Nostalgia seems to be a buzz word these days. With the upcoming 20th Anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind, early 90s nostalgia is about to reach its apex. Even more indie-oriented bands such as the Pixies and Pavement have taken to the road in recent years. If the Rolling Stones decide to tour again, aging baby boomers will once again be taken down Nostalgia Row.
Much of the music I listen to was recorded years (and sometimes decades) before I was even born. To me, “Ruby Tuesday” and “Like a Rolling Stone” have always existed. I can’t look back and fondly remember “Behind Blue Eyes” playing in the background as I made out with my first girlfriend.
I was too young for Nirvana and Pearl Jam, though I remember them playing in the background as a kid. As a teenager, the artist that should have defined my generation took a completely different route. Perhaps to counter the anger of grunge, artists such as No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, and Blink 182 took a more juvenile and laid-back vibe. Even rap, in the wake of Tupac and Biggie’s deaths became flashy. There was little substance to hang onto – at least in the mainstream music world.
By the late 90s, even the bands that had once stood for something, got caught in a downward spiral. R.E.M. lost their drummer and decided to make elevator music. U2 took excess to a whole new level with the Popmart Tour. Even the “newer” bands like Weezer and Green Day who came to prominence in the mid 90s, seemed bloated and bored by the end of the decade. Who knew that those two bands would see a resurgence in the early part of the 2000s?
So it’s hard to be nostalgic about the late 90s, because even then I knew a lot of the music was a let down. Even the bands (and artists) that “defined” that time seem stuck in that era. Beck’s Odelay as great as it is, is a product of the late 90s and it doesn’t make much sense now. Radiohead’s OK Computer in retrospect seems more like a stop-gap between their guitar heavy early days and the ambience of Kid A.
So now as Blink 182, Limp Bizkit, and No Doubt gear up for new tours and albums, I can’t help but feel a little cheated. No, not because I want to see them. But every other generation has had seminal bands that folded and re-unite. These days, Generation X has Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots. The Boomer Generation has The Stones. Bands that actually meant something to the youth at the moment.
I’m not necessarily that these bands re-uniting for a quick cash tour are always good. I’m not necessarily sure I would go. Instead I’m just left with “feel good bands” from the late 90s, whose party-vibes seem even more out of place as the stock markets continue to crash.