How to be 1990s.
January 28, 2011 10:00 AM   Subscribe

"Our music was terrible, our fashion was terrible, our movies were corny as fuck and no meaningful growth took place."

What fucking decade did he live through?
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:04 AM on January 28, 2011 [31 favorites]

All of them?

Kid, this is my lawn. Now get off it.
posted by chavenet at 10:04 AM on January 28, 2011

Summary: "We were quite enamored of the idea that we were different than everyone who came before us" ... but we were not.

And I type like I talk. Like totally. And that's pretty chill.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:05 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

The same one I did, Slap*Happy. God, fuck the 90s.
posted by enn at 10:06 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow, that was really annoying. Especially the second part which should have been retitled, "How to be white suburban 1990s".
posted by charred husk at 10:07 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I need pictures...too much talking.....
posted by The1andonly at 10:08 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I really wanted to like that. I'm the same age as the author and being a "nineties kid" definitely shaped my identity, but this... it's not just like he and I came to different conclusions, but like we were starting from completely different assumptions. I could not relate to a word he was saying about a decade I've spent way too much time considering myself.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:10 AM on January 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

I wrote about "90s Nostalgia" in 2004 (self-link), and believe it's still too soon. But then, I didn't really accept the concept of "80s Nostalgia" until last year.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:12 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

He seems to be talking about the grunge style of the early 1990's, and if we can be grateful to Green Day for anything, it's Dookie's role in killing that subculture dead.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:12 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nirvana sold millions of records containing songs about hating being famous. The dichotomy probably is what killed Kurt Cobain;

posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on January 28, 2011

(Author is a she.)
posted by naju at 10:14 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's a she.

She's probably like, "I'M NOT A GUY and thanks for the feedback Metafilter sheesh" cuz I think that's what I would be like.
posted by circular at 10:15 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This article should end with " that's why I'm still working part-time at the record store, Mom! Get off my back!"
posted by Zozo at 10:16 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Guns don't kill people, being hypocritical kills people.

Remember that, kids.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:16 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

How to be '90's, Bay Area techie division: work yourself to a crippling RSI at dysfunctionally managed startups.

But what the hell. I finished college, moved to Berkeley, went to Clarion, and it was actually a really good decade for comics, so it wasn't a total bust.
posted by Zed at 10:17 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was a teenager in the 1990s too. I remember all the things that she talks about. I remember the grunge music, the antisocial fashion, the aimless hanging-out, and even the pot and shoplifting... but I didn't do any of these things. These were the things that the cool kids did. The ones who had a finger on the pulse of youth culture. The ones who could get a date, and knew how to act during it. The ones who were popular in school and didn't hang out in the corner with the other nerds and rejects.

I was a teenager in the 1990s too. But for a lot of us, the decade was different.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:18 AM on January 28, 2011 [16 favorites]

The author needs to change "We" to "I." That would fix this article.
posted by jnnla at 10:20 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the 1990s I remember that I wanted to ‘be 70s.’

I was "70s". That, unfortunately, just puts me closer to being 70.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:21 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

"We" is white and from the suburbs.

And I was a white teenager in a suburb of Portland, OR. My experience is the most valid!
posted by Brocktoon at 10:26 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anyone born before 1982 or after 1992 will never know what it's like to shoplift, smoke weed, love music, be pandered to by the media, go through melodramatic mood swings, or feel misunderstood by authority figures and terrified of the opposite sex. How unfortunate.

Speaking of unfortunate, growing up with parents who will drive you to the mall and an allowance that lets you afford all the CDs, magazines, pizza and pot you want is apparently the most painful fucking thing ever. I sure am lucky I dodged that bullet.
posted by Zozo at 10:29 AM on January 28, 2011 [11 favorites]

I'd like to know how much the standards for an essay-ish or bloggy Metafilter FPP...

This would make a great comment on Metatalk.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:30 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I graduated highschool in '99 so I fit this demographic perfectly. This article to me just sounds like this person is pissed off that she grew up when she did and maybe embarrassed at some of the things she did. But isn't doing stupid shit a part of being a kid? I did my fair share of stupid shit too but I'm not embarrassed about any of it and I can remember having a lot of fun. Not all of the music from the 90s sucked. The early nineties had a ton of great hip hop.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:30 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is as much about the larger image of the 90s, the mythology and media, as it is about her personal experience. Yes, the perception of the generation (i.e. the stuff that today's teenagers are interested in exploring about our past) that was carefully manufactured and sold to us was largely white and suburban.
posted by naju at 10:31 AM on January 28, 2011

pre-90s medicore
posted by jtron at 10:32 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

And all that flannel was comfy as hell.
posted by Zozo at 10:32 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

How to be boooooooring.
posted by orme at 10:35 AM on January 28, 2011

I'm about the same age as the author--I graduated high school in '99. I remember doing a lot of these things. Rummaging through my dad's closet for flannel shirts (score! A black and yellow one!), listening to a lot of CDs I bought at the mall. Teaching myself how to play guitar. Driving around aimlessly with friends for hours. Being depressed for no reason. Growing my hair really really long.

I was still a huge geek and I wasn't really hanging out with the cool kids who liked Korn (god, it's ludicrous that I can even type a sentence like that) and smoked pot. So I know this essay is in desperate need of an edit, but just because I don't really like it doesn't mean I don't relate to it. In that way, it's exactly like talking to me at 16 years old. I recognize that it's me, but I still want to smack the kid in the face a little.
posted by Maaik at 10:36 AM on January 28, 2011

Right between hardcore and softcore: medicore.
posted by rikschell at 10:38 AM on January 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

*pulls up a chair* Hi, 90s kids.

As a kid of an earlier decade, I know what you're going through. People are starting to pay attention to your decade now. They're writing about it. Maybe they're pitching some screenplays that will be banking on your nostalgia when they hit the big screen in a few years.

At first you're a little elated because, hey, you were there! You remember all of this and it was important to you. But pretty soon you start to feel uncomfortable. You're raising your hand and saying, "Uh ... wait, it wasn't ..." and then someone plays a track off of In Utero again and nobody hears you.

I'm here to tell you it gets worse.

