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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9 Drummers That Became Lead Singers
It’s widely regarded that drummers are the most important members of a band. That’s what a drummer will tell you anyway. Sometimes though, they move from the drum stool to the front of the stage. Here are nine drummers that became lead singers.
9. Dave Grohl
The often labelled ‘nicest man in rock’ is the first on our list. Starting life as a drummer in hardcore bands he then joined Nirvana and changed music history. His drumming with them was solid, and perfectly complemented the chaos of Kurt Cobain’s manic guitars. You’d think the legacy he left with Nirvana would be enough. But after Kurt’s tragic suicide, he set up Foo Fighters and departed the drum stool for lead vocals and guitars. And what a fine job he does as the Foo’s are one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. Imagine being that talented and nice. We’re not jealous. Ok, maybe a little.
8. Don Henley
Not content with being a founding member of one of America’s greatest bands, The Eagles, Don decided to go solo in 1980 after the band split. Ok, this one is a bit tenuous as Don shared vocal duties with fellow Eagle Glenn Frey, but bear with me. In 1980 he went out front into the bright lights of a solo artist and released a slew of cracking songs. Boys of Summer being his most well-known, and what a gem that was. It was a wise choice to leave those sticks behind.
7. Phil Collins
Perhaps one of the most famous names on our list, Phillip David Charles Collins started life behind the kit with prog-rockers Genesis. Although he did lead vocal duties whilst drumming after the departure of Peter Gabriel in 1976, it’s his solo career that really took off. Genesis had some big hits throughout the 80s with Collins’s drumming and singing. But the bigger hits came with his solo career from 1981 onwards. There’s no denying he has some great chops behind the kit, but his voice is as familiar as your favourite shoes. And so are his hits. ‘In the Air Tonight’ was his debut solo single. It doesn’t get much better than that.
6. Roger Taylor
The legendary Queen drummer is known for his ability to hit those falsetto notes on many a Queen hit throughout their career. But he also had a string of solo albums don’t you know? Since 1981 he has released five solo albums. His last being from 2013, so maybe there are more to come? He sang and played most of the instruments on the albums as well. That’s impressive. They are also pretty good albums too. Although he still performs behind the kit with Queen and Adam Lambert, he’s shown he can be centre stage as a lead singer.
5. Todd La Torre
If you’re not a fan of progressive metal, then this one may have passed you by. Todd La Torre is the current singer for the progressive metal band Queensryche. But it wasn’t always that way as he started off in his career behind the kit. Having started playing at fourteen, he spent the next twenty-four years playing in a variety of local original and cover bands. It was only in 2010 when he joined Florida-based metal band, Crimson Glory, as their lead singer. He then replaced Geoff Tate as the frontman of Queensryche in 2012, continuing to this day. Although he’s been at the front of the stage for twelve years, he says that he still feels like a drummer who likes to sing. You can take the drummer away from the kit, but he’ll always be a drummer.
4. Karen Carpenter
Although Karen sadly passed away at aged thirty-two, she managed to achieve a lot of success in such a short space of time. There had been various musical iterations with her brother Richard, but success came when they settled on The Carpenters. Karen was a very accomplished drummer and played live during the early years of the band. It was the success of her vocal abilities that ultimately took away from the kit and to the front of the stage. Not to mention the fact her small stature made it hard for fans to see her behind the kit on stage. If you want to be reminded of her drumming prowess, just have a look on YouTube. An incredible talent taken too soon.
3. Taylor Hawkins
Most famous for being the man behind the kit for the Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins has recently gone to the front. I wonder where he got that idea from? He’s released solo efforts with his own band Coattail Riders, and more recently, The Birds of Satan. There’s no denying Hawkins’ love of Queen and Roger Taylor, and his solo albums reflect that. He has a rather good voice and is certainly a showman. That is obvious from his energy behind the kind. I guess the natural progression is to take that to the front. I’m sure Mr Grohl gave him plenty of advice about going solo.
2. Ringo Starr
Ok, so John Lennon once said that Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles, but that’s a bit unfair. Ringo was great at what he did, holding the beat and keeping that groove. Serving the song is one of the most important things a drummer can do. And Ringo did that perfectly. He’s also gone on to release an astounding sixteen solo albums. Yes, his vocal range is limited, but a discography that big is impressive. He also secured two back-to-back number one hits in the US. Go Ringo!
1. Levon Helm
Levon Helm was the drummer in the critically acclaimed American roots rock band The Band. They backed Bob Dylan in the 60s but went on to have success under their own name. An innovative and creative drummer, Levon also had a deeply soulful and country-tinged voice. He used that voice to good use with six solo albums through the ’70s, ’80s and 2000s. He won not one, but two Grammy awards for his albums and was also a film actor. Sadly, he died in 2012, but what a musical legacy he leaves behind.
That’s our list of nine drummers who became lead singers, did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.
Read about seven underrated rock albums that defined the 2000’s HERE.
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