What Would The Community Think? (1996) by Cat Power

Categories: 1996 and Movies.

This is a solid collection of rootsy indie music. Her songs are strong and the arrangements are idiosyncratic, albeit not anywhere near as idiosyncratic as was becoming common in the indie world. I have always thought I should get into Cat Power but, though I like this record, I find it kind of innocuous. It’s fine, but I don’t know that my impression will last and, at least at this moment, I cannot see myself rushing back to it any time soon. 7/10 Read More

Horse Stories (1996) by Dirty Three

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Dirty Three charts their own course in the post rock world, sounding nothing like other post rock bands, in part because of their unique configuration (violin, guitar, drums) and in part because of their willingness to be noisy. The performances range from mournful to unbelievably intense while sounding like literally nobody else. Great stuff. 9/10 Read More

Sublime (1996)

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Sublime is frat boy rock: just musical and lyrical sophistication to appear like it is interesting music, but with enough sex and drugs and reggae to appeal the young man that is not yet been turned into a proper adult. The melodies are strong and the fusion of reggae, hip hop, alternative rock is relatively unique (and is accomplished, absolutely). But the lyrics lose their appeal once you pass 25 or so (or, you know, if you’re a woman) and go through being kind of amusing and seemingly clever to problematic. And the record as a whole just isn’t that Read More

Music from The Unrealized Film Script Dusk at Cubist Castle (1996) by The Olivia Tremor Control

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is a rather ridiculous record that asks us to indulge this band’s impulses immediately. This is a debut album and yet it’s a double LP length and it’s full of 10 tracks with the same name and numerous experiment that could have been cut. When these guys want to write songs, they’re pretty good at it. But there’s just so much damn material here and lots of it isn’t up to the standards of the opening tracks. And this thing is just so damn worshipful of both 60s psychedelia and early 70s McCartney. If you like that stuff, well Read More

The Curtain Hits the Cast (1996) by Low

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Not knowing Slowcore well enough, this feels like Slowcore brought to its logical conclusion. These songs are slow. But it’s remarkable how good some of the songs are (I like “The Plan” most) and it’s also impressive that the band can get dynamic tension out such a small sound and such simple music. That’s a miracle, practically. But that 15 minute song is entirely unnecessary and something I’d skip any future listens. 7/10 Read More

Trouble at the Henhouse (1996) by The Tragically Hip

Categories: 1996 and Music.

I’m pretty sure this was the Hip’s biggest album. It has a couple of their bigger hits on it – including “Ahead by a Century” which, if not their biggest hit, never seemed to leave Canadian radio in 1996. But I get a strong sense of deja vu from this record, particularly from “Gift Shop” which reminds me of another Hip song so damn much (I just can’t quite place it right now). I like some of their records from the first part of the decade and I’m not sure that this one really improved on any of them. It Read More

Aass Cobra (1996) by Turbonegro

Categories: 1996 and Music.

For some reason I always thought these guys were going to be Black Metal. I guess I just assumed that because of their name, and because their Norwegian. But they’re not Black Metal, obviously. I think I’d normally be kind of reluctant to get really excited about straight ahead hardcore in 1996 were it not for their demented sense of humour. To put it in perspective, these guys might be the most offensive band not named Anal Cunt. (At least as far as my knowledge of music goes.) “The Midnight NAMBLA” is not only a great pun, but it’s definitely Read More

Everything Must Go (1996) by Manic Street Preachers

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is my first experience of The Manics, beyond one single (“If You Tolerate This than Your Children Will Be Next,” which I have a compilation). As I’ve noted more times than I can count, the problem with hype is that is elevates your expectations to heights where they will never be satisfied. This is a well made Britpop record with well-above-average lyrics. But one of the best albums of all time? Really? I want my “great” records to do more than just make me happy. For me, greatness is as much measured in influence and staying power (“transcendence” as Read More

Take it From the Man! (1996) by the Brian Jonestown Massacre

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is the second BJM record I’ve heard and it’s basically just like the other one.  All I really hear is the Stones circa 1966-67. (Maybe the odd other influence.) And yes, this is louder, it sounds better, and it’s considerably more “rock” than that music, but I have no idea why a band would devote itself so slavishly to updating a sound from 30 years ago. Also, this record is interminable. I just don’t get this band – well, I don’t get the critical acclaim this band received – and I doubt I ever will. PS The thing song Read More

Intimate Letters (1996) by the Juilliard String Quartet

Categories: 1923, 1926, 1928, 1996, and Music.

