Thursday, October 24, 2019

McQ's Best Of 1998 Vol 6 - Mainstream Rocking Shite

The rocking side of 1998's mainstream singles explosion gets its due here, on possibly the most endearing of our 1998 mixes.

Here's the Spotify link.  Enjoy!

About The Artists/Albums/Songs Represented On This Mix:

1. Money City Maniacs - Sloan: We'll be profiling two cuts here from Cheap Trick-ish Canadian power-pop quartet Sloan's stellar fourth studio album Navy Blues, starting with the band's most popular track ever, Money City Maniacs, which was voted the 12th greatest Canadian song of all time in a turn-of-the-century national Canuck poll

2. What Makes You Happy - Liz Phair: To my ears, no album from 1998 has aged better than Liz Phair's third album Whitechocolatespacegg. A fully intentional shift towards a more mainstream sound, Whitechocolatespacegg received mixed reviews at the time of its release, perceived as the work of a highly skilled craftswoman and once cutting-edge artist who no longer seemed too concerned with shaking up the status quo. While to a degree those critical insights were correct (as Phair herself restates at spaceegg's end "It's nice to be liked / but it's better by far to get paid"), that starving-artist bias blinded critics looking for another Exile In Guyville gender-politics manifesto from seeing what a hook-filled triumph Whitechocolatespaceegg was. Well no more. By far my favorite album represented on this mix, we're featuring four tracks from Whitechocolatespaceegg, starting with this nifty "permission-granted-to-self-empower" number here. 

3. Flagpole Sitta - Harvey Danger: If there's a better late 90s guilty pleasure than Harvey Danger's Seattle-grunge-scene-skewering Flagpole Sitta, I haven't heard it. Taken from the University Of Washington journalism student collective's debut album Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone?.

4. Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) - The Offspring: Powered by three huge singles, The Offspring's fifth album Americana captured the band at the absolute height of their mainstream punk-pop powers, and leading the way was this silly, monster smash that topped the polls in nine countries outside the states, helping make Americana one of the best selling punk albums in history.

5. The Trick Is To Keep Breathing - Garbage: Though not quite as popular or successful as Push It, I Think I'm Paranoid, or Special - the three other singles released from Garbage's alt-hit sophomore LP Version 2.0 - I've always had a soft spot for the record's moody perseverance anthem The Trick Is To Keep Breathing, which would go on to inspire an episode title for the WB teen drama One Tree Hill.

6. Jesus Says - Ash: After recruiting vocalist/guitarist Charlotte Hatherly to join the act, Irish rockers Ash's second release Nu-Clear Sounds changed up their sound so much from their beloved previous release 1977 it threw fans for a loop and is now widely considered the low point in the band's discography. That said, I've always loved this Song 2-styled hard-charger from the record, and consider it one of my favorite numbers on this mix. 

7. Never There - Cake: While not the band's most popular song today, Never There from the Sacramento funk-rock outfit's third album Prolonging The Magic is the best charting song of their career, propelled in part by an amusing music video that was a big  MTV hit. 

8. My Favourite Game - The Cardigans: Tasty power-pop courtesy of Swedish alt-rockers The Cardigans fourth full-length Gran Turismo.

9. All My Best Friends Are Metalheads - Less Than Jake: Another playful ditty that feels like it could have only come from 1998, taken from Gainesville, Florida-based ska-punkers Less Than Jake's third album Hello Rockview.

10. Hideaway - The Olivia Tremor Control: Okay, this one here is a bit of a cheat, as a band doesn't get more indie (as opposed to mainstream) than The Olivia Tremor Control, who along with The Apples In Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel, were one of the original trio of Elephant 6 label signees, but I just felt that the Pet Sounds-inflected Hideway here, the lead single from the band's 1998 album Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume 1, flowed best with the other material on this mix. 

11. Johnny Feelgood - Liz Phair: Interpretations of this Whitechocolatespacegg song vary wildly. Is this really an old-skool Phair number about a kinky, possibly violent lover? Or could "Johnny Feelgood" actually be a nickname for Phair's infant son James, who was also the inspiration for the album's metaphoric title?

12. Juicy, Juicy, Juice - Royal Trux: Another true-blue indie act that just felt like they fit better here, I rationalize my inclusion of this track from the Neil Haggerty/Jennifer Herrema indie-noise-duo's seventh studio album Accelerator on the one super-flimsy excuse that the shambolic Accelerator is the most highly regard album of the underground act's near two decade career. 

