Who pays for the Fancy Feast?

by Muzz

Sittin’ at home with my d– no, wait; I was sitting at home, but I was watching House Hunters International. I don’t remember where they were- Sweden I think- anyway this young couple picked out the house they wanted and made an offer, but then some other fella out bid them and took the house right out from under their feet… or did he?  Turns out, Out Bidder (whom I shall refer to as “OB” henceforth) is allergic to the cats that live in the house (yep), so the young house hunting couple were able to move into their dream home after all. A number of twists in a show that usually includes none.

Huh?  Why didn’t OB notice the cats when he was checkin’ the place out? Were they hiding in the laundry? Shouldn’t the cats -who, evidently, are the actual owners of the house- be party to any negotiations? Or at least be a negotiable item, like window treatments?  Will they pay rent?   And to the previous owners: Why didn’t you bring your cats with you? In my head, this is what went down:
Previous Owners: We’re moving.
Cats: What? Why? (sniffle sniffle)
PO: I got a new job.
Cats, now sobbing: This is our home! We have friends here! You ruin everything! rrraaaawrrr…. We’re staying!
PO: I’ll wrap you in this towel and you can ride on my lap in the car.
Cats: NO! hissssssss! raaaaar!
PO: Fine. Bye.

THE END.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 5:34 am  Comments (2)  

The Passion Of The Chr… Chrazy

by Bill

Young William Wallace in “Braveheart”: “I can fight!”

Malcolm Wallace: “I know.  I know you can fight.  But it’s our wits that make us men.”

images

It’s our wits that make us men.  Mel Gibson certainly went to battle without his wits in his now infamous telephone call–turned Mike Tyson presser with his then girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.  The tapes were leaked to the world beginning July 12– all told 5 different segments of a lunatic going off on a gold digging girlfriend.  It’s the perfect storm of off-the-deep-end anger mixed with celebrity/alcoholisim/racism entitled spoiled brat of a man with a gold-digging/wanna-be pop-star/40 year old home wrecker who knew exactly what she was doing when she hit “record”– and good for her for that part at least– her life sounds like hell– the same kind of hell living inside his head sounds like.

BUT– it comes out that Gibson and Grigorieva agreed in court over two months ago that the audio tapes would never be released to the public.  It also comes out that Gibson’s side is now claiming extortion against Grigorieva.  I’ll shed no tears for either side of this bratty war between what sounds like two pretty unlikeable people.  To Him: Dude, seriously… what is wrong with you? You’ve made Alec Baldwin sound like Father of the Year.  To Her: Everything Mel said. (Ha… ok, probably not everything, but maybe most of everything….) To Both of Them: Thanks for being so crazy and letting us hear it.  WHAT??!!??? WHAT??!!?!?! Loud panting.  More loud panting.  GIMME BACK MY SON!!!!!!

Unknown-1

We’ve all known Mel’s battled booze his whole life– stories of waking up  in the gutters of Australia after passing out after nights of carousing.  But we liked him anyway– hell, it added some allure to his “manliness” in films.  This guy wasn’t just playing Mad Max, he was Mad Max.  He was good looking and cool and everyone liked him.  “Lethal Weapon” (II and III), “Tequila Sunrise” and “Braveheart”…. with just those three you’re in the Hall of Fame.  Mel was so cool he got past “Bird on a Wire” and even had some of us thinking “The Patriot” didn’t suck.  “Payback” and “We Were Soldiers” were really good movies– not Hall of Fame worthy, but damn good.  All along we heard about a guy who’s been married forever to a fellow Aussie and they have 46 kids together.  Good for them.

Then……… “The Passion of The Christ”, great movie… but the guy has never recovered.  Make no mistake, Mel believes with every cell in his body that Jesus died for our sins– he just seems to have made it his personal mission to make sure Jesus didn’t die in vain.  Turns out his old man was a racist loon and the apple might not have fallen very far.  An arrest accompanied by a crazed rant that would have killed the career of anyone who wasn’t already in the Hall of Fame.  Some people would dismiss him forever after that…. most of us shrugged it off as “he was drunk and said a bunch of idiotic things…. who among us hasn’t done that?” (I mean, c’mon… how cool was he in “Tequila Sunrise”?!?!?!)

Unknown

Leaves his wife of forever for some pretty wanna-be pop star Russian woman.  Huh. Don’t know anything about the long-time wife or the new girl…. whatever, it’s your life… you were so badass in “Braveheart” that you’d have to go completely off the rails to lose us.

“You go out in public and it’s a fucking embarrassment to me.  You look like a fucking bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of nig**** it’ll be your fault, all right? Because you provoked it.”

Dear Mel: To some of us…. those of us who wake up on an Earth where the sun comes up in the morning and then sets at night… that’s a wee bit off the rails.

images-1

That would be mean to say to your worst enemy in the yard during your 26th year in the big-house.  Mel said it to his girlfriend.

Okay, okay, that’s probably child’s play in prison or a 2 Live Crew ballad… and it might even pass for “sweet-nothings” and “foreplay” in some of the lesser trailer-park homes across this land of the free and the home of the brave—- but yeah, pretty far out of bounds for most of us.

For those of us who live on the aforementioned “Earth”, saying a vastly watered down version of that “point of contention” to a significant other…. oh, something like… “stop dressing like such a slut” would get your eyeballs gouged out, your drink poisened and your man sack punched, kicked and worst of all– made fun of.

Mel continued: “I’m just telling you the truth! I don’t like it.  I don’t want that woman.  I don’t want you!  I don’t believe you anymore.  I don’t trust you, I don’t love you.  I don’t want you, Ok?”

Every woman that ever lived: “Huh?…. I’m gonna be honest with you Mel, I haven’t really heard anything you said after that part where you had me getting gang-raped by a pack of really bad words.”

Oh, I almost forgot… in-between those two gems Mel hit her with: “You are provocatively dressed all the time, with your fake boobs, you feel you have to show off in tight outfits and tight pants (garbled) you can see your pus** from behind.”

TIME FUCKING OUT……… WHAT?????? (that’s me by the way…. and probably every woman that’s ever lived).  Wow Mel…. you actually said that to someone who was alive?????  There are horrible, horrible, horrible things some of us think in our worst moments….. and then there are our vocal cords…. and NEVER the twain shall meet. Well, at least not when talking to the mother of our 8-month old daughter.

Anyone who has the internet knows there was a whole helluva lot more and it’s just all kinds ‘o crazy.  98 “fucks”, 16 “bitches”, 14 c u next Tuesdays, 9 whores, 7 blow me’s  and 3 each of “love” and “angry” (which actually seems pretty balanced, considering).

So that happened.  Whoopi gave some idiotic rant on “The View” about how Mel’s not a racist because he was nice to her and her kids.  So Whoopi, is Son of Sam not a murderer because he never killed you? WTF?

Now all kinds of “shesagolddiggingwhore-he’sgotdeeprootedparentalissues-sheprovokedhimandknewwhatbuttonstopush (especially “record”) youcan’tunderstandthedemonshehastolivewith–shesadirtyrussianspywhowasonlyeverafterhismoney.

Oh well, at least there’s an infant girl, an ex-wife and a hundred other kids involved.

And seriously, what in-the-hell was with the wild-ass panting and heavy breathing?????

Mel in “Lethal Weapon”:

“Hey look friend, let’s just cut the shit.  Now we both know why I was transferred. Everybody thinks I’m suicidal, in which case I’m fucked and nobody wants to work with me; or they think I’m faking to draw a psycho pension…. in which case I’m fucked and nobody wants to work with me.  Basically, I’m fucked.”

Unknown

Correct. And “Bird on a Wire” really, really sucked.

Published in: on July 21, 2010 at 11:10 pm  Comments (4)  

Standing In The Sun With A Popscicle

by Bill

The 1990’s were certainly more simple musically than the 1980’s (at least my tastes were)– I liked Modern rock or Alternative rock or whatever you want to call it.  The 1980’s were insane comparing from where the decade started to where it ended.  What were the best albums of the 1980’s? Talk about to each his own– Thriller, Purple Rain, Born In The USA, Scarecrow, Appetite For Desctruction, The Joshua Tree, and take your pick from Madonna and you’re at seven albums right there.  I’d throw in both Tim and Let It Be from the Replacements and Hang Time from Soul Asylum.  Hard Promises from TP would be in there too.  It’s a tough decade to rank because I went from being 14 to 24, when you’re still figuring out what you like and what you don’t like.  My 1980’s self wouldn’t have had any Jimmy Buffett, my now self would have all 8 of his 1980’s albums in the top 60 or so.  I’ll try to give you a quick top 10 (or so) from each year (in no order of ranking, plus the Buffett album from that year):

1980: Back in Black (ACDC), The River (Bruce Springsteen), Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did (John Mellencamp), The Kings Are Here (The Kings), London Calling (The Clash), Dirty Mind (Prince), Zenyetta Mondatta (The Police) Crimes of Passion (Pat Benatar), New Clear Days (The Vapors), Panorama (The Cars),  Argybargy (Squeeze), Glass Houses (Billy Joel), Hi-Infidelity (REO Speedwagon)

1981: Hard Promises (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Escape (Journey), Tattoo You (The Rolling Stones), Ghost In The Machine (The Police), Beauty & The Beat (The Go Go’s), Private Eyes (Hall & Oates), Tonight I’m Yours (Rod Stewart), Freeze Frame (J. Geils Band), Business As Usual (Men at Work) Working Class Dog (Rick Springfield), Coconut Telegraph (Jimmy Buffett)

1982: American Fool (John Mellencamp), Long After Dark (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), 1999 (Prince), Thriller (Michael Jackson), Imperial Bedroom (Elvis Costello), Vacation (The Go Go’s), Rio (Duran Duran), Convertable Music (Josie Cotton), H2O (Hall & Oates), What Time Is It? (The Time), Eye of The Tiger (Survivor), Built For Speed (The Stray Cats) Somewhere Over China (Jimmy Buffett)

1983:  Synchronicity (The Police), Murmer (REM), War (U2), She’s So Unusual (Cyndi Lauper), The Distance (Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band), An Innocent Man (Billy Joel), Rebel Yell (Billy Idol), Colour By Numbers (Culture Club), Uh-Huh (John Mellencamp), Cuts Like A Knife (Bryan Adams) Madonna (Madonna), Lawyers In Love (Jackson Browne),  One Particular Harbor (Jimmy Buffett)

1984: Let It Be (The Replacements), Purple Rain (Prince & The Revolution), Born In The USA (Bruce Springsteen), Like A Virgin (Madonna), 1984 (Van Halen), All Over The Place (The Bangles), General Public (All The Rage), Talk Show (The Go Go’s), Reckless (Bryan Adams), The Unforgettable Fire (U2), Private Dancer (Tina Turner), Zen Arcade (Husker Du), Reckoning (REM), Ice Cream Castles (The Time) Riddles In The Sand (Jimmy Buffett)

1985: Tim (The Replacements), Scarecrow (John Mellencamp), Southern Accents (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), No Jacket Required (Phil Collins), Whitney Houston (Whitney Houston), Heart (Heart), Play Deep (The Outfield), Around The World In A Day (Prince), New Day Rising (Husker Du), Brothers In Arms (Dire Straits), Fables Of The Reconstruction (REM), Last Mango In Paris (Jimmy Buffett)

1986:  Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi), So (Peter Gabriel), Graceland (Paul Simon), Life’s Rich Pageant (REM), 5150 (Van Halen), True Blue (Madonna), Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (BoDeans), The Bridge (Billy Joel), Different Light (The Bangles), Licensed To Ill (The Beastie Boys), Crowded House (Crowded House), Back In The High Life (Steve Winwood), Look What The Cat Dragged In (Poisen), I Can’t Hold Back (Eddie Money), The Way It Is (Bruce Hornsby & The Range) Floridays (Jimmy Buffett)

1987:  Appetite For Destruction (Guns ‘N Roses), Hysteria (Def Leppard), The Joshua Tree (U2), Sign “O” The Times (Prince), Pleased To Meet Me (The Replacements), Faith (George Michael), Bad (Michael Jackson), Tunnel Of Love (Bruce Springsteen), The Lonesome Jubilee (John Mellencamp), Bad Animals (Heart), Document (REM), Outside Looking In (BoDeans), Heaven On Earth (Belinda Carlisle)

1988:  Hang Time (Soul Asylum), Green (REM), Surfer Rosa (The Pixies), Lies (Guns ‘N Roses), Nothing To Lose (Eddie Money), Daydream Nation (Sonic Youth), If I Should Fall From Grace With God (The Pogues), New Jersey (Bon Jovi), Never Die Young (James Taylor), Everything (The Bangles), Fisherman’s Blues (The Waterboys), Look Sharp! (Roxette), If My Ancesters Could See Me Now (Ivan Neville), Open Up and Say… Ahh (Poisen), Hot Water (Jimmy Buffett)

1989: Don’t Tell A Soul (The Replacements), Dr. Feelgood (Motley Cru), The Raw and The Cooked (Fine Young Cannibals), Doolittle (The Pixies), Full Moon Fever (Tom Petty), Like A Prayer (Madonna), The End of the Innocence (Don Henly), Pump (Aerosmith), Runaway Horses (Belinda Carlisle), Journeyman (Eric Clapton) Steel Wheels (The Rolling Stones), Garth Brooks (Garth Brooks),  Home (BoDeans), Off To See The Lizard (Jimmy Buffett)

Oddest thing I found looking up those albums? The Rolling Stones released 29 studio albums and thus far there have been 30 compilation albums released.

Looking at that list, I’m tempted to say that the 80’s had far better albums than the 90’s.  But I sure as hell go back to the albums from the 90’s a lot more to listen to.

Back to the 90’s:

9.  Buffalo Tom– “Big Red Letter Day”

Released: November 11, 1993

The Boston alt\rock trio hit their stride with their 4th album, “Big Red Letter Day”, arguably the most underrated album of the decade.  The band’s previous album, “Let Me Come Over” from 1992, was good, but not great– but showed flashes of the brilliance that would follow with the songs– “Taillights Fade”, “Larry” and “Velvet Roof”. “Big Red Letter Day” was introduced to the world in a Nike ad– one of the first ads that was basically just a music video– ads that are run-of-the-mill now– but I remember thinking how cool I thought this Nike ad was that used “Sodajerk” as it’s music. “Big Red Letter Day” doesn’t have a bad song on it– 11 straight good songs– 41 and a half straight minutes of great music.  The album received 4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and garnered the band a peak at national success– like a lot of 90’s bands, the success was fleeting, they made more great music, but never reached the heights they probably deserved.  Time will look kindly on this fantastic album.

Key songs: Sodajerk, I’m Allowed, Tree House, Would Not Be Denied, Torch Singer, Late At Night, Anything That Way

8.  U2– “Achtung Baby”

Released: November 19, 1991

It’s really getting hard to rank them at this point– all the albums left have at least six great songs on them– a lot of the rankings at this point are basically just how much fun I had during the album or listening to the album or what might have been going on in my life at the time the album was out.  It was heresy at the time, but right away I said I liked Achtung Baby better than The Joshua Tree.  “Whose Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” and “One” were immediately two of my favorite U2 songs of all-time. Achtung Baby began U2’s 90’s re-invention from a politically charged, earnest band to a more lighthearted and self-depricating band.  “Mysterious Ways” kicked things off as the first single (“The Fly” was actually first, but didn’t catch on) and as a critic wrote: features a danceable beat, funky guitar hook, and conga-laden percussion, as well as mystical lyrics about romance and women.  Achtung Baby received rave reviews across the board, getting the ultra-rare 5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic, 4.5 out of 5 from Rolling Stone and an A from Entertainment Weekly.  It has sold over 18 million copies world-wide and cemented U2’s status as one of the biggest bands in the world.

Key songs: Even Better Than The Real Thing, Mysterious Ways, Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?, One, Until The End Of The World, The Fly, So Cruel, Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World

7.  R.E.M.– “Automatic For The People”

Released: October 5, 1992

“Alternative” music hit hard around 1990– “grunge” coming out of Seattle was nothing more than throwing flannel on and adding a guitar lick or two to the “alternative” sounds that were already out there.  REM had certainly been one of the pioneers of “alternative” or “college” rock– since their debut album in 1983.  After 1991’s “Out of Time” sold 12 million copies, expectations were through the roof for the Athens band’s next album.  REM had intended for “Automatic” to be a return to their harder rock roots, but ended up making an album that was even further from “rock” as “Out of Time” was. Peter Buck has said that “Automatic” came from the themes of “the sense of loss and mourning inspired by turning thirty”.  Many critics, as well as Peter Buck and Mike Mills, consider “Automatic” to be REM’s best album (I obviously agree).  REM again chose not to tour after the album’s release (they didn’t tour after “Out of Time” either)– the no tourning and Michael Stipe’s appearance sparked rumors that the lead singer was dying– rumors that were all untrue.  “Automatic” ended up selling 10 million copies, and along with “Out of Time” (12 million) are the band’s two best selling albums.  “Automatic” received 5 out of 5 stars from both AllMusic and Rolling Stone (and just about everyone else) and an A from Entertainment Weekly– making it perhaps the best reviewed album of the 1990’s.  Reviewer Paul Evans wrote, “despite it’s difficult concerns, most of  Automatic is musically irresistable”…. and Ann Powers of The New York Times wrote:  “Even in the midst of such disenchantment, R.E.M. can’t resist its own talent for creating beautiful and moving sounds. Stipe, Buck, Mills and Berry can still conjure melodies that fall like summer sunlight. And Stipe still possesses a gorgeous voice that cannot shake its own gift for meaning.”  Time Magazine’s Guy Garcia wrote,  “that a so-called alternative band can keep its edge after conquering the musical mainstream” and that it “manages to dodge predictability without ever sounding aimless or unfocussed”.  It’s odd that an REM album with only 3 “rockers” on it (Ignoreland, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight and Man on the Moon) would be their best– but REM proved without a doubt that they could throw ballads up against anyone and “Automatic For The People” cemented their status as one of the best bands in the world.

Key songs: Drive, Try Not To Breathe, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight, Everybody Hurts, Sweetness Follows, Ignoreland, Man On The Moon, Nightswimming, Find The River

6.  Third Eye Blind– “Third Eye Blind”

Released: April 8, 1997

In April of 1996 Third Eye Blind frontman Stephen Jenkins challenged Epic Records executive Don Massey in a meeting to let the band open a huge San Francisco gig.  Hype had been surrounding the local band for over a year, so Massey took Jenkins up on his challenge and let Third Eye Blind open for Oasis at the San Francisco Auditorium.  The band was called on for an encore– which is completely unheard of– an opening act getting screamed back  for more.  More and more hype insued and 3EB ending up signing with Elektra Records after an LA showcase where the band wowed everyone again.  “Third Eye Blind”, their first album blew out of the gates on the strength of lead single “Semi-Charmed Life”, which roared to #1 on the Modern Rock chart and stayed there for eight weeks. Though the album only peaked at #25 on the Billboard charts, it stayed in the Billboard top 200 for a monster 104 weeks (which only happens when great single after great single after great single is released). The album ended up selling over 6 million copies and was the band’s biggest seller.  Numbers aside, this album is ranked so high because it was so damn fun to listen to– from the goofy, electro charged “Semi-Charmed Life” (those little red panties they pass the test) to the desperate howling of “Graduate” to the pleading “Jumper” and the crescendo buildups of “Losing A Whole Year”, “How’s It Going To Be” and “Motorcycle Drive By” to the singalong anthem “God of Wine”.  We were on to the later years of our “going out” careers, but Third Eye Blind made it fun again.

Key songs: Losing A Whole Year, Narcolepsy, Semi-Charmed Life, Jumper, Graduate, How’s It Going To Be, Thanks A Lot, Motorcyle Drive By, God of Wine

5.  Gin Blossoms– “New Miserable Experiece”

Released: August 4, 1992

August of 1992– kind of when it all started to happen. “It’s All Happening. It’s Happening.”  The Tempe, Arizona band’s first album stumbled out of the gates with poor sales and luke-warm reviews.  Then a song called,  “Hey Jealousy” hit the radio about a year after the album’s release and everything changed.  “Hey Jealousy” became a pre-bar, during bar and post-bar staple and anthem for the time.  Everyone bought the album and everyone realized it was the rarest of rares: there wasn’t a bad song on the record.  The Gin Blossoms took their name from an old photo of WC Fields, that was titled “WC Fields with gin blossoms”– the drinkers eyes and cheeks, filled with colors that shouldn’t be there. After becoming wildly popular in the Tempe bars, the Gin Blossoms signed a major label deal and immediately learned what that entails– people telling you how to do something differently from what you’ve been doing, even though what you’d been doing had been making everyone at the bar pretty damn happy and satisfied. Thus the name of their first album– “New Miserable Experience”.  Founding member, lead guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins drank heavily and became the most disallusioned of the group and fought constantly with the label. Seeing no alternative, the group replaced Hopkins as lead guitarist.  The huge success of the album, lead by Hopkins penned singles “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You”, were tempered by Hopkins dismissal and then suicide on December 4, 1993.  It’s probably no surprise that the Gin Blossoms never again struck such a chord with their music.  “Hey Jealousy” was a rip-roaring single about begging your way back to an old flame– “Lost Horizons” a poetic take on yearning for a relationship and life itself, to feel new again, “29” a pleading take on wanting to grow up, but not having the slightest idea of how to (Generation X in a nutshell). “New Miserable Experience” hit the stereo at 3015 E. Calhoun Parkway and really never left. It’s still one of my go-to listens.

