Taken from Tori Amos’ 1992 solo debut Little Earthquakes, “Winter” is a haunting piano ballad that uses the frigid season as a metaphor for searching for self-acceptance. By using fairytale imagery, Amos comments on her fractured childhood and difficult relationship with her father. It’s obviously a personal song, but lines such as “skating around the truth, who I am” make this one universally relatable to anyone who ever grappled with issues of identity and learning to live with and love who they are.
“Consider memories. Well, am I ready for this? Consider everything, like a hedonist.”
In the fall of 1992, I was attending college at Penn State’s Ogontz campus in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It was a fairly miserable time for me as I didn’t really know many people there…and my attempts to take a year off following my high school graduation were thwarted by my parents (whose roof I still lived under). Anyways, a lot of my time there is a blur but a few things stick out: one of the wild ducks that roamed the area stealing half of a turkey hoagie from out of my hand, getting caught singing “Born of Frustration” at the top of my lungs while walking from the train to campus, various crushes I had on classmates, and the above song from the criminally forgotten Riverside. Why? You see I spent a lot of time walking around listening to my headphones between classes, and mix tapes of the era invariably featured the jangly beauty of “Waterfall.” Its yearning lyrics really resonated with me as a young adult who was still trying to figure out who he was and what he wanted. The song is three and a half minutes of what Lush would call sweetness and light. Wonderful stuff that makes me feel as warm and nostalgic as a bowl of chicken soup on a rainy autumn night. Aww.
Hailing from the Philadelphia area, Riverside had a sound — a mixture of Ride and The Ocean Blue (fitting since that act’s keyboardist, Steve Lau, produced the group’s debut, One)— and Gap ad looks that should have made them 120 Minutes darlings. “Waterfall” did get a few spins on that show, but the band’s dreampop melodies were already out of vogue thanks to the flannel beast known as grunge that was then dominating MTV. And so Riverside was quickly forgotten. They still play the occasional show in the Philly area, and their self-released second album Taste is still available through their website.
Forgotten college rock beauty is still beauty though, so if you haven’t had the pleasure of checking out Riverside here’s your chance. - Bigfoot
Life stuff has kept Timmy G and myself away from this site for awhile, but we are now back and ready to post more of 1992’s best songs. As we get caught up, check out this terrific article from the AV Club about this site. It’s great to know that people are reading and liking what we are doing here!
After the disappointing Gold Afternoon Fix, The Church returned to the studio with a collection of new songs that they believed would rejuvenate them creatively and commercially.
Well, they were half right.
When the resulting album, Priest=Aura, was released in 1992, it failed to make an impact on the college radio charts thanks to a lack of support from Arista Records and changing musical tastes. (The grunge beast was just beginning to dig its claws into the pop culture zeitgeist). Obviously sales have nothing to do with quality, but it’s more than a little bit depressing that Priest=Aura wasn’t embraced by anyone other than The Church’s usual congregation because it is a work that is the fulfillment of the band’s artistic potential. Terrific musicianship? Check. Oblique lyrics? Yep. Soaring, romantic vocals? Uh huh. The LP remains something of a minor masterpiece, and easily the most underrated entry in their ever-growing discography.
For a brief moment in 1992, you may have caught the Ripple single on 120 Minutes or your local college station. Highlighted by a swoon-worthy vocal performance by Steve Kilbey, the song is a pensive reflection on the aftermath of a romance doomed by drugs and deception. Evocative imagery (including a Siren who possesses a hairdo “filled with diamonds and lice”) battles the strong vocal performance to infiltrate your skin and heart here. But ultimately it’s the combination of these factors that have left this one, well, rippling through my memory for two decades now. - Bigfoot
Talking Heads - Song: Lifetime Piling Up Album: Sand in the Vaseline: Popular Favorites
From the songs that I can’t believe are 20 years old file comes the Talking Heads’ last-ever single, Lifetime Piling Up. Admittedly, I was never a hardcore fan of the group — I personally felt that their pretension often overshadowed their music — but something about this reaches into me and pulls out warm feelings. As someone who has dealt with frequent bouts of nostalgia, I can totally relate to the tune’s reflections on the past. It doesn’t hurt that David Byrne also delivers one of his strongest vocal performances ever here…or that the song is also deeply romantic. Like Kitchens of Distinction’s Drive That Fast, Lifetime Piling Up uses automobile imagery as a metaphor for being madly in love. (Something I’m a sucker for even though I don’t even drive). “I can see my lifetime piling up. I can see it smashing into yours. It was not an accident at all…” Those lines give me chills. Forget This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody), here’s your Talking Heads wedding song. - Bigfoot
Neneh Cherry (featuring Michael Stipe) - Song: Trout Album: Homebrew
With Buffalo Stance hitmaker Neneh Cherry making something of a comeback with her new album, The Cherry Thing, the time seemed right to look back upon this safe sex-promoting slice of funk that features guest vocals by Michael Stipe and samples taken from Steppenwolf and Led Zeppelin. Unlike other big socially conscious songs of the era like Kirsty MacColl’s Walking Down Madison, Trout is too busy turning up the heat to get bogged down by preachiness. Sure, the song is just a huge plea for better sex education in American schools, but it gets its message across in the sultriest way possible. (This one gets bonus points for being daring enough to have Stipe rap “don’t let your kids get caught without a jimmy hat” and not have it be ridiculous). Even though it’s getting hot outside, you’ll definitely want to add this steamy jam to you summer playlists. If nothing else, it proves that Neneh Cherry is way more talented than her one-hit wonder reputation would suggest. Ya know wha’ I mean? - Bigfoot
No, they aren’t from Utah. Leeds, England to be exact and in 1992 had a pretty massive dance hit with Something Good. Featuring a sample from Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting, this track was a staple on radio and the classic era of MTV’s 120 Minutes—I swear it was on the show every week for 6 months, it just wouldn’t die. Kate Bush sold footage of her video for Cloudbusting to the band for use in their promotional video for Something Good, which in turn made it A LOT more interesting. Without it, the band looked like they were performing as a second-rate Frankie Goes To Hollywood tribute band in the video. Coincidentally, the song itself has a very massive feel to it, as Frankie’s Relax did.
