Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Consumerfying 90s music

In a mashup of Juliette Lewis, schizophrenic proportions, here’s how seminal rock albums of the 90s compare to modern consumer culture – keep with me on this!

Blog traffic is way up from that Sarah Palin article I posted from Rolling Stone. My concerns now are how to sustain it and how to keep things interesting!

This is an article I’ve been thinking about writing for a while. The 90s meant a lot to me cause I think that’s when the last good rock music died. Bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Metallica, Foo Fighters, were high on this wave of emotion from 20-something Gen Xers who were the first generation taught that that it was ok to feel apathetic about life. Although I was years younger and only beginning to understand my own teenage angst, the music left an impression.

Here are awesome 1990s rock bands and the consumers they now represent:

Ten (1991) - Pearl Jam

If this album was a consumer: the thrifty Value Village shopper
Why: anti-establishment and messy, slapdash and not neatly folded or colour-coordinated. It’s recycled, thrown together, and somehow still makes a unique outfit.
Best tracks: Black’, ‘Porch’, ‘Release

Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991) – Red Hot Chili Peppers

If this album was a consumer: the douchy Holli-Crombie-Fitch collegiate
Why: Big chunky beats and tremendous drug-enhanced guitar work from John Frusciante, this album screams mainstream with an extroverted, sexual edge.
Best tracks: I Could Have Lied’, ‘Under The Bridge’, ‘Give It Away

To be seen soon at Hollister:

Tragic Kingdom (1995) – No Doubt

If this album was a consumer:
the Tween
Why: this is such an unapologetically saccharine, feel-good album. Loud, fun, funky sound that was new and that one could chew on for the entire summer. It’s a tween because everyone had it, everyone wanted it, and everyone either wanted or wanted to identify with Gwen Stefani.
Best tracks: Don’t Speak’, ‘Sunday Morning

Ritual de lo Habitual (1990) - Jane’s Addiction

If this album was a consumer: the spiritual skeptic
Why: cause this is a WEIRD album…weird messages and strange that make me feel like I’ve been transported to MDMA-fueled midnight beach rave in Goa. It’s difficult to understand, but really rich with mysticism and imagination.
Best tracks: Three Days’, ‘Stop

Garbage (1995) - Garbage

If this album was a consumer: the conforming non-conformist
Why: Butch Vig says that the name ‘garbage’ comes from the band’s approach to making music – taking the sonic remnants and piecing them together again. Garbage and goth will always be intertwined in my mind because of the gorgeous, sad, creepiness of the band and their caricatured adoption into fledgling emo subsculture.
Best tracks: Milk’, ‘Stupid Girl’, ‘Only Happy When It Rains

Jagged Little Pill (1995) – Alanis Morissette

If this album was a consumer: the mid-life crisis married male
Why: this consumer is awash with disposable income and looking to shock and awe. Sure female aggression was nothing new (Patti Smith, 4 Non Blondes, Courtney Love), but this edgy yet still radio-friendly album made feeling bitter and uncaring kinda cool.
Best tracks: Ironic’, ‘All I Really Want’, ‘You Learn

Siamese Dream (1993) – The Smashing Pumpkins

If this album was a consumer: the middle-class working mom
Why: It’s uplifting, peaceful, and incredibly aspirational. Powerful chord structure punctuated by soaring Billy Corgan guitarwork sets a singular positive foundation of the album with compassionate lyrics that suggest a consumer who is conscientious, caring, and affectionate.
Best tracks: Rocket’, Today’, ‘Mayonnaise’, ‘Geek USA

The Bends (1995) - Radiohead

If this album was a consumer: the savvy agoraphobe
Why: it’s not stupid music, it’s just misunderstood. The Bends still captured the experimentalism Radiohead was known for and brought the band’s music to a larger audience. The awkwardness and insecurity of the album’s tone resonates with outcasts who'd rather correct my speling than go play ultimate frisbee.
Best tracks: Just’, ‘Fake Plastic Trees

Purple (1994) – Stone Temple Pilots

If this album was a consumer: the workaholic microbrew-tippler
Why: 'Purple' is a pounding, ethereal album that set a hazy foundation for dreamers, druggies, and early dotcom-ers. In a bizarre smoothie of the three you get a yuppie urbanite of the three who’s introspective with a love for cultural idiosyncracies and pushing their limits.
Best tracks: Interstate Love Song’, ‘Big Empty’, ‘Lounge Fly