Key songs: Lost Horizons, Hey Jealousy, Mrs. Rita, Until I Fall Away, Cajun Song, Hands Are Tied, Found Out About You, Allison Road, 29, Pieces of the Night, Cheatin’

4.  Johnny Clueless– “Kissed In Kansas”

Released: 1994

Well, what can I say…. If I made this list ranked on how much fun I had listening to an album (both the cd and live) it might be at #1.  Overrated? Probably.  They never did match the urgency of this original album again– a lot of good songs on the later albums, but nothing quite as much fun as the stuff on this one.  There were Minnesota music fans from this era who would choose Tim Mahoney or GB Leighton over Clueless, and I never got that.  This album was far better than anything those two ever did.  (I guess anyone who hung out at Champps in Minnetonka would disagree and anyone who went to St. Cloud St. would agree).  All I know is I wore this sucker out.  I heard many different times from friends and relatives from way out of state who’d play this album and get this repsonse: “who is this? this is awesome!”  The album had enough local success to give the band the tiniest taste of fame: a Billboard magazine article, a gig on the “Jenny Jones Show”, and an opening slot on a Cheap Trick tour… like a million bands before them, they teetered on the brink of success, but never broke through. When it was all said and done, the band sold around 30,000 cd’s– far more than 98 percent of bands ever will, but not what the hope was after this fantastic debut.  A LazyEye article once said: Since Johnny Clueless formed in 1992 as a beer-drinking, good-time party band at St. Cloud State, they’ve seen their dreams become more and more lofty. “When we started out,” Brown said, “all we wanted was to be able to play at the bar we hung out at.”  That first bar was The Red Carpet in St. Cloud. And then The Cabooze in Minneapolis. They might have topped out with a gig at Cedar Fest in the summer of 1997.  The first time I ever saw them play was at Melvin’s in Spicer on a summer night in 1994.  A rocking cover of the Scooby Doo theme song got me to whip a 20 bill on stage.  Music Fest the next summer back at Melvin’s was one of my favorite live shows I’ve ever seen and an over-served me chatted Steve Brown up at the bar for an hour after their gig.  What Jim Walsh wrote about the Gear Daddies is true for most Minnesotans from the early 90’s– but for a small few of us, it was even more true for Johnny Clueless.  A little perspective here: there have been 720 non-pitchers who have played in a major league baseball game and never got a hit– with the most hitless at-bats belonging to Larry Littleton, who played for the Cleveland Indians in 1981 and was hitless in 27 plate appearances.  But here’s the deal for all 720 of those guys: in their home towns, growing up, in t-ball, little league and in high school– everyone who saw them play thought they were the best baseball player they had ever seen. Johnny Clueless had a helluva run.

Key songs: Think You’d Agree, Girl, Callous Man, The Biggest Bed, #5 Wheel, Million Years, Grandma’s For The Weekend, Do It Over Here, An Hour Away

3.  Pearl Jam– “Ten”

Released: August 27, 1991

Yes, “Ten” was released a month before “Nevermind”– for some reason a lot of the compare/contrasters always liked to play the “Pearl Jam just copied Nirvana” card.  Both bands were based in Seattle and immersed in the same music scene and both jumped on the “grunge” sound that took over the world in 1992.  What a lot of us know, however, is that the Seattle “grunge” scene was just a continuation of the “Minneapolis Rock” scene that had started in the mid-80’s with The Replacements and Husker Du. Anyhow, I’ll never know why people had to take sides in the Nirvana/Pearl Jam debate– but I was on the Pearl Jam side of the fence from the get go. Why? Because I liked all of their songs better. As the years pass many music hipsters will take the stance of, “it’s not even a debate– it’s Nirvana”– Will Leitch just wrote in his latest book, “I think by now even Eddie Vedder would take Nirvana in that old debate”…. nope. Time doesn’t change how the music sounds to me– I’ll still take Pearl Jam any day of the week.  I like Nirvana too, but Ten just did more for me than Nevermind.  I still remember the first time I ever heard “Ten” — it’s the fall of 1992– I was at an apartment party in Uptown– it was one of those parties where I didn’t know many people there– just a couple of buddies that I went with and a couple of the girls who lived there that we had just met out on the town a few weeks earlier.  So without a ton of people to talk to, I couldn’t  stop straining my ears to listen to the music.  The guy seemed to be screaming at me, which I’d heard a million times before– but what was different was: I liked the sound of this guy screaming at me. I LOVED IT.  I bought the cd the next week and put it into heavy rotation right away.  I won’t bore you (too late?) with the Pearl Jam story– we’ve all heard it a million times by now (but did you know “Ten” was named for Mookie Blaylock’s uniform number– Mookie Blaylock being the original name of the band).  It’s not really up for debate: Pearl Jam was the most popular American Rock Band of the 1990’s.  “Ten” sold over 15 million copies (after taking almost a year to sell any at all) and the band has sold over 60 million records to date. They’re Hall of Famers and continue to have huge success two decades in.  I remember an interview I read with Trent Reznor back in the whole early 90’s “compare everyone to Nirvana” era– the writer mentioned to Reznor all the similarities between he and Kurt Cobain and his answer was a very good one and it would have fit for Eddie V too– Reznor said of their same age and sound and lyrical type: “yeah, but he’s addicted to heroin and I’m not”.  5 out of 5 from AllMusic and Rolling Stone… a B- from EW (wtf? nice try EW!)

Key songs: Once, Evenflow, Why Go, Black, Jeremy, Oceans, Release

2.  The Refreshments– “Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy”

Released: February 27, 1996

If I’d done this list on January 1, 2000 this album probably would have been around 10th or so on this list– a decade of perspective moves it way up.  Again, fun being the single biggest factor that separates this album– the amount of fun I’ve had listening to it both on stereo and live.  In early 1995, a buddy of mine who was from Arizona gave me a cd called “Wheelie” because he knew I loved music and figured I’d love this band– he told me they were the hottest thing going down in Tempe.  I gave it a few spins and I liked it a lot– it didn’t leap out at me, but I liked it a lot. It was about a year later that most of the same songs, polished up, came out as “Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy”-which I snapped up right away and instantly fell in love with. I didn’t get to see them live until the summer of 1997 at Ceder Fest and they absolutely KILLED.  I was completely sold and have now seen the Freshies/Peacemakers probably 40 or so times (living in Scottsdale for almost 3 years certainly helped crank up that total) with the highlights being 4 times down in Mexico when they put on 3.5 hour shows outside, right next to the beach on the Sea of Cortez. Even more than their Tempe brethren, the Gin Blossoms, the Refreshments embodied the “Southwest Sound”– lyrics straight from the desert and tales from the dusty border towns and Mexico. I’ve never heard a band that sounded more like the place they were from– you can almost hear a rattlesnake hissing and plenty of tequila being swallowed during their songs. It’s the true mark of a great album when your favorite song from an album has changed 6 or 7 different times. There is truly not a bad song on the album and listening to it just puts you in a good mood and makes you want to throw a party. Big time success has seemed to elude Roger Clyne and company, which is ridiculous and all the proof you need to show you how screwed up the music industry is.  “Banditos” got the band their only song on national radio, and doing the theme song for “King of the Hill” put some well deserved dollars in their pockets. AllMusic gave this album 4 out of 5 stars– a star short. Here’s to life!

Key songs: Blue Collar Suicide, European Swallow, Down Together, Mekong, Girly, Banditos, Mexico, Interstate, Suckerpunch, Nada

1.  Soul Asylum– “Grave Dancer’s Union”

Released: October 6, 1992

No, this was not a fair fight. I spent three years going to grade school with Dave Pirner and playing football and floor hockey and playground hoops etc with him.  Their breakthrough to the big time was ridiculously fun to watch, hard-earned and entirely deserved. When they were at the top of their game, there wasn’t a better live band on the planet. Dave never talked a lot, but he knew how to dominate a stage. DOMINATE. He had being a rock star down. He’d strut to the mic with a rock n’ roll swagger and take one last puff on his cig, before theatrically ditching it and then wailing into his guitar. And I was sold every time he did it.  The Wedenesday night before Thanksgiving shows were must see’s for years and I was thrilled, jazzed, wowwed every single time.  One of the most memorable first songs I’ve ever seen was from one of those shows, me and my group were playing the “what will they play first?” game and of course Dave was one giant step ahead of us and he came out and raised his arms far above his head, all 80’s glam rock style and the place shook as the keyboard broke into the first notes of “Jump” by Van Halen– the band played a verse and a chorus and then Dave grinned into the mic and said, “ok, just kidding”.  Full disclosure: the first incarnation of the band, “Loud Fast Rules” played at a dance my senior year and I thought they were horrible.  It was hard core punk music and I was used to listening to Tom Petty and Bruce– I didn’t know what to make of them.  Six albums in and the Mpls boys (while already having made a couple of fantastic albums) hit it huge with GDU. “Runaway Train” hit the radio and MTV and won a Grammy and the band played at Clinton’s inaugeration and Dave was dating a movie star. Pirner received raves from all in the know for his lyrics and although he certainly wasn’t a classic “good singer” there was something just perfect about his voice anyway. The album spent 76 weeks on the Billboard album charts and sold over 3 million copies and pretty much set up the boys for life. They made all of us from the St. Thomas Apostle playground proud– and although anyone who loves music would completely shout me down for this (and this is coming from a monsterous Replacements fan)– I’d take Soul Asylum in a song for song showdown, and live it was simply no contest (which of course is silly, let’s just leave it at– they’re both all-time great bands). I don’t know that an album and it’s success will ever make me happier than this one. “Standing in the sun with a popscicle, everything is possible, with a lot of luck and a pretty face and some time to waste” might have been my favorite line of the 90’s– when are your possibilities more endless than with a popscicle in the sun???? And with luck and a pretty face… well, you’ve got it all. Album of the decade.

Key songs: Somebody to Shove, Black Gold, Runaway Train, Keep It Up, Homesick, Get On Out, April Fool, Without A Trace, Growing Into You, The Sun Maid

Published in: on June 24, 2010 at 5:26 pm  Comments (2)  

Nevermind and Everything After (23-10)

by Bill

Continuing on with the absurd task of ranking the best albums of the 1990’s.  I’ve found that at a certain point it’s kind of hard to say one is better than another– you just sort of weigh how much you liked them then, how much fun you had listening to them then and try to mix it together with how well they hold up now.  I’ve tried to completely let go of how the world at large looks at them– because music really is one of those art forms that means something different to everyone.  There is no score, you can’t say one album is better than another one and have that be the right answer. If you like the Beastie Boys better than Pearl Jam, than nothing I say to you is going to change your mind and it shouldn’t.  However it hits your ears is what matters.  Whatever puts the biggest smile on your face or makes you remember the most or makes you want to shake your hips or makes you want to stay up another hour and have two more beers listening.

23.  Bush– “Sixteen Stone”

Released: December 6, 1994

Few bands on this entire list have disappeared as far as Bush has, so it’s easy to forget how hard this album rocked in the spring and summer of 1995. Gavin Rossdale has simply become the slick-backed haired, husband to Gwen Stefani and he seems fine with that, and that’s ok.  I went out a time or two in the 90’s and I can tell you that for me and my friends, no single song of that decade kick-started a night out any better than “Machinehead”.  That first guitar lick was all you needed to here and the night was underway.  One liter of beer at Champps became a second liter before the next song could start.  Bush formed in London in 1992 and took it’s name because they lived in the Shepard’s Bush neighborhood. Rossdale met guitarist Nigel Pulsford and the two bonded over a love of the American alternative group The Pixies. After being signed and recording “Sixteen Stone”– the record label switched hands and the new label didn’t think the album was worthy of release.  Again, Los Angeles radio station KROQ came to a band’s rescue as the station got a hold of and started playing the song, “Everything Zen”.  Critics were harsh of the album’s release, taking the easy way out and just saying that they were another Nirvana/Pearl Jam rip-off.  And some people say the world has had enough of silly love songs, right? AllMusic was smart enough to ignore the others and gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  The world disagreed with the critics, as “Sixteen Stone” sold over 12 million copies world-wide and 5 singles off the album cracked Billboard’s top 10 on the alternative charts.  Bush’s follow up album was a miss compared to “Sixteen Stone” although it had two pretty good songs in “Swallowed” and “Cold Contagious”.

Key songs: Machinehead, Comedown, Everything Zen, Glycerine, Little Things, Swim

22.  Red Hot Chili Peppers– “Californication”

Released: June 8, 1999

The L.A. band had hit astonishing heights after 1991’s “Blood Sugar Sex Magic” and the sudden fame and fortune completely freaked out their lead guitarist, John Frusciante, who quit the band in the middle of the 1992 tour and delved back into his drug addiction.  The band hired Dave Navarro away from Jane’s Addiction for their next album, 1995’s “One Hot Minute”.  The album was decent, with the songs “Aeroplane” and “My Friends”– but Navarro definitely brought a darker sound and the band seemed like a more morbid group than they ever had been before.  (It probably didn’t help that singer Anthony Kiedes had also delved back into his drug habit.)  By 1998 Frusciante had been through re-hab and Flea had visited him and invited him to re-join the band.  An elated Frusciante did and the ensuing album was the Chili Peppers most commercial and successful yet, “Californication”.  Kiedes said of the return of Frusciante: “For me, that was the defining moment of what would be the next 6 years of our lives together.  That was when I knew this was the real deal, that the magic was about to happen again.  Suddenly we could all hear, we could all listen, and instead of being caught up in our finite little balls of bullshit, we could all become players in that great universal orchestra again.”  The return of lead guitarist Frusciante moved that band away from their half-rap, half-rock style and turned it into a more guitar based rock band.  The results were phenomenal and “Californication” sold over 15 million copies.  The album received 4 out of 5 stars from both AllMusic and Rolling Stone and set the stage for the Chili Peppers to reach their greatest mass appeal in the coming decade.

Key songs: Californication, Scar Tissue, Otherside, Get On Top, Around The World, Parallel Universe, Road Trippin’

21.  Blink 182– “Enema of the State”

Released: June 1, 1999

The pop-punk threesome out of San Diego formed in 1992, but didn’t hit the big time until their 1999 release, “Enema of the State”.  One reviewer said of the album, “it’s marked by a radio friendly sheen, but it still maintains much of the speed and attitude of classic punk rock.”  “Enema” went on to sell over 15 million copies, absolutely unheard of numbers from a punk band (Green Day aside).  What seperated Blink from the other skate-punk bands of the era, is that Blink had a phenomenal pop sensibility (and a great sense of humor) to go along with their “punk”.  Plus having two guys who could sing (Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus) and whose voices went together so well made Blink 182 a perfect match for radio and MTV play.  The album received rave reviews across the board and got 4 out of 5 stars from both AllMusic and Rolling Stone. Top40 Magazine ranked “Enema of the State” the #1 pop-punk album of all time.  After five years apart, the band announced at the 2009 Grammys that they were re-uniting and hoped to have an album out in 2010.

Key songs: What’s My Age Again?, All The Small Things, Adam’s Song, Alien’s Exist, Don’t Leave Me, Anthem

20.  Nirvana– “Nevermind”

Released: September 24, 1991

I don’t know, maybe my life’s just never been bad enough to truly appreciate all the angst and rage of Nirvana.  They deserve their history, they were certainly game changers.  In a music world that had been handed over to the “Jump Around” and Garth Brooks’s of the world, Nirvana helped resurrect rock n’ roll.  There are those that think about such things way too much that say that the grunge scene in Seattle was simply an off-shoot of the “Minneapolis” music scene of the mid-80’s that spawned The Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum (I always found it sort of funny that when “Runaway Train” hit, a lot of music hipsters cried that Dave Pirner was just trying to be Kurt Cobain– Pirner had been wearing the dreds for 4 years before anyone had ever heard of Nirvana).  I’ve always thought Kurt Cobain got way too much credit for being a “genius”– to me he actually always seemed kind of stupid. He hit on a great sound, no doubt, but his attitude, his lyrics (and obviously his herion addiction) were never very impressive to me.  I get it, you want to be cool way more than you want to be successful, but once you even address that, you just aren’t as cool anymore. Kurt could have been both– he was just too dumb to know that.  Anyhow, “Nevermind” and Kurt Cobain became “the voice of generation X”– although really they didn’t, it was just a media construct.  I’m on the side of those who just thought Pearl Jam was a better band from the get go– heresy to music nerds.  I liked Nirvana– it was different and it gave 9/10 of the world the finger– which is what the best rock ‘n roll has always done.  The attitude/sound and image of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” gave the music world a huge kick in the ass at a time it desperately needed it. By January of 1992, “Nevermind” had replaced Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” as #1 on the Billboard album chart.  It ended up selling over 26 million copies worldwide. I’ll always agree with those that contend that Cobain’s death has put a historical shine on Nirvana– Rolling Stone has “Nevermind” as #17 on the list of 500 greatest albums of all time.

Key songs: Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are, Lithium, Polly, Drain You, On A Plain, Something In The Way

19.  Barenaked Ladies– “Rock Spectacle”

Released: November 19, 1996

The only live album on this list– and I’ve included it because it was the introduction of the Barenaked Ladies to the world for most of us. I’d heard of them, but really didn’t know any of their stuff until this album came out.  And good god, was it ever a good time.  The headliners for Basilica 2010 on Saturday night started just outside Toronto in 1988 with original members Ed Robertson and Steven Page. (Page left the band last year). The band recorded two live performances on their tour in early 1996– and released “Rock Spectacle” that year– it spawned two radio hits (the band’s first in the United States)– “Brian Wilson” and “The Old Apartment”.  In 2008 Paul McCartney was asked who on the current music scene he admired and he answered with The Barenaked Ladies: “Their harmonies are right on. They could outsing us any day of the week. I don’t think John and myself ever had the sort of range they do.”  Well that’s about as high of praise as you can get, no? The album received 4 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and 5 out of 5 from Sputnikmusic and led to BNL finally becoming a huge act in the States (they had been huge in Canada after all three of their first releases).  CBC Radio (in Canada) lists “If I Had $1000000” as #2 on it’s list of “50 Most Essential Canadien Singles” (other songs of interest on CBC’s list: #3- Heart of Gold, Neil Young #5- American Woman, The Guess Who #7- Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell #17 Summer of ’69, Bryan Adams #28- You Oughta Know, Alanis Morissette… #1 is Four Strong Winds by Ian and Sylvia)   It was fun music to drink to in the spring and summer of 1997– and Brian Wilson and The Old Apartment were played as much pre-bar at 3015 E Calhoun Pkwy as any other songs that year.

Key songs: Brian Wilson, The Old Apartment, Jane, Hello City, What A Good Boy, Life In A Nutshell, If I Had $1000000

18. Green Day– “Dookie”

February 1, 1994

If you would have told Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool in 1990 that they would release an album in 1994 that would sell over 15 million records they would have told you that you were as high as they were.  How do 3 skate/punks from the underground music scene in the Bay Area become gillion sellers and have an over two decade career with a Broadway show interpreting their albums? Be fantastic is how– be fantastic. And Green Day was– and “Dookie” was the album that brought them over to the otherside.  Melodic rage, sing-along choruses, driving guitars and a lead who could scream and still sound good.  MTV grabbed ahold of this album and put three songs into heavy rotation: “Longview”, “Basket Case”, and “When I Come Around”.  The group went from playing dive bars in Oakland to headlining national festivals in a matter of months.  The album has sold over 15 million copies and was ranked #193 on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 albums of all-time and Spin called it the 44th best album of the last 25 years.

