It’s all been done. Everything is a throwback, and what is popular now has been borrowed from something that was popular then. It’s nostalgia that helps set music trends that dictate air and internet play on radio and streaming services while enhancing record sales.
Even in our bubble where arguably many have better taste in music than people in the same age-range in Germantown, Maryland or Germantown Tennessee, there are people that tend to hang on to music they liked in the past, or music that was made in the past they missed out on. How else can you explain the handful of 20-somethings that crank The Grateful Dead all day?
With The Squirrel Nut Zippers on a tour that pulls into town next week, people are relishing this band that hit its first stride in the 1990s, as their sound was a 1990s take on speakeasy jazz with an aggressive bite. Durango has a brewery named after a genre of music that has been around for decades, although arguably most knowledge on said genre comes from its 1990s tenure.
There is good music made every decade, and the ’90s was a decade where a lot of locals came of age and found out who they wanted to be after experimenting with being a hippie, metalhead, molly-eating and pacifier-sucking raver, punk rocker, or a new-age weirdo.
Why do people continue to dig on what was popular years ago? For the now 40-somethings, those that were in their 20s when the first Lollapalooza happened, and Nirvana took the world by storm, it’s a simple answer of laziness. People aren’t trying to dig on new music now, because they’re completely happy with the music of then. They have no interest in expanding any form of music collection or ingesting new bands from radio or the internet. In a lot of cases, people don’t really like music. They like memories.
Like the time you ate mushrooms and lost it during a Nine Inch Nails show. Or that mediocre Red Hot Chili Peppers show in 1994. How about the time Phish or The Grateful Dead played “Whatever” that went into “Yawn” (for those that jot down set lists, this is written as “whatever>yawn”) and it was amazing?
But the memories made then are awesome and it’s what you clutch to now. Not because it was ground-breaking and you have a major interest in the sounds, but because the memories of those shows make you happy.
The roots of new music also tend to turn people onto older music. Some of it is traced back decades, others just two. You like the Avett Brothers or other country-tinged roots music? Trace that back to the ’90s and Uncle Tupelo. Parquet Courts? Oh yeah, then you should listen to Pavement. Thee Oh Sees? Sonic Youth. Love that new Old 97’s record? Listen to the Old 97’s first three records! There’s a historical and archaeological-like approach to wanting to find out who influenced who, but maybe you only go back one generation and stop that research when you hit 1992.
I had a conversation recently about best bands of the ’90s. Nirvana? Mudhoney, Phish or Fishbone, Fugazi, Pavement, Public Enemy? It’s all debatable.
Hooray for all of them and more, with the exception of Gin Blossoms and Spin Doctors. Their place in ’90s lore is the thrift store.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].