Juana likes music: Am I the only one who cares about 1994? -
Lately I’ve been thinking that this blog is exactly the opposite of what anyone would like to read: I write about music from almost 20 years ago, I write really long post with long paragraphs, I have no idea what it’s going on in the current music scene (this is only half true), I write about…
For the record 1994 is arguably the BEST year for music in the 90s. Herein are the classic albums of that year, in alphabetical order. I can’t possibly get into ranking these (other than to say Yank Crime is the greatest rock record of all time, by any artist in any decade).
- Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works II
- Bedhead: Whatfunlifewas
- Brise-Glace: When In Vanitas…
- Craw: s/t
- Dazzling Killmen: Face of Collapse
- Drive Like Jehu: Yank Crime
- Elliott Smith: Roman Candle
- Flying Saucer Attack: Distance
- JAKS: Hollywood Blood Capsule
- Low: I Could Live in Hope
- Palace Brothers: Days in the Wake
- Palace Songs: Hope EP
- R.E.M.: Monster
- Rodan: Rusty
- Shellac: At Action Park
- Superchunk: Foolish
- Tortoise: s/t
- Weezer: s/t
And then there are some other capital-C Classics that others would canonize but which I would place below most or all of the above:
- Bark Psychosis: Hex
- Jeff Buckley: Grace
- Pavement: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
- Slowdive: Souvlaki
And I’m probably forgetting some others—for instance in any other genres of music like hip hop which was having its own heyday at this time.
Listening to Justin Timberlake’s new album, The 20/20 Experience, for at least the 10th time while I still have to listen to an incredible amount of albums released in 1994, makes me feel quite guilty.
A few more for your ongoing 1994 lists!
- Hole: Live Through This
- Shudder to Think: Pony Express Record
- Freedy Johnston: This Perfect World
- Brainiac: Bonsai Superstar
- Jawbox: For Your Own Special Sweetheart
Still no one has mentioned Suede’s Dog Man Star.
Watch Janelle Monae’s video for “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu.
This is one intense game of rock-paper-scissors.
Just for fun.
The first copy of The Division Bell I bought was on cassette. This was the image on the cassette case.
I had a giant poster of this image on my bedroom wall all through high school. It’s my favorite thing Storm Thorgerson ever did, a strangely haunting symbol of human-to-human communication and how it doesn’t always go the way we hope it will.
If there’s a legitimate criticism that could be leveled at most of the work Hipgnosis did over its long run as one of the most in-demand album art companies in the world, it’s that a lot of those cool images don’t really have much to say; they’re to be taken almost as decorative. That doesn’t apply to all of them, of course, but when I look at that Audioslave cover they did, there’s not a whole lot to it. The point is that it’s enigmatic.
The Division Bell is different, though. Communication is a theme running through the album, so it makes sense that the artwork would reflect this, of course, in much the same way that, say Thorgerson’s Wish You Were Here cover reflected the themes of that album back in 1975.
So you have these heads in a field. And they are actually big, metal head sculptures, placed in a field, with Ely Cathedral way in the background. They’re shot in real light, with no matting or computer graphics.
And they’re talking to each other, sort of. Their mouths are open, but they’re both open, as though they’re talking past each other as much as to each other. And then again, the overall expression on their faces suggests that maybe they’re not even talking at all. They’re poised to talk, but they can’t think of what to say. Stand back far enough, and it even looks a bit like a single face, surprised at something you just said.
These blank-eyed sculptures are much more effective ciphers for the difficulties of telling each other how we really feel than two actual people would have been; they don’t have anything about them that suggests class, race, ideology, or any of the other things that artificially divide us. They’re the ultimate equals, and that means they share equal credit for anything they work out and are equally complicit when they blow it.
This is, of course, an example of an album cover made with a real budget. That is increasingly not an option, and people find ways around it. I think a lot of people would default to doing this by computer today, maybe with 3D models. It may not even look that different, but it wouldn’t be quite the same. For one thing, with real sculptures, Thorgerson and his team were able to move these figures all over the place and take photos under different conditions for different effects, effects that they may not have been able to predict. Open air photography is an invitation to serendipity.
There may or may not be a very subtle message about religion being a bell that divides in this image—I’m not sure if they were thinking about that or not when they chose Ely Cathedral’s bell tower as the thing that would be between the mouths of these heads. What the cathedral’s placement does accomplish rather nicely, though, is something that the best surreal images are uniquely suited to do: it reminds us how very strange the world looks on a regular basis.
That cathedral just sticks up over the trees at the end of this winterized field. People take it for granted, but it doesn’t really look like it belongs there when you scrutinize it. I wish there were more images online of the photo shoot for this album cover. I’d rather like to see the staging.
I may do a lot of writing, but I’ve never thought of myself as a great communicator, at least as far as the people in my life are concerned. So when I look at this image—when I looked at it every day, up there on my wall, it reminds me that this is pretty tough for everybody; everyone has his or her own communication problems. Sometimes, they render us mute, other times, they make us talk over or past one another.
In either event, I also think it’s notable that these big head sculptures are missing ears. Half of communication is listening, and when we forget that, it leads to problems.
This is my favorite thing Storm Thorgerson did. I hope he knew how good it was.
Another example of a Hipgnosis album cover that tells a simple but effective story. In this case, you have to unfold the gatefold to get the punchline, though. Things are not what they seem in the house on the hill!