Greatest Un-Hits: Class of ’99’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” (1998)
Grunge rock came out of the punk tradition, sidestepping the decade and a half of corporate rock that came in between punk’s prime of 1977 and grunge’s rise in 1991. The genre thus traded on the premise that it would never do the things that more commercial rock would never do, like objectify women, learn to play their instruments well, or make a sell-out ‘70s rock move like form a supergroup for a quick paycheck. That’s why it’s confusing and surprising that a bunch of grunge guys would form a one-off supergroup to cover, non-ironically, a technically proficient, ultra-popular rock classic for the soundtrack of a teen horror flick. It’s even more confusing and surprising that this bland project wouldn’t bring bland mainstream success, especially since in 1998 Pearl Jam had scored a #2 pop hit with its semi-jokey cover of the ‘60s teen-death-pop gem “Last Kiss.”
Class of ’99 was made up of Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins, Porno for Pyros bassist Martyn LeNoble, Rage Against the Machine’s way-too-Marxist for this guitarist Tom Morello, and Alice in Chains’ way-too-talented for this singer Layne Staley. And they covered Pink Floyd, which is both rarely done and frowned upon due to the enduring devotion most white males between the ages of 12 and 60 have for that group. It was the lead single off the movie-promoting soundtrack to the 1998 teen horror movie The Faculty. The movie has something to do with evil aliens possessing teachers, similar to how evil robots possessed teachers in the 1990 horror movie Class of 1999, which is where the group got its name.
Teen horror was engaging a big resurgence in the late ‘90s, with movies like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Scream 2 (which, like The Faculty, were self-aware humorous meta-satires of horror, all written by Kevin Williamson) showing that every generation has an appetite for seeing attractive, underfed actress be brutally murdered in order to amuse their passing fancy. The Faculty was the last legs of the fad, and it made a relatively paltry $40 million. Its mediocrity sucked the soundtrack down with it, which, with a big single performed by grunge superstars probably would have been an easier sale five or six years earlier, as the golden age of alternative rock was dead; by 1998 it was all about Limp Bizkit, Korn, and other angry young bands who hated spelling.
“Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” slipped onto the Modern Rock Track charts, peaking at #34.