The Psychedelic 90’s—Modern Myth Making and the Music Press

As an obsessive music weirdo, you start to notice some odd patterns as you get older and contemplate the way that most people contextualize music in their lives. I’m not sure how much research has been done on this, but as far as I can tell, in most cases, whatever stuff someone happened to get down to during their formative developmental ages of say, 14-24, apparently permanently burns itself into their psyche and leaves an indelible mark on their opinion as to what constitutes “good shit” for the rest of their lives. This is the sort of secret psychology you’ll never read about in text books but I’m sure sketchy uptight rich dudes talk about behind closed doors 24/7. The one thing I can say about pursuing psychology in college was that I quite quickly picked up on the fact that the real people who understand how to bend the human psyche work at PR firms and press agencies, not universities.

I have an uncle in law that reads Rolling Stone religiously and still buys every new record by every 70’s rock artist he dug back in the day that still puts ‘em out. Anytime I want to impress my wife, I throw on some 90’s shit because nostalgia. After I wrote my last piece whining about the music press, in predictably synchronous fashion, the same week The Seattle Weekly ran a cover story on the 90’s nostalgia boom. The other big feature in that issue was an interview with Marilyn Manson (how the hell could you not ask the dude about Columbine with what’s going on right now politically, just saying?). Then guess what, later that week Pitchfork gave a re-issue of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album a perfect 10 out of 10. They actually cited it being a huge influence on people like Courtney Love and Billy Corgan as justification for this score…I’m not even going to touch that.

What I will do is admit that I’m not immune to this psychological weirdness. Christ, last week I wrote about how a remote viewing exercise made me address my deep rooted professional basketball obsession. Truth is, I’m personally of the opinion that music is better right now than it’s ever been. There’s more amazing stuff out there and it’s way easier to get access to that stuff instantaneously. Guess what else? All the great music from the past is still here. See, it’s better. Also, I personally think digital music is the coolest thing in the history of ever, so keep that in mind when you go on your “I need everything on vinyl man, you’re killing record stores” rants. You’re simultaneously judging me on my insidious “favorite thing ever” when you say things like that, and I don’t give a fuck if you want vinyl. That’s your thing. Some people have rooms full of comic books and I check them out from the library most of the time. Have fun listening to your vinyl walkman on the beach. I’m thirty fucking five and I’ve never owned a record in my life. My brother’s two and half years older, same deal. There is exactly zero nostalgia there for me, but I get it.

What I do have nostalgia for is the music of the early to mid 90’s, for reasons we’ve already covered. That’s when I first started doing things like smoking weed, eating acid, and banging actual girls. Obviously that’s going to stick with you. What’s funny though is that with me, these days I barely give a second thought to all the heroin-rock-tween-angst-fashion stuff, which I did in fact like at the time. Never thought Nirvana was much more than a pretty good band fronted by a guy with piercing blue eyes and cheekbones you could cut diamonds with. Just my opinion and as much as I constantly devour new auditory information, I also hold records by acts like Kyuss, Sonic Youth, Massive Attack, The Future Sound of London, Monster Magnet, Bardo Pond, Alec Empire, and Meat Beat Manifesto in insanely high regard. That was my go to stuff back in the day, and I think you can still see the lingering influence on pretty much everything I do.

Well, that, old Verve, and Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. Now we’re starting to get to the point and here’s where it gets into bizarro psychological case study territory. First things first, in my world, A Storm In Heaven by the Verve was the only high profile psych-shoegaz-ish record that I’d say was better than Loveless in the early 90’s. In fact, the sequential trio of their first EP, that, and A Northern Soul is some pretty un-fuck-with-able shit that I’ll always hold on probably way too high a pedestal. Even Urban Hymns was decent, although they’d clearly started to lose the plot by that point. Richard Ashcroft started to actually believe they were good because of his song writing. Wrong answer man. Same mistake Billy Corgan made. Nope, the fact that the entire rest of your band owned on their instruments had more than a little to do with it. Maybe like, hire someone to help you write lyrics or bury them under a shit-ton of effects like you did on your first few records.