Later on there will be Nineties Theme Nights and your wardrobe will be distilled down to just a few costumes, mostly taken from white suburbs. That whole range of music you heard? Yeah, get ready to listen to the top hundred overplayed tracks from that time, the ones you heard beaten to death back when, jammed into period soundtracks of whenever. Just wait until every movie about your decade is filled with callbacks to Singles.

Coming up will be the realization that the year span of the elevator music might nudge up a whole couple of years, but not so much as a decade. No, adding this new decade will not mean you won't hear anyone talking about Country Joe and the Fish any longer. Rest assured that the boomers will continue making sure it is all about the boomers.

You'll have kids and, when they are twenty, they'll see an old picture of you where you were not wearing flannel and will be a little freaked out by it. You'll look around for the music you actually liked during that time period and it will be hard to find, if you're into that whole "buying" thing.

In the final stage you'll be mixed in with the decades before and after, not in a malicious fashion, just without much consideration.

So, have a beer and get used to it. Take it from an old hand.
posted by adipocere at 10:40 AM on January 28, 2011 [80 favorites]

What did the early 2000s give us? I don't even remember.

I lived through the 80s as a teen. It sucked then. Now it's cool and coming back. My heart is still into the 40s, late 60s, and 70s though.
posted by stormpooper at 10:41 AM on January 28, 2011

I remember doing a lot of these things. Rummaging through my dad's closet for flannel shirts (score! A black and yellow one!), listening to a lot of CDs I bought at the mall. Teaching myself how to play guitar. Driving around aimlessly with friends for hours. Being depressed for no reason. Growing my hair really really long.

That's pretty much just the definition of being a middle class teen-ager, independent of decade. Substitute records for CDs and that was me in the 70s/80s; change it to MP3s and it could be my son in the '00s.
posted by octothorpe at 10:47 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Um, aren't *all* teenagers angsty and dramatic? Isn't that kind of in the job description? Because I rather doubt that high school and other kids have become *pleasant* since I left, and I imagine that growing up is still a galling experience. I could be wrong-- I am from the '90's myself. But all flannel aside, has the phase of life really changed so much that being unhappy as a teenager can be described as a dead trend?
posted by Because at 10:48 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Fuck, dude, part of the problem was that the '90s were an incredibly self-critical decade already. The '80s were narcissistic, and the '90s existed in large part as a self-involved (hence ironic) critique of that self-involvement.

Maybe the other problem I'm having with this is that I think I had a very different media history than the author here, who seems really unreflective and, well, banal. I remember Generation X, the book, which is pretty much the bible on how to be early-'90s, and her bullshit back and forth about how someone should have a '90s themed radio station seems painfully unaware that for a lot of the country that's still the norm. Every time I visit my girlfriend's family in Lansing, Mi., we joke about how instead of moving on from the '90s, Lansing radio prefers to give Marcy's Candy deep cuts.

And the '90s throwbacks are already in style, from the Elaine jumper dresses and triangle hair I see sported by LA hipsters, to the designs shown on Project Runway and The Fashion Show that are full of earth tones and "industrial" bullshit.

She also ignores that the early '90s were a recession, and that a large part of Gen X angst came out of that dissolution of traditional employment roles, which unfortunately commentators keep treating like news ("ZOMG, you can't work at one company for life anymore did you know this thing?").

Sorry, I'm off to dial-up a BBS and blare some Thrill Kill Kult to wash this inanity out of my mind. This was a decent idea for an article wasted by too little editing and unclear conclusions.
posted by klangklangston at 10:49 AM on January 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

I haven't the foggiest damned idea where I'm supposed to be. Being born in 1983 absolutely sucks. I was 18 when 9/11 happened, which precludes me from being a millennial, but I sure as hell didn't "come of age" in the 90s. You know what sucks? Being on the cusp of two different self-absorbed generations. Honestly, I prefer hanging out with Korean War vets. Freaking awesome generation, that one.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:50 AM on January 28, 2011 [23 favorites]

But all flannel aside, has the phase of life really changed so much that being unhappy as a teenager can be described as a dead trend?

Yes, teens are unhappy. But fetishisizing the angst and existential crises of teens was a very 90's thing.

For zeitgeists, it might be interesting to compare My So-Called Life with, say, this new show Skins (which seems to mostly be about scoring drugs and having awesome sex.)
posted by naju at 10:54 AM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I graduated HS in 1994, and I can tell you with reference to my town, it's spot on. In my high school, the alternative kids were just another freak minority, sitting in the old faculty lunch room with the denim metalheads and the AV kids. Despite her generalization of 90's culture (we aren't all white suburban girls, so what--she didn't write this for you), the posting brought me right back there.

One point I thought was somewhat awakening was the mention that HS kids don't dress for irony, but for an accepted uniform. Life was so much easier after that bullshit!
posted by hanoixan at 10:55 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This resonated for me:
You should steal some jewelry from ‘Claire’s’ or a place like it. You should do this even if you’re a boy, because then people will think you’re funny for wearing a heart charm, or smooth if you give it to a girl later. Don’t say anything, just kind of drop it in her hand or in her lap, wrapped in a piece of notebook paper haphazardly. She will never, never forget the moment in which you did that, because your lives are made of strings of moments.

Go to the roof of the mall. Try to smoke cigarettes. Try to smoke weed. Panic that you will be smelled. Always panic that you will be smelled. Carry drugstore perfume. Chew gum, crunch mints. If you are a girl every boy you ever kiss will smell and taste like smoke and mints. You will remember each one. You will remember your first everything.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:55 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

The dream of the 90s is still alive... in Portland.

This clip made me want to move! LOL.

Seriously, i feel so bad for kids growing up now. I was of the 90s, and it's so nice. My nephew was born in 86, and he kinda got the shit end of the stick. But I think my ideals kinda rubbed off on him, and I hope there's something there that gets passed on culturally, somehow. I think it'll take time, but we'll have something again.

But yeah... 9/11 fucking SUCKED and ruined everything (and GWB, too). Sigh.

Obviously, we overlook all the negative stuff, but I'm sorry - there was so much that I felt so much more alive then. And maybe. Maybe it's just the age, in the same way the older generation wants to go back to the 50s. I see the 90s as a sort of mini-60s with the 70s punk influence.

