The 90s are in full flow now and the 80s are speck in the rear view mirror.New wave was out but it’s heavier offshoot industrial metal is starting to find success, hair metal was coughing up blood and taking it’s last breaths as grunge continues to dominate the alternative scene. Movies and tv were starting to get on board with grunge and it’s fashion was in danger of becoming a uniform. Singer song writers and RnB is dominating pop instead of the shallow Stock Aitken Watterman as the nihilistic generation is taking over.
35.Wet Wet Wet-High On The Happy Side
Sigh….well there’s always a couple in these lists so why not just start off with one? Maybe it’s because my mum loved the cheesy Scottish gits when I was young (in particular that hunky bastard Marti Pellow) but whatever it was I’ve always had a slight spot for them. Some of their melodies were really good so there we go. This was them still in their squeaky clean image before Marti Pellow ruined all that by becoming a raging heroin addict.
Highlights-“Put The Light On” “Make It Tonight”
34.Napalm Death-Utopia Banished
You know what you’re getting from Napalm Death and everybody’s favourite cheery Midlanders. Crushing metal and with this album they incorporated elements of thrash and hardcore which was when they were at their best. Never been the biggest fan of blastbeats.
Highlights-“Dementia Access” “Judicial Slime”
33. Gang Starr-Daily Operation
Making their second appearance in what is a very strong year with their third album. Nothing much has changed and that’s a good thing with their slick and smooth production along with the extremely tight and intelligent lyrical flow. Just an incredibly good listen and somewhat relaxing too with it’s laid back grooves.
Highlights-“The Illest Brother” “Soliloquy Of Chaos”
The band that put a lot of goofy fun into the often pretentious college rock scene. I believe the first time I ever went to a gig was to see them play the Glasgow Barrowlands and they were just a riot. Often cited for being uncool and for nerds, that’s fine by me I couldn’t care less. They made fun songs and made me happy….that’s all I care about and their debut album showed off what a good band they were.
Highlights-“Be My Yoko Ono” “If I Had A Million Dollars”
Terrible title aside, Redman’s debut album is a beast. Introducing the world to his hyperactive flow, humourous lyrics and general sense of fun. He would go on to find huge success teaming up with Wu Tang member Method Man but this was the album where he announced his talents to the world.
Highlights-“Time 4 Sum Aksion” “Blow Your Mind”
30.The Cure-The Wish
The Cure transcend time. Where a lot of bands who had a lot of success in the 80s struggled to adapt to the culture change of the 90s The Cure ended up doing some of their best work. When you make music this beautiful with lyrics so simple but relateable and impactful it just doesn’t age. Friday I’m In Love from this album had success all over the world. The cynical 90s didn’t chew them up and spit them out as one of “those 80s bands”. The Cure’s music will never age.
Highlights-“A Letter To Elise” “To Wish Impossible Things”
All are the Descendents with a different singer. Usually singer Milo Aukerman was away getting his phd and so the band decided to get a new singer but Milo was such an integral part of the group that they felt it needed to be a different name, different band. All never found nearly the same success but don’t let that keep you away, there are some good albums there and this was the last one with fan favourite singer Scott Reynolds.
28.The Gits-Frenching The Bully”
One of the brightest up and coming stars of the Seattle grunge scene mixing the sound with elements of punk rock. Their ascension was tragically cut short when talented singer/songwriter Mia Zapata was raped and murdered as the band were preparing to release their second album. Zapata is seen as something as an icon and influence for many female singers who emerged from similar scenes and her haunting vocals are a brutal reminder of a life cut short by evil.
Highlights”Another Shot Of Whiskey”It All Dies Anyway”
27. Das Efx-Dead Serious
Known as the duo that ended words with “iggidy” as parodied by many forms of media and comedians like Dave Chappelle, Das Efx were influential in their stream of consciousness style flow that became very popular. Fast flow, slick rhymes, pop culture references and heavy beats make this a brilliant record to bounce to.
