Looking Through Time: 1999

posted April 21, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Staff

With the anniversaries of culturally important albums sprouting up each and every year, the CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Department will be diving into albums from select years and breaking down their impact. Here are the albums from 1999.

The Foo Fighters - “There is Nothing Left to Lose”

The Foo Fighters released their third studio album “There is Nothing Left to Lose” in November of 1999. With Dave Grohl as the front man, Nate Mendel as the bassist, and Taylor Hawkins behind the drums, they went on to record this album in Dave Grohl's basement for free. Using their own equipment and only a three-piece band (on their previous two they have had four members), they won the Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2001.

With standouts like “Learn to Fly,” “Breakout,” and “Stacked Actors,” the band takes a break from their typical form and moves on to more melody driven hooks and a more unified sound that makes them sound like they are truly coming together as a band. The album rocks with hard-hitting riffs and the amount of talent shown with three members in the band is noticeable. 

Being Dave Grohl’s favorite album of his own, he is most proud of it for coming out of the slump he was in after the first two albums. While they did well, they led him down a road that he knew he had to get out of. The album title “There is Nothing Left to Lose” identifies the theme of the album perfectly as the band puts it all out there with lyrics that have memorable hooks and songs that radio stations are drawn to. - William Roche

The Flaming Lips – “The Soft Bulletin”

The Flaming Lips were faced with a conflicting desire to distance themselves from their previous aesthetic, in order to push themselves to forge a brand-new sound. The result was “The Soft Bulletin,” a complete departure from the group’s former style and a subsequently impressive innovative masterpiece.

Layering their music with several instruments, sound effects, and voices, The Flaming Lips reached a level of soundscape creation which was entirely unique. Incorporating a variety of sonically distinct and engaging grooves, The Flaming Lips were effectively able to move seamlessly between upbeat tracks such as the zany “Buggin’” and somber tracks such as the blissful “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” without missing a beat.

Playing with themes of emotional clarity and intimacy, The Flaming Lips delved into several real-life stories from their experiences during the creation of the record. For instance, the quirky “The Spiderbite Song” tells the actual story of one of the band member’s near amputation of their arm and another band member’s nearly fatal car accident. The track “Waitin’ For A Superman” speaks about lead singer Wayne Coyne’s tragic loss of his father due to an extensive battle with cancer. As a result, The Flaming Lips received tremendous praise for their ability to craft the album in such a way, that made every track feel exceptionally relevant and cohesive.

“The Soft Bulletin” received extensive critical and audience acclaim, making it The Flaming Lips’ first real breakthrough into mainstream success. Redefined and now at the forefront of the alternative and psychedelic rock music landscape, The Flaming Lips successfully closed the decade with a pleasantly refreshing new direction and one of their most engaging records to date. – Scott Perdue

Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Californication”

“Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of the most culturally significant albums of the 1990s. It marked a completely new era for the band. The guitarist of the group, Dave Navarro, was replaced by John Frusciante who had previously appeared on “Blood Sugar Sex Magik.” Frusciante has been credited for ushering in a new sound for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

On their previous six albums, the group had been acknowledged for having a more upbeat style. Rolling Stone commented that “Californication” moved the group towards a more “spiritual and epiphanic” sound. The album conquers more than previously covered themes of promiscuity by examining drugs, suicide and the world.

Although the album only peaked at number three on the Billboard 200, “Californication” has proven to stand the test of time. Twenty years later, hit songs from the album like the Grammy award winning “Scar Tissue” and “Californication” remain to be some of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ best known songs.

“Californication” remains one of the most influential albums of all time. It could be credited with transitioning the rough, heavy sound of the 1990s towards a more lyrical and softer style. The era of grunge and hard rock was ushered out by one of the innovators of 1990s rock themselves. The album proves that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the greatest bands of all time, and their musical talent is limited to no genre or style. - Jade Campos

Rage Against the Machine - “The Battle of Los Angeles”

Before Rage Against the Machine, no band had so easily married hardcore music and political activism since The Dead Kennedys. On this, their third effort, the legendary nu-metal outfit cemented their legacy as a critical and commercial powerhouse, peaking as the number one record on Billboard and earning recognition as the top album of the year in multiple publications.

