o you think you’re a 90s fan? OK, Lieutenant Dan, can you handle this? It’s I Love the 90s, and this is 1994! The flicks, the fashions, the trends, the TV, the tunes—a totally awesome year that brought us these burning questions:
What was the real message behind trip-hop?
Zach Smola: Existence is bleak, horrible, and creepy, but marijuana should still be legalized.
And what was OJ’s real crime?
Nick Southall: If you’re going to be involved in a real life car-chase, please have the decency to make it entertaining, kthxbye.
Because you love the 90s, because you still keep all your original Magic: The Gathering decks, admit it: This is 1994!
*** Forrest Gump*** Nancy Kerrigan*** Boyz II Men*** My So-Called Life***
*** Pop-Punk*** Weezer*** Akiva Gottlieb Remembers 1994***
*** World Cup*** Reality Bites*** Akiva Gottlieb Remembers 1994***
*** Trip-Hop*** Nick Southall Remembers 1994*** Magic: The Gathering***
*** The Real World*** Forgotten Films: Exotica*** Baseball*** Seinfeld***
*** Forgotten Films: Satantango*** Jim Carrey*** Lollapalooza***
*** Brit-Pop*** Forgotten Albums: Alice in Chains***
*** Myst*** Forgotten Albums: Senser*** Natural Born Killers***
*** Forgotten Albums: James*** Ace of Base*** Michael Heumann Remembers 1994***
*** Speed*** OJ***
*** Loser of the Year: Sports Fans*** East Coast Hip-Hop***
*** Zach Smola Remembers 1994*** Alex Mack*** Nine Inch Nails***
*** Charlie Frame Remembers 1994*** Pulp Fiction***
Ken Munson: Around this time, The X-Files was making people worry about how the world is ruled by shadowy organizations run by evil guys who smoked cigarettes. It’s comforting to know that world events were instead actually dictated by a dumb hick from Alabama.
Dan Maguire: Forrest Gump was a good movie but a bad pop culture phenomenon. Every person in America was magically retarded in '94.
Scott McKeating: The praise and Oscars for Forrest Gump were a bona fide 100% joke. Some pathetically rehashed trite message shoved at you for its sickly duration while Hanks dumbs it up and smears his performance with his annoying everyman demeanor.
Gavin Mueller: Little known fact: Tom Hanks gargled maple syrup before delivering his lines.
Phillip Buchan: As a Southerner, I was appalled by this film. What kind of Alabama accents were those actors trying to pull? I mean, I understand why Forrest would talk kinda funny—he was mentally deficient and all—but the rest of the cast didn't also have to sound like they were lacking a few too many IQ points.
Gavin Mueller: C'mon, it's not like we could have actual retards playing retards. Just like we can't have gays playing gays, cripples playing cripples, or Middle Easterners playing Jesus.
Zach Smola: All Forrest Gump did as a character was make you feel worse about yourself. Here’s this retarded, crippled little kid who goes on to do exponentially more with his life than you can ever dream about doing in several lives. Uplifting? Ha.
Tom May: The annoying catchphrases were just part of Gump’s mind-boggling success.
Gabe Gloden: I hate this movie for one reason and one reason only. It has given fat, obnoxious hecklers the one catchphrase they’ll ever need to harass me while I run. I can’t count the times I’ve heard someone yell “Run Forrest Run!” on a jog. God, will someone please come up with another popular alternative catchphrase!
Zach Smola: How many poor crippled children tried to run until their metal leg braces broke, thereby signaling the completion of their healing process, only to find that they’ll do nothing but fall over because they’re running too fast? In real life, you rarely outrun your problems…especially your leg problems.
David Drake: If someone recites that "chocolates" line one more time, I may have to explode.
Dan Maguire: Guess which catchphrase my first name lent itself to all the time…yeah thanks but I DO HAVE LEGS, BITCH SO STEP OFF.
Phillip Buchan: Forrest Gump succeeded because it was a feel good movie. Baby-boomers got this huge rose-colored nostalgia trip. Vietnam as a giant cookout in the jungle? I'm not buying it, brah.
Tom May: Sometimes you just have to conclude that sentimentalism in whatever form is going to sell. Gump's was not a very healthy sort of sentimentalism. It was groundless, weightless, taking pride in its utter formlessness. It's a package-holiday tour through history and humanity as if such things can be reduced to the level of candyfloss.
Philip Buchan: I'd have liked to have seen Forrest in Platoon or Full Metal Jacket. Other soldiers would be forcing him to smoke blunts and would always talk shit to him, and then he'd turn on their asses in the heat of battle and let Lt. Dan bleed to death.
David Drake: Has anyone ever noticed the serious conservative undertone present in this film? The girl that "experiences the 60s" ends up a washed-up junkie, and the dumb guy just sort of slogs his way through the decade only to come out a millionaire in the end.
Dan Maguire: This film must have been horrible in the ensuing months for anyone named Jenny.
John Rothery: I do not know of a movie to polarize opinion quite as much as this does. For some it’s a beautifully portrayed modern day fable, for others it’s trite, right-wing leaning garbage.
Tom May: It's cloying, inhuman idiocy, rather than the genuinely sweet, rich idiocy of Stan Laurel. Such an everyman simpleton ought to be brought down to earth by the world around him, not elevated into a sort of impervious superman. And this won Oscars? What an indictment.
Josh Timmermann: Forrest Gump is a flaming pile of celluloid shit—neo-con revisionism deceptively packaged as rose-colored nostalgia and sentimental pap. It's just below Fight Club as my choice for the worst movie of the '90's.
Gavin Mueller: Yeah, the movie was overrated, but the soundtrack? Just turn on your classic rock radio station, douchebags, no need to spend 26 bucks trying to recapture a youth that never actually existed.
Ken Munson: Corny? Manipulative? I don’t care; it’s the greatest movie ever. I think there are only three things in the universe that have the power to make me cry: my girlfriend, Forrest Gump, and my girlfriend watching Forrest Gump.
Adrien Begrand: I'll freely admit to thoroughly liking Forrest Gump. Yeah, it's the baby boomers' love letter to themselves, but come on: the story is powerful, and quite funny.
Ken Munson: Every single thing about this movie—even the overused catchphrases—is wonderful. Matter of fact, I’m just going to say it: If you don’t like this movie, you’re a horrible human being.
Andrew Unterberger: Just when you thought figure skating couldn’t get any more awesome, along came Tanya Harding and, more importantly, Tanya Harding’s crowbar-wielding bodyguard.
Zach Smola: Everyone knew boxing was crooked, and the baseball strike made us realize our Mighty Caseys weren’t holy, but with the Tanya Harding scandal, everything changed. Now our mother’s favorite sport was tainted.
Andrew Unterberger: For the 1994 Winter Olympics, Tanya Harding got her bodyguard to club figure-skating rival Nancy Kerrigan in the knee, thus ruining her chances at the ’94 games. It’s your basic girl-hires-boy, boy-loves-girl, boy-eliminates-girl’s-competition story.
Gavin Mueller: White trash love knows no bounds.
Zach Smola: Figure skating was always meant to be a sport about Triple Salchow’s, not a sport where your knees get clubbed by a hired hitman.
Adrien Begrand: Remember the footage of Kerrigan crying moments after she was whacked? That goody two-shoes didn't win any sympathy from yours truly after that episode.
Dan Maguire: Hearing Nancy scream "why?" repeatedly after having been clubbed like a seal was one of the most horrifying noises I have ever heard come out of a human being's mouth. Suddenly there was this whole new angle for the serene ice princess that was more akin to a screaming baby calf.
Zach Smola: I remember the footage of Nancy Kerrigan holding her wounded knee, wailing. Katarina Wit would never stoop that low.
Ken Munson: The whole Nancy Kerrigan thing made me upset. Poor Nancy screaming “Why???? Why????” as her dreams were destroyed. It’s an easy moment to make fun of, but it always darkens my mood thinking about it.
Adrian Begrand: There's no crying in figure skating! Oh, wait...
Zach Smola: This scandal was the equivalent of those two girls getting in a huge fight in elementary school, where you first realize females can be vicious too.
Ken Munson: I mean seriously, that’s like breaking a pianist’s hands. Scarring a model’s face. Blinding a painter. I can’t think of many more horrible things you could do to someone, which is why I’m glad things turned out the way they did, with Tonya bottoming out and Nancy winning a medal.
Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, girl totally fucked up at the finals. I guess even criminal masterminds like Tanya Harding can overestimate their own skill from time to time.
Dan Maguire: The drama has, and always will be, encapsulated in the outfits.
Gavin Mueller: If they were going to monopolize my television, they could at least have the decency to look hotter.
Ian Mathers: As much as you should be able to participate in a professional sport even if you are a deeply unpleasant person, I had very little sympathy for either of these two.
Ben Woolhead: Nancy and Tanya should have settled their differences with a one-on-one fight, each armed with an ice-skate. Just think of the possibilities for eye-gouging.
Record Company Exec A: “Hey, these guys sure have a smooth, harmonious, inoffensively soulful sound. Will the kids buy into it, though? We don’t want another John Secada here; we want something hot.”
Record Company Exec B: “Uh…write any words that we can as numbers or individual letters.”
Ken Munson: Back in the days when r&b singers wore suits and not tank tops, we had Boyz II Men and All-4-One; smooth, romantic, and duller than PBS at 3:30 in the morning.
John Rothery: Oh now these were awful bands. Wringing the emotional sponge for every last drop. Tortured, contorted expressions as they warbled and emoted.
Ken Munson: Boyz II Men couldn’t have been more generic if they tried. They had hit upon hit upon hit, but not a single memorable lyric or vocal line.
Andrew Unterberger: There were four guys in Boyz II Men—the low-key guy who sang the verses, the baby-face guy who sang the really strained pre-choruses, the cool guy who gave those bass monologues, and the fourth guy who…I dunno, I think he kinda looked like a horse.
Gavin Mueller: "Throw your clothes. On the floor. I'm going to take my clothes off too." They made these lines BORING! ASSHOLES!
Ken Munson: “I’ll Make Love to You” was at the time the longest-running US #1, but so very few people can sing any of it besides the chorus, which they probably can’t even finish. “I’ll make love to you, like you want me to, duh nuh nuh nuh nah, nuh nuh all through the night…”
Ben Woolhead: Didn’t Boyz II Men effectively pioneer the use of stools on stage? Fucking pussies.
Pat Brereton: I think the height of their popularity occurred when they appeared on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air—Will promised to have The Boyz sing at his cousin Nicky’s baptism, but unfortunately for Will, this was before he actually asked the group. Various forms of hilarity ensued, including Will dressing up as Santa to get into the recording studio, and Wanya Morris realizing that Will is the one who stole his girlfriend back in the day in Philly. But, in the end, The Boyz decided (in the true spirit of Christmas) to sing at Nicky’s baptism, and everything worked out for Will and the gang.
Ken Munson: I will admit for having a weakness for “End of the Road”.
John Rothery: “End of the Road”: the people who bought that record should have been tagged like pedophiles.
Ken Munson: The one thing Boyz II Men excelled at was the ludicrous mid-song monologue. If their lyrics were weak when sung, they were downright embarrassing when spoken.
Phillip Buchan: I gotta give props to the Boyz' "On Bended Knee". The deep voiced "Baby, I'm sorry" part was the epitome of sensitive masculinity in my young eyes, and it was the hookiest ballad out at the time. I wanted a girlfriend, and I wanted to break up with her, just so that I could sing that song to her.
Andrew Unterberger: Right now…I’m just in so much pain…because you just won’t come back to me, will you?….yes baby, my heart is lonely…my heart hurts, baby….yes, I feel pain too…baby….please….
Ken Munson: So, yeah, Boyz II Men were bad; unexplainably, they were followed by an even worse group, All-4-One, who ripped off Boyz II Men so hard that they even stole the numeral in the middle of their name. As a country fan at the time, I knew that two of All-4-One’s big hits were also hits for Nashville singer John Michael Montgomery. Maybe they had the same agent or something.
Phillip Buchan: I was a big fan of both Boyz II Men and All-4-One for a short spell. I think All-4-One may have proven to be the better band over time because a bunch of lame middle-aged country artists decided to make their songs into twangy ballads, thereby validating the fact that All-4-One's songwriters were on to a "winning" formula. Boyz II Men sucked so bad that no one would ever revive any of their songs.
Akiva Gottlieb: Okay, so they wanted to be Boyz II Men, sob sob sob. But look me in the eyes and tell me that “I Swear” doesn’t grab hold of something primal in the human heart, healing 9 out of 10 wounds and then taking Grandma out to dinner.
Pat Brereton: Ten years or so removed from the Boyz-II-Men craze, is it OK to admit that they made some damn good songs? I mean, forget about the faux-Motown revival matching outfits, the unfortunately recurring “Girl…” interlude in each song by the dude with the bass voice, the association with godawful Eddie Murphy movies—I’m not ashamed to say that I liked them at one point, and maybe still include “End of the Road” or “It’s So Hard (To Say Goodbye)” on my playlists. A ballad or two will do you good every now and then.
Gavin Mueller: I keep waiting for the Boyz to drop another "Motownphilly" like it's Godot.
Pat Brereton: They were truly the original boy band, and were probably more talented than any that came after them.
Record Company Exec A: “Will it work?”
Record Company Exec B: “The people liked Prince, didn’t they?”
Record Company Exec A: “Alright…but…eh…have them record a really funky tune about Motown Philly just in case. Get Babyface on the phone.”
Andrew Unterberger: Almost concurrent with the genesis of “reality TV”, My So-Called Life was about a dozen times realer than The Real World could ever hope to be.
Adrien Begrand: You didn't have to be a teenager to have loved My So-Called Life. It was so perfect.
Ken Munson: I realize that there’s a lot to recommend in a show about a cute, intelligent girl and her inner thoughts, but I prefer a girl with a sense of humor, which is why I watched Daria instead.
Pat Brereton: My So-Called Life chronicled the awkward, hormone-afflicted high school years of Angela Chase (Clair Danes), and her quest to win the affections of Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto)—the epitome of slack.
Gabe Gloden: I wanted to ease Claire Danes’s angst-y pain.
Pat Brereton: I enjoyed the show to an extent, even falling in love with Angela Chase at one point, but I soon realized that a girl that hot could get any guy she wanted at my high school, and my so-called world imploded.
Nick Southall: This program caused me a great deal of angst. As a geeky 15 year old I identified strongly with Brian, obviously, and was hopelessly in love with that girl played by Clare Danes (so in love that I can’t recall her name 10 years later); hence Jared Leto became a hate figure of some standing in my adolescent life. Why did she always go back to him? He was scum!
Gavin Mueller: Dude, Jordan was sooooo hot.
Adrien Begrand: Jordan was an idiot. Brian Krakow ruled. We felt Krakow's pain every single episode.
