Sonic Youth or Smiths?
June 18, 2009 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Rock 101 Filter (literally): I'm giving a lecture on popular music from 1984 - 2000. (!) I'm teaching by style (in 1.5 hours). I'm having a tough time with alternative, punk, and indie rock. Whaddya think?

This is an overview lecture to (mostly) educators about popular music from roughly 1984 - 2000. The genres I will discuss (and are not up for debate) are the following:

*dance pop
*riot grrrl

I understand that you would have chosen X or Y over Z, but that's not the issue. I have time to play one musical example (or video) from each style. I will briefly discuss other artists from different parts of each decade. For example, for the hip-hop section, I will play "King of Rock" by Run-D.M.C., but I will also mention albums by NWA, TuPac, Will Smith, Dr. Dre and Jay-Z.

Now for the questions:
What example do you think I should play for the punk, alternative, and indie sections? And what artists do you think I should mention for these sections? These are the styles that are dearest to my heart and I'm having a tough time deciding. For example, I think that it's very important to discuss DIY, so I'd like to play Fugazi, but at the same time, I don't want to alienate my audience (primarily K-12 educators).

I know that this will open up all kinds of cans of worms about genre, style, etc., but I'm really looking for your opinions about what to play and why. Remember, this may be the only opportunity for these individuals to hear Sonic Youth or the Pixies, but I also want them to be able to relate, if only slightly, to some aspect of what I'm addressing (so would it be better to play REM for the alternative section?).

Thanks in advance!
posted by cachondeo45 to Education (48 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The first band to come to my mind was the Ramones, another option would be Social Distortion which crosses into Rockabilly a bit.

Honestly Sonic Youth is really hard for most people to "get" so I'd lean a bit on the more sugary side, definitely the Pixies though also perhaps Husker Du (or Sugar).
posted by bitdamaged at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2009

Oh and some early Red Hot Chili Pepper's might be interesting (I'm thinking Mother's Milk days) which has a heavier skate punk influence. Since that band has become so huge it might be enlightening for some to see where they came from.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:02 PM on June 18, 2009

Early RHCP definitely qualifies more as "funk", which would be really interesting to play, but I don't know how well that fits into your preset program.
posted by Phire at 12:03 PM on June 18, 2009

Alternative: 'The One I Love.'
Punk: 'I Wanna Be Sedated.'
Indie: 'Cut Your Hair.'

(Incidentally, I don't believe the 'p' in 'Tupac' is capitalized.)
posted by box at 12:04 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Alternative- Janes Addiction, "Jane Says"
Punk- Ramones, definitely
Indie- Neutral Milk Hotel, "Holland 1945"

Good luck!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2009

'Cut Your Hair' immediately began playing in my head while I was reading your post, so I second that as a selection for indie.
posted by ekroh at 12:08 PM on June 18, 2009

Dude. You're in Cleveland. The punk song has to be Sonic Reducer.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:08 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

For Fugazi songs, I think "Waiting Room" is pretty accessible.

Were Smashing Pumpkins too popular to be alternative? REM and U2 also started out as alternative, as my old lady memory recalls it.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:09 PM on June 18, 2009

Early RHCP definitely qualifies more as "funk", which would be really interesting to play, but I don't know how well that fits into your preset program.

Funny this made me go back and listen to a couple of songs off Mother's Milk - you're right its more funk though "Nobody weird like me" is quite the genre hopper.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:09 PM on June 18, 2009

When I think of 80s/90s alternative, I think Depeche Mode. They were huge. Some of their earlier stuff might be considered dancepop, but their big success came with the darker stuff. I'd suggest "Master and Servant" or "People are People". Also, The Cure!
posted by yawper at 12:11 PM on June 18, 2009

How closely are you sticking to that 1984-2000 time line? The Ramones first appeared in 1975 and most of their classic tracks are pre-1980. For post 84 punk, look towards Black Flag and other SST bands or Dead Kennedys and other Alternative Tentacles bands.
posted by Paid In Full at 12:13 PM on June 18, 2009

Electronica: Crystal Method - Busy Child, or Daft Punk- Around the World
posted by jabberjaw at 12:14 PM on June 18, 2009

