Squirrel Nut Zippers

The commercialization of alternative music in the '90s resulted in many strange one-hit wonders, but few were quite as unpredictable as Squirrel Nut Zippers. During a time when hipsters were obsessed with swing music in its relation to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin's Rat Pack, the Zippers were fascinated with big-band swing and Harlem, creating a tongue-in-cheek salute to '20s and '30s jazz. For younger listeners familiar with the style but not the content of classic hot jazz, the band was good fun, but purists found the group's vaguely campy sense of humor and amateurish technique off-putting. This debate would never have even been a matter of consideration if "Hell," an incessantly catchy single from their 1997 album Hot, hadn't been able to sneak through loosened alternative airplay to become a novelty hit. "Hell" became a crossover hit on the strength of a bizarrely theatrical vehicle, and Squirrel Nut Zippers quickly became one of the hottest alternative bands of the first half of the year.

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