June 17, 2010
Last week, we talked about a brief resurgence in popularity of 30s and 40s big band music, aka “Swing.” Swing was wildly popular for a hot minute, the bands critically accepted (if not always acclaimed), and lots of hip people dumped lots of money into zoot suits, dance lessons and the various other accoutrement’s of the genre. A few bands made some big dollars, got to perform on Leno, and then that was it. Nobody bought Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s second album, because nobody cared about swing, once popular culture had deemed the movement passé, and labels stopped pumping money into them. Eighteen months after the 90s became the 40s, it was over. Britney Spears came around. Things got dark for a long time.
Most fads (for swing was truly a fad-no one gets dressed up like that every Friday night forever) happen just like this. The 90s were chock full of them: Tamagotchi, sour gumballs, punk-ska (which lasted longer than swing, but still died a lonely death), etc. I’ve begun to realize that part of the reason there was no great guitar hero in the 90s-note that Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White weren’t joined by a 90s counterpart in It Might Get Loud-is that the 90s; even more so than the 2000s; were all about style over substance. Even in the wake of Nirvana, the radio was inundated with cut-rate imitation groups, bands that copied the sound but never approached the heart. It’s amazing to me, now, that the Goo Goo Dolls are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, trucking out the familiar old hits on a culture that never (non-ironically) asked for them. I imagine it’s the same feeling folks who grew up in the 80s felt when I was laughing and screaming Eddie Money songs in 1996.
There’s one group, however, that gets lumped in with all the other ridiculous fads of the 1990s that deserves a hell of a lot more credit than they get. This is a group who have weathered a declining music industry and universal ridicule by all the world except their fans. Despite zero support from radio or MTV, they’ve sold millions of records over the last twenty years. That group is the Insane Clown Posse.