Primal Scream and more...
“Higher Than the Sun”
A couple of years after the Second Summer of Love hit Britain, Primal Scream released an album that came out of two main influences: Attending MDMA-fueled raves and getting Andrew Weatherall to remix its song “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” into the classic “Loaded”. Following that up with the even more epochal “Come Together”, you might think the band would have its third single proceed along similar lines—“Don’t Fight It, Feel It”, maybe, or the cover of “Slip Inside This House”. Instead, they released the self-explanatory “Higher Than the Sun”, which sounds like it starts in post-2001 space and moves outwards from there, briefly shifting into a pulsing, bad-trip interlude before returning to Bobby Gillespie’s blissed-out contemplation of the universe. The record includes a longer reprise subtitled “A Dub Symphony in Two Parts”, but even the single version is swelling and hazy enough to contain multitudes. It’s music for that moment when you stumble off of the dancefloor and realize that you need some water, but you still feel just fantastic. Ian Mathers
If, as a freaky infant, Rock’n'Roll was my religion, then the Pint-Sized Prancing Purple Pervert of Pop was most certainly the Pope. Paisley Park was our Vatican and the Revolution our funky Bishops. But in 1991, R.E.M. weren’t the only ones losing their religion. With Graffiti Bridge, the album and the, ahem, “film”, Prince had shockingly exposed himself. Not in that way (surprisingly), but exposed himself as—gasp—a mere mortal! It was a tad disheartening, akin to discovering the fearsome Wizard of Oz was just some lil’ old dude messin’ about behind a curtain. Well, hurrah, indeed then for “Gett Off” and the other baubles and trinkets of the Diamonds & Pearls era! OK, it would prove to be the last time his Holiness could conjure magic for the masses and still convince us he was the (cough) Second Coming, but, dammit, if he was goin’ down, he was gonna go with an almighty bang and a salacious smirk. Flanked by two fresh playmates, “Gett Off” literally came out o’ nowhere, dripping with funk, filth n’ frivolity, and bursting with orgiastic screams, flutes and threats of “23 positions in a one-night stand.” Hallelujah! Our Saviour rises again! Matt James
“Bring the Noise”
I was recently listening to Public Enemy’s Apocalypse ‘91… The Enemy Strikes Black, and puzzling over how I could have loved such an “angry”, black album during my ignorantly happy, white youth. After all, its lyrical content damns America more thoroughly than a Fox News super-cut of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s juiciest sound bites. At the end of the album, though, is the collaboration with Anthrax, “Bring the Noise”. The song answers my questions, or at least drowns them out.
Before rap metal was a thing, the collaboration seemed revolutionary. Yet it sounded natural, as if it were meant to be. So monolithic is the ensuing wall of noise that one might wonder where the Bomb Squad ends and Anthrax begins, and it provides the perfect backdrop for Chuck D’s aggressive cadence. The only real surprise to “Bring the Noise” was that Scott Ian could rap. Otherwise, it made sense, and continues to serve as a tidy demonstration of what was so appealing about Public Enemy and Anthrax, hip hop and thrash metal. Disparate styles stomped on the common ground of swagger. Lex Robertson
“Losing My Religion”
R.E.M. set the tone for the rest of 1991 with the February release of “Losing My Religion”, the first cut off Out of Time. The bouncy, mandolin-infused single served as the catalyst for R.E.M.‘s transformation from indie and college favorite to arguably the most popular rock band in the world. As songs go, “Losing My Religion” was a good, accessible tune by a solid band about to hit a streak of platinum sales, stadium tours, and worldwide notoriety. The breakout success of Out of Time proved all those college radio fans were right in worshipping Michael Stipe and the boys from Athens, Georgia.
What cemented “Losing My Religion” in popular culture and propelled R.E.M. to the stratosphere, though, was its video, which received heavy rotation on MTV. A four-and-a-half minute display of shadows, muted earth tones, fanciful symbolism, and Stipe’s piercing looks and voice, “Losing My Religion” made R.E.M. the first of many “alternative” groups to break big via MTV, leading to multiple Grammy Awards and MTV video awards. Although currently a little dated (and isn’t it wild to see Stipe with hair in the video?), “Losing My Religion” is the kind of song you may not yearn to hear, but will rarely turn it off if it comes on the radio. R.E.M.‘s biggest hit still uplifts the spirit, particularly for a generation of (aging) listeners who grew up in the early 1990s. Bob Batchelor
“Give It Away”
There are few songs in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ repertoire that have turned out to be as canonical for them as “Give It Away”. It seems unbelievable now, but at the time Warner Brothers execs were turned away by radio programmers when offering the gem as the first single off of the band’s masterpiece Blood Sugar Sex Magik for lacking a melody. No matter. If you just looped Flea’s most classic bassline (second only, perhaps, to his contribution to Young MC’s “Bust A Move”) for ten minutes, it probably would have become a hit. When you add in Anthony Kiedis’ raps about Bob Marley being a poet and a prophet, John Frusciante’s backwards guitar solo, and Chad Smith’s chest-pounding snare-hits—the song was unstoppable. By mixing lines about the dangers of greed with less-than-subtle innuendo, it even managed to make being generous sound sexy. Its ultimate message of selflessness seemed to kill the 1980s era of excess with kindness, while helping us see that there had “never been a better time than right now.” At a time when most of us are concerned with money struggles, the song’s message is as valuable today. Plus, it still totally jams. Joe Medina