Sponge vs. Sunny Day Real Estate or An existential crisis on the meaning of the 90’s

I was talking to a college kid, he said the late 90’s/early 2000’s were probably weird.  He based it on this clip from the movie She’s All That.

So yeah, based just on this he was right.

We talked though.  It was interesting to get his perspective on things.  He said he didn’t really remember much before the year 2001.  I don’t remember much before 1990. We are 11 years apart in age.  It makes sense.

I went on a long rant in which I explained the positive nature of the 90’s, the optimism for the future, and the irrational fear of Y2K.  It helped me understand “the youth.” It helped him pass time as he performed his work study job of renting out film equipment at his college.

I continued my work day.

As the hours passed the splinter got deeper, the little thought on my mind that maybe I had spoken out of my ass on the 90’s.  The thought that the 90’s were nothing special, and I only remember them as being so because I was an optimistic young man living in the suburbs of a medium sized midwestern city and I didn’t know the reality of the world yet.

I started thinking about how many more records Sponge sold compared to Sunny Day Real Estate, and how anyone waxing nostalgic about 90’s music would go in depth to point out the importance of Sunny Day Real Estate while never mentioning The Flys, or Sponge, or any other crap L.A. band that sold millions of records and spent all their money on cocaine and impressing girls who were background actresses on Melrose Place, until they lost it all and had to manage a Guitar Center.

The truth is the truth.

According to the new truth, Wikipedia, Sunny Day real Estate’s Diary sold just over 231,000 copies.  According to this article Sponge’s Rotting Pinata sold over 1 million copies.

Yeah, one was corporate rock and the other was released on sub pop, i get it, but the point is the point.  In a capitalist world Sponge won.  In our nostalgic 90’s hearts Sunny Day Real Estate won.  So in the year 2016 who wins?  Who we want to be the winner or who made the most money?

And there you go, what was the reality of the 90’s?  Was it great?  Was it optimistic?  Do we remember it so fondly because we just really want to?

For every band barely scraping by, unwilling to bend on their artistic visions and values, that was inspired by Sunny Day Real Estate there is a band barely scraping by, trying their hardest to sell out as quickly as possible, who were inspired by Sponge.  In a world where everyone is equal, one is not better than the other.  However in the real world one is, and it is the band that was inspired by Sunny Day Real Estate.  Because corporate sell out music is for douchey hashtag visionaries and scarf wearers.

Hey pal, come see my band, we sound like #acraptakingacrap

Throughout the day I thought about the 90’s as a progressive era, how homoesexuality became more accepted in the mainstream. And then I remembered that certain affiliates refused to air the episode of Ellen where she came out.  And it made me think if that was really an accomplishment at all, and to that point if any recent milestone concerning equality for homosexuals is really worth celebrating, being that things should have always been equal.  If you get to marry your partner of 20 years in 2015, is that really a victory, because you probably should have been able to do so in 1995.  On a deeper note is any victory towards equality truly a victory or a sad reminder that we are still not all equal.

Woah, boy, easy now, reel it in.  Get back to Sponge.

The 90’s are to the modern generation of young teenagers what the 70’s where to me in the 90’s.  Shit, can that be true? Oh my.  It most certainly is.

I guess I understood the basic concept of the 70’s, to an extent.  I guess I understood that Led Zeppelin was important.  I don’t actually think I knew why though.  I probably still don’t.  I guess that is what I am getting at.  Trying to explain why the 90’s where important to a college kid is on the borderline of pointless, and I probably learned more about the 90’s from the conversation than he did.

In fact it probably meant nothing to him, and i’m not saying that in a mean way, I’m sure he enjoyed it, but I doubt it made him rethink things about what he viewed to be the truth as it had done for I.

I doubt that he began piecing together what was what and what it meant.

The 90’s were important to me, but maybe only because I can remember being young and optimistic, and filled with big dreams.  Things were simple, because i was a teenager, and not even for all of it.  The music I cite as influential from that decade wasn’t even the music I was listening to, because I was too young.

I didn’t hear Sunny Day Real Estate until a college kid named Jason Dangle gave me a mixed cd with some of their songs on it in the year 2000, at which time I was a high school junior.  When Diary came out I was listening to Sponge, because I didn’t know any better.  The music my older cousin’s would hip me to wasn’t even 90’s music, it was 80’s bands like XTC and the Psychadelic Furs or the early REM albums.  Half of that was probably because they viewed the REM albums that were current to the times, such as Out of Time as sell out bullshit, and wanted me to hear the original stuff.

That scenario reminds me of a time I was coaching junior high lacrosse in my mid 20’s, likely around 2009?  Some of the kids were playing music on the back of the bus during a road trip after an away game.  They began to take some requests.  Someone called out for “some oldies” and the kid playing DJ announced that he had “just the thing.”

They started playing  Blink 182’s “The Rock Show.”  They loved it.  They sang along and giggled.  It was a reminder of elementary school to them.  It infuriated me.  I started talking about Dude Ranch and Cheshire Cat and how great Blink 182 was when they first came out and about how even though they were goofy they actually wrote really solid pop songs.  None of them gave a single shit about what I was saying.  I felt really old and confused.

The truth is that anyone under the age of 30 reading this probably feels the way those kids did when I was talking to them.  If I can barely remember the 90’s why would they have interest in my thoughts on what they meant.

My first CD was Green Day’s Dookie, I got it for my 13th birthday, I then had to spend the next year buying CD’s from Columbia House.  Those bastards took my hard earned grass cutting money for years.  My parents warned me but I didn’t listen.  I thought Dookie was a really monumental album.  I thought Green Day was important.  It wasn’t and they aren’t.

Perhaps the reality for people like me, who are 33, and want to remember the 90’s as being something that they couldn’t even know if it really was, it’s based in the unfortunate truth that the decade that followed the 90’s was absolutely horrible.  Filled with dispair and national tragedy and perpetual war, economic collapse and a weird culture shift that still effects us today.

I had always wondered if people who are say 14 today know there was a “before time,” now i wonder if I know about the time before that and in reality what I know at all and if any of it is important.  Because using the modern measurement of success Sponge is better than Sunny Day Real Estate, and that is too much for me.

And with that, all of that gibberish and lament, I announce a new series of essays, lectures, rants towards the general direction of the internet, in which I will examine some 90’s issues, debate their worth, and ask for limited feedback and participation from the reader.  From the importance of the television show Roseanne to the most accurate high school movies of the era, to the fact that I have never understood the attraction to the movie Reality Bites.  We will talk about the 90’s, well, I will write about the 90’s.  Partially to leave a document for the younger people if they wish to know about it, but mostly to remind us, the Clinton generation, what was good about it.


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