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Everyone suddenly has 1990’s fever: One man’s (not my) spotify playlist

August 23, 2013

This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week is the recent resurrection of the early 1990s. I’m not referring to the 92Y’s invitation to “Party like it’s 1993!”, which I wrote about yesterday … though in a way I am kind of referring to that. The 92Y may have missed badly in their recollection of 1993 (which they seem to think happened in the mid-1980s) and, to be frank, in their definition of the word “party”, but what’s making me happy is the spirit behind their invitation. Recently it seems like everyone has early ’90s nostalgia, and as a child of that era (who still believes that Nirvana is the greatest thing to happen to rock music since the Beatles) I am more than happy to be reminded of it on a regular basis.

One example of this is a podcast that was recorded in late July but I just got around to listening to this week – Grantland‘s Hollywood Prospectus Podcast episode titled “The Classic Rock–ification of Alt-Rock“. With Pearl Jam back in the news (new album and tour) combined with the 20th anniversary of several now-classic alternative rock albums, podcast hosts Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald decided that now was the right time to revisit the decade. Obviously I’ve been feeling the same way, having recently written a column revisiting the music of 1993. Ryan and Greenwald have some uncommon views about ’90s “alternative” music (they make it clear early on that by “alternative” they are referring to the genre once known as grunge music, not the broader definition which includes indie, Britpop, etc.) – alternatively advocating for the likes of Stone Temple Pilots and Bush while discrediting Peal Jam and Soundgarden. Greenwald goes as far as to say that STP is a better band than Pearl Jam, which Ryan refuses to accept as a serious statement.

In an effort to further celebrate the 1990s, I’ve embedded below the spotify playlist assembled by Ryan. But first, a few thoughts and comments:

  • One of the hosts (I believe it was Greenwald) makes the claim that STP’s “Interstate Love Song” (#2 on the playlist) is the best song of the ’90s. That’s so plainly wrong that I don’t know where to begin, but as far as STP songs go I suppose they could have chosen much worse.
  • The other host argues for Weezer’s “My Name is Jonas” (#1 on the playlist), the first track on their first album. Again I don’t agree, but I can see where he is coming from. “Undone (the Sweater Song)” introduced me to Weezer but for pretty much all of 1994-95 My Name is Jonas was my favorite song from the album, and this album is my favorite from Weezer till this day.
  • Much like defending Bush, there is no excuse for including anything from Sponge (#3 on the playlist), the Gin Blossoms (#9), Better Than Ezra (#12), Soul Asylum (#14), or Everclear (#20).
  • I didn’t include Counting Crows in the preceding sentence because their inclusion on this playlist at all (#13) simply baffles me. Counting Crows are so far from alternative rock that they never even tried to be a fake alt-rock band like those mentioned above.
  • If you are going to include Bush, possibly the worst band of them all, I suppose it makes sense to include the most representative loathsome Bush song imaginable, “Swallowed” (#21 on the playlist).
  • I remember hearing Matthew Sweet’s “Sick of Myself” (#5 on the playlist) on the radio over and over as a teen, and always being amused that the song seemed to end, go on for a few more seconds, and then end again. Then one day I heard a DJ explain that the ending was actually a fortuitous accident by Sweet, who misplayed his guitar and decided he liked he song as is. I completely agree – the false ending makes “Sick of Myself” about 25% better than it otherwise would have been.
  • If the Pearl Jam song you choose is “Corduroy” (#7 on the playlist) I’m not sure I can be your friend. Now or back then. For the record, my favorite Pearl Jam song has the longest title in the Pearl Jam catalog – “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.”
  • Superdrag’s “Sucked Out” (#8 on the playlist) is my favorite one-hit wonder song of all time. That’s high praise. It was probably also my favorite song in 1996. I may have been an annoying teenager.
  • Choosing Veruca Salt’s “Volcano Girls” over “Seether” for #12 on the playlist is being just a little too cute, Chris Ryan. Same with Belly’s “Super Connected” over “Feed the Tree” at #19. Give the girl bands their due by including their best songs man.
  • Nice call including Sugar (#17 on the playlist) but if you’re going to go there, why no Dinosaur Jr? Or Pavement? Or … so many others.
  • If I never hear “The Freshmen” (#23 on the playlist) again for the rest of my life I still will have heard it at least one time too many.
  • I have no objection to including Elastica (#25 on the playlist), but then what is the excuse for excluding their more popular Britpop counterparts Oasis and Blur? I need answers Ryan!
  • This is supposed to be a representative list of ’90s alt-rock. But there is no Soundgarden, no Alice in Chains. And those omissions pale in comparison to this one: There is no Nirvana.

So here is Chris Ryan’s spotify playlist celebrating 1990s Alt-Rock, which is kind of like a list celebrating the 1992 USA Basketball Dream Team that neglects to mention Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. A noble exercise, but ultimately a failed one. But hey, at least there’s no Michael Bolton. And I got to spend 1000 words thinking about some of my favorite bands.


And that’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week.

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