Everett True

Rewind to 1990

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Kate Pierson Candy

By Everett True

Unlike most people, I don’t experience most of my music through other people’s filters. I prefer to seek it out for myself, or through trusted conduits: maybe start a magazine or something, and populate it with folk who still like the thrill of exploration. Unlike most people, however, I don’t like being unlike most people. So when the chance comes to feel part of the crowd I relish it.

Unlike most people (apologies for this lame hook, it’s late at night and I’m only really typing waiting for a download to finish and the party two streets away to subside) I’m not able to do this through television. Don’t taste television. Or through the radio. Don’t watch radio. Or through music websites whose traffic mainly comes through competition pages and streamed videos. Don’t feel Pitchfork. But today, after months featuring more illness and a new-born baby (importance reversed), I found myself back at the gym, health club, call it what you like, for me it’s an opportunity to run on the spot and watch the same music videos that (I would imagine) much of the rest of Australia is watching, if they watch music videos at all, which is dubious.

So. Today. Saturday, shortly after 9am. Max is the channel soundtracking the gym, health club centre, whatever. I’d actually finally gotten round to listening to The Book Of Mormon, as recommended by Scott Creney, and was thoroughly enjoying it, when my attention was distracted by THAT video of Sinead O’Connor. You know the video. There’s only one. I still can’t resist it. Not least because I had a dream recently where I and Sinead were making out – nothing else, what do you think this is? – but mainly because I can’t resist that video.

Straight after that, bam! One of my absolute favourite videos of the early 90s starts up, and you think I’m going to go back and listen to smart-ass Americans satirising dumb-ass Americans when I can watch Lady Miss Kier dance her dorky cool groove thang one more time? New York, right. Tell me it’s New York.

So I got to looking a little closer at the inevitable “chart rundown” Max were screening, and it turned out it was something called 1990 Rewind, or similar, and we’re into the final four. And there I was thinking, damn, 1990 was all right, when this number pops up – not a song I believe I’ve heard before but then I had a downer on Iggy Pop in the 90s (and 80s) (and 00s) (and 10s) so I wouldn’t have examined, and lo and behold he’s got his damn shirt off again and he’s singing, but – Bangs alive – when Kate Pierson’s middle, spoken word, section breaks through, I’m all a-tremble (that could’ve been cos I’d passed the 20-minute mark on the cross-trainer) and …


Fuck. I ain’t never gonna get past listening to the opening three songs of The Book Of Mormon.

So there I am, slightly perspiring, not wanting to end my work-out section because I’m digging this deep connection I have with fucking EVERYONE all of a sudden, and wondering what Number One could be, it sure as fuck won’t be Babes In Toyland though, when this shows up. Damn straight.

Damn. Damn. Damn. 1990 really was all right.

P.S. Just in case anyone’s thinking I’m trying to make a case for one year above another, in terms of popular (i.e. best-selling) music then no, it’s not that at all. I believe that every year is this fucking special, depending on whose filters you’re hearing it through. It’s just that I was really pleasantly surprised this morning and … ah look, my download’s almost finished. See ya.

11 Responses to Rewind to 1990

  1. Princess Stomper September 10, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    I believe that every year is this fucking special, depending on whose filters you’re hearing it through

    I’m really not sure. I remember thinking, back in my early teens, that there were certain years where there was some sort of cosmic alignment or El Nino or whatever that just made music more special in those years. 1967-69, 1989-91. 1976-78, perhaps?

    A few months ago, I was having a clear-out from the attic of old VHS tapes, and I found a set where I had taped the ITV Chart Show every week from 1989-91, and before throwing them away (many no longer even worked), I watched them through. It wasn’t my imagination. It’s not because I’m old and jaded and looking through rose-tinted glasses. Music really was, absolutely, genuinely, entirely and completely better in those days.

  2. Wallace Wylie September 11, 2011 at 3:42 am

    If people want to say that music in general is getting worse, then I’ll put up my dukes and get ready to defend this years honour. If people want to say that popular (as in high selling) music is getting shittier then I have no problem with that kind of statement. It is. Unarguably.

