1.17.2008

74 Minutes or Less #3: 1998

welcome to the third installment of 74 Minutes or Less.

74 Minutes or Less is the weekly supergig playlist. the concept is simple: i pick a theme, i choose at most 74 minutes of music that fits the theme, and i discuss it here. if you, or i, or anyone else thinks the playlist is so awesome that it deserves to be compiled and burned to CD for posterity, it won't be a problem--because it's no longer than 74 minutes.

this week's theme is 1998. 1998 was the first year during which i was a music fan from beginning to end. i had my awakening in the middle of 1997...but by the time 1998 rolled around, i had a decent idea of the lay of the musical land, i had a handful of bands i liked, and was building on that through such groundbreaking sources as the internet and MTV's 120 Minutes.

[of course i mean "groundbreaking" sarcastically. i was fifteen, sixteen years old. what do you expect?]

i determined what music was from 1998 by album release date. it's the fairest way to do it...my memory is a little fuzzy about what songs are from specific years. some 1996 or 1997 songs i did not hear until that year, and some 1999 or 2000 songs i sometimes think are from 1998, because everything just lumps together in my brain as "songs that i really, really liked in high school." furthermore, even though i discovered some of these songs significantly later than 1998, it's still a testament to the wonderful state of music that year, and it was my folly that i didn't hear the song until later.

i decided to go by first album release date and not by single release date or album reprint release date. this may mean i miss out on some great songs that hit the height of their popularity in 1998, but if i do lists for other years, they have a fair shake of getting on the list for the year the album first came out. i had to draw the line somewhere, so there's the line. it's a little heartbreaking, because i have to exclude "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger. that song defined the summer of 1998 for me, but Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone? was originally released in 1997. it was re-released by a major label in 1998, but since the album in its entirety was released by Arena Rock (an independent label) in 1997, it is a 1997 song by the rules i laid down for this project.

i also don't include songs from greatest hits albums, also to avoid double-counting. seriously, though? that's just cheating. a song compiled on a Greatest Hits album in 1998 is not a part of the musical landscape of 1998 by virtue of that coincidence. it still belongs to the year during which it was first released.

with those ground rules, i present: 74 minutes or less of the best music from 1998, in order by album release date.

