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7 Underrated Albums That Defined The 1990s

Aaron Phillips

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Hole band image
DGC Records

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.

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Music News

9 Musicians Who Nearly Died On Stage

Aaron Phillips

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Dave Grohl Foo Fighters in plaster image
RCA

Going on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans doesn’t sound like it should come with a health warning. But there have been many instances of a musician who nearly died on stage. Here are nine that almost ended up as toast.

There are many jobs that should come with a health warning. Bomb disposal expert and skyscraper window cleaners come to mind. You would expect some elements of danger with those roles. But what about a musician?

1. James Hetfield – Metallica

Metallica have always put on hard-hitting shows, particularly frontman James Hetfield. Although he has entered rehab many times over the years, it was an on-stage incident that nearly caused his demise. During a 1992 show in Montreal, Hetfield walked into one of the many stage pyrotechnics that was going off. The mistake left him with second-and three-degree burns. Miraculously, he wasn’t seriously injured and was back on stage within a few weeks.

2. Wattie Buchan – The Exploited

Legendary Scottish punk band The Exploited are known for their hi-energy shows. Frontman Wattie Buchan is also one of the most vocal and antagonistic figures in punk. Not afraid to take potshots at fellow musicians and politicians, his persona is as famous as the band he fronts. It almost ended in 2014 when Wattie had a heart attack on-stage in Lisbon, Portugal. After surgery and a few months off, he was back writing with the band. A true punk hero.

3. Keith Moon – The Who

Although Keith Moon ultimately met his demise in 1978, he almost went to the band in the sky in 1973. The story goes that he took what he thought were tranquilisers backstage before a show in San Francisco. Unfortunately, it was PCP, which made Moon pass out on the drum kit. Twice. The crew couldn’t wake him after the second time, so he was rushed to the hospital to have his stomach pumped. It was good news for Scott Halpin, who was plucked from the crowd to take Moon’s place to finish the show. Lucky guy. As for Keith Moon, he managed to survive for another five years before an overdose finally killed him.

4. Dave Grohl – Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters frontman has had quite a few slips and trips on stage over the years. One that went viral recently was when he ordered a beer from the stage, but slipped off on his way back, guitar in tow. One that could have been much worse happened back in 2015 at a show in Gothenburg, Sweden. The band were two songs into their set when Dave misjudged a ramp and fell from the stage into the security area. After going to the hospital to get bandaged up, he returned to the stage an hour later and finished the show. Albeit sat down with his leg in a cast. He even did the next few shows in a wheelchair. A true rock and roll legend.

5. Till Lindemann – Rammstein

If you’ve ever been to a Rammstein show, you will know that there is enough pyro to fuel a small country. It’s actually surprising that none of the band has met a fiery demise so far into their career. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some close calls. Frontman Till Lindemann is the force behind the band’s pyro effects. He’s actually a qualified pyrotechnician nowadays, but in the mid-90s it was trial and error. There were a couple of instances in those early days where he and several of the crew suffered burns from wayward pyro. And more recently he suffered a serious knee injury when keyboardist Flake crashed into him on stage with a Segway. He looks indestructible on stage, and past incidents prove as such.

6. Nick Lowe – Brinsley Schwarz

Singer-songwriter Nick Lowe actually did die in this incident. Albeit briefly. During a show in London’s Soho, Lowe went to pick up a microphone that was ungrounded. The following electric shock sent him flying across the stage into the amplifiers. The fact that the amps blocked the access to the power and the fact Lowe still had hold of the mic made it an impossible situation. It was his keyboardist who tried to kick the mic off but ended up kicking Nick in the ribs. According to medics, this restarted his heart, thus saving his life. He was taken to hospital but returned a few hours later; joining his bandmates in the bar. A typical British response to almost dying on stage.

7. Ariana Grande

There’s something magical about an artist appearing through the floor and on to the stage. Not quite so when something goes wrong though. During her 2015 Honeymoon tour, Grande rose on an elevator from under the stage. Unfortunately, a plank of wood snapped meaning she was trapped under the stage. Her guitarist helped her up through the gap, but it could have been much worse.

8. Chris Rea

The legendary musician actually collapsed on stage during a tour in 2017 and nearly died on stage. He had had a stroke the year earlier so wasn’t in the best of health. Fans were shocked to see him fall backwards mid-song and collapse on stage. He required hospital treatment but was soon back out again and touring. Apparently, it was due to the effects of his stroke and not any faulty equipment. Still, it could have turned out differently, and who would have driven us home for Christmas then?

9. Meat Loaf

Musician Meat Loaf has collapsed on stage a few times over the years and nearly died. More recently in 2016 during a show in Edmonton in the US, although that was put down to dehydration and exhaustion. It could have been a lot more serious in 2003 when he collapsed on stage during a show in London. He was rushed to hospital and ended up having a heart procedure but was given a clean bill of health not long after that. He’s still playing shows now which just goes to show you can’t keep a good man down.


That’s our list of nine musician and artists who nearly died on stage. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.


Check out five famous actors that were in bands HERE.

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