Thursday, March 01, 2012

1992 in Music Review

Hey everyone, welcome to the eighth 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, 1994 and then last month, 1993.

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!

I’m really happy with the way 1992 in Music turned out. I definitely don’t remember this year from my birth, I was three years old. There was no way I could. But the Mixtape is fantastic, this was a really good year for music singles and I thoroughly enjoyed making the Mixtape you’ll see at the bottom of this page.

Brief History of the Year 1992 in Music

  • Nirvana's "Nevermind" gets to #1 in the US and is partly responsible for the huge surge of interest in the Grunge genre. Lead singer Kurt Cobain and lead singer of Hole, Courney Love, get married.
  • "November Rain" by Guns n Roses becomes the longest running song to enter the Top 20 in the US charts, and also is the most expensive music video ever (at the time).
  • Irish alternative singer Sinead O'Connor controversially rips up a picture of The Pope on "Saturday Night Live".
  • Weezer form, becoming one of the biggest alternative rock bands of the past 20 years.
  • A tribute concert to the late lead singer of Queen, Freddy Mercury, is held at Wembley Arena, England.
  • Influential lead guitarist John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers leaves the band. He returned six years later.
My Top 5 Albums of 1992

#5 – “Kerplunk” by Green Day
Released: 17/1/92
Rating: ***1/4 stars
Stand-out tracks: “Welcome to Paradise”, “2000 Light Years Away”, “My Generation”
Albums were not that good in 1992 in my opinion; very little came out was that great. This is the first album to get a ***1/4 star rating and make the Top 5 of a list so far in my Yearly Music Review, and this emphasises on that point. “Kerplunk” isn’t a great album. It’s not a bad album either, Green Day on a bad day are a listenable modern punk band, especially their older stuff. This album is full of that type of material, passable modern punk licks. There’s very little else to say about it. Even if I were to do a full album review on this it’d be a struggle because in honesty, it’s just mediocre. “Welcome to Paradise”, even in its early stages though, sounds quite good and is definitely the best song on the album. If you like Green Day’s basic sound you’ll like this, otherwise, avoid it because there was definitely more to come from this band in the future.

#4 – “La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1” by White Zombie
Released: 17/3/92
Rating: ***1/2 stars
Stand-out tracks: “Black Sunshine", “Thunder Kiss ‘65”, “Welcome to Planet Motherfucker/Psychoholic Slag”
White Zombie finally found some commercial success with this effort, their third of four albums, but for me it still lacks a lot of quality, quality that was found in abundance on their final effort, and even more so, when Rob Zombie embarked on a solo career. The two singles, “Black Sunshine” and “Thunder Kiss ‘65”, their debut singles oddly enough despite them releasing two albums prior, are by far the best things on this album, and everything else pales in comparison. I’m surprised by a lot of the experimenting they did on this album; there’s a certain psychedelic force turning the cogs of the machine, and a mixture of heavy metal and early glimpses of the inevitable industrial metal route that would force Rob Zombie into a more successful time of his career. Overall “La Sexorcisto” is a decent effort, one I’d recommend you get if you like Rob and White Zombie, but otherwise there’s not a great deal to find here other than the two great singles that were released off it. 

#3 – “Automatic for the People” by R.E.M.
Released: 7/10/92
Rating: **** stars
Stand-out tracks: “Everybody Hurts”, “Man on the Moon”, “Nightswimming”
I once read somewhere that “Automatic for the People” is the album of choice for many different people to attempt to get into R.E.M. That’s not a negative at all by the way, that’s a major positive. The reviewer said that this isn’t R.E.M.’s best effort (although personally, I think it’s my favourite) but it will appeal to the broadest audience. The reviewer is spot on. “Automatic for the People” had six singles off it released, and some may argue that’s too many, but in honesty, every one of those singles are different, and appeal to a different branch of R.E.M.’s audience. There’s a lot of diversity in this album but what it does best is bring all that’s good about R.E.M. into one record, the slow songs, happy songs, sad songs, the songs with a slightly harder edge than most. “Automatic” has everything, and I couldn’t recommend this album enough.

