Reacharound – Big Chair

Who's Tommy Cooper
Year :
Arctic Monkeys / Kula Shaker / Supergrass

I have trouble living in the present. I am almost always thinking about the past and the future. There is no shortage of people who would (and do) say that this is a problem. It’s possible they’re right, that I’m missing out on my life because I’m thinking about the moments I can no longer change or some future event that I won’t even be focused on when it gets here. It’s not that bad, though. The present is usually pretty dull.

One of the things I occasionally find myself thinking about while pondering the future state of things is how the present will be viewed once it becomes the past. Not a unique way to pass the time, but it does pass the time. It’s also an endeavor likely to fail, at least if the goal is accuracy. Culture is rarely right about itself in the moment. This may be an oversimplification, but at least part of the reason for this failing is that culture tends to view itself bigger and more isolated than it will be remembered. We fail to consider how time bleeds into itself. Days become weeks become months become years become decades. This may be more true for music than any other realm of culture, where time gets grouped by century when talking about just about anything before 1950.

That being the case, I’d like to call attention to a more recent time in music history, one that is already beginning to fade from the collective memory, but one that will remain a favorite of mine for as long as I have the capacity to remember it.

I speak, of course, of the Post-Grunge Pre-Hardcore, One-Hit Wonder Era.

For a moment, pretend that “grunge” and “hardcore” aren’t reductive labels for the popular rock of the early 90′s and the end of 90′s, respectively, but handy terms that help set reference points for the time that came between. If grunge died with Kurt (and it may have well been before that), and hardcore/nu-metal came to dominate rock radio in 1998 with the release of Korn’s album Follow the Leader and Limp Bizkit’s cover of “Faith” as a single (in hindsight, it’s unbelievable that those things happened at all, never mind that they were massively successful), that leaves a four-year gap now known as the PP1Hitter (trademark pending).

What defined the PP1Hitter? In a way, nothing. Labels were looking for the next Nirvana (so close, Bush!), so unknowns were being thrown three-record deals and given significant airplay without having really earned it. While many of these bands failed to make it through to the other side of this era, most of them live forever in our hearts, having made songs we couldn’t picture our lives without, or at least songs that we’ll hear every now and then and go “Oh hey! It’s that song by that band!” IMMORTALITY!

Alright, so maybe I’m overselling it, but in the wake of bands that focused on constructing albums and before rap-rock made everything start to sound the same, there was a window of time when it was truly great to just listen to the radio. I never listen to the radio these days, and that’s not a criticism of modern music, just a reflection of my preference for the album format. After a drag from the PP1Hitter? Put me in a car with a busted cassette player, all I need is FM.

Don’t believe me? Let’s run through some of the more notable entries from 1996, the pinnacle of the era I speak. The Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ “Scooby Snacks“, The Refreshments’ “Banditos“, Local H’s “Bound for the Floor“, Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper“, Tracy Bonham’s “Mother Mother“, Squirrel Nut Zippers’ “Hell“, Nada Surf’s “Popular“, Eels “Novocaine for the Soul“, Luscious Jackson’s “Naked Eye“, and the greatest video/song/hat combo of all time, Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity“. Did some of these artists deserve to be more than one-hit wonders? Of course, but it didn’t make the music any less fantastic in 1996. It’s also the year that saw the release of Rage Against the Machine’s most successful album, Bush’s best album*, Weird Al Yankovic’s most successful AND best album, as well as debuts from Belle & Sebastian and Neutral Milk Hotel. (1996 also contained Nickelback’s first album, but nothing is perfect.)

Reacharound’s “Big Chair” is one of the lost greats from this time, a slick three-chord gem that will have you shouting along with the chorus and pretending to know everything being said in the verses. The rest of the album is kind of disappointing, but it didn’t matter, it was the 90′s. Or at least that small part of it that was can still remember on it’s own.


*If you like complex guitar-based rock written by a band exploring dark musical and emotional territory while pushing themselves to make their best music, you already know Razorblade Suitcase is the best Bush album. If you are a souless consumer of what “The Man” tells you to listen to, and just want to like what everyone else likes, go enjoy your copy of Sixteen Stone, philistine.

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Matthew Belair (@14Belair42) grew up on the classic rock of his parents and the 90s alt-rock of his older sister before discovering other genres to love, all of which are cool, hip, and in no way embarrassing to admit publicly.

4 Responses to “Reacharound – Big Chair

  1. October 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm, Matt Jackson said:

    I have some burning questions about the PP1Hitter era:

    1) Years: I would say 1995-1997. But, I think there is a case for 1994.

    2) Is the band Sponge a PP1Hitter? Or, are they simply a forgotten late-period grunge band?

    3) The PP1Hitter era coincides nicely with the golden era of rap. Is it also a product of changing tastes overall?

    We need to explore this more. It matters.

  2. October 26, 2013 at 8:15 am, Dave Carnevale said:

    I’d like to reiterate Mr. Belair’s statement about Razorblade Suitcase being the best Bush album. Hands down.

  3. October 31, 2013 at 11:57 am, Matt Belair said:

    1. I think a case can certainly be made for 1994, but it will always be lumped in with Grunge because it’s the year Kurt died.
    2. Sponge could go either way, so I looked at their two biggest hits, Plowed and Molly. Both released in 1994, that could go either way. Plowed was more of a late period grunge rocker, Molly a jangly love song (but not really) that slips into novelty territory with overt references to 80′s movies. Molly was the bigger hit, Sponge is a PP1Hitter. SCIENCE!
    3. This is an idea that needs to be explored. I’m less of an expert on rap, so this may require a roundtable discussion. It may be coincidental, but as a fan of Klosterman, I say we find a reason and run with it, preferably tying it to an unknown political figure or Muggsy Bogues.

    Dave, I’ll stand by you on this one to the grave.

    • November 01, 2013 at 12:36 pm, Alex Lupica said:

      Based on the reaction when I sang Plowed last time I was at Karaoke, either I am surrounded by old curmudgeonly music folks stuck in the mid-90s, or no one has forgotten Sponge. #alsoscience