RIP Kurt!
posted by symbioid at 10:58 AM on January 28, 2011

I knew this girl -- or girls like her. She went to my highschool, she and her friends displayed all the mannerisms of being counterculture and "alternative," when in reality they were just like the popular kids, only they listened to slightly better music, and in fact never gave me the time of day. She was cute, didn't have a crush on me, made out with my friend who projected the right "whatever" attitude, and re-gifted me a mixtape that her other friend made, who had recorded her voice at the end saying how sorry she is about some petty fight they had, and how glad she was that they were still friends. It had the song December on it, which I liked, which I still like, which I actually just found on Grooveshark, which in itself was an interesting past-meets-future moment.

On the whole, loquacious's account of 1990s teenage BBSer life was far more reflective of how I spent the 1990s, scarily accurate in fact, to the point where I feel like he MUST have been there.

Actually, that whole thread was pretty cool.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:58 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is it OK if I acknowledge the impact of the society at the time on my taste in politics, music, and clothing, but take a pass on the navel-gazing?
posted by kyrademon at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Talk about grunge without mentioning Mudhoney? For shame.
posted by giraffe at 11:06 AM on January 28, 2011

At least half of my 1990s soundtrack is New Jack Swing.
posted by emeiji at 11:06 AM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

You know what hasn't aged well?

New Jack City. I mean, did anyone ever really look like that?
posted by GuyZero at 11:09 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Surely I'm not the only one who was traumatized when Rayanne slept with Jordan Catalano.
posted by giraffe at 11:10 AM on January 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

He seems to be talking about the grunge style of the early 1990's, and if we can be grateful to Green Day for anything, it's Dookie's role in killing that subculture dead.

Grunge was never as big of a thing as most people make it out to be. Most of the hype came from one album by one band, and without that hype it would just be a minor blip in the overall "alternative rock" genre. And alternative in general wasn't really the dominant genre for teenagers in the 90s, there were just as many Tupac tshirts out there as there were Kurt Cobain ones. Not to mention pop punk, third wave ska, boy bands, metal/nu metal, etc.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:13 AM on January 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

The Woodstock '99 riots were the perfect bookend to that decade. A banal revolution of the clueless against paying $10 for a bottle of water.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:17 AM on January 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

You know, to my mind, there's nothing more odious than white suburbanites.
Please shower favorites and/or cred on me now.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:25 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Recently, though, I have been re-listening to some of the stuff I listened to in high school - principally the Pixies, Clutch and Tool. And you know what? Great stuff. Not ashamed in the least. Clutch's new stuff, especially From Beale St. to Oblivion is freaking awesome. I never understood that they were a blues band.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:28 AM on January 28, 2011

Not sure why the quality of the music is in question here. It was fucking awesome. Especially the indie stuff coming out of Portland like Floater, Jollymon, etc.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:38 AM on January 28, 2011

Reading this, I couldn't help but think -- am I getting so old that I'm forgetting things?

Wasn't grunge as a guiding cultural pop phenomenon pretty much over by the time I graduated high school? ('93)

Didn't we spend most of our time at the college radio station ('93-'97) talking about how "college radio" or "alternative" as a genre didn't exist anymore?

Didn't everybody write "what's wrong with the 20somethings"/" oh woe is my generation" 15 years ago about my generation (probably the tail end of Generation X)?

As much as I want to dog on the navelgazing in this article, I can't help but think it's a rite of passage. And probably just as annoying every time.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:39 AM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Standing outside a broken blogpost with money in my hand.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:42 AM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

oh god RCIB, i love that song, and i love you for reminding everybody of it. i listen to it at least once a month.

what's funny is that i wondered for the longest time what it was, or if i was just fabricating the memory or what, until one day i searched for "plane takes off in baltimore and touches down on bourbon street." i was so, so happy when i found it again.

i have my own theories on what it's really about.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:46 AM on January 28, 2011

I was 11 in 1990, 21 in 2000. Oh was I ever a 90's teen. A few bits of that piece resonated with me, but screw her on one thing - there was so much good music to be found.
posted by Windigo at 11:52 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know how "the Golden Age of science fiction is twelve"?

The Golden Age of music is seventeen.

Decades have nothing to do with it.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:59 AM on January 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

Our music was terrible, our fashion was terrible, our movies were corny as fuck

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The music was no worse than any other decade, and had some notable highlights. As MaryDellamorte pointed out, hip hop from roughly 1991-1994 was some of the best ever made. Knock grunge all you like, but it was a welcome change from the cocaine-fueled hair metal and bubblegum pop that immediately preceded it. A lot of albums from the grunge years still stand up as pretty damned good by any standard. I can tell you grunge was also a boon for the unfashionable Canadian kid, wearing stinky and dirty flannel and old jeans with unkempt greasy hair meant I could be a lazy slob and fashionable at the same time. As a teenage male, that is the best of all possible worlds. Movies? Just as one example, people are still treading the same ground as Tarantino's 1990s output. They were neither the first decade nor the last to have a lot of corny Hollywood pictures among some real gems.

I'd also note that all that crazy bright color/fluorescent shit the kids were wearing recently as part of the retro-80s cool style is actually from the early 90s.
posted by Hoopo at 12:01 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Ice-T, Ice Cube, Tribe Called Quest, and those are the obvious ones.

If you think music in the 90's sucked, that's because you weren't paying attention. More fool you.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:03 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was born in '84, so I guess I'm not really the right age for this. I had half of my teen years in the 90s and half in the shit-pile that has been the 00s. I did find myself becoming nostalgic for Siamese Dream recently, which was the first CD I ever bought. Today is just a great song.

And I can't help but notice that 1979's video is almost exactly what the author describes.

Anyway, I thought the essay was sort of interesting, but too meandering to be meaningful.
posted by codacorolla at 12:04 PM on January 28, 2011

Grunge was never as big of a thing as most people make it out to be. Most of the hype came from one album by one band

Well, three albums by three bands. Nirvana's Nevermind, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, and Pearl Jam's Ten. Once those three albums took off, supported by heavy MTV rotation, then things broke open for a few years.
posted by hippybear at 12:06 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm sitting here listening to a great 90's mix that she made (which includes "1979"), so I wouldn't take that statement about 90's music sucking at full face value.
posted by naju at 12:08 PM on January 28, 2011

> Yes, teens are unhappy. But fetishisizing the angst and existential crises of teens was a very 90's thing.

