I'm sure many of you know the Nineties is my happy place. There are a lot of various reasons for this (cough, X-Files, cough) but a lot of it that the 90s was when first-wave Generation Xers took the reins on the pop culture buggy. And alternative rock was clearly the centerpiece of this project.
You all know what happened when Nevermind broke, and you're sick of all the overplayed Seattle chestnuts, so let's take a deeper dive into the alt.rock lagoon and find some hidden hits and secret sounds that should have gone straight to the top of the charts.
There's nothing particularly secret or hidden about Jane's Addiction, of course, but they captured the zeitgeist like no other band could. They captured that brief and fragile time when you could surf in your music video and still seem cool and relevant. It was a beautiful time and Ritual de la Habitual is a great beach album. It's exactly why I've been so lenient in judging their subsequent efforts.
This is one of those songs and one of those bands that should have waited a couple years for the grunge wave to crest and ridden it to fame and glory. Instead, Swervedriver got swept under by it.
Even so, "Rave Down" is the song Pearl Jam wrote in their wettest wet-dreams.
If VS./Vitalogy era Pearl Jam were clearly spinning a lot of Swervedriver, I'd argue Beck was spinning a lot of Urban Dance Squad. "Loser" is clearly influenced by this bong-hit bonanza.
Great album, by the way. They did have a hit here with "Deeper Shade of Soul" but I thought that one of the weaker tracks on it.
Another band that hit just a bit too soon. These cats would have been a shoo-in for the post-Nevermind sweepstakes. This is a phenomenal track either way. I'm all about riffs and that's a pretty sweet one.
And yet another band that suffered from premature introduction. Warrior Soul got lumped in with the waning hair metal trend, which was truly shitty marketing. They naturally belonged with Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. And "Lullabye" is the song Candlebox wish they could have dreamed of writing.
Bowie enlisted Adrian Belew and his band The Bears as his backup musicians for the Sound and Vision stadium tour, and it was a huge mistake. Belew was great, of course, but the rest of them sounded like a Holiday Inn band. Even so, this lost Bowie classic came out of it.
Happy Mondays always seemed like the ultimate "you had to be there" band, but this is a great single. Which means someone else actually wrote the song, as you'd expect.
Bloodletting seems to have been memory-holed even though every music-head I knew was listening to it at the time. Every song on this album is great but I'm selecting this one, since I'm a guitar geek and that is just absolutely phenomenal playing.
I first heard this song during the credits for Liquid Television, if memory serves. Either way, it's one of the greatest singles ever released, and really gives you a flavor of what people with their ears to the tracks we're hearing at the time. And how adorable is Bilinda Butcher dancing?
This band were getting a little too old to ride the Neo-Punk bandwagon that rolled around a few years later with Green Day and Offspring. Plus, the guitarist was hauling it in with his day job (a plumber). But if none of those emo-punk bands that got big a decade or so later ever covered it and had a hit with it, it's only because they were too fucking stupid to. It's OK because they would have ruined it.
Caterwaul were Jane's Addiction's little sister band during the Scream days, but had the bad fortune of getting signed by music ruiner Miles Copeland and his career-killing IRS records. Don't get me started on that topic.
The band were running out of gas by 1990 but still churned this riff-crazed corker.
Killing Joke took a drubbing in 1988 with their progger-than-prog Outside the Gate LP, which made Big Generator-era Yes sound like Rancid. Luckily, Geordie had been storing up all the insane and inhuman riffs that Cthulhu and Azathoth had been seeding his dreams with, and the band rebounded with their most scorching album yet.
Faith No More had their biggest hit with one of their most boring and formulaic songs, but happily this far-superior cruncher got some love in 1990. I have photos where I look like Mike Patton's doppelgänger. Remind me to dig them out sometime.
Ned's were pretty much GenX's take on The Undertones. Their singer even looked a lot like Feargal Sharkey. I was iffy on them, but this was a great song to listen to on your way to the beach.
And of course 1990 was a year of note for a certain honey-mouthed thrush. If you heard this being sung by the Diva in The Fifth Element, you'd think Besson was trying too hard to make her sound alien.
I love this woman so intensely I'm grateful her band only made three albums. Why? Because they never diluted the effect. Her honey mouth sends signals direct to the opioid receptors in my brain, especially on this song. It makes me tingle in places I didn't even realize I had.
Let's round it out with another Fraserling. I met Miki in person around this same time: she was practically incandescent she was so beautiful and charismatic. Couldn't sing for shit live, but not a single person in the joint that night even noticed. That's star power.
Don't forget The Secret Sun Institute of Advanced Synchromysticism, now holding classes in the highly strange. There's a ton of exclusive material up already and so much more on the way.