In the midst of the alternative revolution, 1995 has largely been relegated to secondary status as people salivate over the 90s first few years and the death rattle of the industry ushered in by manufactured pop and rock acts.
Truth is, 1995 had all of it. It was the crux of the so-called second coming of the British Invasion. Hip-Hop was firmly planted in mainstream culture, suffering no shortage of hits (and arguably the year’s biggest hit was a heavy dose of rap and pop that coalesced years of chart dalliances into mainstream credibility that continues today) with an odd mixture of torch song sincerity and real world lessons. Alternative music was still enjoying its moment in the sun, jam packing all hours of MTV’s schedule as the channel enjoyed its own renaissance.
(Coolio – “Gangsta’s Paradise”)
(4 Non Blondes – “Misty Mountain Hop”)
(Clips from MTV prank show “Buzzkill”)
(Clip from “The Real World: London” featuring MTV’s distinct original programming soundtracking habits)
Cult albums from Mike Watt (Ball-Hog or Tugboat), Hum (You’d Prefer an Astronaut) and Teenage Fanclub (Grand Prix) have just as much social cache today as albums from Better Than Ezra (Deluxe), Silverchair (Frogstomp) and the Goo Goo Dolls (A Boy Named Goo) enjoyed in the immediacy of their release. People turn to the latter albums for nostalgia while turning to the likes of Watt, Hum and Teenage Fanclub for continued inspiration.
Breakups and deaths also defined the year. Now considered an equal to the likes of My Bloody Valentine, the dissolution of Slowdive was but a mere whimper in 1995. The end of Kyuss seemed innocuous if not for the fact that its death led to the eventual formation of Queens of the Stone Age, considered by many to be one of the few “real” rock bands with any relevance. The death of Shannon Hoon produced a distinctly different effect, as his overdose was ballyhooed as a major blow to an industry still reeling from Kurt Cobain’s suicide. People were eager to find a face for the “movement” and Hoon, much like Cobain, was not eager to accept such an unnecessary burden when dealing with his own addictions and demons.
What’s evident is 17 years removed, there’s a lot from 1995 that continues to mold 2012. Radiohead and Foo Fighters cemented themselves with classic alternative albums and continue to be mastheads of their respective genres. Archers of Loaf are finding more success and acclaim in reunification than they did during the initial release of Vee Vee. Garbage, Blur and Ben Folds Five have re-emerged after lengthy hiatuses, garnering the same amount of attention and praise for being stalwarts of their sound. On an individual level, whatever feelings we have for any of those bands or their 1995 albums is irrelevant because there’s still enough excitement generated at their mention and on the strength of those albums. It’s why 1995 is such an intriguing musical year.
For the rest of the month, we’ll explore 1995 as it was and as it is, going about it without rose-tinted glasses as often as possible and usurping boring ethnomusicology lessons. We’ll explore some of the biggest hit albuma and songs, discuss the highs and lows of the year and indulge in a little nostalgia. Not everything worth discussion can fit inside a month’s worth of columns but AWR isn’t about complete dissection, it’s about rekindling particular trends and events. 1995 wasn’t a perfect year — the sulfur from Cobain’s rifle still heavy in the air — but it did leave a lasting impression worth one more reminisce.