Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
9 From The 90s
Momus selects the most important records of the 90s.
4. Back: Ohtoolate!
The 90s were a horrible time to be in your 20s. Even if you were young, the world was old. As if over-population, global warming, and pollution weren't bad enough, there was also postmodernism to contend with: the nightmare that everything had been said already, sincerity was impossible, and all that was left for an artist to do was make new combinations of the flotsam and jetsam of the past. Then behind it all was the knowledge that at the end of the decade history was going to turn the page and make a fresh start, sweeping away the achievements of your prime.
Young folk singer Buck Handsome knew all this, and felt cheated. In an earlier decade he'd have been a Bob Dylan, but he'd been born too late. He expressed his disappointment on his breakthrough single I'm Austin Powers, Baby, So Why Don't You Kill Me?, and returned again and again to the themes of geo-thermal, moral and cultural pollution in songs like Devil's Hairstyle ('Temperature's rising and they're rotten, Oasis').
Buck To The Future
One day, bored and depressed, Buck rented Back To The Future on video. It was a revelation. When the movie ended, he devised a plan of action. Changing his name to Back, he wired together two turntables, a microphone and an old hobo guitar and, amazingly, found he had a working time machine on his hands. He decided to travel back to the 60s to assassinate his grandfather, Al Handsome, an artist who, with the Fluxus movement, seemed to be responsible for undermining the concept of sincerity and preparing the poison chalice of postmodernism.
Unfortunately there was a flaw in Back's machine. Aiming his device at a Fluxus gathering in the early 60s, Back instead arrived at the Warhol Factory in 1968. He found himself standing right in front of Valerie Solanas, whose smoking pistol had just dispatched a bullet in the direction of Andy Warhol. Back was too late to stop the pop artist from being catapulted to world fame in newspaper headlines the next day, making the vacuous celebrity culture of the 80s and 90s virtually inevitable.
Turning to Solanas, Back uttered his most celebrated lines: 'Oh too late! I'm Austin Powers, baby, so why don't you kill me?' Solanas fired, but the chamber of her gun was empty. A shocked Fred Hughes raised himself from the ground and said 'Just go, Back, the elevator is behind you'.
Realising he had blown his only chance of making the 90s safe for sincerity, Back returned to his exhausted decade at the end of the century, reconciled to three grim tasks: musical recycling, self-conscious irony and games with context. It was dirty work, but somebody had to do it.
He rematerialised in a California recording studio and immediately began recording Ohtoolate! The rest is the end of history.
Click here for a review of Nerderama's seminal, bilious Clevermind
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