This Month In History – September 1992 – Part 2: Hurricane Iniki slams into Hawaii killing 3 and injuring 8,000. In the comic Peanuts Lucy raises the cost of her Psychiatric Help from 5 cents to 47 cents. 900 die in flooding in Pakistan. Later in the month a Pakistani airline crashed into the mountains killing 167. Philadelphia Phillies’ player Mickey Morandini completes a rare, unassisted triple play.
Author’s Note: So many great and important albums came out in September 1991 that this month will be the first of only a few months in the decade that will get two postings for a total of eight albums. This is the second half group of albums from this month.
Listen To The Albums: September 1992 – Part 2: Copper Blue/Us/99.9F/Broken – https://open.spotify.com/playlist/43AlAmRoEQt2jhLzbpQc0q
“Copper Blue” – Sugar
One of the key bands to create the scene and set the stage for the alternative rock revolution that burst into the mainstream in the 1990’s were 80’s college rock punks Husker Du. Husker Du ended just as the scene they helped to build exploded into success. Luckily key member Bob Mould was able to capitalize on that and get some long deserved attention and success with his new band Sugar. Sugar sounds a lot like Mould’s late period Husker Du songs only with their underlying pop incinations pushed more to the forefront and their debut album Copper Blue is absolutely stunning. While not quite a forgotten gem, Copper Blue is deserving of being remembered and listened to much more than it is. In truth, it is loaded with great songs. “The Act We Act”, “The Slim”, and “Man On The Moon” being perfect mixes of altr rock noise and sweet melody. While “A Good Idea” is a Pixies tribute that sounds almost exactly like The Pixies. Finally, the two semi-hit singles, the jangly “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” and the punky power pop of “Helpless”, are both highlights of the early 90’s alternative rock era.
“Us” – Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel had been the original frontman of prog rock titans Genesis before moving on to a solo career that helped to pioneer first wave alternative rock. Gabriel had then moved into the mainstream with the massive success of his 1986 album So, which had featured the massive hits “Sledgehammer”, “Big Time”, “Red Rain” and “In Your Eyes”. Gabriel then largely retreated from the public eye and didn’t release another non-soundtrack album until 1992’s Us. A lot had changed in the music industry between 1986 and 1992 and Gabriel both ignores and acknowledges this on Us. Sonically, Us doesn’t feel overly different from So as the album has a dense, layered and slick production that is reminiscent of the 80’s production sound that Gabriel and his associates helped to create. There are even a few moments that are blatant looks backward at the sound and style of So, namely the “Sledgehammer” rewrite “Steam” and the funky “Kiss That Frog”. However, while Us may sound like So, that similarity is largely only on the surface as the songs that make up Us are darker, more intimate, and more introspective. Lead single “Digging In The Dirt” – one of Gabriel’s more underrated songs – shifts from its pulsing verses to its angry chorus as Gabriel examines the dark corners of a relationship. Us opens with “Come Talk To Me” and closes with “Secret World”, both of which have an anthemic quality to them that is familiar to longtime Gabriel fans. Most of the remaining tracks though are quiet and meditative songs that about relationships that can take time to sink in; the best among them being “Blood Of Eden” and “Washing Of The Water”. Us is often overlooked, and it is a little out of step with its time, but it is yet another masterpiece created by Peter Gabriel and deserves more attention than it generally gets.
“99.9F” – Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega had been one of the leaders of the 1980’s folk revival and had even managed to score a left-field mainstream hit with “Luka” in 1987. With 99.9F Suzanne Vega manages to implode her folky reputation and stay current with the trends of the time, all without abandoning the roots of her art. Stripped to their core, the songs on 99.9F are folk songs, but Vega and her producer Mitchell Froom add weird instrumentation, dance music and industrial textures, odd time signatures and song structures, and a cluttered, percussion-filled production to create something both rooted in traditional folk and thoroughly post-modern. And while one can argue Vega wrote better songs on some of her other albums, she never sounded more sonically interesting than she does here. The two hits were the machine-like rush of “Blood Makes Noise” and the percussive, pulsing, and downright sexy “99.9F”. However, there are many other great moments here for those willing to listen beyond the hits. “When Heroes Go Down” and “(If You Were) In My Movie” are Beatlesque pop, while “Fat Man & Dancing Girl” and “Rock In This Pocket” are further experiments weaving Froom’s cluttered, percussion-driven production into Vega’s simple sound. Finally, Vega offers up a few more traditional folk numbers that can rival her best work anywhere (although these too are played with some in the production); most notably on the heartbroken but beautiful “In Liverpool” (perhaps her best song ever) and “Bad Wisdom”, a companion of sorts to “Luka” that deals with the sexual abuse of a child.
“Broken” – Nine Inch Nails
Those who know the Nine Inch Nails story know that there really is no Nine Inch Nails, at least not beyond Trent Reznor, who writes, plays, and helps produce everything that goes on a Nine Inch Nails album. 1989’s debut Pretty Hate Machine only very slowly built up stream and really didn’t hit its peak until 1991 when “Head Like A Hole” finally became a hit and introduced the mainstream to industrial music, or at least the textures of industrial music in a more traditional setting. “Head Like A Hole” was a rage-filled industrial thrasher driven in its chorus by roaring guitars, but much of the rest of Pretty Hate Machine was more insular and more electronic. Once Pretty Hate Machine became a success Reznor needed to tour and to do that he had to compile a full band to play. This tour, and the larger more guitar-driven versions of some of the Pretty Hate Machine songs played on the tour, helped to inspire the next Nine Inch Nails project – an EP titled Broken. Broken was more guitar-driven and much angrier than the more synth-oriented Pretty Hate Machine. This was partially due to Reznor’s inspiration of playing live with his touring band, partly due to the success of the guitar and rage driven “Head Like A Hole”, and partly due to intense rage Reznor felt at his original record label for interfering in his creative process and trying to control his work. All of these factors led to Broken, an EP that is completely built off of rage and frustration and has none of the reflective moments or dry humor of Pretty Hate Machine. Songs like “Wish” and “Happiness In Slavery” were pure sonic assaults, while “Gave Up” twists the synth-driven music of Pretty Hate Machine into something equally as destructive. Only on the two bonus tracks (that originally came on a separate disc) did any cracks in the rage come through, especially on the monster-sized cover of Adam Ant’s “Physical”. (Author’s note: One of my great sadnesses in regards to my music collection is that I did own an early printing of Broken that had the two bonus songs on the secondary mini disc and at some point I stupidly got rid of it).