There's a mister Morrisey on the phone, asking for somebody named naju. Is naju here?
posted by ardgedee at 12:20 PM on January 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

Nirvana's Nevermind, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, and Pearl Jam's Ten, and Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots, and Mudhoney, and Temple of the Dog, and Green River, and Sunny Day Real Estate, and Screaming Trees, and Mother Love Bone, and...
posted by Brocktoon at 12:21 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here's how I was 1990's, motherfuckers! I spent the decade working on alternative guitar face. As you can see.

I have neither excuses nor apologies. The nineties were a great decade and I will curl my lip at anyone who says otherwise.
posted by Decani at 12:23 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a mister Morrisey on the phone, asking for somebody named naju. Is naju here?

I dunno, some people never went through a Smiths phase.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:27 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you grow up you’ll hear ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and no matter how cliché you know it is – everyone had the same soundtrack, stupid – the hair on your arms will still stand up. Every time.

I'm glad to know this happens to other people. I've always been kinda embarrassed by liking that song.
posted by seanbickford at 12:32 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's a mister Morrisey on the phone, asking for somebody named naju. Is naju here?

That's one counter example, and you could also point to some Cure and goth culture and stuff. But I thought the 80s were more dominated by upbeat stuff like new wave (and punk which was more of a focused rebellion).
posted by naju at 12:32 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Brocktoon: yes, I wasn't trying to diminish any of those other bands. The comment I was responding to was someone who said that all the hype came from a single album, but it was really those three that broke things open. Other bands were able to rise up after that, or planted seeds out of which those albums grew, or whatever. I'm familiar with the scope of grunge during its heyday. But of those three dominos hadn't fallen in such rapid succession, the rest of it may not have found a foothold.
posted by hippybear at 12:33 PM on January 28, 2011

Didn't the nineties give us the Wild Bunch-- Tricky, Massive Attack, and all of that?

posted by everichon at 12:36 PM on January 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

Except the internet’s rapid seemed to reach maturation all of a sudden, like a clear sharp crack dividing 1999 from 2000, stranding those in their late twenties and early thirties on the far side of an impassable chasm between themselves and those in their late teens and early twenties...As an aside, those in their mid-twenties largely fell into that chasm...

This observation articulates some of my own ambivalence about the Internet, though I don't necessarily agree with her further conclusions.

I'm 25. Those older than me were fairly formed in mind and outlook when the Internet matured, and those younger were fully formed under its auspices and can only imagine a different world. But the transition caught me on the threshold, changed me, fracturing my attention span and altering my relationships while I was just old enough to appreciate what was being done to me. For all the good that followed, that change still has the feeling of a violation.
posted by Iridic at 12:36 PM on January 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

I feel like a lot has already been said that I would've said, so I'll just +1 the folks who don't recognize anything of their adolescence in this essay.
posted by LMGM at 12:37 PM on January 28, 2011

The fact that we're having arguments about which 1990s music was the best seems to suggest that there was enough good music to go around for everybody.

Similarly, most of what was musically done in the 2000s can trace its lineage almost directly to something that was done first in the 90s. (This isn't a bad thing at all, and I'm extremely grateful for the awesome music that the past decade produced! However, the 90s need credit where it's due)

To be honest, I think it's fairly easy to identify fads, and what will most likely stand the test of time. Fashions change, any specific genre of music is unlikely to live past a decade, anything relating to fitness or dieting... However, I find it the most interesting to identify the things that we assumed would be around forever that have either become extremely dated, or disappeared altogether in the past decade.

It's the little things too.... which episodes of Seinfeld aged well, and which didn't? Which typefaces look horrendously dated, and which ones remain classics? Did anybody in the 90s even consider the notion that midcentury furniture was worth keeping? Phone booths? Phone books? Phones with cords? Music stored on physical media?
posted by schmod at 12:40 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Talking about 90s music without mentioning Tupac and Dr. Dre is ridiculous, and I liked Nirvana and Pearl Jam. I mean I went to a 100% Jewish suburban school and Tupac and Dre were bigger than Nirvana even there.
posted by callmejay at 12:44 PM on January 28, 2011

"Which typefaces look horrendously dated,"

You know, somewhere around my parents' house, there are old copies of Mondo 2000, Raygun and RIP, which are, like, a typographical primer on how to look dated and '90s in graphic design. If you don't have any of those, take a look at the 4AD catalog.

It was also the time that desktop publishing exploded, so every terrible Photoshop crime possible was committed.
posted by klangklangston at 12:46 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ooo! Also Ninja Tune, Mo Wax, and the Massive Attack/Portishead trip hop invasion was in the 90s, and awesome. And industrial met dub with Kevin Martin and Justin Broadrick, and electronic music got angry with Atari Teenage Riot and the this could go on for days.
posted by Hoopo at 12:49 PM on January 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Music, bah! The big question: which title in the Bruce Coville's Book of... series was the best? I'm partial to Bruce Coville's Book of Nightmares: Tales to Make You Scream, though you could make a case for Book of Aliens or Book of Ghosts.
posted by Iridic at 12:52 PM on January 28, 2011

how to look dated and '90s in graphic design

The cooler something looks at the time, the more embarrassing it will look later.

Exhibit A
posted by Joe Beese at 12:52 PM on January 28, 2011

Fuck the flannel hate. I loved flannel. Let me tell you why.

I graduated high school in 1990, in Florida. I was a fat girl who couldn't wear tight dresses, miniskirts, or leggings as pants, or anything like the girls in the music videos who were beautiful and sexy and everything I would never be. Spandex? Bikinis? No and hell no. I couldn't wear trendy clothes. I couldn't be cool. No guy was ever going to take an interest in me.

(Side note: Goth was not an option. In my fundie Christan school, goth dress got you sent to the vice-principal. It also got you talked about by other students, who gave you a wide berth because you were probably demon-possessed and a Satanist. I am not kidding.)

