Not that there weren’t plenty of great tours to hit 2017 from young, emerging, and about-to break artists (PHOX, July Talk, Potty Mouth, Slothrust, Jay Som, Diet Cig, Vérité, Bishop Briggs, Torres, Jessie Reyez, Mitski, In The Valley Below, and Kali Uchis all come to mind.), but there are a lot of children of the 90s out there who have been enjoying the recent reemergence of not only the sonic and sartorial sensibilities of Generation X, but many of the artists that made those years so great. 2017 graced us with a plethora of many recently-reunited or somehow-still-chugging-on artists from the golden age of MTV and the true age of “alternative.” These tours more than likely provided the musical highlights of 2017 for those who were attending (or wishing they were old enough to attend) the original Lollapaloozas. Here are ten ‘90s-era acts that 2017 is especially happy to have had on the road.
2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Japanese experimental rockers Boris (regularly recognized as the darlings of doom metal, which they seem to dislike, but whatevs). Their 23rd studio album, Dear (released this summer), was intended to be the band’s swansong, but wound up being just the start of the band’s celebration of their two-and-a-half decades. And – although the band opted to leave much of their ‘90s material at home and fill recent sets with their recent poppier sounds – many have noted that, whether they want to admit it or not, their latest record rings of the slow and sludgy sounds of a bunch of cool kids who came together in the early ‘90s to make noisy sounds and name themselves after a Melvins song.
Like Boris, Ride have often found themselves the unwelcome posterchildren of a genre both too-abstractly-defined and too-frequently-flaunted by music nerds… In their case: shoegaze. Seemingly raised on healthy doses of experimental rock like Sonic Youth, Manchester bands like the Smiths and Stone Roses, and the roots of contemporary rock’n’roll (they frequently cover both the Beatles and the Stooges), they’ve never been comfortable with such an arbitrary pigeonhole. In 2015 Ride reunited for their first shows in close to a decade and this year saw the release of Weather Diaries, their first studio album in 21 years. The album proved to be the most critically-renowned “comeback album” of recent history but, although fans also seemed to be pleased with the new material, their sets are still full of “shoegaze” classics like “Vapour Trail,” “Seagull,” and “Leave Them All Behind.”
Also bearers of the shoegaze designation, Slowdive, likewise, released their first new album in more than two decades this year after a few years of reunion touring. While Ride tend toward the rockier side of shoegazing, Slowdive openly embrace an ambient, ethereal dreaminess. Their 2017 shows packed well-over-fire-capacity clans of leather jacket-clad 90s hipsters into warehouses to be hypnotized by reverb and psychedelic light shows in a manner not entirely dissimilar to a cult, but in the best way possible.
7. Bash & Pop
Much like how Tommy Stinson’s Bash & Pop first formed in 1992, as the Replacements began to crumble, 2016’s Bash & Pop formed as the Replacements reunion began to fail. However, this time around, the former Replacements bassist found a group of musicians that were also in it for the long haul. This year saw the release of Bash & Pop’s sophomore record, 24 years in the making: Anything Could Happen. Apparently so. The charmingly brash blend of power pop and Southern rock lends itself to authentic, alcohol-fueled nights of rock’n’roll debauchery better than anything to come out in recent years… and the live show certainly lives up to that.
6. The Jesus & Mary Chain
Noisy, post-punk alt rock legends The Jesus & Mary Chain reunited nearly ten years ago and have spent much of their time on the road since, but this year saw the release of Damage and Joy, their first album since 1998 (featuring Isobel Campbell and Sky Ferreira). Although their recent revived tours seemed to weed out any casual fan simply looking to “catch up” with the band leaving only those more than willing to hear these new songs for the first time, their sets primarily focused on the “classics” such as “Head On,” “Far Gone and Out” and “Just Like Honey.” But despite being a mostly “best of” set, Jim and William Reid still maintain a subversive brand of rock’n’roll swagger that would seem to have them remain far more credible than many of their middle-aged peers.
5. The Breeders
With the possible exception of the Cure, the Breeders are indisputably the greatest band of all-time to have only one constant member. And while much of Kim Deal’s greatest work is associated with her time in the Pixies, it’s hard to find a better or purer form of all of the “beauty” associated with “alt rock” than the Breeders’ Pod and Last Splash, which also confirmed Deal’s significance to the sound of the Pixies. It’s been nearly a decade since the band put out a proper LP, but they recently released the single “Wait in the Car,” a short, delectable slice of punky, tropical power pop, and there’s a promise of a new album in 2018, rendering them as more than just a nostalgia act. That being said, the evenings were primarily dedicated to celebrating 90s guitar anthems like “Fortunately Gone,” “No Aloha” and “Divine Hammer.”
As is the case for most Morrissey tours, his 2017 US jaunt remained unfulfilled (the last three dates bit the dust) and the setlist was largely comprised of his latest release and lacking in the “hits” his medium-light fans craved. However, the former Smiths vocalist remained in top form, both vocally and in presentation proving, once again, to be likely the most charismatic man in the world of music. While the shows stuck primarily to the Mozzer’s 21st century output, many of the evening’s highlights came from 90s fan favorites like “Speedway,” “Glamorous Glue” and “Jack the Ripper,” Morrissey’s famously snarky and beautiful ode to the victims of modernity’s first serial killer sung from the perspective of the Ripper himself.
Although now all over 50, no one has managed to do teen angst pop the same justice as Garbage’s mid-late ‘90s trip-hop inspired, electronic rock jams. 1995’s self-titled debut and 1998’s Version 2.0 were both chock full of club-or-festival-ready singles that are just as danceable as they are head-bangable (or maybe more hair-flippable), including “I Think I’m Paranoid,” “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When it Rains” which still all come off nearly as flippantly fun as when those long-time fans were going through their roughest (and least fun) years. On top of that, Ms. Manson, even at 51, would still seem to be a far more potent brand of electro-vixen than almost any of today’s emerging postmodern chanteuses.
There will never be a Kim Deal-less Pixies that is truly the Pixies but, over the past three years, Paz Lenchantin and the boys have done a pretty damn good job of faking it… and actually doing the band’s ineffably anthemic brand of noise pop sincere justice. Ironically, the originators of anti-establishment “college rock” and the whole “loud-quiet-loud” formula are now actually on the verge of resembling arena rock… But it totally works. Still looking like the shabby, middle-aged hipsters that they are, the 2+hour show (including a massive light show and well over a dozen sing-alongs) actually resembles a rock show, something that many of their fans probably hesitate to admit they truly do appreciate.
1. Belle & Sebastian
No one could have guessed in the mid-90s that Belle & Sebastian, the kings and queens of twee, or obnoxiously sweet indie pop, would ever be headlining amphitheaters… much less doing so for over a decade. But the most sonically endearing band of all-time have managed to transform chamber pop into a summertime spectacle. Their 21st century sounds have gotten a bit bigger (often taking cues from Thin Lizzy, The Kinks and Rod Stewart), but it’s not just their recent sounds that work on such a grand scale. “Expectations” may be the most profound ballad since the Velvet Underground, “Get Me Away from Here, I’m Dying,” is perhaps the most spectacularly cute anthem for starving artists ever written and “The Boy with the Arab Strap” produces stage invasions that could rival Iggy Pop… except much sweeter.