Results for 1990s

interviews

Melvins

Melvins The Melvins are hailed as progenitors of sludge metal, key influences on the Seattle grunge scene, and avant-garde pranksters – but their music has always been virtually unclassifiable. That's certainly the case on their new double-album A Walk With Love & Death, which veers from heavy rockers to pop songs to ambient film scores. The Melvins join Jim and Greg in the studio to talk about the new record and their long career, dating back to their 1984 formation in Washington.

Guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne (aka King Buzzo) and drummer Dale Crover form the core of the Melvins, alongside a rotating bassist slot that's currently filled by Steve McDonald of Redd Kross and OFF!. They discuss their ill-fated major label stint in the 1990s, the importance of playing the music that you want to play, and how they manage to survive as a band for over thirty years. They also dispel myths about Nirvana (of which Crover was an early member) and the rest of the storied Seattle scene.

Go to episode 613

Robert Schneider

For this week's feature Jim and Greg dive into the psychedelic world of Elephant 6. For those new to this crazy universe, Elephant 6 is a label and musical collective that was started by childhood friends in Ruston, Louisiana. The bands that came out of this group of music-lovers include Of Montreal, Beulah, Elf Power, with the most notable being Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, and Apples in Stereo. Jim and Greg will focus on those three Elephant 6 acts, discussing why they're so important in the rock landscape and which tracks and albums you should check out.

Sound Opinions always likes to begin any consideration of a band, label or movement with the music. Here are the three songs you sample first (you can find a list of all other song titles at the bottom of the page):

  • "Memories of Jacqueline 1906" by Olivia Tremor Control
  • "Two Headed Boy" by Neutral Milk Hotel
  • "About Your Fame" by Apples in Stereo

One of the key players in the success of the Elephant 6 Recording Company is Robert Schneider. Schneider is the chief songwriter, producer and lead singer of Apples in Stereo and co-founded the collective along with William Cullen Hart and Bill Doss of The Olivia Tremor Control and Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel. Jim and Greg wanted to find out from Schneider how so much great music came from Ruston, Louisiana. Schneider explains that because of the college music scene, he and his friends were exposed to a lot of great music. Schneider and Jeff Mangum took up music early as a way to escape mundane, small town life. Eventually all of these friends decided to start a label and call it Elephant 6.

Greg describes Schneider as the“pop craftsmen,”of the bunch and Jeff Mangum of the Neutral Milk Hotel as the“soul child.”The Olivia Tremor Control were then the trippiest. He and Jim discuss their debut release, Dusk at Cubist Castle, a double album whose subtitle,“Music from an Unrealized Film Script,”points to the music's psychedelic nature. The Olivia Tremor Control tried to capture the feeling of a live performance and made a dense album full of layers and layers of sound. This was also the case on their second album, Black Foliage, but OTC disbanded soon after that.

Next Jim and Greg discuss Neutral Milk Hotel, the band that probably has the largest fan base. In fact, Jeff Mangum holds a mythic standing among music fans that parallels only that of Kurt Cobain. Mangum went for a soulful, more stripped down approach that was moving and easily identifiable for many listeners. This is evident in the band's 1998 release In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a concept album about tragedy, and at times, the story of Anne Frank. Mangum wanted the star of this album to be the acoustic guitar, his voice and his words. This sometimes caused conflict between the songwriter and Robert Schneider, his producer, but the result is one of the most innovative and important albums of the 1990s.

Go to episode 70

Steve Wynn

In preparation for this week's guest, Steve Wynn, Jim and Greg do a little primer on the Paisley Underground music scene that developed in California in the 1980s. Jim plays a song by one of the seminal bands of this scene, The 3 O'Clock, whose very psychedelic name was inspired by Tom Wolfe's assertion in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" that if one drops acid in the early evening, the high of the trip will occur at 3:00 a.m. The 3 O'Clock was helmed by Michael Quercio, a musician who started as a punk rocker. After discovering psychedelic rock, however, his sound, and his look, began to change. It was Cuercio's affinity for the music of the '60s, as well as the brightly colored paisley clothes, that gave this scene its name. While the name did not do the music justice, the influence of the Paisley Underground on contemporary bands like Oasis and The Secret Machines is undeniable.