#2 – “Honey’s Dead” by The Jesus and Mary Chain
Released: 23/3/92
Rating: **** stars
Stand-out tracks: “Reverence”, “Teenage Lust”, “Sugar Ray”
The Jesus and Mary Chain are an awesome band. They were one of my mum’s favourite bands and at one point or another I’ve heard all their albums. Three albums come to mind when I think of their best work, their first two albums and this one. Honey’s Dead is just a great album, and in terms of both of the Reid brothers relaying song after song together, it’s arguably their finest work. Jim and William Reid are both very good singers and Jim is the main singer in the band, but William Reid sung a lot of the songs on this album and for that there’s certain freshness to the album. That being said, nothing tops Jim Reid’s “Reverence”, the main single and Top 10 hit in the UK, which is a phenomenal track containing the lyrics “I wanna die just like Jesus Christ/I wanna die just like JFK”. “Honey’s Dead” is an album you have to listen to if you want to listen to the finest in the pre-Brit pop alternative rock days.

#1 – “Rage Against the Machine” by Rage Against the Machine
Released: 10/11/92
Rating: ****1/2 stars
Stand-out tracks: “Know Your Enemy”, “Killing in the Name”, “Wake Up”
Choosing three stand-out tracks on this album is a very hard task because every single one of these 10 tracks is magnificent. Every song has a purpose, every song has it’s own distinct sound, and somehow, every song is balanced from start to finish in quality. Even the iconic, classic rebel anthem “Killing in the Name”, one of the biggest, most important and best metal anthems of all time, on this album doesn’t sound out of place. That track, and I’ll go into more about it later, is grand in every way but it’s amazing to say it but, it doesn’t sound that grand on this album, purely because all of the songs that are on this album don’t sound inferior.

It’s probably the best Rage album but they’re all good albums. The debut though, is an album you must listen to, if you like metal. This album is a classic; it’s one of the biggest and most important albums of all time, regardless of genre of music. It’s a must listen.

My Top 5 Music Videos of 1992

#5 – “Feed My Frankenstein” by Alice Cooper
1992 wasn’t a great year for music videos in honesty. I struggled for videos that I like, and this one is one that I like. It helps when you have an awesome twosome in Wayne and Garth from Waynes World in the video, naturally, as this song was a feature in Wayne’s World 2. The video is no big deal, just your typical live Alice Cooper stage performance with Wayne and Garth. That being said, Alice Cooper’s live stage performances are pretty fricking cool, so if you haven’t seen one, it’s well worth checking this video out. Man, I’d love to see Alice Cooper live, even now.

#4 – “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot
This video may not be classy, but man, it’s important. I love this song, and this video gets the message across. I find the video quite funny in honesty. But why is it in this list? Well, for both good and bad, it’s probably one of the most important music videos in history.

How can I say that? Well simply, if it wasn’t for this video, we wouldn’t have music videos the way they are now. This song put everything on the table, and said, “I love big black bums!” Sir Mix-a-Lot said something that had been said many times in music history before, but never this bluntly, never in a music video that showed close ups of black women’s behinds. And since then, well, look at any pop or RnB music channel, and you’ll see lots of videos have a lot of ass in them. This song is a big part in making things the way they are today. As I said, it’s for good and for bad; there’s far too many raunchy videos on pre-watershed TV at the moment, and you can blame the rise in promiscuous videos for that. But at the same time, it broke new ground for music videos, and that’s pretty cool.

#3 – “Smells Like Nirvana” by Weird Al Yankovic
What needs to be said about this video? If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what makes it a combine of greatness and tragedy at the same time. Weird Al basically parodies the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video by Nirvana in a way only he can. Cheerleaders with hairy armpits, the janitor (who is the same janitor from the original  video) eating from his mop bucket, the hair flailing all over the place like the Nirvana band members do in the original, and much more. It’s just a great parody, and it’s not to be taken seriously. Kurt Cobain himself loved this parody and its video, so if you don’t like it then that’s your loss!