Andrew Unterberger: Brian Krakow was the 90s equivalent of Pretty in Pink’s Duckie. He was half as adorable—it being the 90s and all—but he was twice as sympathetic. He even had a bike he was always riding past her house, right? And if Brian was Duckie, I guess that means Jordan is Blaine, and that’s fair enough—he was half as smug, but twice the asshole.
Adrien Begrand: The part where Angela thinks Jordan "wrote" that awful Candlebox song "I Call Her Red" about her, but it turns out to be about his car...normally, you'd laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, but you felt her pain, big time.
Andrew Unterberger: The heartbreaking episode where Angela’s best friend and Jordan drunkenly screw while Brian half-incidentally ends up videotaping the affair…ah hell, now I have to go rent the damn thing.
Zach Smola: And what do you do once you’ve made the most melodramatic show in history? You go to Yale, or you star in a little movie about heroin addiction. One of the two.
Nick Southall: The intervening years betwixt then and now have given me great pleasure watching Jared Leto’s movie career evolve, as he seems more than happy to be brutally maimed, disfigured and killed at every turn. Shot in the face in Panic Room; beaten to a bloody pulp in Fight Club; gangrene-ridden and eventually amputated smack-fiend in Requiem For A Dream; cut up with an axe (in the face no less!) during American Psycho. These instances have almost made his unutterably twattishness towards Clare Danes’ character in My So Called Life more than bearable over the years.
Adrien Begrand: I just loved the episode with the substitute English teacher who dares to make the kids think for themselves, they learn to express themselves...but it doesn't end all happy. The story continues, and Angela learns that the teacher was just another dumb adult.
Pat Brereton: The show was a cult favorite for ABC, won Danes an Emmy, but only aired for one season. Unfortunately the TV-viewing, angst-ridden public would never find out if Rayanne would sober up, if Ricky (the flamingly gay Hispanic character) would go straight, or if Gino would ever show up.
Zach Smola: Every show on the WB since then has been created by a fan of My So-Called Life. Dawson, Pacey, Rory Gilmore, and the entire 7th Heaven family could have all lived right down the street. I wonder what that high school would have been like.
Andrew Unterberger: It was a quintessentially 90s show and, for once, that was a uniformly positive thing.
Philip Buchan: Nirvana sparked a broader interest in "alternative rock" and caused aspiring musicians to take notes from any band in the last 25 years that wasn't cock rock and make it sound very radio-friendly. It follows, then, that '77 style pop punk would come back into vogue.
Ken Munson: Kurt Cobain was NOT the spokesman of my generation. If I wanted a spokesman, I’d rather have one who was actually intelligible, as well as one who spoke about things that mattered to me, like sitting bored in front of TV. My voice was Green Day.
Andrew Unterberger: 90s Punk may as well have been the beginning of music for me. Green Day, The Offspring, Rancid—this was my first taste of music that wasn’t sanctioned by my parents, really.
Gabe Gloden: I bought all those albums man. I had never been exposed to the punk of old, I just assumed that Green Day and the Offspring were just speed-obsessed forms of grunge rock.
Joe Niemczyk: Ah, yes. The return of snotty punk rock. Some say it was a long-overdue rebellion. I say it was an excuse for teen boys to dye their hair green and sing along with songs about jerking off.
Nick Southall: I liked Green Day for about ten minutes in the summer of 1994, and then it turned to Autumn and I ‘discovered’ drugs.
Ken Munson: Green Day were special because unlike most bands at the time, they were courteous enough to ask if we wanted to listen to them whine beforehand.
Andrew Unterberger: “Basket Case” was the first modern rock song I learned all the words to. My older brother had just started playing guitar and like a billion other American teenagers in 1994, he learned how to play and sing every single song on the album. Eventually I had no choice but to sing along.
Ian Mathers: As their later work would prove, Green Day were better songwriters than most of their peers. Hopefully history will judge them as just a great rock band than as part of the punk revival. Even their early stuff (“Welcome To Paradise” and “Longview” especially) holds up well.
Adrien Begrand: "Longview" was the best song about American suburban angst to come out of the 90s.
Zach Smola: Anyone who tells you that Dookie doesn’t rule is lying. Green Day created a pop-punk album so solid that they had to re-record it each following album. Though they did write that one song with the acoustic guitar to try to throw us off.
John Rothery: Dookie is just a great pop record.
Ken Munson: Green Day got a lot of shit for being kinda sweet and being on MTV. As if the Buzzcocks were all that dangerous. As if the Ramones would have gone, “Oh please don’t buy our records, please, please don’t let us have any success, no!” Whatever, dude.
Philip Buchan: Green Day weren't really that bad—their early stuff was just a more happy-go-lucky take on East Bay pop-punk, and they could be as catchy as The Ramones on a good day. The Offspring, Rancid, and the Warped Tour were terrible things to happen to rock music, though.
Zach Smola: Contrary to what a younger and more impressionable Zachary P. Smola would have told you, the Offspring have never, ever, ever been punk. Ever. Dexter Holland has a degree in microbiology, thusly rendering him completely unqualified to listen to the Ramones, sew patches on his clothing, or disrespect his parents.
Ken Munson: I really liked the Offspring for a while. “Come Out and Play” remains one of the great modern rock songs of the 90’s, with its Indian riff and abnormally cool hook. Ya gotta keep ‘em separated.
Gavin Mueller: I could play the bass riff from "Come Out And Play" on my trombone. Clearly I had not discovered girls yet.
John Rothery: The Offspring wouldn’t win ‘The Worst Band in the World… Ever’ award’ but they have credentials. The first few seconds of the “Teen Spirit” rip-off “Self-Esteem” remain unparalleled for me in terms of how long I can laugh at a music video. Its hard to re-create with words—those skulls going ‘Wah wah wuh-a-wah wah”.
Ian Mathers: I used to listen to the Offspring’s Smash while playing Mario Kart on our SNES with my brother and a couple of friends. Man, if you’re a thirteen-year-old boy at the time that album was the shit. And remember, this was before they turned into a novelty act. “Self-Esteem” is still a pretty awesome song.
Kareem Estefan: I used to be a huge Offspring fan…unfortunately, that was around the time of Americana. Looking back to Smash, though, Offspring had some great singles. “Come Out and Play”, “Self-Esteem”, and “Gotta Get Away” are all welcome rock radio staples.
Andrew Unterberger: Smash was one of my favorite albums growing up, no question. “Self-Esteem” was one of the best (and most definitive) alternative rock singles of the decade. And come on, hands up if you still sing along to that awesome acapella section in “Bad Habit”.
Ben Woolhead: En route for the Leeds festival two years ago the car I was travelling in got snarled in a massive tailback for several hours, and Offspring’s road-rage anthem “Bad Habit” happened to be on the cassette that was playing on the stereo. Thankfully, though, we restrained ourselves from wrecking the rides of any of the fuckers who sailed past us in the outside lane.
Andrew Unterberger: You stupid dumb bitchGODDAMNMOTHERFUCKER!!! Come on now, everyone!
Zach Smola: Rancid always seemed the truest of the suburban punk revivalists, because their Mohawks were the tallest and most outlandishly colored. Excellent bass lines too.
Ken Munson: Rancid were the most punk because they had a Mohawk, obviously.
Andrew Unterberger: Rancid were necessary to complete the trinity of 90s punk, being The Clash to Green Day’s bratty and bored Ramones and Offspring’s snotty and sneering Sex Pistols.
Gabe Gloden: At the time I loved “Longview”, but in retrospect, I’ll give my props to those boys in Rancid. “Salvation” was a catchy little number.
Andrew Unterberger: “Time Bomb,” “Ruby Soho,” “Salvation”—yeah, those were good ones.
Ken Munson: Even old punkers Bad Religion, who I’m sure never ever expected to be anywhere close to the mainstream, hit the radio waves.
Philip Buchan: I could go on for paragraphs about the horrors of mall punk, but it's a rant we've all heard and made hundreds of times. Is there really anything degrading to say about '90s pop-punk that hasn't been said already?
John Rothery: Well, a cursory glance at the charts shows that things haven’t moved on much in the ten years that have passed. If Green Day were a watered down version of the Ramones, then Sum 41 and Blink 182 are even further down the food chain. The current UK sensations Busted and McFly effectively tattoo ‘4REAL’ on Billy Joe’s arm. Don’t get me wrong I love Busted but they, just like any of these bands, are pop music. They aren’t punk bands. They are for teenage rebellions only.
Adrien Begrand: The one good thing the whole Green day/Offspring thing did was bring mindless fun back to rock music.
Joe Niemczyk: Were these bands as great as Buzzcocks or the Undertones were? Nah. Were they a choice alternative to the stagnating grunge scene? Definitely.
Akiva Gottlieb: I don’t know how or why, but I successfully dodged the Green Day obsession phase of mid-90s youth, opting to support C-grade, backyard-gigging, Green-Day-aping pop/punk bands instead. Ska was cool, too.
Zach Smola: A decent revival, but like all revivals, too much watering-down occurred. Now ska, swing, these were revivals! But a day will come to address these issues.
Kareem Estefan: What would high school have been like without Weezer? Thousands and thousands of us don’t want to know.
Pat Brereton: Weezer was just another example of nerds making it big in the 1990’s, along with other notable geeks Bill Gates and H. Ross Perot.
Ken Munson: I can see why Weezer fans are so fanatical; they’re nerdy and honest enough to appeal to the emo kids, but they’ve also got some muscle and a sense of humor behind their music.
Ian Mathers: Full disclosure: I loved, continue to love and probably always will love Weezer. Yes, even their later stuff. This is absolutely classic American rock music, following in the proud tradition of Cheap Trick and the Cars as hooky geek-pop. They just had out and proud geeks in their lineups – Rivers Cuomo had the balls to write great songs about D&D and sucking at talking to girls.
Pat Brereton: Weezer latched onto the same sort of innocence and exhilaration as the Beach Boyson their debut, and added hints of 1970s and 1980s nostalgia into the mix—on what other 1990s rock album will you get references to KISS, D&D, and Mary Tyler Moore?
Phillip Buchan: Football players, skaters, punks, real nerds, fake nerds, cool kids, mouthbreathers, bookworms, and every single normal, functional, red-blooded American between the ages of 8 and 18 loved The Blue Album. It was an utterly transcendent cultural touchpoint that you allowed you to bond with friends, strangers, and people you absolutely hated.
Pat Brereton: The band’s self-titled debut, its cover adorned by nothing more than a chrome-blue background and the band itself—whose members looked like the most normal guys you could imagine—was the first CD I ever bought with my own money. And I’ll always be proud of that fact.
Ian Mathers: Yet, if not for the awesome video for “Buddy Holly” I might not have gotten into Weezer.
Phillip Buchan: Did videos get any better than "Buddy Holly"? No, they didn't. They sure didn't.
Pat Brereton: Say what you want about Weezer, but goddamn if “Buddy Holly” didn’t have the coolest video ever. I used to watch MTV’s Top Twenty Countdown every week just to catch it.
Ian Mathers: The cheesy goodness of the “Happy Days” set lured us into watching it until it sunk in just how awesome the music was.
Pat Brereton: Damn, that video had everything—the Forrest Gump image-splicing/reanimation technology, direction by Spike Jonze (a nerd himself), it was a fucking great tune, and who didn’t love the Ric Ocasek-looking bassist mouthing “I love you,” or the drummer and The Fonz exchanging shrugs?
Ben Woolhead: I love the video for “Buddy Holly” – especially all those knowing winks – but in a way I hate it too, for ruining the illusion that Happy Days really was filmed in the 1950s.
Pat Brereton: I’ll go this far: the “Buddy Holly” video was an event in the same way “Thriller” or even “Black or White” were events. It was part of the early-nineties, post-“Smells Like Teen Spirit” era MTV where an obscure group like Weezer could get a chance on the air. It is still probably one of the most-requested videos of all time, and marked Weezer’s apotheosis from the realm of geekdom into the pop culture lexicon of a generation.
Adrien Begrand: "Buddy Holly" was very funny, but "Undone (The Sweater Song)" stands the test of time better. Those dogs coming in from out of nowhere...typical, inexplicable Spike Jonze.
Andrew Unterberger: Me and my friends still try to this day to get the timing right for those fabulous bits of dialogue in “Undone”. We’ll get it one day.
Ken Munson: The “Buddy Holly” video got the most attention, but the one that really sticks in my mind is the video for “Say It Ain’t So.” There’s just something unspeakably sad about a garage band without even a garage.
Ian Mathers: The video for “Say It Ain’t So” weirded me out as a kid. Why, if it was clearly a fairly dark song about stepfathers and stuff, were they all just lounging around playing hacky sack?
Gabe Gloden: “Say It Ain’t So” was my jam that summer! That song had their best hooks and most inane lyrics and the video of them in the back laundry room… that just epitomized the DIY indie video aesthetic of the early to mid 90s.
Adrien Begrand: It's so strange how "Only In Dreams" has become Weezer's own "Iron Maiden" or "Hell Bent For Leather", in that it's become an overblown set closer, proof that the tried and true, goofy rock 'n' roll concert cliches, ironic or not, will always make the kids go nuts. "The big 'W' is coming down!!! The big 'W' is coming down!!! Whoooooooooo!!!""
Ian Mathers: The best part of my grade eight graduation was when we convinced the DJ to put on the Blue Album in full, and everyone danced like hell to everything, even “No One Else” and “Only In Dreams”.
Adrien Begrand: I bought this album when it first came out, and I still like it, but to this day I remained baffled at the level of worship this record receives from people seven years younger than myself.
Andrew Unterberger: I don’t think people who were already in college or older when Weezer came out could ever really understand. But they’re now ingrained in pop music’s DNA, and consequently they are ingrained in the fabric of anyone who was between the ages (or had an older sibling between the ages) of 10 and 18 during 1994. We’ll never outgrow them, because they’re a part of us.
Philip Buchan: Everyone I grew up with knows every word to The Blue Album. It's just one of those pieces of your childhood and teenage years that's so whimsical, so awkward, and so poignant in all the right places that you can't help but love it. We all had afternoons as glorious as "Surfwax America", knew members of the opposite sex as unattainable as the girl in "Only in Dreams", and saw our hopes get crushed as much as Rivers' did in "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here", and as we've gotten older, we've grown to understand the songs even better than we could when we were 15, which is quite rare when it comes to the music you connected to growing up!
Gabe Gloden: I was sure that those little blue CDs would be littering used bins in record stores around the country by ’96. But alas, they’ve managed to stay in major rotation on CD shelves of the young and old alike, and they spawned an entire generation of dorky, whine rockers.
Ian Mathers: As much as I love them, I concede that Weezer must shoulder their share of the burden for “inventing” emo.
Ken Munson: Weezer was very influential on very many emo bands, of course, but I think the number one thing they brought to the scene were the emo glasses. Honestly, what would the movement be without those?
