The old is trendy, and the new is stupid.
Therefore, lets rewind the clock back 20 years, to 1998!
’98. A year in which music was on the cusp of breaking into the new millennium, and bands and artists were revving their engines. Who would explode? Who would implode?
Let’s take a look at some of the songs that left an impact on us from that year. That super weird year…
The Best Music from 1998
“Ava Adore” by The Smashing Pumpkins
Twenty years ago and looking back, it was a time when I just wanted to get drunk, party, and have no responsibilities. I’m such a late developer when it comes to certain things, especially when it comes to things I feel I want to do. Is it fear? A bit of self-doubt? Who knows, but that is beside the point.
The point here is to look at the music which gave us a buzz in 1998, which is not a lot when I look back, but there are a few gems that were released 20 years ago. I would love to say that I’m picking something from Ben Folds Five, “Naked Baby Photos” (a compilation of songs, not photos of the band as babies – that would be weird).
I could have used Neutral Milk Hotel, but I only found out about them yesterday (seriously, why did no one tell me about these people beforehand). At one point when looking back at the releases of 1998, I was tempted to pick something of the best of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, but in 1998, the song I was listening to mostly was “Ava Adore” by The Smashing Pumpkins.
Billy Corgan, James Iha, and D’arcy Wretzky were in flux at that point. If the Grinderman project is a perfect representation of a mid-life crisis, Adore is the perfect representation of changing your spots to keep up with the current vogue of the year. They ditched their traditional sound which they perfected with Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, and went for an electronica song and wrote an album about love & loss. The twin muses of the loss of his wife, coupled with the death of his Mother, formed the catalyst for this change, and the title track “Ava Adore” is the best representation of this facet of the band.
It still sounds fresh to this day, that bassline is stunning, dirty as hell, and Corgan sounds wounded on this track. But I never lost the feeling that they were changing their sound to keep up with the Jones’, trying to appeal to the alternative masses and still appear fresh. To this day, it’s one of my favourite moments of the The Smashing Pumpkins career because they were stupid enough to try it, but it’s one that also failed as much as Kiss doing disco. They would go back to type on the next record with their tail between their legs, but popular alternative music was changing once again and they soon split up.
- Eddie Carter
“Inside Out” by Eve 6
Between “Pure Morning” by Placebo, “Space Lord” by Monster Magnet, and Kid Rock’s “Batwitdaba” (wow it is painful to type that), 1998 was an experimental and altogether weird year for music.
I was confused as to what newer bands I would start listening to. Green Day and Lagwagon were staples back then, but I needed a bit more dynamics than punk beats and songs about hangovers and angry young adults.
Eve 6 came out strong from the southern California over-saturation of pop punk bands with their inventive, lyrically catchy “Inside Out.” From it’s radio inception, it had America singing
“I would swallow my pride,
I would choke on the rinds, but the lack thereof would leave me empty inside.
Swallow my doubt, turn it inside out,
Find nothing but faith in nothing.
want to put my tender
Heart in a blender”
as loudly as baseball fans sing that ball game song at those baseball games(?).
When I first heard it, I was hooked, and every time it came on the radio, I cranked it. I eventually bought the CD, and played it so much I got sick of it. Now when I hear it, it brings all the feels and good memories back, and that smooth vocal delivery from Max Collins still gets me.
I saw them live back in like 2004 in this small club in Regina, SK. They made so many jokes about Regina, it pissed the audience off. Plus, Max Collins was drunk, with beers in hands on stage. The boos and booze were flying, and there were a couple big dudes in the audience who were about to grab his bass and give Max’s head a wallop!
But… they started to play “Inside Out” and honestly – time stood still. EVERYONE in that club screamed along! Every word, every note, and every nuance. Max Collins once wrote a genius song, and I bet he never knew it would save him from getting his ass kicked on a small stage in Regina. Funny how things work out.
- Jeremy Erickson
“From Your Mouth” by God Lives Underwater
As I stated in my Down On The Upside: The End of An Era piece, what the mainstream knew as ‘alternative rock’ died at the end of 1996. The following years saw the rock scene battling a severe case of identity crisis. The heavier bands found an unlikely ally in Hip-Hop and Nu Metal was born. The brooding angst of grunge gave way to immature humor, creating Punk-Pop.
At the center of this transition was 1998. It A year that wasn’t as random as 1997 but nowhere near as focused and streamlined as 1998. At 15 years old, I found myself in a similar place. I can’t think of that year without hearing “From Your Mouth” by God Lives Underwater playing over and over in my head.
Thanks to a bizarre (and strangely gross) music video directed by Roman Coppola, “From Your Mouth” became an MTV Buzzclip as well as peaking at number 17 on Billboard. But for me, it was a segway into an alien world of electronic music for people who hated electronic music. Part Trent Reznor and part Depeche Mode, the album Life In The So-called Space Age was much closer to Radiohead meets Pink Floyd than the likes of The Chemical Brothers or Daft Punk.
