Whatever: The '90s Pop & Culture Box

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Phases & Stages

Whatever: The '90s Pop & Culture Box

(Rhino)

The Nineties can pretty much be summed up in three steps: grunge, the Internet, and Pulp Fiction. Think about it. There's always O.J., Tonya Harding, Amy Fisher, and a slew of other tabloidian tales, but we're more sophisticated than that, right? Rhino's 7-CD Whatever box serves as a Generation X scrapbook, incorporating 130 hit (and not-so hit) tracks with an ongoing timeline reminding us that, yes, the Nineties are considered retro. The question is how many folks actually liked Collective Soul, Deep Blue Something, or Silverchair. The answer must weigh in Rhino's favor, because regardless of the millions of albums sold collectively by these artists, most of them probably ended up in the used bins. Apart from Chumbawamba, Seven Mary Three, and Jesus Jones, Whatever comprises loads of less cringe-worthy tunes: Mudhoney, Ministry, Wilco, Sugar, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, De La Soul, etc. With the notable absence of favorites Nirvana and Sonic Youth – the former of which is copped to in the included producers' essays – this truly is a realistic, if bleak, picture of the decade that didn't give a damn. For those of us who came of age during the faded times, the songs reek of nostalgia. Seriously, how many of us put "Nothing Compares 2 U" on repeat before we even realized Prince wrote it? Who doesn't know all the words to 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up"? And most importantly, if I say, "Whoomp!" how do you respond? In chronological order, it's easy to see the Nineties decline. What began in rowdy Seattle ended in slick Hollywood. On second thought, Whatever might've worked better as a coffeetable book – the accompanying booklet is fantastic and informative – with a partner soundtrack, but that wouldn't allow us to re-embrace MC Hammer, Naughty by Nature, or Hanson. Ah, the Nineties. Next in line to be cool again. Get ready for flannel's comeback.

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