This was really meant to be a top 100, but when my girlfriend and I pulled together an initial “long list” a few weeks ago, that was way beyond 300 songs.
Countdown: 1990s: Tracks: 200-181
So 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.
Anyway, here are the first forty, and to avoid stretching this out into sometime next year I’ll be posting the next forty on Friday.
[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.]
They might be the ultimate goth cliché nowadays, but it’s easy to forget that Andrew Eldritch’s band did many, many classic goth tracks. Aside from some of the more obvious tracks, though, it has been this track that I have loved the most for a good many years. It’s unusual beat structure sets it apart from many other Sisters tracks, and it’s oh-so-sleazy lyrics are all kinda fun, too. Even the live version of it ain’t bad…
God, remember when this was the last word in dancefloor extremity? Earache Records certainly took something of a punt on Ultraviolence in the first instance – with them bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the rest of the bands on their roster – and it appeared to be a gamble that paid off. Perhaps even they helped to broaden the minds of a few metalheads. On the other side, this was an industrial dancefloor staple for years, despite it being an exhausting nine minutes long, and at a stretch could even be suggested that it might well have been the way into industrial-dancefloor-noise for many. UVR and Johnny Violent may be a parody of their former selves in recent years, but this track and a handful of others (Masochist in particular) are still bulletproof.
Unusual then and unusual now for being a multi-racial metal band, the mix of rap and thrash worked surprisingly well…for this song, anyway. Yes, they continued for a few more albums after this, but I defy anyone to honestly be able to remember any of their songs other than this. That’s fine, though – this is one of those awesome metal tracks of the time that was unconcerned with worrying about genres and instead brought the metal in a big way (it’s an awesome riff that underpins the song), and needless to say kicking off brutal moshpits in any club it was played in.
Here’s one from the “who?” file, I suspect. A little-known Swedish industrial metal band, they released three albums, of which I only ever had this one. Apparently influenced by Einstürzende Neubauten and Entombed (!), this track in particular sounds more like Ministry to me, but either way it’s pretty damned good.
The jury appears to be out as to which version of this I have – it may be one of the remixes (either way, it’s the one on the Youtube link), but whatever it is, it’s an awesomely feral metal track raging at the stupidity of one of the wars of the time. The original isn’t actually bad, just that this version is much better. In addition, they were never this good again, either (I can’t honestly remember another of their songs, now…).
Yeah, it’s nu-metal, but fuck it, this track ruled from the start and still does now. They may have gone shit extremely quickly – half of their debut album sucked, never mind the follow up albums – but this track took off like a freight train and never looked back. A brilliantly teasing intro, before all hell breaks loose for extended periods, and while the lyrics are memorableish, they are little more than childish nursery rhymes and frankly isn’t whats important. With tracks like this, it’s all about the mosh potential, and this has a lot of it.
Ten years on (Ten years!), it’s really hard to emphasise just how much of a shock to the system Slipknot were when they first appeared. Nine masked mentalists offering an extraordinarily extreme take on metal for the “mainstream”, and this was the first track that broke cover, by appearing on various metal magazine’s cover-CDs. The bizarre samples, the even more bizarre chorus (“You can’t see California without Marlon Brando’s eyes” Eh?), and the ear-bleedingly extreme sound stood out, to say the least. Not bad for a band dubbed nu-metal. They never were, really, of course – well grounded in their extreme metal history, when you got past the gimmicks the first album was awesome. The shock wore off, of course, but they remain an absolutely fantastic live act.
This band may well have only got famous thanks to lead singer Spider’s brother (a certain Rob Zombie), but they did offer a slightly different spin on what Zombie did – instead of a horror B-movie fixation, it was sci-fi B-movies PM5K turned to for inspiration. This album, their debut, was a whole bunch of fun, too, a collection of short, sharp industrial metal tracks with big choruses, silly lyrics and some cracking songs. Like this one, in fact, even if it could have come straight off a White Zombie album. Altogether now: “Are You Ready…to go?”
The odd men out in the grunge explosion, and probably the band of them all that sadly never were able to capitalise on the success of the scene as a whole. Perhaps that was down to their grounding in seventies hard rock, with some psychedelic touches, that made them sound less, I dunno, dark as their peers? Dig deeper, though, and they were. Mark Lanegan’s dry, deep voice, the desperate lyrics, and the epic sweeps of tracks like this certainly made them worth a listen. Dust may have been the better album, but this remained their finest single by miles.
