Sunday, May 27, 2012

Life Songs: The ’90s part one

So we're up to the ’90s. Music really changed, a lot more grunge, a lot more noise. I was going out at University, in Vancouver and later in Toronto, so a lot of my favourite music was dancey. Not like Top 40 dancey either, as anyone who knows me can attest...

  • Bel Canto — Shoulder To The Wheel — Such a beautiful voice. Warm and enveloping with a little edge.
  • Bootsauce — Masterstroke; Scratching The Whole; Everyone’s A Winner; Play With Me; Let’s Eat Out — Where did Drew Ling and the boys go? In the early ’90s you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing tracks off The Brown Album. Very funky stuff, filled with not so much innuendo as blatant sex talk. Still, even with the funk it’s not really dance music, not to me anyway. Also, how deep can your voice go before it becomes a rumble in the floor? Drew tested that.
  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds — The Weeping Song; The Ship Song — I was only peripherally aware of Nick Cave at the time, but The Weeping Song grabbed me (it’s a weeping song, a sweeping song, a creeping song), and The Ship Song is just sweet.
  • Cocteau Twins — Iceblink Luck; Heaven Or Las Vegas; I Wear Your Ring; Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires — Just go out and buy Heaven Or Las Vegas, it’s such a great album. Like previous recordings, it surrounds you and you become lost in the voice and the guitars.
  • Concrete Blonde — Bloodletting (The Vampire Song) — Sort of a Goth anthem, without sounding grim. Is that possible? Dark and brooding, with Jeanette Napolitano’s earthy voice telling us about the walking dead. Made me want to visit New Orleans, how stereotypical is that?
  • Julee Cruise — Falling — 1990 was, after all, the year of Twin Peaks, and Julee Cruise’s theme song was so lovely. And a little strange. I was supposed to go with a friend to see her that summer; I gave him the money to buy the tickets, he then told me he couldn’t get the tickets but I never saw the money back. Might be when I drifted away from him...
  • Dead Can Dance — Black Sun; Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book — Brendan’s voice is so rich. This album was more accessible to my ear; much as I liked their previous work, this is when I realized how much they spoke to me. I didn’t really hear it until a couple of years after it came out, and quickly became an obsession.
  • The Fall — Telephone Thing — Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not all out to get you. Let Mark tell you.
  • KMFDM — Virus; Godlike — You’ll be godlike! You’ll be hoglike! You’ll be froglike! You’ll be doglike! You’ll be smoglike! Apart from being awesome to dance to (let’s face it, this isn’t sitting down and relaxing music), Godlike was an endless source of entertainment.
  • Lush — De-Luxe; Sweetness And Light — Another girl-voiced jangly swirly band, Lush were very cool. De-Luxe was cute but sexy at the same time, and Sweetness And Light is like sunshine for your speakers.
  • Meat Beat Manifesto — 10x Faster Than The Speed Of Love — Not sure what to say about this track. It seems lighter than other MBM songs to me, and had a funk factor that was interesting. Never once heard it on a dance floor, which is a shame as it was perfect for that.
  • The Mission — Deliverance — Wayne and his clan return with what became a massive hit for them. Why take sides between Mission and Sisters when you can have both?
  • My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult — The Days Of Swine And Roses; Waiting For Mommie; Kooler than JesusConfessions Of A Knife was to become the soundtrack to my four months in Vancouver. It’s such a dirty album, I still hesitate to put it in the stereo for fear of soiling it. Again, great to dance to.
  • Nitzer Ebb — Getting Closer; Lightning Man — Lightning Man might be the best industrial dance song ever. That’s just my opinion of course. That beginning deep keyboard hits a place below the equator, so sexy.
  • Pixies — Wave Of Mutilation (U.K. Surf) — The album with the original version came out in 1989, but this mix was on a soundtrack this year and I find it preferable, it’s very laid back and a little stoned. Mutilation/mute elation?
  • Andy Prieboy — Tomorrow, Wendy — Off his first solo album after leaving Wall of Voodoo, it’s a fantastic dark ode to a friend with HIV. Jeanette Napolitano sings with him, and then her band also recorded it and had Andy sing with her. This one’s better than theirs though. There’s an interesting cross-echo on the hi-hat that is weirdly distracting, keeping an otherwise straightforward sad song on unbalanced footing, which adds to the feel of it, to me.
  • Sisters Of Mercy — Ribbons; Something Fast; More — Their third album, full of vicious imagery and narcissistic themes. It’s all id, no ego. And it’s awesome. I saw them on this tour, and having seen him I’m not surprised Andrew Eldritch had this all in him.
  • The Sundays — Here’s Where The Story Ends; Hideous Towns — The opposite direction from Sisters, they’re cute and sweet and you can’t help but smile when you hear them.
  • They Might Be Giants — Birdhouse In Your Soul; Istanbul (Not Constantinople); Your Racist Friend; We Want A Rock — Seriously, do you not own Flood? Birdhouse was a massive hit for the boys from Brooklyn, and I have fond memories of walking around town at 2:30am with my brother while we sang the entire album. John and John were right, we really do all want a rock to wind a piece of string around.

