Wednesday, February 01, 2012

1993 in Music Review

Hey everyone, welcome to the seventh edition in a series of reviews of a year in music. So far I have covered all the 2000s together as the Noughtie series, and so far monthly, the year 1999, then 1998, followed by 1997, and 1996, 1995 and then last month, 1994.

Just in case you’re not familiar with it, here’s the format. It will be done in five parts. I'll do a brief history of what happened in that year, followed by my five favourite albums of the year, then what I think the five best videos are. I'll then do a Top 10 most impactful (still refraining from using the word important) songs from that year. To wrap it up, I'll do my favourite songs in a mixtape format. So now that you know where I'm going with this, let's get to it!

This is an important year for me personally. This is probably the first year that I genuinely am unsure if I remember much that happened when I was actually a four year old boy. I know for a fact that I heard some of these songs when I was a little older, but as a four year old, who knows? 1992 is a definite no that’s for sure.

On a minor note, this is my landmark 200th post on the site. Here's to 200 more!

Brief History of the Year 1993 in Music

  • KoRn form, becoming one of metal's greatest and biggest acts of all time.
  • Guns 'n' Roses end their tour in July. It's the last time the original band has played together.
  • Depeche Mode release the album "Songs of Faith and Devotion" and gets to #1 in the US, the first alternative British act to achieve top spot across the pond.
  • Daft Punk form, transforming electro and house music forever.
  • Brit-pop band Suede release their debut album and it becomes the fastest selling debut album in the UK at the time.
  • In pop, Michael Jackson is accused of child molestation, accusations that were never disproved or proved and haunted the rest of his career.

My Top 5 Albums of 1993

#5 – “Black Tie White Noise” by David Bowie
Released: 5/4/93
Rating: ***1/2 stars
Stand-out tracks: “Black Tie White Noise”, “Looking for Lester”, “Jump They Say”
“Black Tie White Noise” isn’t David Bowie’s best work, in fact, it was probably the beginning of the end for good quality Bowie efforts. While I prefer some of Bowie’s mid nineties work to it (although as an album “Earthling” is horrendous, “I’m Afraid of Americans” remixed by Trent Reznor and “Little Wonder” were decent tracks), “Black Tie White Noise” is a good middle ground between what was and what was to come for Bowie. In the eighties, Bowie changed (yet again) his image and sound, and starting to merge into a new wave sound along with bits of jazz, rhythm, blues and soul music (a lot of this is in the fantastic instrumental “Looking for Lester”). He keeps certain parts of those genres in this effort; put it this way, trumpets in this album are aplenty. But there’s a certain ambiguity evident in this album, and that was the next attempt of an image and music transition, and that was into industrial music, inspired by the rise of Nine Inch Nails. It was ultimately unsuccessful, but this transition between the eighties Bowie and the nineties Bowie, was a decent effort. It’s not great but it is good, and it’s worth a listen if you enjoy the many faces of Bowie, and if you like some or all of the genres mentioned above.

#4 – “Pablo Honey” by Radiohead
Released: 22/2/93
Rating: ***3/4 stars
Stand-out tracks: “Creep”, “Anyone Can Play Guitar”, “Stop Whispering”
Along with the newest effort “The King of Limbs”, this is my least favourite Radiohead effort, but that’s not an uncommon opinion amongst most fans of the band. “Pablo Honey”, the debut album, seemed confused about its musical direction and influence, and ended up a mixture of indie, grunge, alternative rock and the beginnings of Brit-pop. But it’s still a decent listen, and “Creep” is still one of the biggest and best indie anthems of all time, Johnny Greenwood’s almost lightning bolt sounding guitar is as iconic a sound in music as anything in the past 20 years. But the rest of the album falls relatively flat; they’re not bad songs but there’s barely anything great here either. “Anyone Can Play Guitar” has some great snarling lyrics by Thom Yorke and “Stop Whispering” has a nice melody and is the barebones basis on which most softer Radiohead songs would sound like. “Pablo Honey” is a decent yet unspectacular listen if you’re interested in the roots of Radiohead’s emergence.

