Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rickey’s Life Through Music Part II: The Roaring 90’s

This is the second installment in our epic three part series: “Rickey’s Life Through Music.” For those of you arriving fashionably late to the party, the inaugural edition of this meme can be found hither. Think of this sweeping anthology as Rickey’s own personal version of a Ken Burns PBS documentary, only with a whole lot more dick jokes. Today we forage ahead to a brave new era in our middle section: “The Roaring 90’s.” This was a time of great change and upheaval, marked by the rise of the Internet, America’s first desert adventure in Mesopotamia, and widespread economic prosperity which the G.O.P. would later refer to as “Our Long National Nightmare.” Indeed, most of what took place in the 90’s laid the framework for today’s commodities such as 99 cent songs from iTunes, the infallible truths contained in Wikipedia, and an ever increasing number of gadgets for Americans to squander their newfound disposable income on. So let’s take a peek at some of the very best musical offerings to come from this fascinating decade, shall we?

The Roaring 90’s: 1990 – 1999

1990 – In the U.S.’s ongoing effort to play “Rear Window” with alien civilizations, the Hubble Telescope is launched into space, the captain of the Exxon Valdez decides that he can steer a 50,000 ton tanker better after he’s had a few, and our Microsoft overlords unleash something called “Windows 3.0.” From this year, we’re going with “Flood,” an album by They might be Giants, quite possibly the dorkiest band known to mankind. But they’re also all sorts of fun, combining a book-smart, funny love of history, junk culture, and film noir references. Also worthy of mention is “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” by A Tribe Called Quest. Can Rickey kick it? (yes he can).

1991 – War! Much to our chagrin, Rickey remembers trading Topps “Desert Storm” baseball cards with his friends during this year. To this day, we are just one Norman Schwarzkopf card short of a complete collection. This is also the year when Grunge started to pick up steam. Still being relatively young and happy, Rickey missed the boat on all the angst ridden stuff and was happily listening to the adult contemporary musical stylings of Genesis, Spin Doctors, and “Clapton Unplugged” (yeah, don’t ask). But we’re pleased to report that Rickey’s music taste has improved substantially since then and this is why we’re picking “Gish” by the Smashing Pumpkins and “The Globe” by Big Audio Dynamite II for this year. “Gish” is just a great grunge rock album and we dare you not to listen to “Rush” by Big Audio Dynamite without dancing around a bit. Go ahead, try. We’ll wait.

1992 – Joe Gibbs’ aviator sunglasses of doom propel the Redskins to Super Bowl victory, an ebullient Bill Clinton wins the White House, and a 29 pound meteorite lands in the driveway of the Knapp family in Peekskill, NY, destroying the family’s car (it’s official: Wikipedia is awesome). It shames us to inform you that Rickey still has the Soup Dragons album from this year, “Hotwired.” Seriously, come over to Rickey’s apartment sometime—he’ll show it to you. Then he’ll bang his head against the wall for ten minutes straight while openly weeping. In search of a bit of redemption, our top prize for this year is a split between “Core” by Stone Temple Pilots and “Automatic for the People” by R.E.M. Rage Against the Machine’s self titled debut album, “Rage Against the Machine” snags the silver medal.

1993 – The year that Rickey added Better than Ezra’s “Deluxe” to his extensive music library! You know it’s funny, kids had no problem teasing the hell out of each other in middle school about a variety of things, but no one bothered to confront anyone and tell them, “Seriously man, you have really shitty taste in music. You should look into that.” This would’ve saved Rickey hundreds of dollars on one hit wonders and disposable pop bands from the 90’s. 1993 is the year comedy albums got huge: we’re talking Jerky Boys, Adam Sandler, and Dennis Leary all releasing CDs. Rickey’s pick from the group is Adam Sandler’s “They’re All Gonna Laugh at You” due to the fact that to this day the goat routine still cracks Rickey up. If you’re looking for something more harmonic and, uh, mature, “Laid” by James garner’s Rickey’s pick for musical album of the year.

1994 – Rickey remembers watching the Knicks/Rockets NBA Finals this year with his dad when news reports of a police chase involving O.J. Simpson came across the television. Rickey pointed out that this car chase seemed somewhat important, but Rickey’s dad absolutely refused to change the channel (this was game 5 of the Finals after all). This is right around the time when Rickey was starting to discover Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, and other gods of Classic Rock. Things were definitely looking up—freshman year of high school had commenced and Rickey was preppy, yet totally rocking out. But Rickey was still very much a man of his times and we’ll freely admit to owning an Oasis album or three. Britpop withstanding, a ton of great music was coming out this year and we’re pleased to report that this is the year when Rickey’s music tastes started to more closely reflect his tastes of today. We’re talking “Dookie” by Green Day, “Park Life” by Blur, “Parachute” by Guster, “Under the Table and Dreaming” by DMB, and of course, “Vitalogy” by Pearl Jam. These are all seminal albums which Rickey proudly owned as he pulled himself out of the primordial muck of poor taste in his evolution towards an upright musical existence.

1995 – DVD, a newfangled video format is announced, Windows 95 launches, and Mississippi ratifies the 13th Amendment, thereby becoming the last state to officially abolish slavery (hey, better late than never, right?) Meanwhile, Radiohead creates and publishes “The Bends, which is easily our top pick for the year. In Rickey’s opinion, “The Bends” takes the distorted sounding guitars of grunge music and adds a sense of melodrama and good old rock-n-roll majesty that for the most part is still missing from popular music today. “Melloncollie and the Infinite Sadness” by Smashing Pumpkins weighs in as a close second, due to the sheer scope and intensity at work in this double disc concept album.

