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 Iconic Jerry Goldsmith Film Scores
Jerry Goldsmith may be a name that is not known to you, but some of the music scores he’s created will be etched into your psyche.
The late composer created some of the most iconic film scores from the past forty years. Here are nine of the best.
1. Planet of The Apes (1968)
The first film in the Planet of the Apes franchise was a trailblazer for many reasons. Not only was the story innovative and philosophical, but it also received praise for its special effects. Another thing that made the film so special, was the musical score. Goldsmith had been writing scores for a while, but this was the one that truly put him on the map. He moved away from traditional melodies and experimented with horns, bowls, and strings. The result was a brooding avant-garde tsunami that hits you, wave after wave. Genius.
2. The Omen (1976)
This horror classic has one of the creepiest soundtracks of all time. The subject matter of the child anti-Christ obviously helps. The score for the film was the benchmark for horror that influenced a slew of films in its wake. Goldsmith employed some frankly terrifying Gregorian chants to make the horror more effective. He also combined the chants with some spine-tingling strings and piano. It all works and makes the hairs on your neck stand up when you hear it. This is one of Goldsmith’s most terrifying, yet brilliant works. He even won an Oscar for it.
3. Poltergeist (1982)
Ignore the terrible remake from a few years ago, the original Poltergeist movie was brilliant. What helped make it brilliant is the score that Goldsmith implemented. It’s a far cry from the creepy atmosphere of The Omen, but more of an unsettling lullaby. On first listen it seems like an uplifting piece of music, but after a while, you realise it’s the opposite. Goldsmith wanted to use the family dynamic as the focus of the music, exploring all the layers. The result is a surprising score that earned him an Oscar nomination, although he didn’t win that one.
4. Alien (1979)
Jerry Goldsmith’s score is almost as famous as Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic itself. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. His final score was cut to bits by Scott and the production team, although the full masterpiece is available now. What he achieves here is the coldness and terror of space, and what lies within it. It’s laden with atmosphere that takes you on a journey that touches all the emotions. There is a smorgasbord of instruments used within the score, but there is one that really stands out. The trumpet solos. They are used to great effect, and you can feel the Xenomorph creeping up behind you.
5. Gremlins (1984)
Arguably one of the greatest movies from the 1980s, Gremlins throws together a collection of genres. You’ve got comedy; horror; slapstick; gore and drama all in one. In keeping with that theme, Jerry Goldsmith created the film’s score to mirror that. In fact, it’s so gloriously over-the-top it wouldn’t be out of place in a funfair. The synth is beautifully erratic. It perfectly emulates the chaotic yet lovable rogue elements of the Gremlins themselves. It’s often thought that comedy scores should not be silly, but this preconception is thrown out of the water. Sit back and enjoy the madness.
6. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Whereas the first Rambo film had a slight intelligent edge to the violence, Rambo II is an unashamedly hammy shoot-‘em-up. Keeping in theme with the film, Goldsmith manages to keep the score suitably exciting. Using his use of electronics to embellish the strings and horns, it makes for a big, brash, and thoroughly enjoyable listen. He manages to capture the exact feel of the film in his music. That’s no mean feat, and he does it to perfection.
7. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
The first of the Star Trek movies kickstarted a film franchise that’s still going to this day. The music of Trek is in my humble opinion, as important as the moral and optimistic themes of the stories. This is purely down to the genius of Jerry Goldsmith. Although visually superb, the film is a bit of a damp squib. The soundtrack, however, is not. It defines what Star Trek is about. The music takes you on a journey through space and exploration. There are mostly brass instruments that make up the score, and it builds to a crescendo that propels straight to the captain’s chair. The score was that good that it was used as the theme to TNG. This is some of Goldsmith’s finest work that defines Star Trek.
8. Basic Instinct (1992)
This Paul Verhoeven naughty thriller is iconic for many reasons. One of them perhaps more famous than others (ahem). Crossed legs aside, the movie itself is probably more famous for that scene than anything else. The musical score though is rather special. Goldsmith himself admitted this was one of his toughest ones to write. He pulled it off though. The music manages to capture Sharon Stone’s character perfectly. The charming beauty with a malevolent underbelly is clear to hear. He handles the contradictions with absolute aplomb and delivers a simply superb musical score.
9. The Mummy (1999)
This action romp may have had some questionable special effects, but the film score was some of Jerry Goldsmith’s finest work. Created towards the end of his career, it’s the last of the great film scores. It has everything from thunderous action and creepy horror. There are even some feel-good romantic elements. It takes you on a roller coaster of emotions but leaves you feeling fully enthralled. Even into his seventies, Jerry Goldsmith created some of his best work. A true icon and legend of film composition.
That’s our list of nine iconic Jerry Goldsmith film scores, did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out nine movie soundtracks better than the films HERE.
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