In 1991, grunge hit. Suddenly, I could be cool. For the price of a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt, and a couple thrift-store flannel shirts, I could be in style. The girls in the music videos looked like me. I was still fat, but it didn't feel like it did before, where it was impossible to participate in fashion. I could finally belong. I was taken seriously. Flannel opened the doors and let me in.

It sounds hyperbolic, but I always assumed I'd be an outsider, and the impact of suddenly having the choice not to be was HUGE.
posted by cereselle at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

The "in Florida" bit above referred to a mini-rant I deleted, about how I couldn't be cool because the 80s was all about the tan, and I was (and am) pale pale pale. In the 90s, that became an asset.
posted by cereselle at 12:59 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been waiting for someone to tell me what the 1990s were all about. I still don't know, I got bored after 2 paragraphs.
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:10 PM on January 28, 2011

The Nineties were about foodservice, drugs, sex, and the Melvins.

And Tad.

And Shellac

And Trip Hop and drum-n-bass
posted by everichon at 1:30 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

The 90s were about the X-Files and Nirvana.
posted by MXJ1983 at 1:58 PM on January 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I always wanted to be a teenager of/in the 90s. I just missed out on the Golden Age of hip-hop. Nas's first album, Common's second album, De La Soul and Tribe's best years. Sure, I discovered them, but it was years later and I always felt like I missed out on something.

Not being a teenager in the 90s also meant missing Michael Jordan's career, and the NBA during a golden age of its own. Bird. Magic. Stockton and Malone. The original Dream Team. A time when basketball was relevant not just to Americans but to the world. I had to settle for watching Air Time and Come Fly With Me and that god awful Michael Jordan's Playground on VHS.

Not sure I missed anything on TV not being a teenager in the 90s. X-Files? Seinfeld? I think I probably enjoyed those as much as a pre-teen as any teenager did.

Oh well. At least us born mid-decade had Outkast's best albums and the Wire.
posted by AceRock at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not being a teenager in the 90s also meant missing Michael Jordan's career

On the bright side, you probably never wore a Starter jacket or Zubaz pants
posted by Hoopo at 2:05 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

The economy was expanding, the Iron Curtain was coming down, there was talk of a "peace dividend", Autotune did not exist, and the most evil person in the world was a scoundrel named Bill Gates.
posted by kurumi at 2:10 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Do you want to write a history or a memoir? You can't do both at once.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:21 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The 90s were about Public Enemy and Negativland, even though both did huge swathes of their best work in the 80s. They were prophetic.
posted by jtron at 2:26 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

if you can remember the 90s, you werent doing it right

or was that the 60s

i can never remember
posted by Eideteker at 2:58 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm a child of the 90s. Graduated from High School in 1998.

I understood most of what the author was saying, but I disagree with a lot. I cared. I cared about a lot of things and people and I hung out with were kids who felt the same way. We volunteered and worked for what we believed in, and not just because that sort of thing looked good on our college applications. We felt like we were responsible for the future and that if we wanted the world to change we had to be the ones to do it. I think a lot of this 'eco-friendly' and 'green' ideology comes from that generation. Yeah, we still thought we could change the world. Cute isn't it?

Spending the decade the way the author describes would have been really sad and incredibly selfish. I don't care if you spend your time thinking bad things about yourself, in the end you're still just thinking about yourself.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:09 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

...and THE* people I hung out with...
Sorry. I have a cold.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:11 PM on January 28, 2011

I dunno, some people never went through a Smiths phase .
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:27 PM on January 28

I hate Mitch Benn with a passion, but I have to admit, that was pretty fucking funny.
posted by Decani at 3:32 PM on January 28, 2011

It was 1991 and I was wearing a pair of Jams. The Jams were neon pink with green triangles scattered like confetti across the legs. The Jams were about 6 years too late to be cool. The Jams were also hand-made by my grandmother, with a drawstring waist. They were both Jams and Not-Jams, and they were the worst thing of the 90s.
posted by FatherDagon at 3:40 PM on January 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

In 1991, grunge hit.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse prolly disagree.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:40 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Autotune did not exist

Wrong. It's plagued us since 1997. People started misusing it as early as 1998, although that died down for a decade or so, because comparisons to Cher are every hip-hop artist's worst nightmare.
posted by schmod at 3:46 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Neil Young & Crazy Horse prolly disagree

I remember King Buzzo of the Melvins saying something similar when they tried to call him "the Godfather of Grunge." My impression was most of the people and bands that were labelled "grunge" all hated the term and realized their music had its roots in Black Sabbath, Neil Young, and punk among other things and wasn't a radical departure from anything except late 80s chart-topping pop rock. "Grunge" did hit around 1991 as a pop culture phenomenon at least.
posted by Hoopo at 3:48 PM on January 28, 2011

This article sounds like it was written from somebody who watched "Reality Bites" or "Pump Up the Volume" repeatedly and took those movies way too seriously.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 5:07 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

As a 25 year old, I'm only a few years older than the author but was right on the other side of the threshold from her. I barely remember the early 90s, but many a listless day was spent in the late 90s with nothing to do but listen to lame radio songs and browse the internet at 53k.

Still, I'd take flannel, boy bands and the end of history over burning skyscrapers, war and cynical leadership in government. My so called life indeed.
posted by malapropist at 5:44 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I dunno, some people never went through a Smiths phase .
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:27 PM on January 28

*raises hand*

Also, I was broke as hell during the 90's but I had a good time. The music was far better than today's tripe, and for a brief period, I was a fashion plate.
posted by jonmc at 7:03 PM on January 28, 2011

35 year old here. Damn, this thread is so much better than the original article.

Anyways, here's my story: I was like 17 or something when Nevermind came out. I was in love with Nirvana, but the thing that actually rocked my world was Appetite for Destruction. Seriously, that was the album of the 90s for me (yeah, I know, it came out in 1987). That was the beginning of the end in a lot of ways, actually, and I'm convinced it led to the whole grunge thing. It is certainly far more responsible for killing hair metal than grunge, despite what folks may think.

I was listening to that when I was 15 or 16 'cause my buddy's older brother had it I think and we took it and me any buddy knew EVERY fucking song on that album. His dad was an ex-cop and would come in when we were listening to "Nightrain" and be like, "you know what this song is about? It's about cheap ass liquor that the bums drink!" and we didn't give a fuck 'cause his dad was total prick and used to hit him. Fuck that guy.

