You know how you love this one particular candy, the orange one with the glittering wrapper that lights up your eyes whenever you lay your hands on it? And then a few years later you realize they don’t make that candy anymore but your parents try their best. They get you the other candies and the chocolates and the ice creams that have taken the neighbourhood by storm and all the other kids are flocking down to the stores, anxious to get their hands and mouths dirty and you have no choice but to be a part of the bandwagon and gobble these down anyway. But nothing truly compares to that orange candy. Nothing can make up for it. Nothing can make you feel the way it did. That’s how I feel about the 90s.The 90s. The brash, brazen, beautiful and mind-blowing 90s. I can’t begin to describe how much I dig the 90s music. And the 90s Alternative Rock in particular. Time and again, I have this overwhelming feeling, this sense of devastating nostalgia and I can’t help but go back to the bands that have pretty much shaped my taste in music.
This is the first time I’m doing a playlist. And my little cousin thinks people really dig lists and I figured that this might just be something people are really interested in. Like the title suggests, the post aims to bring out the (oft hidden) gentler and mellower side of 90s Alternative Rock. You know. The soft core of the rock. The ‘Being Human’ side of Salman Bhai. The gentle patter after a heavy downpour. That sort of stuff. I mean, every Nevermind needs a ‘Something in the Way’ right?
- ‘Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town’ by Pearl Jam – Longest title in the Pearl Jam catalogue. This heartfelt song about an elderly woman struggling with memories is just one of those many moments of brilliance that have made Pearl Jam one of the defining bands of the era. Reminds me of my upper berth train journeys with my Sony Walkman and the Live On Two Legs cassette.
- ‘Jane Says’ by Jane’s Addiction –A sincere and direct song inspired by the real story of a woman named Jane, battling with her addiction and abusive boyfriend, and longing for love. As far as the lyrics go, a fair fraction of the world would identify themselves with the protagonist. The music really represents everything Jane’s Addiction are not well known for. It is simple (just two chords) and entirely on acoustic guitars, with the steel drums adding to the melodic fervor.
- ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ by The Verve – Known mainly for their smash hit ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, the album Urban Hymns is actually filled with superlative triumphs (And being fixated only with ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ for a long time, I’m guilty of not realizing this earlier) and this is just one of them. Another song about addiction and predictably melancholic.
- ‘Talk Tonight’ by Oasis – Written and sung by the more talented of the Gallagher brothers, this is an ode to a woman who helped Noel through a rough patch in an unfamiliar city. This little beauty also found its way in my personal mix CD that I’d play every night to help me sleep.
- ‘Don’t Follow’ by Alice in Chains – As hard hitting as any Alice in Chains track, as depressing as Layne Stayley’s life and yet it has a strikingly calm and peaceful vibe. A lot of you wouldn’t expect Alice in Chains to come up with something like this. I really love how Jar of Flies contrasts so heavily against their albums like Dirt and this is a perfect example.
- ‘Disarm’ by Smashing Pumpkins – The violins, gongs and lyrics really take the cream and the cherry and this might just be my favourite Smashing Pumpkins song ever. My sister used to get really irked when I used to listen to it like 10,000 times in a day (during my I-get-high-on-depressing-stuff days). Dark and disturbing, watch yourself. With Billy Corgan’s impassioned and rancorous reminiscences of a troubled childhood, this one can make you bleed.
- ‘Thinking About You’ by Radiohead – Pablo Honey was the first and only cassette I bought online (obviously because it was dirt cheap) and that too from Baazee.com I think (Heh!) and it was totally worth it. A relatively unknown gem in a grossly underrated album, this melodic delicacy just goes on to show that Radiohead are capable of doing just about everything.
- ‘Acoustic #3’ by The Goo Goo Dolls – After my phase of being hung on tracks like ‘Slide’, ‘Iris’, ‘Name’, ‘Black Balloon’ , along came ‘Acoustic #3’. Clocking just under two minutes, this little ditty, with just Johnny and his acoustic guitar, is about a girl and the pyramid of lies and deceit she has to deal with in her life. “What’s the point in all this screaming? No one’s listening anyway,” Johnny croons and it pretty much sums up her situation.
- ‘I Could Have Lied’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers – From their breakthrough (And maybe best too?) album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the song tugs at your heart and gets all the flavours right in its sonic narrative of Anthony’s relationship with Sinead O’ Connor turning to dust. I really love the dark intro and how the acoustic guitar then breaks in.
- ‘Love is Blindness’ by U2 – Jack White smashed it with his cover of the song but let us not forget to give our due to the original masters. Haunting and enchanting, this one feels like the calm before a raging squall. A great end to the first U2 album I ever heard (and loved every bit of it).
- ‘Perfect’ by Alanis Morissette – So a song off Jagged Little Pill features in a post about the 90s. Surprised? Hardly. Easily one of the best albums of the decade (and I bought the album only when it featured in one of such lists). Alanis Morissette’s gorgeous voice blossoms effortlessly in this one against the chiming guitars and delicately captures the pernicious expectations of parents off their children. I really love the vocal delivery, misleading you into thinking it’s a happy feel good song.
- ‘Tender’ by Blur – The other masters of the Britpop invasion, Blur’s ‘Tender’ draws heavily from the Beatles and features an encouraging Gospel Choir as Damon Albarn struggles to get through his breakup. Something I stumbled upon quite recently but better late than very late right?
- ‘Nightswimming’ by R.E.M. – Off their masterpiece Automatic For the People and propelled by the lush piano riff, the song is an ode to fond remembrances and lost youth. As wistful as anything can get, it captures nostalgia in all its picturesque & heartbreaking glory. Makes you smile but kills you as well, something a lot of us can relate to.
- ‘Beautiful World’ by Rage Against The Machine – Not exactly 90s. Not strictly Alternative. But what the hell? I couldn’t not share Rage Against The Machine’s cover of Beautiful World. Heavy on sarcasm and heavier on feel. I don’t think I’ve heard anything like this from Rage Against the Machine ever.
- ‘Something in the Way’ by Nirvana – Every Nevermind needs a ‘Something in the Way’. Every Alt Rock list needs a Nirvana Song. Every ‘softer side of Alternative Rock’ post needs ‘Something in the Way’. Get it?
Hope you enjoy the songs. Here’s the consolidated playlist:
– Shiraz Hasan