Modern Rock: Jan 19, 1996



wonderwallDon’t let the title fool you: It is not actually 1996. How do I know this?

Well, I no longer live in Ohio with my parents. That’s a big one. And I can drink alcohol. I’m having a beer as I write this. You, as a member of our audience, have probably already had considerably more than that.

Also, MTV is no longer my main outlet for new music. That’s significant, too. And that one is more pertinent to what we’ll be discussing here. In the age of literally any song being at your fingertips within seconds, do I risk being branded “old-fashioned” by opining that the MTV age was better?

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In some ways.

If I want to listen to Whale’s “Hobo Humping Slobo Babe,” I can find it on Spotify. I don’t have to catch it late at night during episodes of “Beavis and Butthead” like I did in the 90’s. I can listen to it whenever I want. And I do. However, as a child during the so-called “Alternative Rock Boom of the 90’s,” the anticipation of the next video brought its own sort of excitement. In 1996, it wasn’t yet commonplace to pause and fast forward through live TV. That meant that your average MTV watcher, demographically speaking, was bound to sit through a few videos that weren’t necessarily aimed at them.

It’s the reason I know all the lyrics to Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize.” It’s not because Biggie was thinking of me when he recorded it. I learned that song (and a lot of 90’s hip hop and R & B,) just through the act of patiently waiting for the next Stone Temple Pilots song. Later, when I went back and listened to some of that music in earnest, I was surprised by how much I already knew. Call it “genre osmosis.”

For the most part, whatever showed up in the MTV Buzz Bin, be it Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Flaming Lips, etc, I ate it up like delicious candy.

I liked the music they told me to like, and this wasn’t a problem for a long time. Enter a little band called Oasis.

My God, I never liked “Wonderwall.” Not even for a second. I have a bit more tolerance for it now that I’m 30. I can appreciate the songcraft on an academic level now that I have a few instruments and some musical theory under my belt. But I don’t think I’ll ever “like” that song, even the way I “like” “Champagne Supernova,” also by Oasis. For me, “Wonderwall” represents the absolute culmination of the frustrated moments I spent sitting through a lame music video, enticed by the faint promise of a better one coming up. Though I have probably spent actual days (in the aggregate) sitting through something I hated in order to later see something I liked, for some reason “Wonderwall” assumes the burden of all those years.

Most of you out there are going to fall into a few camps:

  1. Some of you will see the cover photo, which will inevitably be a picture of Oasis. You will comment “Oasis” or “great band” in order to make it known that you are aware of the band Oasis. This will be the extent of our discourse. I’m not sure what was accomplished.
  2. Some of you love Oasis to the extent that you are incapable of saying or hearing anything even remotely disparaging. You are the same people who responded to my article about terrible Beatles songs with a statement like “All Beatles songs are equally good  because they are the most important band in the world and anyone who says otherwise is deserving of a personal attack.”
  3. Some of you agree with me that “Wonderwall” is kind of a mediocre song.
  4. Some of you hate Oasis, even more than I do. I totally get that, even if I don’t strictly agree.

And I don’t hate Oasis. Not really. It just boggles my mind that we’re still talking about them (although, I guess I brought it up this time). When I was in college (in a year that was not 1996), I knew more than a handful of guitar players who could really only play “Wonderwall” and “What I Got” by Sublime. Now, “What I Got” is a much shittier song than “Wonderwall,” but its lasting popularity can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that the songwriter (Brad Nowell) died young and suddenly.

We’ve had the opportunity to watch the Gallagher brothers grow up into a cranky, graceless middle age, and yet there are people I know who would list Oasis among their favorite bands. Don’t we know too much to still like them? Aren’t Noel and Liam more famous for hating each other at this point than any song they’ve written?

Is “Wonderwall” just a really good song, and I’m totally off the mark? Does that explain why you can walk into a dorm room and hear it today?

If this article has a point (it doesn’t), it would be that I am simultaneously grateful and resentful of my years spent watching MTV. By the time I was 15 or so, I just wasn’t listening to the kind of music they were playing anymore. Also, they more or less stopped showing videos altogether around that time.

But for a few weeks in 1996, “Wonderwall” was king, which means I had to sit through it hundreds of times. Did my inability to click “Skip” on songs like this ultimately make me into a better person? At the very least, I got exposed to a lot of different stuff, even if I was kicking and screaming for a lot of it.

Ah, the 90’s.

2 comments to “Modern Rock: Jan 19, 1996”
  1. The Gallagher brothers have managed to stay relevant with their underwhelming, post-Oasis music projects because of Oasis. I do have to say that I enjoy What’s The Story and Definitely Maybe and that’s why we hope they can do it again. But, their hatred and quips are also fun to pay attention too. They’re almost the Trump of the music world. Almost…

  2. Pingback: What Do We Mean By “Overrated”? | Rocknuts

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