Whatever: The '90s Pop & Culture Box

Various Artists

Rhino, 2005

REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/19/2018

Okay, so you have a seven-disc box set to commemorate what might be the last great era of music. Sounds great in theory, but it comes with issues. The first two discs are amazing time capsules of the best of 1990-1992, featuring tracks from MC Hammer, C&C Music Factory, DiVinyls, and a few others. But there are glaring omissions: no Nirvana or Pearl Jam! Perhaps Rhino had some issues with a budget for this project and some licensing issues. There were some interesting twists in this case; because they couldn’t get Pearl Jam, they used the pre-Pearl Jam band Mother Love Bone and their greatest song, the eight minute epic “Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns.” In the case of Nirvana, they substituted loads of other grunge bands including The Gits, Supersuckers, Fastbacks, and Tad. Now, some would say using bands like Tad, Fastbacks, Supersuckers, and Rev. Horton Heat would not make a definitive ‘90s playlist, but I guess they wanted to pad out the box somehow. None of these tracks would go on my playlist except for Tad, but I wasn’t the one putting this together.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Some people might be wondering where songs by Snap! or Londonbeat are – not to mention, where is all the hip-hop? Well, there’s some early stuff by Queen Latifah and Ice-T, but as it moves through the years, you get songs like “They Want EFX” and “Jump Around.” Hip-hop seems to be severely lacking here. And they didn’t include anything by Garth Brooks, one of the biggest acts of the year. Now I’m not a fan, but this box needed to be more inclusive. Hell, it’s even lacking tracks by Hootie & the Blowfish and Alanis Morrissette; how is that even possible?

As the box gets to discs four and five, there are more headscratching tracks including Guru, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, the Muffs, 7 Year Bitch, and Melvins. I understand some of these tracks were already being used by Rhino in other compilations, but that didn’t mean they needed to be included here. It kind of takes away from a lot of even better tracks that deserved to be included. Disc six focuses too much on indie rock like Bikini Kill, Cibo Matto, and Stereolab. It also contains too much weirdness from Ash, Supergrass, and Spacehog. The final disc works a bit better as it rounds up 1997 and 1998 very well, but that only leaves four songs from 1999.

There are several questions that this set asks, like: “With all this Snow, Kriss Kross, Wreckx n Effect, and Tag Team, you couldn’t figure out a way to include 2PAC, Dre, Snoop, Biggie. or Jay-Z? Not even Master P?” “Was Start Choppin’ the Dinosaur Jr. song YOU would’ve picked?” “And how do you use Itsoeezee (Hot) as your De La Soul track?”

Ultimately, this box comes across like a labor of love, but it just falls flat of achieving all the wonderful things the ‘90s gave us.

Rating: C-

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