But anyways, In the 90s I was actually learning about all the music I missed in the eighties. There were these two sisters who had gorgeous jet black straight hair and goofy laughs, and went to the Unitarian Church my family went to (haha *snort* I feel like Unitarian Universalism is so 90s but I'm biased) and the younger sister who I was most in love with—she wore striped tights—made me a mix tape with stuff like The Smiths and The Cure and The The and New Order and other shit on it. That was my 90s music too. Actually The Cure put out a fair amount of music in the 90s, some of it good: I've always liked Wish 'cause I'm cheesy like that.

Anyways, by the time I hit high school I was listening to a lot of Nirvana, and Alice in Chains, and other "indie" shit. Actually, a lot of that stuff was pretty metal. I was hanging out with the guys who smoked—I had started to smoke cloves (ha!) and moved quickly onto Camels. All those guys were metalheads, of course. And I learned about Metallica through them—pre "Sandman" bullshit Metallica, the pinnacle of Metallica, albums like Master of Puppets and, my favorite, ...And Justice For All. Fuck, I love that album. So tight and almost...barren sounding. Pretty dark—in an angsty, adolescent way, perfect for a 17-year-old. It's great.

My best compatriot in high school was a former popular girl who got dumped by the head jock after he made her pregnant, that fucker. The truth was that she was a big nerd, just really good at putting up a "popular" front. We were great friends, and she is the only one who I still talk to from high school—she's now a midwife in Amish country in Pennsylvania. Anyways her older brother was a total metalhead—even though he was the captain of the basketball team, or maybe it wasn't a big deal then—and we stole all of his Whitesnake and Mötley Crüe and Poison and Judas Priest and Sabbath albums and we would listen to "Cherry Pie" and laugh. So that's also my 90s music. I'm so happy now that I learned about Black Sabbath, I love Sabbath.

We watched Kids in the Hall and smoked pot, and I went to my first concert: Jane's Addiction. God, that was great. I saw the first Lalapalooza, which also had Jane's Addiction I think, and where Nine Inch Nails performed and Trent Reznor was a skinny young guy and kicked his keyboardist over, and there was also Living Colour, and Henry Rollins played—that guy, holy shit, he went and did pull-ups on the side of the stage while Suzy and the Banshees was playing, or maybe it was Ice-T's metal band whatever that was called, I forget. But Rollins, what a wanker...although his spoken word was really big for a while, wasn't it? That was all pretty fucking 90s.

I went through this awful phase when I graduated from high school—1993 when I migrated somehow into Phish—90s! Oh, so 90s—and the Dead. Then I found jazz, and things changed. I sold my Phish albums and my Temple of the Dog album and everything and became a jazz zombie. I would no longer listen to "non-serious" music. I don't remember much of the musical landscape of the mid to later 90s, although I did get into De la Soul and Tribe for a while, when I started to mellow out...

I studied jazz performance in college, but I graduated from college in 1998 and had to get a job. I stopped practicing sax 6-8 hours a day because I was tired after working as an orderly at the mental institution and I couldn't and it annoyed my neighbors too. I thought music had died for me and I started programming. I started applying my love for music to computers, and it's sort of worked. Sort of. Made me more money, that's for sure.

The death of jazz (in my life) was good for me though because I realized my musical world had gotten so much smaller. When I was a teen, the whole thing about the music was that there was so much of it. There was a sense that there was always more out there to be found, which was not something I understood. I doubt that the 90s were the first time anyone had had this feeling, and I doubt that the 90s somehow caused the record industry to "open things up"—digital media is doing that now (inevitably, and with no complaints from me, don't get me wrong)—but I think that there was a lot of positive stuff going on musically in the 90s, a lot of potential. Some of it was realized, some squandered (I don't romanticize rock stars but it is rotten that Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley died, to mention the two premature deaths that come to mind).

I went back and listened to all that stuff again. I still really like Badmotorfinger, like, a lot. I think in the end I was a big metalhead actually. I will always like Nevermind, too, it was important for me and really resonated at the time. I'll never forget being stoned in the summer, with windows down, singing along in the car with my buds, to Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," feeling whatever that thing is that adolescents feel when they are driving around and free of their parents' immediate presence.

That's all good stuff, there's more I can remember. It wasn't a waste of time, my adolescence, musically speaking, or at all, really. It was okay, at least.

posted by dubitable at 7:53 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...just like every other decade wherein people lost their virginity and tried drugs for the first time.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:56 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Which typefaces look horrendously dated,"

When I read through this essay, I kept hallucinating that it was set in Template Gothic, scourge of pretentious 1990s CD covers, books, and half the crap that David Carson came up with.
posted by heurtebise at 8:26 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This article sounds like it was written from somebody who watched "Reality Bites" or "Pump Up the Volume"

You know, it's funny, but I found myself thinking about "Pump Up the Volume" just the other day ... and how I'm part of the last generation that can actually appreciate it. I could just see a "millennial" watching it and saying, "Why didn't he just keep a blog? Or start an internet radio station? He could have been heard by thousands! Why fuck around with low-wattage FM?"

And I say this as someone who actually was a regular on an underground call-in show on a station so small it could only be picked in a tiny subset of suburban St. Louis, who attended his first real protest when said show was taken off the air by The Man. True story.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:31 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I, too, was a 90s teen. I remember all of the supposedly bad stuff that this writer moans about. Looking back, there were definitely highs and lows to the decade.. kind of like.. oh, I don't know.. every other decade! I hate these 'selective memory' essays that negatively gloss over an entire decade. There is no such thing as an 'all good' or 'all bad' decade. We may choose to fixate on some trends, cultural advancements (and/or regressions), or events. Each decade is merely an extension of the last, especially when it comes to youth culture. Just as teens of any decade think every overly-dramatic day is The Most Important Day Ever, and that they are the first ones EVER to experience such ennui, angst, and misunderstanding, so, too, have millions of teens before and after them. That's not a decade sucking, that's adolescence sucking.