Akiva Gottlieb: How does one speak objectively about the band that saved rock, ruined it, and then sold out? Weezer saved rock with their eponymous debut, by injecting a much needed dose of self-effacing humor, dorky nostalgia and passionate power-pop dynamics into the climate, Weezer ruined rock with the achingly personal bedroom hardcore of Pinkerton, a record that unwittingly birthed a seemingly unstoppable resurgence of whiny moptop girlypants mope music. Running out of zeitgeist-manipulating options, Weezer decided to play the irony card by stripping their music of nuance and emotion, selling out arenas, banging hookers and doing coke. A fractured American Dream.
Philip Buchan: Weezer are also proof that every child of the '90s was capable of liking at least some good music -- whether you listened to Mariah Carey, Green Day, or fucking Hootie and the Blowfish, you owned The Blue Album, and realized that it was one of the best things you had ever purchased.
I REMEMBER 1994
Akiva Gottlieb: GIMME INDIE ROCK!
Back in 1994, every night at midnight, I'd listen to CBC FM's Brave New Waves, easily the coolest radio show in Canada, as I found myself completely absorbed by the world of American indie rock. Never before had new music felt so vital, so full of life. In Canada, albums from cool labels like Matador and Merge were available only as imports, and since I lived in a place without a good record store, I studiously made tapes of every good song I heard on weeknights after midnight. I'd be thrilled if I nabbed recordings of obscure songs by Pavement, Archers of Loaf, The Grifters, Sebadoh, Drive Like Jehu, or Bikini Kill, and in absolute agony if I missed a great new song. With the internet still in its infancy, getting into indie rock took a real effort, and it took a long time to build up a good collection of mix tapes. 1994 was the year I scoured every record store I could find during a trip through the American Midwest, in search of albums by those great bands (The Grifters' Crappin' You Negative became my own personal white whale). It was all about the joy of music that year, and as convenient as they are, MP3s just don't have the same charm; listening to new indie rock will never be as innocent and fun ever again.
Nick Southall: USA 94--this was the first World Cup I was really involved with, which is ironic because of course England weren’t involved.
Ben Woolhead: England were too shit to qualify, and thus the fact that this tournament ever took place has been erased from the national memory.
John Rothery: The apathy in the UK due to England spectacularly failing to qualify was matched only by the apathy of the host country.
Gabe Gloden: Who knows what precisely happened to make the '94 World Cup the rather under-whelming thing it was for me, compared to the fab Italia '90. I was still really into football, but it actually being in the USA just didn't seem quite right.
Ben Woolhead: What is for nearly every other country in the world THE biggest single sporting event alongside the Olympics seemed to be met by a staggering indifference, a collective shrug of the shoulders. It took Mia Hamm and American success in women’s football to awaken the nation to the joys of the beautiful game.
Dan Maguire: I didn't give a damn about the World Cup. I was trapped in a world dominated by the Dallas Cowboys.
Gabe Gloden: I associated the word 'football' with football, not 'soccer'.
John Rothery: The concept of a draw or a tie in a game tends to go against the ethos of American sport. “What so there were no goals and it finishes a tie? I don’t geddit??!”
Gabe Gloden: My actual memories of the tournament are pretty paltry: a magnificent goal from by the corner flag by the lil' wizard Romanian midfielder, Gheorghe Hagi, a final between Brazil and Italy that was duller than any other World Cup Final, and that's saying a lot actually!
Nick Southall: It’s notable for several reasons, firstly the fantastic performances from two European elder statesmen who’d been unrecognised outside of mainland Europe previously, namely Hristo Stoichkov of Bulgaria and Gheorge Hagi of Romania. Hagi’s cross-cum-shot that sailed over the keeper’s head into the net from 35 yards in the opening round of games was the goal of the tournament.
Ben Woolhead: Temperamental Bulgarian genius Hristo Stoichkov stole the show by scoring six times and taking his unfancied side to the semi-finals, and Brazilian striker Bebeto memorably celebrated a goal by pretending to cradle a baby.
Nick Southall: USA94 also saw the emergence of the 17-year-old Ronaldo, who didn’t play but went across with the Brazil squad anyway. Then there was the success of the Irish, Romario & Bebeto’s goals, that Yank defender with the frankly stupid ginger hair/beard combo, African nations continuing their emergence onto the world stage, Jurgen Klinsman, Carlos Valderamma’s hair…
Gabe Gloden: Initially in USA '94 I was rooting for Ireland, because, well... I dunno. It seemed appropriate, them being the closest with England not qualifying, due to the appalling "Do I Not Like That!?" selections and management of Graham Taylor, who was portrayed in the tabloid press as a turnip head.
Nick Southall: Plus, in England and Europe, all the games were on TV in the middle of the night, so I got to stay up till ungodly hours in the name of football!
Adrien Begrand: My favorite World Cup '94 moment: a player goes down with an injury, the medical team wheels onto the pitch with those carts they use in the NFL all the time, and the British commentator sighed audibly, and said, "Well, now I've seen everything."
John Rothery: In an attempt to mask the insecurity felt by those who had invented the game and were no longer any good at it, the rest of the tournament was spent poking fun at the ‘stupid yanks’ who didn’t know anything about soccer. We were wowed with news that Tractor Pulling was a more popular sport than soccer in the US. We made up spoof US commentaries like: “Its Gary Spiniker on the 40 yard line. He launches a long throw-on toward the endzone but its INTERCEPTED by the netminder who punts long down field for 60 yards. Gee, Spineker has now rushed for 300 yards but remains stuck without a goalstrike.”
Dan Maguire: I don't know if there's any way of verifying this, but I bet the World Cup's logo sits on a record number of fannypacks.
Ken Munson: This is a shitty movie.
Adrien Begrand: Reality Bites was in actuality more realistic than Richard Linklater's Slacker. The performances by Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke showed just how whiny, self-centered, and embarrassing my generation could be.
Ken Munson: If you’re in the mood to completely hate the 90’s and everything about it, I recommend Reality Bites. I realize that this film was going for a realistic, Cameron Crowe-type approach toward its characters. The problem is, all the characters are realistically boring and annoying.
Andrew Unterberger: Reality Bites wasn’t the first definitively 90s movie, but it was the first to consciously try to be a definitively 90s movie. The forced anti-commercialism, the lousy pop culture references, the mediocre post-grunge soundtrack—ouch, ouch, ouch. On the plus side, though, it also had Winona Ryder.
Gavin Mueller: Winona's starfuckery is the only reason I want to be a rock star. Shit, I'd better hurry before she turns 40.
John Rothery: How many good movies has Winona Ryder made? None? Bad actress, worse shoplifter.
Scott McKeating: What's alternative about Winona Ryder? Apart for the fact she doesn't get the tits out on camera I can't think of anything. How low we set out movie sights when any doe eyed cute looking girl can be called an icon.
Adrien Begrand: And is it me, or is Ben Stiller the only decent human being in the entire movie?
Ken Munson: It’s interesting to see how Ben Stiller has traded in his career as a hip, promising director in exchange for starring in a bunch of comedies based around awful things happening to him for ninety minutes. He’s never been uglier, and yet a few years later, he would be casting himself as a male model. Ah, power and fame.
Andrew Unterberger: The movie’s worst quality is that we’re supposed to thumb our nose at nice-guy-businessman Ben Stiller. He’s sweet, caring and dependable but UHOH HE LIKES MONEY SO HE MUST BE THE ENEMY, whereas goateed Ethan Hawke can just step in and pretend to be a deep person whenever he feels like it and he’s the “real” one.
Gabe Gloden: Did I wanna be Ethan Hawke, or did I wanna be Ethan Hawke? Geez. Unfortunately, I was just a tad bit too young to adopt the slacker fashion. My generation opted for the clean cut and super baggy. I had to ditch my plaid shirts and shave my goatee.
Adrien Begrand: I don't know what's more unbearable, Matt Dillon singing grunge songs, or Ethan Hawke singing Violent Femmes songs...
Andrew Unterberger: Oh, Ethan. You had me at “why can’t I get just one fuck?”
Ken Munson: What really bites about Reality Bites more than anything is the ending. If I can spoil the crappy ending for everyone for a moment: Winona ends up with Ethan Hawke the shitheel, there’s no resolution for Ben Stiller’s character, and the film doesn’t even end, it just stops. And then, it shows that fake show based on the characters, just to emphasize how real the characters are. I hate this movie.
Ken Munson: Reality Bites was also notable for the fact that its soundtrack had “Stay (I Missed You”) by Lisa Loeb, who was the first artist to top the charts without a record deal.
Gabe Gloden: I remember liking “Stay”. Could someone remind me how it goes?
Andrew Unterberger: “Stay” is an obligatory sing-along if I’ve ever heard one. “You say…I only hear what I want to….you say….I talk so all the time…so?” Come on, I know you know the words.
Adrien Begrand: The video was cute, in an overly emo way. Directed by Ethan Hawke, too.
Ken Musnon: Lisa, of course, is best known for rocking the cute girl glasses like no one before or since. She got more mileage out of a single pair of eyeglasses than Clark Kent.
Zach Smola: Oh, Lisa Loeb. Totally hot. It’s the glasses. And she named her band after a Salinger book. How did she end up dating Dweezil Zappa and not Rivers Cuomo?
Andrew Unterberger: “Stay” was sort of it for Lisa. But seriously, Lisa, come back any time, ‘coz we miss you…..yeah, we miss you. Really.
I REMEMBER 1994
Akiva Gottlieb: Oh man, I remember when my Dad, iconoclast that he is, took me and my siblings to see the R-rated Speed, much to the envious chagrin of my fellow 4th Grade classmates. Bemused by my celebrity status, I embellished a little, inventing “adult content” and “adult situations”—“the guy has sex with the girl while the bus flies over the cliff and she uses her legs as a human propeller and they get saved but then the guy shoots off her leg and the lack of velocity makes them crash into the ocean but the bus floats and they have more sex!”—that were simultaneously action-packed, erotic and anatomically impossible. I like to think that, years later, when my classmates finally viewed the film, that their disappointment was somehow tempered by the film’s considerable suspense, “adult” or otherwise.
David Drake: Yeah Trip-hop. Sorta bored me.
Ken Munson: If you wanted to do hip-hop but suffered the unfortunate handicap of being British, trip-hop was your genre.
David Drake: It was hip-hop that went beyond chill to this realm of me falling asleep at the wheel. Thank god I couldn't yet drive when this stuff was popular.
Gavin Mueller: Finally white people can enjoy beats without the intimidation of aggressive black youths.
Ian Mathers: After all that Britpop, turning on MuchMusic and seeing (and hearing) “Sour Times” or “Protection” or “Black Steel” was a shock to the system. It was so much more sinister than, say, Blur. Not to mention sexier.
Zach Smola: If the Britpop movement wasn’t enough, we now had trip-hop to deal with. Before the English were just churning out music to remind us that they were responsible for the Beatles. Now they were putting weird diva vocals over slow-mo breakbeats in order to remind us that existence is bleak, horrible, and creepy, but that marijuana should still be legalized.
Josh Timmermann: To this day, I'm still not 100% sure what exactly constitutes trip-hop.
Michael Heumann: As far as media-generated music genre terms go, "trip-hop" is pretty accurate. The "trip" accurately defines the off-centered beat of dub and the drug-induced atmospherics found in both dub and trip-hop, while the "hop" accurately identifies the more contemporary beats and breaks found in much of the music.
Ian Mathers: Since I was listening to singles rather than purchasing albums, every trip-hop song I heard was a classic – for a while it seemed totally invincible as a genre.
Ben Woolhead: PJ Harvey had kicked things off the previous year, but Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky all put Bristol firmly on the musical map in 1994. It was the Seattle of trip-hop.
Tom May: Ah, Tricky and Massive Attack are my favourite trip-hoppers, though to be fair albums like Maxinquaye and Protection contain a barrow load of different genres.
Adrien Begrand: Massive Attack's "Karmacoma" was my introduction to the band, and it remains my favorite song of theirs.
Andrew Unterberger: Massive Attack were the coolest band of the 90s, no question. Sinister as fuck but capable of extreme vulnerability. They were just the greatest.
Ken Munson: Massive Attack never attacked me all that massively. The only group in this genre that I ever really got into was Portishead. I totally digged the whole chilly spy movie soundtrack thing they were into.
Ben Woolhead: Portishead’s Dummy is only coffeehouse music if you like your cappuccino laced with arsenic. From start to finish, it’s one of the bleakest and most harrowing records I’ve ever heard.
Joe Niemczyk: Portishead were my favorite of the bunch. Yeah, "Sour Times" was even a minor hit on American radio, and I was sure that they'd be the next band pegged to do a theme for a Bond movie. But I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when Sheryl Crow and her music's undeniably sophisiticated, spy-film vibe got her the gig instead.
Gavin Mueller: College coeds are 64% more likely to give it up if you play Portishead in your dorm room.
Ben Woolhead: Beth Gibbons sings like she’s physically wracked with pain, whilst the music is so hauntingly desolate. How did we get from this to the aural cotton wool of Zero 7?
David Drake: Some of it was cool, I've always liked Tricky's Public Enemy cover
Adrien Begrand: I bought Tricky's Maxinquaye immediately after hearing his cover of Public Enemy's "Black Steel", but the rest of the album was so astonishing, I was floored. I still love this album today.
Tom May: Maxinquaye in particular is staggering. I've been swimming around in it for a while, but am only just now discerning its depths and currents; it's not an album that could have been made before the 1990s.
Adrien Begrand: "Overcome" is so seductive, but once it lures you in, you're so enveloped by the suffocating beats, it's like being bound and gagged. It's sad that Tricky has never even come close to topping Maxinquaye.
Andrew Unterberger: Don’t any of you forget the Sneaker Pimps, though. “6 Underground,” a classic to go up against any of the legends. “A-one two, a-one two…”
Gabe Gloden: I respect all the trip hop greats. But I must give much love to Kruder & Dorfmeister, two cats that really loved the whole trip hop aesthetic and tried their damndest to make everything sound “chill” and “smoky” and, for the most part, succeeded. Their double album of remixes, The K&D Sessions, was the pinnacle of the genre in my opinion and, consequently, hammered the final nail in the trip hop coffin.
Michael Heumann: Trip-hop as a style didn't last beyond the mid-90s, but that's okay. The music was a way for British black kids to redefine American beats from their own, European-Caribbean perspective.
Ian Mathers: It should be noted that I don’t consider the legions of vaguely jazzy, electronic coffee table imitators who flooded the market to be trip-hop. Yes, Morcheeba, I
am talking to you.
Gabe Gloden: I remember after moving away to school in ’98, finding myself disaffectedly bobbing my head to Blue Lines in the order line of a local Starbucks without realizing exactly what it was I was hearing. Two years prior, I was cranking “Unfinished Sympathy” out the back of my Tempo and singing and gesticulating along. Where did it all go so horribly wrong?