Key songs: Burnout, Welcome To Paradise (re-recorded), Longview, Basket Case, When I Come Around, She, Having A Blast

17.  Semisonic– “Great Divide”

Released: April 9, 1996

Dan Wilson’s second rock band hit the Minneapolis scene in the midst of Martin Zellar, Clueless, Billy’s, GB Leighton, Tim Mahoney– and it just sounded a little bit different than all of those– a little more big-time, a little more polished.  Semisonic had signed on with Elektra records, but in the middle of the recording Elektra’s president quit and the label dropped the band.  They were quickly scooped up by MCA Records.  It’s one of the great mysteries of the music world how an album as great as this one can’t hit it big. Dubbed a “one-hit wonder” band by the world after “Closing Time”– really? Because this first album had at least 7 great songs. But, I suppose none of them were “hits”.  It has always bothered me that radio station like Cities97 can ignore sensational albums like this, by a band in their backyard, while they play Eric Clapton’s “Change The World” and Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” all summer long, 10 times a day.  Fuck radio.  Saw Semisonic play live 6 or 7 times in this period and they blew it out every time.  They could go loud, they could go soft– they always through a great party.

Key songs: F.N.T., Down In Flames, Temptation, If I Run, Delicious, Across The Great Divide, The Prize, No One Else

16.  Oasis– “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?”

Released: October 2, 1995

Oasis was knee-deep in it’s ballyhooed rivalry with fellow British rockers Blur upon the release of Oasis’ second release– “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?”– on August 14, 1995 Blur and Oasis released singles on the same day: Blur’s “Country House” outsold Oasis’ “Roll With It” 270,000 to 216,000 in the first week– igniting a rivalry that would never end.  Noel Gallagher’s comment to “The Observer” in September was both immature and VERY Rock ‘n Roll– he said that he hoped both Damon Albarn and Alex James of Blur would “catch AIDS and die”.  Gallagher later apoligized profusely for his comment, but the war for Britpop was on.  The Gallagher brothers became staples in the UK tabloids for their in-fighting and wild lifestyles.  As the rival albums began to play out, it was clear that at least for the time, Oasis would be the commercial winner– “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” became the 3rd biggest selling album of all-time in the UK– selling over 4 million copies there and approximately 20 million world-wide. (The two biggest selling albums in UK history are Queen’s “Greatest Hits” and the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper”.)   In 2010 the album was named the best British album of the last 30 years at the Brit Awards.  The album received 5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic, 5 out of 5 from Rolling Stone and an A from Entertainment Weekly.  In August of 2006, Oasis played back-to-back shows at an outdoor festival in England and both shows sold out in a matter of minutes– 375 thousand tickets sold for the two shows– an astonishing number, but the festival had actually received 2.5 million applications for tickets– meaning the band could have sold out a massive festival for approximately 53 straight nights.  Co-producer Owen Morris said on the completion of the album: “this album will wipe the field with any competition… it’s astonishing… it’s the bollocks for this decade.”

Key songs: Some Might Say, Roll With It, Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back In Anger, Morning Glory, Champagne Supernova, Cast No Shadow

15.  Goo Goo Dolls– “Dizzy Up The Girl”

Released: September 22, 1998

The sixth album from the Buffalo trio came on the heels of their biggest career success– the single “Iris” from the “City of Angels” soundtrack– at 18 weeks it is the longest running number one song in Billboard history– and it was a no-brainer for the GGD to include it on the Dizzy album.  Not one of my favorite Goo Goo Dolls songs (at all)– but it brought huge, huge success to a band that had ground away and deserved all the success that would come their way.  Dizzy received 4 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and 5 out of 5 from Sputnikmusic.  The Goo’s hooky guitars and Johnny Rzeznik’s cool, gravely voice for years had churned out great songs– another band that could play fast, up-tempo rock classics and also kill you with their ballads. “Dizzy Up The Girl” was chock full of both and “Slide” was in the top 20 songs of the 90’s.

Key songs: Dizzy, Slide, Broadway, Black Balloon, Iris, All Eyes On Me, Acoustic #3, Hate This Place

14.  Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers– “Honky Tonk Union”

Released: October 19, 1999

After The Refreshments closed up shop after two albums, Roger Clyne and drummer PH Naffah caught their breath and began gigging again and soon formed a new band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers.  This initial offering from the Peacemakers had a slightly different feel than the two Refreshments albums– a little more of a country feel and not quite the guitar snarl of the Refreshments albums.  What the album kept from the Refreshments was the Southwestern flair with songs filled with Tequila, Mexico and sun-burned characters.  The Peacemakers first song, “Beautiful Disaster” evoked classic Springsteen, Petty and Mellencamp– a song that should be cranked on an open road in the summertime. AllMusic gave it 4 out of 5 stars and said of the Peacemakers sound:  “it should be played at earsplitting volume in pool halls, bowling alleys, backyard bashes and on college radio stations. It should blare from the CD players of fast cars roaring down empty highways under the stars and just before dawn. Indeed it should be savored and celebrated by those swaggering street denizens known as the rock and roll faithful as proof that the good stuff never disappears.”  The Peacemakers quickly picked up on gaining the cult independant status that the Refreshments had begun building and their live shows built them a large following of hard-core fans.  Of the live shows, the Arizona Republic wrote:  “A show by Tempe-based Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers is always a party. Hometown boy Clyne is a terrific showman, blessed with a charisma that few are born with. Add to that his sharp songwriting skills and a crack band…and you’re guaranteed to have a good time.” The Peacemakers never did gain a radio hit (although their library has at least 25 songs that could have been radio staples)– they’ve had a great run and continue to thrive.

Key songs: Beautiful Disaster, City Girls, Easy, Honky Tonk Union, Jack vs Jose, Tell Yer Momma, Green & Dumb

13.  Pearl Jam– “Vs”

Released: October 19, 1993

The band formerly known as “Mookie Blaylock” was called by AllMusic– “the most popular American rock ‘n roll band of the 90’s”. (Band trivia– when Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament appeared in Cameron Crowe’s, “Singles” as the band, “Citizen Dick”– they were still called “Mookie Blaylock”.)  The slow burn of success of Pearl Jam’s first album had made them monsterously big as they headed into the studio to work on their follow up– “Vs”.  The making of Vs found the band in an odd state– from “the other grunge band from Seattle” to world-beaters in a year’s time.  Guitarist Mike McCready said, “the band was blown up pretty big and everything was pretty crazy”.  Well the album got made and there was no “slow burn” the second time around– Vs sold almost a million copies it’s first week out, debuting at #1 and outselling all other 9 albums in the top 10 of the charts combined.  Vs set a record for most records sold in a first week of release and held the record for 5 years, until it was broken by Garth Brooks’ double live album in 1998.  Vs held the “rock” record until (and everyone in America can hang their head in shame at the following) it was broken by Limp Biskit’s 2000 release.  The reviews for Vs were much better than those for Limp Bizkit:  Paul Evans of Rolling Stone said, “Few American bands have arrived more clearly talented than this one did with Ten; and Vs. tops even that debut.” He added, “Like Jim Morrison and Pete Townsend, Vedder makes a forte of his psychological-mythic explorations… As guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready paint dense and slashing backdrops, he invites us into a drama of experiment and strife.”  Vs stayed atop the Billboard album chart for 5 weeks and sold over 7 million copies in the US.

Key songs: Go, Animal, Daughter, Glorified G, Dissident, Rearviewmirror, Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town

12.  Soul Asylum– “Let Your Dim Light Shine”

Released: June 6, 1995

The seventh album from the Minneapolis rockers would be their last big seller– moving just over a million copies.  After the monster success of the previous album, “Dim Light” was seen as a minor dissappointment, but I have no idea why.  The biggest mistake was probably releasing “Misery” as the first single.  It was now the mid-90’s and grunge was over and Kurt Cobain was dead– nobody wanted to hear about people being miserable anymore.  It’s a decent song, but not a lead single that’s going to propel an album to huge sales.  I remember reading an article at the time where Jayhawks lead singer (and close friend of Soul Asylum’s) Gary Louris was quoted as saying, “it’s was an odd choice for a first single… I don’t get it… it was probably a dumb choice”.  For years after that quote, Soul Asylum would always mix in “Silly Love Songs” in the middle of playing “Misery” live– Dave’s tip of the cap to Paul McCartney for writing “Silly Love Songs” as a response to John Lennon, who had been dismissive of Paul’s post-Beatles work, saying “all he writes are silly love songs”.  It’s been written that “Dim Light” is the band’s least favorite album– but that’s only the case because they hated making it– for the first time in their careers they were constantly interfered with by Columbia Records while working.  Record companies sign bands because they like the way they sound and then when they get them signed, they try to tell them how to sound.  Smart, right?  Reviews were all over the map for “Dim Light”– AllMusic gave it only 2 out of 5 stars, but Rolling Stone gave it 4 out of 5.  Nobody knows what to expect after a band has a massive album, so nobody really knew what to think of this one.  I knew from the first time I heard it– it’s fantastic.

Key songs: Misery, Hopes Up, Promises Broken, Bittersweetheart, String of Pearls, Caged Rat, Eyes of a Child, Just Like Anyone, I Did My Best

11.  Gear Daddies– “Billy’s Live Bait”

Released: 1991

The second release from the beloved Austin, MN band picked up where the first album left off.  Something about the Gear Daddies just struck a chord with all those who heard it– and they had arguably the most influential sound of any Midwest band of the late 80’s, early 90’s.  Mpls music guru Jim Walsh wrote in the liner notes to “Can’t Have Nothing Nice”: “In their seven years together, Gear Daddies made a lot of music and a lot of friends. They came from Austin, MN, and won the rest of us over with their appreciation of life as something both magical and meloncholy. Already the memories are starting to blur into longing: Martin crooning passionately, possessedly into the mic; Nick’s baseball cap bobbing to the beat; Billy trying to drum and keep his glasses on at the same time; Randy scanning the crowd with that indestructible grin.  They had it all: soul, innocence, humor, spirit, and that intoxicating intangible called friendship.  Other music has meant more to me on headier levels; other bands have defined me more.  But for as long as I live I will never, ever love a band the way I loved the Gear Daddies.”  Two albums feels like we got cheated (although Zellar’s solo stuff picked up where the Gear Daddies left off)– they carried themselves like just another working class bar band, you almost got the sense that they didn’t realize just how good they were– Zellar would sing with his eyes shut to a packed house and open them up at the end of a song and always seemed genuinely surprised that there was a roaring crowd in front of him.  To think that songs like 2-18 and Dream Vacation almost never made it onto anything the public could listen to is proof that this band had no idea how good it was.  AllMusic gave “Billy’s Live Bait” 4.5 out of 5 stars. Marty’s lyrics written sometime in 1990 are almost spooky at how they could have been written two weeks ago:

This used to be my town
Now I feel I’m losing ground
They used to know my name
At least I had a taste of local fame

Hey, don’t forget me
Please don’t forget me when I’m gone

Now the crowds are growing thin
Man, you should have seen them way back when
Now I’m just another guy
They used to whisper when I walked by

Hey, don’t forget me
Please don’t forget me when I’m gone

I guess I knew it would end
That don’t make it any easier

Now the crowds are growing thin
Man, you should have seen them way back when

Hey, don’t forget me
Please don’t forget me when I’m gone

‘Cause on certain nights when the crowd’s just right
The magic can return
I took so much for granted then, I took so much for granted
I wish that I could take back all these years

Hey, don’t forget me
Please, don’t forget me when I’m gone

Yes Marty, you once did have a taste of local fame…. and nobody will forget you.

Key songs: Stupid Boy, Sonic Boom, Wear Your Crown, Don’t Look At Me, Time Heals, Color of Her Eyes, Gonna Change, Goodbye Marie, Zamboni

10.  Counting Crows– “August and Everything After”

Released: September 14, 1993

Formed as an acoustic duo in San Francisco in 1991, by the time the Counting Crows released their first album, they had grown to five members– the band caught a break when in early ’93 Van Morrison pulled out of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies and the band filled in and did an excellent version of Van’s “Caravan”.  The band had passed around a demo tape that caught a lot of ears and eventually signed with Geffen Records.  (“Einstien on the Beach” was on the demo and didn’t make it on to “August”– how does stuff like that happen????) Adam Duritz wrote “Mr. Jones” for fun, as a bit of a lark–  the character in the song is based on Duritz childhood friend and a member of his former band, The Himalayans, Marty Jones.  Duritz is describing the desire of working musicians to make it big and the fantasies they entertain about what that might bring. Talk about life imitating art– in December of 1993 MTV picked up “Mr. Jones” and put it into WAY heavy rotation.  Working musicians then made it big and lived all the fantasies they ever desired.  Spurred by a song about “wouldn’t it be great if we were famous?” “August and Everything After” became the fastest selling album since “Nevermind”– got the band gigs on Letterman and Saturday Night Live and a spot opening on tour for the Rolling Stones.  Be careful what you wish for? It was during this whirlwind that Duritz reportedly suffered his second nervous breakdown.  The album received 4 out of 5 stars from both AllMusic and Rolling Stone and has sold over 7 million copies.

Key songs: Round Here, Omaha, Mr. Jones, Anna Begins, Rain King, Sullivan Street, Raining In Baltimore, A Murder of One

Published in: on June 10, 2010 at 9:53 pm  Comments (3)  

40–24 The Big Boys Start To Check In

by Bill

40.  Paul Westerberg– “Eventually”

Released: April 30, 1996

After The Replacements ended in 1991, it didn’t take Paul Westerberg long to begin his solo career– putting two singles on the “Singles” soundtrack– “Waiting For Somebody” and “Dyslexic Heart”. In 1993 he released his first official solo album, “14 Songs”, which would have made this list, but I forgot. It took a full three years later (possibly leading to the name of the album) for his second solo album to come out– “Eventually”.  Like “14 Songs” before it, “Eventually” was better on the slow stuff than on the rockers… Westerberg had been quoted as saying he was basically “done with the punk stuff, I said all I had to say”– and he also knew that he was older now, and that there is a fine line between the screaming, ranting voice of youth and the obnoxious groaning of a stodgy old man. The Replacements place in Rock ‘n Roll history is forever etched. Westerberg is now making his way down that path as a solo artist– “Love Untold” being his best solo song.  “Good Day” is a tribute to former ‘Mat Bob Stinson who passed away from a heroin overdose.

Key songs: Love Untold, Mommadaddydid, These Are The Days, Once Around The Weekend, Good Day, Time Flies Tomorrow

40.  Soul Asylum– “Candy From A Stranger”

Released: May 12, 1998

The 8th studio album from the Mpls rockers– panned by many hard-core fans, it sold far less than their previous two and ultimately would get them dropped from Columbia Records.  The band had turned in a record called “Creatures of Habit” that Columbia rejected (goodbye Black Star)…. another producer was hired and Candy was released with much of the same material re-done.  It’s always seemed odd to me how none of the really great alternative bands from the early 90’s really lasted. Pirner said, “It’s sort of sad to say, but you could see the whole grunge-rock-band thing getting totally over-saturated and people were looking for something new.” Music and how people were buying it were definitely changing by 1998, but I don’t care what anyone says– “Candy” was a great album. “Close” will always sound like an autobiographical eulogy to me, but that’s wrong because Soul Asylum did prove it– over and over and over.

Key songs: Close, See You Later, No Time For Waiting, Blood Into Wine, New York Blackout, Cradle Chain

39.  Social Distortion– “Social Distortion”

Released: March 27, 1990

It was bound to happen– I forgot this one… it should probably be up around 85 or so. Oh well. The third album from Social D, the punk rock band from Fullerton, CA that started making music together in 1978.  This third album had Social D implementing more to their music than just flat out punk– and they charted two singles for the first time in their careers– Story of My Life and Ball and Chain.  They would release three more albums (with a 4th expected in 2010), but never again reach the heights of this one– which reached #128 on the Billboard album charts and received 4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic.  Logan’s band does a bitchen cover of “Ball and Chain”.

Key songs: Story of My Life, Ball and Chain, Ring of Fire, So Far Away, Let It Be Me

38.  Smashing Pumpkins– “Siamese Dream”

Released: July 27, 1993

There was definitely something weird about this album when it came out in 1993– it just sounded a bit different from all of it’s alt/rock contemporaries.  Billy Corgan went out of his way to veer away from the “punk rock” base of most alternative bands and instead went with a goth/metal/arena rock style that gave them a sound all their own.  Corgan said that in the wake of Nirvana’s landmark 1991 album Nevermind” “We felt a great pressure that if we didn’t come up with a record that was huge, we were done. It was that simple in our minds. We felt like our lives depended on it.”  So huge they did. Siamese Dream sold over 4 million copies– but the band never got a foothold in the “alt” community and many others in the music community took pot-shots at the Pumpkins (jealousy? animosity?)– Corgan admits to being an easy person to dislike.  Participants in the indie scene had derided the band as careerists since their early days.  Pavement’s 1994 song “Range Life” refers to the band with the lines “I don’t understand what they mean/And I could really give a fuck”, which have been widely interpreted as an insult (although Stephen Malkmus has stated “I never dissed their music. I just dissed their status.”). Former Husker Du frontman Bob Mould called them “the grunge Monkees”,[6] and fellow Chicago musician/producer Steve Albini wrote a scathing letter in response to an article praising the band. He countered that the Pumpkins were no more alternative than REO Speedwagon and said they were created “by, of and for the mainstream” and “stylistically appropriate for the current college party scene, but ultimately insignificant.” Whatever dude– I was 28 and I dug it.

Key songs: Today, Disarm, Cherub Rock, Mayonaise, Rocket, Soma

37.  The Jayhawks– “Hollywood Town Hall”

Released: 1992

The album that put alt/country or country rock into the national spotlight in the time of grunge. The album seemed daring at the time, simply because it was a sound that nobody else was putting out at the time (at least nationally… in Minnesota this only ranks as the 3rd or 4th best “alt/country” record ever).  The critics took notice and Hollywood Town Hall received rave reviews across the board. 4.5 out 5 from AllMusic, 4 out of 5 from Rolling Stone and a solid “A” from Entertainment Weekly.  The album cover was about as “Minnesota” as it could get, 4 guys sitting on a couch in winter coats on the side of a road in front of a small, all white church, with what looks like a late Feb, early March snow cover all around them.  Top to bottom, it’s probably the best Jayhawks album ever (though a good argument can be made for 2003’s “Rainy Day Music”– but this album really has no duds on it at all– 10 great songs.

Key songs: Waiting For the Sun, Crowded In The Wings, Clouds, Settled Down Like Rain, Sister Cry, Two Angels, Take Me With You (When You Go), Martin’s Song

36.  Counting Crows– “This Desert Life”

Released: November 1, 1999

Counting Crows list their musical influences as the following: Van Morrison, REM, Mike + the Mechanics, Nirvana, Bob Dylan and The Band. Yup, Mike + the Mechanics. I mean, “In The Living Years” was a good tune and all, but, um…. what are you talking about? Maybe it’s an inside joke.  Anyway, Counting Crows third album found them going back to “August”  territory rather than “Recovering the Satellites” experimentation.  The album received 4 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and 3 out of 5 from Rolling Stone– but if you like the Counting Crows, it was better than that. The album sold over a million copies and hit #8 on the Billboard album charts– powered by the success of the single, “Hanginaround”, which peaked at # 5 on the Billboard Adult chart.  Though a pretty solid album top to bottom, “This Desert Life” is ranked this high because of the 7:46 piano rock ballad, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”– a song Adam Duritz wrote in honor of actress Monica Potter, whom he’d never met. I don’t know if he’s ever met her since, but for a fat, ugly guy Duritz sure has pulled a lot of hot women.  He once answered the question, “what question are you most tired of getting?”, Duritz replied, “how’d that fat fuck get that hot of a girl”.  Though  they’ve had much bigger hits, “Potter” just barely charted at #40 on the adult top 40 for a week– it’s arguably Duritz best song.

Key songs: Hanginaround, Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby, All My Friends, Amy Hit the Atmosphere, Colorblind

35.  Garth Brooks– “No Fences”

Released: August 27, 1990

This album was hard for me to embrace when it came out, as I was still in hardcore, “I HATE country music!” mode.  Brooks was a game-changer though and he updated the “country” sound and really changed the genre forever.  It’s funny because if you go back and listen to this record now, it comparatively sounds like Conway Twitty compared to some of the “country” music out there today.  This second album released from Brooks spent 23 weeks at #1 on the Country charts and peaked at #3 on the pop album chart– it ended up selling over 17 million copies in the US alone.  The album contained what has always been Garth’s signature song, “Friends In Low Places”– which became the crossover– as a sing-a-long song in not just country bars, but just about any bar where people weren’t dancing to Euro-tecno music.  The album contained 5 #1 country hits and Brooks’ enthusiastic live shows helped propel him to one of the most successful careers in music history.  Brooks crossed over so well because he took on a genre that needed a shot in the arm and he brought all of his musical influences to it: Springsteen, Billy Joel, James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg.  Brooks began wearing the wireless headset at his concerts– and they became parties unlike anyone had ever thrown in country music before.  The album receive the very rare 5 out of 5 from both AllMusic and ArtistDirect and an A from Entertainment Weekly.

