My fall of 1991 was a mix of work and play. By October, my advisor had assured me the results I had in hand were sufficiently novel and substantial to comprise a dissertation; still, I was investigating additional cases and beginning to accumulate other bits of new knowledge. Academic job postings for the 1992-93 year had begun showing up in the Director of Graduate Studies’ office, so efforts at constructing teaching and research statements for applications were underway, too. I was also playing a ton of bridge, having made trips to tournaments in St. Louis and Ft. Wayne since the school year had started.
And there was music to listen to at Greg’s and my apartment. Much of it was hitting the Modern Rock Tracks chart of the day, so it’s natural to take our usual gander at bits and pieces of that. (About a third of the songs written up below didn’t register with me at the time.)
30. Gary Clail On-U Sound System, “Human Nature”
Starting off this month with a sermon, almost literally: this club hit is channeling parts of a Billy Graham speech (according to Wikipedia, anyway). Current mood: Clail’s thesis isn’t incorrect, at least across too-wide swaths of the population.
26. The Blue Aeroplanes, “Yr Own World”
I don’t recall having seen a group list a dancer as one of its official members before, but thirty years on, Vojtek Dmochowski is still with the band. Vocalist Gerard Langley’s sing-speak is a cross between the Godfathers’ “Birth, School, Work, Death” and the Nails’ “88 Lines about 44 Women.”
24. Mary’s Danish, “Julie’s Blanket”
Circa came out a couple of years after MD’s debut There Goes the Wondertruck… and produced this gem, undoubtedly the only song in recorded history with the parenthetic subtitle pigsheadsnakeface. After one more album in 1992, the band chose to pack it in.
It’s the month for interesting (?) covers. Circa includes a take on “Foxey Lady.”
22. The Golden Palominos, “Alive and Living Now”
Drunk with Passion mostly features collaborations between head Palomino Anton Fier and ex-Information Society member Amanda Kramer. It also includes songs co-written with Bob Mould and Michael Stipe; “Alive and Living Now” is sung by the latter.
19. Big Audio Dynamite II, “The Globe”
Mick decides to sample a song from his old band, and makes it work. Sure seems like I heard this a lot more than “Rush” back in the day.
15. Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Shadowtime”
If there’s fault to find with “Peek-a-Boo” and “Kiss Them for Me,” it’s that each has a whiff of novelty to them. Maybe that’s enough to push the utterly delightful, elliptic “Shadowtime” into the conversation about Siouxsie’s best song?
13. Voice of the Beehive, “Monsters and Angels”
Honey Lingers, the Beehive’s second album, produced their first song to make the pop charts here in the U.S.; “Monsters and Angels” would reach #74 in November. (The album also contains an overhaul of “I Think I Love You,” with melody and chorus you expect, but musical backing that could have only been created in 1991 Britain.)
Edward Hopper fans may or may not enjoy this video.
12. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Give It Away”
RHCP’s ascension had begun with Mother’s Milk and their cover of “Higher Ground,” but Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the album put them on almost everyone’s radar. Wouldn’t object if “Give It Away” were about a minute shorter, though.
11. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Welcome to the grunge era. I’ll admit that I found “SLTS” revolutionary; to me, it’s the closest thing I’d know to hearing “Satisfaction” in the mid-60s.
8. Lloyd Cole, “She’s a Girl and I’m a Man”
One of two songs in this Top 10 on a mix tape I made in early 1992 (#5 is the other). I’ve not liked its title for some time, but a fair reading of the lyrics leads one to conclude Cole isn’t necessarily on the side of the “man.”
7. Squeeze, “Satisfied”
Play was the fourth post-reunion album from Difford, Tilbrook et. al., the first after Jools Holland’s second departure, and the final with Gilson Lavis on drums. “Satisfied” would be their last song to garner chart action of any sort outside of the UK.
5. Northside, “Take Five”
One huge advantage Katie had over Greg after she moved to Maryland was access to mighty fine alternative radio. WHFS, 99.1, was the absolute bomb compared to anything we had in the hinterlands of Urbana-Champaign. “Take Five” is one of the songs she passed on to Greg (and hence me) that fall/winter. Yes, it’s goofy, but I way dig it.
4. Billy Bragg, “Sexuality”
Can’t say much for Bragg’s voice, but he does have a way with a tune. Kirsty MacColl does her usual bang-up job on backup vocals, as well as hamming it up behind Billy’s back.
2. The Smithereens, “Top of the Pops”
Greg brought Blow Up back to the apartment pretty much immediately after its release. Overall I wasn’t as impressed as with previous efforts, particularly “Too Much Passion.” I worry they were a wee bit too passionate about reaching the top of the pops.
1. Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, “So You Think You’re in Love”
Cult favorite enjoying his last relatively decent commercial success, Perspex Island. These days he’s hanging out in Nashville with Australia native Emma Swift, who released an album of Dylan covers last year.