Best tunes of 1991: #25 Pearl Jam “Jeremy”

I started off this Best tunes of 1991 series with an honourable mention post on Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit”, ruling it out from my top 30 from the outset. In that post, I touched on how I quickly grew to dislike the Seattle scene and any of the bands associated with that sound, whether or not they actually came from that particular geographical area. And it was completely irrational, being less to do with the bands themselves or their music than it was the industry machine and the music press. It was these bands that brought ‘alternative’ to the mainstream and the focus on them effectively narrowed the scope and sound of the genre in North America for way too many years. But before I start ranting again, let me just say that Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” was one of the songs that somehow transcended all of this for me and I couldn’t help but like it.

It was definitely the music video that caught my attention. Considered one of the most controversial of all time, it has been rarely seen on television in recent years. It’s a touchy subject for sure. Teenager brings gun to school. The video, of course, is an extension of the song lyrics which Eddie Vedder wrote based on an article he had read about real events. It was just a short paragraph in a newspaper that he expanded, imagining a back story for the troubled Jeremy that hinted at the not uncommon stories of neglect and bullying.

The song was the third single off Pearl Jam’s debut album, “Ten”, and due to heavy rotation of the video, became a hit for the band, selling tons of copies of their album and kickstarting their career as one of the more important bands in alternative rock. And yeah, their music sounds commonplace enough nowadays but it was just that much different back in 1991. It’s aggression matches the subject perfectly and Vedder’s soulful moan is now iconic and all the more harrowing when he sings lines like: “Daddy didn’t give affection and the boy was something mommy wouldn’t wear.”

But the beauty of it all is that Pearl Jam does not distance themselves from Jeremy, Vedder admitting that he remembered picking on the boy and acknowledging that “we unleashed a lion”. We are all the bullies and the bullied and I think that universality haunted a lot of people. It certainly did me.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Vinyl love: The Decemberists “What a terrible world, what a beautiful world”

(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: The Decemberists
Album Title: What a terrible world, what a beautiful world
Year released: 2015
Details: Gatefold sleeve, Double LP, 180 gram, Laser etching on side D

The skinny: Working backwards through my Decemberists collection, their 7th studio album is a lighter and livelier work than their earlier material. I was released after a four year ‘hiatus of sorts’, but it felt more like a decade. “What a terrible world, what a beautiful world” did not disappoint, feeling like a breath of fresh air to combat all the evil pollutants we have to deal with in the daily news.

Standout track: “Make you better”

Best albums of 1997: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Happy Thursday! And welcome to the second installment of my Throwback Thursday (#tbt) best albums of the year series. For this one, we time travel back twenty years to 1997. Back to a time where I was one year removed from graduating with BA Honours from York University on a five year (yes, I took it slow) program. I was working part time at a tool rental store, spending plenty of quality time talking pretentious in the pubs, and I had just started into a relationship with Victoria, whom I’m still with and I’ve since married. So happy times indeed.

It also happens to be another great year for music and can easily be argued to be the best year ever for British Alternative Rock. Just think about it for a moment and you’ll realize I’m right, probably guess which are my top three albums, but perhaps not in the correct order. Britpop mania had reached its apex the year before and was already on the wane, more artists were trying to disassociate themselves with the term rather than buy in. So yeah, in 1997, it was more rock and less pop. However, North America’s (and likely the rest of the world’s) ears were still tuned in to Cool Britannia so British rock was all the rage on the radio and music video stations. I was in music heaven with all the great albums being released and as you’ll soon see, the majority of my faves were from – you guessed it – the British Isles.

So without further ado, below are the first five albums from my top ten and if you don’t know the trick by now, I will be featuring the top five, an album each Thursday, over the next five weeks. Enjoy the nostalgia ride with me.

#10 Cornershop “When I was born for the 7th time”

Third time was a charm for Tjinder Singh and his Cornershop. The band’s blend of Indian traditional, British rock, funk, and psychedelia hit home with the Britpop crowds at the time and has since influenced more than a few bands that I can think of (Hello, Elephant Stone). Then, Norman Cook remixed the song below and they exploded, the song in question waxing ubiquitous in the summer of 1997. As for the album, it’s quite eclectic and fun. You can certainly tell they were smoking quite a bit of something funny during its recording.

Gateway tune: Brimful of asha

#9 The Dandy Warhols “The Dandy Warhols come down”

I saw The Dandy Warhols open for The Charlatans in the fall of 1997 but I didn’t appreciate this, the album they were flogging at the time, until much, much later. Still, their live show was so good that I immediately picked up their next album, 2000’s “Thirteen tales of urban bohemia”, on release, which I loved and pushed me to continue to follow them and to re-examine their back catalogue. If you’ve seen the film “Dig”, you know that the band had its troubles at the time and despite the below song’s modicum of success, it would be their only flirtation with the mainstream. “Come down” is a noisy beast and a rollicking ride.

Gateway tune: Not if you were the last junkie on earth

#8 Teenage Fanclub “Songs from Northern Britain”

For years, I’ve called Teenage Fanclub the “Scottish Sloan” or likened Sloan to “the Canadian Teenage Fanclub”, depending on my audience. Both bands have multiple songwriters who sing their own songs but maintain a consistent sound, and that is a classic sounding guitar rock style with plenty of harmonies that somehow manages to sound completely original. The Fanclub’s sixth album was their most commercially successful, its name a joke around the idea that many people at the time considered them part of the Britpop scene. The album itself though was anything but a joke.

Gateway tune: Take the long way around

#7 The Mighty Mighty Bosstones “Let’s face it”

Boston’s own flirted with the mainstream and certainly achieved commercial success with their fifth studio album, “Let’s face it”, the band’s only certified platinum selling album. The eight-piece ‘skacore’ band toned down the ‘core and sweetened the ska and punk sound and found themselves a whole a new swarm of fans. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t deny that this album cemented their place at the forefront of the 90s wave of ska punk. It’s brash and energetic and a hell of a lot of fun on the dance floor.

Gateway tune: The impression that I get

#6 Ocean Colour Scene “Marchin’ already”

Ocean Colour Scene followed up their breakthrough sophomore album with music cut very much from the same cloth. Often the tunes were those written well before recording but refreshed and brightened with slick studio production. They were rewarded by the buying public with their first number one, famously supplanting Oasis’s bloated third record, “Be here now”, an album that (*spoiler alert*) won’t be on this list. I really like the straightforward and honest trad rock of this and “Moseley shoals”, perhaps preferring “Marchin’ already” slightly over the former. Unfortunately, things steadily went south from here.

Gateway tune: Hundred mile high city

Check back next Thursday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.