Over at Crooked Timber, Henry has asked for testimonials from us folk of a middling age about the music that survived — those bands and styles we grew up listening to in the 80s and 90s that continue (or failed) to be as lasting today. My comment turned into a dissertation on 90s music, so i thought I’d post it here as well, for posterity.
Siouxsie Sioux continues to be simply amazing, whether it’s her early stuff with the Banshees, The Creatures or her recent solo albums. For this aging Goth, she will always and forever be our Queen, whether she cops to the title or not.
My feelings about the Smiths/Morrisey are similar to Henry’s. I used to like them OK back in the day, mocking Morrisey for being a mope but still enjoying the music But lately I’ve come to recognize the wit, sarcasm, innuendo and genuine heart of their songs. The mopey pose is just surface detail covering for a depth and complexity that I’m only now, in my mid 30s, really starting to appreciate.
Nirvana on the other hand, not so much. And this is heresy for my particular cohort, as I was a high school senior when Kurt Cobain killed himself, and so for most people my age he is the Jim Morrison/John Lennon figure we were supposed to want. But really, Cobain was a self absorbed twat, and his music is interesting, but not quite as important as a lot of people make it out to be. Grunge was, for all its bluster, a musical cul de sac. And there simply isn’t enough of Nirvana to be as influential as people claim it is. It would have been interesting to see what Cobain would have done, had he straightened his shit out and kept growing as a musician, but that’s one of these unknowable things. It’s just as likely that he would have turned into Eddie Vedder, doing the same old shtick for 20 years.
And how weird is it that Pearl Jam is on the way to being our generation’s Rolling Stones?
Now, Smashing Punpkins on the other hand are still awesome (and apparently have a new album!). I still bust out Melancholy and the infinite Sadness now and again. They managed to grow and change, escaped the grunge tag and became their own thing. And I have no idea if they’ve had any influence on contemporary music at all, but they should have.
The most unanticipated musical reassessment of my middle ages has to be Def Leopard. Never liked hair metal back in the day, but along side a lot of seventies rock that I dismissed as self indulgent twaddle, playing their songs on Rock Band has given me a begrudging appreciation for their music. It’s not the Beatles, mind you but for straight ahead rock and roll with no pretensions of being anything but a party band, it’s not horrible.