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Fuck You '92: Why We Don't Need An Early 90s Revival
Charles Ubaghs , May 13th, 2009 08:16

DMs, Neds Atomic Dustbin, John Major . . . why oh why is 1992 being classed a glory year, asks Charles Ubaghs

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Have you taken a look around the more fashionable corners of the cultural landscape of late? Look yonder, and you'll see boys and girls spinning Bell Biv DeVoe's 'Poison' at parties before heading home to slip into a flannel shirt to flail around to music once known as college rock in the privacy of their bedrooms. Those of a certain vintage may deny it all they want, but the truth is we're on the cusp of, if not already deeply mired in, a full-blown early 90s revival.

It's a trend that may very well have started with M.I.A. when she asked "Where were you in '92?" on 2007's Kala. It's a question Zomby recently deemed fit to ask again with his rave revival album of the same name.

Anyone who has witnessed much hyped noise-pop outfit Wavves in a live setting would be hard-pressed to deny the fact that the band's Nathan Williams is clearly an acolyte of early Beck's slacker ways and Dinosaur Jr.'s lo-fi pop. And when not touring, he likes to post gangster rap clips and links to other ephemera from the era up on his blog.

Even the film world is taking part, as producers repackage the early 90s and sell it back to us in films such as The Wackness and Biggie Smalls biopic Notorious.

Fashion types have of course been stomping around in lumberjack shirts and Doc Martens for some time now, while it-girl types like Alice Dellal — who comes complete with an undercut — gets snapped on the red carpet in sheer body-con dresses lifted straight from Erotica-era Madonna videos. There's even a club night in New York called 1992 which . . . you get the idea.

The retro revival train that's dominated large chunks of this decade's cultural output has finally jumped the tracks and come crashing to a halt.

For, lest we forget, the early 90s were a dire time. Mistakes were made and lessons were supposed to have been learned. Sadly, our information-rich, irony-obsessed times allow many a youth to gloss over the historical dross as they search for their next fix in a rose tinted act of cultural pick'n'mix.

For those of you who missed it the first time around, here's what actually transpired in 1992; aka ground zero for every depressing trend that came to blight the rest of the decade.

Nirvana's Nevermind hit number one in the US charts in early January. As mythology has it, the album wiped away the taint of hair-metal bands and bland pop acts from the public consciousness in one fell-swoop. Yet what did the arrival of the grunge and ‘alternative' era actually amount to? A once vital underground was suddenly thrust into the spotlight and for a while Seattle became the hippest spot on the planet as desperate labels rampaged through every corner of the city and beyond in search of their next long haired guitar-toting chart topper. This led to Eddie Vedder's boorish mug landing on the cover of Time magazine as numerous radio stations across the US switched to a lucrative alternative rock format, thereby allowing the likes of Bush and Candlebox (don't ask) to dominate the charts a few years later before the well dried up and created a vacuum eventually filled with Limp Bizkit's jock-rock nu-metal.

What was hip-hop's biggest commercial success story in 1992? House of Pain. By the end of the decade, the group's DJ Lethal ended up paying the bills by tricking himself out to the aforementioned Fred Durst and company. Will scratch for food, anyone?

Not that the UK was any better off. 1992 was the year Morrissey released Your Arsenal, draped himself in a Union Jack in Finsbury Park and entered a state of terminal decline. The scene was also set for the rise of lad rock with the release of Ocean Colour Scene's eponymous debut. The Happy Mondays discovered crack, attempted to steal Eddie Grant's sofa and then released Yes Please before finally imploding. Ned's Atomic Dustbin continued to spread the gospel of grebo and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine hit the height of their popularity. The rise of grunge in the US also sowed the seeds for Britpop as UK acts reacted against the scruffy Yanks. Suede might have emerged in 1992, but they were the start of a scene that eventually fed into the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs and their fellow landfill indie acts who have dominated the middle part of this decade.

And now we're told that it's time to celebrate it all once again. Our retrospective culture –which has already spent nearly this entire decade strip mining the past – is asking us to make like it's the early days of John Major's premiership as we sit back and enjoy the sounds of a resurgent Take That and the return of Beverly Hills 90210 to our screens.

There's only one sensible reaction to this sorry state of affairs and it starts with the utterance of three simple words…

…Fuck You '92!

Say it with me now.

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Rich M
May 13, 2009 4:56pm

just think what 17 years of technological progress could bring to global hypercolour t-shirts. Don't pretend you're not excited.

Better this than another 80s revival, surely. How many of those are we up to now? Three? Although the last one was just a revival of the previous 80s revival which is needlessly meta.

The january 2009 revival starts now!

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John Doran
May 14, 2009 10:44am

Crusties. You forgot about the fucking crusties. Fucking hair cancer cunts.

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Charles Ubaghs
May 14, 2009 12:27pm

In reply to John Doran:

Sorry John, but some things are just too terrible to speak of.