From the disheveled synth beneath a Hip-Hop drum machine to the nonchalant, passive-aggressive vocal delivery, “From Your Mouth” is just as unique today as it was back then. I remember buying this album and playing from start to finish every single day for nearly 2 weeks, feeling like I stumbled upon a band who would be making music for decades. Sadly, that wasn’t the case due to the band calling it quits and the death of a key member. No matter what, I still have this album, as well as “From Your Mouth” to remind me of a time when music was growing up and changing just as much as myself.
- Aaron Cooper
“If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next” by Manic Street Preachers
So in 1998 I was 11 going on 12. At that stage, music wasn’t as big a part of who I was as it is now. My major memories of ‘98 mostly revolve are the FIFA World Cup in France! But after Googling albums released in 1998, a few took my eye but memories of listening to Manic Street Preachers were the strongest. 20 years ago, Radio 1 and music TV in the UK wasn’t just about making sure the same 5 or 6 artists were constantly being played, they embraced diversity. Good music (and plenty of bad music) had a chance to succeed in the charts.
This was definitely true of “If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next”. It was on Top of the Pops and it even charted at number 1 in the UK singles chart. It really puzzled me at the time that a song like this could make it to number one. It was so slow and a bit sad, but I liked it.
At that age I don’t think I really understood the full intent of the songs lyrics, but I could understand this was a somber song. It’s the first more melancholy song I think I really enjoyed and stuck with me. A few years later I would pick up a guitar and learn the chords so I could strum along. It’s a well crafted song, the lyrics are deep and the production is so rich and classy. Although I wouldn’t have given you those reasons 20 years ago, that’s what I think of it today.
The fact you can still listen to it today and it hasn’t dated like a lot of British pop/rock from the 90s is a testament to James Dean Bradfield’s talent. This song was a band firing on all cylinders 10 years after forming and three years after mysteriously losing a childhood friend and band member in Richey Edwards. The album it came from also yielded many hits, and although not considered one of their classics, it’s certainly an important album for their career. It showed they had staying power. 20 years and seven albums later (number eight coming this year!) shows what a creative force the Manics are.
- Thomas Fisher
I’m doing three songs because I can…
Man there was some garbage music released in 1998 as Coop mentioned above things were transitioning out of Grunge and splintering off into all kinds of directions.
To elaborate more on what Coop said above I think the people that were still dedicated to making “rock” type music or music of substance started adapting and really started focusing on including electronics into their music. Sometimes so much that it basically ruined who they were musically (The Smashing Pumpkins). Anyway that has nothing to do with the three songs I’m picking. Just wanted to point that out.
1998 was the year that I finally let go of my purest standpoint of organic music and traditional ‘bands’ and started letting in a little ‘electronic’ type music basically because I had to because that’s all people were putting out. Good thing I did because it introduced me to some of my favorite groups and all time favorite albums. Here are three of my favorite songs from 98. Huge shoutout to 120 Minutes were all these were discovered.
“Angel” by Massive Attack
“Teardrop” was the song that was big off this album and my favorite track from Massive Attack’s third album Mezzanine is “Black Milk”, but that’s not saying much because this album is an all-time deserted island album. I was going to put “Inertia Creeps” here, but the video for “Angel” is cooler plus the bass line is absolute perfection. How many movies has “Angel” been in? Who knows? All of Massive Attack’s music is perfect for movies so it doesn’t matter. I had no idea that the vocals were sung by guy until about six years ago. Blew my fuckin mind. It sounds like a female.
“Rabbit in Your Head Lights” by Unkle
DJ Shadow owned the mid 90s and was so incredibly influential. He basically created his own genre of music based solely on samples. Well, Unkle’s debut album, Psyence Fiction is basically Shadow’s second album after Entroducing. James Lavelle is the main dude behind Unkle, but fuck him cause his music has been sub-par since he parted ways with Shadow plus his music depends a ton upon contributors. The album’s lead single featuring vocals from Thom Yorke is such a haunting track and the video is straight up unforgettable.
“New Noise” by Refused
What happens when your second album melds so many genres into one, transcends punk / hardcore, and goes on to influence a decade worth of music? Well you break the fuck up because you can’t recreate perfection. This album broke Refused. No, not ‘broke’ like they got popular. Like literally broke them. No one gave a shit about The Shape Of Punk To Come until years later. Refused tried to tour for a few months after the album dropped, but again, no one gave a shit. I remember 120 Minutes ran the video for “New Noise” on literally the last slot before the end of the show. I happened to catch it and the very next day I went and bought The Shape Of Punk To Come. So fuckin good.
Refused has since gotten back together to cash in and make some new music, but if you ask me they are still broken from creating perfection.