90s Music: Favorite Albums

I might still come back and write about one band but I jumped to my favorite albums of the decade.  I am sure there are many other albums I would like a lot if I heard the entire disc, but I am focusing on what I know and what I like.

Nirvana’s “Nevermind”

  • Just changed everything, in my mind.  Solid, deep album.  Bleach even had some highlights, In Utero was harder and softer, the Acoustic album was beyond amazing, but this one, this one means more to me.
  • Drain you may be my fav, or breed, no wait…

Alice in Chains’ “Dirt”

  • Depressing but powerful.
  • Angry Chair is almost as good as Down in a Hole.  As long as you aren’t suicidal, Down in a Hole is the best possibly depressing song you could listen to while blue.

REM’s “Monster”

  • Automatic for the People was a fine album, but I liked the change of pace Monster.
  • Star 69, What’s the Frequency, Kenneth, etc.

Weezer’s debut

  • A lot more than just “Buddy Holly”
  • “If you want to destroy my sweater, hold this thread while I walk away”

Black Crowes’ “Shake Your Money Maker”

  • Was there another band like them in the 90s?
  • Piano rock is under-rated
  • I love blues rock, definitely a Stones vibe.
  • Not much music on my lists make you wanna dance and move, but The Crowes did, and still do.

Smashing Pumpkins’ “Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”

  • I am sure others prefer Siamese Dream but this double disc was one I owned.
  • There were so many distinct voices in this decade.  Corigan had a great sound.
  • Bullet with Butterfly Wings is the best song on there.

Bush’s “Sixteen Stone”

  • I have heard them described as a Nirvana rip-off.  Never thought that, and it still doesn’t make sense when I listen.
  • Did England just give up after the Original British Invasion, then the punk explosion?  And don’t you dare bring up Coldplay!
  • Lots anger, emotion, great guitars, I love the vocals by Gavin whatsisname.
  • Glycerine!

Metallica’s “Black Album”

  • “One” from “and Justice…” is what made me like them.  But I never was totally into the thrash stuff.  I did like Master of Puppets (the song) and Battery, Fade to Black.
  • The black album, though, was solid.  You might could say a little repetitive, but solid.

Soundgarden’s “Superunknown”

  • What pipes on that Cornell fellow!!  Hard to choose between the 2 main early albums.
  • Depressing Seattle music.  Raining 300 days a year may be bad for many things but it is great for music.
  • Black Hole Sun, Fell on Bad Days.  It’s a wonder the whole city of Seattle hasn’t committed suicide, yet.

Stone Temple Pilots’ “Core”

  • I suppose I would choose Core over Tiny Music although it’s close.
  • Plush brings back memories.
  • They had a bit of 70s rock in them, along with the grunge sound.  Interstate Love Song (from a diff album), for example.
  • “Big Bang Baby” from a different album is another “relistenable” song.  Hard to turn off or skip over.

90s Music: Blasphemy?

I like them.  But they are over-rated.  I am talking about the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Sure, Flea is an all-time bassist.

Yes, they had some good hits, and nice overall collection.

But consider that they really only wrote music for 2-3 songs and just kept changing the lyrics.

And…..their version of “Roller Coaster of Love”?????

I MIGHT turn up the volume and I MIGHT sing along in my car…..but afterward I feel cheap and dirty.

We really need to pretend that song never happened.

Awaiting your rebuttal.

90s Music: Tool (Guest Blogger)

(Where to start introducing Brad Miller?  I could start with many apocryphal stories, i.e. probable B.S.  I could say I was thrilled to find him on FB, to know he was still alive.  Instead I will play it straight and say he was a best friend during one of the most crucial and difficult years of my life–freshman year of high school.  We had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, a lot of Madden football and such.  I enjoyed his thoughts on Tool because, for whatever reason, I don’t know a thing about them except vague memories of their videos.  His current hobby is car stereo equipment.  That’s a music lover, for ya.  Thanks for your contribution, Brad.)

The discussion of Tool and “best band” could span several thousand words but, since space is restricted, I’ll try to limit it to a narration of the most attractive aspects of Tool.  Tool’s first EP, released in 1992, was submitted with little fanfare.  However, their first full album was released a year later and sported prominent hits “Sober” and “Prison Sex” that were more recognized for the innovative animation  in their music videos (created by guitarist Adam Jones) than for their music.  I too, at the time, paid little attention to their music.  Some more observant friends of mine tried to turn me on to Tool but, I ignored their efforts until I saw them live.  After that, I was hooked.

I originally arranged for my friends to meet me at a Tool concert in Atlanta.  My reason behind this was that I was in Pensacola and my friends were in Paducah, KY.  They were huge Tool fans and, when I learned of the Atlanta show, I knew that my friends will travel for that, allowing me to hang out with some people from home.  Soon, my attention went from my friends to the show on stage.  Tool’s live performance cemented my interest in the band and I have not been disappointed since.  The live show was a cross section of their music in general, displaying layers of passion, talent, and complexity.

Having played drums for a while, the percussion is what first drew me to Tool’s music.  I think there is an argument to be made that Danny Carey is one of the best drummers ever but, this is probably not the place for that.  What cannot be ignored are Danny’s complex rhythms, amazing speed and stamina, and constant effort to introduce new elements and styles to his playing.  There are faster drummers out there but, no more busy than Danny Carey.  When most drummers play one stroke, Danny uses 5 or 6 as fill in his beats.  Largely unnoticed, his cymbal work is very unique.  He uses cymbals less for accent splashes and more as single notes harmonized with the rest of the music, like plucking singular notes on guitar strings.  At the aforementioned concert, they opened with “Third Eye,” which is still one of the most impressive and active drum tracks ever.  It’s over 12 minutes long and he opened with that!!  One listen to Tool’s percussion and there should be no question that they must be in the conversation for best band of the 90s.

