As I looked back over my Complete Idiot's Guides this week, along with reading two AV Club pieces about great albums from the late Nineties, I thought about the context in which these records originally came out. Since I remember this time very well, I figured I'd share some thoughts. Mostly, how music history seems bigger, more magical and to a degree, innocent, when looking back.
1997 was the year I graduated high school and started college. I found myself falling out with a couple of friends who were my best friends through high school and found myself hanging out with people who I still consider best friends today. Music was a topic we often discussed and we raved about the great records of the day. Records like OK Computer, Brighten the Corners and Whatever and Ever Amen were just some of the ones we talked about. The deal was, most of this stuff was not getting heavy rotation on MTV or VH1 or on our big local radio station. The Internet was mostly used for e-mailing and the idea of high-speed Internet was a few years off.
Now I'm not going to spin things and say life was tougher or more optimistic then, but for me, life in general was different. I had yet to have the "college experience" because I was taking classes at a community college. Plus, I had yet to live on my own. In other words, these were experiences that greatly altered my life. With those experiences and new experiences happening here and there, my taste in music slowly branched out.
The interesting thing is, looking at the main AV Club piece, a lot of these records were not given the most amount of coverage in mainstream publications or channels. With the exception of the hip-hop records and OK Computer, most of this stuff was relegated to a few airings on 120 Minutes and M2, along with short articles in Spin, Alternative Press and Rolling Stone. I think I heard more about how grunge is dead and electronica is the next big thing. Ska was huge, as was big-band style swing. Pop-punk had been played out for many. Outside of what my friends and I raved about, I heard more about what sucked compared to what was great.
But what still gets talked about all these years later is the stuff that sticks. And there's nothing wrong with that. I just find it misleading for people who weren't clued into these records back in the day to think things were better back then. I just don't believe in the idea that the quality of modern music dies when your jaded elders lose interest in it.
I'm of the opinion that great modern music is always out there. It just requires some digging around to find. There will always be crap out there as well. It's very much a yin and yang sort of flow. Thankfully, memory tends to favor the better stuff over the crappy stuff. And that's good to know.