#3 – “Siamese Dream” by the Smashing Pumpkins
Released: 27/7/93
Rating: ***3/4 stars
Stand-out tracks: “Disarm”, “Today”, “Cherub Rock”
I have a confession to make. I’m not that big on the Smashing Pumpkins’ albums. I like the Pumpkins and have for sometime, but their singles are usually very good, their albums are often a step downwards in terms of quality. While my feelings on “Siamese Dream” are similar, the difference in quality between singles and album tracks is a lot shorter. The singles are very good, not quite as good in my opinion as some of the other tracks they were to later release (like “Ava Adore” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”) but the album tracks are pretty damn good. Very good in fact. One thing I would like to say however; “Disarm” is a belter of a track and is the first truly stellar Pumpkins song in my opinion. “Siamese Dream” is definitely an album to start with, if you’re interested in getting into this band, that’s clear.

#2 – “Everybody Else is Doing it, So Why Can't We?” by The Cranberries
Released: 1/3/93
Rating: ***3/4 stars
Stand-out tracks: “Pretty”, “How”, “Waltzing Back”
One thing I keep doing when I’ve been going back in time to review these years is forgetting the true quality The Cranberries have. The thing is, I hadn’t listened to the band for so long because of personal reasons; they were my father’s favourite band and I’m happy to say I’ve not seen him for nine years. Let’s leave it at that.

But as for The Cranberries, I’ve slowly listened to these albums again and remembered how good they were. “No Need to Argue” is my favourite effort by the band, but probably on par in second place with “To the Faithful Departed” is this cracker. It’s a great album, in the early to mid nineties there was probably no other band consistently making great music (Radiohead are a good contender mind). “Everybody Else is Doing it, So Why Can’t We?”, the debut album, got the band some recognition before being shot the Irish band into superstardom, with “Linger” getting lots of praise from critics and it being a huge hit too. The rest became history, as The Cranberries were to become THE Irish band at the time.

#1 – “In Utero” by Nirvana
Released: 13/9/93
Rating: ****1/2 stars
Stand-out tracks: “Scentless Apprentice”, “Milk It”, “Very Ape”
Huzzah! I can have my say on a Nirvana album! I’ve been doing this yearly music review for 7 months now and my time has come!

I’ve always gone through phases in terms of what my favourite Nirvana release is; it started off at Nevermind, as it did for a lot of people. It then discretely went to Bleach, before I loved Incesticide more than anything else despite it being a rarities and covers album. But for the past three or four years it’s been In Utero, and I think it might stay that way in all honesty. “In Utero” lacks the polish that Nevermind unintentionally has. It’s funny to say that Nevermind has polish, but the album and its songs have been played and talked about so religiously that’s how it feels. In Utero, because it’s never played any where near as much, feels raw and venomous, and I say that with praise. “In Utero” is Kurt Cobains “fuck you world” album, before he unfortunately gave his life up because he couldn’t cope anymore. And it’s bold, it’s brash, and it oozes excellence, “Scentless Apprentice” is possibly my favourite Nirvana song as it contains everything that made the band great; the excellent drums, the distorted guitars and Cobain’s wailing vocals. “In Utero” is full of this and sounds as amazing in 2012 as it did 19 years ago. It’s a true classic and is by far the best album released in 1993, in my opinion.

My Top 5 Music Videos of 1993

#5 – “Losing You” by Jan Terri
Okay, I’m kinda putting this in as a joke but to be fair, there weren’t many ‘great’ videos in 1993. But this baby, seriously, you have to watch it above. Jan Terri’s video for “Losing You” does everything bad about making videos and crams it into one huge mess. She’s lip synching badly, she’s wearing some pretty bad looking leathers, all she does in the entire video is leave a hotel, go in a cab, ride her motorcycle and pose next to a sewage pipe, then goes back home. And while all of this is happening, the whole thing looks like it’s done on a camcorder, and the person filming keeps zooming either to her face a little closely, or worse, away from her and to the skies… and then back in her direction. It’s an incredible display of incompetence on camera and that’s why it’s one of my Top 5 videos of 1993. Honest. No I’m joshing but you seriously have to watch it, it’s very funny and disturbing at the same time!