Always just on the right side of descending into total chaos, this early track by the band is a useful pointer to what they’d become. A track that twists and turns and changes shape numerous times, but never losing focus and crossing boundaries at will. And at the moments when it cuts loose, it’s extraordinary.
SOAD’s finest moment, both musically and politically, was this rampaging three minutes from their first album. Thematically it’s about the constantly changing excuses for starting wars that are given, and the role of religion in such decisions, and musically it’s played at a breakneck pace, apart from the near-ambient middle-eight, before it kicks the doors through one last time. Awesome stuff.
Famous for it’s unauthorised Ricki Lee Jones sample – that she was really not impressed about, and as I recall Alex Paterson had to pay a substantial sum later on for it – this really did soundtrack so many people’s summer afternoons gazing at the sky. This is ambient music that is actually interesting, that has a playful sense of fun and ended up being a pop hit. Wierder things have happened, obviously, but something as odd as this being a hit was quite something at the time…
Oh yes. Placebo’s first ever single, this (I saw them supporting Whale when promoting the original 7″ on Fierce Panda, and about another eight times after that), and still their best song. At it’s heart, it’s punky powerpop, but draped in gothic sensibilities that set it apart, and the sudden zip up the scale into the chorus is a real rush.
Bagpipes, lyrics from nursery rhymes, crunching metal…this really shouldn’t have worked, should it? Somehow, to the band’s immense credit, it does – to some extent thanks to the way that just about everything on this album sounded so…unsettling. Parts of it really did appear to be more than we ever needed to know about Jonathan Davis, while this simply was a twisting of the usual childhood memories into something oh-so sinister.
The recent confirmation of Pavement’s long-rumoured reformation has been met with joy in these parts, mainly as it might mean we hear more of this always-great band again, although also as it will be the return of a band who managed to retain their indie “cred” while writing what was, at least at points, great pop music. In fact, much like this single – a snide dig at those bands who change their style to fit the latest trend, something that Pavement never apparently desired, never mind attempted. But then, with songs of this calibre, why bother? Glorious, summery harmonies and a song that you keep in your head for weeks, even if there isn’t really a chorus as such. For once, also, this is a band now reforming that I actually saw (twice) the first time around…
There is more to Spiritualized than just “Ladies and Gentlemen…”, in particular the two albums that precede it. This comes from the debut album, and there was seven minutes of fragile beauty that unfolded in it’s own sweet time. The live version from the Royal Albert Hall Live album (the one linked here) is where the track really comes into it’s own, though – it’s begins with Jason Pierce’s vocals being even more fragile and thin, before the track builds to a crescendo of staggering proportions that the album version never even hinted at.
Is this really fifteen years old? God. No matter what age, though, this is ageless stuff from a metal band so forward thinking that they are still showing the way ahead even now. Still, this track – still a big live favourite – is a chomping, ultra-technical moshdown with countless time changes and a tight, clean production that simply serves to make it sound even more savage.
As a way to step away from the still recent end of Nirvana, the lead track from Dave Grohl’s first album under the Foo Fighters name is, in my view, still the best song he’s done (only All My Life really comes close to this). An urgent, almost jubilant step into the unknown for Grohl, this was the first of many, many great rock songs by the band that have helped to at least provide something to watch/listen/enjoy in the moribund world of music television nowadays, and starting out with a song this damned good helped to ensure that the shadow of Nirvana wasn’t hanging over him for too long, either…
Something of a sensation at the time – for the terrifying Chris Cunningham video as much as the track itself – this was Richard James playing around, and the result was a track more metal than many so-called metal tracks of the time. Scattershot breakcore fused with guitar samples and demonic vocals, it was bizarrely also a chart hit. The kids with Aphex Twin faces still freak me out, though.
A band that few or any will have heard of or remember, I suspect – they appeared and disappeared pretty quickly, although singer Sierra Swan has had an attempted solo career since and has also made appearances with other bands. The one reason this song had any promience, sadly (it deserved so much better in my view), was it’s appearance on the soundtrack for The Jackal. Anyway, it’s more female-fronted electronic rock (although bass-heavy, and for once in the late 90s not sounding particularly like Garbage), but one that is certainly worthy of some belated attention, perhaps.