The 40 Best Alternative Rock Songs Ever, 1976-2000, The Grand Finale

[Edit, 2013: Spotify playlist below ]

[Hello, google traffic! Please take the poll "Where Were You When You Heard that Kurt Cobain Had Died?" Thank you!]

A long post, but you may want to read it even if you do not care about music. Among other things, you'll get a short literary parody, details from my biography which are hopefully interesting in one or the other way, and you can learn a new expression. Here is part one, here is part two, and here is the third part of John Althouse Cohen's 40 greatest grunge songs list.

Boy, this was fun! It has made me listen to lots of stuff from the olden days again, and I enjoyed that very much. Thank you, John!

Not that long ago I was sitting on the bus in front of two young women, around eighteen or nineteen, one of whom had just bought an LP. "This is so damn expensive", she said. "Once I earn some serious money, I'm going to buy at least five records a week!" "You wait and see", I thought. If only I could feel as passionately about music again as when I was nineteen!

Or maybe not. Back then I had a girlfriend who owned maybe twenty albums, and if I'm not mistaken, one of them was by Phil Collins. I was feeling very educational and recorded lots of tapes for her. (For our young readers: Tapes are an ancient technology for recording music. A bit like CD-Rs, only crappier.) One of the tapes I had recorded had the best of Pavement on one side and the best of the Ramones on the other. One day we were sitting in a pub and they played a Ramones song. "Oh, I know who that is!", she exclaimed. "Pavement!" I don't think we had sex that night.

For complaints about your favourite band missing from the list, and general suggestions that I shouldn't be allowed to write about music, the comments section is open. Even better: Make your own list, and let me know.

To listen to some of the songs, go here and click on the "play" button next to the first song. Alternatively, you can use the player at the bottom of this post, but it will fade some songs out after 30 seconds.

Next in this series: The Ten Worst Beatles Songs. Seriously.

And now, people, brace yourselves! The Ten Best Alternative Rock Songs! Ever! (1976-2000):

10. Dackelblut: Kinder kriegen Kinder
Call me Lemmus. Some days ago - never mind how long precisely - I thought I'd listen to "Kinder kriegen Kinder". It is a way I have of driving off the happiness and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find the smiles not wanting to disappear from my lips, whenever it's a warm, sunny August in my soul; whenever I want to stop by at playgrounds and clap my hands whenever a child manages to go down a slide; and especially whenever my feelings get such an upper hand of me, that it requires me a strong moral principle not to excuse everything people do with the bad childhood they may have had - then, I account it is high time to listen to "Kinder kriegen Kinder" as soon as I can.

9. Sonic Youth: Tunic
When you feel like feeling feverish but are perfectly healthy, this is the song to put on. Another way to put this is to say that one should think it's by My Bloody Valentine if it weren't so good.

8. Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit
A surprise entry at no. 8. Almost everything I have to say about this song I've already said in sections III and IV of this post. The only thing remaining being: I once danced to this wearing a suit and a tie. It's a strange world out there.

Please don't threaten legal action or put voodoo spells on me just because it's not no. 1.

7. Pixies: Where Is My Mind
Makes you want to rock your body back and forth like an autistic child.

Boy, it's good I didn't go into advertising. Another try: Having this song on the soundtrack is the best thing about the film Fight Club, and that's a classic movie.

Yeah, that's a little better.

6. Smashing Pumpkins: Today
When Siamese Dream, the album this one's on, was popular, a girl at a party told me that this was absolutely the best album to have sex to. She went into quite some detail. I thought: "Yuck!" And I didn't mean the album.

5. Weezer: Only in Dreams
The best bit of this song is when they slowly get louder again, roughly between minutes 5 and 6. I like to imagine that they formed sort of a huddle around the drums, coordinating each other by looking each other in the eyes. But it was probably just some evil corporate producer type using evil corporate mixing techniques who pulled that one off.

4. Dinosaur jr.: The Wagon
This clearly should be the last song on the album, but it's the first. It's not hard to see why: It's the song with the greatest commercial appeal, and bands and record companies love to put those first, presumably because people who listen to the record in the shop before deciding whether to buy it start with the first song. In an interview with a German music magazine one of Pavement's members once revealed an expression for that strategy. I have a funny feeling he made it up, given that it has exactly zero google hits, but I like it nonetheless. It is the frontloader strategy.

3. The Clash: Spanish Bombs
Darn! I already blew the "perfect pop song" phrase on no. 34. Sooo... The lyrics deal with anarchy. And communism. And fighting. In Spain. Oh look, there's a red elephant behind you! And it's flying!

2. Tocotronic: Drüben auf dem Hügel
You're seventeen. You wake up. You are hung over. The sun is shining through the window and right into your eyes. You had a row with your parents yesterday. You desperately want to be in love. This is your song.

1. Pavement: Elevate Me Later (a.k.a. Ell Ess Two)
When I was in my late teens, we used to meet in a room where bands practiced. It was a little shack in a backyard, 30 metres away from the street, where the tram rails slept. It had a patch of grass in front of it. It had a flat black roof, and in the summer it would get incredibly hot. The sweat would be running down your forehead and into your eyes even if you were just sitting there, on one of the incredibly stinky sofas, motionless. One day I couldn't stand it anymore and stepped outside. I stood there alone on the patch of grass, a bottle of beer in my hand, and thought: "Ah, how cool!" And then something strange happened. It was as though some higher being stuck his - it was a he - finger - the first finger of the right hand, to be precise - in my brain and infused me with a sensation that you have to imagine as the unity of the feelings total peace and I'm so glad to be alive.

And that is the best way of describing how listening to "Elevate Me Later" makes me feel.

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