RIFF Rewind 1989: The ’90s come early with Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails

kurt cobain, nirvana

Baby Nirvana

Good news! We’ve made it to the ’90s in RIFF Rewind.

OK, yeah, it’s still technically 1989. But any list that includes Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails and Faith No More’s “Epic” is basically the ’90s, right? In fact, I was surprised by the latter two of those technically being released in the ’80s, a feeling more or less shared by RIFF’s Slack channel.

I’m, err … I’m sure they were just playing it cool.

Madonna — “Like a Prayer”

I know my entire intro is about this list basically being the ’90s, but it is still technically the ’80s, so there has to be a requisite Madonna song. Also, it gives me the chance to embed a video that was wildly controversial about 30 years ago.

Nirvana — “About a Girl”

We have reached Nirvana!

Not in the Buddhist sense; in the musical sense. Well, maybe also in the Buddhist sense. It’s a really good band.

Bleach isn’t their best or most popular album, but it was the first, and it still holds up. Expect a lot more Nirvana to come; like The Beatles before them, they shaped most of the music that came after, and that counts for a lot.

Faith No More — “Epic”

“Epic” is a great song, but it’s one of those times where good intentions went horribly, horribly wrong. Like how Alfred Nobel invented dynamite because he figured a weapon so terrible and destructive would put an end to war. Except this is worse because it led to nu-metal.

One thing that can’t be forgiven, though, is how atrocious that video is. I’ve seen parodies less embarrassing than that. It makes Chuggo’s “Ah C’mon” video look like “Thriller.”

The B-52s — “Love Shack”

Shut up.

No, seriously, shut up. You know this is a great song. It is a great song, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The B-52s got their start playing CBGB and circulating “Rock Lobster” records underground. They have legitimate cred. Just because their throwback was to the early ’60s and forced irony hadn’t destroyed the entire concept of joy doesn’t make them less awesome.

Nine Inch Nails — “Terrible Lie”

I legitimately did not think this song came out as early as it did. I would have been surprised to find out it came out several years later. To me, the Nine Inch Nails grinding industrial sound is quintessentially late ’90s, which means finding out it began in 1989 is like finding out Elvis’ first record came out during WWII.

Chronological misunderstandings aside, it’s one of the better Nine Inch Nails albums, and Trent Reznor is some kind of musical prophet.

Honorable Mentions

Tone Loc — “Wild Thing”
De La Soul — “Me Myself and I”
Milli Vanilli — “Blame it on the Rain”
Pixies — “Here Comes Your Man”
Tom Petty — “I Won’t Back Down”
Cher — “If I Could Turn Back Time”
Prince — “Batdance”
Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers — “Swing the Mood”
“Weird Al” Yankovic — “The Hot Rocks Polka”
Beastie Boys — “Hey Ladies”
Motley Crue — “Kickstart My Heart”
Young MC — “Bust a Move”
Aerosmith — “Janie’s Got a Gun”
Billy Joel — “We Didn’t Start the Fire”
Technotronic — “Pump Up the Jam”

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData

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