Top Ten Thursday: 90’s Knockouts

kurt cobain from the band nirvana, 90's band
Ohh, the nineties. How we all miss the “whatever, who cares” attitude you bestowed upon our generation. Baggy shirts, and even even baggier pants. The rebirth of “chucks” and a noisy, dirty, fuzzy new breadth of music that will never be forgotten. Not to mention other rarities in music that can never be replicated, and will always be legendary. Alanis Morissette may not have made the list, but her new release this week was the inspiration for it. Our criteria for the list was simple: nineties tunnel vision. This means that we had to block out any knowledge of anything that happened outside of 1990-1999. For example, the Beastie Boys were prevalent in the nineties, but how did their nineties material stack up against the rest? This list is for the bands that we felt left their strongest marks on the decade with no regard. As per usual, let us know if you agree.

10. Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine, nineties band
Who doesn’t love a good anti-establishment riot band? Rage had one of the loudest voices music has ever heard, literally and figuratively. Zack de la Rocha tried his damnedest to lead this country in a march to Washington, and even we didn’t follow, we sure as hell listened to him try. Tom Morello’s signature guitar tone, although only ever used with a seemingly similar guitar riff retooled about forty-five times, will go down in history as one of the most original guitar tones in music. No one will ever copy that … first and foremost because Morello has patented the tone, but also because no one would want to. No other band could possibly do that tone justice.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire – Battle For Los Angeles

9. Sublime
sublime great band from the 90s
The entrance of a new music animal. Some weird beast that seemed to fuse a latino rapper with punk, ska, and reggae in such a way that it didn’t make sense this type of music never existed before. “Skunk” music was born, and although there were many followers, nobody was ever as substantial as the creators.

Albums Released in the 90’s: 40 oz. to Freedom – Robbin’ the Hood – Sublime

8. Dave Matthews Band
dave matthews band picture, great 90s band, smb
“A little feet, a little hands, a little feet, a little feet, a lil BAY-BAY!” Dave Matthews. A man I came to know all too well in high school, and have known too well ever since. The nineties was an inevitable whirlwind for this band. They were “jammy” but still melodic enough to keep them just on the outskirts of the jam band scene that was rampantly sweeping the nation. Their live shows garnered an incredible amount of attention. The band does sound great live, but it was more than that. It was the jazzy improvisation that didn’t always leave us surviving back-to-back-to-back 20 minute jam sessions like a Phish concert. Also the band’s ability to play nearly any track in their extensive repertoire at any given moment, introduced a new way to craft set lists. Every live show was drastically different and almost like a contest for fans to collect the rarest songs played. Over a decade later, it still is.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Remember Two Things – Under the Table and Dreaming – Crash – Before These Crowded Streets

7. Nine Inch Nails
nine inch nails, great 90s band, non
Nine Inch Nails somehow helped bridge the gap between some of the darkest, most hateful music with popular airplay music. It still baffles me that Trent was able to fuse his whackness into pop culture in such a way, and that society received it with such open arms. NIN did more than break barriers for the limits of how demented we could take music, it opened up new ways of actually creating music. Trent gave us the birth of industrial sound. Like many people on this list, there were many copy-cats, but nothing stands out like NIN.

Albums Released in the 90’s: The Downward Spiral – The Fragile

6. Pavement
pavement the band, 90s band great
Other than the Pixies (whose most prominent releases were in the eighties) I’d say Pavement influenced some of my most favorite sounds in independent music more than anyone. Pavement introduced us to a new bread of lo-fi alternative rock and song structures that instead of being tight and packaged, were loose and noisy. Noise would go on to play a very prominent role so many nineties bands that are still making music today, even if Pavement isn’t.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Slanted Enchanted – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain – Wowee Zowee – Brighten the Corners – Twilight

5. Radiohead
radiohed the band in the nineties
It’s sometimes hard to remember that Radiohead played such an important role to nineties alternative rock because their role is still so large today. They revolutionize their sound as well as the music industry with each release they have, and they have been doing so since the release of the single “Creep” in 1992. Although The Bends can sometimes now feel dated to Radiohead fans (simply because their music has never stopped evolving), it still holds up better than most any band’s best albums. OK Computer remains in a league of its own as well. So much so that it just garnered a #1 spot in Pitchfork’s Peoples List, a fan-based list in which OK Computer was selected the best album in the past 25 years.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Pablo Honey – The Bends – OK Computer

4. Beck
beck, great 90s artist
Beck was made for the nineties. Not that he doesn’t bode well for modern times (<PUN ALERT) but his essence exudes everything the nineties was for people. A bored, monotone personality, thick heavy guitar tones, and an attitude that just didn’t seem to care. I am convinced his single “Loser” remains a theme song for this youth of the decade. He has one of the most prolific track-records on our list for the nineties, and although a lot of it was forgotten about or never really mentioned to much in the first place, its all unique and fun.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Golden Feelings – Stereopathetic Soulmanure – Mellow Gold – One Foot in the Grave – Odelay – Mutations – Midnite Vultures

