Well, I’ve decided to take on the ridiculously hard task of doing a list for every year of the 90s best albums. Any genre, bet of compilations count, symphonies and everything in between are all available for inclusion. It’s gonna be a hell of mission but let’s get to it with the year that started it all off….predictably it was 1990. As always this is based on personal experiences, nostalgia and all that stuff so I’m well aware it won’t line up with your list so just enjoy the ride. WOAAAHHH DUUUUDES!
A compilation of Morrisey’s early solo tracks after his split from The Smiths with b-sides and singles alike making it onto the album. It hurts to start things off with this cock womble but credit where it’s due, this is a really good pop album with plenty of memorable songs. He was always a good lyricist in that pretentious arty farty way. As seen on the cover this was during his James Dean obsession which is fine by me as a Dean fan myself. Guest appearances from the likes of Kirsty McColl help things along nicely.
Highlights: “Interesting Drug” and “Every Day Is Like Sunday”
34. Anthrax-Persistence Of Time
I’ve got to be honest I’ve never been the biggest Anthrax fan which may shock some and I find them to be by far the weakest of the “big 4” thrash bands. That said their fifth album is a banger and it signaled the end of an era for the band as their singer Joey Belladonna would leave before the next album was recorded. This album was more proggy and serious than previous albums which was seen as a positive by most but not me. They used to write songs about Judge Dredd dammit!! Nonetheless Persistence still stands as a highlight in the band’s discography.
Highlights: “Blood”. “One Man Stands”
33. MC Hammer-Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Em
He quickly became a novelty retro act due to the phenomenal success of “U can’t touch this” and going bankrupt almost as soon as he’d amassed his millions due to his Elvis like altruistic nature. Due to that novelty factor it’s easy to forget that Hammer was a talented dude. He could flow and he sure could dance and there are more songs than just his monster hit that are worth looking at. This was his third album so he wasn’t some overnight success. Yes it’s cheesy and corny but all pop rap at the time was and had those big beats and cheesy casio horns. I even had the movie that this album spawned…..I refuse to watch it as an adult because I have no doubts that it’s just the worst but Hammer should always be commended for his positive message he spread through his fame. Nowhere is that more evident than this album. Largely derided and mocked but always has a place in my heart.
Highlights-“Here Comes The Hammer” “On Your Face”
32. Poison-Flesh And Blood
I’ve always rooted for Poison, they were the “pop punk” of the metal scene….that’s a reference to when pop punk was good. Admittedly I wasn’t an adult who had MTV back in the late 80s so my opinion of them wopuld have no doubt been altered if I had seen the m plastered all over the channel every minute of every day. They wrote catchy tunes, Fallen Angel from 1988’s Open Up And Say …AHHH is an absolute banger and no mistake. Nothing of that qualty on Flesh And Blood which saw the band try to grow up and write more serious songs and yet they still have Unskinny Bop on here. A nonsensical but memorable ditty from the androgynous band about who knows what but there are a few head boppers on here from a time when the genre was dying a painful death.
Highlights-“Life Loves A Tragedy” “Let It Play”
31. Alice In Chains-Facelift
The band that are credited with showing metalheads that grunge could also appeal to them. AIC often differed to other bands in the genre because they forewent the stripped down punk ethos of bands like Nirvana and had blistering guitar solos and screeching vocals that had them acting as something of a crossover band. A strong debut from a band that would go on to get better (in my opinion anyway) as they found they signature sound. Yes I’m for sure going to get heat for some of the albums I place above this but hey ho it’s my opinion and it’s also based on all sorts of things like nostalgia etc and I never owned this when I was a kid so it doesn’t hold a strong place in my heart. Also shockingly I’m not a massive fan of “Man In The Box” blasphemy I know.