The most striking aspects of “The Battle of Los Angeles” are the cutting vocals and the innovative rock instrumentation. Guitarist Tom Morello is a wizard on the 6-string, finding ways to make his axe scream and wail like no one else in the business. Look no further than tracks like “Mic Check” and “Ashes in the Fall” to see how Morello made his mark on a generation of shredders. Brad Wilk’s drumming fits perfectly with the guitar experimentation, coming through clear and precise.

Mixing raps, yells, and singing, Zack de la Rocha has a unique vocal style that complements his lyrical content perfectly. His biting social and political satire will be relevant to the disenfranchised for decades. If Tom, Brad and Tim Commerford provide the backbone of the band, Zack is the heart and soul. Without his wit and passion, such an off-the-wall group could never have captured the public’s attention when they did.

Standout tracks permeate the whole set, but if forced to pick, the best track has to be Wall Street anthem “Sleep Now in the Fire.” Worth consideration are the infamous “Guerilla Radio” and the deeper cut “Maria.” While the entire album is killer, these tracks best exemplify the rebellious attitude and superlative songwriting that mark Rage’s brief ascendancy to the pinnacle of 90s rock music. - Billy Jackson

Smash Mouth - “Astro Lounge”

Propelled by the mind-boggling success of the single “All-Star,” Smash Mouth’s second album is the unique case of a record that’s simultaneously world-famous and practically anonymous. Contrast the Youtube views of these tracks for a moment. “All Star” has broken 215 million hits while the album’s next song “Satellite” has only 3,000.

A time capsule to the late 90s optimism era, “Astro Lounge” is a wonderfully crafted collection of pop classics and faux-funk earworms. Taking cues from hip-hop, reggae, punk and contemporary pop music, Smash Mouth concocted a distinctive sound that went on to define a sizable proportion of the early 2000s mainstream.

The music is silly and has not always aged gracefully, but there are some choice tracks that still stand out. “Diggin’ Your Scene” is an infectious party anthem that stands toe to toe with some of the best of its time. Same goes for “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby.” Coming out of nowhere is the reggae-horror experiment “Home,” which adds some much-needed flavor to an album mostly built on polished party songs.

Guitarist Greg Camp and vocalist Steve Harwell deserve a lot of credit for fashioning a strange album filled with influences from all over the map. Smash Mouth hit it out of the park by staying true to their oddball style, allowing what normally would be just another relic of a bygone era to live on both in music and pop culture. - Billy Jackson

Blink-182 - “Enema of the State”

Arguably the pop punk band's most recognized and greatest album, "Enema of the State" released in 1999 with hits such as "All the Small Things" and "What's My Age Again?"

At first, it was not accepted by their fans, along with accusations of them selling out and becoming the same people the band was initially slated to poke fun at. Over time, however, it is hailed as one of the greatest albums in pop punk history. Mark Hoppus' loud, attack-like vocals and Tom DeLonge's wailing guitars are at the forefront of this album, and it makes it almost impossible to unhear when listening.

While it is one of Blink's later albums, it has cemented the pathway for other pop punk artists to follow. These ballads about breakups, parties, and even UFO conspiracies have stood the test of time and even influenced many other artists. "Enema of the State" was not an instant classic, but is now one of the greatest in the genre. - Jack Grossman



William Roche is a sophomore majoring in film/video. To contact him, email wtr5043@psu.edu.

Scott Perdue is a sophomore majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email rsp5246@psu.edu.

Jade Campos is a freshman majoring in print journalism. To contact her, email jmc7727@psu.edu.

Billy Jackson is a junior majoring in Film/Video production. To contact him, send an email to wjj5064@psu.edu.

Jack Grossman is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email jackdgrossman@gmail.com.