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers in the nineties, naked, tube socks
Red Hot Chili Peppers was another very original fusion of many genres that you wouldn’t necessarily think were meant to be fused. Funky, metal-like punk music, with a white ninja that had the grace and flow of a gazelle for vocals. RHCP were also characters. I’m pretty sure they were naked for most of the decade, sometimes covered in only a tube sock. Also, regardless if you cared for them then or now, it’s hard to deny the the band was home to one of the better bassists/guitarist combos (Flea/Frusciante) any band has ever seen. Legendary.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Blood, Sex, Sugar, Magic – One Hot Minute – Californication

2. Pearl Jam
pearl jam, great band from the 90's
Grunge. What would the nineties have been without grunge? Originally written off as dirty, convoluted noise, it became the precedent for radio play by 1992. Their hadn’t been a musical train that was hopped on more than the grunge since Elvis began singing his “devil music”. Pearl Jam was the reason why. Not only did they help popularize this new brand of hard-to-hear vocals and thick overdriven guitar, but they still have never been topped at it. Another band that found themselves in the working class of live shows, endlessly touring with an extensive catalogue to play from, and always giving 110% on the stage. I am convinced that no band worked harder in the nineties, and it paid off as they are still clearly reaping the benefits today.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Ten – Vs. – Vitalogy – No Code – Yield

1. Nirvana
nirvana, awesome 90s band
Remember that word grunge? Fuse that with punk, and metal and you have one of the most ferocious beasts the world of music has ever seen. Most of Nirvana’s songs were just a few chords, mumbled vocals that built into a scream, and the hardest drum hitting since John Bonham. It changed music forever. Not only stylistically, but also in terms of the way it was sold, bought, marketed, made, and delivered. Bleach was technically released in 1989, but it’s worth noting that it is still is one of the highest selling independent albums ever. Pretty good for a time when independent music was hardly even a thing. In Utero and Nevermind are individually the equivalent to most band’s greatest hits albums. They both go down as two of the greatest albums of all time, by most standards, and paved the way to a musical frontier that music simply would not have reached otherwise.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Nevermind – In Utero

The “Just Missed Our List” List:

Wes – Verve/Verve Pipe
the verve pipe, from the 90s/the verve, band from the 90s
The mere thought of having to choose between The Verve, or The Verve Pipe neither sent Wes into a post-tramatic 90’s depression. Unfortunately both bands careers were cut short after the nineties, and unfortunately Wes has never recovered from that.

Albums Released in the 90’s:
The Verve: A Storm in Heaven – A Northern Soul – Urban Hymns
The Verve Pipe: Pop Smear – Villains – The Verve Pipe

Austin – Phish
phish, band from the 90s
Phish was a band we all wanted to see make the list. As I jabbed at in the Dave Matthews commentary, Phish was a fore-runner for nineties jam bands. They were not only ones of the first to revitalize the jam band scene, they were certainly the best at it. Had it not been for them, millions of hippies around the country wouldn’t have been wakened. And who knows if Bonnarroo and other music festivals that originated as jam festivals would even be in existence today.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Lawn Boy – A Picture of Nectar – Rift – Hoist – Billy Breathes – The Story of the Ghost – The Siket Disc

Todd – Elliott Smith
eliott smith, 90s artist
As discussed with Pavement and Nirvana, the nineties was a big decade for independent music. Elliott Smith would be able to testify to that if he were still with us today. Unfortunately, Elliott wouldn’t eve see the height of his career. Every year his albums seem to grow larger and larger, proof that he may have died, but his lo-fi music never will. His music was raw and it was real. It reached a level of sincerity that is almost unparalleled in music. He will always be missed.

Albums Released in the 90’s: Roman Candle – Elliott Smith – Either/Or – XO
So there is the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, or got right, but still feel free to just rip on us in general …

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Author: Todd

I dig musics ...

9 thoughts on “Top Ten Thursday: 90’s Knockouts”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your list. They are all amazing bands that made their biggest mark in the nineties (although Nirvana never had a chance with other decades). Great post!

  2. Excellent selection. From the Brit perspective, the 90s meant lots of brilliant dance music and of course “Brit Pop” – Oasis, Blur, Pulp and many others. You can’t beat “The Bends” and “OK Computer” though.

    1. Oasis and Blur were both talked about. I think Austin and I were leaning more towards Oasis, Wes was pushing Blur, and at the end of the day, none of us won that battle. Pulp is a band I enjoy every time I hear, but am not well educated on. I’d like to dig deeper into their catalogue.

      1. Pulp’s second album, Different Class, was their big one, so best to start there. that’s when they were starring at Glastonbury too. Debut album, His’n’Hers is liked a lot by big fans. After those first two they got quite dark and self-indulgent and didn’t really hit the spot again – not for me anyway.

  3. Yay Todd! Love Elliot Smith!!! But where was BSB, NSYNC, and 98 Degrees in this mix?! (; Have a great weekend!

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