It may surprise to listeners who are only familiar with "Walk Like an Egyptian," but The Bangles were also pioneers of the Paisley Underground. Their original sound, with its three- and four-part harmonies and sing-songy melodies, paralleled that of The Mamas and the Papas and The Byrds. Lead singer Susanna Hoffs continues to work in this genre; she and '90s indie pop star Matthew Sweet just released a 1960s covers album featuring songs by The Left Banke, The Beach Boys and The Who.

Greg points out that the Paisley Underground sound was not a homogenous one — in fact, what bonded these bands was a punk sensibility that welcomed other musical styles. Unlike many other punk bands at the time, these acts didn't see why they had to conform to a strict policy of three-minute, Ramones-style songs. And what's more punk rock than non-conformity? One band that went above and beyond its punk and psychedelic influences was The Long Ryders. They took more of a country approach and can be seen as pioneers of the alternative country scene that now houses bands like Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and The Bottle Rockets.

The Rain Parade is the next Paisley Underground band up for discussion. While the members of The Rain Parade never saw the major label success like their peers in The Bangles or The 3 O'Clock (who were signed to Prince's Paisley Park label), many went on to work on successful projects. David Robeck formed the band Mazzy Star, which had an alternative hit single with "Fade Into You" in 1993 and Matt Piucci went on to work with Crazy Horse. The remaining bandmates reincarnated themselves as Viva Saturn.

Greg plays a song featuring this week's guest, Steve Wynn. His band The Dream Syndicate was a group that both Jim and Greg became fans of in the early '80s. They emerged in LA as one of the pioneers of the Paisley Underground sound. Steve then released a number of solo records and has spent the last few years with his most recent band, The Miracle 3. Steve and his band members, Linda Pitmon, Dave DeCastro and Kirk Swan, joined Jim and Greg for an interview and performance at the Chicago Recording Company.

The Dream Syndicate never made it into the 1990s, but its innovative sound continued to influence artists. While other LA bands at the time, like Black Flag, Social Distortion and Bad Religion, were making post-punk and punk music with a really hard edge, The Dream Syndicate stuck to a swirlier, psychedelic pop sound. For this reason, Jim and Greg explain, no matter how many solo projects he embarks on, our guest will most likely always be remembered as the lead singer of The Dream Syndicate.

After playing a track from Days of Wine and Roses, which Greg calls one of the masterpieces of the Paisley Underground era, our host asks Steve about the chemistry between two guitarists. In this case, Steve's partner in guitar is Kirk Swan, who was in another innovative '80s indie pop band, Dumptruck, Steve responds that the basic formula of guitar, drums, and bass is simple, but never gets old. He points to bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Television as examples.

Jim asks Steve about why he continues on in this business after so many years. As Steve jokes on his website, this new album is one of several“comebacks,”but music is not such an easy life to come back to. After being pegged the“new Springsteen,”Steve and the band had somewhat of a difficult time. He explains how that hurt the band (and indirectly how he hurt Jim one drunken night). Thankfully they both came out on the other side.

Go to episode 21
genre dissections

Post-Rock

With Tortoise joining them in the studio this week, Jim and Greg take a moment to give a primer on the post-rock movement. Like virtually all genre labels,“post-rock”is a term rejected by most of the artists associated with it. It generally refers to a set of mostly instrumental bands in the 1990s who used non-traditional instrumentation and a collage-like approach to blending genres. Jim and Greg trace the origins of the movement to German krautrock, experimental '60s jazz-rock bands, and dub reggae. There were major post-rock acts across the globe, including in the UK (Stereolab), Montreal (Godspeed You! Black Emperor), and especially in Chicago. From Tortoise to Gastr Del Sol to The Denison/Kimball Trio, Chicago's scene fostered an eclectic experimentation with styles.