This disc compiles both of Janacek’s string quartets with Berg’s “Lyric Suite”, a six part quartet. It is named after the second of Janacek’s quartets. Not named after the Beethoven piece but rather the Tolstoy story inspired by that Beethoven piece, Janacek’s first quartet is perhaps my favourite of all of his music that I’ve heard. It’s got compelling melodies but risky flirtations with the more avant garde music of his contemporaries; it manages to sound both traditional and brave at times throughout, and that’s something I always appreciate. The second quartet gets off to a very different start than Read More

Reject All American (1996) by Bikini Kill

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This record starts off as serious Riot Girrrrl (angrier than any I’ve heard before) but then takes a weird detour into Tsunami-style slowcore (albeit played a lot faster…). It’s an odd combination that somehow works in spite of the rather radical changes in tone and energy. The songs aren’t as good as Sleater-Kinney’s, but there’s still a lot to like here. 7/10 Read More

Moseley Shoals (1996) by Ocean Colour Scene

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is among the most “rock” of all ’90s Brit Pop albums I’ve heard. The band not only appears to really like guitars a lot, but likes lots of rock music, not just the rock music made by British bands between 1962 and 1966. It’s certainly the most rootsy, or the most “classic rock” of the Brit Pop albums I’ve heard. Maybe that makes it more derivative (particularly of the Stones) than some of the more inventive Brit Bop bands (like Blur) or some of the ones more influenced by Post Punk (like Pulp), but I’d still much rather listen Read More

Evil Empire (1996) by Rage Against the Machine

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Unlike earlier “rap metal” fusion bands (who were extremely funk influenced), and unlike future Nu Metal bands (who incorporated a great deal more hip hop-style production), what Rage does is pretty straightforward: hard rock riff plus political rap plus a guitar riff and/or solo that sounds like it might have been created by a turntable. That’s pretty much it. What you think of them likely depends upon whether or not you like those things. I like riffs, and I like weird guitar noises. I don’t like rap but, when rap is pared with things I like, I can handle it. Read More

Destination Love: Live! At Cold Rice (1996) by The Make Up

Categories: 1996 and Music.

When I first listened to this faux-live album I thought “Holy MC5 Batman.” At least initially, this band sounded like they were just MC5 worshipers, albeit in the best of ways. But that’s a really superficial reading of this music and also a misunderstanding of both this band and the MC5, who may be inspired by some of the same things. On closer listening, this is much more than just the Garage Rock revival it appears to be. It’s right for them to call their style gospel, as this is firmly influenced by the same gospel tradition that influenced the Read More

Bob Mould aka Hubcap (1996)

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is a reasonably strong set of songs by Mould, occasionally supported by the kind of attitude towards noise that Husker Du used so well at their peak. But the the diversity that made Husker Du great isn’t really present, nor is the contrast between their two songwriters. It’s like listening to half the band, really. That’s not terrible, but it’s not amazing either. It’s a solid little record, but that’s all. 7/10 Read More

On Avery Island (1996) by Neutral Milk Hotel

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This feels like the inevitable result of trying to make folk music in the age of indie rock and, specifically, in the age of Pavement (and their related bands). So much of what they do here has become canonical or cliche (depending on your point of view) for the numerous indie folk bands that have followed in their footsteps. The songs are pretty conventional (with a few notable exceptions) but the arrangements are anything but – elaborate, dense arrangements featuring guitars, keyboards and percussion that would not normally have been applied to folk songs, or indie rock songs for that Read More

Petitioning the Empty Sky (1996) by Converge

Categories: 1996 and Music.

I am pretty sure this is not the first metalcore album (not just because it’s not Converge’s first record…) but it sure sounds iconic to me. Hardcore punk mixes freely with thrash metal in a way that, for 1996, sounds incredibly modern and contemporary to, well, now. This record could be released 20 years later and people would like it. I can’t speak to its influence – maybe there have been a bunch of crazy metalcore records prior to this one – but I can speak to its excellence: everything great about metalcore is here – the passion of hardcore, Read More

House of GVSB (1996) by Girls Against Boys

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is the second GVSB record I’ve heard. It strikes me as a little more melodic than their earlier work, though that’s not saying much, given this band. They’ve gone a long way to creating an aesthetic that prides noise and rhythm over melody. They are a weird band – they certainly have carved out their own niche in the post-hardcore landscape that not a lot of other bands (that I know) have occupied. I think that’s partly because this is territory that not everyone is into. Anyway, it’s appealing, like their other music. But it lacks really strong songs Read More

Call the Doctor (1996) by Sleater-Kinney

Categories: 1996 and Music.

