Generation Y -- let's be honest -- our music sucks. For the most part, music has gone so far off the deep end that I think there is no turning back. The only way to musical salvation is if we make a conscious effort to weed out the crappy pursuits of the seemingly endless stream of today's copycat musical endeavors. Ladies and gentleman, we, as the “Grunge Babies of the '90s,” must look back to our roots in order to understand the true beauty of music; what the bands were singing about, the issues at hand, and the meaning behind the music.
As a die-hard, self-described child of the '90s, I present to you my top bands that you should start listening to. I promise, you will be pleasantly surprised.
1. Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam is by far one of my favorite bands of all time. I was able to attend their concert two summers ago at HSBC Arena in Buffalo and it was one of the best times of my life. Their songs are so diverse and interesting; the majority of them touching upon some of the perils of growing up, such as “Jeremy” (bullying), “Daughter” (dyslexia), “Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in A Small Town” (moving on). They also touch on the sadly bizarre, such as “Alive,” a song about sexual abuse at the hands of a parent. This band from Seattle is the epitome of the '90s grunge movement and modern rock.
2. Stone Temple Pilots
From San Diego, California, this is a popular band due to their wide range of unique songs involving love, betrayal, and moving on; such as “Interstate Love Song,” “Plush,” and “Big Empty,” ... which is an awesome song to listen to on repeat while thinking about life. They have several live performance recordings on the web, which I recommend checking out. In some cases, they sound better than the CD versions of their songs.
Why are the most talented usually the most tormented? Nirvana, another Seattle band, is one of the most iconic bands of not only the '90s, but of all time. Kurt Cobain, lead singer and writer of the majority of their songs, will live on despite his suicide in 1994. He left behind a plethora of beautiful music such as “All Apologies,” “About a Girl,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and “Come As You Are,” to name a few. An outcast growing up, his songs are, ironically, about trying to fit in while simultaneously attempting to fight conformity.
4. Third Eye Blind
Thanks to my awesome undergrad alma mater, Canisius College, I was able to attend a Third Eye Blind concert my sophomore year. This is also on my list of best concerts I have ever been to. Growing up, I associated myself closely with this band, so attend the show was a great experience. It was amazing to attend a live concert and to see the guys I looked up to during my youth. This band is for anyone going through a tough breakup, with songs such as “Losing a Whole Year,” and the best breakup song of all time, “How’s it Going to Be?” In addition, “Jumper” is a powerful song about being homosexual in a very conservative community. The song is dedicated to a gay youth who killed himself by jumping off a bridge.
Live is a band whose second CD, "Throwing Copper", is on my list of favorites for a variety of reasons. Not only did the band write a majority of the songs, but the variety of the music on the album makes it stand out. My favorite two songs from the band, “All Over You” and “Lighting Crashes”; both of which come from this particular album. Two summers ago, I had the chance to see lead singer Ed Kowalcyzak perform at “Thursday in the Square,” a free music event held in downtown Buffalo on Thursday’s during the summer months. His performance was easily the best of the 2010 series, and his solo career is something worth checking out.
6. The Goo Goo Dolls
How could I write a piece about awesome music and leave off the band that put my hometown on the musical map? The Goo Goo Dolls are a no-brainer on this list. Although seemingly upbeat and eccentric, look behind the music, lyrics, and tone of the songs. One will be surprised at what this band is actually singing about: “Black Balloon” is about heroin addiction and failing to save the one you love; “Slide” is about being raised in a conservative and strict, Catholic environment, and considering the choice between abortion and marriage (South Buffalo, anyone?); and “Broadway” is not about New York City, but my very own Buffalo, and the aftermath of a troublesome economy and population decrease. In addition, “Name,” one of their most popular songs to date, may hold a special place for Buffalonians: to me, it’s an anthem to leaving our city and trying to make it in a cold, competitive world and making an effort not to forgot where you came from and who you are. No matter where I am, whenever I hear the song, it brings back great memories.
7. The Cranberries
Hailing from Ireland, The Cranberries are what I consider to be the European equivalent to the Madison–based American band, Garbage. Their sound is a combination of sweet, slow songs, and grungish, rocker songs, such a “Zombie,” a response to the IRA bombing in Warrington which occurred as a result of the tensions in Northern Ireland at that time. Some of their slower, more popular songs include “Dreams” and “Linger,” which are included on many recent romantic comedy movie soundtracks.
I love Bush (well, the band at least). These British imports were able to take the'90s by storm due to their consistent string of hits, including “Glycerine,” “Comedown,” and “Machinehead." If you get a chance, pick up their 1994 hit CD "Sixteen Stone" (probably $5 or less if purchased used), and see how front man Gavin Rossdale was able to woe No Doubt rocker chick Gwen Stefani into marrying him. Recently, Rossdale confirmed that he had a long term, same-sex relationship in the mid-90’s. I love you Gwen, but if things go sour for you two, I may go after Gavin.
9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. There are too many awesome bands!
Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, Soundgarden, Natalie Merchant, Radiohead, and Alice in Chains are also some bands worth checking out. The music of each era should identify and represent a generation, not embarrass them. Come on, jump off the bandwagon and join me as we forget the overwhelming disappointment of music from 2000 to 2010.
I miss the music of the 1990’s, and after taking a listen to the music I suggested, I think you will start to miss it, too. Enjoy.
Correction: Jan. 6, 2016
An earlier version of this story said that the Cranberries are an all-female band. Vocalist Dolores O'Riordan is the only woman in the Irish rock group.