The 90s is back, but not how I remember it
Our 90s was Nintendo, jelly shoes and freddos, not house music and ecstasy
Walking into lectures towards the end of last term felt a bit like stepping on to the set of 10 Things I Hate About You.
The 90s is back. The music has been on the bounce for a few years but this summer, it’s peaked, and people are bringing back the 90s look more than ever. The problem form people younger than 30 is: we were not that cool back then. In fact we were a bit lame.
Maybe it’s just impossible to be completely original in the age of social media, or maybe originality has just been on the wane since we became so conscious about having fun. A decade worth of trends reappear through rose tinted glasses every ten years or so. We went from seventies to sixties, from flairs to skinnies and from quiffs back to quiffs.
But the 90s is different. We were there. I never stopped watching the Simpsons, listening to Oasis, Nirvana or the Prodigy and I’ve still got my Ps2. The 90s was decent.
Initially I thought the resurgence was sweet. I bought the standard pair of Air Max and found a bucket hat I used to wear when fishing. And I’m all for girls in camo and leopard print… just maybe not parachute pants or chockers. I’ve even watched Ali G and Human Traffic and I’ve got that summer feeling.
Don’t get me wrong, the best cultural revivals happen when a generation who were just too young to get on to any of the decent underground stuff that was going off when they were growing up, rediscover their decade.
For party culture, it was a huge era and many our age who missed it by a hairsbreadth are now retracing it on Youtube and Soundcloud.
The free party was born and Rave culture crystalized, and from a little Spanish Island came a drug and format that changed nightlife. The 90s was the decade when British club culture as we know it was born – a European culture now exported back to the US as they go mad for ‘EDM’ (Not forgetting it was them who actually invented House, and Techno, independently).
And love it or hate it, Britpop saw British guitar music return to world domination. On Malia booze cruises they still sing Wonder Wall.
It’s fun remembering the 90s as we want, but I just can’t forget it as it was. The bits of 90s culture that really entered my teenage consciousness. The bits I was allowed to get involved in – Kenan and Kel, Nintendo, Freddos, Chipsticks, Dexter’s Laboratory. The closest we came to cool was The Box playing DJ Luck and MC Neat on repeat.
I was into, Blink 182, beyblades and hair gel – I had no idea who Frankie Knuckles or Paul Oakenfold were and to be honest I thought Craig David was a dick because Bo Selecta ripped on him so hard. After my mum got divorced she bought me that Artful Dodger album and people now old enough to be my grandparents have been reppin’ Ibiza since the second ‘summer of love’ in 89 when E exploded in the UK.
Mates of mine, who were one day committed to anything from drum and bass to Indie, were suddenly ridiculously happy about garage making a comeback and knew all about R&B “jams”. The 90s sound has re-entered our shared consciousness quite generally: Bristol-bass, minimal techno and pop “bangers”. Marc Farina dropped Dreams and everyone went mad for 90s Balearic mixes… and clothes.
But we’re not just recycling. As British electronic music kept moving – between trance, jungle, and drum and bass – garage’s time was definitely cut short. So Solid Crew and the emergence of grime lead to bad press and pushed UK garage out of clubs. House never really went away, and the way garage is now merging with it and other modern electronic sounds is completely natural.
The 90s round two is fun. But the real 90s were all about fleeces, dial up Internet, button up trackies, Hey Arnold and getting your feet measured in Clark’s. We never witnessed the 90s in the way we’re now trying to recreate.
Our time was the noughties. We got in to the Libertines or Eminem. Then we experienced those glorious few months when you could get mephedrone easier than contraception and dubstep was good.
Na, you don’t remember any of that avant-garde 90s we’re aspire to now: smooth house beats, EZ on Kiss, tracksuit chic or Balearic minimalism.
It’s all well and good living the 90s now, but let’s stop pretending we remember it. We don’t.