Anywho, truth be told, it’s almost impossible to be as big of colossal fuck ups as the Verve turned out to be. They got big at a really young age, what can be done about matters such as these? They made an overly commercial record with the entire intent of cashing in and ended up giving most of the loot to the richest band on the planet. It’s impossible to be this stupid.

It’s even more impossible to like, not read any reviews of your shit and make a comeback album giving the fans exactly what they didn’t want. Unreal (although Jane’s Addiction did the same thing). Nick McCabe’s probably one of the biggest influences on my guitar playing, what’s he been doing for the last 20 years? He must have something going on right? Well, apparently he had a band called The Black Ships, but I couldn’t find dick about it or his involvement in anything new when I searched. What a champ.

Then there’s Kevin Shields. This fucking guy? Makes a landmark record which takes two years and nearly bankrupts his label (everyone should be this lucky), just to you know, never follow it up…until nearly 22 years later. Honestly, kudos to the guy. I was sort of irritated when the re-release of Loveless got another perfect score on Pitchdork, but what the fuck, it is at least an incredibly deserving disc. What confused me was the top 10 rating for Isn’t Anything. That’s some revisionist history going down. Yeah, no more than a 7.0 max or I’m calling bullshit and I’m as long as I’m calling bullshit, let’s point the finger at Mr. Shields. When I first heard about the new MBV album (aptly titled mbv) finally dropping, I was like, yeah, I’m on that. Then I realized the guy has the freaking gall to charge 16 dollars to download his new 9 song masterpiece. Fine work sir, you just priced me out of giving a fuck.

The thing is, it’s a rather brilliant marketing strategy on his part. People have been waiting 22 years for this bitch. The press has whipped them up into a healthy froth by rim jobbing your re-releases. 90’s nostalgia is starting to reach its apex. Motherfuckers will line up to drop 16 dollars for this. For point of reference, Soundgarden’s new (and quite brilliant) album debuted with a download sticker tag of 4 bucks on Amazon. Same deal with Aesop Rock’s also excellent Skelethon. I very well might not have picked up either without that extra pricing incentive. Glad I did. Those prices might seem low, but there’s barely any overhead with downloads, so you can totally pull it off if your volume’s high enough. Radiohead demonstrated that years ago. MBV are releasing this on their own label, so all the cash is going to them.

Sort of genius, but there’s also some extremely bizarre psychology afoot. 90’s shoegaze nostalgia’s so hot right now, so why can’t we resurrect A Storm in Heaven? Well, because the Verve embarrassed themselves by actually putting out new material. They even made a comeback record and refused to tour on it, because I bet they kind of got the drift that it sucked. They might be able to read. But MBV are almost more fucked up. Jesus, how many albums has Spiritualized dropped in the last 20 years, and that guy’s basically made out of pills. How in Jesus’s name could being this horrifically incompetent actually pay off in such an enormous way for someone? Only in the music business, the land of popular myth making.

When people say weird shit like, it’s such a tragedy that Kurt Cobain died so young because we’ll never get new Nirvana albums, I see where they’re coming from but on another note, Kurt Cobain was a depressed heroin addict. If he’d survived, he probably would have ended up being forced into rehab by his label, getting fat, and putting out increasingly horrible music. He’d start showing up at stupid red carpet events and I’d probably be writing something like this making fun of his dumb ass. Actually maybe it’d be even worse, maybe he wouldn’t clean up at all and end up like Courtney Love. Fuck man, there’s not many occasions in life when you can say that a shotgun to the head’s a better fate than something, but that’s one of them.

Aiiight, enough snark, the real reason I write hyperbolically insensitive shit like this is to point out that the other psych-shogaz-ish band I hold in ridiculously high regard is Voyager One. In the early ‘aughts they made two absolute classics albums, From a New Nation of Long Shadows, and Dissolver. They also put out another awesome EP called Geography, and two other fairly great but not quite as essential discs, Afterhours in the After Life, and Monster Zero. They then “dissolved”, reformed as a new band called Tokyoidaho and dropped another godhead classic last year. Last time I saw them was on a Wednesday night in front of like 40 people. I would have totally jumped on that gig.

