Last but one – those just outside the top twenty.
Countdown: 1990s: Tracks: 40-21
To recap: 200 it is, simply as I have far too much to even try and cull it further. There are things missing, I’m sure – I’ll have committed a cardinal sin somewhere and have neglected one of my favourite bands, no doubt! – but then there a few deliberately missing as it will be easier to deal with them in the albums list, as I simply cannot pick a particular song.
[Note: This was initially written in 2009, and has been left “as is”. I’ve considered changing it and updating it, but at least for now I’m not touching it.]
Man on the Moon
Automatic for the People
Ironic that from their darkest, bleakest (and most critically popular) album would come R.E.M.’s most joyous, uplifting song of all – this tender tribute to Andy Kaufman should perhaps be sad, but instead it’s euphoric – and not to mention, has a brilliantly silly Elvis impersonation, too…
For those of us who were fans of Curve from some time before 1997 or so – i.e. their shoegaze-y days – their transition into female-fronted industrial was a little bit of shock, notwithstanding the NIN-esque textures that Cuckoo introduced. No, not even that could have prepared us for Chinese Burn, a monstrously loud industrial track that was a quite spectacular change of direction – and resurrected a near-forgotten band, too…
The Crow OST
The greatest moment of a brilliantly diverse soundtrack, this was written specifically for the film, and for me is one of the best songs The Cure ever wrote – the pitch black darkness and desperation of the song matches the rainy environment of the film perfectly, and it’s also a near-perfect encompassing of everything that was so great about The Cure musically.
Burn Out at the Hydrogen Bar
Ah, the golden era of “machine rock”, or “coldwave”, if you prefer. Either way, this is back from the earlier days of industrial rock, when rock acts first were trying to bring together synth programming with a traditional rock structure, and indeed vice versa. Jared Louche’s Chemlab seem to have been around for ever, notwithstanding the odd break in service, but this is one of their earlier songs, and still probably their best – it’s not quite rock, not quite industrial, but either way it’s great, and Jared’s somewhat cryptic lyrics – while still being anthemic – make it even better.
The first sign that PSI were changing from their Godflesh-influenced grind into something more radically different was this track – the quasi-drum’n’bass beat, the sheets of guitar riffs raining down, and the more melodic vocals. Even so, we are talking a matter of degrees here, and this was considerably more abrasive still than the material that gained them so much success subsequently…
Strapping Young Lad
Oh My Fucking God
Really, how does he do it? Producing album after album of wildly inventive, chaotic metal that is always, without fail, of interest. Particularly the material from this album, where Devin Townsend really hit paydirt. Apparently this track in particular was inspired by a particularly intense acid trip, or something like, and the sense of humour along with the astonishing musicianship on display are what makes this track so fantastic (and yes, this track is better than Detox).
Back in the days pre-Nu Metal, Rap Metal was for a while actually pretty good. It all seems so long ago, of course, but back then there were a few bands willing to mix politics and incendiary music in a big way, too. I’ve already covered Rage, but for some reason I always come back to Senser – and in particular this track – first. Hidden away at the tail end of Stacked Up, this always seemed like the forgotten single from the album, despite it being miles better than both Age of Panic and Switch. Each to their own, I guess. Back to this track – a searing, rampaging beast, with Heitham Al-Sayed’s machine-gun-fire rapping matching more perfectly than ever with co-vocalist Kerstin Haigh’s more melodic chorus, and lyrics suggesting a way of life where you find your own path. Being sixteen when I first heard this, it made a lot of sense.
The opening track to the industrial titan’s last album, reputedly the lyrics were recorded in one furious take at the end of the album sessions – and they dovetail perfectly with the bruising, low-end roar of the music – a thunderous wall of drum’n’bass, well, mostly bass, frankly, that still terrorizes dancefloors now.
Yeah, they might be derided as another band riding on the coattails of NIN or whoever, but I don’t dare – I still love this album (and the follow-up, actually, but that’s beside the point). This was one of the first tracks I came across, it’s rampaging industrial metal beat lighting up clubs and my stereo for some time (and still does).
