120 Minutes: Reloaded

I would like to take this moment to remind you that this song (and video) happened. Facial expression at 2:51-2:55 is my default reaction to everything until something else is suggested.

Part of the thrill of living in these times is knowing that, no matter how young you may be, relatively speaking, the culture is always working on new and inventive ways to make you feel a thousand years old. That’s how I felt when I learned that 120 Minutes, which from 1986 to 2003 was MTV’s delivery system for what was called “indie” or “college” or “alternative” rock, was coming back–well, at least “back” to its poor-sister channel, MTV2–with the most beloved of all its hosts, Matt Pinfield. One thing I realized when I heard the news was that … I’m out of the loop. I have no idea what they’re repeatedly pounding into the ground these days.

Back in the ’90s … I did know. Dear God, did I know. … thinking back now, I can scarcely remember a moment when I was alone and had the house or apartment or dorm room to myself and didn’t have it on. … The sheer, sugary buzziness of the programming was hard to resist. … in those pre-download days, …we were experiencing the unfamiliar sensation of having some modest connection to the culture at large. And I’m not gonna lie: when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was lifted out of the farm team of 120 Minutes into heavy rotation on the mothership, it was thrilling. As George Costanza once put it, “Yes! My guys can swim!”

:: Phil Nugent, The Onion AV Club ::

Amen, brother. At an age when I was so uninspired by my surroundings that I routinely smuggled my Walkman (the OG cassette version, not the latest mockery) full of Modern Rock Live interviews and Loveline into class to get me through it, I remember the inaccessible (on so late I had to record it every week), unattractive (Hi Matt!), and modest (brimming with commentary but not aloud so much) 120 Minutes most fondly of all. Every week through most of the 90s, Matt Pinfield & team spoonfed to me the soundtrack of my life, this marvelous mix of noise that I didn’t even know I needed. I made mix-VHS-tapes of my favorites, in which — like the nCr button on your scientific calculator — order did not matter.* Every selection was so distractingly good.

So obviously I was thrilled with 120’s relaunch announcement, partly because I miss it and partly because I know that I’m not the only one still thinking about this stuff now. Most google yields are odes to the old show, but Nugent manages to rant and legitimately.  Matt Pinfield is not an insightful critic nor a skilled journalist, but then who said VJs had to be? He isn’t rock n’ roll in the angry rebel sense, he isn’t edgy, doesn’t push very hard. And that’s refreshing to me. Matt is just this normal guy, soft even, 100% fan and friend, a very knowledgeable support character facilitating access to his favorites, entirely engaged but uncomfortable setting the path.

Likewise I’m 100% fan so I’m rooting for this 120 Minutes Redux to work, but I’m not confident that it will. As Nugent rightly wonders, “What, and who, is the show for?”  Well, since you asked and since it is all about me, me, me all the time, you shouldn’t be surprised when I suggest MTV is courting … me (and my ‘type’). Restless and willing, we early-80s-born, impressionable rock music fiends who loved it then, crave it now, and want an excuse to be reeled back in. Because these flashbacks are just too good — below: Supergrass – Late in the Day. I actually remember putting this video on my SuperMix, buying a Q Magazine music sampler because this song appeared on it, and subsequently falling into one of many future Britrock stints.

*Before you cry “mixtape blasphemy!”, cut me some slack okay? Just picture the process of transferring tape to tape with two consumer VHS players, my severe myopia, and improperly labeled cords … [sniff] is something burning?


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