#2 – “Stay” by Shakespears Sister
I don’t know what you’ll think of this entry. In 2012 it’s an odd choice of video to put in this list. But, I vividly remember this video when I was a three, four, five year old boy. It gave me goosebumps. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the video, especially when the song kicked in and Marcella Detroit comes in looking all gothic and evil. Even now, it gives me goosebumps, even if the video is a little silly by todays standards. But that’s what childhood does to you, and for that reason, it’s still one of my favourite music videos from 1992.

#1 – “In Bloom” by Nirvana
Videos weren’t that great in 1992 either but this was brilliant. I love the video for “In Bloom”. 1991 was the year of Nirvana’s rocket to superstardom and by November 1992 (when this single was released) Kurt Cobain was really fed up of how serious people were taking the band. The idea behind “In Bloom” was to show that the band aren’t serious and can have a laugh as well. So they mocked a lot of the hype and hysteria that was around in the 1960s rock ‘n’ roll scene, so they all wore suits, played in black and white and played their instruments like they did in the sixties. The crowd was full of screaming women, also like the hype in the sixties. Towards the end of the video Nirvana trash the set, in a way that they would on their actual live sets. The video isn’t that amazing on the grand scheme of things, but it’s still a very well produced video, it was very funny and I love the irony of them mocking the hysteria of the 1960s when they caused a similar outbreak themselves, thirty years later

The Top 10 Most Impactful Songs of 1992

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 – “Let’s Get Rocked” by Def Leppard 
It’s weird going back in history sometimes. You associate certain songs with certain eras and Def Leppard, being a hair metal band, I’d associated this song with the eighties, remember I was only three when this song came out so I didn’t remember it in ’92. So yeah, not only did this song come out in the early nineties, but it got to a fantastic #2 in the UK charts, and is arguably Def Leppard’s biggest hit in their career. They did have another song that got to #2 but this is the daddy, this is the song that most people will think of when they think of Def Leppard. And it was released in 1992, not 1985.

#9 – “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica 
There aren’t an incredible amount of ‘metal ballads’ that stand the test of time. This is one of the ones that did. It was huge at the time, getting to #6 in the UK charts, their third highest charting in this country (“Enter Sandman” and “Until it Sleeps” got to #5). A song about guitarist James Hetfield’s love for his girlfriend, he wrote the basis of it whilst he was on the phone to her. It’s since become one of Metallica’s most well known songs, especially on the softer side of their iconic heavy metal sound. But the song blew up in popularity even more seven years later, when a live version was released as a single, this performance being done with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, a beautifully crafted arrangement that contrasted with Metallica’s generic sound, but with this being an exceptional metal ballad, the contrasts meshed perfectly. It’s a phenomenal song.

#8 – “Easy” by Faith No More 
Speaking of “metal ballads”, this song is another one that hasn’t gone away and won’t go away anytime soon. “Easy” is actually a cover version of the original by Lionel Ritchie’s band the Commodores, and the song deals with a breakup with someone and the best way to deal with it is by getting over it, “easy like Sunday morning”. The Faith No More version was a surprise hit, and is their biggest hit in the UK getting to #3, even higher in the charts than the original released in the seventies. Faith No More were not known for their ballads and slow songs, more for their alternative metal, but this is their biggest hit and most well known track.

#7 – “Jump Around” by House of Pain 
Long before DJ Lethal began turning tables for Limp Bizkit, he was turning tables for House of Pain. “Jump Around” was and is by far, their most popular hit. Getting to #8 in the UK chart, it’s a hip hop classic in many ways. I don’t often include hip-hop in these listings but this song is completely justified in its inclusion onto this list as it’s such an awesome song, it’s a classic and deserves a mention as not only one of the biggest songs of 1992, but one of the biggest tracks of the nineties, especially in hip-hop. What’s weird? They’re Irish. Irish hip-hop? I find that weird for some reason.

