Title: I've Been Waiting Title: Star Sign
Artist: Matthew Sweet Artist: Teenage Fanclub
Album: Girlfriend Album: Bandwagonesque
It's 1991 in my blog and sooner or later I'm going to have to talk about grunge. Specifically Nirvana, but Pearl Jam and Soundgarden also loom. I don't mind—I like Nirvana—but I thought I'd give a little attention first to the music that was killed by grunge. (Okay, "killed" may be an overstatement, but when you think of 1991, do you think about Matthew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub?)
Coincidentally, right around the time grunge was sweeping the USA, there was a bit of a resurgence in guitar-driven power pop similar in style to bands who emerged in the mid- to late-1970s, such as Big Star, Badfinger, The Raspberries and Cheap Trick. Bands like The Posies, The Pixies, The Smithereens and Jellyfish were all releasing albums that garnered critical acclaim but little commercial success. Ironically, many of these bands would be cited as influences by Kurt Cobain and certainly, it is not hard to find similar melodic material in his poppiest of songs (think "About a Girl"), but the more provocative characteristics of the grunge movement (shocking lyrics, noise, rebelliousness) served as the real footholds of the genre.
Regardless, some power pop artists did establish a base of loyal fans. Matthew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub each released their third and most successful records in 1991, which fared well especially with college radio and the newly minted Billboard Modern Rock charts. Sweet's music, is more...well, sweet-sounding with blissful harmonies and Sweet's tenor floating above Rickenbacker arpeggios that could have been lifted from a Byrds record. Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque caught the ear of Spin magazine, who voted it album of the year, besting Nirvana's Nevermind. Bandwagonesque's sound leans more toward washed-out distortion, with heavier drums and a more restrained vocal range. Fanclub seems to have their finger more on the future of power pop (Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, Superdrag) than Sweet, who seems to mark the end of an generation (The La's, Marshall Crenshaw, Nick Lowe). But they did have that haircut in common.