Go with a smile!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The nineties in music

I think, if you were to make a list of the greatest albums of the 90s, there are a few things we can all agree on.

Loveless – My Bloody Valentine
OK Computer – Radiohead
Blue Lines – Massive Attack
Fear of a Black Planet – Public Enemy
Parklife – Blur
One from Spiderland – Slint, Laughing Stock – Talk Talk
Maxinquaye – Tricky
Dummy – Portishead
Screamadelica – Primal Scream
Homogenic – Bjork
Illmatic – Nas
Something from Jay-Z / Notorious BIG
Nevermind – Nirvana
Automatic for the People – REM
Millions Now Living Will Never Die – Tortoise
One from Liquid Swords – GZA, Only Built for Cuban Lynx – Raekwon
Chronic – Dr Dre
Deserter’s Songs - Mercury Rev
Soft Bulletin – Flaming Lips
Different Class - Pulp
Something from Yo La Tengo
Something from Pavement
Odelay – Beck
Something by Wilco

I’m quite sure that in any list of the top albums of the 90s, you can find the majority of these albums. There is a consensus of what the greatest albums of the 90s were. Either I wasn't around to observe what the most important albums were, or there wasn't a consensus.

Something strange happened, though. You would notice that most of these albums listed above are before 1998. After that, the internet became really big, and music journalism was in the hands of more than just a few print journals. Maybe it was that everybody was talking so loudly that there was no consensus.

Anyway I had been following Pitchfork's feature of the best songs of the 90s. I like it that they finally had a policy of not featuring more than 1 song from the same artiste.

I posted this here just before they revealed the top 20. Here are a list of artistes who have not been on the list yet. Wonder

My Bloody Valentine
Stone Roses?
Neutral Milk Hotel
Belle Sebastian

I actually think the 90s were a great time for music. It's hard to supplant the 60s as the golden decade for music, but the 90s were up there with the 70s. There was a lot of good music in the 80s but a lot of it was 90s. In the 90s, there were great forces unleashed by the emergence of the underground, by a media which loomed larger in people's lives, by new forms of music which had yet to be fully explored: alternative rock, grunge and rap. By the way that more people than ever before had access to recording equipment. By the way that the internet changed social networking and music distribution.

Much of what was good about that decade did not lie in the emotional impact of the songs: most of the stuff couldn't match early Tin Pan Alley, classical music, or the best of the showtunes. But it was made up for in the complexity of arrangements (if you can call all those postmodernist collages "arrangements") and the freshness of different styles of music bumping and grinding against each other creating unexpected orgasms.

Edit: all of my predictions, other than the Stone Roses who released their stuff in 1989, made the list. Some of the things I forgot, like Pulp or DJ Shadow or Snoop Dogg. But in lists like this, the top 20 are fairly obvious, although I'm a little sore at the list for putting "Being Boring" by the Pet Shop Boys down at 100+ position.



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