Did you ever notice that A Tribe Called Quest's song "Can I Kick It?" samples the bass from Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side"? It's a perfectly placed homage, and instantly evokes the themes of drug use and addiction, and sexual confusion. Underneath the slamming drum beats, you can hear the steady bouncing vocals that meld into all the other sounds and support the song. The bass dips into the mix, and is never out of place, it bobs and floats throughout the song.
"Can I Kick It?" is the eighth song on the new soundtrack to the movie The Wackness, which is supposed to transport you back to the nineties. This tag-line makes me feel old. I'm a child of the nineties, raised on Salt 'N' Pepper, Alanis Morisette, Green Day, and Nirvana. I remember hearing Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" played incessantly on popular radio after the release of Batman Forever (the one with Val Kilmer that was released in 1995). Hell, I remember when the movie Titanic was released (1997). Although I begged to go I was (with good reason, since it's a shitty movie anyway) not allowed to see Titanic in theatres, but it did become the first rated R movie I ever watched at home (that I can recall). The Celine Dion album with "My Heart Will Go On" in the tracklist was one of the very first albums that I personally owned. Power rangers, Captain Planet, and the good Ninja Turtles shows mingle lightly with the sounds of Duncan Sheik's "Barely Breathing" and Deep Blue Something's "Breakfast At Tiffany's". Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake used to date! Does anyone remember that? Those were the days when we didn't know that Britney was crazy. There were some sounds that I actually enjoyed. I liked Blink-182 (I'll admit it). I used to watch the videos for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M. on MTV (when they actually played videos).
So here's what I want to know? How did all of that time move so fast, how did everything change so drastically without my knowledge? I guess I didn't notice because I changed with it, slowly but surely realizing that the big budget chick flicks are just not my cup of tea, and that I greatly prefer the clever lyrics of Kurt Cobain to the gushy hook-filled pastries that the Backstreet Boys release. I can look back and be nostalgic, but it's good to know that change is a constant. It's the difference between living your entire life in one dimension, and moving through infinite dimensions holding on to the things and the people you love and letting go of everything superfluous.
The Wackness is about a boy going through this same crisis in the early nineties. New York has not yet been "cleaned up" by Giuliani. Tupac and Biggy are not dead, but some of the promise of youth has been washed away in an instant (Cobain is gone. Already, the wheels turn in Rudy's head that say "no" to boom boxes and "yes" to imprisoning the homeless. You can tell I'm not a big fan.) Everything seems on the verge of completely and utterly breaking down. The thing is that these sensations are ubiquitous throughout history. Substitute Cobain with Ledger, Giuliani with Bush and you have the same feelings felt toward different people. The names change, the clothes change, the sounds on the radio and the actors who play Batman change, but the truly tangible feelings and uncertainties are left exactly the same. The Wackness can be released in 2008 and it can be enjoyed by anyone who has ever felt apathetic, neurotic, and uncertain. These feelings are not unique to the nineties, although during the nineties musicians became very good at expressing them. You can, of course, hear the same strains and themes in "Walk on the Wild Side" which was released in 1972 by a man who was born thirty years earlier.