  • Tori Amos — Crucify; Precious Things; Leather — It may seem a bit wishy-washy at first, but if you really listen you realize how gritty it all is. Nothing bubblegum here.
  • Big Audio Dynamite II — Rush; Can’t Wait; The Globe; Innocent Child; Kool Aid/In My Dreams — A monster release. Listened to this pretty steadily my entire second year of university and haven’t really stopped. Yes, Virginia, there is life after The Clash.
  • Blur — There’s No Other Way; She’s So High — It’s amazing how many people forget about these tracks in the wake of Song Number 2 and Girls And Boys. Pretty good stuff, excellent for dancing or relaxing. I can see why there are some really massive Blur fans out there.
  • Curve — Fait Accompli; Coast Is Clear — I can take or leave almost everything else by Curve, but Fait Accompli is just too awesome to let get away. Very ‘wall of sound,’ which I’m not as much into anymore, but it was in super heavy rotation for me at the time.
  • King Apparatus — Non-Stop Drinking; Five Good Reasons; Made For TV; Tom Metzger’s Big Plan; Hospital Waiting Room; Death Car On The Freeway — My second-most seen band (first: They Might Be Giants), their live shows were insane. Their eponymous first album was just packed with super fun ska tracks that demanded that you get up and dance, but always wearing a grin. I would see them again in a heartbeat, if only…
  • KLF — What Time Is Love?; 3AM Eternal; Justified And Ancient (Stand By The JAMs)The White Room is one of those polarizing releases, people either don’t even remember it or, like me, love it to bits and pieces. If I go to a party and mention it, I know by the reactions of the various strangers who I’m going to get along with. They jumpstarted the mad rush of crossover collaborations by asking Tammy Wynette to stand by the JAMs, and how awesome was that?
  • Nirvana — Smells Like Teen Spirit; In Bloom; Come As you Are; Lithium — Had to be included. Don’t think much needs to be said, do you?
  • The Orb — Little Fluffy Clouds — When I was first managing a store at the Eaton Centre in 1994, my awesome friend Mike requested this for me on the CFNY All-Request Nooner. Totally made my day. My week even. It’s very dreamy and sort of stoned.
  • Placebo — Running Up That Hill — Taking a sexy song and making it infinitely sexier.
  • Andy Prieboy — Where I’m Calling You From — My favourite ever song by Andy. My love for this is my friend Adam’s fault. Originally only on an EP, along with a hillbilly cover of Whole Lotta Love. I’d recommend picking it up, if you can.
  • Stanard Ridgway — I Wanna Be A Boss; Snaketrain; Right Through You; Harry Truman; Overlords; Uba’s House Of Fashions — It’s amazing how many awesome albums I’ve managed to pick up in bargain bins over the years. This was one of them. I didn’t even know about it until I saw it at Sam The Record Man on cassette for 99¢, and I’m so glad I saw it. I’ve since replaced it with a full-priced CD and listen to tracks from it pretty often. Stanard is a storyteller with the most American voice I’ve ever heard, and this one definitely didn’t disappoint.
  • REM — Losing My Religion — Looking back, I feel like this was overrated, I can’t recall why it was such a MASSIVE hit. But it’s still good, so if you’re young enough to have missed it the first time around, give it a listen.
  • Wire — Drill: In Every City? — A little insistent, throbbing, dirty little track.

