RIFF Rewind ’95: Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, Bruce Springsteen, Skee-Lo

Shirley Manson, Garbage

There’s another excessively long longlist this week. You’re going to have to put up with these until I’d gotten out of high school and decided all new music was stupid.

It’s an immutable human law, isn’t it? Music stops being good upon graduation from high school. Sure, there are some highlights, but it’s usually generationally great bands or throwbacks. Overall our tastes get more or less fixed when we get ejected into college or the real world.

But this now? The next few editions? This is my time and I love it all. Choosing is painful.

Note: There’s one fact I need to relay even though the song is only an Honorable Mention. Alanis Morissette’s song “You Oughta Know” is about Uncle Joey from Full House. That’s who she’s singing about. Now when you listen to the song, it’s his face you’ll picture. If I have to know that you have to know it too.

Skee-Lo — “I Wish”

“I Wish” may very well be my favorite rap song.

I know, I know. I write for a music site. I’m a proud music snob. How can a one-hit-wonder top Tupac and Biggie?

Because, dear reader, it’s genuine. As hip-hop gets more and more into bragging about wealth and power I appreciate an honest song about human struggle, even if it’s just struggle with unpopularity. Most of us can relate to the message of the lyrics if not the specifics. We’ve all been there. And that’s beautiful.

Garbage — “Only Happy When it Rains”

Garbage is one of the most underrated bands of the mid-’90s. Their self-titled debut and Version 2.0 are classics without any filler tracks, they have widely known singles, and yet people tend to forget they exist.

So this is your reminder: Garbage is not garbage. They’re awesome and you should listen to them more. You’ll thank me later.

Oasis — “Wonderwall”

I can practically hear you groan through time and space, but hold on. There’s a reason “Wonderwall” has become ubiquitous. There’s a reason it became shorthand for “struggling street musician” on Lost. There’s a reason it’s the song every insufferable guy at a college party plays on the acoustic guitar he brings even though absolutely nobody asked him to.

It’s an undeniably great song despite its overall simplicity. It takes a fairly barebones arrangement and turns it into a classic. And that’s amazing. That’s an achievement unto itself. The downside, of course, is that simplicity invites some guy who’s probably named Tyler to start strumming it despite the fact there’s already music playing, but every silver lining has its dark cloud.

The Smashing Pumpkins — “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”

Yes, Smashing Pumpkins is a weird band. Yes, Billy Corgan has gone completely insane. But in their day they were great, and occasionally their greatness came through in a way that MTV viewers could appreciate as well as weirdos who only owned black clothes and really wanted a pet ferret.

This is one of those cases where I’m sparing you a deep cut and giving you the mainstream crossover success. Because I care about you, dear reader. Because I care.

Bruce Springsteen — “The Ghost of Tom Joad”

I have friends who are diehard Springsteen fans and who are not happy with me that I’ve made it into the ’90s before including one of his songs. I get that. He’s a great musician, and his omission hasn’t been a reflection of him as much as a reflection of the fact that he never really had a massive career-defining hit.

But why now, and why this? Because eventually Tom Morello opened my eyes to the song’s greatness when he toured with the E Street Band and recorded a rearranged version. It really does speak to our times—now even more so than in 1995—and deserves recognition for that.

So here you go, Springsteen fans. He finally made the cut. Sorry it took seven months.

Honorable Mentions

PJ Harvey — “Down By the Water”
Jewel — “Foolish Games”
Goo Goo Dolls — “Name
Ol’ Dirty Bastard — “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”
Rednex — “Cotton Eye Joe”
The Presidents of the United States of America — “Peaches”
White Zombie — “More Human Than Human”
Michael Jackson — “Scream”
Everclear — “Santa Monica”
The Rembrandts — “I’ll Be There For You”
Alanis Morissette — “You Oughta Know”
Foo Fighters — “Big Me”
Shaggy — “Boombastic”
Rancid — “Ruby Soho”
No Doubt — “Don’t Speak”
Marilyn Manson — “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
Seven Mary Three — “Cumbersome”
Coolio — “Gangsta’s Paradise”

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

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