I know you didn't ask about this, but I feel compelled to respond: much as I love "King of Rock," I would hardly consider it representative of hip hop. Unless you have selected it in order to play the fabulous video, it is more representative of the minor 1980s phenomenon of rhyming over live, rock-inflected guitars and drums than hip hop more generally. If you're looking for something from the 1980s, you might consider a Public Enemy track like "Fight the Power," which will allow you to reference the use of multilayered samples (there are none in the Run DMC song) that was characteristic of a lot the hip hop of that era.
posted by googly at 12:14 PM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Talking about punk but being limited to 1984 or later is pretty tricky... I mean, there's plenty of great punk that was produced after 1984, but you're missing out on the most fundamental works/bands of the genre (e.g., you won't even be able to talk about the Clash or the Sex Pistols or the first several Ramones records). So I guess I'm asking if your lecture presupposes a working knowledge of pre-1984 punk?
posted by scody at 12:19 PM on June 18, 2009

Punks get angry when labeling what is and isn't punk music, but if you want standard, popular generalization:

Early NY Punk: Ramones - I Want To Be Sedated, Blitzkrieg Bop
Early UK Punk: Sex Pistols - Anarchy in the UK, God Save the Queen, The Clash - London Calling, whatever
Hardcore: Black Flag - Nervous Breakdown, Rise Above, Bad Brains - Pay to Cum

Choose the video/live performance that will be palatable to your audience.
posted by seppyk at 12:24 PM on June 18, 2009

Ack, I just noticed the 1984 year limitation. That's a tough limitation for punk unless you're going for more hardcore-influenced music.
posted by seppyk at 12:25 PM on June 18, 2009

Any discussion of 80's punk has to include The Replacements, doesn't it? And how are you defining "Alternative"? Because that word has morphed a lot in the last 15 years. For a good primer on what "Alternative" used to mean, at least in the US, read Michael Azerrad's "Our Band Could Be Your Life".

There's a lot of similarity between "Alternative" and "Indie", as well - I know the topics aren't up for discussion, but I would be surprised if you didn't find that those categories are pretty closely aligned.

It would be awesome if a transcript or an abstract of this talk could be made available once you give it. Good luck!
posted by pdb at 12:27 PM on June 18, 2009

Oops. Yeah, I fail at reading comprehension, too.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:27 PM on June 18, 2009

2nding "Cut Your Hair" for indie and Sonic Youth, "Teenage Daydream," or REM, "The One I Love," or "Orange Crush," for alternative. If you're talking punk that is '84 or later, you may be getting into ska, hardcore, punkpop/punk revival. You could play something from Gilman Street Problem is, a lot of "punk" bands from post-1984 played punk-style music, but really weren't punk like that of the original aesthetic. If you're talking about punk from that era, your discussion would really be more of how "punk" split into other genres/started blending more with other established genres.
posted by ishotjr at 12:29 PM on June 18, 2009

Your timeframe of starting at 1984 might be a bit off if you're going to include punk. The original punk movement really started out in the mid-1970s. Think the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Damned, the Germs, and the Clash. By 1984 "alternative" artists who'd ventured beyond the three-chord mantra of punk bands were categorized as either New Wave or New Romantic. Early 80s artists like Blondie, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Devo, the Police, the Jam, and the Human League were all considered to be New Wave. 1984-ish and mid-80s artists like Duran Duran, Adam Ant, Culture Club, and Spandau Ballet were part of the New Romantic offshoot of New Wave.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:29 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, Play R.E.M., namely Radio Free Europe. That's the song that got them considered the progenitors of "college rock," which became "indie rock" in the 90s. Indie rock is smaller, non-corporate-affiliated labels, IMO, while alternative is just the corporate-signed acts' rock music that some big label guy didn't reckon a "fit" on Top 40 pop stations. Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins could be used for the alternative section, as they did both become mainstream. I'd also probably play Violet by Hole repping for alternative as well.

I'd play Kool Thing for the Sonic Youth bit. It's probably their most accessible song, right? And Chuck D's in the video, so you can work in a bit about the cross-pollination of styles that went on in the East Coast Hip-Hop/alternative communities in the 90s. I'd also mention/play something by The Flaming Lips, partially just for their longevity as an indie/alternative band.

Oh, and Beck for indie, too. I think most of them might be familiar with Loser. Beck had his indie label at the same time as he was signed to Geffen, and was putting out a prodigious amount of music during that phase of his career.