Go to episode 557
reviews
HurleyHurley available on iTunes

Weezer Hurley

If you've seen the mug of Hurley from Lost lately, chances are you've been looking at the cover of the new album by Weezer. The band, fronted by Rivers Cuomo, has been recording at a prolific rate in the past few years. And many original fans continue to hold out hope that they'll meet or top their releases from the 1990's. But, as Greg explains, Cuomo, now a married father, is probably as happy as he's ever been and won‘t be returning to his old style of angsty songwriting. The upbeat pop songs he’s making now are good, but the emotional heft isn't there. Greg gives Hurley a Burn It rating. Jim admits there's a lot of silliness on this record, but the songs are very well-crafted. That's enough for him, so he gives it a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 250
Zeitgeist

The Smashing Pumpkins Zeitgeist

After formerly announcing their reunion in May, The Smashing Pumpkins have finally started touring and have produced an album to be released next week. Zeitgeist is the band's first record since they ended their alternative reign in 2000, but this time only half of the original members are back. Pumpkins' impresario Billy Corgan is joined by long-time collaborator Jimmy Chamberlin, as well as two other musicians standing in for James Iha and D'Arcy Wretzky. In true Corgan fashion, the band is already making news. In a marketing scheme that perhaps doesn‘t fit their alternative sensibilities, they’ve struck a deal with three major music retailers. Target, Best Buy and iTunes are all getting a different bonus track along with the regular version of the album. That means that fans purchasing Zeitgeist at an independent music store will only get the LP sans bonus tracks. This has angered some, but Jim and Greg actually don‘t think this plan is so egregious. In the past Corgan has offered his album for free on the internet and has given many free concerts. And in an age where it’s difficult to get people to actually purchase CDs in stores at all, who can blame a band for adding incentives. The real question is whether or not Zeitgeist is worth purchasing at all. Jim explains how we're in an era of alternative nostalgia, and Corgan certainly seems interested in reclaiming the good ol' days of the 1990s when the Pumpkins were on top and were making music that sounded like nothing else. The problem is that now this music sounds like almost everything else. With angsty rock bands like My Chemical Romance and AFI on the scene, the Pumpkins aren't really offering anything unique. Both Jim and Greg find this reunion recording to be merely an imitation of a great Smashing Pumpkins album, and wish that the music lived up to its title. They give Zeitgeist two Burn Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 83
Transgender Dysphoria BluesTransgender Dysphoria Blues available on iTunes

Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Against Me! has gone through some changes since forming in the late 1990s, but none more radical than that of the group's founder and front person Tom Gabel. In 2012 he announced that he would be identifying as a woman named Laura Jane Grace. This transformative experience made an impact on the group, and the result is Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Greg finds the record a harrowing document, akin to a diary entry. The stripped-down, acoustic production matches the raw content of Grace's lyrics perfectly. But those lyrics fall down when she tackles other topics like geopolitics. That said, it's a Buy It. Jim doesn‘t think Greg fully appreciates Grace’s intellectual heft the same way he does the anthemic music. The album's commentary on issues such as rape culture and death are just as provocative as the songs about Grace's personal life. He hails Transgender Dysphoria Blues as the first great album of 2014 and is happy to strongly second Greg's Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 428
dijs

Jim

“St. Elmo's Fire”Uilab

After hearing the news that fellow music critic Sasha Frere-Jones was stepping down from his post at The New Yorker, Jim was reminded of Frere-Jones's own band Ui. Ui was active throughout the 1990's as part of the so-called "post-rock" scene, experimenting with strange instrumentation including electronics, banjos, tubas, and multiple bass guitars. In 1998, Ui collaborated with another of Jim's favorites, Stereolab, under the moniker Uilab and recorded an EP of deconstructed covers of "St. Elmo's Fire" by (who else?) Brian Eno. The combination of Eno's songwriting, Laetitia Sadier's wonderful vocals, and Ui's trancelike performance add up to a DeRogatis triple threat, making it Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.