Dookie (1994) – Green Day

If this album was a consumer: the weekend mallrat
Why: The weekend mallrat loves brands, loves celebrities, loves their friends, and loves killing time. They rarely buy things but when they do they make rewarding purchases based as much on peer pressure as information and specs. Dookie made it ok to feel lazy and fucked up.
Best tracks: When I Come Around’, ‘Longview

The Battle of Los Angeles (1999) – Rage Against the Machine

If this album was a consumer: the urban Green
Why: Despite the anti-consumerist, anarchistic tone of the band, fans of the band were hardly as socially conscious as they’d like to believe. Having grown up and started earning incomes, they choose sustainable products but don’t know what it means to offset their carbon when they take business trips to Chicago.
Best tracks: Sleep Now in the Fire’, ‘Testify’, ‘Guerrilla Radio

Odelay (1996) – Beck

If this album was a consumer: the informed and cultured Wal-Mart shopper
Why: they’re rare but balk the trend by living a suburban life of leisure while still reading the newspaper, participating in online communities, and going to concerts. Odelay’s carefree, scratchy-mixed, major-keyed, melodic tone personified this attitude.
Best tracks: The New Pollution’, ‘High 5

"Which way to the paper towels?"

The Downward Spiral (1994) – Nine Inch Nails

If this album was a consumer: the pseudo-nihilist, suburban emo teen
Why: the album was commercial as much as it was some gothic expression through sonic electronic disfigurement. The album felt bad for itself and felt heavy throughout. It wasn’t black so much as completely lacking in any colour. As a consumer, its emo because despite the pity, sickness, and smut it wanted to be recognized and treated like an outlet for society’s abuse. It’s industrial to its core.
Best tracks: Piggy’, ‘Hurt’, ‘Closer

Use Your Illusion I & II (1991) – Guns n’ Roses

If this album was a consumer: the jingoistic slob
Why: Cause the album is like a sloppy drunk who has soiled themselves. Guns N’ Roses was that uncompromisingly American rock band that elevated the final notes of loud metal rock to elegant heights before finally imploding.
Best tracks: Don’t Cry’, ‘Estranged’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Knockin on Heaven’s Door’, ‘November Rain


Weezer (1994) – Weezer

If this album was a consumer: the nullified boyfriend
Why: Weezer rocks, but the album was a follower and although it set a precedent for whiny frat rock, it didn’t challenge musical paradigms or come across as being too offensive. Perfect for that pallid tag-along boyfriend who’d shops where his girlfriend tells him to.
Best tracks: No One Else’, 'Say It Ain’t So’, ‘Undone – the Sweater Song

Antichrist Superstar (1996) – Marilyn Manson

If this album was a consumer: the moneyed, educated professional woman who people misperceive to be a real bitch
Why: it’s a pretty smart album with an intriguing story arc that allows listeners to draw their own conclusions. On first glance it’s scary and obscene, for the same reasons as Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album, but those who take time to get into it and put aside preconceptions will be rewarded by what they find.
Best tracks: Antichrist Superstar’, ‘The Beautiful People’, ‘Little Horn

(What’s the story?) Morning Glory (1995) – Oasis

If this album was a consumer: the foreign tourist
Why: it came on the scene kinda unannounced and made a massive impression, paving the way for other sparkly, chewy Brit pop acts. Oasis really didn’t offend anyone but they were really noticeable. Thematically, the album seems like it’s an indulgent shopper on vacation who isn’t worried about the credit card bill when they return from holiday.
Best tracks: Some Might Say’, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, ‘Morning Glory

"More sunglasses please"

Nevermind (1991) – Nirvana

If this album was a consumer: the conspicuous spender
Why: the album failed Nirvana’s grunge roots through its flashy, dirty excessiveness. It’s loud and obscene and over the top. If this was a consumer it would be the guy riding top-down through the financial district in his Lambo. (BTW, don’t get me wrong, I loved this album)
Best tracks: Lithium’, ‘Breed’, ‘Come As You Are’, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit

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