80s-00s punk bands? Gee, they all turned into something else later on, it seems, from Husker Du and The Replacements becoming more singer-songwriterly as members grew older and became more sophisticated writers, or they started off really poppy to begin with, like Green Day. The Melvins, maybe? Minor Threat? Or Bad Brains!

You could also mention Sunny Day Real Estate and Dismemberment Plan because out of punk has come emo and from that bands like Modest Mouse and The Postal Service. And as for indie bands today, you've got Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear (Two Weeks is gorgeous), Band of Horses, Arcade Fire, etc., etc. Things have mellowed out considerably these days in indie and alternative rock music.

I swear, I'm going to be 106, waxing rhapsodic about the newest indie holo-flesh band, or some such.

Good luck with your lecture!
posted by droplet at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2009

I think there are some good suggestions in your desired areas, but I'll be a jerk and ask you to elaborate on "electronica" (and to a lesser degree, "dance pop").

Since you're in the US, "electronica" is a decent catch-all, but it's just that: a catch-all. It covers the Telharmonium from over a hundred years ago, to the computer music of the 1960s, the synthesizers of the 1980s, and and the realistic re-creation of natural sounds that is possible today. Then there's the sampling that is featured in much current "electronica" and hip-hop, which started out with the tape manipulation of the 1960s.

... and now I re-read your time-span (1984-2000), and realize that you aren't looking at the history, so I'll instead point you to the list of electronic music genres. Electronica is not the label for a single band or group, but a useful header in music stores.

I understand you have a limited amount of time, and you want to inform educators about a range of musical styles and such, so if nothing else, note that each of these examples you play is just a sliver of a much larger range of styles, and that many styles blend together ( Run DMC with Aerosmith was a big one).
posted by filthy light thief at 12:33 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Keeping to the 84-2000 timeframe

Punk: Me Too and the Gimme Gimmees...Try and explain that in an hour.
Hip Hop / Rap: Run DMC and Aerosmith "Walk This Way"
Alt: Radiohead
Metal: Metallica Vs. Jethro Tull (Grammy)

That's all I got for now.
posted by Gungho at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2009

GBH - Give me Fire
posted by errspy at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2009

1985 is exactly when the Mekons released Fear and Whiskey, which marks one of the first collisions/emergences of a punk-based alt-country theme which would influence indie and alternative music to the present day. It's one of those meaningful albums that artists themselves know far better than many critics and fans, but it may be worth it for your own research, even if you're not to share it with the students.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:41 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another possibility for 80s punk would be Bad Religion's albums from the late 80s/early 90s. They're a lot more musically accessible than, say, the Dead Kennedys, still pretty seriously political — and I think they've arguably got more in common than a lot of hardcore acts did with the 70s classics like the Clash and the Ramones that people are mentioning.

I'm not trying to hold them up as the best punk band from the time period you're interested in, but they might be the best combination of "good," "famous" and "listenable" for an audience of non-punk-fans.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

obviously a lot of overlap between indie, alternative, grunge, and punk . . .

indie: Sonic Youth, Smiths, Pavement, Sebadoh, Neutral Milk Hotel, Built to Spill, The Magnetic Fields, Yo La Tengo, Belle and Sebastian, Modest Mouse, Silver Jews.

For a sound clip I would play Summer Babe by Pavement. More indie then Cut yr Hair.

alternative: Sonic Youth, REM, The Pixies, Violent Femmes, Cure, Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, Radiohead. Obviously I'm missing some . . .

Play Karma Police or Loser.

punk: Black Flag, Bad Religion, Social D, NoFX, Rancid . . .

Play TV Party
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2009

Just some thoughts:

The Mighty Mighty Bostones, Skatelites, Mephiskapheles, Sublime? -> No Doubt -> Gwen Stefani

Niel Young? Mother Lovebone? -> Temple of the Dog <>
Rancid? (topical as they've recently released a new album)

Social Distortion? Mike Ness (Rise of the Rockabilly)

Stray Cats?->Brian Stetzer?

