Here are seven underrated albums that I think defined the musical landscape of the 1990s. There may be some surprises in there, but I think you’ll enjoy delving into the nostalgia of the decade.
Ah, the 1990s. A decade that was filled with brilliant sitcoms, TV shows and questionable fashion. Shell suits, anyone? One thing that wasn’t questionable was the music. The decade spawned some fantastic music, whether that was Britpop in the UK, European dance, or the alternative rock scene in the US. The ’90s was also the decade where I spent my teenage years, so naturally, it’s the best decade.
1. Come on Feel the Lemonheads – The Lemonheads
This was the sixth album released by American alt-rockers The Lemonheads in 1993. The album that preceded it (It’s a Shame About Ray) spawned the huge cover hit of ‘Mrs Robinson’. This album though is a cracker. It features a collection of songs that just ooze feel-good anthems. Whether that’s the punchy opener ‘The Great Big No’, or the gentler ‘Paid to Smile’, they all wrap around you like a soft blanket. There are also moments of grunge that seep through, reminding you what decade this is from. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t have a duff track on the album. I’d recommend waiting for a sunny day, before going for a drive and cranking up this album. It’ll take you back to a time where the world wasn’t crazy, and the music was sun-kissed.
2. Soup – Blind Melon
This was the second album released by American psych alt-rock band Blind Melon. It was released in 1995, just a few months before singer Shannon Hoon died on the band’s tour bus from a drug overdose. The album itself is slightly more experimental than it’s more successful predecessor, but it’s still a blinder (pardon the pun). The lyrical content deals more with drugs and suicide than anything else they have released. That was unsurprising given what Hoon was going through in his personal life.
The music that complemented it is superb. It still has that upbeat musical vibe, but with some experimentation weaved throughout. In my view, it’s an aural masterpiece that showcases the best of what the 90’s alt-rock scene had to offer. It’s one of those albums that you really have to immerse yourself in. Get rid of any distractions, put on a pair of quality headphones, and let Blind Melon totally envelop your psyche.
3. Celebrity Skin – Hole
Hole as a band were often overshadowed by their frontwoman Courtney Love. Never one to shy away from media attention, her personal life is what most people think of when they hear the band name. Not to mention her marriage to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. The band itself hit the big time with their 1994 sophomore effort Live Through This. Celebrity Skin, released in 1998, was the album that cemented the band as quality songwriters. The title track is as iconic of the ’90s as multi-coloured shell suits. There are some fine songs on the album that are beautifully produced. The use of layering and multi-instrumentation adds some extra class to the production. The album is also a purposeful deviation from the raw grunge sound of their earlier efforts. A fine album that shows Hole were much than Courtney Love’s persona.
4. All Boro Kings – Dog Eat Dog
Formed in New Jersey USA in the early ’90s, Dog Eat Dog were one of the first bands to fuse hardcore punk and rap. They were certainly one of the first bands to use saxophone in the genre. All Boro Kings was released in 1994 and was the band’s debut album. I remember buying the cassette album when it was released. It was stuck in my Walkman for months as I took any excuse to go for a walk and listen to it over and over. For a fourteen-year-old boy, it was like nothing else I had heard before.
Listening back to it now, it still sounds fresh. The heavy crunching guitars and powerful saxophone make it sound streets-ahead of anything else. Combine it with JC’s clever vocal interplay and you have a well-crafted album that was ahead of its time. Tracks like No Fronts and Who’s the King are anthems of a generation. Pull My Finger will also have the ability to make you want to slam dance across your front room. I have had the pleasure of watching and interviewing the band in recent years and they still have it. If you get a chance in the future, go watch them. If you can’t, play this album. Loud.
5. Load – Metallica
Ok, so Metallica gets plenty of stick for albums that are perceived to be below-par (hello, St Anger). When they released Load in 1996 fresh with haircuts and eyeliner, critics were quick to cast dispersion. It’s easy to understand why. Metallica and bands of their ilk had been riding the wave of 1980’s peak metal, but the 1990s brought in a strange time for those bands. Grunge had almost killed off hair-metal early in the decade, so the ’90s saw lots of heavy bands experimenting. Metallica being no exception. Load is nowhere near as bad as some of the critics said at the time. If you look past the eyeliner and haircuts, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The band certainly experimented with elements of southern and blues-rock, but the songwriting is still there. Opener Ain’t My Bitch still has the punch you would expect, but with added harmonies and a sweet chorus. The standout track in my opinion is the album closer The Outlaw Torn. It’s quite simply a musical masterpiece. Had it been on the Black album then it would be in every live set. It takes on a journey of musical peaks and troughs but leaves you completely satisfied. The track, and the album as a whole, also shows what a fantastic singer James Hetfield is. Everything evolves, including music. This is what Metallica did with Load, and it’s definitely worth revisiting.
6. Bricks Are Heavy – L7
Los Angeles-based all-female rockers L7 have been around since the late 1980s. Their attitude-fuelled grunge-tinged punk rock is iconic. Bricks Are Heavy was the band’s third release from 1992. It’s slightly heavier than their previous offerings, but that could be to do with legendary producer Butch Vig being behind the desk. One of the most well-known tracks from the album is the simplistic but catchy Pretend Your Dead. The odd thing is, is that it sounds slightly out of place on the album.
The rest of the tracks are absolute monsters with guitars heavy enough to be on a death metal album. Diet Pill marauds and meanders around your head like a serial killer and delivers a fatal hammer blow. Suzi Gardener’s vocals are both terrifying and sugar-sweet at the same time, which just makes for a more visceral listen. Bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden had more commercial success, but L7 had better songs in my opinion. It’s impossible not to compare L7 to these bands, but they have a musical edge over them. They also have more attitude than those bands.
There is the much-documented unsavoury incident at Reading festival in the UK from 1992. Not to mention the auction they had in 2000 for a chance to have a one-night stand with drummer Dee Plakas. It’s not all style over substance, though. Bricks Are Heavy is a stunning album. Not only does it showcase songwriting brilliance, but the attitude comes out of the speakers and grabs you by the throat.
7. One from the Modern – Ocean Colour Scene
In the mid-1990’s Ocean Colour Scene were at the height of the UK’s Britpop scene. Their 1996 album Moseley Shoals was a huge hit and spawned the anthems Riverboat Song and The Day We Caught the Train. The former being chosen as the title track for the iconic UK music show TFI Friday. 1997’s follow-up Marchin’ Already even knocked Be Here Now by Oasis from the top of the UK music charts. One from the Modern was released at the very end of the decade in 1999.
Ok, so it doesn’t have the big anthems that the two previous albums have, but it does have some cracking songs on it. The band have always written brilliant songs, but the critics weren’t too kind on this when it was released. It was penned as dad-rock and devoid of any substance. I disagree. It’s an album that takes a few listens, but there is no denying the songwriting ability on it. Tracks like Profit in Peace and July showcase it perfectly. The music is more melancholic than its predecessors, but it’s almost as if it’s telling the story of the decade. A retrospective look back at what went before it; an aural autobiographic album if you will. One from the Modern is the fitting end to a diverse, yet brilliant musical decade.
And that’s our list of seven underrated albums that defined the 1990s. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out 9 movie soundtracks better than their films HERE.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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