Highlights-“We Die Young” “Real Thing”
30. Vanilla Ice-To The Extreme
Ahh Christmas 1990, 6 year old was delighted to get this in my stocking. What can you say 26 years later that hasn’t been said already. The album that brought rap to white boys around the world (sad that they had to manufacture a white poster boy for that to happen but hey ho that’s not his fault). Ice went the way of Fred Durst, initially seen as cool until the backlash quickly began and everyone jumped on it. Poor Ice seemed like a genuinely good guy and still does unlike Durst so I feel a lot more sorry for him. After being chewed up and spat out by the industry he tried an image change to fit in with the gangsta rap genre and failed miserably, went through a drugged out phase and came out the other end a new man. Like every behind the music story ever basically. He’s a staple on American reality tv now and has barely aged a day. This album (which is so sample heavy it’s hilarious) will always by highly regarded by me. I love you is the worst song of all time though.
Highlights: “Go Ill” “Ice Is Workin’ It”
A hugely entertaining blast of covers varying from The Specials to adverts like that bloody Shake n Vac jingle people my age and older will no doubt remember for their incessant need to be on the tv all the time. Great stuff but very short, it’s quick blasts of fun.
Highlights-“Do Nothing (The Specials)” “Ecstasy”
28.Boo-Ya Tribe-New Funky Nation
A group of terrifying American-Samoan brothers from LA make their debut with their tales from the streets. They stood out from other groups as they played their own instruments and were one of the earliest groups to incorporate metal and rock into their sound. They don’t get nearly the credit they should for that.
Highlights-“Rated R” “Pickin’ Up Metal”
27. Celtic Frost-Vanity/Nemesis
Opening with one of the best riffs on the entire list (UK manga video fans will remember it from the vhs adverts) Vanity/Nemesis sees the Swiss metal band head in a more thrashy direction and it makes it more listenable than their previous efforts that were more in the black metal vein. It’s simpler and less experimental than their other stuff which might frustrate their fans but certainly makes it more accessible to the likes of me. Just a great metal album regardless of genre. Ignore the cover of Bowie’s Heroes though. Let’s hear it……..UUUGGGHHH!!
Highlights-“The Heart Beneath” “Phallic Tantrum”
26. Jane’s Addiction- Ritual De Lo Habitual
A weird heady mix of Faith No More, Frank Zappa and ….Led Zeppelin maybe? Whatever the influences were for the album it features an incredible performance from gross walking std Dave Navarro and great vocal range from frontman Perry Farrell. You can almost smell the heroin seeping from the record which explains the crazy nature and LA sound of the time. For better or worse it is a druggy record which is hard to explain but if you get it you get it. As someone who doesn’t dabble in such things the album’s dangerous and trippy vibe attracted me which is weird because these kinds of albums don’t usually appeal to me. That’s how strong it is.
25. Brand Nubian-One For All
Nation of Islam and homophobic rhetoric aside, Brand Nubian were a fantastic and inventive hip hop group that merged funky beats, smooth samples and talkative flow to make really enjoyable records and One For All is one of their best.
Highlights-“All For One” “Ragtime”
24. The La’s- The La’s
In all honesty this album, the only one released by the Liverpudlian indie band, is only this high because There She Goes is one of the best pop songs ever written. The rest of album could have been duds and I still probably would have put it somewhere on here. Luckily there are a few other catchy ditties that make it an enjoyable listen.
Highlights-“There She Goes” “I can’t Sleep Tonight”
23.The Simpsons-Sing The Blues
In this, the golden age of television let it not be said that The Simpsons (season 2-8) wasn’t the greatest tv show of all time. It’s hip to hate on it now because it’s long outstayed it’s welcome and hasn’t been relevant for some time but in it’s heyday it was so unbelievably funny and sweet that it shaped my humour for good. The amount of quotes and personal jokes that me and my friends use that stemmed from the show is insane. Anyway this album is from around the first season when Bart was being pushed as the star before Homer eclipsed him as the standout. It’s a collection of songs sung by the family with guests like Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince and BB King. Two singles became big worldwide hits Deep Deep Trouble and Do The Bartman
Highlights-“Deep Deep Trouble” “I Love To See You Smile”
22. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-OST
The actual score itself is excellent with a less is more approach that exudes New York grimyness and dread that perfectly plays alongside the films darker scenes. The album has a nice mix of score cuts and licensed songs from artists of the time. Most people close to my age will no doubt remember the fun T.U.R.T.L.E POWER by Partners In Cryme but there are some other crackers in there too and it makes for a fun, bouncy and playfully dorky soundtrack. Ya Kid K from Technotronic makes an appearance…..man I had such a crush on her.