This is my first encounter with Sleater-Kinney and, unfortunately, Riot Grrrl in general. And the first impression is positive. It’s just punk but, unlike so much ’90s punk, it still sounds hard – such as the screams on the title track – rather than obnoxious and faux-British. And this is a strong set of songs for music so consciously noisy. So that’s good too. 8/10 Read More

The Score (1996) by Fugees

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Now that I am listening to Hip Hop occasionally as part of our podcast, I sort of figured I would be able to slowly figure out what I think about individual Hip Hop records. But 5 or more albums in, I still have no idea. At bottom it is still not something I can really get into. And so I struggle with a record like this, despite the fact that I have heard their cover of “Killing Me Softly” so many times it strikes me as the definitive version, because of its seemingly outsized reliance on the music of others. Read More

Roots (1996) by Sepultura

Categories: 1996 and Music.

I don’t know Sepultura. I’ve heard literally one song of theirs before on a compilation. But listening to this, it’s hard for me to understand why people reject it, even if there are traces of Nu Metal. Without hearing Chaos AD (and so being pretty uninformed, I guess), this sounds like an absolutely crazy, almost entirely successful amalgam of styles that do not belong together. It’s really, really cool and it makes it all the more imperative for me to listen to the earlier album, I think. I’ll get there, but in the meantime, this is pretty awesome. 9/10 Read More

A History of Rome – Second Edition (1991, 1994, 1996, 2001) by Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec, David Cherry

Categories: 1991, 1994, 1996, 2001, Books, and Non-Fiction.

This is a general history of Rome meant, I believe, for use in schools as a textbook. It’s written that way anyway, so it’s rather dry. The strength of the book is in the early going when it provides a great deal of pre-history to the empire, pretty much all of which I was unfamiliar with. Another strength is that the authors mostly refuse to speculate, so this is likely an accurate, not one that thrives on biased ancient accounts or on inventing motives for historical actors. But the book has two major weaknesses, even though it has been updated Read More

Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996) by Tortoise

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Whether or not Post Rock actually began in 1994 with [i]Hex[/i] is something we can argue about, but you could say that Post Rock, for Americans, started with Tortoise. Now, I’ve never heard their earliest albums, but it’s hard not to look at this record – with its suite-like 20 minute opener, and its genre hopping between krautrock, math rock, electronic music, and other styles – and not see the foundation of American post rock and, particularly, that brand of post rock that is most influenced by electronic music (and minimalism). So, to my ears, this is a foundational record Read More

The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996, Michael Epstein, Thomas Lennon)

Categories: 1996 and TV.

This is an interesting documentary about Orson Welles and his rise to fame, and what happened when he took on one of the most powerful men in America. It’s pretty standard PBS-style but, beyond that, there’s lots of interesting information about both Heast and Welles, their lives and how they were eerily similar personalities. If you’re into movie history – or, frankly, the history of the United States in general – then this is worth seeking out. 7/10 Read More

Barrymore (2011, Erik Canuel)

Categories: 1996, 2011, Movies, and Theatre.

This is the film version of a 1996 one-man show of Christopher Plummer as John Barrymore rehearsing for a revival of Richard III. Unlike some play adaptations, this one makes little pretense of hiding that it was a one-man show. Though film tricks are used to add or slightly change things that must have been done differently on the stage, for the most part it is just a filmed play. And I must say I find that a little refreshing, given how so many adaptions of plays try to hide their staged nature. This kind of thing rests on the Read More

Beautiful Girls (1996, Ted Demme)

Categories: 1996 and Movies.

I think I understand why some people look back fondly on this film. For a ’90s film, it’s got a huge dose of (relative) feminism. The men are awful but at least the women realize (sometimes) that they are. So that’s something. But this is one of any number of these films where the protagonist goes back to their small town and learns something. This is more of an ensemble, and so I guess it should work better. But it doesn’t connect with me, like it should. And I guess that’s because I’m not from a small town. Instead, I Read More