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do1 frood
May 14, 2009 3:50pm

Biggest selling singles in 1992 1-10

Whitney Houston - I will always love you
Snap - Rhythm is a dancer
Charles & Eddie - Would I lie to you
Shakespears Sister - Stay
KWS - Please dont go
Erasure - Abba-esque
Jimmy Nail - Aint no doubt
Michael Jackson - Heal the world
Boyz II Men - End of the road
Wet Wet Wet - Goodnight Girl

You can keep your MPs expense accounts, that makes for shameful enough reading.

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Luke Turner
May 14, 2009 4:51pm

I actually loved a load of those songs. They mark my brief dalliance with pop before I was distracted by Suede and Nirvana.

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Luke Turner
May 14, 2009 4:52pm

Actually, some weird flip to my 13 year old self happened then. They're all diabolical, except Stay, that song ruled. Sexually formative video too.

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Simon Everett
May 14, 2009 7:27pm

Good God, Noooo. I was unfortunate enough to be at university in the early 90s, and it was truly a dead time for music. Pre-Britpop, pre-dance crossover (although I guess Screamadelica was a sign of better things to come...). Old people like me are supposed to tell today's yoof that things were better when we were young. They weren't.

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Fred Zeppelin
May 15, 2009 2:39pm

'92 crap? I don't think so: 'Copper Blue' by Sugar, 'Angel Dust' by Faith No More, 'Lazer Guided Melodies' by Spiritualized, Suede's debut, 'Code: Selfish' by The Fall...and that's just off the top of my head. There was plenty of good stuff around then.

That said, who needs a revival? I've done it once so don't need it again. And I certainly don't need crusties ever again.

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Amy Liptrot
May 16, 2009 12:03pm

I think the early-90s revivial might be acceptable for those born in 1992 (or later). I, however, will probably not be going back to DMs.

Stay was one of the first singles I ever bought and I listened to it so much on my walkman that the tape stretched.

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Jordan Voith
Jul 16, 2009 9:50pm

I hate to be a nitpicking Ned, but it seems as though this article is wholly focused on the bad (and not even that bad... am I the only person who still likes Nirvana?) and completely overlooks anything positive from 92. The most glaring example of this, in my humble, relatively uninformed opinion, is Pavement's classic Slanted and Enchanted. I don't know if Pavement is still revered in the UK like it is amongst many North Americans(shaaaame)of my generation, but it's foolish to ignore the significance of this album. Also from 92 and pretty freakin' sweet: Tom Waits - Bone Machine, Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85–92, REM - Automatic for the People. And, of course, 92 marked the release of the first singles (albeit not particularly good ones) by Radiohead. You guys may have heard of them

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Jul 16, 2010 2:21pm

The fact Kaiser Chiefs and Limp Bizkit are terrible says more about the period running 2000 - 2005 that it does about the early nineties. I'm not sure how good albums by Nirvana and Suede which you claim lead to bad albums around a decade later make 1992 especially bad.

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Ben Martin
Jul 16, 2010 10:04pm

Haven;t we come to the realisation that good things and bad things come from pretty much every year since the birth of civilisation? If people are celebrating the good things and ignoring the bad, surely that's a good thing? I was 3 in '92, but have since discovered pretty much all of the good things in the early 90s, which i love. The tail end of Grunge, MBV's height, Pavement and Dino Jr's full swing, whatever.
I wear flannel shirts and DMs, but honestly did it with no thoughts of "oh this will make me look SO 92!!!!!!!".
Unfortunately, I've said it before, and unfortunately, I'll say it again on The Quietus.
Stop being grumpy old bastards.

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Mar 12, 2012 7:53pm

Think your missing the vital point of the early 90s....The Dance scene!! ucking hell the chemical generation created music that's legacy can be felt today in muscians such as Zomby, Joy O, Pearson Sound and a host of other wicked producers who were influence (but not imitating) the 90s sound.
Furthermore your point about what's at the top of the charts..Who cares? What sells is usually dross, but the whole point is that you can take it or leave it man!

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Jun 13, 2012 5:25pm

... let's not forget that most of the actual bands of the seattle scene barely got anything good out that time. Failed success is the least worst (lost friends, life long drug habits, death...).
I sometimes have my "early 90's was the best" attacks as well.
Mainly because the first decade of 2000 seemed like the apocalypse to me in so many ways.
It's not bad to rethink history and certain abandoned aspects.
Let's learn from what happened. Without cynicism and the almighty irony.
I think children's programs for example have lost any type of alternative thinking in the last decade.

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Nov 22, 2013 7:13am

In reply to Luke Turner:

One wants to hear from the people who were the same age as those artists mentioned. Not 13 year olds.

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Nov 22, 2013 7:15am

In reply to Ben Martin:

Are you still being a copy clone of another generation ?

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Dec 15, 2017 1:34am

To call 1992 the year Morrissey began "terminal decline" is absurd. Not only was Your Arsenal brilliant (as was the Finsbury Park show - check it out on YouTube), but he followed it up in 1994 with what is Morrissey's greatest album - whether considered as a solo artist or as a Smith - Vauxhall and I (plus the great Boxers EP in between).

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