Ah, 1995. When Nickelodeon had awesome shows like Doug and Ren and Stimpy. The U.S. Economy was experiencing incredible growth, the Chicago Bulls were dominating basketball with the return of Michael Jordan, and alternative rock bands ruled the airwaves.
It was during this time that I was introduced to one of my all-time favorite albums, the soundtrack to the movie “Angus”. If you’re not familiar with the film, it’s a coming of age tale about an overweight high school freshman Angus Bethune growing up in the midwest. Angus pines for the head cheerleader Melissa Lefevre, and is tormented by local football hero Rick Sanford (played by none other than James Van Der Beek, pre-Dawson’s Creek).
Like many of the high school films that preceded it, Angus follows a pretty typical formula. The main character has some awkward moments, goes through a period of self-reflection, overcomes some type of social adversity and emerges a hero. The twist with this movie is you don’t usually see a heavy set character winning the day and getting the girl. That part is typically reserved for the football star. So it was refreshing to see “the ugly duckling” having his moment in the sun.
There is a very subtle subplot throughout the film about an upcoming Green Day concert. Throughout the film, the Green Day song “J.A.R (Jason Andrew Relva),” can be heard in the background at the local burger shack and on Angus’ home stereo.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking, “Enough about the film, let’s get to the music!”
As I mentioned previously, 1995 was dominated by alternative rock. Some of the top-selling albums that year included Smashing Pumpkins’ “Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” “Jagged Little Pill” by Alanis Morrisette, Live’s “Throwing Copper,” and the self-titled release from Alice in Chains.
While these were some of the big name releases rising up the charts, there were several lesser known bands on the scene who were starting to make a name for themselves, including The Goo Goo Dolls, Smoking Popes, Mazzy Star, Green Day, and Weezer. This soundtrack highlights some of their earliest works.
The album kicks off with Green Day’s pop punk classic J.A.R (Jason Andrew Relva), a hook-filled treasure about youth and making the most of every moment.
Next is the track “Jack Names the Planets” by Ash. The crunchy and simple melody will have this song stuck in your head for days.
A little further down the track listing, you will find “Mrs. You and Me” from Smoking Popes. This song is featured on Smoking Popes’ seminal release “Born to Quit”. Lead Singer Josh Caterer’s crooning sound has often been compared to Morrisey. When asked about “Born to Quit” Morrisey remarked, “It’s extraordinary, the most lovable thing I’ve heard in years.” Smoking Popes are still going strong too. They will be playing a special acoustic set on May 8 in my hometown. Look out for a review and possibly an interview with the band.
Another track that stands out is “Ain’t that Unusual” from the Goo Goo Dolls. We all know the Goo Goo Dolls went on to be mega-stars, but this is one of the band’s earliest tracks from their major label debut album “A Boy Named Goo”. The song paints a picture of a high school romance and feeling invisible, themes that play along perfectly with Angus’ storyline.
Honestly, I could list every track on the album because they are all that good, but I’ll close with my personal favorite, Weezer’s “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly”. This song was featured as a b-side on the 7″ “El Scorcho”, however, the version on the soundtrack was recorded specifically for the film. The guitar solo was replaced with a keyboard, probably to fit in with the homecoming music during the film’s final act. It is notably short, but to me, it’s one of the greatest pop songs ever written.
Thanks for checking out my Throwback Thursday album perspective. If you get the chance, check out the film Angus and listen to the soundtrack. Both are available on YouTube.
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