Wednesday, June 09, 2010

AMG Parties Like It's 1992

All Music Guide continues it's ongoing "AMG Loves..." series with a tribute to 1992.

I remember this as a really good time for new music. Nirvana had broken through to the mainstream, and there was a sense that it might be possible for musicians to make a living creating something other than pre-programed pop music. There was a real sense of optimism as many talented and interesting bands got snapped up by major labels looking for the "next Nirvana." I graduated from college in 1991, so while I was not as deeply involved in the new music scene as I had been, I was still pretty tuned into what was going on. Being slightly more removed from the industry side of things also allowed me to feel like more of a "fan" than I was able to while serving as Music Director at my college radio station.

I also felt some sense of personal gratification at seeing the kind of music that I had been championing for the last 4 years breakthrough commercially. I had long maintained that much of the music being made within the "alternative" or "college rock" milieu could prove popular if given a chance, and Nirvana's success seemed to justify that belief. I remember making a trip back to my college in '92 and hearing Nirvana blasting from the windows of a frat house, while only a year early many frat boys had been mocking the radio station for playing the same kind of music. Unfortunately, the window that Nirvana opened for other interesting bands to climb through shut rather quickly, or proved to be something of an illusion in the first place, but that is another story.

1992 was a difficult transition period for me personally. I was a sanctimonious, vegetarian, recent liberal arts grad who had moved back in with his parents during an economic recession. I was dealing with some really serious issues at the time like what the heck was I going to do with a B.A. in Philosophy, and the fact that my mother was constantly trying to sneak meat into my meals. I was working at an entry-level, auto insurance claims adjusting job after having done cool stuff in college that actually involved a lot of responsibility. I was thinking seriously about grad school. I spent a lot of time with some of my old High School buddies holding Arch Hall, Jr. film marathons in our parents' basements. I wasn't sleeping or eating much, and was probably clinically depressed. I was a walking, talking cliché, and yet I probably thought I was unique. Still, I don't remember it as an altogether bleak period. The music probably helped.

I think the single album that I most closely identify with this period in my life would have to be Luna's debut album Lunapark. Galaxie 500's breakup was still big news when this album by Dean Wareham's new group featuring former members of The Feelies and The Chills appeared. Something about the melancholic, yet forward looking and hopeful vibe of the album struck a deep chord with me at the time. "Soho has the boots, Noho's got the crack, New England has the foliage, but I'm not going back." Like Dean Wareham, I'd soon be leaving behind past associations and relationships, and by January of 1993 I'd be living in Noho myself (although I was there for grad school, not the crack). Some of Luna's subsequent albums might have been better than Lunapark, but none hold as special a place in my heart.

Some of my other favorite albums from 1992 include the debut effort by Dean Wareham's old Galaxie 500 bandmates, Damon & Naomi's More Sad Hits, as well as Barbara Manning's One Perfect Green Blanket, Unrest's Imperial Ffrr, The Jayhawks' Hollywood Town Hall, Kendra Smith's The Guild of Temporal Adventurers, Pavement's Slanted & Enchanted, Sugar's Cooper Blue, The Beastie Boys' Check Your Head, Stereolab's Switched On and Peng!, Uncle Tupelo's March 16-20 1992, Throwing Muses' Red Heaven, Mudhoney's Piece Of Cake, Lush's Spooky, The Flaming Lips' Hit To Death In The Future Head, The Chills' Soft Bomb, Nirvana's Incesticide, Prince's unnamed symbol album, P.J. Harvey's Dry, Digital Underground's Sons Of The P, The Afghan Whigs' Congregation, Neneh Cherry's Homebrew, Jonathan Richman's I, Jonathan, Sonic Youth's Dirty, Velocity Girl's self-titled EP, The Cowboy Junkies' Black Eyed Man, King Missile's Happy Hour, Sebadoh's Smash Your Head Against The Punk Rock, Neil Young's Harvest Moon, Yo La Tengo's May I Sing With Me, The Wedding Present's Hit Parade Vols. I & II, Beat Happening's You Turn Me On, Giant Sand's Center Of The Universe, Heavenly's Le Jardin de Heavenly, Eugenius' Oomalama, Bettie Serveert's Palomine, The Headcoatees' Have Love Will Travel, Tom Waits' Bone Machine, as well as the influential dream pop compilation ...One Last Kiss. That's a lot of albums, but I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.

I had thought about posting a couple of the more obscure tracks from 1992, but as more music becomes available for download through other channels I see little point. (This is a big part of the reason I've mostly stopped posting music here). If you're in the mood for a giggle, go to Amazon and download The Headcoatees' "My Boyfriend Is Learning Karate."

So where were you in '92, and what were you listening to?


wardo said...

Nothing too groundbreaking, and there are a few that had already been out, but here's my notes for the year. (Among other things...)

Lou Reed Magic & Loss
Tori Amos Little Earthquakes
Jeffrey Gaines Jeffrey Gaines
Jayhawks Hollywood Town Hall
Toad The Wet Sprocket Fear
Big Star #1 Record/Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers
The Wallflowers The Wallflowers
Lyle Lovett Joshua Judges Ruth
Suzanne Vega 99.9 F°
Peter Gabriel Us
R.E.M. Automatic For The People
Neil Young Harvest Moon
Michael Penn Free-For-All

Darren said...

'92 wasn't a good year for me, which is reflected in the music I was listening to then. Frankly, I was smoking a lot of weed and listening to way too much Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic, and (shudder) Phish.

But looking over the lists at AMG, I see quite a few albums that meant a lot to me then and still do today. More or less in order of personal importance:

The Jayhawks Hollywood Town Hall
The Sundays Blind
Peter Gabriel Us
Lyle Lovett Joshua Judges Ruth
R.E.M. Automatic for the People
Sade Love Deluxe
Helmet Meantime

Doug said...

Ah, 1992, when I was in my fifth (of nine years) in college while working almost full time and buying CDs like I had money or something.

The worst part of Nevermind breaking through is that I find whenever I'm going to start mentioning that I was a fan of theirs from Bleach it sounds like I'm trying to prove I wasn't one of those frat guys who jumped on the bandwagon, and when it comes to music it's pretty freakin' juvenile to have to "prove" anything.

It was a grand time for fans of non-mainstream music (not unlike the way people felt about the Obama election 16 years later) when we suddenly didn't get blank stares when we discussed what we were into. However, looking back, it seems pretty inevitable that eventually what was good and pure would get watered down and become the new pop. Maybe that's actually for the best, but I think we all wore that badge of having found the underground before it came to the surface, and that makes us nostalgic for that time before we were filled with hope.

Many of the albums you mentioned I had. I'm certain I would have enjoyed your college radio station if you were the director. Let's just leave it at that. I've blathered on too long.

Anonymous said...

For me, the three best lps (all debuts) of 1992 were:
Come - Eleven:Eleven
Grifters - So Happy Together
Polvo - Cor-Crane Secret

All three are very dark and heavy guitar albums - that's what I'm primarily into I suppose...