Go to episode 477

Jim

“Sour Times”Portishead

It's Jim's turn to select a song to take with him to the desert island this week. His DIJ pick was inspired by the two albums reviewed in the show. Amy Winehouse considers herself a modern day Nina Simone, and Timbaland uses a Nina Simone sample in his song "Oh Timbaland." Jim is in favor of referencing the past, but wanted to go back to a band that was able to bring a hip hop attitude to classic '60s soul and jazz much more successfully than Winehouse ever could. That band is Portishead. Portishead came out of England during the 1990s as part of the "trip-hop" movement. While their tenure was short (though word is they are making music again), Jim is still impressed by the group's ability to merge American hip hop with British psychedelia with early soul and R&B. The album he urges listeners to go back to is 1994's Dummy, and the track he wants to add to the Desert Island Jukebox is "Sour Times."

Go to episode 71

Greg

“Unsung”Helmet

Greg celebrates the 20th anniversary of Meantime by Helmet during his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox. It's an album many people don‘t consider much anymore, but it’s one of his favorites from that era. While we often think about grunge and punk coming from the West Coast in the 1990's, Helmet reflects a sharper, harder-edged East Coast sound. And like many '80s and '90s acts, they too were swept away by big labels. But, with their major debut Meantime, they didn't compromise one iota. So Happy Anniversary Helmet fans! We offer you "Unsung."

Go to episode 326
features

Hooked On Sonics: Jody Stephens of Big Star

Hooked on Sonics is a segment where musicians share the songs that made them fall in love with music. Drummer Jody Stephens helped form pivotal Memphis rock group Big Star, alongside vocalist and songwriter Alex Chilton. Big Star, is, in many ways, more famous now than they were during their first 1970s incarnation. In the 1980s and 1990s, a whole new generation discovered the group after The Replacements and REM cited them as influences. Today, Jody works at the famous Ardent Studios down in Memphis; but as a kid, it was music from a completely different part of the world that got him Hooked on Sonics. That song was I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles. But, as you'll hear, it all came around full circle.

Go to episode 606
news

Music News

While more visual spectacle than musical, the MTV Video Music Awards have come and gone again, and what's most interesting is what didn't happen, rather than what did. And by“what”we mean controvery. After the Parents Television Council urged MTV to avoid a repeat of last year's Miley Cyrus twerk-fest, the watchdog group announced that they were mostly pleased with the more family-friendly content. But, the PTC did express concerns about the way women were portrayed. Guess they missed Sofia Vergara's Emmy posing.

And there were still some naked performances…Deadspin released the isolated vocals from both Taylor Swift and Beyonce's appearances. They added a spectrum analysis layer to show how well each singer stayed on pitch. Beyonce fared better, but Jim can sympethize with Miss Swift; only a capella singers sound great without musicians.

bush

Also making news, music fans around the world are celebrating the comeback of the great British singer Kate Bush. After 35 years being offstage, she received an enthusiastic response after announcing "Before the Dawn," a run of 22 shows, which sold out in 15 minutes! Fans (some say including Madonna, Lily Allen and Bjork) watched as Bush opened the first show at London's Hammersmith Apollo with "Lily," from the 1993 album Red Shoes. Bush says she was encouraged to return to performing by her son, Bertie. The show was incredibly elaborate and theatrical- hopefully not too exhausting for Kate.

We also say welcome back to Prince and his longtime frenemy Warner Bros Records. His Purple Majesty will release two new albums at the end of September, marking the end of one of the longest-running employment disputes in musical history. Prince fell out with the label in the early 1990's, prompting him to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol and appear in public with the word“slave”across his face. Now he plans to release two albums: Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum with his all-female band, 3rd Eye Girl.

Rounding out the news, Jim and Greg discuss the idea of the perfect length for a pop song. Long ago technology dictated the length of a tune. A 78 vinyl record came in two sizes—a 10-inch that held 3 minutes of music and a 12-inch that held 4. Midway through the rock ‘n’ roll era, songs like "Stairway to Heaven" blew out those conventions. And certainly, with the digital music revolution, all bets should be off, right? Not so. Brevity is the soul of Top 40. And a radio station in Calgary, Alberta is taking that philosophy to the extreme. 90.3 AMP is telling listeners they will no get“twice the music.”In fact, they'll hear half a song. The station will be editing its plays in order to keep listeners from getting bored. In effect, this is the 140 character limit of music.

We don‘t endorse this approach, but here’s our own celebration of "Short but Sweet" tracks

Go to episode 457