John Rothery: Looking back though it has to be said that the output from Portishead and Massive Attack at the time was high quality. Dummy is bleak and moving. Blah blah blah. I know I shouldn’t but I still find it boring.
Kareem Estefan: Trip-hop always seemed a guilty pleasure to me…slow beats, hushed female vocals, the music seems so easy to produce.
Zach Smola: Trip-hop was just another near-breakthrough of something different in America before the whole country decided, no thanks, we’ll take rap-metal. The genre is now used exclusively to score creepy scenes in pseudo-indie movies.
Akiva Gottlieb: Anyone who thinks Trip-Hop has aged well is living in the past. Portishead and Massive Attack have done some staggering work, but the entire genre seemed like nothing more than a progressive stylistic foothold, lacking a necessary amount of warmth, verve and soul. Maybe you just had to be there…
Joe Niemczyk: Trip-hop was never really "lost." Instead it just became watered down by groups like Morcheeba and Mono, and ended up being licensed onto Starbucks compilations. That shouldn't change the fact that, for a brief time, this was some of the coolest music ever made.
I REMEMBER 1994
Nick Southall: The Real World London was a bizarre experience; my brother’s friend (they’d been in a band together in the late 80s / early 90s, a bizarre synthpop duo with songs about bananas and vampires) managed to get on, and caused all sorts of problems by almost becoming romantically involved with one of the other people in the house. His girlfriend (who wasn’t living in the house) was not happy; for Valentine’s Day she sent him a pink box which contained a pig’s head wrapped in barbed wire. He also managed to get the tip of his tongue bitten off during a gig by one of his other bands, when he jumped into the crowd and French-kissed a male heckler. Which meant he spent six weeks of the show unable to talk. It’s fair to say that The Real World was one hell of a lot better than Big sodding Brother.
Ken Munson: Dungeons and Dragons? That is SOOOO passe. We’re playing with cards now.
Dan Maguire: Magic: The Gathering was an RPG/fantasy card game that involved a lot of peach fuzz and headgear. I think there were cards involved too.
Ken Munson: I can definitely see where the appeal lies here. Dungeons and Dragons, that can take like, HOURS. Card games, you could play that during lunch break, or in the middle of class if the teacher was showing a video.
Gabe Gloden: Wow, 1994 was a nerdy-ass year, huh?
Ian Mathers: I was so pathetically nerdy for this game. Like, playing it in the high school cafeteria during lunch nerdy. It was the only card game we could get in town, so we all spent way too much money on it and played it way too often. I wouldn’t say it was the 90s equivalent of D&D, because we still played that too…
Andrew Unterberger: Magic: The Gathering was my life for at least two or three years. My parents would talk about my M:TG addiction like I was hooked on heroin—“Andrew, what happened to you?? You never spend time with your family or friends anymore, all you care about is hanging out with that kid next door and playing Magic!!.” To be fair, though, she was more or less right.
David Drake: In a contradiction that would make sense only to a ten year old, this game and hip-hop were my life in 1994. I was so good at it, it was ridiculous. I do not exaggerate. I could slay any of you motherfuckers right here, right now. My Craw Wurm will fuck you up.
Ken Munson: In junior high, I was going to a gifted school, which of course had a higher-than-normal proportion of geeks, nerds, losers, etc. So basically, the entire place was papered in Magic cards.
David Drake: I remember the game well cuz me and my best friend played all the time, and for our 12th birthdays we organized a big Magic tournament at my apartment with like 10 of our friends. Although the rich kid who had purchased virtually every magic card that ever existed ended up winning the competition (best of three), I beat him in one match – the crowning achievement of my Magic playing experience.
Gavin Mueller: By not playing this game, I successfully avoided the bottom tiers of nerddom.
Dan Maguire: It very well might have been a cool game, but at what cost? Penis – 5 pts.
John Rothery: Orcs! Runestones! Magic! When will my pubes grow?
Zach Smola: I only played “Magic: The Gathering” (note: as if there were other Magic games?) once. A third cousin of mine came to visit from Canada, and he asked if I wanted to play this card game, and he set it up for me, but didn’t explain enough. It’s like every other move I made he was like, “Sorry, you can’t do that…I have the Rune of Galgamesh and I’m in my fourth Avatar. Plus, your hit points and magic points have to be prime numbers to play that card .” It left a bad taste in my mouth.
Ken Munson: I myself never played, but I watched all the time. Every day on the bus ride home, Magic became a huge spectator sport as everyone would crowd around these two seats and watch these two guys pretend to be wizards, play their manna, attack each other with pretend fireballs, and so on.
Ian Mathers: Black and blue were the best colours, definitely.
David Drake: My deck was blue and black, which made me a pretty sinister motherfucker too.
Andrew Unterberger: Then in 1996 I discovered MTV, and my brief flirtation with all-out nerddom was put to a grinding halt. Still, I break this game out every couple years or so and go a couple rounds with my friends. It’s pretty fun.
Ian Mathers: I still have a couple of my old decks around – the good ones. I could probably still kick your ass too, after a bit of practice.
David Drake: I'll still fuck you up though, watch. Oh snap, I just drew a Royal Assassin. Its all over now, bitches. WHUT!
Zach Smola: “This is the true story of 7 (exceptionally attractive) strangers (picked solely for their aggressive and argumentative tendencies) picked to live in an (insanely ridiculously glorious) apartment…” Let’s see how many people will watch when people start getting REAL.
Ken Munson: As MTV began to slowly phase out music videos, one of the things they wanted to do was create an actual drama show, but they couldn’t afford things like actual actors, writers or sets. And thus was a horrible genre borne unto the world.
Pat Brereton: Real World was the first true reality show.
John Rothery: The Real World was a pre-emptive strike by television against other forms of media. It is a form of self-defense as through the medium of reality TV, TV becomes more than a portal for reporting world events; it can in fact create its own history.
Pat Brereton: The first season took place in New York City, where a ragtag group of idiots spent a few months in an apartment learning about their differences. There was The Virgin, The Gangsta Rapper, The Grunge Rocker, The Angry Black Man, and The Male Model. All in all it ended up being pretty interesting (maybe somewhat groundbreaking?) but very boring.
Gabe Gloden: The first few seasons of these shows were fantastic. The people actually had some kind of semblance of self and were half-way intelligent, not to mention, they were at least somewhat unique. Now I can’t get into the new shows because I can’t tell any of them apart. They’re all sluts!
Pat Brereton: Subsequent seasons saw more skin, fewer virigns, and increasingly better ratings, the show becoming one of MTV’s cashcows. The next 7 seasons or so strayed as far away from any sort of social consciousness as possible to focus on the attractiveness of the cast members, all played to a background of techno and emo (for the tender moments) in MTV’s lame attempt to be hip.
Gabe Gloden: Here’s a sample list of interview questions used by the producers:
1) How long will it take you to get naked in front of the cameras?
2) How many different partners can you take on over the course of the show?
3) Will you show us your breasts/ass/penis now?
4) Can you solve this simple math equation: Me + You = a) a good time, b) a great time, c) venereal disease
5) Can you please show us your breasts?
Ken Munson: The appeal of The Real World is so completely lost on me. Watching this show, as far as I can tell, is basically admitting that you have no social life, because if you did, you could probably easily find as much drama inside your own circle of friends, and it would probably be more interesting too.
Adrien Begrand: Of course it was a dumb soap opera. We knew that, and we still tuned in to watch Puck get voted out of the house.
Zach Smola: Puck was pretty hilarious, though. I mean, not that I ever watched the show or anything…um…
Pat Brereton: The San Francisco season was my favorite, probably because it featured Puck, the punk bike messenger. The best moment came when Puck picked his nose and then fingered the peanut butter jar, grossing out Pedro, the Gay Guy with AIDS—the first HIV-stricken person I’d ever watched on television.
Zach Smola: Then there was Road Rules, which just figured an RV and lame missions would increase the tendency towards fighting or copulating. Blah.
Pat Brereton: Road Rules is pretty much a carbon copy of The Real World, except it takes place in a Winnebago. The cast members drive across America, in a Paul Simon/Keruouac-esque search for identity, meaning, and product placement
Adrien Begrand: That Road Rules series where they went to Europe was some of the best guilty pleasure television I have ever seen. The tension in that Winnebago was incredible. You had the flaky Dutch girl, the brilliantly villainous Belgian dude, the American cheerleader girl caught in the middle of everything, the peacemaking German guy, and the wussy American guy who couldn't handle all the fighting, and wound up crying like a baby near the end.
Zach Smola: A lot of people are lauding The Real World and Road Rules now that reality television has caught on. We treat the shows like they are some type of forward-thinking masterworks, completely neglecting that reality television sucks
John Rothery: The success of reality TV cannot be denied as it continues to flourish in its multifarious forms to this day. Monkey and the mirror aren’t easily parted.
Zach Smola: Saying these shows are good and important is like thanking Pandora for opening the box. However, they have always been addictive.
Josh Timmermann: The Real World is entirely responsible for an addiction to reality TV that I haven't kicked since. Now that I've grown up, however, I've moved on to more mature fare like The Simple Life and Survivor.
FORGOTTEN FILMS OF 1994
Josh Timmermann: Nope, it's not porn, despite what the movie box at the video store, its title, or its misleading ad campaign might have lead you to expect. Instead, it's one of Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan's finest films, and also the ideal starting point for exploring Egoyan's filmography; all of his signature touches are here, including an elliptical narrative far more effective and purposefully employed than Tarantino's puzzle structure in Pulp Fiction.
Ken Munson: My dad told me that the baseball players were going on strike. My instant response was, “What, ALL of them?”
Phillip Buchan: I'm pretty sure I cried the day this happened. My childhood summers revolved around baseball -- playing with the neighborhood kids, collecting the cards, staying up late to hear Chris Berman say "Back back back back back... Gone!" on Baseball Tonight, and attending as many major or minor league games as I could. The players' strike was pretty much the end of the summer of 1994 for me.
Andrew Unterberger: It was sort of an unfathomable concept—a year without baseball? But…but…. there still be a world series, at least, right?
Dan Maguire: On one hand, the cap was made to give smaller market teams a chance. On the other, the bigger market players (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles) felt like they were taking an unfair cut for failures in the league's financial instability.
Phillip Buchan: I can't say whether I was more angry with the players or the owners -- both were pretty childish, and their reps (whose names escape me right now) were about as charismatic as an aluminum bat. It was a pretty lame deal overall.
Zach Smola: Even at that young age I knew that you shouldn’t want that much money to play baseball. You hit a ball, and then you catch it. Sometimes you throw and sometimes you run, but mostly you walk or strike out. And you want a few million dollars for that? Baseball’s boring. Demanding higher wages just wasn’t right.
John Rothery: Power to the multi-millionaire people! Comrade, we must stand up to these fascist pigs and raise a mitt to the need for multi-squillion dollar salaries.
Ken Munson: This strike really pissed me off, because I remember the Padres having a really great season that year.
Joe Niemczyk: I was a lifelong Cubs fan, but in Chicago you take whatever you can get, and by midseason, the White Sox were dominating their division and were World Series favorites. Yet Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was one of the owners who helped lead the season to a dead halt, which killed his own team's pennant hopes and turned away pretty much all of the fans who had jumped on the bandwagon. Ten years later, they still haven't recovered.
Adrien Begrand: The team that suffered the most from the baseball strike was Montreal, who were cruising along as the best team in baseball, with Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Delino De Shields, Dennis Martinez, and John Wetteland leading the way. They should have won the World Series, and the fate that squad suffered still breaks my heart.
Phillip Buchan: I taped the last Braves' game of the season because I knew that it was going to be the last major league baseball to happen for quite awhile. I know a lot of my friends became pretty disenchanted with the pro sports world when they called off the World Series, but I still stuck by the game, though in retrospect I'm not quite sure why.
Ken Munson: I realize that the baseball players had a legitimate beef with the owners, but the professional sports world would never ever live this down. The innocence of pro athletes became forever stained that day in 1994. Or in 1919 with the Black Sox scandal, maybe.
Dan Maguire: I would have watched games with scab players. But who and how would have to be decided by reality television.
Zach Smola: Did we not learn anything from A League of Their Own? Why didn’t we just pay girls really low salaries to play baseball? Oh, wait…it’s because baseball’s boring.
Ken Munson: I had a friend who boasted of having a ’94 World Series baseball, still in its plastic wrapping and never to be used. You almost made it to the big time, baseball.
Pat Brereton: Seinfeld is obviously the greatest sitcom ever produced in American television history.
Adrien Begrand: I don't think we'll ever see sitcom writing this consistently great ever again.
Kareem Estefan: Once I had watched every episode of The Simpsons at least thirty times, I turned to Seinfeld. I am now a near-religious viewer of its reruns.
David Drake: This show was so perfectly crafted...my friend once said he never saw a bad episode, and until the last season, I agree with him completely.
Pat Brereton: The show revolved around the daily events of Jerry Seinfeld (a stand-up comic), Elaine Benes (an editor/personal assistant), George Costanza (the assistant to the traveling secretary of the New York Yankees), and Cosmo Kramer. These four friends intermittently bickered over the quotidian minutia of the day.
Ian Mathers: Which of the four did I sympathize with? Are you kidding? None of them!
Gavin Mueller: The beauty of Seinfeld was that no character deserved sympathy. They were reprehensible assholes to the core, but still hilariously entertaining. Reminds me of a lot of my friends, actually.
Andrew Unterberger: Whenever I feel like I’m a shallow or selfish person, I watch Seinfeld to remind myself that I could always be worse. That’s why the show was so popular, I think—it gave the mainstream US a meter stick to measure their own self-absorption against.
Ian Mathers: That Seinfeld had the guts to make its principle characters (even Kramer) so unlikable was its strength. They deserved 90% of all the shit that happened to them, but the show was still well-done that we still watched. Or maybe we’re all just jerks, like Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were.
Andrew Unterberger: Of course the worst of the four still had to be George.
Kareem Estefan: George Costanza. The man you love to hate? Hate to love? Either way, he’s easily my favorite of the four.
Ken Munson: The guy that George Costanza was based on actually sued the show. That’s a Costanza moment if ever I saw one.
Kareem Estefan: One of my favorite of George’s many ingenious plots, which will eventually be recognized as years ahead of his time, was his effort to combine three of his favorite activities: eating, watching TV, and having sex. I’m sorely disappointed that his partner disapproved of the burger in bed.
Pat Brereton: Oh, that great episode where George pretends to be a marine biologist to win the affections of Diane Decahn, the “it” girl in college, “So I started to walk into the water. I won't lie to you boys, I was terrified! But I pressed on and as I made my way passed the breakers a strange calm came over me. I don't know if it was divine intervention or the kinship of all living things but I tell you Jerry at that moment I was a marine biologist!”
