I was lucky to grow up during a time when music was undergoing a dramatic redefinition – particularly in the Rock genre. The entire era was a rebellion against culture, politics, and fashion, and music was at the forefront leading the charge.
It was a harmonious melding of art, imagery, and attitude, that gave birth to brand new genres like Grunge, Alternative, Punk-Fusion, and Reggae-Fusion. So much of it was Progressive in its own respect, and none of it was straight up; they were completely new sounds that took four decades of Rock and Roll influence to be born.
The music that came out of the early 90’s was emotionally heavy; dark, melancholy, and depressing – yet it was powerful and proven timeless. It was an era that was so heavily saturated with some of the greatest bands in Rock and Roll history, and out of it came some of the best albums ever produced.
Here’s a list to skim through of some of my all-time favorite Rock albums that came out of that era:
What an insane album. This one redefined heavy, and was about as Grunge-Alternative as it got with tracks like Sex Type Thing, Crackerman, and Dead and Bloated. It was a heroine-inspired tour of some of the darker aspects of the human psyche. The sound was dirty, yet beautifully melodic at the same time. If you’re a guitar buff, look into the chord structures and you’ll see a lot of Jimmy Page in DeLeo’s riffs. Same Gibson Les Paul too.
Alice in Chains’ first commercial success came after dropping this bomb. This is straight Grunge Rock. I love the raw sounding rhythms that gel this one together, and a lot of the drum tracks are played slightly behind time to give it a trashier sound – a perfect compliment to Jerry Cantrell‘s crunchy riffs. The vocal harmonies created by Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell are unmistakable and haunting. Them Bones. Check it out. \m/
I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to notice a trend here already…How exactly does one go about making Jam out of Pearls? Or maybe, how is it that a Pearl Jams? I’m not sure, but I am sure that this album is loaded with classics: Once, Even Flow, Alive, Black. This is one of those albums that you can play through without having to advance tracks. It’s an era staple.
The only thing that I never liked about these guys was the whole political agenda shtick. That aside, this was a revolutionary band (no pun). It was the first time I ever remember hearing Hop-Hop vocals over a Hard Rock sound. This album was heavy, funky, raw, and in-your-face. Every track is bomb track on this album. See what I did there?
The title of this one says it all. Listen to it and you’ll ride the spiral all the way down with Reznor. He’s a dark guy, and the dude who was responsible for discovering the controversial singer/songwriter Marilyn Manson. Until I bought the album, I didn’t realize that their was a radio edited version of Closer. You dirty dirty man!
Ironically, I know everything about this album, because it was the first CD that I ever bought. I love Chris Cornell, and this is another one of those straight Grunge bands of the era. They were actually founded in the 80’s, and many credit them as the originators of the genre. I can dig that. There are a lot dismal tracks on this one, but man, it’s quality from start to finish. Head Down, Fell on Black Days, and The Day I Tried to Live – all tracks worth noting.
Don’t never mind this album – pay close attention it, because this was the album that single handedly defined early nineties Grunge. Kurt Cobain’s death was on par with Lennon getting shot. Smells like Teen Spirit is the standout track on this one for me – I still remember the first time I heard it; I think I said something like, “WHO the HELL is THIS?!” It was raw and heavy, and well, just eerie sounding – a trademark sound.
This one is hands down my favorite album of all time. It’s just a musical masterpiece. Some people don’t dig much on the Chili Peppers, but there is no disputing that they are an incredibly talented group of songwriters. Plus, I’m a huge Chad Smith fan. And he’s from Detroit, so I like him even more because of that simple fact. The album is just so punky, funky, sexy, and melodic – it’s a five-star dining experience on a disc. Favorite tracks: Funky Monks, Naked in the Rain, and Sir Psycho Sexy.
Cherub Rock is one of those tracks that I can still hear echoing down the halls of my Junior High School whenever I reminisce. The album was angsty-sounding, dark and heavy, and heavily inspired at times by Corgan’s Heavy Metal roots. Check out some of his garage band home videos – it’ll flip your lid. This is absolutely a must-own 90’s Rock album.
This is one of those bands that is constantly evolving their sound, and this was the first example of just how artistically dynamic they are. The sound and imagery is reminiscent of a Tim Burton Film fused with some sort of morbid nursery rhyme, but with an Urban California-twist, and sporting a sequenced Adidas jumpsuit. Awesome. But can we just ditch the Nu Metal tag and call them pioneers? Good. Done. I saw these guys on the main floor three times, and they are absolutely insane live performers. Off of this album, I’ll take A.D.I.D.A.S., and Wicked, featuring the Deftones’, Chino.