Key songs: Friends In Low Places, Unanswered Prayers, The Thunder Rolls, Two of a Kind, Workin on a Full House, New Way To Fly, Mr. Blue

34.  Matchbox Twenty– “Yourself or Someone Like You”

Released: October 1, 1996

Never loved by critics or the music hipsters, but always adored by the masses, the Orlando fouresome arrived on the scene in the winter of 1996 with a roar, the album would eventually sell over 12 million copies in the US alone.  The first single, “Long Day” got immediate radio play, but didn’t move too far up the charts– an oddly enough, the most popular song off the album, “3am” never charted with Billboard, as there was a stupid rule back then (since changed) that would only rank songs that had officially been released as singles, and “3am” never was.  I’m not really sure why the music hipsters instantly hated Rob Thomas– he wrote great lyrics and had a phenomenal pop sensibility.

She’s got a little bit of something, God it’s better than nothing
And in her color portrait world she believes that she’s got it all
She swears the moon don’t hang quite as high as it used to
And she only sleeps when it’s raining
And she screams and her voice is straining

I remember one of my brothers calling me soon after “Real World” had hit the radio and all he said was, ” “I get this funky high from a yellow sun…. I wish the real world would just stop hassling me” is just pure genius”.  Hit after hit after hit and Rob Thomas is nearing the pantheon of great song makers of the last 25 years.  One of my sisters once remarked, “Does Rob Thomas ever make a bad song?” Pretty much “no” is the answer– critics be damned. Two of the songs I still go back and listen to off of this album were never even radio hits, “Kody” and “Hang”– and that’s saying something, because just about every song on this album was a radio hit.

Key songs: Real World, Long Day, 3am, Push, Back To Good, Damn, Kody, Hang

33.  Foo Fighters– “The Colour and The Shape”

Released: May 20, 1997

So what to do when you’re in one of the seminal bands of all-time and your lead singer blows his brains out?  You either mope about the rest of your days with a creepy beard and a weird name or you say, “yay, I don’t have to be just the drummer anymore!” and you rock out. Dave Grohl formed the Foo Fighters just a year after Cobain’s death, and although not blessed with the greatest voice in the world, he’s always made up for it by putting every goddamned ounce of effort he has into every song.  Actually, Grohl had always written songs while in Nirvana and he and the other surviving member, Krist Novoselic had a couple of talks about continuing to play together, but ultimately decided against it– saying it would have been easy for them to do, but just too weird for everyone else. “I didn’t need to be under that much of a microscope” Grohl said.  Grohl mulled over an offer from Tom Petty to become the drummer for the Heartbreakers, but turned it down to begin his own band.  The Foo’s released their first effort on July 4, 1995 and it hit right away, led by the singles: “This Is A Call”, “I’ll Stick Around” and “Big Me”– the last of which proved once and for all that Grohl wasn’t going to follow in Nirvana’s footsteps. The first album was a solid effort and proved Grohl’s second act wouldn’t be a fluke– but with “The Colour and the Shape” he blew the doors off and got his rock on. During the course of the making of the album, Grohl divorced his photographer wife and you can certainly hear the anguish of a failed relationship in many of the songs– and the first single, “Monkey Wrench” takes on the break up head on.  The back-to-back-to back smack of the album’s first three singles can go head to head with just about any other 90’s albums.  With over 2 million sold, it remains the best selling Foo Fighters album– and “My Hero” has lived two lives– a hit when it was released, it got new life after 9/11 when Grohl played an acoustic version on The Late Show– the song honors every-day heros as Grohl says he never had any music or sports heros growing up.

Key songs: Monkey Wrench, Everlong, My Hero, Up In Arms, See You, February Stars

32.  Weezer– “Weezer”

Released: May 10, 1994

Weezer’s first ever band practice was held on February 14, 1992– and shortly thereafter the band got a big break: they were asked to open up a club gig for Keanu Reeves’ band, Dogstar. Ha. Just over a year later, the band went to Electric Lady studios in NYC where “Weezer” was produced by Cars frontman Ric Ocasek.  The record label didn’t want to release a single as they wanted to see how much hype they could get for the band by word of mouth from their spectacular live shows.  It didn’t take long for a radio station to pick up on them though and a Seattle station began playing, “Undone– The Sweater Song”, which was soon released and became a hit.  Spike Jonze jumped in on the hot act and directed the video to the song, which became an MTV classic, with it’s unbroken take from a sound stage that included much bizarre behavior, including a pack of dogs swarming the stage.  The second video, “Buddy Holly”, which re-created Arnold’s Diner from “Happy Days” also became a huge hit and the Weezer ship had officially set sail.  While those were the two huge hits and along with “Say It Ain’t So” made the album so popular– for me the song that always just jumped out of the speakers at you was the opening track,  “My Name Is Jonas”– you couldn’t hear that song and not think Weezer rocked.  The album went on to sell over 5 million copies in the US and received 5 out 5 stars from AllMusic.  It also gained Weezer a fanatical fan base– those who loved them, LOVED them and probably saved them from ruin after the strange second release: “Pinkerton” which, many swore by and many others thought was awful.  Rivers Cuomo, who was raised in an ashram in NYC and graduated from both the Berklee college of music and with honors from Harvard– has long been one of the more interesting figures in music– and it’s been his “smarts” (knowing how to adapt and change with the times) that has helped Weezer stay relevant for 16 years when many of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. “Weezer (The Blue Album)” was named the 297th best album of all time on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest albums ever.

Key songs: My Name Is Jonas, Undone- The Sweater Song, Buddy Holly, Say It Ain’t So,  Surf Wax America, No One Else

31.  Live– “Throwing Copper”

Released: April 26, 1994

“Throwing Copper”, the second album from Live is in rarified air as only the 3rd album of all time to finally hit #1 on the Billboard album chart a full year after it hit the chart– joining Fleetwood Mac’s first release, “Fleetwood Mac” and Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl” as the only albums to pull that trick.  In Throwing Copper’s case it was a matter of releasing single after single after single after single that kept it’s slow burn and slow rise up the charts going– the album eventually sold over 8 million copies in the US and 20 million world wide– one of the biggest alternative albums ever. “Lightning Crashes” spent an unheard of 3 straight months as the #1 song on the Mainstream Rock Singles chart. Five singles from “Throwing Copper” ended up charting– the lowest of which got to #15.  The band would never again hit the tremendous heights of “Throwing Copper” and in late 2009, the band would break up for good due to monetary disputes– most notably lead singer Ed Kowalczyk’s demand for a $100,000 “lead singer” bonus at a music festival that summer.

Key songs: The Dam At Otter Creek, Selling the Drama, Lightning Crashes, I Alone, All Over You, White, Discussion

30.  The Scott Laurent Band– “Caposville”

Released: March 1, 1996

For most of the early and mid-90’s the Twin Cities music scene had it’s share of “middle of the road” pop bands that would take turns playing The Cabooze, The Fine Line, 400 Bar and Bunkers– most notably Tim Mahoney, G.B. Leighton, Johnny Clueless, The Billy’s and The Delilah’s. In 1996, Bloomington Kennedy graduate Scott Laurent hit the scene, another out of the local “Oar Fin” records stable and Laurent hit it out of the park with his first effort, “Caposville”.  Some review blurbs: “Laurent writes passionate, image conjuring, Midwest-style rock songs and he sings the hell out of them”  “Laurent has created a distinct sound that can be melancholy and nostalgic one minute yet uplifting and vibrant the next. Real songs for real people played with skill, conviction, heart and soul.”  “Laurent mixes a bit of the singer-songwriter with a sophisticated pop sound that is nearly on par with the best of Michael Penn, Semisonic and the fine recent material of the Jayhawks, Should really be a Triple-A radio staple.”  Well, a radio staple he never became, but he made 4 of the better Twin Cities albums of the time– Caposville being the best of the bunch.  From the opening snarl of “Madison” about a Billy and a Sarah, who “prays at night to God up above, for those who’ve been wronged by love”— to the meloncholy awesomeness of, “It Always Happened In The Fall”– a song that could only be written by a Midwesterner– the hallway neighbor of an old friend of mine– Caposville is singer/songwriter stuff done as well as it gets.

Key songs: Madison, Paul’s Song, Caposville, It Always Happened In The Fall, Afraid Of The Ground, You Know Me Well

29.  Hootie and the Blowfish– “Cracked Rear View”

Released: July 5, 1994

Fifteen years later and there are those who would have you believe Hootie and the Blowfish were a joke, a musical anomaly, a band that rode a goofy name and pop jingles to a ridiculous amount of unfounded fame and fortune.  Those people are wrong. In 1986 in the dorm shower at the University of South Carolina, freshman Mark Bryan heard fellow-frosh Darius Rucker singing in the shower and was impressed.  Four years after graduation the boys released “Cracked Rear View” and it sold over 19 million copies in the US– making it the 15th best selling album of all-time in the United States. It received 4.5 out of 5 from AllMusic and 3.5 out of 5 from Rolling Stone.  This album hit and it hit hard.  It didn’t take long for music hipsters to make fun of the band and the name of the band– you go from zero to 100 in a couple of months and a huge portion of the world is going to hate you for it. You couldn’t go anywhere that played music in late ’94 and through 1995 and not hear a Hootie and the Blowfish song. And I liked them all. After a few more albums that wouldn’t come near the success of “Cracked Rear View”– Rucker turned out a very good country album in 2008 (even won best newcomer at the CMA’s)– but he always says “Let Her Cry” was his first country song. Whatever you want to call it, it was good, and Hootie and the Blowfish’s place in the music pantheon is secure.

Key songs: Hannah Jane, Let Her Cry, Hold My Hand, Only Wanna Be With You, Time, Not Even The Trees

28.  Alanis Morissette– “Jagged Little Pill”

Released: June 13, 1995

Alanis Morissette had just turned 21 years old when she released her third album (but major label debut) in the summer of 1995– she was just old enough to have been hurt by love and she was PISSED OFF! “Jagged Little Pill” hit like a pack of firecrackers and it just exploded everywhere– at 30 million records sold, it’s the best debut album ever recorded by a woman.  The album was a sensation on many different levels– basically the diary of a 20 year old girl– and a 20 year old girl that couldn’t sing particularly well either. But Alanis struck a chord– as one critic wrote, “the lyrics are unvarnished and Morissette unflinchingly explores emotions so common, most people would be ashamed to articulate them– an utterly fascinating exploration of a young woman’s psyche.”  Alanis and her label had hoped that “Pill” would make enough money to do a second album– but quickly after it’s release, the heavily influential L.A. radio station KROQ put “You Oughta Know” into heavy rotation– it was picked up quickly by MTV and the rest is history.  The album stayed in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 albums chart for over a year and had an incredible 6 singles hit the top 15 of one Billboard chart or another. Rolling Stone ranked it #327 on their 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Key songs: You Oughta Know, Ironic, Hands Over Feet, All I Really Want, Hand In My Pocket, You Learn

27.  Pearl Jam– “Vitalogy” and “Yield”

Released: December 6, 1994 and February 3, 1998

Pretty much the band of the decade when your 3rd and 4th best albums make the top 30. “Vitalogy” was made in the middle of super-duper-duper stardom for the band and in the midst of their epic battles with everyone from their record label to their war with Ticketmaster. After the massive success of the videos for “Jeremy” and “Alive”, Pearl Jam decided not to make videos at a time when they were the single biggest sales boost for any album or song.  Eddie Vedder hated the idea of listeners being told what to envision in their heads while they listened to a song– he liked the idea of listeners making up their own videos in their heads.  Even while giving their label and MTV and many other advertising strategies the finger, “Vitalogy” became the 2nd fastest selling album ever, selling almost a million copies in it’s first week. Producer Brendan O’Brien took a song that had been held off of their second album, “Vs” for being “too accessible” according to the band and insisted that they put it on “Vitalogy” as he called it a “blatantly great pop song”– the song was “Better Man” and it was on anyone with ears top 10 songs of the decade. The band continued to wage war with TicketMaster and was surprised as virtually no other bands took up the fight with them– a fight that would basically keep the band from touring in the Unites States for almost four years and a fight that they would eventually lose. Eddie Vedder says of “Yield”– “what was rage in the past has now become relfection”… Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly stated that the band has “turned in an intermittently affecting album that veers between fiery garage rock and rootsy, acoustic-based ruminations. Perhaps mindful of their position as the last alt-rock ambassadors with any degree of clout, they’ve come up with their most cohesive album since their 1991 debut, Ten.” While the album inbetween these two, “No Code” veered a little to far off the “Ten” path for some, “Yield” brought almost everybody back.  Rolling Stone staff writer Al Weisel gave Vitalogy four out of five stars, describing the album as “a wildly uneven and difficult record, sometimes maddening, sometimes ridiculous, often powerful.”  Rolling Stone staff writer Rob Sheffield gave Yield four out of five stars, saying that “before, the band’s best songs were the change-of-pace ballads…Yield marks the first time Pearl Jam have managed to sustain that mood for a whole album.” He added that “Vedder is singing more frankly than ever about his life as an adult,” and that the album “shows that Pearl Jam have made the most out of growing up in public.

Key songs: Spin the Black Circle, Not For You, Better Man, Corduroy, Nothingman, Given To Fly, Wishlist, Faithful, MFC, Do The Evolution, Lowlight, All Those Yesterdays

26.  Martin Zellar– “Born Under”

Released: 1995

The much anticipated debut of Marty Zellar’s post Gear Daddies career pretty much picked up where the Gear Daddies left off– heartland angst embedded in great writing about horrible relationships, yearning for something more and wondering what might have been.  One reviewer wrote: “Yeah, the album cover looks like it was lifted from a J Crew catalogue, but don’t be fooled:  Zellar is heir to a long and distinguished tradition of gritty, world-weary song-writing and there’s nothing faked or pretentious in his song-writing or delivery.”  Zellar has a knack for capturing we humans at our worst but he still sides with us and hopes in the end we can just “be happy”.  “See you runnin’ for the bus/you’re six months pregnant, your clothes too tight/and I think my heart is gonna bust”.  Those who were crushed by the end of the Gear Daddies were saved by “Born Under”.

Key songs: Lie To Me, Problem Solved, Let Go, Something’s Gotta Happen, East Side Boys, Falling Sky, Summer Kind of Sad

25.  The BoDeans– “Black and White”

Released: April 26, 1991

In January of 1987 Rolling Stone named Waukesha, WI band The BoDeans the “best new American band” after their stellar debut, “Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams”.  Two more albums were released to critical acclaim in the 80’s, “Outside Looking In” and “Home”. Though critically acclaimed (even an article in TIME magazine)– moderate sales on the first three albums had the BoDeans looking for bigger pastures with “Black and White”. Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas became far more ambitious as songwriters, tackling bigger issues than good times in bars.  The BoDeans took on race, sex and trying to get the girl in stories that took one man’s troubles and made them analogous to bigger issues. Though a fantastic album, it sadly didn’t sell a whole lot more than their previous work.  The BoDeans will always be in the pantheon of “how the hell did they not make it bigger?”

Key songs: Good Things, Paradise, Any Given Day, Naked, Forever On My Mind, Do I Do, Black, White and Blood Red

24.  The Refreshments– “The Bottle and Fresh Horses”

Released: September 16, 1997

The second album from the cult-favorites from Tempe, Arizona had a little bit less of a smirk on it’s face than their debut, but continued in the same vein of alt/country rock with a huge dose of Southwestern snarl. Maybe no band going put together sound and location as well as these guys, from rattlesnake guitars to tequila tasting vocals– one reviewer claims this album as such: “consider this record one of the strongest forgotten gems of it’s time.”  Thankfully, to all of us fans, the songs of the Freshies would live on with the Peacemakers.  Cedarfest show on August 17, 1997 where I fist heard a lot of the songs that would come out on this album a month later.

Key songs: Tributary Otis, Preacher’s Daughter, Wanted, Dolly, Fonder and Blonder, Broken Record, Una Soda, Sin Nombre

Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 10:04 pm  Comments (1)  

90’s Albums… 62–41

by Bill

Some of the better one-hit wonders from the 90’s:

Fade Into You– Mazzy Star,  Sister– The Nixons, Cumbersome– Seven Mary Three, Here’s Where The Story Ends– The Sundays,  Bittersweet Symphony– The Verve,  Pure– The Lightning Seeds, The Mighty KC– For Squirrels,  She’s So High– Tal Bachman,  Dizz Knee Land– Dada, You Get What You Give– The New Radicals,  I Touch Myself– The Divinyls,  Epic– Faith No More (the blatent Chili Peppers rip-off: “You want it all and you can’t have it”),  Kiss Them For Me– Siouxie and the Banshees,  I’ve Been Thinking About You– Londonbeat,  Life Is a Highway– Tom Cochrane,  Everything Falls Apart– Dog’s Eye View,  Tubthumping– Chumbawumba,  Freshman– The Verve Pipe,  No Rain– Blind Melon,  I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)– The Proclaimers, Shit– Slip Twister….. of course there were many, many more, but I’m not looking them up.  Back to those who were definitely not one-hit wonders:

62.  Chris Isaak– “San Francisco Days”

Released: April 13, 1993

He’s got over 20 movie and television show credits and he used to have a talk show, but the world best knows Stockton, California’s Chris Isaak as a crooner.  The 90’s were good to Isaak– he had a lot of great songs that were’nt from this album, most notably: Flying, Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing, Somebody’s Crying and Wicked Game.  But Isaak’s best album came in 1993 at the age of 36. Isaak shucked the “tortured bad boy look” (the look that made him famous from the “Wicked Game” video) and went classic old school for the cover of “San Francisco Days”– just a good looking, smiling guy with a 50’s hairstyle and a 60’s looking album cover.  It kicked off with arguably his best song ever, the title track and ended with a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” and inbetween were 10 awesome songs that ran through joy, longing, depression and back again.  It sounded different than anything anybody else was doing at the time, but more importantly, it just sounded great.

Key songs: San Francisco Days, Two Hearts, Can’t Do A Thing (To Stop Me), Beautiful Homes, Except The New Girl, Solitary Man

61. Wilco– “Summerteeth”

Released: March 9, 1999

When Wilco (taken from the voice procedure term that means: will comply) hit the world in March of 1995 with, “A.M.” the world wasn’t sure what to make of them.  “A.M.” was released just months after the much-loved alt/country band Uncle Tupelo had called it quits.  Co-leader of  Uncle Tupelo, Jay Farrar went on to form Son Volt and the other leader, Jeff Tweedy, started Wilco. So what was Wilco to be? Just another alternative band arriving too late to the party or a game changing band that would have some life.  The Chicago boys have proven the latter to be true over the course of 7 albums that have them entrenched as one of the hippest bands in the world. The album received ridiculously positive reviews: 5/5 from AllMusic, 5/5 from The Guardian, A from EW, 3.5 stars from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork named it the 31st best record of the 90’s.  Despite the lofty acclaim, the album sold just 200,000 copies, probably because of the lack of a sure-fire single. The band re-mixed a single version of “Can’t Stand It” to try to boost radio play, but it didn’t work.  Most of the album centers around Tweedy’s struggling relationship with his wife. Though surrounded in Wilco’s catalogue by two better albums, Summerteeth went a long way toward’s Wilco’s status as one of the most critically acclaimed bands in the world.

Key songs: Can’t Stand It, A Shot In The Arm, I’m Always In Love, Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again), How To Fight Lonliness

60. Better Than Ezra– “Friction, Baby”

Released: August 16, 1996

Following on the band’s huge success of it’s 1993 major label debut, “Deluxe” (which had the hits, Good, In The Blood and Rosealia)– the New Orleans foursome followed up with this 1996 release.  The album didn’t have quite the commercial succes of “Deluxe”, but had more to offer as far as songs and swagger. The title of the album comes from a radio interview with Keith Richards, who was asked how the Stones had managed to stay together for so long and Richards answered, “friction, baby”.  One of the better live bands of the 90’s BTE took a year off after this album and might died out like many of their 90’s alt bretheren, but lead singer Kevin Griffin wouldn’t let the band die and BTE went on to release two of the very best albums of the 2000’s. “Desperately Wanting” became one of the best bar songs for the winter of 1996 and all through the next spring and summer. The slow ballad “WWOZ” is an ode to a legendary radio station in New Orleans.