As prominent as Danny’s drumming is, the lyrics and vocals of Maynard James Keenan may be more powerful.  The vocals can be respected by listening to any of Tool’s songs.  Maynard balances a female-like finesse with vicious, powerful screams.  The finesse allows him to do such things as a duet with Tori Amos and sing for the milder band, A Perfect Circle.  His more aggressive singing is illustrated by a thunderous screech at the beginning of “Ticks and Leeches,” a yell that was rumored to have severely damaged his vocal chords for weeks.  However, Maynard’s singing talent is eclipsed by his writing prowess.  Without venturing into a huge dissertation, two aspects of Maynard’s lyrics set him apart from other singers.

Firstly, the lyrics require the listener to research things in order to understand them.  Discussing any subject from legal battles to genetic structure, Maynard never provides a clear answer as to the meanings of his songs, forcing the listener (if he cares to) to piece it together himself.  Enter in the second aspect of Maynard’s writing.  Almost without exception, the listener can apply Tool songs to their own lives and experiences.  Maynard rarely speaks in generalities.  Rather, he sings about things that are obviously concerns in his own life.  Though the subjective specificities of Maynard’s writing may not be known, his style utilizes a flexibility that allows the listener to apply the words to their own, personal meaning.  A great example of this is the song “The Patient.”  While apparently addressing a specific aspect of his own life, Maynard’s words in that song provide the listener with a beautiful narrative to express frustration, tedium, and the necessity of being patient.

I could easily continue this type of monologue for hours but, I believe that these are the aspects of Tool’s music that have the most value for me.  Adam Jones (guitar) and Justin Chancellor (bass) are no slouches either.  The artwork and imagery associated with Tool is just as unique as the drumming and lyrics.  To me, however, if “Best Bands of the 90s” is the subject, I believe that the foregoing creates a legitimate argument that Tool must be considered.

90s Music: Nirvana (Guest Blogger)

(John Wilson is one of my favorite people.  We roomed together two years at FHU.  We met the first week, played  lot of tennis, hung out in cemeteries, watched a lot of sports and MST3K and Kids in the Hall.  He can quote every scene from “The Breakfast Club” verbatim.  Just one of many talents for a man with many degrees.  He is currently a librarian at FHU and lives near there with his crafty wife and two cute daughters.  He is the guest blogger today as we kick off a July series on music in the 1990s.  Thanks, Johnny.)

I remember when I first heard of Nirvana – I was riding home from school with a friend who had just bought Nevermind after she heard Smells Like Teen Spirit a couple times on the radio.  I remember thinking how tired I was of buying albums based on one radio song – albums that would always end up disappointing me, and songs that would not last for more than two weeks of radio play.  So I distinctly remember making a resolve right then and there that I would never buy a Nirvana album.  Just on principle.

I was stubborn for a pretty good while on this issue too, but somehow I heard enough of Nirvana to make me change my mind.  After all, it was a good principle, but it was just bad timing that I applied it to my [eventual] favorite band.  I was coming out of the eighties, where I was taught that music was about expression and youth, usually in the form of exuberance or some sort of energetic display.  Think Guns ‘n’ Roses or Van Halen.  Those bands are fine but they didn’t really speak to me.  My life didn’t always feel like the party that Van Halen described; and the rebellion that Guns and Roses embodied always fell flat with me.  To be honest, Guns ‘n’ Roses was another example of what I wanted to rebel against: people who told me what the teenage experience was supposed to be like.  They were like my parents, but in musical form and with probably much worse advice, and I didn’t relate.

Then Kurt Cobain came along and spoke for me – eventually, that is, after I let him.  Even when what he sang was close to indecipherable, the angst in his voice was enough.  That angst was everything, really.  Every other band danced and jumped around the stage in their attempt to convey something about youthful energy.  But for me, when Kurt stepped up to the microphone and just stood there, unmoving, while he poured his guts on the stage, he was describing the dissatisfaction, the struggling, and feeling of not belonging that I felt.

I was lucky enough to see Nirvana on tour just a few months before Kurt committed suicide.   Seeing them live on stage, I remember at the time feeling like my teenage experience was finally validated.  I guess lots of bands fill that role for other teenagers.  Maybe, once again, Nirvana was just an issue of timing in my life.  I imagine that another band might have done the same thing for me if I had lived in another period.   But this was how I felt, coming of age in the nineties.

Thankful for the Sacrifices

(What exactly are you thankful for today? Yes, we should be thankful, but maybe we should be more aware of the destruction and loss of life that it took to give us what we have.  Yay, we were the winners.  But that means we killed more of them than they killed of us.  Was it worth it?  Just something to think about.  I turned off the comments. Enjoy your hot dog.)


I just wanted to express my gratitude to all the foreigners who died–bravely or cowardly–on the battlefield against American Forces so that America could be the great country that it is today.

Without the deaths of thousands upon thousands of British, African Slaves, Confederates, Native Americans, Spanish/Mexicans, Philippinos, Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, and Arabs across the world, we wouldn’t have the freedom to call the President a D**K on cable TV, to publish pornography, to own that second or third car, to have cable TV in every room, to participate in a two-party political system, to have cheap prices thanks to child labor in other foreign lands, to allow gay marriage, or to assemble in comfy, air-conditioned church buildings un-molested just like God promised us.

Of course, this is in addition to our brave men and women who also fought and died to provide us these blessings.