13. Circles - Soul Coughing: The biggest hit of oddball New York alt-rock/alt-hip hop quartet Soul Coughing's career, Circles gained additional fame when the El Oso song was employed as the backing track to a Cartoon Network promo that playfully mocked animation's incessant use of repeating backgrounds.

14. Road Rage - Catatonia: The first of two European hits we're featuring on this mix from Welsh rock outfit Catatonia's triple-platinum breakout second full-length International Velvet, Road Rage was the album's most critically celebrated track (winning several song of the year awards in the UK), but also its most controversial. Based on the 1996 tabloid murder of Lee Harvey by his girlfriend, Tracie Andrews (who stabbed Harvey over thirty times with a pen knife while he was driving his car, and then tried to convince police the murder was committed by another driver who flipped-out in a state of "road rage") the song was ravaged in the press by Harvey's parents, who felt the band was exploiting their son's death for commercial gain.

15. The Kids Aren't Alright - The Offspring: Though it didn't chart quite as well initially as Americana's other two singles Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) and Why Don't You Get A Job?, The Kids Aren't Alright stands today as the enduring Garden Grove punk outfit's most listened to song. 

16. Bad Old Man - Babybird: Really enjoyed discovering this dark, Arctic Monkeys-anticipating minor UK hit from Babybird (aka English songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/novelist Stephen Jones). It originally appeared on Jone's 1998 sophomore release There's Something Going On, which was the first Babybird album to employ the services of Jone's live band in the studio.

17. Ride - Liz Phair: Here's another hooky gem from the album Whitechocolatespacegg, which featured a number of prominent guest artists in significant supporting rolls, including REM's Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry, REM producer Scott Lit, and Wilco multi-instrumental LeRoy Bach in addition to Phair's frequent Chicago collaborators like Brad Wood and future Brian Wilson guitarist Scott Bennett.

18. What It's Like - Everlast: The biggest hit of LA rock-rapper and former House Of Pain MC Eric Francis Schrody's career, this lead single from the future Eminem feuder's second solo outing Whitey Ford Sings The Blues probably should have gone on our Hip Hop v. Rap Rock mix, but Everlast's vocal delivery and the acoustic approach just seemed to feel better here. 

19. The Bartender And The Thief - Stereophonics: The lead 1998 single from still active Welsh Brit-rock institution Stereophonic's breakout 1999 sophomore full-length Performance And Cocktails, this song initiated a long run of major successes across the pond, which produced six #1 UK albums and a litany of European Festival headlining gigs including the granddaddy of them all, Glastonbury, in 2002, and Suffolk's Latitude festival just last July. 

20. Get Myself Arrested - Gomez: Nancy's Favorites mix will feature a couple more songs from Gomez's 1998 Mercury Prize-winning debut Bring It Onwhich stunningly beat out Massive Attack's Mezzanine and The Verve's Urban Hymns to take the award, but for now, we'll just enjoy this casual number that perfectly showcases the record's relaxed, bluesy approach. 

21. She Says What She Means - Sloan: As popular as Money City Maniacs is in Sloan's native Canada, I must admit my personal favorite from the Nova Scotia vets' 1998 release Navy Blues is the album's Beatlesque second single presented here

22. Shimmer - Fuel: The lead single from Tennessee-bred, Philadelphia-groomed alt-rockers Fuel's smart debut LP Sunburn, Shimmer would prove to be just the first of many hit singles for the band over the half-decade to follow. 

23. Big Tall Man - Liz Phair: One last sassy rocker here from Whitechocolatespacegg.

24. One Week - Barenaked Ladies: It's as mainstream as songs come, but I've always loved this intentionally nonsensical, upbeat, pop-culture-slinging nugget from Canada's Barenaked Ladies and their four full-length Stunt, and I am not alone.  The song was the band's biggest hit in the States (though not their biggest in native Canada), and has been featured as a soundtrack element in many movies, video games, and television shows in the years since, including American Pie, 10 Things I Hate About You, and The West Wing. It even earned the ultimate badge of honor in inspiring a Weird Al parody, Jerry Springer.

25. Mulder And Scully - Catatonia: The first, best-selling single from the album International Velvet, it is my favorite track on the album as well, no matter how much critical heat was thrown Road Rage's way. I mean, how can an inveterate Sci-Fi geek such as myself not dig a song as catchy as this that cleverly employs the famed X-File agents as investigators of the eternally strange, inexplicable mysteries of love? 

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