Key songs: Desperately Wanting, King of New Orleans, WWOZ, Long Lost, Normal Town

59. Green Day– “Insomniac”

Released: October 10, 1995

If I’d have told you in in 1995 that Green Day would be one of the 4 biggest bands in the world and had their music interpreted on Broadway in the year 2010 you’d have that I was fucking high. The 4th album from the punkers from the Bay Area sold 2 million copies in the US and 7 million worldwide, much less than the one before it, undoubtedly because of it’s harsher tone and attitude. The reviews were all positive and in giving it 4 out of 5 stars, Rolling Stone wrote: “In punk, the good stuff actually unfolds and gains meaning as you listen without sacrificing any of its electric, haywire immediacy. And Green Day are as good as this stuff gets.”  The rockers rock on.

Key songs: Geek Stink Breath, Armatage Shanks, Stuck With Me, Walking Contradiction, Brain Stew, Jaded

58. The Jayhawks– “Tomorrow The Green Grass”

Released: February 14, 1995

In 1989 Dave Ayers, the president of Twin Tone records was  on the phone with A&R representative George Drakoulias from Def American and Ayers had The Jayhawks “Blue Earth” playing in the backround.  The music caught Drakoulias’ ear and he asked Ayers what he was listening to.  Drakoulias set up a meeting with the band and boom, a major record deal was done.  They say you have to be in the right place at the right time in any entertainment field. “Tomorrow the Green Grass” was the second major label release for the Mpls alt/country band and it reached the highest of any of their 90’s albums on the charts, making it up to #92 (it would be passed by the 2003 album, “Rainy Day Music”, which reached #51).  This album would be the last that original member and co-lead-singer and songwriter Mark Olson would be a part of .  The last track, “Miss Williams Guitar” was written for Olson’s then girlfriend, Victoria Williams (the two would later marry, then divorce). 4.5 out of 5 from AllMusic, 4 out of 5 from Rolling Stone and an A-, “Tomorrow the Green Grass” positioned The Jayhawks as a potential huge band– and the single “Blue” got them airplay everywhere. But Olson’s departure slowed down the band’s momentum and their next album, “Sound of Lies” was a big disappointment, both critically and commercially.

Key songs: Blue, I’d Run Away, Ten Little Kids, Miss Williams’ Guitar, Bad Time

57.   The Beastie Boys– “Ill Communication” and “Hello Nasty”

Released: May 23, 1994 and July 14, 1998

Why two Beastie Boys albums at once? Why not? Always critically adored, the NY trio issued three albums in the 90’s all to rave reviews and plenty of awards and accolades. I always love 2 or 3 songs off of each of their records and then don’t think much of the rest of them.  All I know is that if you want to kick-start a party, you could do a lot worse than kicking:

I Can’t Stand It, I Know You Planned It
I’ma Set It Straight, This Watergate
I Can’t Stand Rockin’ When I’m In Here
‘Cause Your Crystal Ball Ain’t So Crystal Clear
So, While You Sit Back And Wonder Why
I Got This Fucking Thorn In My Side
Oh My God, It’s A Mirage
I’m Tellin’ Y’all It’s Sabotage

You know what happens after that? Everyone has a really good time, that’s what.  Both albums got 4/5 stars from both AllMusic and Rolling Stone.

Key songs: Sabotage, Sure Shot, Root Down, Intergalactic, Remote Contol, Three MC’s and One DJ

56.  Kid Rock– “Devil Without A Cause”

Released: August 18, 1998

Kid Rock’s sitting on one of his boats on Lake Michigan getting interviewed by a rock writer– beautiful summer day, just answering questions and sipping on some Jack and Coke when a boat filled with college-aged kids goes speeding past.  A kid on the boat stands up and yells, “Kiiiiid Rock!!!” Kid Rock does the half-hearted wave towards the boat and as he’s doing so the kid screams, “what a faggot!!!”.  The writer stares hard at Kid, as the next 5 seconds might be the key to his article.  Kid stares at the boat speeding away for a beat and then shakes his head with a grin and says, “Fuck that little cocksucker….. but I SO would have yelled that at me when I was his age” Perfect reaction. Kid Rock is cool.  Robert James Ritchie announced his presence with AUTHORITY on this record, by screaming that he was “KID ROCK” and he’s backed up that boast ever since then.  Hard to pin in a musical “style” he incorporates hip hop, metal, blues rock, southern rock, funk and country music.  He’s able to pull it off because when you strip it all away– the dude can sing.  Really well.

Key songs: Bawitdaba, Cowboy, I Am the Bullgod, Only God Knows Why

55.  Liz Phair– “Exile In Guyville”

Released: June 22, 1993

Well, the truth of it is– Liz Phair has always been kind of “poppy”.  The hipster music world has abandoned her after this breakout album– one of the best reviewed albums of the decade. What Phair described as a song by song reply to the Stones 1972, “Exile on Mainstreet”— “Guyville” was really nothing more than an indie/pop record– but the lyrics are what separated it– no filter, whatever she thought, she sang about. “Fuck and Run” and “Flower” were just a girl screaming out at the world: “I want to be your blow job queen/ I’ll fuck you and your minions too”.  Why was she so pissed off at the world? An amateur shrink might say she was a textbook case: an adopted child who grew up in a wealthy Chicago suburb– she was trying to “be real” and establish some street cred. Whatever the case, Phair gained way too much street cred, too much for anyone to live up to.  Her hard-core fan base was going to turn on her no matter what she did next, and sure as shit, they did.  I like this album and I’m a fan of everything she’s done since too.  Rolling Stone, AllMusic and Blender all gave this 5 out of 5 stars, EW gave it an A.  A lot to live up to.

Key songs: Fuck and Run, Flower, 6’1, Dance of the Seven Veils, Stratford-on-Guy

54. Buffalo Tom– “Smitten”

Released: September 29, 1998

In the argument for most underrated band of the decade, with 5 great albums.  This Boston trio formed in 1987 and took it’s name from combining Buffalo Springfield with their drummer’s first name.  Drummer aside, it’s always been guitarist/singer Billy Janovitz’s band– a voice  that just sounded important and cool and hip all at once.  It’s almost amazing that these guys never broke through like some of their 90’s alt contemporaries like 3EB, Matchbox Twenty, Soul Asylum and Live. Arguably as many great songs as any of them– and plenty that were prime for radio play, but just never got the chance. “But aren’t you really just a penny whore?” sung to a school girl?  Take these lyrics: The autumn leaves/Me here without a tooth/You’ve given me the shaft/My friend’s car’s breaking down/And I’ve got no ride home…… well that could be any of us on any Friday night of the 90’s somewhere downtown. Attach Janovitz cool voice to those words and you’ve got something.  Five A range songs, all below.

Key songs: Wiser, Rachael, Postcard, The Bible, Knot In It

53. The Lemonheads– “It’s A Shame About Ray”

Released: June 2, 1992

Hmm, the Kurt Cobain of the East Coast? Musically a lot more simple and far less rage– but a talented, drug-addled guy who couldn’t handle success nonetheless. The Lemonheads bowled their way on to the scene in the summer of 1992 with an album that just about everybody loved– critics, radio and fans.  It was a perfect morphing of alt rock/70’s AM pop that the music world was way ready for after 80’s metal/pop had run it’s course. If grunge was just a little too much for you– grab the Lemonheads album and just groove out.  (The number one song on June 2, 1992 was, “Jump” by Kris Kross).

To the annoyance of the band, a second version of the album was released, with a cover of, “Mrs. Robinson” attached on the end– the single would be one of the most popular of their career.  (To show you how silly labels can be, the song, “My Drug Buddy” was changed to “Buddy” on the re-issue.)  4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic.

Key songs: It’s A Shame About Ray, Confetti, Rockin’ Stroll, My Drug Buddy, Rudderless, Alison’s Starting To Happen, Mrs. Robinson

52. John Mellencamp– “Whenever We Wanted”

Released: October 8, 1991

“Whenever We Wanted” was released the day after Johnny Cougar turned 40. With seven A albums cranked out in the 80’s, Mellencamp hit a speed bump with his 1989 release, “Big Daddy”– Jackie Brown, Let It All Hang Out and Pop Singer were all great songs, but the album as a whole lacked the firepower of all his previous work.  Mellencamp proved there was a little snarl left in his game with “Whenever We Wanted”.   The first of his albums to completely drop “Cougar” from the title, WWW was sharp, rowdy and fun. For me, the 90’s were my prime “going out” years– age 25 to 35 and probably no song sang to that era any better than, “Again Tonight”– it rocked, it rolled, it summed up my world– you’d go out Friday night, stay up too late, play golf Saturday…. and then:

Run in circles again tonight
Hump the moon again tonight
Gonna wear my dancin’ shoes out tonight
Gonna have myself a big time again tonight

[Chorus:]
Again tonight
Again tonight
Again tonight

Girl’s got lightning
Underneath her skirt
Boys try to touch it
For whatever it’s worth
In the morning
She’s just gonna be hurt
She wonders is it worth it again tonight

[Chorus]

Gonna catch that cloud tonight
Nine, cloud nine
Gonna try and catch that cloud tonight
Nine, cloud nine
Again tonight

Can you hold me baby again, again tonight
Can you sing
Can you dance baby
Can you sing
Can you hold me again tonight
Baby can you sing

Go ego trip’n again tonight
Tell the same lies they work all right
Gonna wear my dancin’ shoes out tonight
Probably make a fool of myself again tonight

Key songs: Again Tonight, Now More Than Ever, Get A Leg Up, Love and Happiness

51.  Goo Goo Dolls– “A Boy Named Goo”

Released: March 14, 1995

Third major release from the Buffalo trio, it contained their first big hit– “Name” that put the band on the map with the “big boys”.  Much a band they tried to model themsevlves after, Soul Asylum, it was an odd song to breakthrough with– a ballad from a band that had been almost a punk group in their early days.  Johnny Rzeznik says the song was written as a love ballad– an homage to his days growing up an orphan.  Oddly enough the group’s jump to super-stardom was also via a ballad: “Iris” in 1998.  Rzeznik was approached to write a song for the “City of Angels” soundtrack and he says he wrote the lyrics in just under 5 minutes and that the song was done in total in about an hour.  It was nominated for 3 Grammys and was number one for a record tying 18 weeks.  Nowhere near as good as “Name” though.  It’s funny that a band I love had it’s biggest hit from a song I hated, from a movie I hated.  This album received 4.5 out of 5 from AllMusic, “Name” reached number one on the Modern Rock chart and number on the Rock chart, as well as number 5 on the top 40 chart.

Key songs: Long Way Down, Naked, Flat Top, Name, Ain’t That Unusual, Eyes Wide Open

50.  R.E.M.– “Out Of Time”

Released: March 8, 1991

After releasing 6 albums in just over 5 years and reaching the status of “most love college radio band of all-time”– the Athens, GA foursome took a little more time for their next album– just over two years. The results were pretty simple: they moved from indie favorites to international superstars. It spent 109 weeks on the best album charts– hitting #1 two different times and won 3 Grammy awards.  The album added a dose of the burgeoning alt/country sound to the band’s repertoire.  “Losing My Religion” became the band’s first number one hit in both the US and the UK.  Mike Mills is quoted, “there have been very few “life-changing” moments in our careers, because for so long everything was so gradual– I guess our defining moment would be, “Losing My Religion”, that’s when everything changed.” A huge assist to the B-52’s Kate Peirson, who sang on three of the albums better tracks listed below. The band did not tour to support the record, as they had even more creativity brewing and more bullets in their song-gun, that the world would see in just 18 months.

Key songs: Shiny Happy People, Losing My Religion, Radio Song, Near Wild Heaven, Half A World Away, Texarkana, Me In Honey

49. The Push Stars– “After The Party”

Released: May 6, 1999

Cool album from a cool Boston band, with a cool album cover– half Mad Men, half The Hangover.  Band formed in 1996 and this was their 3rd and best album.  The band had done some regional touring before this record and spent a night at a cabin in Northern Minnesota playing a lakeside bar– that night singer Chris Trapper wrote, “Minnesota”.  “I made Minnesota my home tonight/it’s not like the picture in my mind/’cause I was so alone it killed tonight/I’d tell any soul if I could find one… I feel alright, it’s a Minnesota night/you’ve got nothing left to show me but your smile/stars so bright on this Minnesota night/can we cut the conversation for a little while?”   The band is currently on hiatus as Trapper pursues a solo career and the drummer has hooked up with Matchbox Twenty. Very cool album.

Key songs: Any Little Town, Meet Me On Main Street, Minnesota, Too Much Pride, Everything Shines, Drunk Is Better Than Dead

48. Semisonic– “Feeling Strangely Fine”

Released: March 24, 1998

In 1993 as Trip Shakespeare was winding down, Dan Wilson and John Munson began gigging at the 400 bar with Jacob Slicter– songs were written and put to tape and soon the band “Pleasure” was born.  Finding out there had been an 80’s band with the same name (go figure), they changed it to “Semisonic”.  Following up the brilliant, “Great Divide” was this ’98 album that had the monster, monster single– “Closing Time”– my thought at the time was: “how the hell has rock n’ roll been around 50 years and nobody had written a hit song about closing time yet?  It’s funny that the success of that song has Semisonic looked at by the world at large as a “one-hit wonder”. That’s laughable to anyone who paid any attention, but understandable nonetheless. (Just look below, those are 6 great songs). Killed at Cederfest in the summer of 1998.  He lives in a huge Kenwood house that I would jog by on my way to Isles before I moved away and I’d see him playing at a huge grand piano just inside a massive picture window near the street.  Moral of the story: if you have a hit song, you’re set.

Key songs: Closing Time, Singing In My Sleep, Secret Smile, DND, This Will Be My Year, California

47. John Mellencamp– “Mr. Happy Go Lucky”

Released: September 10, 1996

On the heels of two (relatively) lackluster albums (Human Wheels and Dance Naked), Mellencamp was now in need of a hit single.  It had been 9 years since the hit-maker of the 80’s had had a top 10 Billboard single– 1987’s, “Paper in Fire”.  He got it with one of the best song’s of the 90’s– “Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)”.  The song didn’t reach the top 10, (in fact, “Paper in Fire” was his last top 10 song) it peaked at 14, but by then the way the charts were kept had changed enough that they didn’t mean that much anymore.  The song was everywhere: bars, backyard parties, beaches, keggers– you name it, wherever you were, that song made it better. “Christ, what’s she doing with him? She could be dancing with me!” Since this record, Mellencamp has turned out 6 more critically acclaimed albums that haven’t had much success.  The critics hated him when he was huge and now they love him. Mellencamp has stated, “I’m done making hits, I’m writing music for myself now.”  I don’t have the slightest idea what that means, does he think he doesn’t deserve hits? Or is he implying that his musical taste is more highbrow and that the masses won’t get it? At any rate, if “If I Saw You First” was his last big hit, it was a heckuva way to go out.

Key songs: Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First), Just Another Day, Jerry, Jackamo Road

46.  Wilco– “Being There”

Released: October 29, 1996

Named after the Peter Sellers movie of the same name, “Being There” was Wilco’s 2 disc follow up to their debut, “A.M.”.  Why we should all hate the record business #1,474: Jeff Tweedy had too many songs for a single CD, but didn’t want to release a record at a double album price (at the time about 30 bucks)– he asked Reprise Records to release the two cds at a single cd price– Reprise agreed, but only after saying they would get to keep Wilco’s royalties to the album. Deal done and so after releasing a spetcacular album, it’s estimated that in the end Wilco lost about 600 grand on the project, but Tweedy was satisfied anyway.  4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and 4 out of 5 from Rolling Stone– the album began Wilco’s experimental phase, but also had songs that continued in the AM alt/country phase.  They’ve had some weird, great music since this one– often overrated, but always under-appreciated– this is still my favorite Wilco album, and “Say You Miss Me” is one of the most underapprciated songs of the 90’s.

Key songs: Misunderstood, Far Far Away, Outtasite (Outta Mind), Say You Miss Me, Outta Mind (Outta Sight), Dreamer In My Dreams

45.  Smashing Pumpkins– “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness”

Released: October 24, 1995

Mellon Collie debuted at number 1 and sold over 9 million albums– absolutely unheard of numbers for 1) an alternative group and 2) a double album.  Billy Corgan wrote over 50 songs in a year’s time and 28 of them ended up as this 2 cd set.  The album received 7 Grammy nominations and picked up one win for best rock album of the year. Absolutely adored by some, thought of as a maniacal naval-gazer by others, everyone agreed that the Pumkins had greatness in them. Corgan was a genius, but probably not at the Prince-level genius he thought he was. I’ve always thought if pared down, this could have been one of the best albums ever made. There was a reason nobody made double albums anymore.

Key songs: Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Tonight, Tonight, 1979, Zero, Thirty Three, Farewell and Goodnight

44.  Guns ‘N Roses– “Use Your Illusion I and II”

Released: September 17, 1991

Truthfully, only gets the nod of the Pumpkins for best double set of the decade based on the awesomness of “November Rain”.  Side by side, after November Rain, the Pumpkins probably have the 4 best songs in that fight.  So how do you follow up an album that sells 38 million copies out of absolutely nowhere?  Kicking along on the LA scene doing the Whiskey, the Rainbow Room and the like, learning at the heels of Motley Cru and others,  Guns N’ Roses took the hair metal sound and smashed it together with rock and roll and it just exploded. There really was no way to follow Appetite For Destruction.  So they threw a roundhouse punch at the world in the form of a double album, but the punch didn’t land.  One legendary song, a couple of good covers and a few other solid tracks surrounded by a bunch of songs that signaled the end.  Too much success. Too much everything.  Reading the Motley Cru book you get the sense that even the other members of GNR hated Axl. He was a douche, plain and simple. What if November Rain and Patience would have been included on Appetite? Best album ever????

Key songs: November Rain, Civil War, Live and Let Die, You Could Be Mine, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Yesterdays, Don’t Cry

43.  The Dixie Chicks– “Fly”

Released: August 31, 1999

Pausing a bit to fight Axl as he attacks me for having this ahead of him…. Truth is “Goodbye Earl” had more menace and intimidation than anything on either Illusion album. The girls hit super-duper-star status after this album, but then the spunky lead singer tried to fight the President and was sent to a decade-long timeout chair.  After “Wide Open Spaces” sold over 12 million copies, the Chicks bounced back with an even better effort with “Fly”.  “Fly” sold over 10 million copies and debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Album chart and won 2 of it’s 4 Grammy nominations. The album received 5 out of 5 from AllMusic, 3.5 out of 5 from Rolling Stone and an A- from EW.  The album cemented the Chicks status as Country music legends and “Cowboy Take Me Away” is flat out one of the best country ballads ever recorded…. and Andy starred in the “Goodbye Earl” video.

Key songs: Ready To Run, If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me, Cowboy Take Me Away, Goodbye Earl, Sin Wagon, Without You

42.  Dave Matthews Band– “Under The Table and Dreaming”

Released:  September 27, 1994

Welcome to the scene a weird bar band from Virginia with a South African singer who bops oddly around the stage and has a really goofy voice.  The album is dedicated to Matthew’s older sister Anne, who was killed in a murder suicide by her husband earlier in the year.  The harmonica solo on, “What Would You Say” was done by Blues Traveler’s John Popper in just under 10 minutes.  The story goes that Matthews had gone to the bathroom at the studio and when he came back Popper was gone and when Matthews wondered where he was, he was told, “he’s done, he left”.  4.5 out of 5 from AllMusic and a legion of diehard fans, DMB began a legendary touring schedule where they would play 3 hours a night.  15 years in and still going strong.

Key songs: The Best of What’s Around, Satellite, What Would You Say, Ants Marching, Jimi Thing, Typical Situation

41.  Green Day– “Kerplunk”

Released: January 17, 1992

Oh yeah, this is what Rock N’ Roll is supposed to sound like.  Punk rock band from Berkeley, CA with their 2nd cd, the one before the explosion, or the last one before becoming gillionaires. Kerplunk had tiny sales (although huge for an Indie release), but everyone who bought it could have told you after one listen that these guys were going to be huge.  I heard “punk rock band” and assumed it would be lousy, noisy, screaming rock.  It was loud and noisy, but it was melodic and you could sing along by the second verse.  As the years passed and Green Day grew and grew, this little album would eventually go over 4 million in sales world wide and Blender ranked it #47 on it’s list of 100 greatest Indie albums ever.

Key songs: 2,000 Light Years Away, One For The Razorbacks, Welcome To Paradise, Christie Road, One Of My Lies, Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?

Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 11:26 pm  Comments (1)  

No Prince, Madonna or MJ?!?!

by Bill

If I would have told you on January 1, 1988 that my list of the top 131 albums of the 90’s would only include 1.5 albums from Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, U2 and The Replacements, you would have told me I was crazy.  Then you would have said, “why the hell are you ranking the top 131 albums of the 90’s, don’t you have anything better to do?”  But then I would have also told you that when I wrote this list, you would weigh 24 more pounds than you did on that day— so now who wins the argument fatty– ha!

