Music review by the decade: Rock comes roaring back
The 1990s were the best consistent decade of rock music since the 1960s. Bands heavily influenced by punk took over the early 90s, bringing us the so-called "Seattle sound." The 90s also saw an explosion of techno bands. The decade also was a decade for women, not just in all-female bands, but there were more women playing alongside male bandmates.
Black Crowes: “Jealous Again”
Dysfunctional brothers, singer Chris Robinson and guitarist Rich Robinson, wrote this song for their de but album, “Shake Your Mon ey Maker.” “Jealous Again” shows off the brothers’ and the Crowes’ serious musical chops.
Beck: "Devil's Haircut"
One of rock's most elusive musicians, Beck dismisses any definition by genre. His approach to music is exceptionally complex and all encompassing, using everything from electronica, sampling, loops and instrumentation. As well, "Devil's Haircut" defies description, both musically and lyrically. Beck proves that great music doesn't require a label.
Even though they recorded only three albums, Nirvana's influence then and now has been far reaching. With bass player Krist Novoselic, drummer Dave Grohl (who would have massive success with the Foo Fighters and play with Queen's of the Stone Age) and, of the course, the unfortunate Kurt Cobain, Nirvana opened the doors for what became known as the Seattle movement.
Never released on one of those three albums, "Aneurysm" became a crowd favorite during live performances. The song uses a moderate, tribal-like beat that interchanges with a frenetic, rapid response.
Cobain was one of rock's greatest lyricists and truly raised the bar for other rock songwriters. His line from "Aneurysm," "love you so much it makes me sick," is one of my favorites because it says volumes.
Pearl Jam: "State of Love and Trust"
Originally recorded for the band's first album "Ten," the song instead appears on the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe's film "Singles," in which singer Eddie Vedder, guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament have small roles.
"State of Love and Trust" breaks away from the verse/chorus/verse tradition, never fully settling on a primary hook. This allows for a free-flowing, high-energy musical consciousness that resolves itself throughout in various and unexpected ways.
Babes in Toyland: "Bruise Violet"
An all-female band, Babes in Toyland were ferocious and you can hardly get more bruising than "Bruise Violet." The song is pure punk and shows, if anyone doubted, that women can transfer rage into music just as well as any man. Kate Bjelland is a good screamer, too.
One of the most angry breakup songs ever written. With a tune written by guitarist Eric Erlandson, Courtney Love's lyrics rage at former boyfriend Billy Corgan, the lead singer for the Smashing Pumpkins. After Corgan, Love, of course, would marry Kurt Cobain.
The song blends a soft and sweet verse which then slams against a thrashing chorus, with Love screaming, "take everything/I want you to."
What the color "Violet" refers to, I'm not sure. Perhaps it refers to something shared between Love and Babes in Toyland's Bjelland, who once said "Violet" was a muse she and Love once shared.
Smashing Pumpkins: "Zero"
Off the Pumpkins' most successful album, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," "Zero" is the hardest-rocking tune the band has produced. The song features dual guitars playing the same riff, noticeable for the cool harmonics (best described as a chiming or ringing sound). This riff is then matched by the bass, adding a low-end punch.
Chemical Brothers: "Setting Sun"
The Chemical Brothers were the best band of the techno boom of the 90s that produced a lot of great bands.
In "Setting Sun," the band arranges the song around Ringo Starr's rhythm from The Beatles' song "Tomorrow Never Knows" (a dominating influence on the Chemical Brothers' sound). The band uses Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher to sing in one of the rare Chemical Brothers' songs that has vocals.
Nine Inch Nails: "Perfect Drug"
With hard rock tendencies blended with techno-savvy, Trent Reznor, who is Nine Inch Nails, created a genre unto himself.
Written for the David Lynch Film "Lost Highway," "Perfect Drug" has been dismissed by Reznor as one of his worst songs and one he has never performed live, despite its popularity.
I am happy to say that he is wrong.
Reznor uses distorted guitar; pounding percussion; a multitude of vocal dubs; and an array of synthesized sounds, all of which wind down to a discordant piano at the end.
The song also has that special Nine Inch Nails quality that only be described as creepy. The video, which is a collection of living Edward Gorey images, well fits Reznor's macabre sound.
Fu Manchu: "King of the Road"
Fu Manchu takes rock back to its early '70s heyday with blistering guitars, rapid-fire rhythms and blues structures. Also, the whole album, "King of the Road," is about cars and driving fast.
This song is truly a good jam.