Adrien Begrand: When Jerry & George began work on their sitcom based on Jerry's own life, which was already a show based on Jerry's life, Seinfeld became the first postmodern sitcom.
Kareem Estefan: Seinfeld was always at its best when it goes wild with concepts, like the Bizarro-Jerry episode, in which Elaine finds herself in a ludicrously upside down world. There’s Feldman (bizarro-Kramer), the down-to-earth man full of practical ideas, Gene (bizarro-George), who always pays for the group’s lunches at the bizarro-diner, and Kevin (bizarro-Jerry), who values “just being friends”.
Adrien Begrand: The Junior Mint episode is the best episode. You had four storylines meshing: Elaine's artist ex-boyfriend's operation, Kramer and his Junior Mints ("What's not to like? It's chocolate, peppermint-it's delicious! It's very refreshing!"), George fretting over spending $1000 on paintings by an artist who's not going to die after all, and to cap it all, Jerry and his whole "Mulva" dilemma. Only Fawlty Towers was able to cram as much stuff into a half hour as Seinfeld did every week.
Ken Munson: The true legacy of Seinfeld was probably establishing Wayne Knight and Patrick Warburton as the greatest character actors of all time.
Adrien Begrand: Wayne Knight stole every scene he was in. The whole Newman/Lex Luthor parallel was a brilliant touch. "Newman!!!"
Zach Smola: You can’t fight the Soup Nazi, Putty, J. Peterman, or the Costanza family.
Ken Munson: Of course, once the show ended, none of the core members ever really did anything else of quality.
Gabe Gloden: Sorry I have to be the one to break the bad news to you guys. Seinfeld was the most overrated sitcom in Television history. Mean, obnoxious characters with too much free time on their hands does not equal funny. I hope someone out there agrees with me because it’s a very lonely position.
Tom May: Seinfeld as the birth of the modern sitcom? Bah, humbug.
David Drake: The whole idea that their lives surround trivial pursuits is a really dead-on characterization of the 90s as well, I'd say. And a feature like "I Love the 90s," come to think of it.
Josh Timmermann: Seinfeld IS the 90's. If I ever have kids and they're curious what the '90's were like, I'll play them the episode where Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer make a bet to see who can go the longest without masturbating: "That was pretty much it, son."
FORGOTTEN FILMS OF 1994
Josh Timmermann: Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr's seven and half-hour masterwork is less "forgotten" than it is a film that the vast majority of moviegoers simply never got the chance to see in the first place. Which is quite a shame, as I'd personally consider it to be among the ten best movies I've ever seen. Intimidating, for obvious reasons (7 1/2 hours! subtitles! etc.), Satantango is, for a patient, game viewer, an extraordinarily rewarding filmic experience, both for its darkly humorous observations of community life and the conclusions it derives from the tangled web of 20th century politics. Copies may be hard to find, but it’s well worth it.
Ken Munson: Jim Carrey burst from In Living Color to box office glory in ’94, and you know there had to be a few Wayans brothers cursing the man’s good luck.
John Rothery: Bring on the crowd pleaser. Jim is a funny guy who is funny because he is serious and is serious because people don’t take him seriously.
Ken Munson: All of a sudden we had this gangly white guy spazzing and mugging for a good solid ninety minutes. With anyone else it would have seemed sad and desperate, but with Carrey it was sad, desperate, and gutbustingly hysterical.
Andrew Unterberger: Carrey broke out with three phenomenally successful movies in ’94--Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber.
Ken Munson: Ace Ventura, when it comes down to it, is not really a movie. Most of his other movies are actual movies, but not this one. Ace Ventura is nothing but Carrey making silly faces through two reels. Making them brilliantly, I should add.
Andrew Unterberger: Oh god, did I love Ace Ventura. One scene after another—Ace chasing down the Miami Dolphins, Ace going undercover in a mental institution, Ace catching a bullet in his teeth—just pure hilarity. My grandmother, who had the good fortune of being the one to take me to the movie, didn’t quite share my high opinion on that one.
Ken Munson: Courtney Cox was in that movie, I recall, back when she wasn’t hideous. I never figured out how come Sean Young apparently had a penis growing out of her ass at the end of that film.
John Rothery: Dan Marino is a bit special in Ace Ventura. Or was it Brad Favre? Can’t remember but a wooden, personality bypass footballer was involved and delivered the performance of his life. Was he reading off an auto-cue?
Ken Munson: Then came The Mask.
Andrew Unterberger: The Mask was an excuse for Carrey to act all crazy for two hours, with visual pyrotechnics to match.
Ken Munson: Jim Carrey plays a repressed guy who puts on a green mask, which, through the power of CGI magic and cartoon physics, lets him do whatever the hell he wants. It’s hard to believe that Jim Carrey himself is not a CGI creation. It also featured the debut of Cameron Diaz, in what I still consider her best role.
Andrew Unterberger: This had Cameron Diaz and a non-masked Jim Carrey’s performance as nice guy Stanley Ipkiss to bring some sort of sanity to the proceedings, but it was still twice as crazy as Ace Ventura.
Ken Munson: For those of us who are no longer thirteen, The Mask is the movie that holds up best today. However, if we’re judging on the basis of number of jokes about selling dead animals to blind kids, Dumb and Dumber definitely wins out.
Adrien Begrand: Dumb & Dumber is one of the funniest movies of the 90s. It still slays me, and I've seen it dozens of times. The part with the blind kid petting the duct-taped head of Petey the parakeet is one of the funniest movie moments ever. "Pretty bird, pretty bird..."
Gabe Gloden: What was the best Jim Carrey vehicle? To that question, I ask this one. Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?
Ken Munson: Dumb and Dumber is still pretty much the dumb gross comedy of all dumb gross comedies. Diarrhea jokes, dick jokes, gay jokes, jokes about drinking urine, jokes about frozen urine… really, what more than that do you need?
Adrien Begrand: People always talk about the gross-out jokes, but Dumb & Dumber had some lines by the Farelly brothers that possessed an absurd, Mel Brooks-ish quality: "I'm talkin' about a place where the beer flows like wine, where the women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I'm talkin' about Aspen." And how about the casting of Boston Bruin great Cam Neely as Sea Bass? Inspired, I tell you. "Kick his ass, Sea Bass!!!"
Ben Woolhead: The Farrelly brothers have a lot to answer for. Dumb and Dumber may have been the first in the lamentably awful frat-boy gross-out comedy genre, but I just can’t help myself laughing like a twat again and again at even the most puerile of gags and scenarios.
John Rothery: Some people I know feel that they are ‘above’ the gross-out, toilet humour of Dumb and Dumber. I say to them ‘You fools – it is funny’ and fart in their general direction.
Zach Smola: When Jim Carrey said “Somebody stop me!” we should have listened, before it came down to The Cable Guy. But then we wouldn’t have had that killer Primitive Radio Gods song, so I guess it all works out.
Ken Munson: Ah, the premier 90’s touring festival.
Phillip Buchan: Lollapalooza was yet another stupid "celebration" of youth culture that revolved around the idea that celebrating meant spending lots of money on bottles of water and T-shirts of bands you wouldn't care anything about in five years.
Kareem Estefan: Smashing Pumpkins, Cypress Hill, Peter Frampton, Homer Simpson…yup, Lollapalooza was great.
Ken Munson: Was it a genuine celebration of Gen-X culture and music, or just a corporate cash-in? The answer of course is that those two are the exact same thing.
Philip Buchan: While the lineups were pretty awesome, the same thing always happens when you go to one of these big outdoor summer festival things: you have to park four miles away and miss the first band you want to see, there are scheduling conflicts between the stages, lots of acts only get to play four or five songs, Sonic Youth only plays the stuff off of Dirty and Goo, some dick with a backwards baseball cap keeps crowd-surfing and kicking you in the head…
Zach Smola: Lollapalooza was the birth of the overpriced-summer-tour-and-freakshow-with-a-line-up-so-good-you- totally-have-to-go-dude. Here, overpriced water, hemp jewelers, radical politics, misfits, and the most ridiculously stellar bands ever rubbed shoulders, and they weren’t even trying to free Tibet.
Michael Heumann: I went to the Lollapalooza the year that Sonic Youth, Hole, and Cypress Hill played (the same group that starred in The Simpsons' rendition of the tour, where Homer becomes the cannon ball guy). My favorite memories of the show have nothing to do with Sonic Youth, Hole, or Cypress Hill. I met Moby at this thing; he was signing autographs, and I got one. Nice guy.
Gabe Gloden: For some reason, I just had to see Lollapalooza as a teen. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to attending, the lineup was haphazardly and predictably thrown together (Korn, Snoop Dogg, Tool… it was all angst). But I still had a great time at my first real “music festival”.
Gabe Gloden: Now I know that real music festivals involve a lot more drug use and usually extend you the God-given right to free water. Instead, I had to be proud forking over $5 to Perry Farrell for a measly 16oz. of the stuff.
Michael Heumann: I also remember seeing concert organizer Perry Farrell wandering around the Irvine Spectrum (in Southern California), dragging a gigantic (and empty) bottle of wine behind him, drunk as hell, shouting at every woman he saw.
Phillip Buchan: Lollapalooza was less idiotic than the H.O.R.D.E. or Warped tours, but the bands couldn't compensate for the fact that real rock 'n' roll just ain' meant for the arena.
Gavin Mueller: I went from not cool enough to go to too cool to go so rapidly that I never actually experienced the festival itself.
Zach Smola: No matter how corporate, uncomfortable, or awkward the shows may have been, you can’t fight that many good bands. And they’re doing it again, evil geniuses. Sigh.
Andrew Unterberger: Lollapalooza is a quintessential then-and-now 90s situation. Of course a line-up featuring the hottest indie bands in the world isn’t going to sell in 2004—times done changed, kid. Nobody cares who Pavement’s feuding with these days.
Zach Smola: Plus, the Corgan v. Malkmus battle that occurred and Dr. Octagon-related chicanery are classic rock n’ roll tales to tell the grandkids. “Grampa, tell us about the time Kool Keith demanded more money to perform at Wowwapwooza!” “That’s Lollapalooza, dearie!”
Ken Munson: Over in the UK, those Brits apparently got tired of grunge long before us Americans, and instead adopted a music so entirely of their own, they named it after themselves: Britpop.
Zach Smola: Wooooohoooo! Oh, for the glory days of Britpop.
Ben Woolhead:The most overrated music “movement” of my lifetime. People who look back at Britpop as some kind of glorious golden age should be sterilised.
Phillip Buchan: Pulp, Supergrass, The Lightning Seeds, Oasis, Blur -- they all wrote better melodies than the glut of post-Seattle bands that had risen to prominence over in the States. Britpop bands also took showers and didn't wear flannel, which made me like them a great deal more than Candlebox and the like.
Ben Woolhead: Britpop was the British reaction to grunge. It was all about some impulsive and pathetic Little Englander sense of defensiveness: “We jolly well can’t be doing with all these unwashed plaid-shirted American oiks coming over here and taking over, it’s just not cricket. We need to form the resistance. Damon, Noel, Brett, write some songs and I’ll go and fetch the Union Jack bunting…” Shame there was absolutely nothing in the music or the bands which justified the nauseatingly jingoistic and absurdly bullish pride that surrounded the whole thing. Territorial pissings indeed.
Nick Southall: Suddenly it seemed as if everyone was wearing Adidas Gazelles and skinny tracksuit tops. I thought they looked like idiots.
Scott McKeating: Most exciting British movement of the 90s? You should've tried living through it, boring as hell. The music papers, instead of covering the broad specturm of bands (many of which were expanding musical boundaries), they were fixated on this dull guitar / haristyle led pop. This era was the death knell of the music press as a credible source of information; trying to force feed us obviously crap acts with crap songs and sadly it seemed to work.
Gabe Gloden: There’s so much I could say about these bands. The music, the image… but most importantly, Britpop lifted me out of my nihilistic, self-hating grunge/industrial period. Blur taught me how to dance, Supergrass taught me how to air guitar and The Verve taught me to walk down the street like a badass.
Ken Munson: As an American, I don’t think I ever got a handle on Britpop. I could tell what made Nirvana and Pearl Jam part of the same movement, but I didn’t hear any similarity at all between Blur and Pulp, or Suede and Oasis. The only thing I could tell they had in common at all is that they all sounded very, very British.
Andrew Unterberger: If you either despised or loved Britpop, chances are either way it had a whole lot to do with Oasis.
Zach Smola: If we learned one thing from Oasis, it’s that you should never start a band with your brother.
Andrew Unterberger: Oasis wouldn’t have been half as awesome if the two brothers weren’t such cocks to each other (and everyone else, for that matter). The clip of Liam harassing Noel as he sings at MTV Unplugged (while Liam—the regular singer of the group—sits in the balcony smoking and drinking) never fails to crack me up.
Adrien Begrand: It was easy to understand how people hated Oasis when they first came out, but the brashness of Definitely Maybe was so refreshing for many of us.
Ken Munson: “Definitely Maybe,” for not really being a hard rock album, is really really LOUD, much louder than my metal CDs. They laid on those guitars thick, man.
John Rothery: ‘Definitely Maybe’ is still the best recorded representation of the magic that the Gallagher’s possessed at this time. It is the perfect blend of rock and pop, of guitar melody and vocal snarl.
Gabe Gloden: “Live Forever” is one of the decade’s best rock songs.
Andrew Unterberger: If Britpop was about one thing, it was about making anthems--and nobody made them better than Oasis.
Akiva Gottlieb: The first time I heard “Live Forever” was the moment I discovered rock music. I was scanning radio stations in a rented station wagon whenI heard the opening drumbeat, the coy, affected Gallagher bravado, and that heavenly guitar solo. It was like taking drugs in front of my parents. I bought Definitely Maybe the day I got home—a week later, I heard Nirvana.
Adrien Begrand: "Live Forever" and "Slide Away"...come on, it's impossible to hate those songs. Right?
Gabe Gloden: Now if Oasis was the genre’s Rolling Stones, Blur were the Beatles. They were here first, they were prettier, they constantly reinvented themselves and they weren’t such fucking cunts.
Kareem Estefan: Britpop was unfortunately a movement I had to enjoy secondhand, being a pre-adolescent American in 1994, but Parklife remains one of my favorite albums of all time, and the most definitive album of the period.
Ken Munson: Blur’s “Parklife” is still an amazing album. Every time I hear that album I wanna jump up, dance around, and make out with random girls. Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who do boys like they’re girls who do girls like they’re boys.
Andrew Unterberger: “Girls and Boys,” possibly the greatest single of the 90s. You don’t have enough fingers to count the number of awesome hooks going on in that song.
