Last week, we ran the results of City Pages’ 29th Picked to Click poll. And it got us thinking of the old days. Some call those old days “good.” Were they?
At the start of the ’90s, no one was really sure what was coming next musically. “Grunge” and “alternative” hadn’t yet become industry buzzwords, and hip-hop was still struggling to get on the radio.
Here in the Twin Cities, music was also at a crossroads. Our ’80s history is a well-documented and oft-told tale. But by 1991 both the Replacements and Hüsker Dü were no more, Prince had passed from his golden age as a hitmaker into a more tumultuous decade, and the local hip-hop scene hadn’t quite gelled. And it was at this moment that City Pages’ Jim Walsh decided to take the pulse of local music with the very first Picked to Click poll.
The ’90s were a long time ago. (Don’t make us do the math.) Maybe you were too young to be clued into the local scene for that decade. That’s certainly the case for a good chunk of the folks at City Pages. So we decided to see what these youthful staffers might make of the scene-making bands the paper celebrated at the tail end of the 20th century. We played ’em clips of the first 10 winners of Picked to Click, and jotted down their responses.
Topping the first Picked to Click was a trio of Macalester grads who named their band for the psych prof.
“These guitars are like… Lenny Kravitz as alt-rock?”
“This is my favorite local band of all time.” “All-time?” “All. Time.”
“This went from dad rock to math rock real fast.”
“Any band that uses the lyric ‘happy as a clam’ is cool with me, as that is a top-five idiom.”
Begun in 1986 in Washington state, the heavy Amphetamine Reptile label became the biggest thing in local music once it relocated to Minneapolis, thanks to bands that sounded like this.
“This sounds like the Entry.”
“It sounds like the Hexagon.”
“So fucking loud. This must be physically taxing to play live.”
Another Am Rep band. Minneapolis was a noisy, heavy place in the early ’90s.
“This is like a weird, off-brand version of the ‘Batman’ theme.”
“I like songs where the chorus is just the verse, but heavier.”
“Are you... absolutely certain they aren't presently opening for Pissed Jeans?”
As the decade wore on, the wave of testosterone crashed, making room for Missy Greer’s punky alt-pop-songs.
“OK, this is definitely the most fun band so far.”
“This just sounds like every single one of my favorite bands in 2019. To the extent that I'm like actually mad you didn't show me this before now.”
“This makes me want to bop around and make eyes at cute kids with androgynous haircuts.”
1995—Tribe of Millions
A heavy funk-rock band—and the poll’s first African-American winners.
“No, this sounds like Lenny Kravitz.”
“Well, it is heavy.”
“Sorry, this is pretty generic stuff.”
Led by Ryan Olcott, 12 Rods dominated the scene with a proggier version of alt-rock.
“Robots are coming for all of our jobs.”
“Really decade-specific indie-rock, but it holds up.”
“This sounds a little harder to play than it needs to be.”
“No song would ever take this long to get started in 2019.”
1997—Brother Sun Sister Moon
A trip-hop duo featuring one of the original members of the Information Society.
“I too have heard Portishead.”
“This is what guys who think they’re intellectual put on when they want to fuck you.”
“This should have been the Sopranos theme instead.”
A garage-rock supergroup known at the time for high-energy shows and now remembered for launching the career of its keyboardist, a fresh-faced kid named Mark Mallman.
“I don’t miss the era when the men all said ‘wooo.’”
“You can hear the tight pants.”
“It’s hard to sound like every classic rock band ever at once, but they did it.”
[Sorry, I couldn’t find the Odd streaming anywhere—I played them an mp3.]
The first straightforward singer-songwriter to top the poll is still going strong today.
“Oh, this guy.”
“There was a rumor in high school that he lived on my block. It was later debunked.”
“This could soundtrack a montage of Zach Braff unloading groceries.”
A sleek futuristic sound for a year that once represented the future.
“This sounds like a ringtone.”
“It sounds like Owl City.”
“It sounds like Beach House.”
“It sounds like rainbow sherbet.”
You can read more about the early days of Picked to Click, including lists of runners-up, here.