Now, do I like Voyager One and now Tokyoidaho so much because the first time I ever listened to V1 I was quite literally fucking on acid? Did I mention that? Or is it because they’re just that mind-blowingly awesome? These are the greater philosophical questions we need to address when confronting our perception of art and how it further relates to the nature of consciousness and therefore reality itself. First though, go check out Tokyoidaho, download New Nation and Dissolver (just as essential as Loveless in my world), and think twice about giving more of your money to the infinite crapfest that is corporate rock. Just a thought tripsters.

(As always, friend me on Facebook for magick updates, I rant about music shit there sometimes too).

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  • jnana

    80s and 90s rok pretty much sux in my opinion. it was way too weak and pretentious.
    unless it was punk.

  • jnana

    80s and 90s rok pretty much sux in my opinion. it was way too weak and pretentious.
    unless it was punk.

    • http://twitter.com/Zordabo ZordaboM

      yeah but 90s is when punk started to suck hard… Pop punk anyone? That wasn’t pretentious?

  • honu

    I get it. All your motherfuckers, bitches, and other curses makes you hip. Personally I could care less except that the 90′s was, to me, one of the best decades of music. Probably the best since the mid/late 60′s and early 70′s. Nowadays, I agree, there’s some great music out there. It’s an insane asylum of all manner of gumbo styles fluidly mixing things together I would never have imagined using electronics in a way I’d never heard. Amazing stuff happening. I still think you missed out mentioning some of the most underrated (and at the same time, overrated) psychedelic music to come out of the 90′s. For me, no one tops the first Stone Roses album. That’s some elevated core psychedelic rock and you can argue it came out in ’89 but they’re influence was on the 90′s scene. I liked The Charlatans a lot also. Stateside in the 90′s the scene that hardly anyone picked up on until it became essentially a few bands was the “jam band” scene in the north east. There was some unbelievably great music coming out then but mostly it was little known bands. Phish blew up of course and hate all you want on them, they were psychedelic and on their best nights, were one of the best bands on the planet. There were also some great bands that never got known well. The Ominous Seapods out of Plattsburgh and Albany were a relentless touring band that were punk pop rock zappa like strangeness that killed live. Blind Man’s Sun from Syracuse was another band that wrote some great music. But you want to focus on grunge and shoegaze favs…fine.

    • Thad McKraken

      I once sold over Five Hundred Dollars worth of sex toys and whippets to Phish after a show when I was working at a video store in Columbus, Ohio. So hilarious, they came in with this super hot girl. We didn’t have a bathroom for customers, but since it was a friend of Phish, I let her use the employee one. The second she left the room, Trey and Page looked at each other and asked: “what the fuck was her name again?”

      They put all this stuff, which included a Jeff Stryker gay replica love doll which cost like $250 bucks on their unlabeled Phish company credit card. Rock Stars, what are you going to do?

      • honu

        Thanks for that story. Love hearing things like that.

  • echar

    Primus is just about the only group I listened to in the 90′s, whom I still hold in high regard. I remember when Pork Soda came out, I was pissed off because they changed. Nature Boy is one of my favorite tunes from them now. As far as looking back on music, I sometimes delve. Lately it’s been Krautrock/electronic. I have even dipped my toes in some old school prog rock.

    I get what you mean about digital. I gave my 300+ collection of CDs to the Goodwill when I had to move, but I was already pretty much strictly digital at that time. As for the music right now. It seems like there is an ocean of amazing music being made, right now! It’s all styles, sometimes all in one song. It’s almost too much.

  • echar

    Primus is just about the only group I listened to in the 90′s, whom I still hold in high regard. I remember when Pork Soda came out, I was pissed off because they changed. Nature Boy is one of my favorite tunes from them now. As far as looking back on music, I sometimes delve. Lately it’s been Krautrock/electronic. I have even dipped my toes in some old school prog rock.

    I get what you mean about digital. I gave my 300+ collection of CDs to the Goodwill when I had to move, but I was already pretty much strictly digital at that time. As for the music right now. It seems like there is an ocean of amazing music being made, right now! It’s all styles, sometimes all in one song. It’s almost too much.