Highlights-“Mic Checka” “Klap Ya Handz”
26.Lionel Richie-Back To Front
Ahh Lionel during his drag queen portraying a French artist phase. A compilation of his best work with a couple of new tracks in there too….one of which is Do It To Me and is a fantastic ballad. True story, I had a friend staying over one night and ended up having a series of incredibly emotional and serious conversations as he lay on my floor. At one point I just looked at the stereo and said “do you realise we’ve been sitting shirtless listening to Lionel Richie for an hour?” Little glimpse into my exciting life there.
Highlights-“Stuck On You” “Easy”
25.The Ramones-Mondo Bizarro
Joey Ramone’s least favourite Ramones album has a few decent tracks and enough of that typical sound the band are known for but it’s clear at times they were going for other things that just didn’t come off. New bassist C.J is not at fault at all as Dee Dee’s replacement and I actually liked him and his playing. Things were just coming to an end for the band and it was showing, they’d ran out of ideas but still had enough muscle memory to keep them going. Nothing compared to their earlier work but still a good listen with some solid drumming from Marky…..who was always the main Ramones drummer to me.
Highlights-“Poison Heart” “Tomorrow She Goes Away”
24.Sophie.B.Hawkins-Tongues And Tails
One of the new breed of female artists that dominated the 90s. Weird, arty and showing that vulnerability that seems like she’s going to have a breakdown any minute. Along with Liz Phair, Fiona Apple et al these women were not to be trifled with and it produced a more credible form of expression and song writing than many of pops ladies the decade before. I say that as a generilisation by the way before I start getting pounded with names of credible pop girls from the 80s….I’m a big Cindi Lauper fan. Speaking of Lauper, producer Rick Chertoff worked with her on Girls Just Wanna Have Fun so he knows how to help produce absolute bangers. Hawkins would go on to have success through most of the 90s and it’s easy to see why, she was a damn good lyricist too.
Highlights-“Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” “Before I Walk On Fire”
23. Body Count-Body Count
Monumentally controversial upon it’s release due to ……well many things really but mainly sue to the song Cop Killer which is sung through the eyes of someone who is sick of police violence and so takes it upon himself to….well you get it. Ice T is a huge punk rock/hardcore fan and so decided to front one of his own…..and we got body count, a mish mash of rap, metal, punk and spoken word goodness that had conservative America up in arms leading to freedom of speech arguments. The album had to be re-released without Cop Killer which Ice T gave out for free at gigs instead.
Highlights-“Cop Killer” “There Goes The Neighbourhood”
22.The Lemonheads-It’s A Shame About Ray
Evan Dando is one of those alt rock legends that never became a household name for some reason. The handsome singer songwriter could and should have been a megastar but he’s well known within the circles that dig that kind of music. The Lemonheads always had a likeable hippyish quality to them. Like a better version of Blind Melon with their slightly distorted jangly guitar sounds and punky tempos they have a great ear for a tune and it’s just good , simple songwriting that stays with you.
Highlights-“It’s A Shame About Ray” “My Drug Buddy”
21.Gwar-America Must Be Destroyed
Gwar’s anger at the world continued in 1992 as singer Oderus Urungus was arrested on obsenity charges and had his….sigh….fake nob “The Cuttlefish Of Cthulu” taken from him. This lead to much of the album being focused on p.c culture and faux outrage. Gwar are always Gwar, disgusting and base in every wey but with banging metal riffs and surprisingly melodic punk rock.
Highlights-“Crack In The Egg” “The Morality Squad”
The last Green Day album before the big jump to the major labels where they have stayed until this day. It’s also the first album with long term drummer Tre Cool. Kerplunk showed a lot of the simple, four chord and a melody kind of punk that Green Day would become known for and after spikes in popularity they’d go on to become superstars. They helped define the sound of 90s punk but somehow there was always something a little bit different about Green Day…..something more folky in Billie Joe Armstrong’s writing that helped them stand out.
Highlights-“2000 Light Years Away” “One Of My Lies”
19. The Love Symbol Album
Crazy, wonderful Prince. This was after he had disowned his name in a dispute with the record company but before he was calling himself The Artist Formally Known As Prince so he was just known as a symbol at the time. The usual pomp and circumstance is present with horns, strings, guitar solos, keys and funk to spare and Prince is on form as he usually was.
