the mainstream, underground bands like the Promise Ring, the Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World were doing really interesting stuff with melody and rhythm. There were plenty of attempts to bring angular guitar rock to the mainstream (ie, Jawbox, Jawbreaker and Shudder to Think in the mid-'90s), but they didn't pan out. However, their major label records still resonate today. Given the reach that major labels had, a lot of people got into these bands who probably would have never heard them before. The numbers weren't blockbuster numbers, but records like For Your Own Special Sweetheart and Dear You are often credited as gateway records for a lot of people I've talked to over the years.

I have a theory that great music is always out there, whether it's new or old. Music on commercial radio or MTV may make you want to give up on music completely if you're looking for something really different, but there's always something else out there. What's frustrating, but worthwhile in the long run, is the search for the kinds of music that impacts you in deeper ways. Even in black holes in music, there can be plenty to marvel at.

1 comment:

josh Mueller said...

Actually a very good summary for its simplicity but you did make me remember that I've lost 2 coopies of Pony Express Record.