    • Thad McKraken

      How do you feel about Claypool’s transformation to Hippie Jam band guy? Haven’t really checked most of that stuff out, but I have a friend who opened for him at one of his festivals in Oregon last summer.

    • Thad McKraken

      How do you feel about Claypool’s transformation to Hippie Jam band guy? Haven’t really checked most of that stuff out, but I have a friend who opened for him at one of his festivals in Oregon last summer.

      • echar

        Claypool could fart on a snare drum and I’d love it. Seriously though…I have pretty much everything he is a part of. Minus suck on this, but that’s because I dislike live recordings. Anyhow, I assume by Jam Band you mean Oysterhead? If so then I dig it, but I love the way Claypool plays the bass. I must admit, I am not the biggest Jam band fan. I do like some Jamtronica though.

        • Thad McKraken

          I was thinking Frog Brigade. I’d heard they were very hippie jam-bandy and even used to cover Pink Floyd’s Animals in it’s entirety live. I sort of lost track of Claypool after Primus’ the Brown Album, but the dude’s a brilliant musician.

          Not sure if you’ve ever checked out the band Laundry. They were the band that Tim Alexander left Primus to pursue because he wanted to make more “serious” music. They put out 2 albums in the mid to late nineties. He sang on one of them. Really good.

  • Guest

    I’m really glad someone brought up Kyuss & Monster Magnet in a review. The stoner/desert rock scene was where the true gold of the rock music in the 90′s was imo. I’ve enjoyed most of what Wyndoff & Homme did, and I’ve really enjoyed the progression into QTOSA. Skeleton is hinting at a peak for Aesop in Hail Mary Mallion and his work in The Uncluded with Kimya Dawson is definitely gonna be genre bending. I also agree that the sate of music is better than it’s ever been. Nice write up, I like that someone else thinks in depth about the scope of musical progression.

  • Jesse

    I’m really glad someone brought up Kyuss & Monster Magnet in a review. The stoner/desert rock scene was where the true gold of the rock music in the 90′s was imo. I’ve enjoyed most of what Wyndoff & Homme did, and I’ve really enjoyed the progression into QTOSA. Skeleton is hinting at a peak for Aesop, in Hail Mary Mallion, and his work in The Uncluded with Kimya Dawson is definitely gonna be genre bending. I also agree that the state of music is better than it’s ever been. Nice write up, I like that someone else thinks in depth about the scope of musical progression.

    • Matt Staggs

      Loved Kyuss. I still drag out Blues for the Red Sun on a regular basis. There was a lot of solid rock stuff back in the nineties – hell, in every decade, really – if one can get past their generational filters and give it an unbiased listen.

    • Matt Staggs

      Loved Kyuss. I still drag out Blues for the Red Sun on a regular basis. There was a lot of solid rock stuff back in the nineties – hell, in every decade, really – if one can get past their generational filters and give it an unbiased listen.

      • Jesse

        There definitely is, and I enjoy something about every decade of music, just kinda depends on the mood. I just consider stuff like Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Dozer, Monster Magnet, Black Gasoline and all the rest to be kinda a hidden gem. Seems like it’s been forgotten except for the people who were there or the crate-diggers. I recommend Mongoose by Fu Manchu of off Godzill’s Eatin’ Dust on a healthy dose of mushrooms – but, not the other over produced version where they killed all the magical textures – the mixture of psychedelia, heaviness and churning rhythm is godly.

  • howiebledsoe

    If it’s not bad enough listening to self-proclaimed music gurus in the bars and clubs, some gasbag has to go online with his rantings. I can tell your basic age, gender, race and economic upbringing by your favorite bands, and that is sad. Also, the reason you don’t like vinyl is that you obviously don’t listen to it. If you did, you would know the massive sonic superiority of the LP, and would buy yourself a good set of speakers and start collecting.

  • howiebledsoe

    If it’s not bad enough listening to self-proclaimed music gurus in the bars and clubs, some gasbag has to go online with his rantings. I can tell your basic age, gender, race and economic upbringing by your favorite bands, and that is sad. Also, the reason you don’t like vinyl is that you obviously don’t listen to it. If you did, you would know the massive sonic superiority of the LP, and would buy yourself a good set of speakers and start collecting.

