Thursday, August 10, 2017

It was 20 years ago today...the music was awful

It's the lead up to Great Taste weekend, and I have already had 3 splendid limited release choices from Founders tonight. In addition, the Minnesota baseball team is crushing the Brewers' hopes this week as badly as Minnesota crushes Walker's Wisconsin economically, so no heavy stuff here.

Instead, I will forward you to a fun article from The Onion's AV Club, which asks "Did 1997 contain the worst two weeks in music history?" Yes, it's funny to hear Millenial-aged writers try to describe it as "sophisticated" music critics, but sadly, a lot of it feels spot-on.
[ Sean O'Neil]Let’s start with the most innocuous: Smash Mouth’s “Walkin’ On The Sun” is a great song, and the band’s Shrek-fueled fall into viral punching bag since then has only obscured how that cool Farfisa riff cut through all the Counting Crows-esque simpering that was all over alternative radio at the time. Of course, nothing else on Fush Yu Mang sounds like “Walkin’ On The Sun,” and Smash Mouth quickly went on to become a grown-ass-man version of Kidz Bop, which—along with the band’s complete inability to laugh about itself—sort of retroactively ruins it. Still, I suppose if the worst thing we got out of it was a bunch of would-be ska-punk musicians picking up vintage organs instead of the trombone, plus a thousand “All Star” memes, it’s hard to be too mad at it.

Contemporary critics used to say the same thing about Sugar Ray—that the funk-punk-alt-metal-lite-FM-pop mishmash the band produced was just too breezy and silly to hate, and besides, their self-deprecation negates all criticism anyway. But fuck that and fuck them: I will spread my wings right here and say that “Fly” is one of the worst songs to ever suffocate the radio, a pandering, Sublime-aping, reggaeton ragbag that spent the summer of ’97 sprawling across the national consciousness like a frat bro dripping his ultimate-frisbee ball sweat into your futon. I was a college sophomore at the time, and I recall how Mark McGrath’s voice seemed to seep out of every surface within five square miles of campus. Worse, the massive popularity of “Fly” spurred the band to basically release the same damn song two years later, ensuring that no kegger nor future CVS Pharmacy line would ever go without a chill sing-along moment.

And finally, it’s way, way too easy to rip on Limp Bizkit, so let’s do it. With its major-label debut Three Dollar Bill, Y’all, the musical manifestation of the state of Florida took the agitprop of Rage Against The Machine and the alienation of Korn and finally turned it into something backwards-ball-cap-rocking mooks could pound SoCo to while doing donuts in the Hardee’s parking lot. The proliferation of mouth-breathing rap-metal that Limp Bizkit’s popularity inspired, all the misogyny and violence and Woodstock riots it instigated, all the dumb fucking songs that were still yet to issue from Fred Durst’s mouth—there’s no need to reiterate it, especially when Durst said it best himself: “For years I looked into the crowd and saw a bunch of bullies and assholes who tortured me and ruined my life,” he told Rolling Stone in 2009, adding, “I don’t even listen to any type of music that’s like Limp Bizkit at all.” If only he’d come to this conclusion in 1997.

Instead, Durst formed a questionably goateed trinity with Sugar Ray’s McGrath and Smash Mouth’s Steve Harwell—three dudes whose combined efforts made rock radio an unbearable place in 1997 and for most of the rest of the 20th century. And somehow it all emanated from this one, incredibly brief period in American culture. Honestly, Clayton, is there a worse two weeks on record? You’re the internet guy. You tell me.

Clayton Purdom: While it’s easy to look at that unholy trio—plus Insane Clown Posse—and just say “no” on gut instinct, I spent a few hours scrolling through Wikipedia looking for challengers. It’s somewhat encouraging that you need to look for whole bad eras to compete. New wave, hip-hop, early indie rock, and a lot of good mainstream pop keeps the ’80s afloat. The early ’70s still have the vestiges of the late ’60s, and artists were more prolific then; the late ’70s are so rich with good funk, jazz, disco, fusion, and punk that they’re out of contention. The early ’90s have golden-age hip-hop and canonical alt-rock. So I finally settled on a stretch from 1996 to 2005 as the likeliest to yield competition.
Yeah, I gotta agree with that. The late '90s post-grunge era was awful, even though it was a great time to be 22-26. There wasn't Youtube or file sharing or a lot of satellite music where you could discover stuff, and all you could get was CDs and mass-marketed yuppieness. The mid-2000s was a nice bounce-back, (not coincidentally, around the time DirecTV was turning me on to better stuff that I could find on radio) and then I got too old to make much of a judgment. Seriously, I know little of alternative-pop after about 2008-09 (like that didn't happen to you in your mid-30s).

But that being said, I'll differ from the authors on one point- the 3rd Eye Blind album from 1997 is still pretty sweet. Few things sum up being an out-of-school 23-year-old low-income dope coming back from the bars than this.

Although 1997 did have this outstanding album, from a group of guys who are still kicking ass today.

1 comment:

  1. Jake, music tastes are a real thing, that do effect how people think.

    I'm now 58, and my music-appreciation dividing point is around 1980, the same time I first voted and when MTV was introduced and that computer-thing became mainstream...analog became virtually-digital.

    Digital is an abstract representation, whereas analog is a real/true physical thing for people to respond to. So I guess I'm old-school.

    I hated most music in '97, as it mostly seemed "American Idol," (the music industry had been reduced to 5 big companies) yet we dullards continued to play great music, appreciated by young and old. Mere popularity doesn't make you good.

    I still like Weather Report and Bonnie Raitt much more than Lady Gaga...

    Thank you for broaching this aspect of life and how we behave in response.