Highlights-“My Name Is Prince” “I Wanna Melt With U”
This was the group still in their rave phase, before the complete shift to rock, industrial sound that came later. Mixing elements of happy hardcore, drum and bass with that rave piano sound of the time. Many a jig was danced to this album from this young punk.
Highlights-“Fire” “Everybody In The Place”
17.Rollins Band-The End Of Silence
Often pretentious, pig headed and self obsessed, still there’s something insistently likeable about Henry Rollins. His band sure could crack out the tunes too. Rollins was keen to leave the punk sign behind him, this band had a more blues metal sound that fit his poetic lyrics well. Andrew Weiss on bass is tremendous.
Highlights-“Low Self Opinion” “What Do You Do”
16.The Jesus And Mary Chain-Honey’s Dead
Scotland’s own indie darlings enter the 90s with a cleaner sounding album that may have put off their hardcore fans. It doesn’t have the same fuzzy feedback that a lot of noise and shoegaze bands incorporated but it certainly had that TJAMC sound. Melodic, punky chord structures and laid back vocals make Honey’s Dead a very strong album.
Highlights-“Far Gone And Out” “Rollercoaster”
15.R.E.M-Automatic For The People
The album that sent R.E.M from college rock nearly men to worldwide megastars. This was the band at the top of their game which was recognised by the several singles that were released from this album. From jangly mid tempo ditties to the lighters in the air slow jams there’s a fair bit of variety while still keeping that sound that they’re known for. Just one of those huge albums that comes along every so often and connects with a huge amount of people.
Highlights-“Nightswimming” “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight”
14.Pavement-Slanted And Enchanted
The debut album from an indie band that would go on to generate one of the worst armies of hardcore fans of all time. That’s not their fault, they just make the music….and what good music it is. With odd, distant and slightly off key vocals there’s something hypnotising about Pavement and their entrancing and tuneful songs that just draws you in. That’s the aim I guess.
Highlights-“Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at;17”
13. Faith No More-Angeldust
The follow up to the highly successful The Real Thing was not a predictable one by any means. If anything they wanted to make the most uncommercial album they could and it ended up being one of the most respected and revered albums of the decade. I’ve always been a little split on FNM. Sometimes I think they are ace and then other times some of their songs just don’t hit at all and I just can’t get into them. Angel Dust is an incredibly accomplished piece of work though.
Highlights-“Smaller And Smaller” “A Small Victory”
12.Megadeth-Countdown To Extinction
Taking what they did in Rust In Peace and added a more personal touch to it with singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine delving into the inner reaches of his mind and exploring his personality in the lyrics. Mustaine’s vocals never sounded better than on this album, sneering and sinister.
Highlights-“Sweating Bullets” “Symphony Of Destruction”
11. Biohazard-Urban Discipline
Too punk for the metal crowd, too metal for the punk crowd was the old mantra about Biohazard. Genre outcasts but undeterred and determined to make their own style, the band brilliantly blended hardcore, rap, punk, metal with crazy song arrangements. The amount of tempo changes in each song is crazy and it all adds to the groove and variety that made Biohazard one of the decades best heavy bands with their lyrics about growing up in the mean streets of 80s Brooklyn. Always loved Danny Schuler’s drumming….one of those bands where the drummer really makes a difference.
Highlights-“Shades Of Grey” “Wrong Side Of The Tracks”
10. Screeching Weasel-Wiggle
Chicago’s own are back on another list with an album that doesn’t get much love from people I’ve spoken to in the punk community but it has it’s fair share of crackers on there including a great cover of Teenage Head’s Aint Got No Sense. You know what you’re getting with these guys, it’s just whether or not the particular melodies hit with you or not. They do for me.
Highlights-“Like A Parasite” “It’s All In My Head”
9.Ice Cube-The Predator
The album that spawned one of the most revered rap singles of the decade It Was A Good Day which explored how common violence was in the ghettos of America. Like most of his work, this album focuses a lot on racial issues, urban life and police brutality, largely influenced by the Rodney King farce and the resulting LA riots of 1992.