  3. Lucy Cage October 7, 2011 at 3:57 am

    “Music really was, absolutely, genuinely, entirely and completely better in those days.”
    NO! No, no, no, no, NO! Aw, no, Princess, surely not?
    For a start, how can some music even be said to be “better” or “worse” than other music? It’s not a SATS test. It’s not an Olympic sport. It’s not the economy. It’s MUSIC! It’s huge and amorphous and unpindownable. It IS all about the filters. And the filters of youth, enthusiasm, discovery, sexuality are pretty strong influences on how you perceive/experience anything, let alone music. What else takes precedence over the filters? You can’t take a step these days without tripping over somebody or other arguing with all their heart for the rehabilitation of Hall & fucking Oates, fr’instance, whom I loathed at the time with a scorn born entirely of my warped and wobbly perception of where I stood in the world and what mattered to me, but whom people could make a perfectly serviceable case for adoring on the grounds of funk and swagger and dexterity. I might not be listening to them while they did so, but they could.
    There’s no solid, objective measure of what makes GOOD music, any more than there was a definitive, for-all-time check list of what makes a game in the famous philosophical thought experiment: it’s ineffable. It changes with the wind. It’s not perfect technique and it’s not attitude that make pop songs utterly FABULOUS. It’s not the rhythm or the rhyme or the harmonies. It’s not the chorus or the bridge or the verse. There is no ultimate checklist: deciding what pushes the right buttons is all about the arguing, the discourse.
    Having said that, some years do seem to me to be better at producing music that rings my bell, or, at least, producing popular music that does the business. The 90s were a dustbowl of laddish gack on one, chart-bound, level but in other nooks and crannies were producing sounds unlike any I’d ever heard before. Some years it’s the other way round: the ‘underground’ is as dull as ditchwater and the charts are full of luminescent gems. It’s just the way that time rolls. I’d make a case for 2010/2011 being chock-a-block with fantastic music, just as bright and glittery as any from the past. It’s a particular bugbear of mine that old men (particularly) moodle on about how things were better in their day. That there’s nothing new under the sun. That there’s no-one like Bowie or Can or the fucking Beatles anymore. Well, there weren’t then, either. ‘Cos then people were just droning on about how rock’n’roll had ripped off blues music or that record players were going to destroy families and send us all to hell in a handcart.
    So, Princess, imagine a mixtape of all the very best songs from this year and last year hidden away in the attic for a couple of decades: it’d be a treasure to find! It would be jam-packed with glorious sounds and thrilling bands. It’s exciting even to think about. I’m off to make a playlist right now!

  4. Everett True October 7, 2011 at 5:49 am

    It’s a particular bugbear of mine that old men (particularly) moodle on about how things were better in their day.

    Mine too. Mine too.

    In 2003, when we started Plan B Magazine, the first time I met our photo editor she was saying to me how she wished she’d been around during the early days of grunge because music was so crap now. I said, “you know what people were saying during the early days of grunge? That they’d wished they’d been around during the early days of punk because music was so crap now”.

  5. Lucy Cage October 7, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Yup, there’s a photo doing the rounds on Facebook (“I may be old but I got to see all the cool bands!”) which makes me spit.

  6. Julian October 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Why does it make you want to spit Lucy? Because you have to watch bands like Animal Collective, Warpaint and Everything Everything, instead of the likes of Funkadelic, Roxy Music, Can and The Slits? I know the feeling. 😉

  7. Lucy Cage October 7, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    It makes me want to spit because it reeks with smugness and assumes that people going to see bands now are missing out on brilliant music and memory-forming experiences. They’re not. Despite having seen a heap load of cool bands in years past I still love watching music played live now, especially by new bands at the peak of their powers.
    Your examples of three random bands from now and three random bands from decades ago is virtually meaningless, anyway. It’s like saying “because you have to eat potatoes, burgers and fennel now, instead of the likes of tomato soup, korma and pad thai then?” Crazy. (Except that Warpaint are considerably less than the sum of their pants and Animal Collective, huh, I’d’ve killed to have been in the same room when they played Reverend Green but they can keep their stadia.)
    And yes, I’d much rather see Everything Everything in 2011 than Funkadelic. The Slits in ’77? Maybe. But I can tell you that shows haven’t got any less exciting in recent years: I’ve witnessed just as many incendiary, thrilling, incredible bands these last couple of years as I did when I first started going to gigs. It’s all to do with hindsight and perspective: yes, I can boast that I saw Throwing Muses & Pixies blow the place away on their first tour or Mudhoney reduce a tiny bar in Birmingham to a quivering wreck, blah blah blah, but I’m certain that there are bands I’ve seen these last six months which in ten years times people will be hopping mad to have missed. And STILL people will harp on about Roxy Music and Can!

  8. Everett True October 7, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I cannot agree more with what Lucy says. EVERY FUCKING YEAR is sensational for music.

  9. Danny Jumpertz October 7, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    I agree with Lucy and Everett. The more I immerse myself with the music of the day and have the time to explore bands live, I’m nearly always amazed by how exciting the up-and-comers are.

  10. Julian October 8, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Most of the music I love – British pop and punk, Jamaican music, American Soul, Krautrock, Brazilian – is a piss poor remnant of what is was in the 60s, 70s and 80s. IMO. American alternative music has perhaps enjoyed a bit of a renaissance over the past 10 years, but that strikes me as an exception.

    I’m sure there are lots of good bands and gigs, but I think the great songwriters, the effervescent pop stars, the real innovators and geniuses are mostly in the past. That may well be me getting old and not seeing enough live bands, but all cultures and art forms do have stellar periods and periods of relative decline. Every single one of them. It’s not necessarily old fogeydom to say something was better in the past. Though it’s true that I am 40 next year.

    For what it’s worth, the last truly great pop record in my opinion was ‘Maxinquaye’. There’s clearly been good stuff since then, but I’ve heard nothing with that depth or beauty.

  11. Wallace Wylie October 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    There are gigs I’ve seen that I wouldn’t swap for the world. Morrissey at the Barrowlands, Teenage Fanclub and The Pastels at The Garage, Pavement at The Garage, Neko Case at the 13th Note, Destroyer at 7th Street Entry, Sleater-Kinney at First Avenue, Elliott Smith at the 400 Bar, etc. To me that’s life altering stuff. Late last year I saw Matthew Dear at 7th Street Entry and it was completely mind-blowing, easily one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. “Black City” was probably my favourite album of last year and the gig had me buzzing for days afterwards.

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