Going back another decade to 1993 this time? Sure, why not? It’s an era of my past that I’ve kind of glossed over for varying and personal reasons, so maybe it’s time to take a look at some of the records that kept me going at the time.
To set the mood: it was my second and last semester of my senior year at Emerson, and I was exactly where I didn’t want or need to be at. I’d just moved out — more like ragequitted — the apartment I’d lived in for a year and change after having had enough of my then roommate. Moving back to the dorms, I realized I’d lost track of several of my college friends out of my own doing, and was now hanging with several kids younger than me and feeling left behind. My grades were still less than stellar, I had no real idea what my future would be, and the last thing I wanted to do was move back to my hometown.
So yeah, I was pretty much starting from rock bottom here.
The Wedding Present, The Hit Parade 2, released 4 January 1993. In 1992 this British band chose to drop a single a month — an original on the A side and a cover on the reverse — and it was the covers (such as a desperate version of Julee Cruise’s “Falling” and a blistering “Pleasant Valley Sunday”) that caught my attention.
Belly, “Feed the Tree” single, released 11 January 1993. After leaving Throwing Muses, Tanya Donelly surfaced a short time later with her own band that was immediately loved by everyone in the Boston area. She’d always written the less abrasive Muses tracks but never quite got rid of the classic Muses quirkiness, and it shows here.
Stereo MCs, Connected, released 12 January 1993. “Connected” (the single) was everywhere at the time, both on alt-rock and dance stations alike. I used to play this on my show on WECB and cranked the song up loud every time. It’s a really fun dance record worth checking out.
Denis Leary, No Cure for Cancer, released 12 January 1993. I know, this is a comedy record and not alt-rock, but I put it here because a) he’s a fellow Emersonian and b) he’s also a kid from central Massachusetts like me. A lot of the humor here is definitely of its time — irreverent GenX ‘fuck it, let’s go there and a bit beyond because why the hell not’ humor that’s equally ironic, biting, and daring, but you always knew there was an unspoken level of not quite being mean-spirited.
The Tragically Hip, Fully Completely, released 19 January 1993. This was the record that introduced me to this band, and it’s a hell of a fine album. I played at least three or four tracks from this record on my WECB show at the time.
Elvis Costello & the Brodsky Quartet, The Juliet Letters, released 19 January 1993. You never quite knew what EC was going to do next back in the day, his styles changing wildly from album to album. This is probably the first classical album where I finally understood what modern orchestral music was about, and that it could work seamlessly in a semi-pop way.
The The, Dusk, released 26 January 1993. Matt Johnson always took his time between albums, often two or three years at a time, and while his previous record dropped just as I was starting college, this one was released just as I was ending it. While not as angry as 1989’s Mind Bomb, it’s just as tense. This one’s about inner pain, and it shows on many of its tracks.
Duran Duran, “Ordinary World” single, released 26 January 1993. Ooof. If there was any song that encapsulated where my mental and emotional state was at this time, this was pretty much it. My long-term/long-distance relationship with T finally at its end, my less than stellar school years limping to a close, my social connections in the crapper, and my future nowhere to be found, this song saved me from falling any deeper with its constant reminder to keep going.
Jesus Jones, Perverse, released 26 January 1993. Understandably this record didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of 1991’s Doubt, and by the time of its release, the alt-rock universe had moved on to more organic grunge rock, but this remains one of the band’s best records in my eyes. It’s a much darker and denser record and features some of their best singles and deep cuts. I highly recommend it.
…so yeah, not the most spirited of beginnings of what is supposed to be an important year, yeah? But even though I was lost, hurting and feeling rudderless, I knew I had to keep going. By this time I’d realized that I could still use what I’d learned at this college, but in different ways: my film degree helped me understand how to write and tell stories. My connections with college radio may not have gotten me into that business but it certainly helped me continue my long-lasting love for music, as well as my constant drive to find new things to listen to.
I knew I was starting at the bottom and there was no way to go but up…and I also knew I was going to fuck up a lot along the way (and believe me, I did several times)…and ultimately I was the only one who was going to make me do it.
More to come: songs to keep me going, and an album that blew everything else out of the water!