This is the next post in my “Memories” series, outlining where I’ve been through the various times and scenes of music through my life. I’ve set up a page to help keep track of this stuff, here is where anyone interested can find more information about this. This one is a bit different as I get to kill a lot of time with one blow. This runs the time period 1995 through to mid-2006.
I call this the “lost years” because I wasn’t really attached to any one scene or place in this time. The later 1990’s saw music move in a lot of different directions, some that I could appreciate, but a lot of what I was into going toward that time period was lost. Scenes would fire up again in the early 2000’s but it would take some time for me to truly get back into them. And even as I did, it was due to changes both with the music and with me.
Through the early 1990’s I found myself getting deeper and deeper into heavy metal. I went from the fringes of hair metal at the beginning of the decade down all the way into extreme metal a few years later. Along the way I caught thrash and some of the various “alt-metal” that came around in the early ’90’s.
As 1995 wound on I would exit high school and be in the US Navy a few months later. These kind of life changes were major and had a big effect on what I listened to. I wasn’t some bored, lonely kid sitting in his bedroom in mid-Missouri, longing for something more. I was now in the mix, looking at an entirely different culture and needing to adjust.
I’ve spilled a lot of words about it already so I won’t go too much into it here, but the sounds of Britrock caught my ear in ’95 and ’96. Oasis were at their height and their tunes were the perfect soundtrack for someone young, dumb and ready to get into the world. Pulp and Blur would come a bit after and while the Britrock movement came and went rather quickly, those songs dug in to me and have become a major part of my nostalgia when I look back on music from years past.
Britrock was really just a part of a new sound coming on in rock music in general. Grunge would come and go, and open the floodgates to a major shift in sound for rock music. Gone was AOR rock geared for dad and hair metal was certainly gone by this time. In its place was alternative rock. This scene totally reshaped the sound of rock and was one of popular music’s most pivotal turning points.
Established acts were changing left and right. Metallica had delivered a curveball when they got haircuts and delivered the Load album in 1996. Van Halen jettisoned Sammy Hagar in the same year and crafted an ill-received effort with former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone. Guns N Roses imploded of their own excess, and Skid Row slowly slid down a cliff into a breakup and years-long hiatus. Motley Crue tried their hand at a reunion but delivered some weird music that wasn’t fitting for their name and reputation.
All of the old reliable hands were misfiring in the late 1990’s. Danzig cranked out some very strange nosie far removed from his classic period. Death metal bands began splintering left and right, cast off in the ascent of black metal to the underground throne. Thrash was an afterthought, bands either tried to experiment, broke up, or dove into the extreme end of the pool.
All this, coupled with me now being “grown up” and living military life on the other side of the world, led to me pursuing music more as a tourist than a rabid scene connoisseur. And I’d take what was given to me, much of it being the alternative rock that was quickly catching on as the new “in” sound.
A slew of alt-rock bands would come across my desk in the time period before the turn of the millennium. There are too many names to properly mention, though acts like Our Lady Peace, Fastball, Matchbox 20 and Live were serving up some good tunes in that day. Names like Seven Mary Three and Marcy Playground ring true from back then, though I wasn’t heavily invested in them. But that was the sound I was rolling with as metal went into hibernation and rock changed form forever.
The year 2000 would finally dawn on us, that much-heralded swing of the calendar that some feared might destroy us through bad computer programming and would have so much to offer in the way of a new life. Of course, nothing much really happened. I exited the military in mid-1999 and entered the new millennium unsure of my own course and not heavily invested in any music scene.
I did find myself captivated by Eminem in the early 00’s. It was hard not to like his firebrand style and his harsh take on life and society. Much of what he did was too over the top to be taken very seriously, but he had his moments where he said what needed to be said. He seemed to be the last real shock rocker, despite not peddling his trade in rock.
I still drifted along for much of the early new century. Alternative rock would come to mean something else as years wore on, and one Canadian band would truly redefine commercial rock music forever. I never got into Nickelback that much but there was no denying their impact on the scene.
But, this did start alienating me from what I was hearing on the radio and TV. Not that Nickelback is to blame for anything, but I found a wedge starting to drive inbetween what I wanted and what was on offer. New music I heard from usual sources wasn’t connecting with me.
For awhile I just meandered along, not really connecting with much of anything. I’d give a spin to a band who had a decent song on the radio, but I had no real music identity at the time. As 2003’s calendar flipped I started gravitating back to the resurgent underground metal scene, where old acts were reforming and new bands like Nile and Behemoth were starting new fires. I was way more into that than the Slipknots, Staineds and Disturbeds that were getting so much airplay. This began a process that would come to a head a few years later in a big way.
I still floated along for a few years, just checking out whatever was on offer. Nothing was necessarily hitting with me, though. I didn’t mind Bon Jovi’s turn in the new century, they had a bounce-back string of singles and albums that felt a bit like their heyday. I was slowly dipping my toes back into the metal underground but I wasn’t really committed to any one sound or scene. I just played whatever I wanted to hear and rolled with whatever suited my mood. I did slowly start to cast aside the “mainstream” but it wasn’t some conscious decision at the time.
One thing did happen around 2005 – I started going “retro.” The stuff I adored from the 80’s was now 20 years old and I had a hankering to go back and relive those youthful moments. It was the first time I really went that hard into stuff I had not thought about in a long time. Looking back would become a feature for me, but this was early on in that process.
It would be the summer of 2006 when my time on the directionless musical road would end. A few major changes came to my life in the course of a few days and I found myself in a completely different situation very quickly. The shock and trauma of it all, coupled with a feeling of disconnect with and rejection from society, would send me into a far different place musically and for much different reasons than what I had been doing up to this point. Of course, that leads into the next part, actually two, of this series.
These lost years were fine. I found a fair bit of good music that wasn’t off the beaten path at all but offered some cool listening experiences. I found some stuff that would stick with me and others that I would find warm nostalgia for after years of leaving by the wayside. I would eventually find myself stumbling and failing at life and needing to go back to the core of my identity to rebuild myself, but there’s nothing wrong with just taking in the moment for what it has to offer. I had to leave the naïve comforts of youth for the cold embrace of adulthood, and I spent most of my 20’s in a bit of a musical wilderness. It’s still a part of the journey, only if even a transitional phase on that long and crooked road.