#6 – “Come As You Are” by Nirvana 
I cap these lists for one song per artist. If I didn’t, you would have found all three Nirvana releases in this top 10 because quite simply, 1992 was the year of Nirvana. But if I had to choose one song between “Come As You Are”, “Lithium” and “In Bloom” for its importance, its longevity and its impact on music, “Come As You Are” wins by a tip of a nose. It was the biggest hit of the three, getting to #9 in the UK charts (only “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Heart-Shaped Box” charted higher), it’s probably played the most of the three since 1992, and most importantly, there’s a horrible and twisted irony in the lyrics “and I swear that I don’t have a gun” was a potential precursor for Cobain’s suicide. There’s no proof of this of course, but the link between these lyrics and what happened 2 years later will always be made. Either way, onto positive things, this song is an alternative classic and will be forever known as one of Nirvana’s finest music singles.

#5 – “Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure 
Continuing the theme of songs released in the nineties that I was sure that were released in the eighties, this song is one of The Cure’s biggest and finest moments, yet it was released in 1992. The Cure’s legacy speaks for itself, and most of it was written in the eighties, yet their early nineties stuff is also really good, really popular and will be remembered for a long time. “Friday, I’m in Love” got to #6 in the UK charts (only “Lullaby”, released three years prior charted higher getting to #5) and is known to be one of their most upbeat tracks. Not that this was supposed to be the case, Robert Smith messed about with vari-speed on the tape before the recording. They sometimes play the song live in its original intention, but it’s safe to say that the messing about with the taping probably caused the song’s fortunes to thrive. The fact that it’s so upbeat in comparison to other tracks is welcome by most fans as it makes the song stand out in their discography. Either way this is an awesome Cure song, one that’ll never go away and also be played mostly on Fridays. No idea why.

#4 – “November Rain” by Guns ‘n’ Roses 
I somehow missed this song when I started research for this article, I don’t know how! This song is just epic in every way possible. It got to #4 on the UK charts, and it’s the longest song to reach the Top 10 in America (it clocks in at 8 minutes 57 seconds). The video is also incredibly influential and a classic (it’s not in my Top 5 because I don’t like this song or the video, but hell, I respect it). There’s a few Guns ‘n’ Roses songs that are highly influential, classic, and will never go away, this is one of them. I can’t say it’s THE GnR song, but it’s definitely up there. It’s just a song that will never go away. Ever.

#3 – “One” by U2 
“One” is one of the most covered songs of all time. It’s also considered one of the most important songs of all time, and considered one of the best written songs of all time. I’ve put the Top 2 ahead of this simply, because it actually, for all the accolades and reception, it doesn’t often get played for whatever reason. It got to #7 in the UK charts and was written when the band were close to breaking up. It’s just a song that will always be around, and played on occasion, due to many people associating with it when they fall out with people they love. It’s a very important song.

#2 – “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine 
I was really close to putting this at #1. The Top 3 in this list can all claim a justified stake for most impactful song of 1992 for different reasons? This one? One word – rebellion.

All the proof you need is in the fact that this song was a #1 hit… in 2009. I’m sure you know already but if you don’t, this song got to #1 in 2009 because of the impact that X-Factor has in the UK. Every year X-Factor was on TV, and the winner would be up for the running for the Christmas #1 spot. And every year for four years in a row, the X-Factor winner got the Christmas #1 spot. So many people were against this commercialised TV show ruining Christmas #1s every year and decided to take action. Facebook was used to gather support to get a song to outsell the X-Factor winner. The song? “Killing in the Name”. And it worked, it got to #1, it outsold the X-Factor winner and the band put all the moneys gained towards the movement to a free live gig in the UK, and to charity.