  • 808 State — Moses; Europa; One In Ten; Contrique — Remember those bargain bins I mentioned? This was another rescued disc. And OMG am I ever glad I grabbed it. Gorgeous couldn’t be better named, it is seriously a BEAUTIFUL album. Not what I would have expected from them. Helped out by Caroline Seaman and Ian McCulloch on a couple of real stand-out tracks and remixing UB40’s One In Ten, I will NEVER tire of this one.
  • Deep Forest — Sweet Lullaby — An interesting project combining electronica with indigenous spoken word recordings, turned out well.
  • Einstürzende Neubauten — Die Interimsliebenden; Blume — What does Blixa Bargeld do when he’s not a Bad Seed? This. German industrial craziness.
  • Kristin Hersh — Your Ghost; Me And My Charms — This album will haunt you. Be careful.
  • Ministry — N.W.O.; Jesus Built My Hotrod — A great way to pack the dance floor at school, Psalm 69 was an album almost everyone owned. It’s an angry album, perfect for thrashing around with a bunch of strangers in a sweaty club.
  • Moxy Fruvous — Green Eggs And Ham — The complete opposite of the last entry, this is an innocent take on the Doctor Seuss story. A fun little ditty.
  • Peter Murphy — The Sweetest Drop; Low Room; Let Me Love You; Hit SongHoly Smoke took a while to grow on me, but once it did it wouldn’t let go. Saw him at Kingswood that summer, he put on a great show.
  • Michael Penn — Long Way Down (Look What The Cat Drug In) — A great acoustic track, sad and haunting. There is an amazing video for this by Brother Quay.
  • Pop Will Eat Itself — Bulletproof My favourite PWEI song to dance to. That’s it really, there’s no deep message or anything here.
  • Sloan — Underwhelmed — Not really my favourite track by them, but worth including here as it’s the first thing most people heard by them. Not completely unique, but different enough to stand out, and I’ve gained a greater appreciation for them over the years.
  • Stereo MCs — Step It Up; Connected — I liked this album more than I should have, it’s just a dance album. But still, it’s got something. A bit sexy, a bit cheeky...
  • The Sundays — Wild Horses — The most beautiful cover of a Rolling Stones song you will ever find.
  • They Might Be Giants — I Palindrome I; She’s Actual Size; The Guitar; Fingertips — They’re at it again. They’re talking about a lady’s actual size! And Fingertips? Awesome. The last two times I saw them they performed it in its entirety, to the delight of the audience.


  • 1000 Homo DJs — Supernaut — Black Sabbath? Feh. This kicks their ass. It’s angry! Big question is, is it Al Jourgenson or is it Trent Reznor?
  • Beastie Boys — Sabotage — Always thought they were all about the ‘fight for your right to party’ crap, turns out that was them making fun of that mindset. This one? Cool.
  • Blur — Girls & Boys; Parklife — No explanation necessary. You know it, and you probably love it.
  • Nine Inch Nails — Hurt; Dead Souls — Trent Reznor bleeds for us again. He performed Hurt with David Bowie the following year, an utter triumph. Also, is it wrong that I prefer his Dead Souls to Joy Division’s?
  • Robert Palmer — Girl U Want (Pinaxa Mix) — I know, I know, blasphemy right? But give it a chance. This remix takes it and makes it awesome.
  • Pizzicato Five — I; Sweet Soul Revue; Twiggy Twiggy/Twiggy vs. James Bond; This Year’s Girl #2; Catchy — Despite the name, there’s only three of them and they’re a Japanese shibuya-kei trio. Twiggy was an addiction for a few years for me, and I honestly doubt I’d love them as much if they were from Chicago or Kent or something. Unfair advantage? Perhaps.
  • Portishead — Glory Box; Mysterons; Sour Times — On everyone’s Best of the Year list for sure, this album was so unexpected. All dreamy and swoopy and marvellous. What do you mean, you’ve never heard it? Yes you have, you just don’t know it. Go give it a listen. You’re welcome.
  • They Might Be Giants — Snail Shell; AKA Driver; I Should Be Allowed To Think — AKA Driver is a new favourite of mine (NyQuil probably wouldn’t have liked them using their name for the title), it constantly sneaks into my playlists, I find a way to make it match with anything.

Wow, so there’s the first half of the ’90s! What do you think? Did I miss out anything obvious? I did have to cut this down somewhat, it was huge before! Talk to me, share!

Watch this space, once I get a playlist up on Grooveshark for these years I’ll link it here.

Previously: Life Songs: ’70s; Life Songs: ’70s, additional; Life Songs: The ’80s, Part One; Life Songs: the ’80s part two; Life Songs: the ’80s part three; Life Songs: the ’80s part four; Life Songs: the ’80s part five. Did you miss them?

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