Best tunes of 1990: #22 Bad Religion “21st century (digital boy)”

<< #23     |   #21 >>

I’m sure a great many of you know and love this Bad Religion track. But did you know that it was originally released in 1990, as part of their fifth studio album “Against the grain”? And that it was only released as a single in 1994 after being re-recorded for their first major label album “Stranger than fiction”? I certainly didn’t know all of this back in ’94 when I was busy getting hooked on the song through regular airplay on Toronto’s CFNY. But it’s all true.

“21st century (digital boy)” was written by guitarist Brent Gurewitz and this fine American punk rock band had been performing it during their legendary live sets as early as 1989, the tune becoming a fan favourite in the process. Depending on who you believe, the song was re-recorded for “Stranger than fiction” either because Gurewitz felt that the band was performing it better in 1994 than when it was originally recorded or because their new label, Atlantic, wanted a single for the album that wasn’t yet there. Regardless, the song did become Bad Religion’s biggest hit and their most easily identifiable track.

By the time that I sat down to put together this list, I was more familiar with the history of the track and I momentarily hesitated to include it. Should it be considered a 1990 track because that was when it was originally written? Or does it belong with the best of 1994 because the re-recorded version is the one that everyone (including me) knows and is more familiar with? In the end, it obviously found a place in this series because it’s too great a track not to rave about, right here and right now. (I’ve got both versions below so that you can enjoy the version of your choice.)

Bad Religion has been a going concern since 1979 with a fluid roster whose only static member has been lead vocalist Greg Gaffin. The band toiled in the punk underground for years but started to gain traction in the late 80s and amassed a following on the back of their electrifying live shows. It was here they attracted the attention of the majors and signed with Atlantic during the gold rush of alt-rock band label signings post-Nirvana. The aforementioned “Stranger than fiction” long player is their best selling album, attaining gold status in both Canada and the US, and featuring a number of fan favourites, including this one and the thundering title track. The band is still quite active, touring with Pennywise and The Offspring as recently as 2014.

“21st century (digital boy)”, like many of Bad Religion’s tracks, has plenty of raging guitars, hammering percussion and angry sounding, three-pronged vocals. With its apparent diss at all things technological and commercial, and all the toys that we can dream of, it is as relevant today as it was twenty five years ago. And yes, I smile knowingly at this as I listen to this track and jot down these very ideas on my Apple iPad.

Original version from 1990’s “Against the grain”:

Re-recorded version from 1994 (including a music video):

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.


Vinyl love: Belle And Sebastian “If you’re feeling sinister”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Belle And Sebastian
Album Title: If you’re feeling sinister
Year released: 1996
Year reissued: 2014
Details: black vinyl, 180 gram, gatefold sleeve

The skinny: The second album by the critically-acclaimed Scottish indie pop collective was released a mere five months after its predecessor. It’s a collection of 10 tracks that are innocent and peppy in sound but dark and cynical in subject matter.

Standout track: “If you’re feeling sinister”


100 best covers: #99 The Rural Alberta Advantage “Eye of the tiger”

<< #100    |    #98 >>

I’d be rather surprised if any one of you was to tell me they’d never heard the original version of “Eye of the tiger” by Survivor. It was the theme song for the third installment of the “Rocky” series (the one in which Stallone does battle with Mr. T!) and was released as a single the day after the film hit theatres. It is the American hard rock band’s biggest hit, attaining certified double platinum status and sitting atop the Billboard 100 charts for six weeks in 1982.

To say that this cover by Toronto-based indie rock trio, The Rural Alberta Advantage, is a bit less well-known is tongue-in-cheek hyperbole on my part. I first heard this performed live on a Spring evening back in 2011. I dragged my wife out to the now-defunct Ritual nightclub in downtown Ottawa to see this band I discovered at Bluesfest the previous summer. We were treated to a highly energetic and entertaining set, during which frontman Nils Edenloff was left alone on stage a couple times to perform a pair of covers, all acoustic like. The first of these was “Maybe tomorrow”, the “Littlest hobo” theme song (for Canadian fans of this classic TV show, you can check that one out here), and the other was this awesome cover of Survivor’s massive hit.

I think Victoria recognized it as “Eye of the tiger” before I did during the show but she definitely wasn’t as impressed as I was by the cover. She’s not really a fan of covers and she’s of the opinion that certain songs should just be left alone, this song being one of them. You see, she’s actually quite the fan of Survivor’s original version of “Eye of the tiger”. She describes it as one of those songs that always makes her want to move and has been a favourite of hers to put on mixes designed for working out. I can’t really argue with any of that but I think this cover is also special, mostly because it completely changes the mood of the original. Edenloff slows down the pace a tad and replaces the uppercut and left right hook combination on the muscular hard rock guitars with a quiet and lonely pluck on the acoustic. His voice is pained, almost wistful and tired, where the original Survivor vocalist, Dave Bickler, was triumphant and full of adrenaline.

I’m not saying The Rural Alberta Advantage’s “Eye of the tiger” is better than the original but it feels to me like it actually has a bit more edge, kind of like it’s after the fight and the reality of all those rounds have set in. Have a spin of both and let me know what you think.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.