    • Thad McKraken

      This might be the dumbest troll comment I’ve ever seen. Errrr, there’s this thing called music journalism, have you heard of it? They post it online and that’s what I’m critiquing. Labels spend a lot of money convincing people to buy records they’re promoting. This is why shit like Linkin Park and Creed were the biggest selling rock albums of the ‘aughts. Should be noted that I write music stuff for other sites. They would never print this kind of thing. Disinfo does, so kudos to them. EXACTLY THE POINT I’M TRYING TO MAKE.

      “I can tell your basic age, gender, race and economic upbringing by your favorite bands, and that is sad.”

      Wow, could you tell I was a man because I have a man’s name?. Have you been reading my other articles where I directly mention growing up in Suburban Ohio and being white? So like, I should start trying to write from the perspective of a poor latino kid who grew up in Mexico? Retarded.

      Oh, and just one more thing. You know why I have an inherent distrust of rich people? Because my parents are somewhat wealthy and they never gave me shit. Seriously. People are like, rich people need to give back to society and I’m like, good luck with that. My parents don’t even give back to their own fucking kids. My Dad was making over $230,000 dollars a year while I was in college. In total, he contributed $3,500 to my higher education. I paid the rest myself by continually dropping out, working to save money, and then going back again when I had it. When I graduated, he bought me a $3,500 car. When I got married, he gave me a minor gift, which wasn’t even his money, it was part of an inheritance from my Grand parents, which he never would have given me any of if I didn’t get married. Just so you know.

      • howiebledsoe

        Aw, sorry. You do understand that collecting vinyl is my passion, and putting it down is like a red flag to a bull with me. I didnt mean to slag you so hard. You do a good job fighting the corporate beast, and i apologise.

  • Reuben_the_Red

    I would suggest that the general degradation of pop/popular music is directly proportional to the commodification of music within any given society or culture, whatever era. As with food, as with politics, as with sex, as with anything else I can think of. Turn something into a pure commodity and it’s better off in the garbage can.

    Also, I’m blown away by your humility when it comes to other people’s taste in music which might be different than yours. *sarcasm*

  • Reuben_the_Red

    I would suggest that the general degradation of pop/popular music is directly proportional to the commodification of music within any given society or culture, whatever era. As with food, as with politics, as with sex, as with anything else I can think of. Turn something into a pure commodity and it’s better off in the garbage can.

    Also, I’m blown away by your humility when it comes to other people’s taste in music which might be different than yours. *sarcasm*

    • Reuben_the_Red

      BTW, totally appreciated your top 20 mind-bending albums of 2012. I’m really digging Scriptures, and Goat, and would have heard of neither if not for you. There you go.

      • Thad McKraken

        Thanks man, that’s why I do what I do.

  • http://twitter.com/Zordabo ZordaboM

    I miss Mr. Bungle with all of my ass

  • http://twitter.com/Zordabo ZordaboM

    I miss Mr. Bungle with all of my ass

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Branham/100001107927082 Ben Branham

    The problem with most modern acts now is that they lack that certain something….I think it’s called DRUGS, angst and attitude!… 90′s music was fueled by drug addiction and debauchery much like the late 60′s and early 70′s. Actually even more so than the 60′s or 70′s. We’ll never see another musical revolution that could match what the 90′s gave to the world. I was a part of the music scene in that era and fronted a lot of bands back then. I’m still very much in the music scene but it’s only underground and independent music for me.

    Pop culture blows fucking goats and people that buy into it are drones and wouldn’t know good music even if it fucked them hard and fast and left 250 dollars on the night stand when it was finished! I never cared much for the majority of the bands you mentioned because they didn’t speak loudly enough to my violent hate filled, drug induced angst. I will admit some of the popular bands at the time were good but they were just as mainstream as fucking black coffee and Madonna. But now a days at the age of 37 I appreciate the music of the time far more than I did when I was actually living it.

