30 Years of Music: 1999

How did we get from 1983 to 1999 already? Time, you sneaky minx, let’s see what you have in musical riches this week.

30 Years of Music 1999 logo


Maria – Blondie

True Story: For my sixteenth birthday, a couple friends asked what music they should buy me. I told them I wanted Blondie’s No Exit and Fleetwood Mac’s Heroes are Hard to Find. Godtopus love ’em, that is exactly what I got. Upon Blondie’s reunion, I’d become mildly obsessed with “Maria” since it started playing on VH1 and the radio.

To be honest, No Exit as a whole is just OK. The song near the end of the album that features Coolio, of all people, is pretty awful, but I still love “Maria.” It’s easily the best song on the album, and that crunchy guitar at the beginning is great. Debbie Harry is still a stone cold badass.

Stolen Car – Beth Orton

This is another case of my column providing the first time I’ve ever seen the video for a song. I bought Beth Orton’s second album, Central Reservation, right around the time it came out, and I loved it just as much as her first, Trailer Park. She was more popular in the UK than in the US, so her videos did not get much play here as far as I know.

In Alphabet Soup, I mentioned her “Feel to Believe” from this album, and “Stolen Car” is the opening song. I love these first lines:

You walked into my house last night
I couldn’t help but notice
a light that was long gone
still burning strong
you were sitting, your fingers like fuses
your eyes were cinnamon

That’s like the beginning of a short story right there, isn’t it?

Malleus Maleficarum – AFI

Black Sails at Sunset seems to be the album where AFI became a more cohesive unit. Yes, they had quite a few albums before this one that were rough punk rock, but for me, they can be a little difficult to listen to, since I know how good they eventually become. This is not my favorite AFI album, but I still really like it. This strikes me as the demo that, say, your favorite local band puts together right before they move to a bigger city and become more serious about success.

Also, any songs of theirs that have the Woah! call-and-answer portion are really satisfying to sing/yell along with in the car.

Don’t Change Your Plans – Ben Folds Five

I loved you before I met you
and I met you just in time because there was nothing left

Oh, this song. What a beautiful tribute to every person who has spent a limited, yet infinitely important time in our lives. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a better song about doing what is right for ourselves, no matter how much it sucks, or how much we wish it weren’t true.

I know we’ve been together many times before
I’ll see you on the other side…

Honoring impermanence means recognizing that the temporary does not lack significance.

Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Flea basslines – Get in. I like how they handle the strumming of bass and guitar strings in this video, and the whole thing has an interesting look. This song is a major earworm for me, but enough time has passed since it was played so incessantly that I really enjoy hearing it again. The whole Californication album is quite good.

Waiting For Tonight – Jennifer Lopez

Speaking of songs that were played incessantly, here’s a song that I initially disliked and now I’m like, Please hold: Dance Party. As soon as I hit play on this video, my five-year-old son arrived from a different part of the house, as though hearing the song of his people, and immediately began jumping and dancing around. “You know what?” he said. “I just heard this song on TV.”

J-Lo: Whether you like her or not, she’s a classic.

Avenue B – Iggy Pop

Iggy’s a classic in his own right too, of course. I had “Avenue B,” from the album of the same name, on an Uncut Magazine sampler CD, but I never got around to owning the full album. I should remedy this gap. This is a rather subdued tune for him with just a bit of acoustic guitar, drums and organ.

I’m a product of the paranoia of the age I’m in…


Thursday’s Child – David Bowie

Hello, Patronous, it’s nice to see hear you in this column again. After loving Earthling, I bought this subsequent album, Hours, almost immediately upon its release. It’s low-key, and perhaps not Bowie at his most musically inventive, but it’s a lovely grower.

Doing the best with what I had…


Can we have a word about the video? The way he can contemplate time and memory by staring into the mirror is amazing. He allows himself to feel his age, rather than prancing about Mick Jagger-style. One can mentally see themselves as young, all while feeling a bit perplexed that the body does not follow suit.

Sunburn – Muse

I always found it a bit funny how Muse became this huge stadium band about ten years after I’d first heard them. Kids, rock ‘n’ roll is not always a young person’s game. The long haul can be all right too. Yes, they were certainly more popular in the UK in the early 2000s, long before the US paid any attention to them, but I do believe that this worldwide massive notoriety is a recent thing. And people make sport of hating anything that is too popular, but screw those people. Good on Muse, I say. G’wan with your shiny clothing choices and elaborate stage sets and such. There’s something Queen-esque with the way they do things, and I dig it.