#4 – “Cannonball” by The Breeders
It’s not the best of videos in terms of quality and artistic movement, but nevertheless “Cannonball” is a distinctively memorable video. The nice calm verses usually have the band playing and sitting in a bedroom, where as the angry choruses tend to show the band in a frenzy. There are shots of lead singer (and bass player of The Pixies) Kim Deal singing under water and of a huge cannonball rolling down the street. As I said it’s not the flashiest video, but it fits the song perfectly and grabs your attention at the same time. Also, it was an early Spike Jonze effort, the man who would be one of the best music video directors of all time.

#3 – “Big Time Sensuality” by Bjork
How can you not like Bjork in this video? She’s so cute! Set in New York, the video was actually inspired bizarrely, by “Give it Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Bjork liked the black and white video and how it looked, and wanted it for this video. So the video is basically her singing and dancing on the back of a large truck that’s moving through the streets of New York. It’s not much more than that, but it’s still a striking video, and Bjork’s facial expressions are great. It’s just one of those videos that is hard to keep your eyes off. There’s not much else to say really.

#2 – “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana
The video for “Heart-Shaped Box” is a visually stunning piece of work. Kurt Cobain had his own imagination and imagery for how he wanted the video to look and worked with director Anton Corbijn closely to get it as close to the idea in Cobain’s head as possible. From what has been said Cobain was really happy with the overall product and is probably his favourite Nirvana music video. A lot of the video doesn’t seem to make much sense unless you try to analyse it properly and has mixtures of a terminal man in hospital going to a dream-like location and climbing up a ladder to a cross. There’s a lot of references to the human foetus and birth as well, probably all from Cobain’s widely reported anxiety of the birth of his baby daughter at the time. There’s a lot more, a young girl dressed up as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and a large woman wearing a costume that has internal organs painted on it. It’s just a dream-like artistic masterpiece, one that shows the true visions of Cobain’s complex mind, but for us music fans, it’s a truly stunning piece of work to watch and try to interpret.

#1 – “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.
Not many videos are as perfect for the song they represent as “Everybody Hurts” is. Explaining what happens in this video is simple, but the imagery, the interpretation of what happens, is as strong a message as the song itself. A huge traffic jam happens on a very long road, and throughout the first two thirds of the video everyone’s thoughts are displayed on screen. Some people are contemplating life, or what people think of them, or motives they have that are too strong to be said in person. It’s a multitude of people with different backgrounds all thinking different things, but all ultimately, negative. All of a sudden everyone starts leaving their cars and walk off into the distance.

The video is open to interpretation but to me, it’s all of these people, deciding, “fuck it”, and moving on with their lives. It’s everyone with different motives and problems, and they all decide to leave their problems behind and “hold on”. It’s a strong video, one of the most memorable videos of the decade and all time, and more than worth seeing if you haven’t before.

The Top 10 Most Impactful Songs of 1993

As I said, I'm NOT calling it the 'important' list, although it's more than just popularity as well. Anyway, here are the 10 songs of the year. It's an unbiased list.

#10 – “Big Time Sensuality” by Bjork
While “Play Dead” did get higher in the charts, “Big Time Sensuality” for me is the song that really gave Bjork a strong following as an artist, particularly in the States. “Debut” was a big album for the Icelandic singer, and she was seeing some success already, but this song solidified her as an artist of the future. It had the right mix of oddity and cuteness to be expected by the small yet fiery lady, and the video was iconic for its time too. Getting to #19, it set the tone for a lot of Bjork’s immediate future releases, although she was naturally to change her style and artistic direction as the new millennium was approaching. Still “Big Time Sensuality” was a great track, and was a taste of what was to come.