Highlights-“This Is How We Do” by MC Hammer ” Spin That Wheel” Hi Tek 3 ft Ya Kid K
21.Poison Idea-Feel The Darkness
Pure aggression at it’s finest from the self proclaimed kings of punk, Feel The Darkness is their most focused album and just flies by at blistering speed. Like a few hardcore bands at the time they used some thrash elements and riffs to add an extra dimension. Like most underground scenes, Hardcore had become so flooded with bands doing the same thing by the late 80s early 90s that it became a little stale so it’s no surprise bands tried different things.
Highlights-“The Badge” “Plastic Bomb”
20. Gary Johnson-Ah Via Musicom
Virtuoso guitarist albums don’t usually interest me much. I appreciate the talent and can watch/listen in small bursts but most of the time there’s no melody or tune, it’s just squealing guitar over one note bass lines. This album is beautiful and incorporates Johnson’s beautiful guitar tone and stunning playing with simple but tuneful chord progressions behind him.
Highlights-“Cliffs Of Dover” “Desert Rose”
Arrogant, Self obsessed and so far up his own arse he can see his breakfast being digested but our boy Danzig sure could belt out a tune. He was wearing his Roy Orbison love on his muscular chest at this point and it shows in his bluesy rock songs. His forced blues voice can be a little silly at times but when it works it goes great with his band that consisted of John Christ who loves a pinch harmonic and Chuck Biscuits on drums. Tight lineup with Eerie Von on bass.
Highlights-“Her Black Wings” “Tired Of Being Alive”
18. A Tribe Called Quest-People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm
What a debut! Tribe came onto the hip hop scene with little initial fanfare. Perhaps this is due to the rise in popularity of gangsta rap where they were more thoughtful and socially concious but whatever the reason it eventually picked up steam and got the love it deserved. Classics like I left My Wallet In El Segundo and Can I Kick It would go on to be tracks that defined the legendary group.
Highlights-“Bonita Applebum” “Footprints”
17.Gwar-Scumdogs Of The Universe
Yes they are a comedy shock rock band but let’s make one thing damn clear. …..Gwar are a genuinely awesome band. Mixing thrash metal with hardcore and even pop punk, they manage to pull off almost everything they give a bash. Their insane stage shows and costumes gimmicks just make them all the more brilliant. Song meanings go from killing nazis and hippies to Lovecraft creatures to social commentary. This, their second album is still their biggest hit and tells the story of how the band came to earth in pods to cause chaos and take over. …..oh Gwar…..you are ace.
Highlights-“Maggots” “Death Pod”
16. Ice Cube-Amerikkka’s Most Wanted
Incredibly accomplished for a 21 year old solo artist’s debut but then again Cube was always by far the best thing about N.W.A before his nasty split from the gangsta rap/g-funk pioneers. His aggressive and funky flow is always incredibly engaging and he usually had something to say. Unfortunately listening to the album nowadays you see all the cliches that copy cats used ad nauseum until the genre became a parody of itself. The record is still a timestamp of when the genre was exciting and scary and it sees Cube spread his wings at the start of what would go on to be a hugely successful solo career.
Highlights-“Dead Homiez” “Turn Off The Radio”
15. The Sundays-Reading, Writing And Arithmetic
A pretty little debut from the alternative pop band from Reading with gorgeous vocals from Harriet Wheeler. Without her cute, posh lilt The Sundays probably would have been lost in the pile of guitar pop acts of the time but had it not been for the singing talents of Wheeler and while they never quite hit the heights thet deserved they are still revered by fans of the genre.
