Out of Gas - Modest Mouse
On Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West, afterthe guitar squall of “Trailer Trash” the dust settles leading to “Out of Gas”. Above the muted riffs, exhausted drums, and a wandering lead guitar are about few dozen or so words from Isaac Brock to provide a few details for his briefly titled song. And those few words create a weary atmosphere for the song’s subdued harshness.
And I said
You will come down soon too
You will come down too soon
Driving a car, one day you’ll run out gas. That’s pretty simple, but let’s says that again: one day YOU will run out of gas. Brock’s second person accusation are a warning to heed, because while he sits on the side of the road, his cold finger points towards an empty highway waiting for wayward drivers, who do not understand that their time has indeed passed.
Listen to the Space Jam Soundtrack recently? If no, seek it out, or at least listen to the theme song on Youtube. Last Saturday, I was at party where the theme was 90s but I was mentally too out of it to enjoy it. And I was also too lazy to dress up for the theme unless a plaid long sleeve shirt and shitty pants counts as 90s—someone told me they did, so I ran with it. Sources of inspiration for dress ranged from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the AIM symbol, Rugrats, Britney Spears, Men in Black, and the adjective of “Grunge”. Plenty of people were having fun and in the end that’s all that counts, but as I was trying to identify if some guy was Tupac, Soulja Slim, or Lil B channeling Lil Wayne, the rapid nostalgia and too soon throwbackness of the whole thing was a bit overwhelming.
Would I have had a better time if I didn’t hear a Pussycat Dolls song, (“Don’t Cha” if you were curious) and instead heard “Everybody Dance Now”, probably but maybe that’s asking for too much. Most of the people there would have been in middle school during the early/mid 2000s, and a lot of the music skewed in that direction, because while I love “Say My Name” should that really count for the 90s? Then again I am complaining about a lack of verisimilitude at a college party I did not even properly dress up for. So not that it matters much, but one song I am surprised did not get played was “C’mon N Ride It” by Quad Cities DJs, who did the theme song for what…Space Jam.
I mentioned listening to the Space Jam soundtrack to some friends, and they were like “O yeah, I remember that movie and soundtrack”, which is pretty good considering some of these guys would have been three, when they first saw it. And while Michael Jordan and R. Kelly are names that won’t be forgotten when mentioning Space Jam, I doubt the Quad Cities DJ’s will get as many mentions. And maybe I would’ve liked this 90s revival more if people remembered the time like I do or better yet if they remembered the 90s how I wish I remembered them. I couldn’t have identified a Quad Cities DJs song a few weeks ago, so again maybe no one would want my 90s because I just learned Mark Walberg was a rapper, who had actual hits!
2011 was the year that Dubstep broke, and while I did care/write a lot about that. 2011 was also the year, I decided to buy popular 1990s electronic music CDs to discover Big Beat and Ambient House, and wonder what it must have felt for Madonna to be musically relevant (Madonna & early 90s House music a combo no one should deny).
I was barely 2 years old when Kurt Cobain died, so that I came to Nirvana through playing Guitar Hero is probably upsetting to some people that actually remember hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the radio (or even kids stuck in some rock authenticity mindset), and not as an oldie on a Modern Rock station. So, this awkward relationship between 90s nostalgia and its current pop culture revival versus those who actually lived through the decade is humorous to me.
“The latter garnered good viewing figures, but what is striking about the recent “9ties R Back!” blather is the absence of any real sense of “by popular demand.” The retrospection feels rote, the predictable upshot of the way that commemorative cycles have become a structural, in-built component of the media and entertainment industry” says Simon Reynolds in his Slate piece “The Ghost of Teen Spirit”. As people were quick to point out Reynolds’ reading on this really misread the motivations behind some of the retro revivals. At school, I’ll hear people talk about wanting to play Nintendo 64 even when there is a Playstation 3 or a Xbox 360 that could be played, because for a lot of people one of these machines connects with them in an emotional way the other just doesn’t (also, 4 players games were kind of better on the N64).
There seems to be a constant worry about the corporate reasons of why certain things are reissued and brought back to the public conscious, but seems misplaced. At least among friends and people I know around my age (not much older than 21 mind you), there always seems to be a shared nostalgia for early 90s Disney movies (Lion King 3-D, anyone), but that doesn’t mean the same people still don’t love Pixar movies. Even extended to music reissues, which can range from useful to unnecessary (I mean a 4 CD version of a single album, might be a bit much); I enjoy reissues, because even if I don’t always buy them, they bring older music back to the forefront of the public’s conscious.
Last August, Lil B released a song called “Free Wayne”, which had him rapping over the instrumental of the Hot Boy’s 1996 track “50 Shots Set It Off”. The song is not that great, but more important than just being another clichéd “Free _____” song is that its 90s references would go by unquestioned. The reason is that even while Lil B gets plenty of credit as being a pretty unique rap personality; he still wears his influences of 90s Cash Money or even OJ Da Juiceman on his sleeves. The same is true of Lil B’s “(insert color here) Flame” mixtape series, which recall Pen N Pixel cover of 1990s No Limit and Cash Money Records. On one level this type of revival is on a way smaller scale than what has been happening with Nirvana’s legacy (which Reynolds in his piece spends a lot of time talking about), but running through his piece is that specifically revival of the 90s shouldn’t happen, and that this decade should be kept in the grave, unlike 80s, 70s, 60s, and every decade before.
The problem for Reynolds and older people who actually lived through the 90s is that they don’t really have a choice in this matter. Reissues continue to sell to those who love the band originally and those discovering them for the first time; bands will continue to reunite whether for money or artistic drive; books, TV shows, and movies will continue to talk about this magical era before smart phones and Twitter as if it was more than a mere twenty years ago. And you know what…I couldn’t be happier about it. I am fine with letting the popular masses and economic forces sort this issue pit and not getting angry when an artist covers or reference an artist one originally saw when they were 16 at their first show with their then girlfriend/boyfriend. The only thing I remember about the 90s were VHS tapes, the Charlotte Hornets (and Chicago Bulls), and Pokémon cards, so I’ll enjoy reliving a time I never fucking knew.