Tom May: Blur's Parklife was my favourite album of music actually made in 1994, while I was living in 1994. Their "To The End" is gorgeous melancholy, and especially so as it shows Blur's true colours underneath the mockney voices. It reminds me of holidays in France, imaginary fairgrounds, and the old decaying British seaside.
Adrien Begrand: "End of a Century" is the album's most beautiful song, one of the first to touch on the fact that Generation X was aging. Albarn perfectly describes suburban ennui, the ubiquitousness of such clothing stores as The Gap ("We wear the same clothes cos we feel the same"), and the dominance of television.
John Rothery: ‘Parklife’ is Blur’s seminal work. The inventive guitars and arrangements were a playground for Albarn to charm us with his cocky, mockney schtick which was so much more fun than the brooding, pretentious muso that he so wanted to become (and became).
Akiva Gottlieb: If Blur is not the greatest band of the ‘90s, then they’re close to it. Blur had character, class, a social conscience, inventive wordplay and an affinity for musical progression. If Britpop is inscribed in the annals of rock history, Blur will be the reason why.
Ken Munson: It’s not about your Vorsprung Durch Technik, y’know.
Adrien Begrand: For myself, Pulp was not only the best band to burst out of the whole Britpop thing, but they were the band of the 90s.
Zach Smola: The sibling feud within Oasis showed Britpop can be funny, but it took Jarvis Cocker to make it hilarious. Pulp sounds like Oscar Wilde traveled into the future to front a band that refused to acknowledge that the 1990’s were any different than the decade before.
Adrien Begrand: Jarvis Cocker became the unlikeliest pop icons, with his emaciated, lanky, thrift shop Brian Ferry look. He exuded charm, fashion, sexuality, and most importantly, a wicked sense of humor, which he channeled into his lyrics. The dude is the greatest rock lyricist since Joe Strummer.
Andrew Unterberger: Jarvis Cocker is the sexiest human being on the planet, no question. I barely even remember what the guy looks like, but that doesn’t make a lick of difference.
Adrien Begrand: His 'N' Hers was Pulp's first minor masterpiece, their gloomy sound masked by a fantastic sheen of disco beats and keyboards.
Kareem Estefan: My favorite Britpop song? I’d have to go with Pulp’s “Babies”.
Tom May: Pulp's "Babies" is one of my favourite songs of the year; I was 12 in 1994 and ironically associated myself more with Jarvis Cocker than any other successful britpopper, despite him being one of the older people in the scene.
Adrien Begrand: His 'N' Hers is all about "Babies", the single that landed the record deal that sent Pulp over the top. Cocker's teen narrator hangs around a girl classmate, just so he can spy on her older sister and snoop around in her wardrobe. He finally gets the girl he wants, as he and the older girl are caught in bed by the younger sister, “I know you won't believe it's true/I only went with her 'cos she looks like you." Devastating, incredibly catchy, and flat-out fabulous.
Phillip Buchan: To this day, I'm still discovering great albums from the movement. My personal favorite band from the period was Supergrass--"Caught by the Fuzz" and "Alright" were two of the freshest songs I heard in middle school.
John Rothery: Supergrass are a band of lazy individuals. In ’94 the ‘Grass could have become the Kinks but they couldn’t be arsed.
Phillip Buchan: The Verve were also pretty incredible -- A Storm in Heaven was a great mixture of shoegazing and the more bombastic, stadium rock elements of the Britpop movement, and A Northern Soul was among the first great albums I ever bought.
Tom May: Are The Auteurs forgotten? If so, it's a crying shame. "Now I'm A Cowboy" is the first record I heard with Luke Haines singing lead vocals. He's become one of those great acerbic British songwriters I have always followed since I first heard this album.
Adrien Begrand: Call me crazy, but I liked Echobelly. The singer Sonya had such a great voice and "I Can't Imagine the World Without Me" was such a terrific, cheeky single.
Phillip Buchan: It's a shame that time seems to have forgotten The Darling Buds.
Ben Woolhead: Ever speculated on those occasions when a well-timed and well-placed bomb might have changed the course of history for the better? Well, you could have started with the Good Mixer pub in Camden some time in 1994.
Scott McKeating: The many hundreds of bands forgotten from this period and they are deservedly forgotten, and long may it remain so.
Adrien Begrand: Ugh, remember Menswear? I mean, Menswe@r?
Ken Munson: I hear a lot that Britpop turned sour even quicker than grunge did, but not knowing this firsthand, I decided to evaluate this myself and downloaded some Cast songs. Naturally, they were wretched, and I learned a valuable lesson about how critics are always right.
Ben Woolhead: We were in denial – let’s face it, American music is better than British music. Always has been, always will be – narrow-minded patriotism be damned.
John Rothery: Looking back on Britpop it is easy to become cynical and embarrassed about just how exciting a time it was. We had a clutch of bands coming out with very refreshing, exciting and positive music.
Adrien Begrand: Ah, those were the days, no??
Akiva Gottlieb: My History of Britpop mix, “From Here to Britternity”, is still my most accomplished achievement as a music appreciator. Look for it to drop in stores sometime this fall.
Gabe Gloden: I quit the hardcore band I had dicked around in for a while and gave up pursuing musical ambitions altogether. The Brits had everything taken care of.
FORGOTTEN ALBUMS OF 1994
Alice in Chains – Jar of Flies / Sap
Scott McKeating: With these late night acoustic driven recording sessions Jerry Cantrell was trying to steer the band away from their increasingly popular dark heavy Goth-tinged metal and towards the light. But the shadows of whatever was eating up the insides of Layne Staley (and what was to come) are palpable despite the polished production and the lyrical spirit of redemption and acceptance. Fuelled by a back to basics set up, wine, weed and probably a lot of heroin this release has a fragility, weariness and real human touch not normally found on their full album releases. The layers of Staley’s astounding vocals flow in and out of Cantrell’s ‘straight man’ harmonies and sadly they never regained the magic they found here. If only redemption songs actually worked.
Ken Munson: Ah, yes, Myst.
Dan Maguire: Along with 7th Guest, Myst was the computer game to play in the mid-90s.
Zach Smola: Myst ruined several thousand lives. The only thing I can fathom being more irritating than puzzles of Myst is Carrot-Top laughing at the top of his lungs while scratching his nails down a chalkboard as he holds a boombox blaring the Venga Boys’ “We Like to Party”. It really was that bad.
Ken Munson: I got it for a birthday, installed it, loaded it up on the computer, and promptly failed to figure out anything at all for about thirty minutes. Like, not only did I not solve anything, I failed to get any kind of indication that maybe I would be able to figure it out at any time in the future. I never looked at the game again.
Joe Niemczyk: A better title for the game would have been Pyst, because that's how everyone who played this game felt after trying to work their way from one pointlessly complex puzzle to another.
Gavin Mueller: Fascinating? Confusing? Frustrating? Try boring. "Ooh, it took me 4 hours to make that windmill turn, let me call my grandma with the news!"
Gabe Gloden: I’m going to walk over to this side of the room now and look at this picture. Now I’m going to walk to this door and examine the lock. It is locked. Now I’m going to go outside and look at the tree. Hmmm… maybe that’s a key over there. Better go check… nope, it’s just a dark piece of grass.
Joe Niemczyk: There was a story, but I can't remember much about it except that it had something to do with finding red and blue pages missing from books, and that there were lots and lots of levers to pull and buttons to push. And everything was pretty, but it was too confusing and frustrating to enjoy.
Dan Magurie: I am proud to say that I cheated my ass off while playing this game.
Andrew Unterberger: NOBODY figured out how to beat Myst. If someone tells you that they beat this game without cheating, they are LYING.
Dan Maguire: Sirrus and Achenar, you dirty bastards. All that turning the damn crank in the lighthouse world to get another damn page, and then you just burn the place down
Andrew Unterberger: And then if you actually did win, solve all the puzzles and everything, you didn’t really win—you just wandered around for a while before your realized that yup, this was it and you gave up and started playing Minesweeper instead.
Zach Smola: I never beat it, because I converted to “The 7th Guest”. If I’m going to do annoying puzzles, I at least want the crappy FMV afterwards to be mildly scary.
Joe Niemczyk: After a few dozen hours of wandering about and retracing my steps, trying to figure out what I needed to do next, I realized that I just didn't care anymore. So I threw in the towel and never finished the game, but I don't have any regrets. Street Fighter was more fun anyway.
Zach Smola: Only “Starcraft” could convince me computers could be fun again.
Andrew Unterberger: I think I speak on behalf of all of I Love the 90s when I offer a giant fuck-you to the makers of Myst. May you be doomed to wander around the afterlife for all eternity, having to follow bizarre, enigmatic and circular clues only to find that you’re just going to end up back in purgatory anyway.
FORGOTTEN ALBUMS OF 1994
Senser - Stacked Up
Scott McKeating: Where once ‘The Kids’ would devote themselves to one brand of music ‘The Early Nineties Kids’ demanded cross-pollinated mutant bands to cover the ground between and beyond once disparate musical genres. The Senser collective’s mind expanding festival omnipresence saw them fluently marry Dub to Thrash to Techno to Hip-Hop while finding time to raging against the rise of racism in inner cities, the US’ pathetic gangsta clichés and the UK governments pernicious political agendas. While tracks like “Eject” may have lost their punch in the wake of the growling brutal guitars of modern Metal their dubbier electronica and Hip-Hop works remain totally essential. An LP that truly does sound like a mixtape.
Andrew Unterberger: All right, it’s 1994—three years since JFK. Guess who’s back to remind us how much society fucking blows?
Ken Munson: I realize that Oliver Stone was never the most restrained of directors, but my God, he completely lost it with this one, didn’t he?
Scott McKeating: Natural Born Killers was a great idea, but a shitty shitty script.
Gavin Mueller: A critique of media-sensationalized violence by means of media-sensationalized violence? Just because you do it on purpose doesn't mean it's ok -- it means you're part of the problem, even though you should know better.
John Rothery: Plot synopsis: Two people kill a load of people. Moral of the story: Society is, like, BAD.
Ken Munson: I think what this movie says is that Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis would have to start killing people before they started being cool.
Adrien Begrand: Juliette Lewis killing guys while L7's "Shitlist" plays on the jukebox. So perfect.
Gavin Mueller: Julliette Lewis shooting the mechanic for giving her "the worst head" she's ever had has been a lifelong inspiration.
Andrew Unterberger: You gotta love Juliette and Tom Sizemore’s impromptu duet of “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’” as he’s dragging her away to prison.
Ken Munson: Casting Rodney Dangerfield as the horrible abusive dad was a great move. I don’t think I can say that about anything else in the film.
Gavin Mueller: People acted like casting Rodney Dangerfield as a perverse monster was some sort of stretch.
Andrew Unterberger: Was the laugh track/sitcom atmosphere in the Rodney Dangerfield child abuse sequence really necessary? I mean, goddamn, Ollie!
Adrien Begrand: You've got to love Robert Downey Jr. in this movie, who had a weird, wild, Gordon Elliot on crack thing going on.
Andrew Unterberger: Since all of the authority figures in the movie so ridiculous, I guess that means we’re supposed to sympathize with the two killers. I’m not biting, though.
Scott McKeating: I first saw it on a dodgy pirate copy which had something slightly wrong with the colours which made it look even more out there.
Andrew Unterberger: The disorienting visuals are the worst part. I guess Oliver figured that one way or another, he was gonna make his audience physically ill.
Gabe Gloden: Great movie. But do not, under any circumstances, watch this while you are tripping. And I mean, even if God comes down from heaven and recommends this as essential late night viewing.
Adrien Begrand: Oliver Stone proved in the end to be incredibly prescient, as Americans are more obsessed with celebrity than ever before. This was satire of the most brutal, savagely blunt kind.
John Rothery: I don’t like to speak out of turn but I don’t think Natural Born Killers is thought-provoking or needlessly sensational. It was simply rubbish.
FORGOTTEN ALBUMS OF 1994
James – Wah Wah
Scott McKeating: Vocalist Tim Booth had always talked a bigger game than James’ bouncy indie sound had ever delivered but with Wah Wah his word came good. The album was born of an idea by the ubiquitous Eno who kept a separate studio open to record improvisations, experiments and random ideas not formed enough for the official recording of the Laid album. Ranging from the Arabic influences of “Say Say Something”, the unsurprising Enoic ambience with “Low Clouds” and the Banshees mood of “Bottom of the Well” the album is exciting, interesting and never overly indulgent. Every band should record a Wah Wah alongside every album.
Gavin Mueller: 1994 -- the year I realized Scandanavians are hot.
Gabe Gloden: Wow, I totally forgot about Ace of Base. What to say? What was that all about?
Ken Munson: Screw Ace of Base. A fourth grader could have and probably did write “The Sign.”
Ian Mathers: When I was a kid I hated their singles because they were glossy pop, now that I’m not quite so stupid I don’t hate them, I just feel vast amounts of apathy towards them.
David Drake: Hahaha these guys were corny as hell. "The Sign" still conjures up my confusion at the song's title - I see stop signs every time I hear it, which is an annoyingly large amount now that Ace of Base has become the official group of Bally's Fitness commercials.
Andrew Unterberger: For the longest time, I could’ve sworn it was “I saw the sun”—I mean, that’d make more sense, right? Suns forcibly open up your eyes. Signs don’t.
Tom May: My brother loved Ace of Base at the time; I found their songs rather more catchy and appealing than any other pop of the time. I was definitely well into Abba by 1994, and I think AOB’s being Swedish helped in an appropriate way.
Gavin Mueller: But why were they so deathly serious?
Ian Mathers: The only thing that even vaguely interested me about their singles was some of the lyrical content in “All That She Wants”. As a thirteen year old, the idea that a woman would go around sleeping with men just to get pregnant was pretty bizarre – all the people I knew were trying to avoid having a kid, and our health class was busily educating us about condoms and the pill.
John Rothery: There was a lot of European cheese in the UK charts around this time, I liked most of it. “All that she wants is another baby.” I took that rather too literally I’m afraid and had the image of a warped, fatal attraction style femme charging around Europe trying to get up the stick. A serial pregnancy addict! Of course, really it was about loneliness, desperation and being in love with the idea of being in love. I still prefer my literal interpretation.
John Rothery: Just like Abba, both birds were a bit ropey. I would have taken the dark haired one I think; she looked dirtier. The two blokes were so Swedish. Lots of earnest looks into camera and questionable hand-jiving.
Zach Smola: Hehehe…I remember when the boys in the group tried to sue the girls because the label paid the ladies more. Oh, boys of Ace of Base, if you only realized soon you’d have to worry about getting paid at all.
Josh Timmermann: I STILL listen to the Ace of Base CD, and it still sounds as good as it ever did. They're surely up there with Abba and now the Sounds in the pantheon of great Swedish pop groups.
Akiva Gottlieb: If ABBA’s cool now, then Ace of Base is definitely due for a revival. Somebody cue a bootlegged Mountain Goats’ live cover of “The Sign”, pronto, and dance a jig for me.