Anyway, the reason that would have sounded so insane in January of ’88 is that those  5 groups/artists placed no less than 23 albums on a similar list of the 80’s.  Who knows when a music career will suddenly flame out? None of those acts actually disappeared, though one turned a whole different color in the 90’s.  They all kept turning out music, but none of it other than a couple of songs here and there was any good.  I say 1.5 albums, because the ‘Mats album probably doesn’t belong on the list.  You just never know– come someday and my list of the teens best albums may have Kings of Leon as “the third greatest band of all-time” or none at all.  I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that I would pretty much stop buying cd’s in 2004.

I definitely would have guessed right about your weight gain though– that was a pretty easy call.

On we go…

80. Los Lobos– “Kiko”

Released: May 26, 1992

4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and 4 out of 5 from Rolling Stone.  Though 87’s “By The Light of the Moon” is my favorite Los Lobos album, this was by far their most critically loved album. No singles quite as good as “One Time One Night”, but still plenty of good songs– the band was close to commercial success, but never could quite make it mainstream.  I can’t think they didn’t just shrug their shoulders when Los Lonely Boys hit it huge with their 2004 single, “Heaven” and an album that sold over 2 million copies.

Key songs: Kiko and the Lavender Moon, Reva’s House, Whiskey Trail, Dream In Blue, Arizona Skies

79. Pavement–  “Slanted and Enchanted” and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”

Released: April 20, 1992 and February 2, 1994

More music blasphemy having these two albums this low– whateves…. I guess I was in the group that liked them ok, but I just never saw the genius of it all. A couple of decent records is what I heard– and I saw a frontman that thought he was a hundred times cooler than Johnny Depp. (I’ve since learned that he’s a sports fanatic, and even though I realize how stupid it is, my opinion of him has gone up). “Slanted and Enchanted” was listed at #134 on Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” was listed at #210. History will show that Pavement was pretty comparable to The Replacements in terms of critical success and an undying fan base but no mainstream success. For me the difference is that The ‘Mats had about 30 great songs and Pavement had 2 or 3.

Key songs: Summer Babe (Winter Version), Trigger Cut, Cut Your Hair, Gold Soundz, Range Life

78. Sister Hazel– “…Somewhere More Familiar”

Released: February 25, 1997

Now here’s a band that I thought would go on to a lot more success than they did. This album hit huge in the summer of 1997, led by the huge success of “All For You” (reached #11 on the Billboard singles chart)– and led people to go buy their first album, “Sister Hazel”– which also had a lot of good songs, most notably “Feel It”…. but the Gainsville, Florida bunch could never really again match what they did on this album on any of their 5 releases in the past 10 years. Put on a great show at the Basilica Block Party in July of 1997.

Key songs: All For You, Just Remember, Happy, Think About Me, Cerilene

77. Stone Temple Pilots– “Purple”

Released: June 7, 1994

Did you know STP had 7 singles hit #1 on the Billboard rock charts? Or that the band sold over 40 million records worldwide, making them one of the most successful bands of the 90’s?  Pretty good numbers for a disfunctional group whose lead singer was a hard-core heroin addict.  On the heels of the monster hit that was the single, “Plush”– STP came back with a second album that was probably better than anybody expected.  “Purple” debuted at #1 and sold over a million copies in just 4 months. Soon after that though, Weiland would get arrested for drugs for the first time which would lead to the band breaking up.  They got together again just a few months later and have broken up and gotten back together 27 times since then. Weiland is a pretty talented guy, you wonder what might have been.

Key songs: Vaseline, Interstate Love Song, Big Empty, Unglued, Pretty Penny

76. Martin Zellar– “The Many Moods of Martin Zellar”

Released: 1998

Kind of a weird title for a pretty unassuming guy. Yeah, we get it, you’re going to be doing some different things on here– of course it seemed like everything Zellar did was always tongue and cheek, so I’m sure this album title has something to do with Marty rolling his eyes at the industry. Some odd songs on this one, but some great songs too. You sort of get the sense that in “Freeze This Feeling” Marty knew his highest highs as a performer were probably behind him– but that he was ok with that and looked forward to simpler times. The guy had an outstanding pop sensibility and a one-of-a-kind voice.

Key songs: Blown Kisses, Time and Time Again, Freeze This Feeling, 1,000 Miles Away, All I Need

75. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers– “Into The Great Wide Open”

Released: July 2, 1991

Just sort of padding their stats on a Hall of Fame career here. The eighth studio album from the Heartbreakers was produced by ELO’s Jeff Lynne, who had produced TP’s hugely successful solo effort, “Full Moon Fever”.  The album received 4 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone and a B+ from the new pop culture magazine, “Entertainment Weekly”.  “Learning To Fly” hit number one on the alternative singles chart, tying  “The Waiting” for the longest number one song the Heartbreakers ever had.

Key songs: Learning To Fly, Into The Great Wide Open, Out In The Cold, You and I Will Meet Again, Two Gunslingers

74. The Lemonheads– “Car Button Cloth”

Released: October 15, 1996

Evan Dando had been the poster-child for the slacker/alternative/hipster rock of the early 90’s– he was even named as one of People’s 50’s sexiest people alive in 1993.  Crack and herion grabbed hold, however, and The Lemonheads disappeared as fast as they had hit the scene.  A couple of infamously horrific interviews where Dando couldn’t speak because he was so high and he very quickly lost his standing as “slacker sex-kitten”.  Dando rallied in 1996 though and re-formed the group with friends from both Dinasour Jr and .38 Special.  After this album and a succesful tour, Dando disappeared from the scene again and has only returned sporatically to minimal success.

Key songs: If I Could Talk, I’d Tell You, It’s All True, The Outdoor Type, Knoxville Girl, C’mon Daddy, Something’s Missing

73. Third Eye Blind– “Blue”

Released: November 23, 1999

Tough to follow up the staggering success of the first album, but this San Francisco band still sold about 1.5 million copies of “Blue” at a time when music was beginning to shift away from the “alternative” sound of the early half of the decade.  3EB will always be one of those bands you thought might have gone on to more popular success– but this second solid album has them solidly positioned as one of the better bands of their era.  Lead singer Stephen Jenkins has fashioned a pretty odd career– getting cast in a pretty prominent role in “Rock Star” opposite Mark Wahlberg– and also for picking several odd fights with Matchbox Twenty lead singer Rob Thomas through the media over the years. The bands both hit at relatively the same time and Jenkins seemed like he felt it was his duty to declare 3EB as the more legit band– and absurd argument that to my knowledge, Thomas has pretty much ignored. And enjoyed far more success.

Key songs: Anything, Faster, Never Let You Go, Wounded, 10 Days Late, Deep Inside of You

72. Oasis– “Definitely Maybe”

Released: August 30, 1994

Welcome to the world, Oasis. Are they popular in the UK? Well, they have a Guiness Book of World Records for “Longest Top 10 UK chart run by a Group”– with an astonishing 22 straight singles that have reached the top 10 in England.  This album entered the UK charts at #1 and was the fastest selling debut ever in the country.  It didn’t take long for the band’s “hedonistic” lifestyle to catch up with them, as they gave a legendarily horrible performance in Los Angeles, when lead singer Liam was on crystal meth– leading to the first of Noel’s departures (although this one was just a matter of hours).  Older brother Noel was not an original member of Oasis, but after seeing one of their early gigs, he decided they might be a good enough outlit for the tons of songs he had written and stored.  He joined the band only on the premise that he would be the sole song-writer and leader of the band.  Guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs says “we were just mucking about with 4 songs until Noel joined, and he just had loads of songs and ideas.”  Thus began the long and disfuncitional union of the Gallagher brothers– one with the words and the musical talent, the other with the golden voice. In America, this album only reached #58 on the charts, but it would go on to sell over 7.5 million copies world-wide.

Key songs: Supersonic, Live Forever, Shaker Maker, Cigarettes and Alcohol, Rock ‘N Roll Star, Slide Away.

71. Dave Matthews Band– “Crash”

Released: April 30, 1996

The second album is always the toughest…. the first one is worked on over a long period of time and if it hits, the world wants a second one and they want it fast. This Charlotte, Virginia jam band followed through– with an album that would end up selling over 7 million copies. One reviewer wrote, “the Matthews ensamble sounds even crisper on their solid follow-up and proves that their previous record wasn’t just an intriguing oddity.”  DMB sounded different than the “alternative” music of the time– more instruments, more free-wheeling and a South-African on vocals whose voice was just quirky enough to work.  “Crash Into Me” became the biggest single the group would have and was certainly one of the best singles of the decade.

Key songs: Crash Into Me, Tripping Billies, Proudest Monkey, Two Step, Say Goodbye

70. Sheryl Crow– “Sheryl Crow”

Released: September 24, 1996

For her second album Crow decided to tackle really simple themes: abortion, homelessness and nuclear war. The album became one of the first to be banned by Wal-Mart because one of the lyrics said that guns bought at Wal-Mart were too easily falling into the hands of children. The lead single, “If It Makes You Happy” became a monster hit and won Crow two Grammy awards. Three other songs off the album would become huge radio hits: “A Change Would Do You Good, Everyday Is a Winding Road” and “Home”– it was always weird to me that her best song ever, “Hard To Make a Stand” never made it to the radio. The album sold over 4 million copies in the US and received 4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and was listed at #39 on Entertainment Weekly’s list of the top 100 albums of the last 25 years.

Key songs: If It Makes You Happy, Everyday Is a Winding Road, Home, Hard To Make a Stand, Love Is A Good Thing

69. REM– “Monster”

Released: September 26, 1994

When the 90’s hit, “alternative” music hit with it and long-time college radio favorites, REM, was leading the charge.  REM released it’s two most successful commercial albums at the start of the decade– but with “Monster” they made a return to a more “rock” album. The record debuted at #1 in both the US and in England and sold over 9 million copies and contained the band’s last “top 40” American singles, “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth” and “Bang and Blame”. The album dealt with the nature of celebrity– Peter Buck saying, “all the characters on this album are really fucked up, I don’t know who they are, but they aren’t Michael.”

Key songs: What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?, Bang and Blame, Strange Currencies, Crush With Eyeliner, Star 69, I Took Your Name

68. The Wallflowers– “Bringing Down The Horse”

Released: May 21, 1996

Second album released four years after the very modest debut, “The Wallflowers”– the son of the legend hit it huge himself with this massive release in the summer of 1996. Album sold over 4 million copies and the single “One Headlight” reached #2 on the Billboard charts and was voted the video of the year for 1997 on VH-1 and Bruce Springsteen joined them to sing it live at the 1997 MTV Music Awards. Backed by Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, “6th Avenue Heartache” also cracked the top 40 chart.

Key songs: One Headlight, 6th Avenue Heartache, The Only Difference, Three Marlenas

67.  Goo Goo Dolls– “Superstar Car Wash”

Released: February 16, 1993

The fourth album from the Buffalo, NY threesome was a turning point that switched the band from a  struggling, punk/garage band to a more shiny, alternative band.  Johnny Rzeznik took over full-time singing duties from Robbie Takac. Takac has sung full-time on the first two albums and the two had split duties on the third album, with Rzeznik’s “There You Are” and “Two Days In February” becoming the band’s two most popular songs. With the release of “Superstar Car Wash” the Goo Goo Dolls quickly took on a critical label of “Replacements Wanna-bes”– which the band thought was fantastic– “that’s exactly what we were, actually”.  Rzeznik even reached out to his idol, Paul Westerberg, and the two co-wrote the biggest hit off of “Superstar”, “We Are The Normal”. The album got plenty of play on college and independent radio and was featured regularly on MTV’s “120 Minutes”. Superstardom was around the corner.

Key songs: We Are The Normal, Fallin’ Down, Lucky Star, Girl Right Next To Me, So Far Away

66. Rancid– “…And Out Came The Wolves”

Released: August 22, 1995

Along with fellow Bay Area groups Green Day and The Offspring, Rancid helped revive “punk rock” in the early to mid 90’s. It never mattered what kind of music it was– if it was good it would catch on, and this album was great. The album was named after the bevy of major record labels that began stalking the group after their successful 1994 release, “Let’s Go”– the title also being taken from the punk/poet Jim Carroll’s, “The Basketball Diaries”.

Key songs: Ruby Soho, Roots Radicals, Time Bomb, Maxwell Murder, Lock, Step and Gone

65. Bruce Springsteen– “Lucky Town”

Released: March 31, 1992

Springsteen released two different albums on the same day– one was really good, the other, not so much.  There was a whiff of dissatisfaction from the Springsteen fan base– his early work was a desperate plea for happiness, his middle work became a fear and dis-trust of happiness and then he moved to Los Angeles and wrote a couple of records about embracing happiness. He was always truthful in what he wrote about and these two albums came on the heels of his divorce from his first wife, actress/model Julianne Phillips, a union that never seemed to make sense to anybody. Though “Human Touch” sold more (on the strength of the single, “Human Touch”), “Lucky Town” was the better reviewed of the two and for my money was a far better album. Springsteen wanted to add one more tune to “Human Touch” which was done first, and ended up with 10 more songs, so he just decided to release both albums. Though they were both successful relatively speaking, they hit a “lull” in his career and were followed by his panned “MTV Unplugged” album and the shaky “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.  After stepping away for awhile, Springsteen would re-claim his spot as rock legend in the 2000’s. “Lucky Town” will always go down as one of the more underrated Springsteen albums.

Key songs: Better Days, Lucky Town, Local Hero, If I Should Fall Behind, My Beautiful Reward

64. Hole– “Live Through This”

Released: April 12, 1994

So did she have him killed? Released just 4 days after her husband was found dead, conspiracy theorists abound that Courtney Love had some involvement in the death of her husband, Kurt Cobain. Anyway, “Live Through This” became one of the best reviewed albums of the 90’s– was it pity? Was it deserved? It’s a great album, but probably not as great as it’s reviews, which make it very similar to “Nevermind”.  It sold over 2 million copies, a great success for the alternative genre. Just before the release of the album, the last song– “Rock Star” was taken off the album as it had many references to Nirvana and joked about the misconceptions of fame and that it might just be better to die. Then he died, so the song was taken off. The band followed this album with “Celebrity Skin” later in the decade, which was also a good album, but veered even more towards “pop” and away from the punk roots of the band. Love has gone on to lead a very normal life with healthy relationship with her daughter.

Key songs: Violet, Miss World, Doll Parts, Softer-Softest, Asking For It

63. Garth Brooks– “In Pieces”

Released: August 31, 1993

When it’s all said and done, nobody will have a more meteoric musical career than Garth Brooks. The dude absolutely owned an 8-year stretch and then he was gone and it was very quickly like he was never even there. Brooks sold nearly 70 million albums in that span, making him the biggest selling musical act in the sound-scan era (basically 1990 on)– outselling his nearest competitor, The Beatles, by 7 million. He hit at sort of a perfect time– 80’s music was dead and anybody 30 and over sort of felt like hopping on to the grunge and rap music was just too much work at that age. And what Brooks was selling wasn’t as much “Country” music as we knew it, it was more like 70’s AM radio music. The guy absolutely crushed it for a 7 album stretch and was voted the artist of the decade for Country music.

Key songs: Standing Outside The Fire, Ain’t Goin’ Down (Til the Sun Comes Up), The Red Strokes, Callin’ Baton Rouge, American Honky Tonk Bar Association

Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 6:55 pm  Comments (4)  

Ten Years After

by Bill

How about an ode to my CD collection?  I spent a lot of nights in the 90’s (like almost every Friday and Saturday) listening to tunes pre-bar, at the bar and post-bar.  I bought way, way, way too many cds– but our apartment on Calhoun had such a perfect place to line them all up right against the wall, 4 steps from the stereo and 7 steps from the booze. Good times.

It’s always a precarious pursuit to rank anything artistic– one person thinks “Friday Night Lights” is the best show on television and another thinks it’s “Lost”.  (The first person is right).  When it comes to music there is a small fringe who take it all way too seriously and there are those who don’t know the difference between Creed and Creedence Clearwater Revival.  And it really doesn’t matter one way or another.  When The Who played the Super Bowl this January I had one of my brothers call me and say that they were “the third best band ever”.  (If you don’t know who the first two are, just stop reading because this won’t interest you a lick.)  I did a spit take and then we argued about how far down “The Who” would be on my list. And it was fun– music is fun to argue about.  It’s fun for a million different reasons– and for me it was the most fun in the 1990’s during the pre-bar hours, where your friends would come over and have a few beers before heading off into the night.

I recently read where Tiger Woods was being scolded by counselors for going to “party” at a concert by his favorite band, Nickelback,  while his wife and children were in Sweden. Now there are several different things that are just wrong in that sentence, first and foremost a “counselor” (who, I assume, is in some sort of authoratative position in the re-hab of Tiger’s life), saying that Tiger was going to “party”?!?!?!? Who says that?!?!?  I had a fat, funny, dirtbally freind in high school who once asked me passing in the halls at school, “Are you going to party at the Cars concert tonight?”  He had a shit-eating grin on his face and was using the word “party” ironically– and this was 1982!

Of course I’m kidding, the most egregious thing in that sentence is that Tiger’s favorite band is Nickelback.  I guess that goes a little way in explaining his horrible taste in concubines.

Full disclosure: I kind of like Nickelback. Sure, I hate all their songs by the 200th time I’ve heard them on the radio (except, “Photograph”– love that tune!), but I actually like almost all of their songs, at least for a little while. And you have to swear to never tell anyone I said that and we are never to speak of it again.

So anyway, screw it… if Tiger Woods can go “party at Nickelback”, we are all free to talk about what we like and don’t like without shame.

And by the way, I answered that dude in the hallway by grinning back and saying, “I’m totally going to Shake It Up!” (It’s a Cars tune for you non-Cars fan nerds reading this).

Anyway, here’s one person’s list of the top albums of the 90’s– feel free to agree, disagree, rant and rave or add your own thoughts– but just remember, for those about to rock– I salute you.

(And Ten Years After was an awesome band– check out 1971’s “I’d Love To Change The World”– but I learned that post-bar, not pre-bar)

130.  Roxette—“Joyride”

Released: March 28, 1991

This album was like an official goodbye to the wuss-pop of the 80’s.  After the success of 1988’s “Look Sharp” (led by single, “Listen to Your Heart”) and the smash single “It Must Have Been Love” (two weeks at number one on the Billboard charts) from the “Pretty Woman” soundtrack—Roxette released “Joyride” in March of 1991.  It has sold over 11 million copies world-wide, but was the last big success for the band (4 cds since) and the single “Fading Like A Flower” was their last top 40 hit.

Key songs: Joyride, Fading Like A Flower (Roxette’s last top 10 hit), The Big L, Church of Your Heart, Perfect Day

129.  Ben Folds Five—“Whatever and Ever Amen”

Released: March 18, 1997

The album that introduced Ben Folds, out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina to the world.  A singer/piano player, the name of the first incarnation of the band was confusing as the group was actually just a trio—Folds and two studio musicians.  “Brick” took the radio by storm in the spring of 1997—and although it never charted in the US, five songs off the album hit the top 100 in England.  Folds described this band as “punk rock for sissies”—it was definitely out of place, it sounded different to anything else at the time.  The words were funny, intelligent and often profane. “Brick” is the story of Folds’ high school girlfriend getting an abortion.  The mainstream success of the song put off his cult following, who claimed he had sold out, and strayed from the “rockin’ piano guy”.  Folds has said the song gave him the confidence that he could make it as a musician—and that it couldn’t possibly be more authentic.  He’s gone on to much better albums and songs in the past decade, but it was still a very good debut.

Key songs: Brick, Songs For the Dumped, Kate, Battle of Who Could Care Less
128.  Big Head Todd and The Monsters– “Sister Sweetly”

Released: February 23, 1993
Denver band that gained a cult following for their energetic live shows in the early 90’s. Hit it big on the national scene after the release of “Sister Sweetly”, but really never again reached those heights on any of their following albums. It seemed like they played every outdoor show in the Twin Cities for a 3 year stretch. Album hit platinum about a year after it’s release, though it never cracked Billboard’s top 100 list.
Key songs: Bittersweet, Sister Sweetly, Broken Hearted Savior, Circle

127.  Belly—“Star”

Released: January 25, 1993

Tonya Donelly  (formerly of Throwing Muses and The Breeders), formed this band in 1991 and after a 1992 EP, released their first and most (only) successful album in early 1993.  Powered by #1 Alternative hit “Feed the Tree”, “Star” was nominated for three Grammys and “Feed the Tree” spent most of 1993 on MTV’s “Buzz Bin” playlist. Feed the Tree also made every compilation cassette tape I made that summer and was a staple in Champps alley.

