1. Harvey Danger, "Flagpole Sitta"
All together now: "I'm not sick, but I'm not well! And I'm so hot! 'Cause I'm in hellll!" The Seattle punk boys in Harvey Danger came out of nowhere to score a monster hit with "Flagpole Sitta," an absolutely perfect song that sums up the agony and the irony of 1998. It's both deeply funny and serious – Sean Nelson skewers all the era's teen-angst cliches ("I wanna publish zines/And rage against machines") with a brutal wit that was years ahead of its time. "Flagpole Sitta" was a song everyone loved – it's the first music you'd play for a visiting Martian who asked what 1998 felt like – but it's also had a huge afterlife. Somebody in your neighborhood is karaoke-ing it right now.
Every detail in "Flagpole Sitta" is brilliant: Evan Sult's
mammoth drum hook, Jeff Lin's noise guitar squiggles, the late Aaron Huffman's
bass thud, the jolly "ba ba ba" back-up vocals, even the quizzical
title. "I wish I had had the fucking sense to change the name of the song,"
Nelson once said. "'I'm Not Sick but I'm Not Well' is what everybody else
calls it. If I had done that...we'd be having this conversation on my yacht." Yet that's part of the song's legend. You could hear it as satire, doing for
grunge miserabilism what LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge" did for
DJ culture. But it's also full of genuine fury, which is why it's never felt
dated. ("If you're bored then you're boring" sure predicted the hell
out of the social-media era, didn't it?) "Flagpole Sitta" will always
gleam with rock & roll heart – not sick, not well, just loud and alive.