Over halfway, and we’re into the Top 100.
Countdown: 1990s: Tracks: 100-81
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.]
Remarkably one of two bands in todays forty that have two bassists, never a common setup in alternative rock, never mind any other genre. GVSB are one of my favourite bands and have been for many years, despite a now long period of inactivity other than occasional gigs. This single – their commercial breakthrough, really – was featured on the Clerks soundtrack, and it’s deep-down-and-dirty grooves are a good representation of where GVSB were at the time. They flirted with electronics and major labels subsequently, but this track comes from the middle of a golden period where the band frankly didn’t put a note wrong for three albums.
The awesome opening track from one of the most self-indulgent, overblown albums I’ve ever heard (really, this album would have benefitted from being cut down to a single CD – although it would have been some of the vocal tracks I’d cut), this is cleverly built to add one layer at a time before exploding into a trademark freakout for the close. An impressive track live nowadays, too…
Still a shocking, powerful song even now, this is a rare example of a video adding to an already astonishing track. Everything about this track has a sense of foreboding, right from the bassline that opens the track, and the lyrics do a great job of giving you an idea of what is going on, but not the whole story, wrapping parts of it in metaphors (“Jeremy spoke in class today”) which the video makes explicit at the very end. By a long chalk (in my view) PJ’s finest moment, and making an eloquent statement on an issue that was to become rather too common in the media in the following decade or two.
Let’s be honest – in industrial circles, it seems you either love Spahn Ranch or you really, really don’t. I can see how their later stuff, featuring much more in the way of dub and house influences, not to mention some other unexpected directions, could be divisive, but I always thought that The Coiled One was an album that had a slightly wider appeal. Even so, it was chock full of sampled, cyclic guitar riffs, strange-sounding beats that were almost-live-drums-but-not-quite, and then Athan Maroulis’ warm but detached vocals. All of these come together to amazing effect for this track (side note: I’d never even known of the existence of this video until writing this…)
Now an astonishing eleven years old, this track – like all of Zombie’s best – hasn’t dated a minute. With it’s old horror B-movie samples, slinky, bass-heavy prowl, anthemic chorus – not to mention the bonkers video based on The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari – how was this ever going to fail?
I was a big Levellers fan in the 90s. No, I didn’t have dreadlocks, or a dog on a string, but I did have an appreciation of a nakedly political band who had a good line in folkish-rock. I’ve seen them live a few times – they have always been an awesome live band – and this rabble-rousing call-to-arms is one of their greatest live tracks and a big fan favourite, even after all these years. Another that I didn’t know had a video, too…
Talking of protest, this album was a huge statement against the Criminal Justice Act of 1994, and it’s most obvious statement was this rocking collaboration with PWEI: “Fuck ’em and their law“. Hulking great beats Prodigy-style, and vocals and guitars PWEI-style. A meeting of minds that worked so well it’s amazing it wasn’t done again…
Another of those bands who had a fleeting glimpse of “fame” and vanished, Radiator were an intriguing electronic/industrial-rock band who only ever made one album (I understand they were another band to suffer from the rash of major label rationalisation at the end of the decade). The album was good, but it was the final, climactic track that was the pick – a steadily build-up, exploding into a techno-metal dancefloor monster, before reaching even greater heights as the song stampedes through just four frantic minutes.
Tindersticks’ jazzy, bluesy music is meant for the darkness, for smoky rooms where people go to escape from life…and as such, are perhaps not quite loved as much as they should be. For this album, they introduced a soulful influence that produced this extraordinarily tender single, with Stuart Staples’ baritone vocals the utterly perfect match.
An absolutely fearsome live band back when they first appeared on various support bills in the UK (they nearly cleared half the Astoria when supporting Pitchshifter once, they were that loud – a rumbling juggernaut of fury), it was brutal tracks like this sludgy, hardcore monster that sealed our approval. Judging on the oppressiveness and heaviness of this track, the fate forseen was not good, and this was an attempt to simply scare the fates away. Judging on the fact that Grady Avenell has recently rejoined the reformed band, it could be said to have worked well.