Though, to be fair, the 00s really did suck.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:34 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and you can't be a decade. And, even if you could be a decade, if you weren't alive for all ten years (and old enough to remember the entire decade), where do you get off generalizing it?
posted by Mael Oui at 8:44 PM on January 28, 2011

Surprise, quite a remarkable piece of writing. Even though her 90s has chunks of 60s, 70, 80s and Breakfast Club stuck its teeth.
posted by Twang at 9:05 PM on January 28, 2011

The Golden Age of music is seventeen.

... if ya know what I mean. (FTFY)
posted by Twang at 9:18 PM on January 28, 2011

This article sounds like it was written from somebody who watched "Reality Bites" or "Pump Up the Volume"

See, and this is what is weird to me, because the writer's viewpoint is so dissimilar from my own, but, but, but...

I grew up in Houston, with older siblings, and was there when Reality Bites came out, and it was fucking exact down to the last Big Gulp detail. Okay, maybe not, but I was viewing it through the lens of a fourteen-year-old's take on what his older siblings' lives were like, and nothing else had even come close to that kind of verisimilitude.

I should go back a bit. I was born in 1980. My brothers were born in '70 and '72, both definite '80s teens, but "cool" '80s teens. I grew up in a world where as a child everyone in the media was talking about Michael Jackson and Madonna, but my cool older brothers were talking about The Smiths and Beastie Boys and Bauhaus and Siouxsie and Love & Rockets and it stunted me a bit, music-wise. My sister, born in '75, was more into the top-forty but it was clear to me almost from infancy that she wasn't on the vanguard of anything. All I knew was that there was a world of awesome music out there that I didn't understand, which was cooler than what I was hearing on the radio. I was only getting it in snippets in my brothers' cars.

The bottom line of this is that I badly wanted to hear all of the music that I could, while being extremely self-conscious about my tastes. My first few tapes were MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, C&C Music Factory, and Mike and Jeff would make a point about stealing them from me and hiding them so that I wouldn't listen to that shit. But I didn't know what was better, didn't know what would impress them. I listened to the radio, but in my room, always near enough to turn it off should anyone else enter.

And so when Grunge came along, it was like a godsend. I know that history will record Nevermind as being the album that changed everything, but for myself and everyone I knew at the time, it was second to Ten. Ten broke the walls down. Ten was the first album I remember which seemed to be both for me, and yet something my brothers were gushing over as well. Hell, when I was in seventh grade, a particularly tough year because my sister had just gone off to college, leaving me as the only kid left at home, Emily herself went off to a Pearl Jam concert. This was the band all of us could get behind.

(I also remember the day that Cobain's death was discovered. It's a long story, trust me, but still now, as someone who adores Nirvana, I feel like his premature death catapulted the band's relative importance in the public image. Nirvana and Pearl Jam were equals in breaking the ground, with Soundgarden lagging behind a bit.)

Then a couple of things happened. One, and I'm not sure this was in chronological order, I received my copy of Siamese Dream for Easter. Those who went to high school in this period will remember the Smashing Pumpkins fans, because we were always weird, and artsy, and more devoted than any other fanbase of the day. I almost immediately became one of those kids. I don't even remember asking for it, but it was one of the great gifts that my parents gave me while seemingly paying enough attention to what I wasn't telling them to figure out what I needed.

The second great gift was my first Flannel Shirt. It wasn't new. This is key. I came home one day in seventh grade and my mom had laid out one of my sister's old shirts on my bed. I could still pick that shirt out of a line-up today. I remember the look of it (hanging just past my waist, blue and green in muted colors and a very fine and small pattern) smell of it (like my sister now gone off to Dallas) and the feel of it (soft, thin to the point of being just this side of threadbare, which was a definite plus in Houston.) I wish I had that shirt around to put on right now.

I got other flannels over the next year or so, including a hideously unstylish one as a gift from my late grandparents, but this one was my favorite. I can actually still remember the surge of putting it on for the first time, and remember the first afternoon going out in the neighborhood wearing it. It always felt like a warm hug. More than that, however, it was the first time that I tried on an identity. That might sound superficial, but I'd been a dork for my entire life up until that point. A well-liked dork to a few, but still nothing more than that. This shirt, however... this shirt... it took me from someone trying to keep up with the music which had become my whole reason for anything into being a participant. And it was comfy as hell.

As stupid as it sounds, that shirt allowed me to finally assert myself as an individual, even if it was because it was the "uniform" of the grunge scene.

I moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma in '96, as music quality was dying. Weezer and Radiohead were about to put out some of their greatest stuff, but for the moment shit like Hanson was bursting past the bouncers who for five glorious years had kept the boys bands out. I went through a Christian phase which strangely I can barely remember the details of, but at the other end of it I was a full scale drama geek with another hand-me-down from Emily - her Ford Explorer.

Being a drama kid in small-town Oklahoma meant being part of an odd B-List clique which included the smartest and most beautiful people in school. Glee isn't far off from what I experienced, honestly. It also meant that while Marcy Playground, Third Eye Blind, and Matchbox 20 were ruling the airwaves, we were listening to Tori Amos, underground electronica, and Dar Williams.

And Dar Williams was the soundtrack of my High School relationship. Most notably "Iowa," with the lines, "and so for you, I came this far across the tracks, ten miles above the limit, and with no seat belt. And I'd do it again." And of course "Are You Out There," which I recall playing on my stereo as I was driving my girlfriend home after our first time.
It was the first time I stayed up all night
It's getting light
I hear the birds
We're driving home on empty streets
I think I put my shirt on backwards
At this point my girlfriend realized, on our sunrise drive through empty streets, that she had in fact put her shirt on backwards.
Are you out there?
Can you hear this?
Jimmy Olsen? Johnny Memphis?
I was out here listening all the time!
And I will write this down and then
I will not be alone again, yeah
I was out here listening
Oh yeah, I was out here listening
Oh yeah, I was out here listening
All the time.
The girlfriend's parents ran the local radio station. I was a regular caller into the Tulsa alt-station's radio show.Everyone I knew... we depended upon music. We weren't disciples of the "meh" philosophy which history will brand out decade with, but relentlessly passionate, and even optimistic.

