Questioning 90s Revivalism

Column: Features   |   Date Published: Monday, 28 July 14   |   Author: Cody Atkinson   |   2 days, 19 hours ago

It started out slowly, but now has become a full on deluge. The 90s is back, like Backstreet, alright. But can we afford to take the good with the bad again, or will society fall into a black hole in which it is unlikely to recover from? It's the recent past versus the present in the ultimate battle for the hearts and minds of Canberra in 2014. Cody Atkinson reports from the front line.

Name? The Nineties.

Age? Well, 20 or so years old.

Location? All around us.

Wait, the ‘90s are cool again? Well, let’s not go that far.

But it's back? According to all of the signs present on the landscape the nineties may very well be back.

Hey, haven't the nineties been back for a while now? Yeah, it's been coming back for a while, with the two decade rule remaining fully in effect.

Two decade rule? You know, the time period where the shame regarding the era you grew up in disappears and where young people decide that all the stuff you liked while growing up was/is cool.

OK, what's happened to date? Well, it's been sneaking in slowly. First, news breaks that the Pixies are reforming and are doing new music. Then Pavement reform and go around the world playing bigger shows than they ever did the first time around. Chet Faker mined Blackstreet for his first hit and Coldplay have been meekly copying Radiohead for years.

Indie labels were also at their strongest point since the early ‘90s, with the way music is delivered being radically altered again. And don't get me started on the fashion...

I mean flanno shirts, denim overalls, baggy t-shirts, double denim, snapback caps...There's no doubt that the 2010's have appropriated much of the ‘90s from fashion point-of-view, with the much valued exception of hypercolour t-shirts. You know it kinda feels like the ‘90s when you see a guy walking down the street in the middle of a Canberra winter wearing a Charlotte Hornets jersey in teal and purple.

What's the deal about the ‘90s anyway? Well, grunge and the Seattle sound, Britpop, IDM, the wider acceptance and proliferation of alternative music, the rise of the slackers, the internet, Super Nintendo...the nineties certainly had their charms.

So why are you only telling about this now? Surely it's most of it has already come back? While we have seen elements of the revival to date, we may have hit the epicentre of peak ‘90s in Canberra.

How so? Well, in the next month both Coolio and Courtney Love will be playing headlining shows in Canberra.

Wait, what? That's right, in 2014 both Coolio, he of the 'Gangsta's Paradise' and Courtney Love, of Hole and Kurt fame, are touring in Canberra. If I had to make a call here, they are two of the clearest signs of the ‘90s apocalypse.

So they'll be playing on horses from Hades? No, it's an analogyand a joke.

So Courntnio is coming to town, what's the big deal? The major issue with Courtnio touring and ‘90s revivalism in general, is the selective memory of the cultural touchstones from the decade.

Selective memory? Well, believe it or not (Ripley's, natch), not everything from the’ 90s was great.

Of course not everything from the 90s is great. Not every decade had a perfect microcosm of pop culture... There were some pretty big missteps in the ‘90s, including a couple that have started to rear their heads again.

Name just *one* example, Mr Smart Guy. OK, here's one. The resurgence of ‘90s-esq boy bands.

What do you even mean...OH MY GOD ONE DIRECTION?!?!? Yep and all of the quick attempts that have tried to cash in on their fame and fortunes. Face it, when we opened the door to all the positives of ‘90s revivalism, we also left it open for the resurgence of the boy band. There is blood on all of our hands.

Make it stop! I wish I knew how. Be careful what you wish for. With all the “Dinosaur Jr touring and recording again with original line-up”, you get “*NSYNC reuniting on national TV”.

What other horrors may we encounter? Well, without this column turning totally exhaustive, we haven't seen the second coming of nu-metal yet, which is generally a good thing for everyone. While ‘90s R&B has been mined a second time over for use in EDM, little has been made of the reams of big beat out there. And hip-hop is big, but gangsta rap has largely fallen by the wayside, bullet holes and all.

But is all this a bad thing? You know what?

What? I'm not sure it is. Even if the worst of the ‘90s come back into fashion, who is it really harming? Comedians get to recycle their bad boy band jokes, hairdressers make money off the kids trying to replicate their favourite nu-metal hairstyles and people will walk the streets proudly with the Vanilla Ice flow...there's always a silver lining.

So we should embrace the terror? Well, at least be impassioned observers, with beverage in hand.


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