Highlights-“Wicked” “Now I Gotta Wet Cha”
8.Alice In Chains-Dirt
Two of the band members on this album went on to die after crippling addiction to heroin…..that gives you an idea of how prevalent it was in the grunge scene, tragic. Dirt will go down as AIC’s definitive album with it’s 4x platinum status proving they were one of the most beloved bands of the scene and with good reason. Songs about heroin, depression and war make for a hell of a depressing album but a frankly stunning one.
Highlights-“Them Bones” “Down In A Hole”
7.The Pharcyde-Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde
Funny, funky, jazzy storytelling from a group that focused more on beats and fun than guns and gangs. It’s impossible not to sit and bop your head to The Pharcyde they just make simple but great hip hop that is a hell of a good time to listen to.
Highlights-“Oh Sh*t” “Officer”
6.Rage Against The Machine-Rage Against The Machine
One of the most political bands on a major label ever. Whatever you think about that or their political stance it’s hard to argue that this band didn’t know how to write absolute stompers. From Tom Morello’s inventive scratchplate guitar solos to Zack D e La Rocha’s hyper left wing lyrics Rage became one of the most popular bands of the decade and turned lots of nihilistic generation x kids onto politics. The shocking cover honours Thich Quan Duc, the Buddhist monk who set himself on fire and died whilst meditating in 1963. One of the most shocking acts of political martyrdom of it’s time in 1963.
Highlights-“Bombtrack” “Take The Power Back”
5.Social Distortion-Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell
Comfortable in their punkabilly sound after getting it down in the previous couple of albums, Social Distortion fully became the Johnny Cash of punk. Songs of broken hearts, depression and drug abuse are melded with happy go lucky tunes add to the country influence.
Highlights-“Cold Feelings” “Making Believe”
4.NOFX-White Trash, Two Heebs And A Bean
The first album with classically trained, stranger to punk El Hefe was where NOFX really found their sound. Still energetic, in your face and bratty but with better structure and variety of guitar playing. Some classics of the era emerged from this album like Bob which became a singalong for anyone into the scene for years after it’s release.One of the most important punk bands of the 90s wave hitting their stride brilliantly.
Hightlights-“Stickin’In My Eye” Please Play This Song On The Radio”
3.Pantera-Vulgar Display Of Power
The album that sent Pantera rocketing to the top of the metal ladder. Aggressive, groove ridden, violent and inventive guitar playing from the legendary and sadly departed Dimebag Darrell. I used to go around with a ghetto blaster all the time blasting music wherever I went and this was one of the early cassettes I had and the amount of times we’d be playing at the park and 10 year old me would be bouncing to Vulgar while most of my friends looked at me and wondered what the hell this music was. Good times, great album. ….that thumping drum sound…..ooft.
Highlights-“Mouth For War” “This Love”
2. Bad Religion-Generator
The punk legends delivered again with a short sharp punch that came in at just over half an hour but packed in so much frantic punk rock goodness into that time. Beautifully melodic, sweet guitar tones, Greg Graffin’s wonderfully dulcet tones make for a fantastic album. They really did release some amazing stuff during the 90s.
Highlights-“Heaven Is Falling” “Only Entertainment”
1 Beastie Boys-Check Your Head
Taking the top spot we have Beastie Boys with their brilliant album that saw them ditch the sample heavy hip hop of the previous album and picking up their instruments and returning to their punk roots. The distorted microphone sound can be a little grating at times but the heavy drum sound and gritty bass gives it that garage band sound.Lots of what could be considered filler funk jams but I love them so don’t consider them such, I find it and incredibly relaxing alum. For those reasons and more it makes the top of a very strong list.
Highlights-“So What’cha Want” “Finger Lickin’ Good”
Onto 1993 now, thanks a lot for reading and as always let’s have a blether about it. Were you musically aware at this time or are you seeing this stuff retroactively? Let me know folks.