Wednesday, July 31, 2013

That Wonderful Year in Music... 1993

Given  my hectic schedule and family issues of late, I've been neglecting a certain pet project of mine.  Of all the music blogs I wrote, 1993 was probably the one I felt least satisfied with; I wrote a measly top five of albums and the list of singles included songs released the year before. I intended to revise my look back at '93 in early-to-mid June, but real life happened.

If 1991 was the year Grunge broke out and 1992 was the year alternative rock divided and conquered, than 1993 was when it completely and unilaterally controlled the world. The Seattle rock scene had become their generation's equivalent of Liverpool, with new acts from the Pacific Northwest getting signed to record labels on a seemingly daily basis. Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the two bands that spearheaded the movement, released follow-up albums that met lofty expectations and than some. Even top 40 "pop" radio was a little more guitar-heavy than usual. That's not to say alt-rock was the only show in town, though; gangsta rap was in full swing, house and electronica were on the cusp of a breakthrough, and Brit-Pop (er, British alt-rock) was giving the Yanks a run for the money.

NOTE: numbers in parentheses note previous ranking

1. In Utero, Nirvana. (2) What I said in 2008: "Nirvana's third album bites the hand that feeds them, except their bile is aimed towards the music industry ("Serve the Servants"), the pitfalls of stardom ("Frances Fisher"), and Kurt Cobain's troubled marriage ("Heart-Shaped Box"). Bittersweet, though painfully autobiographical." I neglected to mention that Steve Albini's stark, uncompromising was a perfect match to Cobain's nihilistic, almost suicidal lyrics. All in all, a shattering epitaph.
2. Siamese Dream, Smashing Pumpkins. (3) Nudging themselves from "promising young band" to "promise fulfilled," Dream was made by a band barely keeping it together: frontman Billy Corgan was in the throes of depression, guitarist James Iha and bassist D'Arcy Wretzky had broken up, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain had a serious drug problem. With all these demons in the air, they churned out essential tracks like "Cherub Rock," "Today," "Rocket," and "Disarm," mere ingredients in one of most influential albums of the decade.
3. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Wu-Tang Clan. (7) The year's most staggering debut didn't introduce us to one MC but eight. This group of colorful characters --led by Prince Rakeem (aka RZA) and Ol' Dirty Bastard-- invented more than just a sound, they nearly created a full-fledged lifestyle and mindset. No '90s rap album is alternately witty, cocky, and sociopathic, or as eclectic. To paraphrase track 7, the Wu-Tang Clan was nothing to f*** with.
4. Vs., Pearl Jam (4)
5. Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, Stereolab
6. Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair (1)
7. Debut, Björk
8. Modern Life is Rubbish, Blur
9. Midnight Maurauders, A Tribe Called Quest
10. Rid of Me, PJ Harvey. (6) If Liz Phair was America's angry young feminist, than Polly Jean Harvey was her British equal. Both have a lot to say and aren't much for subtlety. However, where Phair was gleefully profane and visceral, Harvey is a more tortured soul. Where Phair teeters on insanity, Harvey isn't afraid to show her wounds. In the end, Harvey is the least compromising of the two.

Honorable Mentions: New Wave, The Auteurs; Songs of Faith and Devotion, Depeche Mode; So Tonight That I Might See, Mazzy Star; Republic, New Order; In On the Kill Taker, Fugazi; Souvlaki, Slowdive; Saturation, Urge Overkill; Suede, The (London) Suede.

"Mr. Jones," Counting Crows
"Cannonball," The Breeders
"Laid," James
"Feed the Tree," Belly
"Linger," The Cranberries
"Creep," Radiohead
"Soul to Squeeze," Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Insane in the Brain," Cypress Hill
"Low," Cracker
"Backwater," Meat Puppets

1.  "Heart-Shaped Box," Nirvana. This is one of those clips that can be hard to describe without somehow ruining or trivializing the work. Too bad the collaboration of Anton Corbijn and Kurt Cobain never went beyond this haunting video.
2. "No Rain," Blind Melon. Let your freak flag fly, Bee Girl.
3. "Loser," Beck. "Soy... un perdedor..."
4. "Runaway Train," Soul Asylum. All those missing kids...
5. "Are You Gonna Go My Way?," Lenny Kravitz. No, he's not Jimi Hendrix, but it's a pretty solid imitation.

Honorable Mentions: "Man-Size," PJ Harvey; "Creep," Stone Temple Pilots.

Finally, some interesting news: effective last week, I am now writing original comedy material (i.e. jokes) for iO Watercooler, the web site for Improv Olympic fans and alumni. Be on the lookout for "Stu's News" about five days a week. :)

Your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. It's really a tough call between In Utero and Siamese Dream. I'd go with the Pumpkins at #1 because their album was stronger overall, in my opinion.

    I would add one of my personal favorites in there (maybe at #3), Bloody Kisses, Type O Negative.