#9 – “Today” by the Smashing Pumpkins
It’s amazing looking back to the year 1993 that “Today” wasn’t the lead single of “Siamese Dream”, but “Cherub Rock” did. It was debated what should be the lead single and Billy Corban used the latter, yet it’s barely remembered or considered as an impactful Pumpkins song. “Today” was a sleeper hit, and remains one of the Smashing Pumpkins’ finest singles for both critical and commercial success. The relatively optimistic sounding lyrics and music is in deep contrast to the suicidal tendencies that Billy Corgan was going through and writing about when making this song. The lyrics are probably intentionally ironic to the darkness that Corgan was engulfed in, and it’s often got fans confused about what the song’s lyrics are about. Regardless, getting to #44 in the UK charts isn’t that great, but it’s remembered more than most of the songs that charted higher since.

#8 – “Cannonball” by The Breeders
It may have only got to #40 in the UK charts but this song will live forever as one of the best indie songs of all time. The Pixies bass player Kim Deal’s band only really had this one hit, although it didn’t chart well, before she went back to the Pixies later on in her career. But what a song it is. It’s a great track and as previously stated the video is excellent too. “Cannonball” packs a lot of punch with it’s buzzing guitars and quietly sung verses, and screams ‘girl power’ before the Spice Girls even existed.

#7 – “Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill
I’m very selective when it comes to rap, hip hop, dance, techno and other non rock related genres, but this is a hip hop classic. Cypress Hill have had higher charting songs but in terms of longevity nothing comes close to how big this song is. It has many samples in it, and is actually a diss song about how rapper Chubb Rock was mocking their music. Who would have thought that it would become one of the most influential and highly regarded hip hop songs of all time? It’s a cracker of a song and is favoured by fans of many genres from pop to rock and metal. It’s that good a song.

#6 – “Go West” by the Pet Shop Boys
I was debating whether or not to put this song in this list being a pop song of sorts, but the band also produce dance music and are an extension of the New Wave bands of the early eighties. Originally a song by the Village People, the Pet Shop Boys took this song by the scruff of the neck and made it their own. It’s not my genre of music but the fact that the song still has a strong following nineteen years later, especially as a football anthem says more than the fact that it got to #2 in the UK charts. Regardless of the definition of the Pet Shop Boys representing any genre in particular, this song is above that debate. It’s simply a classic.

#5 – “Walk” by Pantera
I’ve said it a few times but this list isn’t just about success, it’s about longevity, it’s about the songs creating a legacy that will more than likely live forever and become legendary tracks in music history. And these credentials all fit “Walk” by Pantera to a tee. There aren’t many metal songs in the past twenty years that are as universally as popular as “Walk”. It was an instant classic, what with the amazingly heavy yet simple riff, the ‘walking’ riff as it’s known as that sounds absolutely badass. Then the Dimebag Darrell guitar solo towards the end of the song completely contrasts the simplicity of the main riff; it’s an incredible guitar solo. “Walk” only got to #35 in the UK charts, but not many songs released in 1993 will be remembered as fondly down the line, it’s just a true metal classic in every way.

#4 – “Linger” by The Cranberries
While “Zombie” is more likely to be the song that is most widely associated with The Cranberries, “Linger” is a debated song to claim that title as well. “Linger” was the band’s first major hit, getting to #14 here in the UK but it got higher in the Irish and US charts. It’s safe to say that without “Linger”, The Cranberries probably wouldn’t be the band they are today, and that is one of the biggest bands of the nineties, and probably THE biggest band from Ireland in the past twenty years. “Linger” still gets decent airplay today, along with “Zombie”, and they are both indie classics. I’m using the word ‘classic’ a lot today huh? There are a lot of classic tracks from 1993, and here’s three more!

#3 – “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana
Getting to #5 in the UK charts, this is Nirvana’s highest charting single. Obviously a lot of the singles released off “Nevermind” made a bigger impact and get more airplay, but “Heart-Shaped” box is still a classic, and lyrically, one of Cobain’s finest efforts. Pressure was at an all time high for Nirvana to replicate or surpass the legacy of “Nevermind”, and with the release of “Heart-Shaped Box” and the album “In Utero”, I think Nirvana did as good a job they could have to appease the fans and critics. “Heart-Shaped Box” is another classic, a great song and one that like the band and Cobain himself, will live forever.