Dr. Demento
Wierd-Al - (Parody Music)
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:48 PM on June 18, 2009

i think a presentation called rock 101, 1984 - 2000 needs to at least mention the mighty Oasis
- if adding a "britpop" genre is not an option, I would include the song "Supersonic" under "pop" or, to get to your question, perhaps "indie."
posted by mrmarley at 12:49 PM on June 18, 2009

For indie, absolutely play "Cut Your Hair" and "Holland, 1945". If you're only going up to 2000, the indie bands you should discuss (in my opinion) are Pavement/Silver Jews/Stephen Malkmus, Neutral Milk Hotel, Guided by Voices, Husker Dü, and Liz Phair; those cover the early-mid 90s era when college rock was becoming indie rock. As for later stuff, I would probably highlight Belle and Sebastian, Death Cab for Cutie, and some alt-country like early Wilco or Will Oldham. It might also be interesting to talk a bit about Elephant 6.
posted by telegraph at 12:52 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

n'thing Radiohead for alt.

punk - ramones

indie - mazzy star, magnetic fields,
posted by alon at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2009

I think people might be afraid to mention the obvious for "grunge." This is for people who presumably don't know anything about the topic and want a general overview of music that had a cultural impact.

So, play Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box." That's the best song I can think of to instantly give someone a taste of what grunge rock was like at the height of its popularity.

I think you should clarify what you mean by "alternative." This was used to refer to just about any remotely cool music in the '90s. Maybe play something off Radiohead's The Bends.

If you want something to represent the poppy, upbeat side of alternative rock, a really excellent song is Oasis's "Live Forever."
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:59 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1984
Punk - Ramones Howling At The Moon
Alternative - The Pogues Waxie's Dargle
Indie - The Smiths Hand In Glove
Punk - 7 Seconds Walk Together, Rock Together
Alternative - Flesh For Lulu Baby Hurricane
Indie - Tears For Fears Shout
Punk - The Cramps What's Inside a Girl?
Alternative - Love and Rockets It Could Be Sunshine
Indie - Billy Bragg Levi Stubbs' Tears
Punk - Butthole Surfers 22 Going On 23
Alternative - Jane's Addiction Jane Says
Indie - The Jesus and Mary Chain Darklands
Punk - Suicidal Tendencies Pledge Your Allegiance
Indie - Dinosaur Jr. Freak Scene
Alternative - Pixies Monkey Gone To Heaven

just a few to think about.
posted by Sailormom at 1:03 PM on June 18, 2009

Jane's Addiction, Been Caught Stealin'.

Reasoning: the alt/indie stuff that charts does so because it is an accessible example of its genre.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:17 PM on June 18, 2009

1991- Uncle Tupelo's "No Depression"

For a lot of people, this album started the movement.
posted by elmer benson at 1:18 PM on June 18, 2009

Indie: The Smiths, Hand in Glove. You gotta have the Smiths in there, they were genuinely ground-breaking and game-changing. The only reason not to include them is if you're going for a more US-centric approach (which I'm not knocking - but if you're trying to be international, you have to have the Smiths).
Also mention: Stone Roses/Happy Mondays (for those 3 months in 1989 when people thought they were going to spend the rest of their lives listening to dance/indie/rock crossover while dancing on ecstasy); Jesus and Mary Chain (hey, what happens if you play Beach Boys and Ronettes songs in the style of the Velvet Underground?); Oasis/Blur/Pulp/Suede for the Britpop thing...

Alternative: REM: Radio Free Europe. For reasons given above. Also mention: Pixies, Neutral Milk Hotel, Magnetic Fields, Spiritualized/Spacemen 3, Flaming Lips, Wilco, Radiohead. Other possible choices: something by Radiohead, something off the Soft Bulletin (Race for the Prize? Waiting for a Superman?) something off Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (if you can cheat and stretch to 2000); something off NMH's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, or maybe even some Spacemen 3 (Walkin' With Jesus?) for the druggie drone sound. But given you've got one song, REM is probably the best bet. Oh...wait...what about New Order? Depending how you define them, there should be a place for Blue Monday or Bizarre Love Triangle or True Faith somewhere.

Punk: Sonic Youth? Husker Du? I agree that the Ramones are canonical, but obviously their best stuff is pre-84. You could try Howling at the Moon or Bonzo Goes to Bitburg or I Wanna Live....Rancid I like but they're hardly original...maybe Husker Du, Something I Learned Today?
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:21 PM on June 18, 2009

Just a note but "I wanna be sedated" came out in 1979 but didn't become popular until a video was made for it in 1988 on a greatest-hits type Ramones album. I don't think your audience will know or care though and it's probably a great example of the genre.

If it were music aficionados I'd probably say in 1984 "Punk is Dead" and the most active/popular bands at the time were Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, etc.
posted by wolfkult at 2:01 PM on June 18, 2009

Punk: Husker Du, "Something I Learned Today" (as Infinite Jest suggested).