    Death Metal, Black Metal, Hardcore Punk, Underground Grunge/Alternative etc. were preferable over genre defining mainstream groups like Alice in Chains, Sound Garden, STP, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. . Popular grunge/alternative acts were good but they come off as being just as cookie cutter as the dance pop, hard rock and pussy music of the time. Now a days all you get is overly produced, glamored up wishy washy bullshit! No one really sings anymore or plays an instrument with actual flair or heart.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, rock music is not supposed to be safe. It’s supposed to kick you in the balls and then shit in your mouth while you’re gasping for air. It’s supposed to be doped up talented mother fuckers with something to say!

    Aside from the genres I listed as personal preferences of the time theses bands and musicians were far better and wrongfully underrated compared to most of the mainstream popular alternative/metal/grunge/punk music of the 90′s: Meat Puppets, Gruntruck, AFI, Frank Black, Daisy Chainsaw, The Butthole Surfers, Electric Wizard, Pavement, Sponge, Urge Overkill, Brother Kane, The Stone Roses, King Missile, Revolting Cocks, Corrosion Of Conformity, Dinosaur Jr., Mud Honey, Moist, Our lady Peace, Stabbing Westward, Toadies etc.

    These bands were just as good but because pop culture chooses what the mainstream tells them to like they never got as much exposure….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Branham/100001107927082 Ben Branham

    The problem with most modern acts now is that they lack that certain something….I think it’s called DRUGS, angst and attitude!… 90′s music was fueled by drug addiction and debauchery much like the late 60′s and early 70′s. Actually even more so than the 60′s or 70′s. We’ll never see another musical revolution that could match what the 90′s gave to the world. I was a part of the music scene in that era and fronted a lot of bands back then. I’m still very much in the music scene but it’s only underground and independent music for me.

    Pop culture blows fucking goats and people that buy into it are drones and wouldn’t know good music even if it fucked them hard and fast and left 250 dollars on the night stand when it was finished! I never cared much for the majority of the bands you mentioned because they didn’t speak loudly enough to my violent hate filled, drug induced angst. I will admit some of the popular bands at the time were good but they were just as mainstream as fucking black coffee and Madonna. But now a days at the age of 37 I appreciate the music of the time far more than I did when I was actually living it.

    Death Metal, Black Metal, Hardcore Punk, Underground Grunge/Alternative etc. were preferable over genre defining mainstream groups like Alice in Chains, Sound Garden, STP, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. . Popular grunge/alternative acts were good but they come off as being just as cookie cutter as the dance pop, hard rock and pussy music of the time. Now a days all you get is overly produced, glamored up wishy washy bullshit! No one really sings anymore or plays an instrument with actual flair or heart.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, rock music is not supposed to be safe. It’s supposed to kick you in the balls and then shit in your mouth while you’re gasping for air. It’s supposed to be doped up talented mother fuckers with something to say!

    Aside from the genres I listed as personal preferences of the time theses bands and musicians were far better and wrongfully underrated compared to most of the mainstream popular alternative/metal/grunge/punk music of the 90′s: Meat Puppets, Gruntruck, AFI, Frank Black, Daisy Chainsaw, The Butthole Surfers, Electric Wizard, Pavement, Sponge, Urge Overkill, Brother Kane, The Stone Roses, King Missile, Revolting Cocks, Corrosion Of Conformity, Dinosaur Jr., Mud Honey, Moist, Our lady Peace, Stabbing Westward, Toadies etc.

    These bands were just as good but because pop culture chooses what the mainstream tells them to like they never got as much exposure….

    • echar

      There is still drugs, they have just changed. I think in many cases they’ve moved past angst, to something else. It seems the theme of a lot of current music today is numbness, possibly post angst numbness. Maybe I am wrong.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Branham/100001107927082 Ben Branham

        I think you might be right. In an everything within your reach society there is no need for it. Better said, they just don’t have the angst because everything is pretty much given to them these days. You can’t be lazy and have a fire lit under your ass at the same time.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Branham/100001107927082 Ben Branham

        I think you might be right. In an everything within your reach society there is no need for it. Better said, they just don’t have the angst because everything is pretty much given to them these days. You can’t be lazy and have a fire lit under your ass at the same time.

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