I REMEMBER 1994
Michael Heumann: I live in California, not far from where the '94 World Cup final was held. However, I spent the first two weeks of the tournament in Europe—specifically, in Spain, France, Ireland, and England. So I was determined to enjoy as much of the Cup while I was in Europe as I could—and then come home to enjoy the finals.
I remember hearing the shouts and roars in Seville as Spain won its first game. I was with a group of academics (I was attending a conference), none of whom knew anything about sports in general and football in particular. They all thought someone had died. I had to correct them.
I remember sitting in a pub in Cork, watching Ireland play Mexico surrounded by drunken Irish men and women. And I mean drunk! One guy passed out before the game had even started. But what a crowd. They cheered every pass, every tackle, every corner kick, and every whistle. Ireland lost, but it didn't matter because the team still went on to the second round. When the game was over, the city partied in the streets. There's nothing like World Cup football in Ireland!
And then there's the other story from that night. I was staying at a bed & breakfast in Cork. Shortly before the game, as I checked in, the owner and I were discussing the match. "Who will you be cheering for?" she asked. "Who else? Ireland," I replied (what was I, stupid?). She looked down and frowned. "My son is cheering for Mexico," she said, as if someone had just stuck her friend's head in a blender. "Why?" I asked, unable to believe any Irish kid would ever cheer against the country's team. She looked at me and said (I'm not kidding): "His favorite movie is The Three Amigos."
In Dublin, I stayed at a hostel filled with irate (but interesting) Germans. There was one TV in the entire place, and each night all the guys would gather around it and watch World Cup matches. The first night I was there, Brazil was playing some undermanned African team, and the Americans were all cheering for the Africans. This didn't go over well with one German woman. When something good happened for the African team, she turned around, glared at the main cheerleader, and said (again, I'm not making this up): "Why are you cheering for them? Brazil is better." The American tried to explain the American concept of "underdog," but the German couldn't accept that anyone would cheer for inferiority. This is also the same woman who, a few nights later, forbade any football watching, declaring, "I've had enough of football! We're going to watch Dances with Wolves!" And so an entire room full of guys sat and watched Dances with Wolves because they were too afraid to fight this woman!
Finally, back home in California, I watched the final between Italy and Brazil with a large group of friends, including a bunch of Italians and Brazilians. This was going to be a football match/food fest. Since the game started at noon local time, however, we waited until the game ended before deciding what we'd be eating. If Italy won, we were going to eat Italian; if Brazil won, we'd eat Brazilian. So, yes, we ate Brazilian.
This was not the most exciting World Cup, but it'll always be my favorite.
Ian Mathers: Pop quiz, hotshot, you were awesome as a really stupid high school student, and then you tried your hand at Dracula and sucked. One more high profile failure like that and your career is over, but you still need to pay the rent… What do you do? What do you do?
Ken Munson: In between the surreal My Own Private Idaho in ’91 and the world-changing blockbuster The Matrix in ‘99, Keanu Reeves went on a string of pathetic, wooden performances that cemented his status as Hollywood’s preeminent meatwit. If not for Speed, Keanu Reeves might not even exist today.
Gabe Gloden: Speed was that other film that saved Keanu Reeves’s career before the Matrix. If there had been no Speed, there’d had been no Matrix… well, no Matrix featuring Keanu, I guess. That guy has traveled such a weird rollercoaster of a career arc.
Zach Smola: And here, Keanu first tries on his “Whoa…this is serious” face.
Ken Munson: The premise is simple; a madman has attached a bomb to a bus that will go off if the bus goes less than 55 mph. Partly because of hygiene reasons and partly because of this movie, I don’t use public transportation.
Zach Smola: I liked that absolutely nothing in “Speed” could just simply come to a stop; everything had to either crash or explode, even that one baby carriage filled with cans. I wonder, was that a forced re-write? Who puts empty soda cans in a baby carriage?
Adrien Begrand: Poor Cameron. First he wrecks his dad's car after he and Ferris steal it, and then seven years later, he finds himself trapped on a bus with a bomb on it.
Gavin Mueller: The best part was when Jeff Daniels got blown the fuck up.
Andrew Unterberger: Jeff Daniels biting it halfway through the movie was totally unexpected, but I guess they needed to get him out of the way so that Keanu could get involved with Sandra Bullock without reservation.
Dan Maguire: This is about when I started lusting for Sandra Bullock. My favorite action sequence:
Keanu: "I have to warn you, I've heard relationships based on intense experiences never work."
Sandra (lisping): "Ok. We'll have to base it on sex then."
Andrew Unterberger: Sandra’s career drop after Speed was about as severe as the bus’s drop when jumping from one highway ramp to another should have been—goddamn trick photography.
Zach Smola: And you can’t beat Dennis Hopper as a crazy villain.
Ken Munson: Dennis Hopper is the guy you call on to be your crazy villain if Gary Oldman and Willem Defoe are busy.
Adrien Begrand: The way Hopper held the phone in his left hand and held it to his right ear, for no apparent reason whatsoever, made him look even more psychotic.
Dan Maguire: "No! Poor people are crazy, Jack. I'm eccentric."
Zach Smola: I do think deserved a more honorable pun after his Keanu-inflicted beheading on the top of an unstoppable train. Maybe, “We all knew you were heading for a bad ending?”
Ken Munson: This was a roller coaster ride of a movie, so much so that I would love to see an actual roller coaster based on this movie. The SpeedCoaster, where all the cars look like bus seats and it looks like you jump over gigantic stretches of highway.
John Rothery: An action movie sinks or swims on the strength of its central premise and the size of the explosions. Speed is a big winner on both counts; its sequel, hilariously, sunk on the same rationale. Qu: How do you follow ‘There’s a bomb on the bus! It’s going to blow!’? Ans: It’s a boat! Its not going very fast! It’s… going… to… crash… eventually!
Ken Munson: Anybody can make things explode, but it takes true talent to explode things WELL.
Gavin Mueller: The Juice was loose!
Ken Munson: Ah, hell, we gotta talk about THIS, don’t we.
Phillip Buchan: Damn, this was a depressing case. It was all you heard about on the news for about two straight years, and the media jumped at every chance they got to play the race card. It was really a sickening display of how Americans can still let skin color polarize them on an issue that, at its core, had little if anything to do with race.
Zach Smola: I remember staying up late to watch the car chase--I was young and it was eastern standard time.
Ken Munson: With Jordan out of the NBA for this season and this season only, my beloved Knicks finally have a shot at winning the championships. And it’s in the middle of a very tense Game 5, and Ewing and Olajuwon are battling it up and down the court, and and and WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS? They’re not letting me watch the game so they can show me a white car go 25 mph down an empty freeway?
Philip Buchan: Man, that car chase was bad ass. I watched the cops tail that white Bronco for the entire 40 minute chase. (It did take that long, right? That's what it felt like when I was a kid...)
Ken Munson: That Bronco better explode or something at the end of this or I am going to be PISSED
Nick Southall: OJ, if you’re going to be involved in a real life car-chase, please have the decency to make it entertaining, kthxbye.
Phillip Buchan: It was more entertaining than anything else prime time TV had to offer, and more ridiculously over the top than any of that summer's action blockbusters.
Ian Mathers: Man, did the prosecution ever drop the ball on this one. It was their case to lose, and sure enough…
Ken Munson: There were those who believed he was guilty, and those who believed he was framed. My dad, a great man, managed to believe that he was guilty AND he was framed. Just think, he’d tell me, if there hadn’t been all that planted evidence to confuse things, The Juice might have gone to jail like he should have.
Ben Woolhead: In Britain OJ was only really known for playing the role of Nordberg in the Naked Gun movies, so the scandal never gripped the nation in the same way that it obsessed Americans.
Adrien Begrand: Of course, OJ was guilty. The American judicial system never looked more ridiculous when that idiot got away with murder.
Ken Munson: This sad mess became a sad commentary on race relations, the judicial system, the police, men and women, the media, the rich, celebrity worship… pretty much everything, really.
Zach Smola: The glove not fitting? Sheesh. It doesn’t take a Heisman-winner to commit a crime in gloves that are a little too tight.
Phillip Buchan: The glove thing was ridiculous -- and it totally did fit, by the way.
John Rothery: OJ was guilty as sin and can thank Johnny Cochrane for being a modern day miracle worker. He got Snoop Dogg off as well didn’t he? Genius.
Phillip Buchan: The strangest thing about the case was how it produced all of these unlikely celebrities. You had Judge Lance Ito, this diminutive little guy who suddenly became the nation's favorite figure of wise legal council. Policeman Mark Fuhrman made headlines with his racist remarks and alleged evidence tampering. And then there was Johnny Cochrane -- this guy came before the court with the same sort of heavy-handed, sing-songy rhetoric as Jesse Jackson.
Zach Smola: The OJ trial also showed us all how charismatic and hilarious lawyers can be. Hey, if you can’t prove your client is innocent, just make up words that the jury can’t understand! Irreputabadubadly!
Gavin Mueller: Not guilty. But not innocent.
Gabe Gloden: They had to lock down my high school classes after the decision was read in fear that it might incite a riot. What ended up happening? A riot of pissed off teenagers who were kept after school because a bunch of administrators thought they were potential criminals. It was kind of entertaining to witness two completely different, but equally inept, authoritative systems like the schools and the courts make horrendously bad decisions simultaneously before my very eyes.
Zach Smola: I’m glad this trial happened, because it taught me one of life’s most important lessons: if you are a famous, rich, Heisman Trophy-winner, you can murder your ex-wife and her lover while wearing very obscure and distinct shoes and still get away with it.
Phillip Buchan: Ultimately, the entire case was more intriguing, complicated, and superficially powerful than anything John Grisham or Scott Turow could have ever dreamed up. It's proof that truth can be stranger than fiction.
LOSER OF 1994
Andrew Unterberger: 1994 was one of the worst years in history to be a sports fan. Baseball was out on strike. Michael Jordan had retired. England had failed to qualify for the World Cup and nobody cared yet in the U.S. George Foreman started claiming that he was really a grill salesman at heart. And Tanya and Nancy had proven that no sport—not even professional figure skating—was exempt from scandal and corruption. But luckily, the depression wouldn’t last too long—after all, Tiger Woods and Space Jam were only two years away.
Ken Munson: I’m in a New York state of mind.
David Drake: Oh man hip-hop was on the come-up in '94. Everything that had been building in terms of production and rapping came to an apex in '94, the year that brought us both Notorious B.I.G.'s epic debut Ready to Die and Nas' trenchant street reflections on Illmatic.
Andrew Unterberger: Illmatic is almost an impossibly great album. While Nas is spitting rap’s greatest claims to truly being the poetry of the streets, he’s matched every step of the way with the greatest producers of the time.
Gabe Gloden: OK, so the West Coast had one great producer, Dr. Dre. But the east coast had Large Professor, Pete Rock and DJ Premier, all of whom appeared on Nas’s debut album, thus making it as close to an “East Coast Hip Hop’s Greatest Hits” compilation as there was at the time.
Nick Southall: I dunno about East Coast takeover, but Illmatic remains damn fine.
Kareem Estefan: I only recently discovered Illmatic, but a masterpiece it is. I know few songs as heartbreaking as “Life’s a Bitch”. That saxophone solo could fucking kill.
Ken Munson: Just like Nas, I never sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death. Also I drink too much Mountain Dew.
Kareem Estefan: But Nas doesn’t allow the album to grate, immediately switching to the relatively upbeat “The World Is Yours”; indeed, one of Illmatic’s strongest qualities is its steady movement through many moods and sounds, all of which are extremely potent.
Gavin Mueller: I can't get into Nas the way I can get into Biggie. Illmatic sounds perfectly planned and executed, every syllable mapped out for maximum effectiveness. But Biggie sounds like he's channeling some sort of quasi-mystical force, like he couldn't stop himself from rapping if he tried. That kind of expulsive energy beats out Nas's pinpoint accuracy.
Josh Timmermann: Biggie was as brilliant and Ready to Die as inexhaustible as both Tupac and Nas are hyperbolically overrated.
Gabe Gloden: If you wanted more pop with your East Coast buck, you’d pick up Ready to Die by the B.I.G One.
Josh Timmermann: No other artist (including Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis, or Elliot Smith) has recorded a song as self-lacerating and tangibly desperate as "Suicidal Thoughts." It's ultimately the stark contrast between the gravity of a track like that and the positively ebullient "Juicy" that makes Ready to Die such a flat-out masterpiece.
Ken Munson: While Big Poppa did his thing and macked on the ladies, in the background you might have seen a skinny guy with sunglasses and a goatee nodding his head. Maybe you didn’t pay him much mind, but within a few years he would become a plague on pop radio.
David Drake: The beats were hot, the rhymes were hot - it really was an amazing time for hip-hop and music in general. This was the critical point for the East Coast, a time when rappers from the New York area were releasing bucketloads of thrilling work - Digable Planets, Gang Starr, Pete Rock, Jeru, O.C., Organized Konfusion - I mean, this was a year of serious music.
Zach Smola: I think it’s inarguable that the east coast had better beats all along. You put in Ready to Die and Illmatic, and they somehow manage to out-chill “Gin and Juice” undeniably while simultaneously out-thugging all of N.W.A.’s catalog. When you compare the beats on Ready to Die to any of Puffy P. Diddy Sean-John Combs’ music since (i.e. Da Band), you can only think “What happened?”
Gabe Gloden: From my perspective in the Midwest, the market was dominated by West Coast hip hop, and these albums didn’t make much of a dent in West Coast sales, but with time, these albums filtered their way into everyone’s collections.
Zach Smola: I think beat envy was the source of the East Coast/West Coast feud all along. Illmatic hasn’t really been topped since. Consider this a retroactive answer of “Eastside” to that age-old question “Who you wit?” Truly, it wasn’t hard to tell.
I REMEMBER 1994
Zach Smola: Weezer were my 1994. I had just moved to Georgia from Connecticut, and I was very much in the formative stages of my musical taste. As in I listened to whatever early 90’s soft-rock garbage my parents happened to favor. Utterly friendless I moved to the South, a spoiled Yankee who had absolutely no idea what was going on and feebly tried to act like he did. We moved during the summer, and I went 3 months without making a single friend other than my next door neighbor. And being a small, awkward smartypants, not many kids seemed to be chomping at the bit to befriend me in the first place. But then a miracle happened in the form of two kids deciding I was worthy of hanging out. These boys started things off by asking what music I listened to. “Uh…you know…whatever’s on the radio,” mumbled to neglect that the radio station I listened to happened to rock contemporary adults very softly. And then one of the boys let ring 5 of the most important words spoken to me: “you should listen to Weezer”. Defying my mother, I ordered the Blue Album as one of our 10 free Columbia House records. All of a sudden I started watching videos, and Weezer had videos so far superior to those played at the same time that even in my young and naïve state, I made it a point to remember the name Spike Jonze. Finally, for the first time since the Talking Heads, someone was rocking for the small, awkward smartypants, and making millions doing it. Hell yeah, my name is Jonas.
