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Ten Years Gone

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Back in 1998, I was in the unfortunate state of being 14.

There isn’t really much of an upside to that. But it was around that time that I started paying attention to what was going on in the world musically beyond my mom’s record collection (which, in relevant part, was Joni Mitchell, The Carpenters, Bread, Cat Stevens, that sort of thing). Looking back on it now, I listened to a lot of ridiculous stuff. But there were some gems in there also. I will attempt to represent both sides of that, as painful as some of it may be to acknowledge. No organized thoughts here, just memories/comments.

Thus, 10 assorted songs in a 1998 playlist:

1. Back of Your Head by Cat Power, from Moon Pix
I dunno where I even found this–I just stumbled across it. It might’ve been a random purchase from the local indie record shop where I grew up (the album does have a pretty cover, which would’ve been my standard). Whatever I was expecting, this probably wasn’t it, cos I remember my mind was blown–I stayed up all night listening to the whole album on repeat, this song in particular. The simplicity and starkness of it made it accessible; music was no longer this big thing that these glossy bands from some faraway land made. Instead it was something somebody like me could make and inhabit. That’s why hearing her in Starbucks when The Greatest came out was a weird experience for me–I’m not hating on her because she got big, but the feeling is different now. We’ve all changed, I guess.

2. At the Stars by Better Than Ezra, from How Does Your Garden Grow?
This song was always on the radio when I was getting ready for school and it grew on me so I bought the album. It’s… okay, but I still like this track a lot. There’s a certain innocent quality to the lyrics, which I think is part intentional, part the actual naivete of a pop band (if that makes any sense–it does in my head). Plus, listen to that wonderful piano part drifting in and out of the mix and the not-quite-overused string section… it’s sublime (unlike Sublime, but that’s for another day).

3. Freak on a Leash by Korn, from Follow the Leader
I haven’t listened to this song in at least 3 or 4 years, but hearing it now is strange. This thing was the shit when it came out–it and its fairly memorable music video were EVERYWHERE at the time. Hearing it now, the vocals and lyrics are so “OMGZ I’m so dizturbed guyz!!,” which might’ve been the appeal at the time, who knows, but it’s still kinda catchy musically (well, not the breakdown/bridge, but the verse/chorus part). That’s a neat guitar tone, I’ll give it that.

4. Do the Evolution by Pearl Jam, from Yield
Another song I remember more for the crazy video, and although the lyrics are a little… overt for Eddie, time has definitely been kinder to this one. The chugging riff is great and that choir breakdown, just jammed in there–that’s a brilliant touch. Skulls and spooky faces aside, I remember kinda wanting to be able to dance like the chick in the video (see 1:07 or so)… and I still kinda do.

5. Temptation Waits by Garbage, from Version 2.0
Another band that was everywhere that year (towards the end, if memory serves)–this is the song that sticks out the most on that album for me. I remember listening to this in the car a lot when I got the CD and being too sullen to groove to it outside my bedroom. Hah. Now, it has its charm, though I think I prefer their first album and it’s mood music either way. But I am kinda dancing a little, I’ll admit.

6. Rock is Dead by Marilyn Manson, from Mechanical Animals
Oh man. I bought this and Antichrist Superstar on the same day and I remember having to have a loooooong discussion with my mother about that (she insisted on going through both lyric booklets and reviewing the content herself, which I will give her credit for). This track was just kind of a sidenote on the album, but I remember liking and being excited when it was used on The Matrix soundtrack the next summer and got a video. At this point, I am conscious of how cartoonish the whole thing actually is, but I’ll give him (them, really) credit for pulling it off.

7. Sad Professor by R.E.M., from Up
I got Up from the library, in retrospect, what must’ve been shortly after it came out. It was the first R.E.M. CD I actually listened to and I remember liking it quite a lot, which I still do. There’s something really triumphant about this, even in its melancholy. Listen to when Michael Stipe kinda-yells “I started, I jumped up.” My appreciation for this track in particular has probably increased a good deal over time, but this was my introduction to one of my favorite bands.

8. The Couch by Alanis Morissette, from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
I was one of the 6 people in America who didn’t own a copy of Jagged Little Pill already when this album came out, so this was actually the one I got first after having my attention attracted by the video for Thank U. I liked this song in particular because of its perspective–I think this was the first time I was really aware of someone singing from a point of view that wasn’t their own and that was such a neat idea to me. Plus I’ve always loved words, so her tendency to cram every syllable she can into a song as opposed to following verse/chorus/verse structure was something I liked. Listening to this now, there’s something about it that kind of makes me cringe, but I can’t figure out what, since I still kind of like it. Maybe it’s just the memories attached to it, but then that’s actually something to be said for the music itself.

9. Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) by The Offspring, from Americana
I can’t not mention this, again because it was EVERYWHERE. This was such a weird album, cos it had really ridiculous songs like this, balanced out with (at least attempts at) more serious stuff on the non-single tracks. I’m not exactly an Offspring fan these days (though Smash has its moments) but the verse lyrics to this still make me laugh.

10. Teardrop by Massive Attack, from Mezzanine
An older friend was raving about this album so I bought a copy, despite the fact that it had a big bug on the cover. I don’t think I “got” it right away–most of it I was fairly indifferent to for a couple years, but I’ve always liked this song, partially just because I love Liz Fraser’s voice (it was a time before I learned who that actually was). The more I listened to it and the older I got, the more I started to figure out “You know, most of what I listen to isn’t this good.” And now I go back and listen to Mezzanine and think “How could I not have realized how note perfect this is?” It’s just interesting to think about how my taste has changed over time.

So, in the interest of spurring a discussion, what are some songs y’all remember from back in “the day,” whenever that might’ve been for you?


3 Responses

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  1. Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) really stands out for me too.

    Most of the other music I enjoyed when I was younger was my mom’s. Nirvana’s Come as You Are, the Talking Head’s Psycho Killer and Life During Wartime, REM’s Exhuming McCarthy, that sort of thing. I didn’t really start listening to a lot of music until I was… 15 or so, but I think even what I listen to now is all pretty influenced by what my mom played around the house when I was a kid.

    Marshall B

    June 23, 2008 at 3:28 pm

  2. […] Original post by Sarah K […]

  3. I dig this entry. I can’t remember much about what I liked ten years ago, as I was only seven, but, like Marshall and you, I started getting into my own music when I was fourteen or fifteen. Before that I didn’t really listen to music save for 80s stuff that my dad played in the car sometimes. I remember I had the Clockstoppers soundtrack and maybe an N*Sync CD.

    Jacob Z

    June 24, 2008 at 12:12 am

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