The music didn't suck - it was the best we'd heard in ages. The movies weren't corny - we were watching Tarantino and Scorcese and Kevin Smith. The fashion didn't suck - it was what we wanted to be wearing anyway. And the internet hit just as we became teenagers, allowing us to act in a way which later parental protections would forevermore forbid.

But I mourne for those for whome Pump Up The Volume will have no meaning. Because we relied upon those madmen poets, calling out through the dark as we drove aimlessly around figuring things out.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:55 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

"But I mourne for those for whome Pump Up The Volume will have no meaning..."

Yeah, well, the main problems of some of our lives back then weren't necessarily those of a white male growing up in suburbia. I had plenty of my own reasons to feel perpetually angsty, ya know?

I remember feeling like the movie was trying to inspire me to care about the struggles of a particular subset of the population whose struggles I would have envied (at least in my experience). Maybe it was my own angsty response as a teen, right? That's how I felt back then, anyways. Have never wanted to rewatch it.

Loved the soundtrack though.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:31 AM on January 29, 2011

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...just like every other decade wherein people lost their virginity and tried drugs for the first time.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:56 AM on January 29

I did both those things in the seventies, and I still say the nineties were awesome.
posted by Decani at 5:53 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to largely ignore this article, because it's terrible and stupid. Sorry. I'm glad I don't know the writer; she sounds like a bitter, annoying person who is sad she spent a chunk of her youth being a poseur. Well, life's gotta go on, I guess.

The '90s were really two decades, much as the '60s were. Obviously, y'know, they were short decades, but I mean...well, I guess what I mean is, one decade, two eras. The first was the era of Nirvana and Dre and The Silence of the Lambs and "Twin Peaks" and goth and raves and Ministry and Mondo 2000, and if you think that era sucked, you're a moron. It was pretty great, but somehow you just missed it. Oh well. See above w/r/t what life's gotta do. Somewhere between when Cobain shot himself and Tupac got shot, we transitioned over to the second era. Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day led to Marcy's Playground and Sublime, and from there it was just a series of slippery slopes until we had Limp Bizkit and the fucking ska bands and Puff Daddy and the goddamn boy bands and then finally Britney Spears. That era was a piece of dogshit. Nobody misses that '90s.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:54 AM on January 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I'll also pick the 90s as the real heyday of goth/industrial music and clubs - the wave (hairline) has definitely receded a bit on that scene in the modern era. Finding decent new music of that bent is increasingly difficult, and if I hear any more powernoise on the dancefloor, I swear I'm gonna snap.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:52 AM on January 29, 2011

Nah. This flannel doesn't fit. The few years I spent as a nineties teenager I spent printing t-shirts, restoring Lambrettas, traveling around Australia, surfing and sailing all the way, eventually ending up in Indo, acing my first couple of years at uni, riding on the roofs of trains and buses in Gujarat and Nepal, learning to hate camels in Rajasthan, demonstrating against shit (though mostly I forget what.. there was a war against Iraq or something?), getting stomped by police horses outside a warehouse in Port Adelaide, buying friends out of the backs of police jeeps in Kerala.

Yeah there was Nirvana and Soundgarden and Mudhoney, but we bought those in the Underground Bazaar in Connaught Place, and listened to them until the tapes were worn through and stretched useless. Yeah there was sex, but it was on rooftops in Varanasi and Thamel and in crumbling Portuguese forts in Goa. And in Goa.. there were probably drugs.. but as someone's already said, if I remembered that bit..

But there was no flannel - that stuff was too 70s for words. Same with Converse, they were 80s, or 60s, or something. Likewise, there were no malls. There was no stolen jewelry. And I've no regret or remorse about the movies being shit, or things being too self indulgently emo.

There was just too much wild passionate life going on go to the friggin movies or dwell on how bad or little I felt about things.

The early 90s were the best of times, and I will cheerfully wave my puny middle aged fists at anyone who says otherwise.
posted by Ahab at 8:48 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The 90's gave us Radiohead.
posted by Windigo at 12:27 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

a series of slippery slopes until we had Limp Bizkit and the fucking ska bands

i think you've stumbled upon the answer here. The author is embarassed by the 90s because she was into 90s ska.
posted by Hoopo at 5:51 PM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was born in 1982, but none of this means a thing to me. We didn't have MTV, and I was only dimly aware of Kurt Cobain by the time he went - Richey Edwards is more of a touchstone for people I know, and everyone seemed obsessed with the Manics by the time I was 17. Seinfeld was barely shown here. Everyone in the press seemed to listen to Britpop - everyone at my school seemed to listen to crap chart dance music. I spent much of the 90s wishing riot grrl wasn't just something I read about in Just17, and hanging round Our Price. If you believe in the short 20th century, the short 60s, there was a 90s part II - the decade split in half with the election of Labour and the death of Diana, and finally ended somewhere around the Iraq invasion, when the 00s started.

In 2000, though, I got together with someone who listened to grunge music on home-recorded cassettes and wore his 'Zero' T-shirt well into the middle of the decade.
posted by mippy at 5:45 AM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Onion AV Club: Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation:

Part 1: 1990: Once upon a time, I could love you. "New feature! Music writer Steven Hyden takes a year-by-year look at the rise, triumph, tragedy, and fall of ’90s rock. Up first: 1990.

Part 2: 1991: What’s so civil about war anyway? Nevermind and Use Your Illusion battle for a nation’s rock heart.

Part 3: 1992: Pearl Jam, the perils of fame, and the trouble with avoiding it. Pearl Jam’s Ten puts adolescent angst and rage to music, and gives the band room to set a standard for how alt-rock groups worked in the ’90s.

Part 4: 1993: Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, and Urge Overkill forsake the underground. It’s 1993 and all eyes are on Chicago. There’s going to be trouble.

Part 5: 1994: Kurt Cobain is dead! Long live Soundgarden! The silence and shadows of 1994.

Part 6: 1995: Live, Bush, and Alanis Morissette take the pop path. When yesterday’s rebellion became the sound of the mainstream.

Part 7: 1996: Layne Staley and Bradley Nowell are the living dead. The ghosts of Sublime and Alice In Chains live on.

Part 8: 1997: The ballad of Oasis and Radiohead. Or, which is the better fuel for making the greatest British rock album of the ’90s: misery or cocaine?
posted by zarq at 7:43 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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