A bunch of Sunderland teenagers form a band, and write, in the main, songs about going out on the lash. Which made this album marvellous fun – and, it should be added, is one of my partner’s favourite albums ever – however this track is where it deviated slightly from the core subject. This track – a three-minute powerpop masterpiece – is a viciously sneering put-down of the mid-90s lo-fi scene and those who were, umm, “more indie than thou”. It’s not hard to side with Kenickie when they produce a song with this much wit…
Long maligned in the press, this band were always rather better than the music press would have you believe. Their finest moment is still the opening track on their debut, though, a rampaging, two-bass attack seemingly about a somewhat testy relationship that has happily endured twenty years and still sounds great.
Björk’s first solo album-proper is a wonderfully diverse collection of songs, that gave a good idea of just how broad-minded a musician she was. From frankly odd musings on human nature, to sexuality, to simply losing it in a club, lyrically things were just as strange. At the heart of the album, though, was this gorgeous, tender declaration of love and hope that was a lot less complex than the rest of the album, and in this case all the better for it.
Jane’s most majestic moment, this epic, eleven minute masterpiece is a track worth persevering with. Apparently telling the tale of a lover’s tryst involving Perry Farrell and two others, it’s lyrics are never exactly candid, but really, this is all about the music. It’s vast length allows it to unfold gradually, and is evidence of just how talented a band of musicians JA were. You get guitar solos, bass solos, drum solos, and the most awe-inspiring climax to the song, that was even more extraordinary live when i saw it earlier this year.
This album was Pitchshifter’s big breakthrough to the metal mainstream, moving from their heavier, Godflesh-influenced sound of before into a drum’n’bass-punk-metal hybrid that came along at just the right time. I’m hardly short of highlights to pick from this album, either, such was the strength of it, but I’ve plumped for the big live favourite that is always welcome to hear. As usual it has a subtle political theme, but for once it’s all about the music, the punk charge and then electronic breakdowns with the stomping ‘pit finale…
One of a number of tracks on this album that sound like they had been beamed in from another planet, so different did they sound at the time – Beth Gibbon’s scratchy, distant vocal in the verses, the heavy, lumbering beats for other parts, the exquisite melancholy of it all. What’s all the more remarkable is that over fifteen years and three albums, they have never been short of enthralling and unique (try as they might, no band has ever even come close to sounding like Portishead).
I’ll say more about the wonder that is this album at a later point, so for now I’ll concentrate on just the one song. And that one song is this glorious, after-dark lament of two lovers giving their views on a relationship that may or may not be falling apart. Either way, it’s a song utterly dripping with lust and eroticism, but never becoming seedy as some songs that try this do.
The mighty Puppy’s finest five or six minutes (someone is going to slay me for this, I’m sure), I’ve never had any clue as to what Nivek Ogre was on about, but no matter – this is an awesome track that is unusually simple in structure for SP. Little more than the thumping beat, the odd synth line and sample, and Ogre’s vocals, it’s far less dense, and in this case all the better for it – also one of SP’s more melodic moments, it’s been a staple of the live set for years, and with good reason…
The track that frankly, should have made Brainiac stars. It never quite worked out like that, although by the time Timmy Taylor died in a car crash a few years later, they were recording their major-label debut. When the track first starts on record, it’s a storm of distortion and Taylor’s voice is buried within, but all it takes is one guitar chord for things to snap into focus, and it all kicks off from there. Basically Taylor detailing how he isn’t getting any, the music is as chaotic as his mind, going on the lyrics, and in a parallel universe this would have been the all-conquering hit it deserved to be.
This album had an extraordinary amount of praise lavished on it, and that was partly down to the exquisite sound and mood, and also down to the amazing vocal performances gained from the guests that joined in. The pick of them, though, was this utterly demented appearance from Iggy Pop, ranting and raving about a serial killer who may or may not be confined to his head. The low-end rumble of the music matches Iggy’s crazy delivery perfectly, and the video is just as fucked up.