Whatever happened to the best-of lists for the nineties? Must have been forgotten amongst all those end-of-millennium, end-of-century, and of-all-time lists/recaps/moments. Those gotta be loved by editors, publishers, network executives, etc. - talk about low overhead vs. high sales. I have adopted a hard-line opposition stance to such Big-Media-generated lists. They took something all of us music freaks and sports lovers have done for eternity - make lists and argue over them - but put chumps like those at VH1 and Rolling Stone into the roles of experts. Yeah, riiiiiiigghhhht. Neat how Rolling Stone comes up/comes off with a Top 100 Pop Songs since 1963 - attempting to redefine the modern pop era as starting then. Just another attempt by baby boomers to write off fifties rock 'n' roll altogether. Jann Wenner and whoever's in charge at VH1 can kiss my Little-Richard-lovin' ass. (And "Yesterday" is not even the Beatles' best song. In fact, it's boring elevator music. Their best song is "Ticket to Ride," and I should be considered pretty objective as I only own two Beatles albums!)
Lists should (continue to) be made by and between friends and argued over incessantly in coffee shops and bars nationwide. Fuck the "experts" and fuck their lists - they're just an excuse to sell advertising anyway.
And since nobody wants to recap the nineties, I guess it's up to me. I'll spare you lists, and just give you the best - in my humble opinion, natch.
Best TV Show - It's not Seinfeld, which lost its shine the last few years. It's not The Simpsons, which sucked big-time for the last half of the decade. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The best show was Law and Order, which I had never watched until a couple of years ago and got hooked on while watching its reruns on A&E weeknights. (I think I've only watched one new one.) The show is all law and all order. No messy character developments or "will he hook up with her?" crap. Just great writing and great performances. Detective Lenny Brisco has the driest sense of humor of any detective since Arthur Dietrich. And I guarantee you that Adam Schiff hates Frasier just as much as I do. Watching it obsessively will make you a better person - trust me.
Best Movie - The worst movie I saw in the nineties was either Forrest Gump or Short Cuts. But my wrath is reserved for Gump, because of all the hype surrounding it and because people insist that it was a great movie. I found it so boring, I almost walked out. The insert-Gump-in-history bit was interesting (but not that funny) the first couple of times they did it - but talk about beating an idea to death. I think all who loved Forrest Gump need to watch what I feel was the best movie of the decade - Goodfellas. It covers approximately the same era as Gump and is also about America. But this picture moves, it's exciting. It's not about some oddball who passed through history and accidentally caused things to happen. No - the characters in Goodfellas make decisions and live through the consequences. It's about men and women who pursue the American Dream (whose version, you decide) and pay the price. The movie crackles with energy, warmth, and humor. The use of music in the movie is brilliant, for instance the "Layla" moment and especially the "Jump Into the Fire" sequence. It's Scorcese, Liotta, Pesci, and DeNiro on top of their game. It's just damn fun to watch.
Best Album - Social Distortion, Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell (1992.) This album slays all punk-country to ever come down the pike, and is better than their more-popular (judging from my friends' collections) 1990 self-titled album. The cool liner photos of the band show dark-haired greasers wearing jeans, tee-shirts, and frowns. The songs are mostly my-baby-left-me-I-got-drunk or my-baby-left-me-so-I-killed-her or just my-baby-left-me. The songs are all three chords and take the Johnny Cash factor up a notch from their 1990 "Ring of Fire" cover. Mike Ness sounds as if he may cough up a lung - and that's a good thing indeed. They predated the No Depression movement and topped it. Not by sounding like great songwriters - but by simply playing great songs. This one out-punked Nevermind and is the best two-a.m.-have-one-more-beer-under-headphones album I have.
Best Single - I gotta join the crowd and go with "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which is (as Lester Bangs/Jim DeRogatis pointed out) the logical extension of the line that goes from "La Bamba" to "Louie Louie" to "You Really Got Me" to "No Fun" to "Blitzkrieg Bop." But name-checking two rock critics isn't a good enough argument (I think.) You already know why this is a great song: it's loud, intense, passionate, catchy, fun, and when you're in your car and it's on the radio it's a goddamn blast to scream along with the chorus. But here's one more reason (not-as-good, but I gotta try and add something to the discussion): The guitar solo repeats the melody.
Best Show - Paul Westerberg, First Avenue 1993. Slightly pissed-off homeboy. Always entertaining. Great backup band. Those songs. Changing words in mid-song during "Waitress in the Sky" to sing a verse challenging some doofus who had thrown a beer glass at him. Loud. Played the final encore from behind the movie screen. We were only about ten feet from the stage.
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