Privilege – Incubus

This is a recent-ish performance of the opening song from Make Yourself (the title track, I talked about in Alphabet Soup), but “Privilege” was never a single. When a dude-fancying person is presented with the choice between the studio-version paired with cover art, or live-version paired with Brandon Boyd’s pretty, pretty self… Well, there is no choice.

I’m sure I have smart things to say about this song, but like last week’s Shirley Manson viewing, y’all are just going to have to take my word for it.

Letting The Cables Sleep – Bush

Good lord, and speaking of sexy-sexybusiness: This video. Saying Gavin Rossdale is a good-looking man is like saying water is wet. Also, every time I watch an old Bush video, I miss Nigel Pulsford and Dave Parsons as band members all over again. Those guys were aces.

Still, I can’t mention two songs in a row with mere, “Hey, look at the pretty” commentary. “Letting the Cables Sleep” is a rather sad song about halted communication and Rossdale reaching out before “heaven is on the way.” There’s a sense of shame and regret for not doing better by each other. The strings are beautiful, and The Science of Things is an underrated album for an underrated band.

Wise Up – Aimee Mann

I love that Aimee Mann’s music is responsible for the film Magnolia rather than a case of her creating songs for the soundtrack. What a fun way to work, even if this music and movie are decidedly no fun at all. I’ve only seen it once – rented it on double VHS, those relics – but I’ve listened to the soundtrack eleventy-billion times. Watching the above embedded video, I am reminded why I haven’t re-watched it. It’s one thing to wallow in a good sad song, but pairing it with the sad visuals takes that “makes me want to write” sad-urge and turns it into a “makes me want to cry and sleep for a week” depression trigger.

So let’s move on.

Born of a Broken Man – Rage Against the Machine

I only started paying attention to Rage Against the Machine after meeting my husband because they’re his favorite band. In high school, I knew people who liked them, but for whatever reason, they didn’t register with me much until a few years after their break-up. (I wouldn’t necessarily call them “reunited” now – but what do you call “occasionally we might play a handful of festival gigs?”)

I find them really interesting, the way they write their songs. Complex rhythms, sounds, lyrics – they may have been loud like a lot of other popular bands in the 90s, but there’s really no one else like them.

Charlotte – Kittie

How about another loud one? Who remembers Kittie? They played on Ozzfest and were moderately popular, I think. According to Wikipedia, they’re still around, though I’ll admit that I haven’t paid any attention to them since probably 2001.

Something about singer Morgan Lander reminds me of the rock lady-singers of the early-90s, and Kittie’s music was some of the late-90s metal that I could actually get into.

Fast as You Can – Fiona Apple

Let us take a moment to properly appreciate the full title of Fiona Apple’s second album: When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right

People, Fiona Apple is a treasure, and I won’t hear otherwise.

‘Scuse me, I gotta go mangle the lyrics trying to sing along, but I won’t care because listening to “Fast as You Can” is a good time.

While I’m doing that, peruse the music that came out in 1999, and let me know what you dig. Next week, we enter Wait a minute, wasn’t that just last year? territory with The Year 2000.

See you then.

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

2 thoughts on “30 Years of Music: 1999”

  1. My pick for Ben Folds Five has to be Army; I love the tune and the lyrics crack me up

    Porcelain and Southside – Moby (even though Gwen Stefani has always rubbed me the wrong way, Southside is still an awesome song)

    Nervous Breakthrough – Luscious Jackson

    Falling Away From Me – Korn

    Polka Power – Weird Al (Every time it gets to the Dope Show part I lose my shit. That is some brilliant stuff right there)

    I Try – Macy Gray

    La Mer, The Wretched, The Frail, Pilgrimage – Nine Inch Nails

    And now! I finally get to start talking about Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson (he is to PT what Trent Reznor is to NIN). It’s becoming more clear to me that I may have to rethink who I call God. I love TR more than words, but Steven Wilson is slowly ascending to the top of board. Anyway, in ’99 Porcupine Tree put out Stupid Dream, and pretty much all the songs are winners. This is my personal fave:

    And last but not least … I was just going to list this song, but not only is it one of my all-time favorite songs ever, it’s one of my fave videos as well. I can never decide who I think is sexier, Scott Weiland or Sarah Michelle Gellar. They are both so, so hot …

    1. I do like that “Sour Girl.”

      And crap! Totally forgot about Moby, even though I have and really like that album. And I’m with you on Gwen Stefani. She is not my favorite. And not for teeny-bopper Gavin reasons. But “Southside” is a really good song.

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