Kareem Estefan: The Secret World of Alex Mack was about a girl who was accidentally given the power to morph into a goo-like substance. No, seriously.
Ken Munson: Alex Mack is some kind of really cute but not all that popular girl, and she gets drenched in some kind of weird chemical that gives her superpowers! You don’t see too many shows willing to mix high-school teen melodrama and evil corporate conspiracy.
Phillip Buchan: Hottest girl on Nickelodeon? You bet! My huge crush on Larisa Oleynik provided me with more than enough justification to present to my guy friends when they wondered why I watched the show -- little did they know, of course, that I also liked the storylines.
Zach Smola: I was so crushing on Alex Mack back in the day. We were about the same age, and you just can’t not love a woman who can melt into liquid metal.
Dan Maguire: Alex Mack is a preteen T-1000 who slums around with Ray, a nerdy black kid who tries to pick up chicks with his saxophone.
Phillip Buchan: It was like X-Files for kids, what with the evil powers that be looming over Alex's shoulder and watching her every move. In addition to fending off lackies from her dad's chemical plant, Alex also had to deal with gossip and mean teachers and finding dates for dances.
Ken Munson: Let me see if I could remember her powers: She could zap things with her hands, she glowed when she got excited… I can think of more useful powers, but she certainly got good use out of what she had.
Nick Southall: Also, she could turn into water, and that was way cool!
Kareem Estefan: The producers of Alex Mack didn’t have many ideas for this show. “Oh no, they’re going to find out I have super powers and do weird tests on me and I’ll never see my family again! Phew, I morphed into a puddle of goo, conveniently avoiding all danger until next episode.”
Ken Munson: In the first episode, before she got a handle on her powers, she actually morphed into a puddle out of her clothes. Imagine if they kept that detail in the shows, huh?
Andrew Unterberger: Alex also had some super-intelligent older sister named Annie. I remember a lot of episodes along the lines of “Alex, did you use your secret powers to beat me in the Science Fair again?” “NUH-UH!”
Zach Smola: I will say, from an older and more seasoned perspective, that her older sister was probably more attractive. However, the older sister was not the one who could pull a T-1000. Also, she didn’t have telepathy.
Phillip Buchan: Alex's older sister was also pretty cute, and she went on to be in some VH1 movie about being in a band and sleeping with all of the dudes in said band.
Zach Smola: Alex wore tomboy clothes, but she was a welcome change from the other Nickelodeon girl, Clarissa, who wore entire closets at once.
Kareem Estefan: Alex Mack’s world was nowhere near as fascinating as Clarissa Darling’s. Seriously, between super powers and typical teenage worries, who would pick the super powers? Thumbs down to this show.
Phillip Buchan: Of course, Alex had coping mechanisms that normal teenagers didn't, such as the ability to turn herself into a puddle, so all of that teenage drama bullshit never drug her down too far.
Nick Southall: A secret – I was in love with Alex Mack, because she looked a bit like my friend Lucy, who I also loved at that point (she didn’t love me, she loved a guy called Jared (see the My So-Called Life entry; yet another reason to hate on Leto).
Akiva Gottlieb: I was in a history class with Larisa Oleynik this past year! She sang ”Happy Birthday” to me, and knows my name! I don’t remember much about the show, though.
Andrew Unterberger: And just like Melissa Joan Hart, Larisa would eventually turn into a legitimate teenager and start playing annoying and much-less-cute roles as a result of it. Alex Mack, we hardly knew ye.
Michael Heumann: NIN's "Closer": where German expressionism meets industrial music. It's a classic, probably the best thing Reznor ever did.
Ian Mathers: Thank God for censoring, because after all there were was just no way I could figure out what “I want to ____ you like an animal” could have been hiding. Nope, never. My virgin ears were preserved for another year.
Ben Woolhead: “I want to fuck you like an animal” – what Boyz II Men really wanted to sing. One for the kids.
Zach Smola: Awww, Trent, I never knew you cared!
Ken Munson: “Closer” held the title of Most Unsexy Song About Sex, at least until “Your Body Is a Wonderland” came out.
Joe Niemczyk: Controversial? Ah, people said the same thing about the Beatles. I wanna hold your hand? Scandalous!
Ian Mathers: The best top 40 hook since Rage Against The Machine’s “____ you I won’t do what you tell me” a few years previous for teenagers who wanted an excuse to scream the word “fuck” at the top of our lungs. The rest of us didn’t need an excuse.
Ken Munson: That was one cool, freaky video.
Gabe Gloden: Best censoring in a music video ever!
Ken Munson: The cut scenes that were simply replaced with “Scene Missing” cards made it seem even darker, like “You think this is fucked up right here, you should see what they made us remove!” I’m sure if I actually saw those scenes I’d be disappointed.
Phillip Buchan: "Closer" is right up there with Tool's entire videography for "The Thing I'd Least Like to See Before I Lie Down at Night" award.
Andrew Unterberger: Crucified monkeys, maggots, disembodied pharaoh heads waking up, gagged pig heads spinning wildly, old bald dudes—I think it’s safe to say that video held a monopoly on MTV creepiness.
Phillip Buchan: You wanted to like "Closer" simply because your parents reviled it. You would sit down and watch the entire video with your friends, knowing full well that it would give you nightmares for a week, because you wanted to prove to the world that you could handle "strong content" and appreciate the dark underbelly of existence just as much as Billy down the street.
Adrien Begrand: If my memory serves me correctly, Much Music in Canada banned the video for "Closer". I think it was because of the monkey being tied up.
Ken Munson: A crucified monkey? That’s just wrong, man.
Josh Timmermann: I was SO into Nine Inch Nails back when Broken and The Downward Spiral came out.
Phillip Buchan: You begged your older brother's girlfriend to pose as your legal guardian so that you could march down to the local Sam Goody and buy the parental advisory-adorned The Downward Spiral, not so much because you wanted to listen to it, but because you wanted to be able to flash it on the back of the school bus and give the impression that your mom let you do all kinds of cool shit like listen to songs with the F-word in them and ride a bike without a helmet.
Gavin Mueller: I triumphantly displayed the lyric booklet to The Downward Spiral to my mom, expecting a traditional parental reprimand. Instead I was greeted with nonchalance. Damned stoner parents.
Adrien Begrand: The Downward Spiral is an over-the-top masterpiece, ranking right up with Loveless as the best-produced album of that decade.
Kareem Estefan: One of the few Nine Inch Nails songs that isn’t totally ruined by its ineloquent lyrics. Not because the words are particularly brilliant on “Closer”, but because the song is too damn good for it to matter.
Josh Timmermann: It's a bit embarrassing listening to some of that stuff, in retrospect. At the very least, one can't easily accuse him of being a manufactured sicko, ala so many of his in-spirit protégés. The (deservedly) banned-from-MTV, unqualifiedly fucked-up video for "Happiness in Slavery" makes "Closer"'s merely censored clip seem down-right tame by comparison.
Gabe Gloden: Thanks to “Closer,” everyone got the chance to hear under-recognized bands like Stabbing Westward and Gravity Kills finally get the attention they deserved!
Joe Niemczyk: It was cool to hear industrial music on the radio, though it would have been cooler if half of it wasn't coming from inferior Nine Inch Nails clones like Gravity Kills or Stabbing Westward.
Gavin Mueller: Industrial breakthrough? Maybe if you consider Gravity Kills industrial. If anything, NIN made it ok for metal to use keyboards again.
Michael Heumann: NIN was "industrial," but most industrial artists (Ministry, Skinny Puppy) saw them as a sellout. Of course, "sellout" really only means that Reznor's version of industrial music was better than everyone else's. Jealous bastards.
Zach Smola: This song is a great anomaly in the history of rock singles. The darkest song Prince never recorded accompanied by a terrifying sepia-filtered video seems pretty unlikely to succeed, but as we learned from the video, Trent Reznor can float and play toy piano at the same time, so he can pretty much do whatever he wants.
I REMEMBER 1994
Charlie Frame: This was the most important thing ever to happen to me musically. Hearing Aphex Twin for the first time, my first rave, getting my first guitar - none of them compare to who got to number one in the British charts that summer. Suddenly, being a teenager in the UK was the coolest thing in the world and Blur, Oasis, Supergrass and Pulp were the ones soundtracking it. People diss the Britpop movement saying it was false or pretentious - not if you were working on your GCSE English assignments it wasn't. This was proper music about people and places we sort of knew, injected with just a little extra sparkle. Smoking illicit cigarettes whilst dancing in circles at the local indie night to "For Tomorrow" and "Alright" - there was nothing more right in the world. Hour-long debates over a hot bunsen burner about whether "Roll With It" was better than "Country House" would ensue, normally ending withthe Oasis kids throwing basalt in the Blur kids' eyes and then getting bollocked by the teacher. Said scoundrels would then be packed off to detention, muttering curses about Blur being cheaters for releasing a double single to boost sales. Then everything went tits up. My beloved Blur won the war, pipping the Gallaghers to the post. Suddenly they really were everywhere - pictures of Alex James in my sister's copy of Smash Hits, thousands of underaged screaming fans at concerts. This was nothing like the Starshaped video, this was Take-fucking-That all over again. The appalling Live It! remix of "Entertain Me" was the first nail in the coffin, the last was when a really irritating girl in my class came in wearing a "DAMON" neckband and then trying to correct me on the pronunciation of "Albarn". That was the day I went to the second hand shop and sold every Blur record I owned. The dream was over.
Ken Munson: Ah, Tarantino. What would the 90’s have been without you?
Ben Woolhead: After the success of Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino assembled another stellar ensemble cast and got the best out of them, and in the process managed to make the discussions of McDonald’s food in France and the ethical significance of foot massages remarkably memorable.
Adrien Begrand: I loved this movie so much, I went to it again the day after I first saw it. It was thrilling seeing it in the theater for the first time. At long last, a contemporary movie that had energy, life.
Gabe Gloden: Two and half hours of clever wisdoms and witticisms that I can quote with the same alacrity of a Simpson’s reference.
Ken Munson: There’s just something unspeakably cool about watching a coupla guys shoot the shit about whatever, then walk into a building and kill everyone.
Kareem Estefan: Pulp Fiction is one of the few movies I actually own, and possibly the only film that can stand up to ten or more viewings. The dialogue is so rich that one can always appreciate something new, or at the least, laugh at the same witticisms over and over again.
David Drake: What’s the point in talking about the movie? You might as well just quote it.
Josh Timmermann: “Oh I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?”
David Drake: "Coke is dead as ... dead. Heroin's coming back in a big fucking way."
Gavin Mueller: "Mm-hmm! This is a tasty burger!"
Kareem Estefan: “That’s thirty minutes away. I’ll be there in ten.”
David Drake: "BITCH, BE COOL!"
Andrew Unterberger: “DID YOU HEAR ME MOTHERFUCKER?!?! I’M GONNA GET MEDIEVAL ON YO ASS!!!”
David Drake: "Giving a bitch a foot massage ain't even in the same fucking ballpark!"
Andrew Unterberger: “My name’s Pitt, and yo ass ain’t talkin’ yo way outta this shit.”
David Drake: "It’s the wallet that says 'Bad muthafucka’ on it.”
Gabe Gloden: “That’s how you know you’ve found someone special. When you can just shut the fuck up and comfortably share silence.” That may still be one of the first yardsticks I use when measuring the potential of any relationship. Now I know there’s no such thing as an awkward silence, only the perception of awkwardness.
Ken Munson: This is of course the film that resurrected the career of John Travolta, which he then resumed slowly killing for the next decade. It also introduced the world to Samuel L. Jackson. Wait, let me rephrase that. I mean: It also fucking introduced the fucking world to SAM MOTHERFUCKING JACKSON.
Andrew Unterberger: Due to Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson would become the benchmark of cool to an entire generation of lame white dudes.
Adrien Begrand: Remember how pissed Jackson looked when they gave the Oscar to Martin Landau? He looked like he was ready to spout some more scripture.
Ken Munson: To be honest, though, I preferred the plotlines with Bruce Willis more than the ones with Travolta and Jackson. Bruce has just decided to go back and save Marcellus; does he want to use the hammer? The chainsaw? The baseball bat? No, he’s going for the samurai sword. Kickass.
Ben Woolhead: The scene in which Uma Thurman’s character overdoses and has to be revived is so graphically realistic that it still freaks me out.
Zach Smola: I really don’t think I’d be in the mood to tell John Travolta a joke after being revived from the dead via an injection into the heart.
Andrew Unterberger: “Three tomatoes are walking along, papa tomato, momma tomato and little baby tomato, and the baby tomato starts lagging behind, so the papa tomato goes over to him and squishes him and says ‘ketchup’”. Brilliant—I have no idea why the networks didn’t pick up on Fox Force Five. Plus the French chick who was an expert with knives would’ve been real cool.
Ken Munson: I wish it had been Jackson and not Travolta who had been sent to kill Bruce Willis. Then we finally would have gotten to see the two of them fight each other, which you know would have completely ruled. They didn’t let us see the two fight in Unbreakable either. It isn’t fair.
John Rothery: My gran watched Pulp Fiction. We laughed for weeks about that, picturing her face as it dawned on her that Zed was in fact buggering Marcellus Wallace up the bum.
Adrien Begrand: I think we can all agree that Christopher Walken's Watch speech is the greatest cameo performance of all time.
Gabe Gloden: The one point of Pulp Fiction discussion everyone can agree on is the fact that this film, almost single-handedly, legitimized alternative, independent cinema as a lucrative mainstream box office presence.
John Rothery: More than just a cult classic and proof that style can dick all over substance.
Kareem Estefan: Fortunately, there’s a great deal of substance to the film as well, and those who have criticized Tarantino for his heavy reliance on pop culture references, gimmickry, and shallow dialogue cannot totally dismiss this one.
Adrien Begrand: The Tarantino imitations came so fast, it was amazing, and none of them worked nearly as well.
Gabe Gloden: Because of Pulp Fiction, I was able to see shit like Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and Welcome to the Dollhouse at my local Cineplex. And for that I thank you Quentin. But not you Harvey Weinstein.
Zach Smola: In the 1995 edition of Merriam-Webster’s complete English Dictionary, the fourth definition of “Totally Badass” is “Quinton Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. The drugs, the boxer, the cursing, the dancing, the cocaine, the brains on the back window of the car, the Gimp. And the monologue about the watch. A decent little “independent” movie if there ever was one. Oh yeah, and one of the greatest things ever put to film
Adrien Begrand: Far and away the greatest movie of the 90s.
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-07-21