Thursday, August 07, 2003

Greatest 20 (+1) Radio Rock Songs of the Early-Mid 90's

I used to listen to the radio, in fact I was a voracious consumer of commercial radio during my formative pre-teen and early teen years before I swore off its crass commercialization and repetative nature. Rock radio shaped my youth, there is no question about it. I can't imagine my youth without the stupid "99.5 Kiss Rocks!" slogan broadcasted accross my radio dial. Leisle and Hahn in the morning, endless stretches of Metallica in the afternoon, and rock blocks in the evening. I wasted whole summers perched in front of a radio trying to figure out the latest hits on my guitar. Oh to be thirteen again.
But I grew up. I keep trying to think of what turned me off of commercial radio, and I only can think of one band that really started the movement that killed the joy of major label anthems in me: Limp Bizkit and nu-metal. I don't even know if nu-metal is cool anymore and I don't care. I just remember thinking "Screw this," and finding solace in buying loads of records that no-one had heard of, much less wanted to put on the radio. But for that while, rock radio was my leader, and these songs were its declarations. And now I give you the Greatest Radio Rock songs of the Early-Mid 90's, in no real particular order as of now.

"Today" - Smashing Pumpkins, 1993 - I hadn't realized how much the Smashing Pumpkins influenced me until I undertook this list. Sure, some of their stuff sucked hardcore, but when they made a hit, it was a freaking hit. This song lulls you in with a simple clean, picked guitar pattern before whacking you over the head and laughing at you. Arena rock at its finest.

"Desperatly Wanting" - Better Than Ezra, 1996 - The chorus of this song has been perpetually stuck in my head since I copied this record onto a tape (I was stealing music before Napster) "I remember running through the wet grass/Falling a step behind/Both of us never tiring/Desperatly Wanting." Good God, whatever happened to these guys, they were awesome. Lost romance at its finest.

"1979" - Smashing Pumpkins, 1996 - This song introduced the Pumpkins to a much larger audience. I still don't know what 1979 has to do with anything, but it became an anthem of disilluisoned youth, heck, it even made it onto those top-40 radio shows sharing air time with people like Seal. It's one of the greatest songs of the 90's, spanning every genre.

"Flagpole Sitta" - Harvey Danger, 1998 - Indie rock gone big time. Who remembers this song? I bet all of you do, "I'm not sick/But I'm not well." My favorite part is when the guy goes "Paranoia, Paranioa/Everyone's out to get me." Enough said.

"Outtasite (Outta Mind)" - Wilco, 1996 - Quite possibly one of my favorite bands ever, this song was the big "break through" then they wallowed in obscurity, releasing brilliant record after brilliant record. Country rock at its catchiest. I highly recommend that everyone download a copy of this song.

"Rat In a Cage" - Smashing Pumpkins, 1996 - My favorite Pumpkins "hard rock" song. Another one of those disillusioned youth songs, which I don't know why I'm so drawn to, since I really wasn't a disillusioned youth. Awesome nonetheless.

"Lucky" - Seven Mary Three, 1997 - I just made up a category for this song, "Alternative Acoustic Ballads." I always get this strange Black Crows vibe when I hear this song, since it sounds like "She Talks to Angels" with the acoustic guitar and thin organ in the background. For some reason I can't shake the idea that this was just the next extention of the 80's metal acoustic ballad, but it's a great song.

"Disarm" - Smashing Pumpkins, 1994 - Yet another Smashing Pumpkins song. This was the first "rock" song I learned on guitar, some guy on my dad's wrestling taught me the chords before practice. No one will ever be able to convince me that sometimes there is nothing more powerful than acoustic guitar and strings. And the bells certainly don't hurt either.

"Creep" - Radiohead, 1993 - This is Radiohead at their best before they got all techno on us (Which I love, don't get me wrong). Another one of those songs that just beats you up with distortion and then leaves you to fend for yourself. Amazing.

"Tonight Tonight" - Smashing Pumpkins, 1996 - I don't really care that Billy Corgan's voice sucks. I don't care that he sounds like he has a freaking clothespin on his nose. This song is simply one of the most beautiful things put out in the 90's, with its plaintive "Believe/Believe in me" that just haunts.

"Growing Up" - Blink 182, 1997 - Say what you will about Blink 182 now, how they've created the pop-punk monster, how they've sold out. You're right. But before they did that, they dropped this brilliant gem on us and got me interested in punk and indie music. In some ways I owe these guys a lot. In some ways I hate them. Either way, this song rocks.

"Bittersweet Symphony" - The Verve, 1996 - Oh man, I don't know if this qualifies as a true 90's rock song, but I love it. So what if it was played to death. It has so many hooks that it can kill a man. Admit it, you liked this song too, before it got annoying.

"Supersonic" - Oasis - No one really knows this song, it was from their US debut, and they didn't really get big until "Wonderwall" and all that. Combining sources like the Smiths and the Sex Pistols, Oasis was truly the most relevant British mainstream band of the 90's. Some older kid gave me a copy of this tape and it blew me away. Just listen to this and think what effect it had on a 6th grader who thought Ace of Base was cool. Wow.

"You Get What You Give" - The New Radicals - Holy crap, this song is awesome. I love the little rap part at the end, it's so random. They name drop like no other, from Hanson To Marylin Manson.

"Brainstew" - Green Day - Brainstew was a bit before my time, to be honest, but Insomniac was right up my alley. What kid didn't know how to play this song on the guitar? Green Day put punk on the map and made it acceptable for the masses. They are the modern day punk messiahs.

"In The Meantime" - Spacehog - Oh man, this is an obscure band these days, but usally people will remember this song. I don't know what happened to them, but I'm glad they stuck around long enough to give us this winner. A freaking Triple Crown winner at that.

"No Rain" - Blind Mellon - Holy geez, where do I begin? I think the part that gets me is the snapping. It's such a carefree song, the little snapping part in the beginning is genius, it sets the feel perfectly. "It's not sane." Oh is it ever.

"Possum Kingdom" - Toadies - Man, whatever happened to the Toadies? I think they only released this and "I come from the water" but who can stop rocking out to this song? It definately has that Pixies edge to it, sans Black Francis's wail. Come on, sing with me: "Do you wanna die?"

"Found Out About You" - The Gin Blossoms - One of my all-time favorite bands, they simply ruled. Their songwriting was flawless, and this was the best song from their major label debut. Yeah, you might have found out about her, but I found out that you guys rock. Every song had like eleventy billion guitar parts, like a freaking guitar symphony. Even now when I try to write songs, I can feel their influence. Truly one of the most unappreciated bands of the 90's.

"Spiderwebs" - No Doubt - ok, so what if they're pretty much irrelevant nowadays? They got me hooked on ska, and their debut kicked ass like no other, there's no other way to put it. I guess ska was somewhat popular in Cal, but it was almost unknown in South Texas, and their sound was like nothing I had ever heard before. Oi.

"Buddy Holly" - Weezer - They will never record another album like the blue one. In fact, they probably won't even come close to the amazingly disapointing green one now that they think they are Iron Maiden or Judas Preist. Rick Okasek's (GO CARS!) production was amazing, and this song is chock full of hooks. Though not the best song on the record ("The World Has Turned"), this song was given to the masses and what self respecting cover band can't hack their way through it? Rivers, you were so much cooler when you didn't think you were Rob Halford.

"One Headlight" - Wallflowers
"Two Princes" - Spin Doctors
"Hook" - Blues Traveler

Peace People, and long live 90's rock n' roll.

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