Don't Look Back in Anger

What Was Cool in 1991?

The May 1991 issue of SPIN was the ‘Cool Issue’, dedicated to exploring what was hip in the new decade. Let’s take a peak, shall we?

Cool Rock ‘n’ Roll: ‘Lenny Kravitz is on his way to becoming the first pop star of the multicultural ’90s.’ My dislike of Kravitz is somewhat irrational. After all, there are hundreds of musicians less talented and more derivative. Perhaps it is that he is so clearly without a shred of originality, yet believed he was the saviour of rock by dint of forcibly wrenching it back three decades. I dig the Strokes, who were retro-derivative, but they at least never had pretensions of being the second coming of Hendrix (or, in their case, Lou Reed).

Cool Decade: ‘Get your bell-bottoms out, your platforms, your Carpenters records, your Ouija boards. This is gonna be fun! Now it’s our turn to stick up for our decade and carry on about how great it was. We ’70s kids are all twentysomethings now, and old enough to media jobs like min here, where you get to force your nostalgia upon the rest of the world. God, I can’t wait.’ The decade had scarcely begun before the its youth started pining for another one. Unlike Kravitz, this prediction came to pass: the ’90s were stuffed with the Me Decade, both in film (John Travolta, the Brady Bunch) and especially music (Suede in the UK, Urge Overkill in the US). I am told that the ’70s are coming back again thanks to the ’90s revival. That’s right: a revival within a revival. We’re through the looking-glass, people!

Cool Actor: ‘When John Cusack finds himself, we find ourselves. Maybe the fame feeds his humanity.’ 

Cool Band: ‘There are always two sides to every story, and the Black Crowes’ saga is no different. Some people seem to believe the Crows are brining back the blues-based, raw-edged, loud rock ‘n’ roll that was originally popularised by bands like the Stones and, later, the Faces. Others complain that the Crowes are simply a poor man’s substitute for those who missed Exile on Main Street or A Nod’s As Good As a Wink to a Blind Horse the first time around.’ Are the Black Crowes the American Oasis, with the object of adoration switched to the Stones rather than the Beatles?

Cool Technology: ‘Jaron Lanier, philosopher-king of the infant [Virtual Reality] industry, dreams of a day when the gadget will provide “an experience of comfort with multiple realities.”’ I remember reading about VRML in old issue of PC Computing and it seemed like the the beginning of the future. The Nintendo Virtual Boy quickly disabused me of this dream.

Cool Hip Hop: ‘De La Soul’s benign sophistication marked an important break with hip hop tradition: Besides being markedly more secure in their manhood than most of their I-grab-my-crotch-‘cause-I’m-top-notch precursors, the group liberated itself from the suffocating orthodoxy of rap’s standard sampling canon.’

Cool Record Labels: ‘But even if the majors snap up [Teenage Fanclub], Matador is sure to come up with enough innovative, exciting new bands to keep your interest over the next few years. Maybe they’ll even sell enough records to make a Dustdevils video one of these days.’ Spot on; Matador became on of the labels of the alternative scene, as we shall see. 


  1. kaisemic posted this