The glory days of the ‘Pumpkins are long, long time ago, the memory of how great they used to be sadly superseded in many ways by just how much of a poor caricature they have become. But anyway, enough about the recent past, let’s delve back into history. Siamese Dream – their best album, don’t let anyone tell you it’s Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, really, it’s most certainly not – was a balancing act of chart-bothering singles and sweeping epics, and this particular track was the epic that Billy Corgan tried to better at least once on every album that followed, and he never came close. Eight-minute of blistering rock, ambience, prog and tenderness, every single thing that was great about this band was contained at one point or another in this song.
Nine Inch Nails
Gave Up (remixed by Coil with Danny Hyde)
I read somewhere that the unusual, cut-up vocals (it sounds as if certain syllables were cut out to break things up) were done because of Coil’s distain for choruses, and if so, all the better. This is one of the best remixes I’ve ever heard, the clanking, dark ambient intro giving way to fast-paced electronics with the cut-up vocals on top, and all-in it’s way, way better than the more conventional original version…
Jesus Built My Hotrod
Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and The Way To Suck Eggs
Who knows what the fuck Gibby Haynes was on about in his deranged rants on this track, but whatever it was, it sounded like fantastic fun. As was the track itself – a supercharged, speeding industrial metal behemoth hurtling towards the barriers and not giving a shit.
Faith No More
Angel Dust was awesome – and a hell of a step into the unknown following the mildly more straightforward The Real Thing – and perhaps unexpectedly, for such a insanely experimental album, was a big success. This has been my favourite of the singles from this album for years, and always seemed to be the forgotten single, as it were – and was ignored again on the band’s reformation this year. It’s bass-heavy charge is simply the finest moment on the album, although the video doesn’t half look dated…
Come as You Are
So it might have borrowed (ok, nicked wholesale) the bassline from Killing Joke’s Eighties, but it turned it into something wholly darker, strangely. One of the least likely singles from the all-conquering Nevermind, perhaps, at least until the chorus kicks through the door, it’s also the best four minutes Kurt Cobain’s band ever wrote, and one of the few Nirvana songs I still go back to time and time again.
Like many Tool songs, this song has deeper lyrical meanings that many of us might well have missed otherwise, but musically is one of the more straightforward songs on the album (it’s even in 4/4 for most of the time!). This latter point doesn’t reduce the astonishing power of this track, though, particularly as it picks up the pace later in the track.
Fade Into You
So Tonight That I Might See
Mazzy Star’s bluesy, minimalist ballads were something of an acquired taste, and were really for a particular time, too – after dark. But it was always all about Hope Sandoval’s utterly gorgeous voice, and it’s certainly the case with this track – her voice dominates proceedings, not that anyone was complaining… (Also of note from this era is the glorious Jesus & Mary Chain’s Sometimes Always, that she duetted on – I’d forgotten all about that until researching this…)
Manic Street Preachers
The Holy Bible
The searing, burning opener to one of the most astonishingly hate-fuelled albums ever released, Richey Edwards’ lyrics appear to compare the idea of “selling out” to prostitution, and it’s perhaps even more incredible that the band were actually considering this to be a single at one point. Not that it’s a bad song, by any stretch – it’s by miles my favourite Manics track – it’s just that it’s not really the type of song that would be considered, er, pop. The spiky, edgy rock, the only-just understandable lyrics, oh, and the use of the word “cunt” within the first two lines…
Juke Joint Jezebel
It certainly had a helping hand from appearing on the Mortal Kombat Soundtrack, but this eternally popular industrial dancefloor track would surely have ended up with the same status even if it hadn’t been used. I mean, how could we resist a thumping beat, crunching guitars and a gospel-based chorus? By a long chalk the most uplifting industrial track I’ve ever heard, I’m not entirely sure this will ever go out of fashion.
Daft Punk’s ascent to the mainstream seemed to have taken all of, oh, five minutes, but I’m sure it took longer than that. But with tracks as great as this, it’s not hard to see why they became so popular so fast. A thumping, um, funk house track that is a masterpiece of simplicity, it’s video is also of note for being so wilfully odd (and sad, too…).
Front Line Assembly
The stonking, predatory opener to FLA’s most “metal” album of all, it’s judicious use of samples from Falling Down only heighten the tension as it kicks in, all guns-blazing – figuratively and literally, thanks to the samples. Best experienced live, so the full force of it can be appreciated…