Highlights-“I Kicked A Boy” “Here’s Where The Story Ends”
What and atrocious cover!. The forgotten men of the glam metal scene….probably because they were far too late to the party. Debuting with their self titled album when the scene was on it’s arse Firehouse never quite fit in with their contemporaries because they were actually likeable and forewent the sleaze of acts like Motley Crue in lieu of trying to get some good rock songs out there. A group of talented studio musicians without the charisma to connect with the public in a way that bands like Poison had, Firehouse still remain a high for the genre in my opinion. Don’t Treat Me Bad is an absolute banger of epic proportions too.
Highlights-“Don’t Treat Me Bad” “Love Of A Lifetime”
The post hardcore genre has always been incredibly off putting to me. The pretentious self labelled “intelligent punk” bands always had an air of superiority to us miserly punks and frankly I found their music dull as dishwater. “WOOPDY DOO YOU MESSED WITH A TIME SIGNATURE” ahem anyway Fugazi are seen as one of the flag bearers for the genre and I gave them a listen when I was young because it was Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat’s band and I have to say that even though I’m not a fan of most of the genre’s bands, Fugazi are excellent and this is their best album. Another debut…..what a year for debuts.
12. Primus-Frizzle Fry
Yet another full length debut makes the list, this time by avant-garde funk metal weirdos Primus. Influential and genius bassist Les Claypool leads the band as they rage through absurdist, Frank Zappa like humour with distorted guitars and inventive slap and strum bass chops. It’s insane and even though I’m very used to their sound nowadays I can’t imagine what it must have been like seeing them burst on the scene…..they were just so unique.
Highlights-“Mr Knowitall” “John The Fisherman”
11. Judas Priest-Painkiller
Now that’s an album cover!. The twelfth album from metal gods Judas Priest marked the end of Rob Halford’s time as frontman as he left before the next album only to return 13 years later. He left on a high note as Painkiller is a monster of an album. I’m not an expert in the band but from what I’ve heard this is easily my favourite album of theirs. It’s their first album to feature Scott Travis from Racer X which explains the godly drum sound with it’s thunderous snare bash.
Highlights-“Painkiller” “Metal Meltdown”
10. Social Distortion-Social Distortion
It’s fair to say that for many years Social Distortion and in particular their frontman Mike Ness struggled with their image. From young proto emo kids to junkie chic to punkabilly Johnny Cash imitators. This was them finding their feet as the rockabilly, country influenced punks they would continue to be for the majority of the decade and it’s a comfortable fit as Ness’ strong song writing and catchy tunes make for the juxaposition of grim lyrics and catchy tunes that country often has. The song Story Of My Life was a radio hit and found new life on the game Guitar Hero 3.
Highlights-“Sick Boys” “A Place In My Heart”
9.Bad Religion-Against The Grain
One of the greatest bands of all time flew into the 90s with a solid album that had all the trademark Bad Religion features …..fast paced, melodic. socially conscious left wing punk songs with harmonies and squealing guitars. Sounds good to me. Following up on 1988’s Suffer and 1989’s No Control was always going to be incredibly tough and although it doesn’t quite hit those heights it gets damn close.
Highlights-“21st Century Digital Boy” “Turn On The Light”
8. Madonna-The Immaculate Collection
One of the best selling albums of all time with 30 million sales. An incredible achievement and testament to the staying power of Madonna. I can’t say I’ve been a fan of….well anything she’s done since around 1998 but this is a remixed collection of her early stuff. Hit after hit after hit from the golden age of the bad girl. She had just gone into her Marilyn Monroe looking era where she became hyper sexual made parents everywhere terrified that she was corrupting their children….because hiding sex from them is healthy you know…….
Highlights-“Crazy For You” “Into The Groove”
7. Slayer-Seasons In The Abyss
I think the first time I ever heard a Slayer song was when Beavis and Butthead played Seasons In The Abyss so it always has that nostalgic place for me. Although it’s not my favourite album of theirs it’s bloody close and shows growth as musicians with varying tempos and although non fans of the genre will just hear one big thrash song, those who listen a lot will hear little nuances and tricks that separate it from some of their other releases. Lyrical growth is shown too with social commentary on the Reagan era war mongering that was prevalent.