The full-length release, Utah Saints, is a bit disjointed overall, kind of like two musicians/producers feeling their way through a collective of tracks they’d assembled over time, but that does not detract from it being a fun listen. Mixtures of techno/dance/industrial guitars/pop/rock/tribal all combined to make a record full of energy for any of you former tweakers out there. What Can You Do For Me contains samples from the Eurythmics’ song There Must Be An Angel Playing With My Heart, treated in the same vain as Bush’s Cloudbusting sample. — Timmy G
Though it seems that most popular techno/dance was popularized by UK/European acts (though I do not want to overlook the Detroit techno scene), Moby was a shining star of sorts here in the U.S. underground/club scene of NYC. After releasing, most likely, white label singles and performing/DJing in the late 80s and early 90s, 1992 saw the release of his first full length record, Moby. Included on Moby, were new-solid versions of some earlier written tracks Drop A Beat, Next Is The E and Go, the latter of which can be found in it’s original and drastically different form on the release Early Underground.
Go is a quintessential early Moby track and many years before he quite literally—sold out (every track on his 1999 release, Play, was licensed to be used in commercials, film etc. Hey, a guy has to make money somehow) and before he started providing vocals on his records. Go contains, a sample from Angelo Badalamenti’s “Laura Palmers Theme” from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Starting off very ethereal until the beat kicks in the structure of the song is fairly simple, something which critics at the time may have noted, but also contains vocal samples which would soon become a calling card of Moby—incorporating gospel-style vocals into his music.
In my opinion the last good [techno/dance] record he made was Everything Is Wrong, which was the record that started an increase in his visibility as an artist out of the underground and into the mainstream, but also as an activist. Animal Rights is a good record for it’s stark departure, harkening back to his early punk roots, and frankly more enjoyable than anything that came after it. — Timmy G
The Prodigy — Song: Charly Album: [The Prodigy] Experience
Built around a sample from a public service announcement, Charly was a single from a still very young [The] Prodigy, and one of the 5 singles released from [The Prodigy] Experience. Considered a seminal release for it’s time and also one of, if not the first, full length LP by a “rave” act. Combining elements of dub, acid-house, hip-hop and Liam Howlett’s unmistakable looping style, Experience is classic of a time gone by.
Charly is a fun track, with swirling synth passages, beats and this captivating “cat” yowl that adds an element of interest to a track, that for some people can be ultra repetitive and mind-numbing. The video, a product of it’s time, depicts a live performance (which included dancer Keith Flint who later on went to be the voice of The Prodigy along with Maxim Reality—Flint didn’t provide vocals until Fat of The Land, two releases later) and scenes of the public service announcement that the main sample is from. Moving past Experience, the follow-up Music For The Jilted Generation leaves behind some of the youthful elements of “rave”, in reaction to governmental crackdowns on such events, and is by far a more well-written written record that cemented them into having a long career. It contains one of my favorite tracks of their’s, Poison, though Charly brings back some great memories when I first heard the song on WDRE/WLIR’s industrial/techno show hosted by DJ Tarnax (Tommy Nappi). — Timmy G
The Shamen — Song: Ebeneezer Goode Album: Boss Drum
First of four “techno” posts.
Though they started out in more of a rock/psychedelic form in the early years The Shamen, with the help of new member William Sinnott around the late 80s to early 1990, help to shift their sound to a more beats, samples and dance oriented future. Sadly, at the rise of their popularity on the UK techno/dance scene with their hits Move Any Mountain and Make It Mine (in various forms and remixes) from the great album En-Tact, Sinnott passed away from drowning. Founding member Colin Angus continued on and in 1992 released what was a more polished and focused record entitled Boss Drum.
Boss Drum, itself, is the bridge from the second stage of The Shamen to the third stage of the band. Whereas En-Tact had the psyche elements of old mixed with the new techno/dance side of the band, further exploration into the burgeoning acid-house scene seemed to be the direction they were headed in—as can be seen in the follow-up to Boss Drum, Axis Mutatis.
Ebeneezer Goode brings to the forefront band member/MC/DJ “Mr. C”, who had only made brief appearances on En-Tact, notably as the voice of the rap part of Move Any Mountain, as a main vocalist with more edge in contrast to Angus’ smooth vocals. As a visual face to the band, he’s the one that seems to have more fun. Cheeky, and a bit silly, the lyrics talk about a fella who brings the party with him thus making all the people around happy and jovial, but you and I know… it’s basically a drug reference, no? “He takes you to the top, shakes you all around, then back down, you know as he gets mellow, then as smooth as the groove, that is making you move, he glides into your mind with a sunny ‘Hello!’” — Timmy G