It was an amazing achievement, and this song is about saying “fuck you” to anything political or commercial that’s considered ‘too much’. And even though this song got to #25 in 1992, it’s been this way for a long time, twenty years in fact. It wasn’t just in 2009; it’s been this way since the song has been released. The song is legendary; the song has made such an impact on society, on music, like Rage have as a band. 2009’s Facebook campaign just solidified its place in music history, that’s all.

#1 – “Creep” by Radiohead 
As I said, I was close to putting #2 in the #1 spot but I couldn’t. This song in my opinion, made a bigger impact, and means more to more people than “Killing in the Name” does. It’s a dispute, a nice dispute, about what song is more important, made a bigger impact, and will be remembered more for years to come. If I were a betting man, “Creep” would be the song, if I had to choose one.

“Creep” is a bittersweet song for Radiohead. The song means so much to so many young teenagers and, still is, their most popular outright song, despite making critically acclaimed albums and solid singles. While the song didn’t sell well in the UK when first released (it only got to #78), it started to gain momentum across Eastern Europe, New Zealand, Spain and Scandinavia. It then got released in the States and was successful there too. It eventually got re-released in the UK because of how well it did in other countries afterwards, and got to #7.

The song is incredibly popular, and has been since 1993, when it got re-released. But… it got too popular. Fans started to appear at gigs only to hear this song, when it was a song that Thom Yorke didn’t think too much about, especially after making in their eyes, better songs since its release, songs from “The Bends” and then “OK Computer”. Eventually they refused to play the song, and it was not played between 1998 and 2001. Now the song is played, reluctantly, in some of the gigs on their tours.

But… despite all of that, and the feelings of the song by Thom Yorke and co, this song simply is an incredible message, an incredible song. The lyrics are simply by Thom’s later standards, but it’s the simplicity of the message that makes so many fans relate to it. “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here, I don’t belong here”. It’s simple, it’s a feeling many teenagers have, when they’re trying to find themselves, try to understand the world around them and their place in it, and how many mixed emotions that run through life, especially in adolescence.

So, Thom shouldn’t be annoyed that this song is requested so often, Radiohead shouldn’t be frustrated when it’s the song that they’re most remembered for. Sure, Radiohead have made much better quality songs, musically and lyrically, and no, they’re not as fondly remembered for them by a lot of fans. But it’s sometimes the simple messages that carry the furthest. And “Creep” is proof of this. This song will always be around, for the new sets of teenagers questioning their roles in this weird game called life. And we have Radiohead to thank for that.

The Year 1992 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 1992. Yes, this is a biased list.

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

  1. Man on the Moon - R.E.M.
  2. Dreams - The Cranberries
  3. Friday I'm in Love - The Cure
  4. Breaking the Girl - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  5. Creep – Radiohead
  6. Jump Around - House of Pain
  7. Baby Got Back - Sir Mix-a-Lot
  8. Detachable Penis - King Missile
  9. Where's Me Jumper? - Sultans of Ping
  10. Reverence - The Jesus and Mary Chain
  11. Unsung – Helmet
  12. Them Bones - Alice in Chains
  13. Lithium – Nirvana
  14. Pretend We're Dead - L7
  15. Feed My Frankenstein - Alice Cooper
  16. Sad But True – Metallica
  17. Midlife Crisis - Faith No More
  18. Symphony of Destruction – Megadeth
  19. Killing in the Name - Rage Against the Machine
And here are the five alternative songs if you don't like some of the above...

  1. Stay - Shakespears Sister
  2. Bruise Violet - Babes in Toyland
  3. Mrs Robinson - The Lemonheads
  4. Smells Like Nirvana - Weird Al Yankovic 
  5. Everything About You - Ugly Kid Joe
And there we go! The year 1992 in review! Next month naturally I’ll be covering 1991 and continue my descend into music history. What we your favourite songs and albums from 1992? Any other comments or queries? Raise them below. Thanks for your time.

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