Highlights-“War Ensemble” “Expendable Youth”
6. Kreator-Coma Of Souls
Man you just don’t get the pleasure of holding an album and it’s inlay booklets in your hand with downloads. German thrash/death/black metal pioneers Kreator shot their fifth release into the faces of the public in what would be their farewell to the pure thrash genre before they started experimenting with industrial and going in other new directions. What a way to leave the genre though, blistering pace, skin melting riffs and doom laden vocals all come together to create/kreate (hahahahaahaa) a thrash masterpiece/thrashterpiece…..ok I’ll stop.
Highlights-“When The Sun Turns Red” “Hidden Dictator”
5. Pantera-Cowboys From Hells
The most influential metal band of the 90s with one of the most influential albums of the 90s. A major label debut for the band after they had changed their image from glam metal club band to groove metal tough guys. The late and legendary guitarist Dimebag Darrell got his playing out to a massive audience and charismatic frontman Phil Anselmo’s stage presence and vocal delivery ensured that the band would go on to become an essential part of the decade.
Highlights-“Domination” “Cowboys From Hell”
4. Public Enemy-Fear Of A Black Planet
As gangsta rap was getting more and more ridiculous Public Enemy were always keeping it real with hyper socially conscious lyrics with the intellectual frontman Chuck D leading the way for young black America to be more than they were being told they were. Whereas NWA’s flexing was cartoonish and embellished, Public Enemy were all about keeping it real and showing America (which was highly conservative at the time) that there’s nothing scarier to the elite than an intelligent, well spoken black man. Chuck was something of a spokesperson for that mindset which always baffled me as he was in a band with Flava Flav…..who is like an imbecilic leprechaun. How on Earth did they coexist for so long? Anyway, a hugely important album and it’s stood the test of time.
Highlights-“Fight The Power” “911 Is A Joke”
3. Megadeth-Rust In Peace
One of the greatest thrash metal albums of all time and the one that got me into the genre. My older neighbour had the cassette and it looked so intriguing to me I had to check it out….I was hooked ever since. Megadeth weren’t always for me but this album just hit all it’s targets perfectly. They always stood out among other thrash bands for the incredible, proggy arrangements and ridiculously technical playing of frontman Dave Mustaine and Rust In Peace is the pinnacle of their powers with a stunning performance from the late drummer Nick Menza and the rest of the band.
Highlights-“Holy Wars….The Punishment Due” “Take No Prisoners”
2. Suicidal Tendancies-Lights….Camera….Revolution
The definitive Suicidal lineup of Mike Clarke, Robert Trujillo (now of Metallica) Rocky George, R.J Herrera and of course goofy frontman Mike Muir unsurprisingly ended up making the best Suicidal album. They strayed a little from their punk/hardcore roots for a more metal sound with pig squeals thrashing solos. Some fantastic riffs from Rocky George with fuck laden bass from Trujillo. A fantastic exploration of anger, depression, loneliness and expression through music.
Highlights-“You Can’t Bring Me Down” “Lost Again”
1. They Might Be Giants-Flood
Probably a shock entry considering how strong a year metal had but TMBG’ first major label release is just so unique, tuneful and irreverent that it takes the top spot. It’s genuinely quirky and not that “quirky” where a woman puts on a wee girl voice and covers a rock song on piano for a car advert, this is proper quirkiness with funny lyrics and weird instruments with often unusual song arrangements. Not all of the 19 songs is a hit but there’s enough college rock, alt pop catchy shenanigans going on that there’s more good than bad and it does enough to top the list in the first year of our trip through the 90s.
Highlights-“Your Racist Friend” “Lucky Ball And Chain”
Well that’s the first year done so let’s move on to 1991 and see what the year in music brings us. Thanks for checking out 1990 with me and hopefully had a good time and didn’t get all angry because I have a different opinion than you (still astonishes me when people get mad at that ) CHEERIO FOLKS.