The underrated 90s
The other day I loaded five CDs I hadn’t listened to in a while into my car. Among them was the 1991 album “God Fodder” by the British rock band Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.
“God Fodder” is one of those albums I seldom think about, but derive immense pleasure from whenever I put it on. And this time was no exception. As soon as I pressed play, the beautifully snarly rock anthem “Kill Your Television” came blasting out of the speakers.
“What a great song,” I thought.
The rest of the album is just as good: a sonic assault that’s surprisingly melodic and catchy, brimming with brash punk energy and a hard-edged cheer. The album highlight is arguably the insanely catchy “Grey Cell Green,” which is the sort of song that makes you feel like running as fast as you can. Anyway, “God Fodder” is as fresh and fun as it was when I first heard it my freshman year of college, which makes me think that it’s one of the great underrated albums of the 1990s, and worthy of rediscovery.
Here are some other albums I think fall into that category:
“Gentleman” by the Afghan Whigs — This is one of my favorite albums, by one of my favorite bands. “Gentleman” just celebrated its 20th anniversary, which is crazy, because this is another album that doesn’t sound dated at all — if I had never heard it before and you told me that it was released yesterday, I would believe you. Anyway, “Gentleman” is full of heartache and angst, but also soul and deep feeling.
“Sweet Oblivion” by The Screaming Trees — Like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, The Screaming Trees hailed from Washington state and is widely associated with grunge. Yet the band really mixed it up, genre-wise, and a range of influences — psychedelic rock, country, hard rock — can be heard on “Sweet Oblivion.” Why The Screaming Trees never made it big is a mystery, as their songwriting is superior to more successful peers such as Alice in Chains and Soundgarden.
“Star” by Belly — Anchored by lead singer Tanya Donnelly’s striking voice, Belly wrote jangly pop rock songs that conjured up dreamy, sometimes surreal imagery and moods. “Star” also features one of my favorite song lyrics of all time: “I’d chew my foot off to get out of this dress.” This was my high school yearbook quote, and I think the sentiment still rings true today.
“Bivouac” and “24 Hour Revenge Therapy” by Jawbreaker — I’m not sure why the great emo-punk band Jawbreaker isn’t better known, but “Bivouac” and “24 Hour Revenge Therapy” are both tremendous albums. Lead singer/songwriter Blake Schwarzenbach is an incredibly gifted lyricist, capable of writing thoughtful, reflective songs that are happy, sad and angry. The song “Indictment,” featured on “24 Hour Revenge Therapy,” also contains some of my favorite lyrics ever: “All our friends will clap and sing./Our enemies will laugh and be pointing./It won’t bother me,/what the thoughtless are thinking,/I am more concerned with what we’re drinking.” I also remain in awe of the fact that Schwarzenbach was able to write a 10-minute song called “Bivouac” that is actually good. That’s the sort of musical feat few people can pull off.
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