10 Great Songs From The 1990s (Part Two)

“I’ll Stick Around” by FOO FIGHTERS (1995)

Written and recorded during some down time from his meal ticket, Dave Grohl, who played everything on the track, unravels the mystery of his turbulent relationship with Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain in this phenomenal rocker.  “I stand accused of all the methods you abused,” he shyly sings at one point, pointedly criticizing the singer’s endless heroin nightmare.  “I don’t owe you anything,” he eventually shouts during the chorus. 

Grohl made a stand with this material and it paid off handsomely, thanks to his one-man wizardry.  The then-underrated musician had something to prove on that first Foos album and while it took me ten years to move from a mixed assessment to a mostly positive one, there’s no question he could write cutting edge material with the best of them.  Cobain would’ve killed for a hook like this.

“Miss Sarajevo” by PASSENGERS (1995)

The only Luciano Pavarotti number ever heard on pop radio and it’s a dandy.  Inspired by an actual underground beauty pagent in the former Yugoslavia, the song is one long Bosnian Inquisition, so to speak.  “Is there a time for keeping your distance?”  Bono beautifully inquires as he poses one rhetorical question after another. 

Then, the pay off.  Pavarotti in all his Italian splendour, long past his prime but not giving a damn, delivers his most moving solo in years.  The only single released from U2 and Brian Eno’s marginally acceptable experimental Original Soundtracks 1 release, Miss Sarajevo is deeply profound in its sadness and it only takes one listen to appreciate your own fortunate existence.

“The Fly” by U2 (1991)

More than any other group, U2 had probably the most to lose in the 1990s.  If the long awaited follow-up to Rattle & Hum wasn’t extraordinary, they would’ve had a much harder time maintaining their much revered iconic status.  But a new ironic identity was effectively molded after much internal struggle thanks to the brilliant Achtung Baby. 

Many of the cuts on that record are superb but I want to single out the first single.  His voice electronically altered, Bono assumes the persona of a know-it-all barstool prophet offering various thoughts and opinions, all of them provocative, especially the artists and poets section.  (“Every artist is a cannibal/Every poet is a thief/All kill their inspiration/Then sing about their grief”)

If that weren’t enough to savour, The Edge is given yet another great showcase for his stellar guitar playing.  Why is he so consistently sharp?  He squeezes the most emotion out of the fewest notes.  As Juliana Hatfield once sang, Simplicity Is Beautiful.

“The Dream” by JERRY GOLDSMITH & THE NATIONAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA (1990)

It was a dismal decade for original film scores.  One of the few that were truly inspired was the one composed for the Arnold Schwarzenegger smash, Total Recall.  For this project, Jerry Goldsmith, best known for Alien and the main title theme for Star Trek:  The Motion Picture (later recycled for The Next Generation TV show and films), created some of the most exciting music ever heard in an action movie.  (Seek out the audio soundtrack.  It’s terrific.) 

The Dream is heard twice in Total Recall.  First, during the dazzling opening title sequence and again through most of the end credits.  It’s a classical piece with a rock mentality, heavy on the drums and emotion.  And it features a goose-pimply bridge that’ll knock your socks off.  Easily Goldsmith’s finest and most underrated moment as a composer and conductor.  The National Philharmonic Orchestra follows his lead beautifully here.  I can’t imagine the movie without this magical masterstroke.  Awesome.

“Clownmaster” by SUGAR (1993)

After he quit Husker Du in 1988 and went solo for a brief period, Bob Mould formed another power pop trio in the 1990s.  Sugar are one of my favourite groups from that decade and it’s a crime that this riveting instrumental was, for the most part, completely ignored by the mainstream. 

An outtake from the sessions that produced their fine debut album, Copper Blue, Clownmaster initially surfaced as a bonus track on the If I Can’t Change Your Mind CD single in 1993.   You can also find it on the 1995 Besides compilation. 

Most of the songs on this list grabbed me from the very first second I heard them.  Clownmaster is no exception.  Sometimes, words get in the way of a marvellous arrangement which might explain why this song went from being about John Wayne Gacy (hence the title) to having no lyrical content whatsoever.  As a result of this excellent decision, this has become one of my all-time favourite rock ‘n’ roll juggernauts.  It may now be wordless but the music speaks volumes.  It’s fast, electric, relentlessly exciting, and ends at the right moment, dead cold. 

Three minutes and fifteen seconds of non-stop jamming and I love it.  If only Mould would re-form the band again.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, June 30, 2011
10:42 p.m.

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Published in: on June 30, 2011 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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