  • "Meet Virginia" by Train (Train, released February 24, 1998) (4:00)
    • ten years ago, this was an anthem of my teenage frustration. i scared one of my classmates with a quote from this song that was written on my backpack: "well she wants to live her life/then she thinks about her life/throws her hair back as she screams/i don't really want to live this life." he thought i was suicidal. it wasn't that...i was just frustrated, as any high school loner was. and, the plaintive screaming, almost crying, in this song was anthemic. i'm only sometimes so disillusioned anymore, and find it easier to see Virginia's beautiful side. it's not the defining song it was in high school, but i still really like listening to it.
  • "Airport Song" by Guster (Goldfly, released March 4, 1998) (3:13)
    • there's no deep meaning behind why this song is on here. the bongo drums have a good beat, the harmonies are tight, and it's catchy enough to pop into my head at the weirdest of times. it's just a fun song. they played it quite a bit on the radio over that summer when i was at nerd camp...and then i didn't hear it again for a few years afterward because they never played it at home. i missed it.
  • "Untitled" by Fuel (Sunburn, released March 31, 1998) (3:58)
    • forget the singles; this song is Fuel at its best. it's so simple: the song has very few lyrics, but they all go to the heart of being stuck in a rut and feeling frustrated. the music fits the mood perfectly...it's a simple, repetitive guitar motif that just feels like banging on that wall that you're trapped behind.
  • "I Got The Hook-Up" by Master P (I Got The Hook-Up (original motion picture soundtrack), released April 7, 1998) (4:14)
    • some songs are so hilariously awful that they stick with you. this is one of them. sure, it's one more piece of that ubiquitous pabulum that Master P's No Limit Records put out during the late nineties. but, this song made me laugh then, and it still makes me laugh ten years later. it's repetitive, it's ridiculous, and that's all part of its charm. it's the title theme to Master P's movie about a skeezy stolen cell phone schemer...and if that subject matter can't underlie a song so bad it's good, i don't know what can.
  • "Waking Up Beside You" by Stabbing Westward (Darkest Days, released April 7, 1998) (6:34)
    • i'm not prone to the emotion conveyed in this song: this song is about profoundly missing an ex, whereas my general practice is to cut an ex loose and never look back. still, this song is gorgeous...and a perfect ending to Darkest Days: a concept album about the psychological process of getting through a breakup. in this song...the speaker is done being shocked, he's done with his unrealistic expectations of moving on too soon, he's done being mad...and he is just sad now that he is finally coming to terms with the fact that it's over. it took sixteen songs to get here, and it's a worthy ending to a powerful cycle of songs.
  • "Open Road Song" by Eve 6 (Eve 6, released April 28, 1998) (3:17)
    • i hate driving, but i love driving songs. i love the feeling of being in transit...being neither here nor there. it feels like i'm progressing and improving, but since i'm moving i really don't have to do anything about my cares until i get to a destination. most driving songs just make me feel happy and carefree. this song is sort the meta-driving song: it's a great driving song about driving with a great driving song on the radio.
  • "Give" by Cold (Cold, released June 2, 1998) (3:50)
    • i didn't get into Cold until 2000 or 2001, but i remember reading a review of this album in a guitar magazine when it came out. i ignored it, but realised later that i was an idiot for ignoring it. i had cheated myself out of two years of quality time with this album. this song is the best of it: the guitars drive forcefully and the lyrics convey honest, unbridled anger. it's a perfect anthem for those bad days when you don't want to throw a pity party, but just want to slap people or break things.
  • "Stay Awake" by Dishwalla (And You Think You Know What Life's About, released August 11, 1998) (4:15)
    • everyone knows Dishwalla for "Counting Blue Cars"...a song i think is a rather boring example of nineties pop-rock. i never much liked it. that's why this song took me by surprise. it has a little bit darker feeling to it, and an almost techno-sounding use of guitar feedback.
  • "Dizzy" by Orgy (Candyass, released August 18, 1998) (3:21)
    • i always feel so bad for liking this song. the lyrics verge on the misogynistic ("you're just another pretty face in a roomful of whores/no, you don't mean much"). but, i always end up ignoring it because the song sounds so cool. Jay Gordon's voice sounds like a robot in the beginning, and as he repeats the same lyrics over and over again, he sounds more and more like a person...it's as if he realises what's going on and moves from robotic detachment to human indignation. the effect of the transition is interesting, and stays just as fascinating after many listens to the song.
  • "At The Stars" by Better Than Ezra (How Does Your Garden Grow?, released August 25, 1998) (3:43)
    • Better Than Ezra's greatest songs are all their melodramatic ballads. "Desperately Wanting" is probably their best one, but this one is not far behind. it holds it own. it's the second of three driving songs...although, unlike the other two, it doesn't have the vibe of driving to take advantage of freedom. it's a very atypical driving song. instead, this one encompasses the opposite feeling: driving because things where you should be are so bad that the road is the only place to disappear. it brings a feeling of freedom...but freedom through avoidance, and not because you're actually carefree.
  • "Keep Away" by Godsmack (Godsmack, released August 25, 1998) (4:50)
    • this song stands the test of time far worse than anything else on here. it's a bit boring, and extremely trite--a teen angst anthem that only a teenager could appreciate. but, i loved this song so much in high school that i had to put it on here. i have such a soft spot for it because i went to such great lengths to hear it. it came on a radio station that only came on in the car, not in the house. so, if my parents ever needed an errand run around 9pm when the countdown on this station was on, i would beg them to let me drive, because it was the only way i would ever be able to hear this song.
  • "Coma White" by Marilyn Manson (Mechanical Animals, released September 15, 1998) (5:38)
    • most songs by Marilyn Manson are spooky in an overdone way...they try to be scary and shocking. that's why i don't care for a lot of their music. it sounds forced. however, this one is genuinely spooky. they didn't try to tell a story about death and destruction and apocalypse...instead, they painted an honest picture of a drug addict falling further and further away from reality and human connection. no one was preaching anything. no one was glorifying anything. the song is very well-done: it taps into a real human fear of disconnection with other people. for that, it's spooky.
  • "Black Balloon" by Goo Goo Dolls (Dizzy Up The Girl, released September 22, 1998) (4:09)
    • this song is just pretty. there's very little else to say about it...the song itself is very simple, although every time i think of harmonies that could be added to it and start trying to sing them. they're nice enough and they make harmonic sense...but they don't ever work as well as the original. the sparse arrangement works; this song doesn't need glitter or flair.
  • "My Favourite Game" by The Cardigans (Gran Turismo, released October 1, 1998) (3:36)
    • this is the last of the driving songs on here; 1998 was a great year for driving songs. everyone associates The Cardigans with that awfully annoying "Lovefool" song. i couldn't stand that song; it was far too cutesie for my tastes. this song is a far better use of Nina Persson's voice. instead of sounding simpering, she sounds sultry. unlike the other driving songs on this list, the subject matter has nothing to do with driving a car...but the song is so perfectly suited for flying down the road that i can think of nothing else when i listen to it.
  • "Every Monday" by The Marvelous 3 (Hey Album!, released October 27, 1998) (3:23)
    • i had heard "Freak of the Week" back in 1998, but i didn't hear this song until several years later. i love the part in the first verse where the speaker "talked to the city that knows me by name/and all the bad things that i do." most of the song is just a really catchy breakup song...but that line does such a good job of portraying how a place can feel like home. a home city really is like a good friend...you can do all kinds of awful things there, and still feel close to it. that's how i feel whenever i'm in Chicago...i've been at my best there, i've been at my worst there, and i feel a personal connection to the place no matter what.
  • "The Kids Aren't Alright" by The Offspring (Americana, released November 17, 1998) (3:00)
    • the lyrics are a pointed description of failed teenage lives, but that's not why it's one of the best songs of 1998. the guitar riff at the beginning of the song is. it smoothly braids together the elements of the song in one interesting soundscape before the verses unpack it. many introductions try to do this, but few succeed nearly as well as this one.
  • "Turn the Page" by Metallica (Garage, Inc., released November 24, 1998) (6:06)
    • Bob Seger originally did this, but Metallica found a good thing and improved on it. i was never a fan of Bob Seger's version; i always found it to be far too languid for my tastes. Metallica put some much-needed energy into the song. the basic melody is the same as the original, but what they did with it was far more interesting. they did exactly what you need to do when making a cover: they put their own take on it. it wasn't Metallica trying to copy Bob Seger. it was Metallica taking Bob Seger's melodic idea and turning it into one of the best Metallica songs ever.
total time: 71:07.

that was 74 Minutes or Less #3: 1998. if you've got a thematic idea for a future playlist, comment or email me at superherogirl@gmail.com.

2 comments:

Kevin said...

I like the "74 Minutes or Less" idea. I wish I was clever enough to think of that myself.

nicolle said...

thanks! i'm glad you like it.