Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Arsenal

I'm just not a fan of the 90s. As this chronology of rock evolution transpired, it was difficult to move forward from the hippie serenity of the sixties into the smoother, more eloquent 70s. I wanted to wallow more in Laurel Canyon and up there on the billboards with my father. Then I dragged my feet into the 80s relishing one step at a time the brilliance of music in each era. But the 80s waned and as spectacular as many of the bands remained or evolved into, the horizon after Nirvana and Pearl Jam was bleak. The comments will pour in about Weezer of course, and Filter, Jane's Addiction and Radiohead, and this is truly noted - what was sublime was equal to and in some cases superior to most anything in the 80s (Disintegration Vs. Pablo Honey, as an example, like comparing Revolver to Pet Sounds). For me, the sublimity of the 90s lies in the alts, in Pavement and in Beck, in Belly and Portishead. These are the albums that got me through the mediocrity.

Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted: Talk about, mmmm, pop music. This is it. Except for perhaps the obsessively obsessive Unrest disc, Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted is this year's model, a sly, shit-eating grin of a record that's so rich in mellifluous melodies, elliptical lyrics ("Lies and betrayals / Fruit-covered nails / Electricity") and thrilling, avant guitar-pop seductions that it renders any and all competition meaningless. Perfect sound forever, indeed.

Modest Mouse in the 90s (The Lonesome Crowded West) was shear anticipation of things to come. Thank goodness for this pop dreaminess that no one was listening to and wouldn’t till well into the naughts. This is one of the great and underappreciated albums of the 90s; things haven't changed much.

Sonic Youth, Dirty: The most anticipated release in the alternative scene this year, Dirty left no doubt as to Sonic Youth's status as progenitors of a movement. The album is slicker than previous offerings, partly due to Butch Vig's production, but regardless of the tidy edges, the spectrum of sound and fury unleashed by Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, and Steve Shelley is the perfect soundtrack for a generation.

Rumors that Tom Waits' one-of-a-kind, gravel-shoveling, growling voice had gotten shot to hell over the years were quickly nipped in the bud by this shining collection of tunes from his skewed mind, heart, and throat. Songs such as "All Stripped Down" leave you breathless in amazement that anyone could be this friggin' weird and cool. As always, Waits belts out his cleverly twisted, morbidly enchanting tales with the authority of a drunken sailor.

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