now i know everyone doesn't share my taste in music and that there will be some strong dissent, but it's my contention that mainstream radio was at it's most exciting in the early to mid '90's. while it's true that artists who released major, unquestionably influential albums during the 80's (the cure, REM, violent femmes, the smiths, the pixies, u2, the police, radiohead, sonic youth, etc.) paved the way for bands of the following decades, the speed of musical progress and the envelope-pushing breakthrough artists of the early-mid 90's had not been seen before and has not been touched since.
i was a young teen during that time and developing my own musical appetites and, driven by a lack of money to buy new music on my own, i'd record hours of radio for later consumption. it was one of these tapes that i recently unearthed and when i listen to it, i still feel a little jolt of electrical excitement that i felt back then. in one 90 minute sampling of "104.7 "The Buzz" - Richmond's New Rock Alternative!," (now, tragically, an Urban Gospel station) i'm treated to tracks by the cranberries, folk implosion, lisa loeb, soundgarden, bush, pearl jam, nirvana, stone temple pilots, nine inch nails, and the lemonheads. for real, folks, how much more exciting can mainstream radio get than that?
the 90's also brought us some of the best in hate-the-world-suicide-rock like "bullet with butterfly wings" by the smashing pumpkins. how can you ignore lyrics like "the world is a vampire" and the enduring anthemic line, "despite all my rage, i am still just a rat in a cage":
too juicy a lyric not to include here is another pumpkins gem from the song "zero"
"emptiness is loneliness, and
loneliness is cleanliness, and
cleanliness is godliness, and
god is empty just like me
intoxicated with the madness,
i'm in love with my sadness"
while the radio was bursting with new life, the music video was starting it's rise to ultimate popularity and artists were finding new ways to express their music. enter: (the wonderfully disturbing) "sober" by tool:
brings a tear to the eye. dysfunctional perfection.
the 90's ushered in a new kind of music and a new breed of musicians that seemed edgier, angrier, and less pretentious than the drivel that floods the mainstream airwaves these days. until alternative rises again to dominate the fm frequencies, satellite radio and my homemade archives will have to keep the tunes flowing.
other very honorable mentions i'd hate not to be represented here: pavement, rancid, third eye blind, hole, live, oasis, alice in chains, jane's addiction, collective soul, weezer, rage against the machine, and tons of others!
still rockin' out,
still rockin' out,