Key songs: Feed the Tree, Gepetto, Someone to Die For, Slow Dog

126.  Sugar Ray—“14:59”

Released: January 12, 1999

After the summer of 1997’s massive hit, “Fly”—critics jumped all over Sugar Ray as a certain one-hit wonder—for one, “Fly” was really the only good song on their first effort and for two, Mark McGrath just seemed too smart (USC graduate), and too good looking to be a legit musician.  “14:59” was named as such as an answer to these critics—but nobody is really sure if they were saying, “yeah, we know, we get it, our 15 minutes is about up” or if they were saying “hey, we’re not going anywhere, there is still time on the clock for us.”   The latter seemed to be the case as “14:59” which went triple platinum and had two top five singles: “Every Morning” and “Someday”.  The group would release two more albums in the next decade to medium success before folding up shop as McGrath became the host of “Extra” for 4 years.  Sugar Ray returned to release a pretty decent album in 2009, even though it was scathed by critics. McGrath is set to return to TV as the host of “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” in the fall of 2010.

Key songs: Every Morning, Someday, Falls Apart, Live and Direct
125.  Duran Duran– “Duran Duran (The Wedding Album)”

Released: February 23, 1993

Well look who’s back from the dead. One of the first bands who shot to super-stardom because of MTV, Duran Duran had shot through the 80’s as superstars, but their time had come and gone.  Their last radio hit had been “Nortorious” in 1986. Pretty boy pop was dead and buried. The band hadn’t broken up, but were thinking of moving on, while still  putting songs together.  Then by accident, “Ordinary World” was leaked to radio stations and it hit like wildfire. (Maybe not as hard as “Hungry Like the Wolf”, but for a band that had been sent to the 80’s graveyard, it was a spectacular success). Listener demand forced that radio stations get the song into heavy rotation a month before the band had even planned on releasing it. Critics, radio stations and even the band themselves were stunned at it’s huge success. And then they followed it up. The second single, written by new guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, “Come Undone”, a seductive come on of a song also lit up the radio, rising to #7 on the Billboard charts. Though the album wouldn’t reach the ridiculous heights of their 80’s success (Rio was on the Billboard album charts for two and half years), the return to mainstream success was a second act rarely seen in the music world.
Key songs: Ordinary World, Come Undone, Femme Fatal, Too Much Information

124.  Fastball– “All The Pain Money Can Buy”

Released: March 10, 1998
Album sold over a million copies in just six months and stayed on Billboard’s top 200 album list for over a year. The Austin, Texas rockers had gained a huge local following in the music-savvy city and hit the big time with this record.  “The Way” was number one on Billboard’s Alternative charts for seven weeks and reached number 4 on Billboard’s top 40 chart.  The song was written after the lead singer had read about an elderly couple that was supposed to go to a large family reunion and hadn’t showed up– the band supposed that the couple had just hit the road and began reminiscing about all their times together.
Key songs: The Way, Fire Escape, Out of My Head

123.  Everclear—“Sparkle and Fade”

Released: May 23, 1995

Second album released and first major label release from the Portland, Oregon band—it started slowly with it’s first single, “Heroin Girl” getting a limited run on MTV. The band hit it big in the summer with the release of the second single, “Santa Monica” which got huge radio and MTV play—and boosted the album to a million copies sold—still only the 3rd biggest seller for the band.  It makes this list on the strength of the third single and best song the group ever had, “Heartspark Dollarsign” which was also a huge favorite at Champps.

Key songs: Heroin Girl, Santa Monica, Heartspark Dollarsign, You Make Me Feel Like a Whore

122.  Toad The Wet Sprocket—“Dulcinea”

Released: May 24, 1994

Dulcinea reached platinum (a million sold) status a year after it’s release on the strength of two songs that reached the top 40 on the Alternative chart: “Fall Down” and “Something’s Always Wrong”—but it makes this list for two other songs that I always loved: “Fly From Heaven” and one of my favorites from the 1990’s, “Crowing”.   None of the songs off Dulcinea had as much success as their 1991 singles “Walk On The Ocean” or “All I Want”, but neither of those songs were as good as “Fly From Heaven” or “Crowing” either.

Key songs: Fly From Heaven, Crowing, Fall Down, Something’s Always Wrong
121.  R.E.M.— “New Adventures In Hi-Fi”

Released: September 9, 1996
The last studio album released with founding member Bill Berry, “New Adventures In Hi-Fi” sold 5 million copies (far less than the previous 4 REM albums.  This was REM’s 10th studio album and the first since they had re-signed with Warner Bros. for a then-record 80 million dollars. Though the album was a bit of a departure for the band, it received critical raves, including the very rare 4.5 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone.  We saw the group play live at Midway Stadium in support of the record and they rocked it.
Key songs: E-Bow the Letter, Bittersweet Me, Leave, Be Mine, Electrolite
120.  Melissa Ethridge– “Yes I Am”

Released: September 21, 1993
Yes you are what? Melissa came out publicly in January of ’93 and has since been a staunch activist for gay rights. Ethridge famously had a baby with her partner and David Crosby’s sperm.  Her partner (that she had two children with) later decided that she wasn’t actually a lesbian and they separated.  “Come To My Window” is the best song Melissa has ever done and it won a Grammy for “Best Female Vocal”.
Key songs: Come To My Window, I’m The Only One, All American Girl, If I Wanted To
119.  Del Amitri– “Change Everything”

Released: June 9, 1992
Glasgow band that formed in 1980– this was their 4th album and by far their biggest seller– propelled by the top 40 hit, “Always the Last To Know”.  They played at Mill City music festival that summer and did a fine job. Nice to see a band that had been at it for so long finally have some success.
Key songs: Always the Last To Know, Be My Downfall Tonight, When You Were Young, Just Like A Man
118.  Beck– “Odelay”

Released: June 18, 1996

I know I’m supposed to like Beck a lot more than I do, but I can’t trick my ears into admitting that. Beck was fighting the one-hit wonder label on this album, trying to back up the sensation that was “Loser” in 1994. He succeeded. This album sold over 2 million copies, won two Grammys and was ranked #19 on Pitchfork’s “best album of the 90’s” and 305 on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 albums of all-time. Overrated, although I did find myself mumbling “two turn-tables and a microphone” a lot that summer.
Key songs: Devil’s Haircut, Where It’s At, The New Pollution, Jack-Ass
117.  Spin Doctors– “Pocket Full of Kryptonite”

Released: May 20, 1991
Correct, I just ranked the Spin Doctors ahead of Beck– oh the horror!  These guys got the Hootie and The Blowfish treatment about as fast as any band ever.  They went from “sweet” to “they’re kinda lame aren’t they?” to “OMG, they’re the worst band ever!” all in a span of about 2 months.  I still remember Robert DeNiro giving him the man-hug at the end of SNL in October of 1992, when they were still cool and DeNiro slapping his back and grinning and giving him the “you guys are cool, welcome to the hipster club” look. Yeah, didn’t last.  This was a great album and sold over 10 million copies world-wide.
Key songs: Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, Two Princes, How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me?), Jimmy Olsen’s Blues
116.  Soul Asylum– “And The Horse They Rode In On”

Released: September 4, 1990

The last one before fame and fortune. Though decidedly a step back from 1988’s “Hang Time” Dave and the boys still made a solid album.  It’s funny to think that poor sales and Dave’s burgeoning hearing problem had the band thinking of calling it a day in 1991. The band had continued to refine itself from the punk/speed rock that was “Loud Fast Rules”. Bigger and better days were just around the corner.
Key songs: Spinnin’, Brand New Shine, Easy Street, Grounded, We 3
115.  The La’s– “The La’s”

Released: 1991

Oh the strange and twisted world of Lee Mavers.  The band formed in 1983 and broke up in 1992 after releasing just this lone album– an album Mavers was unhappy with and never wanted released at all.  The band spent several years trying to make the perfect sound for the ultra-perfectionist Mavers who ended up just never being satisfied. One instance has Mavers rejecting a vintage mixing desk, claiming it didn’t have the right sound because, “it didn’t have original sixties dust on it”. Tortured genius/insane person? Certainly one of the very best pop songs ever recorded.
Key songs: There She Goes, Son of a Gun, Timeless Melody, Feeling
114.  Stone Temple Pilots– “Core”

Released: September 29, 1992


The New York Times review pretty much summed up what everyone was saying: “This San Diego band has jumped on the Seattle grunge bandwagon.” Imitators, imitators, imitators.  Whatever, Plush rocked it hard. Just a cool song, I don’t care if they were copying someone. The public didn’t seem to care what the critics thought– hey, it was a pretty damn good imitation and the record sold over 8 million copies and they won a Grammy and an American Music Award for the album. It gave Scott Weiland a lot more money to buy drugs.
Key songs: Plush, Creep, Sex Type Thing, Wicked Garden
113.  Old 97’s– “Fight Songs”

Released: April 27, 1999

The 4th album from Alt/Country, Austin, Texas heroes, the Old 97’s. Vaunted as a huge up-and-coming band in the 90’s the group never caught on nationally like most in the know thought they would. Their biggest claim to fame is probably that they were playing the show in Chicago where Vince Vaughn stood up Jennifer Anisten in “The Break Up”. Lead singer Rhett Miller has also received critical acclaim for his solo work, especially 2004’s “Instigator”. The band’s catalogue has been used extensively in television and movies.
Key songs: Murder (Or a Heart Attack), Jagged, Lonely Holiday, Valentine
112.  Toby Keith– “Toby Keith”

Released: April 20, 1993
Kind of a cliche not-so-rags to riches story. Keith graduated from high school in 1979 and immediately went to work in the booming oil fields in Oklahoma– becoming a project manager by the time he was 20. A guitar player since age 9, Keith also formed a band with a bunch of buddies, called “Easy Money” and they played the local country bars in Oklahoma. In 1982 the oil fields hit a stunning rapid decline and one day Keith found himself just another out of work dude in a band. He languished playing semi-pro football in Oklahoma and continuing to get gigs with his band. His friends and family were worried he was just wasting his time, but then Easy Money cut a single that starting getting some local radio play. Keith moved to Nashville in early 1993 and began busking and putting a demo tape in anybody’s hands that he could. No interest. Depressed and ready to pack it in, as he promised himself he’d have a recording contract by age 30 and that age had come and gone– fate stepped in. A flight attendant he knew and who liked his stuff gave a tape to a record exec on a flight and the guy liked what he heard, checked out Keith playing live and signed him. The record was fast-tracked and out in April. The first single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” became a number one hit and the most played country song of the 90’s. The album had two other songs make it to #2 and one to #5 on the country charts.
Key songs: Should’ve Been a Cowboy, A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action, Wish I Didn’t Know Now, He Ain’t Worth Missing

111.  Dr. Dre– “The Chronic”


Released: December 15, 1992
The album that brought rap to the mainstream. And it was hard-core gangsta rap. While N.W.A. was the beginning of the “West Coast” side of the great rap wars– with “Straight Out of Compton”– Dre had since began fueding with Ice Cube and primarily Eazy-E and the controversy surrounding “Fuck the Police” was probably too much for any group to withstand. All three would go on to become huge successes after N.W.A. broke up.  Dre called out Eazy-E on many of the tracks on The Chronic, ratcheting up the level of chest-puffing and name calling that would define the gangsta-rap wars.  Though Dre was a talented artist, nobody would ever contend that the success of “The Chronic” wasn’t because of his introduction to the world of the new voice of hip hop, Snoop Doggy Dogg. From the moment Snoop first opened his mouth on the record it was obvious a new star had been born. Snoop joining in to “Fuck Wit Dre Day” at the 1:30 mark, with “bow wow wow, yippy yo, yippy yay, doggy dog’s in the mother fucking house” is arguably the most famous line in the history of rap music.
Key songs: Nothin But a “G Thang”, Fuck Wit Dre Day, Let Me Ride
110.  Liz Phair– “whitechocolatespaceegg”


Released: August 11, 1998
Poor Liz Phair has been beat up by critics ever since her landmark, “Exile in Guyville” in 1993. Undeservedly so. Unfairly positioned as some sort of female music savior after that record, Phair had been disappointed by lackluster sales of both “Exile” and the follow-up, “Whip-Smart”. This album would do no better commercially, but would take Phair’s themes away from sex and relationships and turn towards marriage and motherhood. As far as under-appreciated albums from the 90’s go– this one is right up there. Again, lackluster sales would force Phair to change things up totally for her next album– when the divorce between Liz and the music-hipsters would become final.
Key songs: Perfect World, Polyester Bride, What Makes You Happy, Shitloads of Money
109.  Collective Soul– “Collective Soul”

Released: March 14, 1995


My two favorite songs from this jam-band rock outfit from Georgia oddly aren’t from this 1995 album: “Shine” from 1993 and “Run” from 1999.  Off the number-one hit success of “Shine”, big things were expected from the group for their follow-up effort and they certainly came through. Rolling Stone gave a positive three star review and referred to lead singer Ed Rowland’s “flair for McCartneyesque melodic detail.  The album sold over 3 million copies and remained on Billboard’s hot 200 list for a year and a half.
Key songs: The World I Know, Gel, December, Where The River Flows, Smashing Young Man
108.  The Billy’s– “Roses and Flowers and Plants”

Released: 1994

Alt/Country band from the Twin Cities that turned out three great albums in the 90’s. The obvious comparison is the Gear Daddies– a bit of a twang to the sound, but just good, solid rock n’ roll. Saw them play at the Cabooze many times and they always put on a great show with some great cover songs thrown in for fun. Radio: “Suns up, got my windows down… Blue Oyster Cult says they’re burning for me… I stop at my favorite SA, cola for me, for my car… gasoline… she’s over there blah blah blah, I’m checking out her Nirvana tee… whistling “Teen Spirit” real loud so she’ll hear… looking at her now….she’s looking at me”– awesomely fantastic lyrics. Best band name ever.
Key songs: Sometime, Radio, Another Winner, Phone to Anywhere, Last of Me


107.  Green Day– “Nimrod”

Released: October 14, 1997

The Bay-Area punkers 5th album of the 90’s was arguably their weakest, but it could be expected from a band that had gone a million miles an hour for a decade.  Nimrod certainly was a change of pace from the ultra-fast, in-your face sound of all their earlier work, though it did have it’s share of “punk” songs.  Common theory is that the song was Green Day saying goodbye to their fanbase that only wanted the hard-core punk style– and that isn’t the case at all– the song was actually written in 1994, just after Dookie came out and they released another whole album before putting Time of Your Life on a record. Billy Joe Armstrong wrote it about a girl he had just broken up with as she was moving to Ecuador.. “the song was kind of a bon voyage to her… I tried to make it not so bitter, but I think it’s pretty bitter anyway”– bitter or not, it’s one of the top 20 songs of the decade.
Key songs: Nice Guys Finish Last, Hitchin’ A Ride, The Grinch, Redundant, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
106.  Garbage– “Garbage”

Released: August 15, 1995


Three wanna-be rockers from Madison, Wisconsin held auditions to find a lead singer and in 1994 gave the job to Scotland born Shirley Manson. Nobody could have predicted the off-the-charts success the band would get with it’s first album following that auspicious start. Rolling Stone gave it 4 out of 5 stars and All Music gave it 5 out of 5. The album would go multi-platinum and the band would be up for the “Best New Artist” Grammy.  “Stupid Girl” would get nominated for two Grammys. The band would release two more decent albums in the 90’s before hitting another home run with 2005’s “Bleed Like Me”. Rumors have them currently working on another album.
Key songs: Vow, Stupid Girl, Only Happy When It Rains, Supervixen, Queer, Milk


105.  Crash Test Dummies– “God Shuffled His Feet”

Released: October 26, 1993


If nothing else, you have to admit they had a unique, interesting sound. Lead singer Brad Roberts sounds as if he’d been living in a cave for 200 years. “Alternative” radio gave the Dummies their place to be heard and the first single, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” got immediately put into heavy rotation upon it’s release. Oddly in the band’s home country of Canada (where they were cult faves) the song only got as high as #14 on the charts, while it reached #4 in the US, #2 in England and #1 in Australia.  The album ended up selling 5.5 million copies and was nominated for 3 Grammys.
Key songs: Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, God Shuffled His Feet, Afternoons & Coffee Spoons, Swimming In Your Ocean
104.  Rage Against The Machine– “The Battle of Los Angeles”

Released: October 19, 1999
The alt/punk/hip-hop/metal band from Los Angeles released their third album in 1999 to rave reviews: 4 stars from Rolling Stone and Allmusic and 9 out of 10 from Spin and both Rolling Stone and Time Magazine voted it the number one album of 1999. It’s debut at number one on the Billboard charts came as a huge shock as Mariah Carey’s “Rainbows” was released on the same day. Rock beat wuss. I didn’t think RATM could release a tougher song than 1997’s “Bulls on Parade”, but I think they did with “Guerilla Radio”. Both Guerilla Radio and Testify are featured in the game “Rock Band”.
Key songs: Guerilla Radio, Calm Like a Bomb, Sleep Now In the Fire, Testify
103.  Soul Coughing– “Irresistable Bliss”

Released: July 9, 1996
Described by a critic as “one of the most unique cult bands of the 90’s, driven by Mike Doughty’s stream-of-consciousness poetry”. Doughty had attended Eugene Lang College with Ani DiFranco and out of college considered himself a “slam poet” and sometime musician. Yawn. Soul Coughing never reached a wide audience and was left for music hipsters to call their own. Since their breakup in 2000, Doughty has gone on to far more success as a solo artist.
Key songs: Super Bon Bon, Soundtrack to Mary, White Girl, Soft Serve

102.  No Doubt– “Tragic Kingdom”

Released: October 10, 1995
The world had been waiting for next superstar rock chick– Liz Phair seemed poised, but got caught up in the music hipster/real world trap. Then “Just a Girl” hit the radio and MTV and we had our star. No Doubt was nominated for two Grammys for their first album and by the end of the next year half of the songs off of “Tragic Kingdom” had been released as singles and it had sold over 9 million copies– a world wide total that would reach over 19 million sold. The world was Gwen’s for the taking… and she took it.
Key songs: Just a Girl, Spiderwebs, Don’t Speak, Excuse Me Mr, Sunday Morning
101.  The Replacements– “All Shook Down”

Released: September 21, 1990
No way in hell I was putting a Mats album outside the top 100.  (whoops, I just did after an edit) After a decade where the Minneapolis anti-heroes had 5 albums in the top 75, this was the last gasp from the legendary band. Originally scheduled to be lead singer Paul Westerberg’s first solo album, the record is definitely a different vibe than all previous Mats recordings. Tommy Stinson appears on most of the songs, but Chris Mars and Slim Dunlap are only on a couple of songs each. Mars officially left the band just a month after the release of the album. While “Merry Go Round” reached number one on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart, the album was probably best defined by “Someone Take The Wheel”.  It’s a fitting end to a band that never really found out how high they could go– because they truly didn’t care.
Key songs: Merry Go Round, Nobody, Sadly Beautiful, Someone Take The Wheel, All Shook Down
100.  Tina and The B-Sides– “Young Americans”

Released: 1992
One reviewer wrote, “A white soul singer from a Minneapolis suburb? Don’t Laugh.”  Another wrote, “If Melissa Ethridge and Mick Jagger had a baby, it would have been Tina Schlieske.” The Apple Valley High School grad took the Twin Cities music scene by storm in the early 90’s with an awesome live show that was reviewed as “an explosive mix of rock and booze that comes to a crescendo during “Politics Polka”. What started out as a niche band for artists and lesbians quickly spread to anybody who liked great rock ‘n roll. Huge things were expected of the band after this phenomenal debut record, but alas, like thousands of bands before them, the B-Sides never could find a foothold in the great big world. You’ve seen some of the staggering sales numbers for the records on this list– Young Americans sold just over 20,000 copies.
Key songs: Young Americans, Blue Sky, Satisfy, Shine Your Light, Politics Polka
99.  Radiohead– “OK Computer”

Released: June 16, 1997
Any music hipster would scoff at ranking this “landmark album of the 90’s” so low on any sort of compilation list. Every music critic in the world has it ranked in at least the top 10 of the decade. It’s just a little weird for me. I liked “Creep” a lot from 1992, but once the band went all “experimental” they lost me a little bit (I fully understand why all that “experimentation” is why critics all have them in the top 10 bands of all-time at this point, it’s just not my cup of tea). Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of their songs a lot (as compared to say My Bloody Valentine, who’s album from 1991 is also on everyone’s ten best of the 1990’s– hate, hate, hate it). I like the Radiohead songs I like, but all the other ones just sort of sound like a spaceship taking off or landing to me. Weirdo music for aliens (which makes sense because so much of their music is about alienation).
Key songs: Paranoid Android, Exit Music, Karma Police, No Surprises
98.  Sheryl Crow– “Tuesday Night Music Club”