Alternative: Radiohead, "Just", covers some good bases with respect to the 'genre's term (retains some grunge influence without being beholden to it). I think Sailormom's suggestion of "Monkey Gone To Heaven" is also good.

Indie: Dinosaur Jr., "Freak Scene"
posted by Beardman at 6:40 PM on June 18, 2009

P.S. It pains me to cut DK from punk, but to meet the 1984 requirement, you can't include anything but post-Frankenchrist, and it's not really representative of the punk sound for a layperson audience. Unless you cheat and put stuff from Give Me Convenience of Give Me Death on there.
posted by Beardman at 6:43 PM on June 18, 2009

Death Cab for Cutie started in 1997 and are one of the most successful "indie" (having since moved to a major label) bands today.

Also the alternative category ought to include weezer.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:14 PM on June 18, 2009

Response by poster: Y'all are amazing! A few notes:
1. Someone is lecturing on 70s punk before me, and will be covering the Clash, Ramones, & Sex Pistols. But thanks for those suggestions!

2. Guided by Voices was my favorite band for 15+ years, and I was trying to avoid favoritism, but good idea.

3. I know electronica is a tough category that is more like an umbrella, kind of like afro pop covers juju, rai, and mbalax, but I need some of those sounds that have roots in Kraftwerk and do poppy things (Prodigy, Daft Punk, etc.). I do appreciate the resources suggested that address some of those sub-genres.

4. Excellent call on "Heart-shaped Box" - a great way to avoid the predictable, and still delve into grunge and Nirvana with some substance.

5. I was a big SDRE and Dismemberment plan fan for a while, and had forgotten about them. Excellent ideas.

All in all, these are all fantastic suggestions, and you have truly helped me out. I'll keep you posted about the final decisions, and I'll swing an outline to those interested.

Thanks again!!!!
posted by cachondeo45 at 7:20 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Of the genres you list, hip-hop is dearest to my heart (sorry, Riot Grrrl--say, what's your Riot Grrrl song?), and I would like to respectfully suggest that you pick something other than 'King of Rock.' It's not quite seminal, it's not quite representative, and neither teachers nor their students are likely to be big Run-DMC fans (their loss). Better, I think, to pick something topical, something catchy, something with a big sample, something from the best year in the history of hip-hop, 1989 (sorry, 1991): Young MC's 'Principal's Office.'

(Tupac derail: although his government name was Tupac Amaru Shakur, the late rapper released all his albums, even the posthumous ones, as 2Pac (or 2pac, or 2PAC--I don't know that there's a canonical capitalization).
posted by box at 7:44 PM on June 18, 2009

Not "The One I Love." Not R.E.M.s first song with a guitar solo*. Not the song people think is a love song when it's crushing expression of apathy. No "Orange Crush," either. 1984 R.E.M.? "Harborcoat."

* Or was it "Flowers of Guatemala"? Anyways, don't pick an R.E.M. song if it's not alternative.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:55 PM on June 18, 2009

Punk: Husker Du, "Something I Learned Today" (as Infinite Jest suggested).

Also: 'This Ain't No Picnic' by the Minutemen. Both Zen Arcade and Double Nickels came out on the same day , on the same label, in mid 1984, and both were significant milestones in the timeline of alternative music. Arguably, much of what was to come later would not have been possible without these documents.
posted by macdara at 6:41 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just noticed the Riot Grrrl genre. I'm not entirely familiar with the genre, but I think 1998's Le Tigre album - Decepticon - works. Were you thinking of things like Luscious Jackson, Hole or Electronica?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:59 AM on June 19, 2009

Aww no, for Riot Grrrl it needs to be Bikini Kill, no question.
posted by Beardman at 12:02 PM on June 19, 2009

Riot Grrrl, while it changed my life, doesn't belong in a list of the ten most important pop-music genres from 1984-2000. Also, it's a label created by marketers, much like electronica.
posted by box at 12:13 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

More derailing: there have been a number of significant movements in hip-hop in this timespan. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary, covering the globalization, new school and "golden age," Gangsta Rap, East Coast vs West Coast rivalry, and so forth.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:56 PM on June 19, 2009

« Older Where can I find figurines / stuffed / etc of the...   |   F*%$ing agent Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.