Yeah, Meat Loaf. Most people either love him or hate him. I lean towards the latter, especially musically, but you can’t deny the success, the legacy and longevity this song has. I was torn between this and the song below about what should be #1, they’re both huge huge songs for completely different reasons. But this song in terms of grandeur is hard to beat, that is in any song in any era of music. This song is just grand in every way. But it’s funny how it all happened really.

In 1977 Meat Loaf released the highly acclaimed classic “Bat Out of Hell” album with the music single of the same title. It’s gone 7 times platinum here in the UK, 14 times platinum in the US and 24 times platinum in Australia. While success was always there for Meat Loaf, he never reached those heights, arguably ever again. But in 1993 he took a huge gamble. A really big gamble. He made a sequel album called “Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell” and this was the main single release. It’s a big risk because not many sequels, album-wise, are good in music. They’re often frowned upon. But this song, not necessarily the album, but the song surpassed anything Meat Loaf did 16 years prior, and helped Meat Loaf get the album platinum 6 times here and 5 times in the US.

The song was a #1 hit in no less than 28 countries. That’s a huge feat. The music video and the song still get played today more so than most other songs of the nineties. It’s a true classic if there ever was one. But the song below, the song I put as the #1 song of 1993 surpasses this song in different ways.

#1 – “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.
No it didn’t get to #1 in 28 countries, in fact it got to a decent #7 here in the UK. But this song is a modern heart wrencher. Aimed at teenagers who are struggling with coping with the wears and tears of everyday life and that they are not alone with their problems, “Everybody Hurts” did more than that, it hit everyone in a way stronger than most people anticipated. This song breaks genres and musical tastes. It’s more than a song about teenagers struggling with their issues. It’s a song for the modern age, a song about modern Western culture, where we all at different ages and social backgrounds all struggle with life, for many difference reasons whether it’s social, financial, emotional or mental issues. We all hurt. We all struggle. And we all need to hold on. And that’s why this song continues to make an impact now, nearly twenty years later and probably will for a long long time to come. Everybody hurts sometimes.

The Year 1993 Mixtape

Just in case you didn't know by now...

"A Mixtape is a playlist of a certain genre, band or era. The list is generally 80 minutes long, the same length of a blank CD, with further recommendations if some of the songs aren’t to your taste. Remember kids, downloading is wrong!"

So here we go! My favourite songs from the year 1993. Yes, this is a biased list.

You can now listen to this playlist on YouTube! Just click here!

  1. Are You Gonna Go My Way - Lenny Kravitz
  2. Cannonball - The Breeders
  3. Linger - The Cranberries
  4. Everybody Hurts - R.E.M.
  5. Anyone Can Play Guitar – Radiohead
  6. One Love - The Prodigy
  7. Boom! Shake the Room - DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
  8. Insane in the Brain - Cypress Hill
  9. Nigger – Clawfinger
  10. Bullet in the Head - Rage Against the Machine
  11. Today - Smashing Pumpkins
  12. Rape Me – Nirvana
  13. Rebel Girl - Bikini Kill
  14. My Cat - Jack Off Jill
  15. Under the Gun - The Sisters of Mercy
  16. Who Was in My Room Last Night? - Butthole Surfers
  17. Thunder Kiss '65 - White Zombie
  18. Sweating Bullets – Megadeth
  19. Walk - Pantera
And here are the five alternative songs if you don't like some of the above...

  1. Plush – Stone Temple Pilots
  2. Black Tie White Noise – David Bowie
  3. Boom Shack-A-Lak - Apache Indian
  4. What's Up? - 4 Non Blondes
  5. Big Time Sensuality – Bjork
And there we go! The year 1993 in review! Next month naturally I’ll be covering 1992 and continue my descend into music history. What we your favourite songs and albums from 1993? Any other comments or queries? Raise them below. Thanks for your time.

For the latest updates on my work, 'like' me on Facebook here!

No comments:

Post a Comment