19. July 2004 · Comments Off on I Kinda-Like the 90’s · Categories: Ain't That America?

I’ve been watching VH-1 this weekend, and I think I can safely say that I really don’t Love the 90’s. I like the 90’s, but not in that way. I think we should be friends, or even better, aquaintances who don’t keep in touch. In fact, there are only three good things that came out of the 90’s:

1. My wife

2. My kid

3. Living in Japan

Everything else pretty much sucked hind tit.

When I think of the 90’s, the impression that immediately comes to mind is: Bitchfest. The decade seemed like one long whine. The first few notes from Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit were the birth cry of that decade, but little did we know that the anger-infused sound of ’91 would give way to the pussies of Staind and Limp Bizkit at the end of the decade.

What made Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden cool wasn’t the piercing wails of their frontmen, but the genuine hard rock backing up those vocals, as well as their distinct sounds–there’s no way you’ll ever confuse Soundgarden with Nirvana. When you finally get to the ass-end of the decade, you have bands that all appear to be clones of each other and who whine about how little attention their parents paid to them. What makes them even more pathetic is that these were grown men (and sometimes women) who were in their mid-20’s and singing about things that only a 12 year old would care about. These bands were a joke; a marketing concoction specifically focused on the ‘tween and early teen set. How else do you explain a 27 year old man whining about his Dad? Cha-ching! Another 14 year old has his “Life is Unfair” worldview validated by another geezer who’s whining all the way to the bank.

Most of my blame for this crap rests squarely with Nirvana, though to be fair, you can hardly blame that fuck-up Cobain for the actions of those lesser lights who followed in his path. There’s a unique quality to the Nirvana-brand of bitching that sets it apart from the Latter Day Alternative Pussies. There was a gutteral anger coming from Cobain that was backed up by music that fucking rocked. Those that attempted to mimic him all came off like guys who figured that all they need for success were three chords in Drop-D tuning and some song bitching about the unfairness of it all. Nirvana was pissed. These poseurs just had their feelings hurt.

The whining, though, extended beyond music into almost all aspects of the culture. Reality Bites encapsulated the feeling of the early 90’s. My wife and I went to see this movie on our second date, but I didn’t really pay much attention to the film. I remember that it had a lot to do with the general malaise of the Gen-X crowd and how our futures were going to suck. I remember reading plenty of magazine articles about Gen-X and how ours was to be the first generation of Americans whose standard of living would be about the same or worse than that of our parents. We were to be the first generation to come of age in a country in decline. Steel mills were closing down, the Rust Belt was on the verge of mass impoverishment, American jobs were being lost to cheap labor overseas, and American companies were abandoning our country for greener pastures in foreign lands. Then the tech boom hit, and everyone quickly forgot about all that.

I moved to Japan in ’95 and lived there until ’99. From my point of view, those years were the Era of Good Feeling. The whole “Life Sucks” weight seemed to lift and it was time to party. I don’t know if things were really like that, or if that’s the way it seemed to someone watching everything from the outside, but I remember the mid to late 1990’s as being a generally good time. The vapid, poppy music made a comback and Americans seemed to be more interested in harmless and stupid things. The culture certainly seemed to reflect that and that was certainly fine by me. I would much rather deal with lightweight, poppy, and ultimately harmless fluff than the Gloomy Gus crap that defined the early 90’s.

The vanguard of this poppy, carefree America were of course the boy bands and Britney Spears. Like their Alterna-Whine colleagues, they were concoctions specifically created and marketed to ‘tween and early teen girls, but I have a startling admission to make: I kind of liked them. I don’t know why. I shouldn’t like them, and that ironic smart-ass in me recoils from the likes of the Backstreet Boys, but I grudgingly admit to singing along with Quit Playing Games With My Heart on more than one occasion. I can’t help it. The songs are catchy and they have a nice melody. Jesus, when “MmmmBop” comes on the radio, I can’t change the station. Hell, I don’t care. Like they said in The Crow, “It can’t rain all the time.” Sometimes, you gotta let go of all the heavy shit and just feel happy and carefree, if only for a little while. If not, you just become a boring and depressing person whom no one can stand to be around.

I came back to America just as the cosmic odometer hit 00, and I swear it was like I’d never left. It seemed like everyone was still moaning about something and the future was still going to suck. Of course, I got back just as the tech bubble burst, so that probably had a lot to do with it. American culture is on a cycle just like the economy. For a few years everything seems gloomy, then all of a sudden, everyone seems to be having a good time. A few years later, everything sucks again. I think I managed to leave America just as it hit the peak of the cycle and returned just as it rolled back into the valley. The only problem is that we’ve yet to climb out of that valley. The terrorist attacks certainly didn’t help in that regard, but I’m thinking that I have to leave the country again so the rest of you can get back to having a good time. I swear I’m that proverbial dude who’s absence is essential to having a good time. For example: “Dude, you missed it! Right after you left, things got crazy!” Likewise: “Dude, you should’ve been here a little while ago! It was awesome!”

Except in this case, it’s an entire country and not just a party. If I stay here for the entire decade, I don’t think we’ll be seeing “I Love the 00’s” on VH-1 in 2014.

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