1996 – This year, we move one step closer to the realm of science fiction as Dolly the sheep becomes the first mammal to be cloned, Deep Blue trounces Garry Kasparov at chess, and much to our bewilderment, Alanis Morissette wins a Grammy award. Modest Mouse’s debut album, “This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About” is our choice for album if the year—it’s the sort of album you can listen to in it’s entirely without wanting to skip over a single track. This is followed closely by Weezer’s “Pinkerton” which was viewed as a massive failure when it was released, but Rickey heartily endorses nonetheless.

1997 – Against all odds, the Marlins win the Series against the Indians (and are promptly dismantled), a strange and ominous new initiative called The Kyoto protocol is adopted by the United Nations, “Judgment Day” referenced in the Terminator movies passes rather uneventfully, and the first color photograph appears on the cover page of the NY Times. For our album pick, we have to go with the obvious: “OK Computer” by Radiohead. Forget album of the year, how about album of the decade? And while it’s not even in the same league, “Goldfly” by Guster is Rickey’s runner up for best album in this year.

1998 – As a bright eyed Rickey heads off to college, the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal opens the eyes of a formerly prudish nation, MCI Communications and WorldCom merge to form a company that will undoubtedly withstand the test of time, and the Imperial Wizard of the KKK is fined for burning a cross in his garden and infringing air regulations in California (hey, they nabbed Al Capone on taxes, right?) We’ve discussing this band before, but “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel is just sheer brilliance. Far and away our favorite of the year. How many other bands do you know that can make an incredible opus out of the Anne Frank story? “XO” by Eliot Smith is another great little album that deserves much praise.

1999 – In our final year of the decade, the last checker cab in NYC is retired, Apple computer signals their intentions for world dominance with the release of the Power Mac G4, and Y2K fever sweeps the country. We’re concluding on a subdued note with “Summerteeth” by Wilco. Rickey really can’t say enough about how phenomenal this band is. They blend rock, pop, and country music into an amazing tapestry of sound—definitely check ‘em out sometime. Also garnering Rickey’s attention is the “Magnolia” OST by Aimee Mann et al. More than any other album from this year, this absolutely embodies how Rickey feels about the end of the 90’s with some of the best moody, angsty music that we've ever heard.

Whew, ok, that’s all for today. Rickey’s starting to feel like he’s creating the blogging equivalent of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Check back tomorrow for our final installment: 2000 – 2010: “The World of Tomorrow.”

*if it so pleases you, feel free to rate Rickey's post at Humor Blogs.

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Bee said...

You know, when I was younger, being from '72 I really felt old when you said you were a freshman in '94, I can say that every few years, my music did a 180.
Thanks to that, I love all music.
Except for Yanni.

Cool tunes!

Anonymous said...

despite my being just a wee bit older than ricky, we had very similar musical taste in the 90s. good post!

Toasty Joe said...

Two thoughts here:

(1) Don't make fun of Clapton's Unplugged album! It's the whole reason I started playing guitar. Sure, it got a little played out at the time (btw, it came out in 92, not 91), but it has some really great tunes.

(2) Automatic For the People is brilliant. Just brilliant.

Rickey Henderson said...

Valid point about Clapton Unplugged. It was one of the first pieces of music Rickey ever owned (on a cassette, no less) so it's one of those alubums that feels simultaneously important yet dorky for Rickey.

Rickey's not sure about Toasty, but Rickey's personal favorite of Clapton's is that "Riding with the King" compilation album with B.B. King.

Mike said...

Nice stuff Rickey.

We’ve discussing this band before, but “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel is just sheer brilliance. Far and away our favorite of the year. How many other bands do you know that can make an incredible opus out of the Anne Frank story?

Hells yeah. Just an amazing album.

My list has the same picks for 1995, 1997, & 1998. And a common Honorable mention for 1999.

Deb said...

Oh, God... "Laid." One of the best songs to come out of the 90s, imho. Unique, crafty, catchy, fun, kitschy, tongue in cheek downright rollicking stuff.

And some love for Pearl Jam from SOMEONE... finally *sigh.* I love Pearl Jam, and Vitalogy is probably one of their best, imo.

Rickey Henderson said...

Many thanks sir. In hopes of avoiding being tainted/influenced, Rickey avoided reading most of your guys' lists until after he had posted his. But yeah, it comes as no surprise that this list overlaps with a lot of your guys' stuff.

Toasty Joe said...

I assume you're talking SOLO Clapton, because if you're not, the conversation begins and ends with his 1966 album with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. You would not believe the guitar work on that one. As for solo, I like his all-blues jaunt from 1995, From the Cradle. Some filler, but some really devastating stuff there.

damon said...

Holy crap! Who did you piss off to get this meme?

Excellent music choices.
Except last posts Pink Floyd.
I know, I know, I just couldn't get into them.
Takes me back.

The Hypocritical One said...

I never thought I'd have such similar taste in music as Rickey Henderson. Kudos.

Radiohead--OK 5 albums of all-time for me.

I think I got a little teary-eyed at all the good music from the 90's. Gotta go..."I kissed a girl" is on the radio right now.

leigh said...

love the time capsule synopsis of each year. good stuff. i can't wait for the next one.

George said...

No matter what most think, "Summerteeth" is still the best Wilco album--best mix of tunes and farting around. It's great Tweedy wants to be a guitar hero, but that's not what he's best at.

AmyV said...

longest. meme. ever.

Rickey Henderson said...

yeah, it's a doozie.

Harris said...

hey rickey,

always thought Better than Ezra was highly underrated.

rock on,