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Black Sky Thinking

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

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.