Your Guide to the Next Wave of 90s Nostalgia 


In the days following what came to be known unofficially as Pavement Week around here, it pretty quickly set in that no matter how you slice it, four sold-out shows at Central Park, plus another at the Williamsburg Waterfront, is a really big deal. It's multiple nights at Madison Square Garden big. It's Jay-Z big. Justin Bieber big. It's the kind of big those of us who spend most of our time listening to records that won't sell more than a few thousand copies don't get to experience very often.�‚ 

Pavement Week happened not long after Pitchfork wrapped up its (Pavement-topping) 200 Best Tracks of the 90s feature. It happened during the week Weezer announced a string of tour dates where they'll be playing The Blue Album and Pinkerton in their entirety. A week before Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando would share a stage at the Mercury Lounge. A week before has-been grunge band Soundgarden would release a new album.�‚ 

Lilith Fair came back this summer. Superchunk just released a new record. Jawbox played Fallon. People suddenly seem to be sticking up for En Vogue all the time. In short, the 90s are sort of having a moment right now. And in hopes of keeping it going, here's another batch of relics that are worthy of your nostalgia. Some are more likely than others to wind up with a four-night run at Central Park.

Sure, Blake Schwarzenbach has been slowly reacquainting himself with the scene over the past few years, bumming around town first with The Thorns of Life and now with forgetters, but fans won't be fully satisfied until he gets Jawbreaker back together. They met at NYU in 1988, and then relocated to the Bay Area, where they became one of the most beloved punk bands of the 90s—:their smart, melodic and crushingly romantic songs serving as a wake-up call to a world of kids who didn't know punk rock could be all those things at once. They released three classic albums on independent labels and then promptly imploded after releasing one more classic album on Geffen in 1995.

You know, considering the faux-lumberjack look that's held Brooklyn so firmly in its grasp for the past few winters, it's somewhat surprising that there hasn't been a revival of the twangy, white-man-approved alt-country genre that was so popular for a few years there in the 90s. It was all whiskey and beer bottles and blue collar posing, and it was awesome. I'm thinking there's a really good four-night Central Park run that could happen here: On night one, Whiskeytown would play Stranger's Almanac in its entirety, then nights two, three and four would be Wilco doing Being There, Son Volt doing Trace, and Uncle Tupelo doing No Depression or, really, whatever the fuck they feel like doing. �‚ 

You would be forgiven for assuming it's ok to continue ignoring Karate, a three-piece band from Boston with a very apparent love for improvisation and jazz, because, holy shit, that is a rough combination. But, god, you're really missing out. The band was led by singer-guitarist Geoff Farina, a wonderful singer, a brilliant lyricist and an even better guitarist. His tone is immediately identifiable—:shimmeringly clean one moment, and then warmly, naturally over-driven the next. They're a treat for gear nerds and regular nerds alike.

Having been on hiatus for the better part of this decade, Fugazi has been sorely missed. Because in addition to setting the standard on all matters of punk rock ethics—:in which, let's be honest, we could use a refresher course—:they also happened to have made some of the best records of any decade: hard-hitting without relying on cliches, and extremely complex without ever giving into math/prog-rock temptations. They also put on a hell of a show. Also, there's the $5 thing, which, if you've seen Spoon or pretty much anyone else lately, you know is not so common anymore.�‚ 

Mary Lou Lord
I have gotten into lots of fights about Mary Lou Lord over the years, mostly with people who claim that she's basically never had an original thought. To which I always respond, "Who cares? She's got really good taste in records." And she does: The Boston-reared singer, known most for her affinity for busking and her, uh, ties to Elliott Smith and Kurt Cobain, has covered songs by everyone from Bruce Springsteen, The Pogues and Richard Thompson to Daniel Johnston, The Magnetic Fields and Mr. Bob Dylan. She's a deceptively good guitarist with a sweet voice and a great, easy stage presence. If her return would make it so that young bands feel comfortable, or even pressured into proving their worth by taking on the greats, then we'd all be better for it.�‚ 

The Promise Ring
The biggest problem the Promise Ring encountered during the second half of their career, as well as in the years after it, is that they were always associated with the evil emo genre, which calls to mind images of Dashboard Confessional and a ridiculous assortment of silly bands whose t-shirts are sold in Hot Topics all over the country. The truth, though, is that frontman Davey von Bohlen and the rest of the Milwaukee band wrote impeccable pop songs that were strange enough, even in their relentless peppiness, to avoid the pitfalls we generally talk about when we talk about emo.

Archers of Loaf
To this day, when I get a new stereo component, whether it's a set of speakers or a turntable or even a shitty CD player in my car, I immediately grab an Archers of Loaf album to test it out. Their aggressive, noisy take on indie-rock was and still is perfect for that sort of thing. The deep, thundering drums, the squealing guitars, the visceral shouting from frontman Eric Bachmann (Crooked Fingers)—:it's pummeling in a way that little else is these days.

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