Kudos to Henry Rollins for droppin’ a little bit of that weird-ass spoken word shit on track #4. It just adds to the mystery surrounding the band, Tool. Their imagery is so bizarre, and they rarely give away their identities outside of performances. The music itself is a soundtrack for a slightly discomforting dream, and yet, it also has a sort of cleansing element to it. It’s psychological, and it delves into the shadowy sides of reality. It’s like a thunderstorm; increasing in intensity, washing away the sins, then rolling out and giving way to the sun. Here’s a neat little extra if you own the album: remove the black disk-holder portion of the case, and inside you’ll find a hidden image. Brilliant Marketing tactic.
This is another album that haunts the hallways of my mind when I think back. I can still remember some dude named Frank passing the tape around in Science class, trading it for some other era classic. Change is the song on this album that really flipped my lid. Great tune with another haunting vocal track.
I played the shit out of this album. To this day I’m still a 311 junkie. Hip-Hop Reggae Rock? You couldn’t come any more original than that. Chad Sexton is a beast on this album, and I love me some Nick Hexum rhymes. And P-Nut? Slap dat bass, man. These guys are pretty open about the amount of Pot that they ingest on a daily basis, and it’s pretty evident in the upbeat sounds radiating from these extra terrestrial-worshiping hippies. They are hands down the most fun show you’ll ever see. Saw ’em three times. \m/
How the hell could I leave these guys out of the discussion? This album probably got more spins on the radio at that time than Nirvana. It was a Punk-inspired Alternative mix, fronted by a dude that was pretty open about his mental instability – pretty evident in a lot of the lyrics. If it’s possible to be happy and sad at the same time, this album would fall into that emotionally confused category. Welcome to Paradise: still jam it.
Alright, I cheated a little bit because this album actually dropped in the late 80’s, but a lot of this stuff lingered on into the 90’s. Plus, Perry Ferrell is one of the coolest motherfuckers on the planet. The guy is so completely over the top, and the perfect front man for any Progressive Alternative Rock band like Jane’s Addiction. Jane Says, and Mountain Song are the two standout tracks.
The first time I heard this one I was scared. This album and the artwork is like a horror flick crammed into a box. It’s just weird and scary, but oh so sweet. This is about as Heavy Metal as it gets in my book. I’m not just talkin’ about that Speed Metal, Thrash, Death Metal stuff – I’m talkin’ about straight up Heavy Metal. Rob Zombie pounds the pavement pretty hard on tracks like Supercharger Heaven, Electric Head, and More Human than Human.
Damn Right! Speaking of ass-kicking Metal, this one stomps. This is Pantera in their absolute prime. I saw these guys at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit one time, and it was probably the best Metal show I’ll ever see. We jumped down onto the floor and almost made it to the front row. They had two flame-throwers on both sides of the stage, and every time they went off I could smell my eye brows burning. Fuck yeah. Rest in Peace, D.D. \m/
“What the FUCK am I listening to?” I think that’s what came out of my mouth when I heard this album for the first time. Beck is such a weirdo – but a genius weirdo. The band is like the musical equivalent, in my opinion, of head cheese. It’s a little bit of everything: Rock, Electronic, Hip Hop, and heavily seasoned with retro samples. It’s just weird. Where it’s At, and High 5. Yes.
I think it’s safe to assume Dave Grohl is gonna make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his lifetime. What a talent. The guy breaks in playing drums for one of the most pivotal bands in music history, then goes on to front another one of music’s greatest Alternative Rock acts. He’s a model songwriter and musician, and you don’t have to be a Foo Fighter Fan to recognize that their an insanely talented group. Monkey Wrench makes me want to break lamps. \m/
Another super-talented musician gone too soon. Bradley Nowell was a pioneer who brought the underground to the mainstream with a Punk, Ska, Rock, and Reggae blend. Sublime’s self-titled album was killer – every single track. This album was the soundtrack for a road trip I took down to Daytona Beach, and it was the perfect sound. It’s upbeat, fun, and funky, and another one of those immortal records that should be owned by all. Why can’t we all just sit around in the hot and humid Florida air and drink cold beer all day? Can’t life just be like that? I’ll keep dreaming…
There are so many more great albums. What were some of your favorites?
Let’s Talk Music, Chowderheads \m/
- Musical style (tomashclg.wordpress.com)
- In Bloom- You Are-Nrivana- Grunge Goes Public (uofmusic.com)
- Interview: Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil Remembers Grunge’s Early Years (news.radio.com)