Released: August 3, 1993
Ahh, the summer of 1993. Sheryl Crow toured as a backup singer with Michael Jackson for his “Bad” tour from 1987-89, and often took the female lead in “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”. After several stops and starts as a solo performer, Crow exploded onto the music scene like few female artists ever had after the release of “Tuesday Night Music Club”.  The album sold over 7 million copies and won Crow 3 Grammys: Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Female Vocal Performance. Crow is most famous for wearing a Southwest Hockey Letter Jacket in a huge photo in the LA Times.
Key songs: All I Wanna Do, Leaving Las Vegas, Run Baby Run, Strong Enough, Can’t Cry Anymore
97.  Red Hot Chili Peppers– “Blood Sugar Sex Magic”

Released: September 24, 1991
RHCP’s fifth studio album was the first produced by Rick Rubin (all their subsequent albums have been as well) and it’s sort of a line in the sand for Peppers fans. The hard-core freaky music fans point to this as when the band “sold out”– the rest of the world points to this as when the band got good (or even listenable). The album took an underground weirdo band and exploded them on to the world stage. It sold over 13 million copies and the first single, “Give It Away” won a Grammy for best hard rock perfomence and the second single, “Under The Bridge” rose all the way up to #2 on the Billboard charts, still the highest a Chili Peppers song has ever got. A Grammy and a a top 10 hit? The hardcore fans were abashed, as was lead guitarist John Frusciante who left the band mid-tour in 1992 and spiraled into heroin addiction. Frusciante would re-join and quit the band again several times. The Chili Peppers are on odd bunch, but to their credit they took fame and fortune in stride and never really changed who they were. They aged, obviously, but that crazy, “who gives a fuck” attitude had never really left the band.
Key songs: Give It Away, Under The Bridge, Suck My Kiss, Breaking the Girl, If You Have to Ask
96.  Martin Zellar & The Hardways– “Martin Zellar & The Hardways”

Released: August, 1996
After releasing a strictly solo album in 1995, Zellar came back in 1996 with the backing group The Hardways. From one of the pioneering bands of alt/country that teetered on breakthrough success (The Letterman Show), the Gear Daddies front man seemed to settle in as a medium level singer/songwriter. From Austin, MN to Mpls, to Austin, TX, back to MN and now to Mexico, Zellar’s rock n’ roll growl and intelligent/whimsical take on the world around him have kept him a relevant, likable artist. My favorite song of this album is “We Were Young”, which Zellar calls his “fall asleep song”, saying “you remember in high school when you’d rush home and throw the headphones on and listen to some album you loved and there was always that song that you’d fall asleep to? I want to have a song like that.” “We were young the sky was grey, I remember you that way… I remember you that way.” It’s one of his best songs.
Key songs: Haunt My Dreams, Ten Year Coin, I Can’t Believe, Hammer’s Gonna Fall, George and Tammy, We Were Young
95.  Nirvana– “In Utero”

Released:  September 13, 1993
Yeah, number 94, wow, right? Kurt Cobain tried to write an album that people would hate. The monster success of “Nevermind” freaked out, confused, tortured (pick your verb) Cobain and would ultimately lead to his suicide. He hated being successful, popular, rich. In his eyes success was everything he railed against in his songs. As Chuck Klosterman brilliantly writes in “Eating The Dinosaur”: “In Utero was the first album actively promoted as a product I needed to buy because I wasn’t going to like it. The wanting and the hating were somehow related.” And that was “In Utero” in two sentences. Klosterman continues to write: “Nirvana (or at least Cobain, and possibly bassist Krist Novoselic) could not reconcile the dissonance between mass success and artistic merit; interestingly, they assumed combining mass success with dissonance was the only way to salvage any merit at all. Well, “In Utero” was huge, so in a way Cobain had massively failed. No wonder he killed himself.
Key songs: Heart Shaped Box, Rape Me, Dumb, Pennyroyal Tea, All Apologies
94.  Tim Mahoney– “Mr. Fancy”

Released: 1995
Yes, I’m being ironical placing Mahoney one spot higher than a Nirvana album. Maybe the ghost of Cobain will come to fight me, or at least smash a guitar over my head. I don’t know Mr. Mahoney personally and I always liked his music (obviously with this ranking), but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a local act who looked like they wanted fame and fortune more than he did. He almost begged you to like him– and almost everybody did, but he just lacked a certain something needed for massive success. A friend once said of him, “yeah, I like him, he’s great…. kind of like a girlier version of Pat Benatar”. Kudos to Mahoney for making a living doing what he loves to do– and this was a fantastic album.
Key songs: Mr. Fancy, Talk to Me, Lay Down Low, Been Here Before, Particular Place, Come On Home, One Down
93.  Counting Crows– “Recovering The Satellites”

Released: October 14, 1996
The hardest thing to do in music is follow up an A+ debut. Going from nobodies to as-big-as-it-gets can take it’s toll, especially on somebody as insecure as Adam Duritz, who reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown in the year after they hit it big. Many of the songs on their second album took this quandry on straight away: “These days I feel like I’m fading away/like when I hear myself on the radio” from “Have You Seen Me Lately?”… The band struggled, like all bands do, to follow up such a massively successful debut. Second albums that follow monster hits are almost always pounced on by critics, but not so here– Rolling Stone gave it 4 out of 5 stars and it sold over 2 million copies.

Key songs: Angel of the Silences, Daylight Fading, Have You Seen Me Lately?, A Long December
92.  The Cranberries– “Everyone Else is Doing It, Why Can’t We?”

Released: March 1, 1993
The foursome from Ballynanty, Limerick, Ireland didn’t exactly come roaring on to the scene– as the album didn’t really take off until the year after it’s release. Both “Dreams” and “Linger” were released as singles in 1993 and neither one did very well– until MTV started putting the video for “Dreams” into heavy rotation. Then, boom, over 5 million copies sold in the US. The band would go on to chart 8 top 20 singles on the Modern Rock Billboard charts in the decade, the best of which was “Ode To My Family”, the first single off their second album, “No Need to Argue”.
Key songs: Dreams, Linger, I Still Do, How
91.  Johnny Clueless– “Too Late, Too Loud”


Released: 1996
The penultimate album from the Twin Cities group that had a pretty massive run in the mid-90’s for a local band. The group always struggled to match the care-free, pop style of their debut and their attempts at more serious songs never matched their first album. Like a zillion bands before them, the initial blast of rocking shows and a great first album would fade. The addition of Scott Miller on guitar after the first album took the band in a “let’s make it big” mode, rather than the chaotic fun of the first album. Nobody would have ever guessed in 1996 that of the bands successfully working the Twin Cities circuit: Clueless, Tim Mahoney, Tina, GB Leighton, The Billys, The Honeydogs, Scott Laurent Band…. that the one to break through to stardom would be Lifter Puller.
Key songs: Laughing and Crying, Everything, The Crawl, All She Ever Wanted, Falling Uphill
90.  The Juliana Hatfield Three– “Become What You Are”

Released: August 3, 1993
The former lead singer of the Boston band, The Blake Babies, went out on her own in the early 90’s and hit huge success with this second album as The Juliana Hatfield Three. “My Sister” became the biggest hit of Hatfield’s career, reaching #1 on the Modern Rock charts. “Spin the Bottle” was used on the soundtrack to the alt/slacker movie of the era, “Reality Bites”. Though she’d never again reach the heights of this album, Hatfield was invited on the first ever “Lileth Fair” tour in 1997 where women with hairy armpits would drink boxes of wine and talk about sports.
Key songs: My Sister, Spin the Bottle, Super Model, Addicted
89.  The Dixie Chicks– “Wide Open Spaces”

Released: January 27, 1998
The country/bluegrass band was languishing as just a semi-popular local act in Texas and Nashville until a session player, steel guitarist Lloyd Maines gave the group an audition tape of his daughter singing– a demo tape that had landed her a music scholarship to the Berklee College of Music. Vocalist and stand up bass player Laura Lynch was eventually replaced by Maines. The Erwin sisters claim that Lynch was getting ready to leave the band anyway to be more of a stay-at-home mom– Lynch counters that it wasn’t a resignation at all and that she cried every day for 6 months after her dismissal. Bottom line: she wasn’t good enough and the new girl was. Within the next year, Sony reps came to Austin to see the re-formed group and signed them immediately. Was the new group a success? In 1998, “Wide Open Spaces” sold more copies (over 12 million) than all other country acts combined.
Key songs: Wide Open Spaces, There’s Your Trouble, I Can Love You Better, You Were Mine

88.  10,000 Maniacs– “Our Time In Eden”

Released: September 29, 1992
The band was formed in 1981 in Jamestown, NY– the four piece band invited a 17-year old Natalie Merchant on to do some vocals. The band had two hugely popular albums in the late 80’s (In My Tribe and Blind Man’s Zoo) and then really hit the big time with their first 90’s release, “Our Time In Eden”. The album would receive the rare 4 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone and 4.5 stars out of 5 from AllMusic. On August 5, 1993 Merchant announced on MTV that she would be leaving the band to pursue a solo career and later that month the band performed on MTV’s “Unplugged” which would also be a hugely popular album– led by the group’s cover of “Because The Night”. Once Merchant left the band they, or she, would ever reach such popularity again.
Key songs: These Are Days, Noah’s Dove, Stockton Gala Days, Candy Everybody Wants, Few and Far Between, I’m Not The Man
87.  Shania Twain– “Come On Over”

Released: November 4, 1997
The biggest selling album of all-time for a female artist and the biggest selling country album of all-time– the 8th biggest selling album of all-time in the United States. And here’s a weird fact: it never hit number one on the album charts. But it stayed and stayed and stayed on the charts for over 2 years and eventually sold over 34 million copies. 4 Grammys and one of the biggest country singles ever recorded, “You’re Still the One”. The album had 12, yup twelve!, singles released.
Key songs: You’re Still The One, Come On Over, Man! I Feel Like a Woman, Don’t Be Stupid, From This Moment On, That Don’t Impress Me Much
86.  Live– “Secret Samadhi”

Released: February 18, 1997
Because of the massive success of it’s predecessor, the album debuted at number one on the album chart and ended up selling over 2 million copies, but didn’t come near the success of their first album. Having said that, it ultimately became one of the more underrated albums of the decade– as the tepid reviews were certainly a backlash to first album’s success. This album rocks.
Key songs: Lakini’s Juice, Century, Rattlesnake, Turn My Head, Graze, Freaks
85.  Liz Phair– “Whip-Smart”

Released: September 20, 1994
How does one follow one of the most beloved female albums ever recorded??? Wearing the mantle of “coolest chick in rock” proved to be an unfair and unsustainable position– although being the coolest in anything for any amount of time is far more than 99.999999 will ever achieve. This album rode the wave of that lofty status and the first single “Supernova” hit the top 10 on the alternative chart. Rolling Stone put her on the cover and tagged it, “A Rock Star Is Born”. Ultimately she didn’t become the Bob Dylan of female rockers and a lot of her early hard-core fans screamed “sell out” by the mid-90’s. Ultimately she’s put together an interesting career with a ton of great songs.
Key songs: Supernova, Whip-Smart, May Queen, Jealousy
84.  Nirvana– “Unplugged In New York”

Released: November 1, 1994
MTV did a lot of “Unplugged” shows in the 90’s, but this was by far the most popular one. Nirvana did the show on November 18, 1993 and only performed two of their hits, “Come As You Are” and “All Apologies”. Dave Grohl said later about the show, “we knew we weren’t going to do Teen Spirit, that would have been horrendously stupid”. The high point of the show (or at least the biggest hit), was covering David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World”. The last song they did was Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”– after which the show’s producer tried to get them to do an encore, but Cobain said, “no, there’s no way I can top that”. It was just over 5 months later that Cobain was found dead, on April 8, 1994 by an electrician installing surveillance cameras at his home. Medical examiners said Cobain died of a gunshot wound the the head on April 5. High amounts of heroin and valium were found in his system.
Key songs: The Man Who Sold The World, About A Girl, Come As You Are, Lake of Fire, All Apologies, Where Did You Sleep Last Night
83.  Johnny Clueless– “Secrets of the Universe”

Released: 1995
The second effort from the St. Cloud State band, an EP that was the first release with new guitarist Scott Miller.  The band was selling out it’s usual haunts in the Twin Cities and in St. Cloud, most notably at the Cabooze and at The Red Carpet. “Back Where You Belong” ended up getting a lot of radio play in the Twin Cities in the summer of 1995, but unfortunately would be the last song of theirs heard much on the radio. There’s a thousand reasons this band should have made it bigger and a thousand reasons why they didn’t. Their live shows were always a good time though.
Key songs: A Thousand Wishes, Back Where You Belong, Leave at Three, Typical Talk
82. Barenaked Ladies– “Stunt”

Released: July 7, 1998
Barenaked Ladies had become cult faves and stars in their native Canada when they first made their big imprint on US pop culture: playing the Peach Pit on the April 2, 1997 episode of “90210”. The band played, “The Old Apartment”, “Life in a Nutshell”, and “Brian Wilson” and the appearance helped the band pick up steam– leading to the huge success of their live album, “Rock Spectacle” in the summer of 1997. “Stunt” was by far the largest selling album of BNL’s career, selling over 4 million copies and charting a number one single, “One Week”. The band would never again hit those heights, releasing a couple of mildly successful albums in the 2000’s. In 2009, founding member Steven Page (the fat one with the glasses), announced he was leaving the band.
Key songs: One Week, It’s All Been Done, Call and Answer, I’ll Be That Girl, Alcohol
81.  Radiohead– “The Bends”

Released: March 13, 1995
Following the delayed success of “Pablo Honey” and the single, “Creep” (neither of which hit at first– critics all dismissed Radiohead as a “grunge-lite” band– oddly enough it was when “Creep” became a club hit in Israel that set things in motion for it and the album to take hold elsewhere– with the delayed reaction to the album, the band found itself touring in support of an album that was over two years old– it was no wonder it sounded like a whole different band by the time “The Bends” came out in 1995. Dense riffs and “ethereal atmospheres” populated the new Radiohead sound and it was met with rave reviews from critics. The album didn’t sell as well as Pablo Honey had (after the delayed success), but at the end of the year “The Bends” was on everyone’s “best of” lists for albums– from there the band has never looked back.
Key songs: Fake Plastic Trees, High and Dry, Just, Street Spirit (Fade Out)

MORE TO COME…. LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS!!!!

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 11:47 pm  Comments (3)  

Is This Heaven? No, It’s The Warehouse District

the following appears in the latest edition of Minnesota Score Magazine

by Bill

My friend jumped high in the air and smashed out a bulb just for the hell of it.  It was late September in 1981 and we were in a concourse, leaving Metropolitan Stadium after another Twins loss.  With no help from my buddy, the lights would go out for good on Major League outdoor baseball in Minnesota after a rainy day loss to the Royals a week or two later.

The stadium had become a rickety old mess by then—too many Twins, Vikings and Kicks games with too many young adults who had gassed up more than just the car on the way to the Met parking lot.  As much of a mess that the stadium was by then, the product on the field was even worse.  The Twins of 1981 were flat-out horrible.  Timberwolves horrible.   Put it this way: their best stretch of the season was from June 12 to July 31 when they were a .500 team.  They finished their last season of outdoor baseball 27 games south of .500.  I should probably note here that no games were played between June 12 and July 31 that year because of a player strike.

It wasn’t just the terrible record that made this team so bad– their stats were shockingly awful: In the 110 games the Twins played that year, Roy Smalley led the team with 7 homers.  I know for some of you reading this  1981 was an eternity ago, but trust me, this was not the dead ball era.  So wait– they must have been a hit-and-run type of team, right?  Um, well… John Castino’s whopping .268 average led the team.  Mickey Hatcher,  (who for the uninitiated, always looked like a softball player who’d won a contest to play in a big-league game—a  softball player who’d just gunned a bottle of Wild Turkey), led the team with 37 RBI’s. 

But it wasn’t just the terrible record and the miserable stats that made that team so bad—no, it was the way they lost all those games that made them special.  My two favorite headlines from the Minneapolis Tribune from that inglorious season were these: “Jackson Slaps Fan, Twins Lose” and “Hidden Ball Trick Helps A’s Beat Twins”.  It was a team who’s lineup was led by Ron “Papa-Up” Jackson and a pitching staff that included young Terry Felton, who’s 0-3 record on the year was the beginning of a record-setting  0-16 career mark.

That’s what you get when you have an old racist owner who felt that professional baseball players should be paid on par with the stoned greaser who filled the gas tank on your 1979 AMC Pacer.  That’s what you get when you start the season with a manager (Johnny Goryl) who was a lifetime .225 hitter and replace him with a manager who lived at a Super 8 motel (Billy Gardner).  And, for this high-school sophomore,  that’s what you get when you trade Bombo Rivera a month before the season starts.

It was a stupid team in perhaps baseball’s stupidest year.  The strike caused a “split-season” that ended up having the two teams with the best overall divisional records in the National League, the Reds and the Cardinals, not making the playoffs and in the American League, the Royals making the playoffs with an overall record of 50-53.  To top it all off, “Endless Love” by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross was the number one song on the radio for nine straight weeks that August and September….maybe my friend was punching out that light bulb for all baseball fans everywhere.

But like any Major League Baseball season, there was something for Twins fans to hang their hats on: the September call-ups included Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti and Tim Laudner—who would all go on to help lead the Dome-era Twins to two World Championships.

It’s now 29 years later and it’s back outside—to Target Field we go.

“I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” –Walt Whitman

Play ball!

Published in: on April 12, 2010 at 5:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

So far, This Season Gets a Bronze

I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room. I’ve been trying to avoid it because of all the reasons everyone avoids elephants in the room; thinking about it fills me with anxiety and makes my butt-cheeks clench.

Let’s talk American Idol.

Look, I think we can all agree that last season was gonna be tough to beat; there was just so much talent. Matt Girard came in 5th place last year, and he could’ve beaten this year’s field with that hideous mole on his forehead tied behind his back. Yes, Google the Monster was terrible. But that’s a post for a different day. What I’m  trying to say is, this year is about as exciting as watching Apolo Ohno win a bunch of bronze medals. It’s better than no medals, but barely.

OK. Soooo, trying to put last year aside and simply focus on this group, here are my rankings of the remaining eleven contestants:

11. Tim Urban. Good gravy. How did this kid get into the top 12?? Let us forget for a moment his terrible haircut, the look on his face like he’s constantly about to burst into tears, his simpering smile and just discuss his voice.

Moving on.

10. Paige something-or-other. Sorry, I don’t know her last name. What I do know is she has a fondness for wearing shorts with tights and I find her eyes scary, like one of those blue people from that one movie. This week she was dressed like an Australian zookeeper. She sang like one, too.

9. Katie Stevens. UGH. I know it’s not really OK to pick on someone who is so young, but she has this attitude that she’s the bomb, and she isn’t.

8. That tall goof with the hair. The one who can’t sing very well.

7. The love-child of David Archuleta and Clay Aiken. He seems like a nice kid, he’s all sweet and aw-shucksy, which I admit, I fall for just like everyone else. But he’s not a great singer. 

6. Fat Danny Gokey, otherwise known as Latino Danny Gokey.  He’s fine. I like him, he seems cool and he has that hard-scrabble background which is always compelling, but he’s getting dull.

5. Michael Lynche. Everyone loves him. What am I missing?  He’s so cartoonish-looking, he’s like watching a bloated parade float dance. How will he keep his physique gigantic without his ‘roids, though? Every week, expect his arms to get smaller and his voice to join them. I’m just saying what everyone else is thinking. 

5.(tie) Siobahn Magnus. Yep, she’s quirky! Everyone loves her, too. I think she  sounds like she’s singing right through her nose. The screams are cool, I dig, it’s the rest I can do without.

3. Didi something. I actually think she improves every week. She’s also super pretty, which as Kris Allen can tell you, counts for a lot.

2. Lee something-spelled-crazily-that-I don’t-feel-like googling. Sometimes he sounds awful, but sometimes he sounds really great. He sang a Hinder song a few weeks ago, the worst song ever recorded in the history of the world, and that bugged me. I do like how shifty he always looks,  like he just stole something backstage.

1. Crystal-meth-teeth Bowersox. By far the best. I loved her dad this week, too. Very sweet.

0. Ellen. What a bust she’s turning out to be. She has so far said exactly no funny things. 

-1. The fact that Kara and Simon are obviously doing it. Hey Kara and Simon, you are making everyone uncomfortable! Stop with the eye-you-know-whating.

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm  Comments (3)