November 7, 2009
Well aware that my railing against the big bucks corporate music system might be veering dangerously close to the realm of beating a dead horse, I thought I’d take a week off from clue hunting and celebrate several of the happy accidents that Kurt Cobain and Co. championed once every press mic in the world was in their faces. So, here it is:
TOP FIVE RECORDS YOU PROBABLY WOULDN’T HAVE HEARD WERE IT NOT FOR NEVERMIND
1. The Raincoats | S/T
Sharing drummer Palmolive with The Slits , The Raincoats, were a noisy mess of fun, frantic, Celtic-inflected punk rock that fervently embraced feminism and Do-It-Yourself charm. The Ramones may have been the first band to say, “We can be in a band even if we can’t play like virtuosos,” but the Ramones (who could keep a beat) sound downright virtuosic themselves next to the always slightly tipsy-sounding Raincoats. Check out their gender-bending cover of the Kinks’ “Lola:” Ana De Silva, Gina Burch and Co. keep pronouns the same in their version, which raises a plethora of gender-identity queries. Plus, it’s a sick dance number, too. In the liner notes to his band’s collection of B-Sides and rarities, Incesticide, Cobain asserted that meeting de Silva in UK was the best thing that had happened to him since Nirvana took off.
2. Mazzy Star | So Tonight That I Might See
Partially because of Cobain’s kind words about Hope Sandoval and David Roback, but also because Mazzy Star’s best album dropped in a year when even a somnambulant country song like “Fade Into You” could be a hit, So Tonight That I Might See is the perfect example of the positive effects “alternative” rock had on public consciousness in the early 90s. Here was an elegant, three chord ballad, sandwiched in between the latest Dr. Dre and Aerosmith videos, and nobody seemed to notice. “Fade Into You” turned out to be the band’s only real hit, but the song still pops up from time to time in movies and TV, when the right tender moment is called for. The rest of the album is equally elegant, simple and gorgeous, as well.
More on #8: 1991