#923: The Dead 90s (A Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list)

RECORD STORE TALES #923: The Dead 90s (A Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list)

I think it was around 1995 that I really gave up into the ’90s.

What do I mean by this?  It’s simple.  In late 1991, there was a sea change in rock music.  The old guard was suddenly unhip, while a new unkept kind of rock was surfacing in Seattle.  Within three years, classic rock bands such as Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Poison, Ratt, Whitesnake, and even the once-bulletproof Guns N’ Roses were in some sort of decline, losing key band members or just breaking up completely.  They were replaced on the charts with a swath of new bands, from Nirvana, to Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.  Rock had been on such a high in mid-91 with #1 albums by Skid Row, Metallica, Van Halen and more.  It only took months for the landscape to darken.  But really, the warnings were in place well back in ’89.

It was a disorienting change and it got to a point in the middle of the decade where my favourite bands were dropped, broken up, or transformed.  Bon Jovi survived this period unscathed, losing only the inconsequential Alec John Such.  They were one of the few exceptions.  Motley Crue put out a killer record with their new singer that was criminally panned at the time by its critics and many longtime fans.  Winger couldn’t catch a break.  Some of the bands that did put out records in the 90s released sub-par trash.  Quiet Riot:  guilty with Down to the Bone.  Judas Priest:  Jugulator.  Dokken:  Shadowlife.  Unless your name ended with Jovi, it seems like every old guard rock band put out albums that were crap, sold like shit, or both.  Then, half of ’em broke up.

What was a metal head to do?  Still buy the old bands’ records and hope for the best, yes, but when you’re buying so much shit on a wing and a prayer, you start looking for something else.  I had to open my heart to some newer bands that, I felt, had something in common with the old.

Here is a list of 11 bands that made their way in.


1. OASIS.  I still love those first three records, and all the B-sides that came along with the tide.  My mom got me into the Beatles, and while I never bought into that “the new Beatles” crap, I did like that Oasis brought back some of what I liked about the fab four.  They were the only Brit Pop band I could put my heart behind.  Not metal at all, but Lars liked ’em.  They had guitar solos at least.


2. GOO GOO DOLLS.  Right around the time of “Slide” and “Broadway”, I let the Goo Goo Dolls into my life.  They reminded me of Bon Jovi without the bombast (and the solos).  They would have to do during the time when I needed a surrogate Jovi, which happened in the late part of the 90s when Jon released the stinker Destination Anywhere.  Goo Goo Dolls nailed the lovestruck acoustic/electric vibe that was once a Bon Jovi strength.


3. THE BARSTOOL PROPHETS.  Amazing Canadian band that could have been the next Tragically Hip.  The Prophets might have been a little more hard edged, and I identified with their lyrics more than the labyrinthic words of Saint Downie.  T-Trev was a fan and he recommended I give ’em a try, and I have loved them since.


4. sandbox.  A band that did not win me through a friend or a music video, but through the live experience.  Opening for the Barenaked Ladies, sandbox (all lower case) were a bit gloomier and heavier.  But there was also something magical about their songs “Curious” and “Lustre”.  They soothed my soul when I was lonely.  Later on, I found out that guitarist Mike Smith was on a television show called Trailer Park Boys


5. THE PRODIGY.  Who didn’t buy Fat of the Land in ’97?  It was a good album and Crispian Miller from Kula Shaker had lead vocals on one track.  This new heavy brand of electronica had hooks and a rock-like vibe.  It was like dance-y industrial rock.  I could dig it.  They even had a guitar player named — no word of a lie — Gizz Butt.


6. THE TEA PARTY.  I couldn’t get into Splendor Solis; I foolishly dismissed the band as a Zep clone.  I came to my senses on their third album The Edges of Twilight.  The Zeppelin comparisons were obvious (and I didn’t care about the Doors), but who else was making music like this anymore?  Nobody.  The Tea Party would do!


7. SLOAN.  It was not until their fourth album Navy Blues that Sloan scratched the itch.  Yes, I was a late comer.  Yes, I got into them during their commercial peak.  But the truth is it was really their double live 4 Nights at the Palais Royale that really nailed it.  One of the best live albums since the mighty Kiss Alive.  The comparisons don’t end there, as both bands feature four lead singers — a configuration I always enjoy.  (Hello, Goodbye, Beatles!)


8. RANCID.  Incredible band, two lead singers, and one great album that just slayed me.  Many of the rock bands I liked, such as Guns and Motley, extolled the merits of their punk rock backgrounds.  Just as Zeppelin and ZZ Top encouraged me to check out Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, Nikki Sixx pushed the Pistols on me.  Rancid were much better than the Pistols, but they had the same snot in their noses.  Rancid brought with them the ska and reggae side, which appealed to me immediately.


9. OUR LADY PEACE.  For one album, anyway.  Maybe it was Arnold Lanni that made this band buzz for me, but they were really a single album group.  Naveed is a monster.  Jeremy Taggart was a good enough drummer for Geddy Lee!  It had some things in common with hard rock, like loud guitars.  I could build them a bridge into my heart.


10. LIVE.  I maintain that everybody bought Throwing Copper in 1995.  This band just had tremendously broad appeal.  Unusually, every song was up to the same lofty level of quality; no duds, all keepers.  A number of strong singles led to massive radio and video play, but no followup album of the same stature ever emerged.


11. NINE INCH NAILS.  I was just starting to get into Nine Inch Nails.  The Downward Spiral is my album when it comes to this band.  They took such a long break after it that I lost interest.  What I liked were the riffs built from noise, the layered approach, the angst, the self-loathing, and the anger.  The album is still is trip to play, but I have never liked “Piggy” or “Closer” and think them a bit contrived.  Admirable though that the video for “March of the Pigs” is 100% live, music included.


Although there were many good albums made by metal bands in the 1990s that I have not mentioned, it was not enough for a music addict.  I needed to expand my horizons or remain stuck in the past.  There were more — Ben Folds Five, Steve Earle, Robbie Williams, Mel C. (yes that Mel C.) and Tonic to name a few.  Anything that had some kind of integrity of connection to the rock music I loved.  Ben Folds didn’t even have a guitar player, but his music rocked nonetheless.  These were all great picks to sample some of the best of the 90s.  Have a listen.

33 comments

  1. Nice list. A few I didn’t even know such as Tea Party, barstool prophet and sandbox. Goo Goo Dolls were only good in the 90’s as they went to AOR in the 2000’s and lost all their coolness. For me STP was the big 90’s band, but you probably knew that already.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a great list. Mainstream rock in the 90s was a tough thing. Definitely like all the CanCon here and agree with it all. It’s alright getting into Sloan later, you got into them! My gateway was a concert on the Twice Removed tour, so I wasn’t there right in the early days either, but I haven’t looked back. And Live, yeah, we all had that album. They were a great concert too – except I got kicked in the head during their set (some dumbass crowd-surfer).

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  3. Like you, I didn’t start listening to Sloan until Sarah bought and had me listen to Navy Blues. ’90s rock does not appeal to me for the most part. I don’t think I can come up with 11 bands I like from ’91 to ’01. The rest on this list=nails on a chalkboard.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. If I were to take a nail and drag it on a chaulkboard, that is what the rest of your list sounds like to me. 😁

        I’ve seen Tea Party live twice. They sucked both times. The first remains the only show I left early and sat through the 2nd time because they were opening for Ozzy. Sarah has one of their albums. I tried. They’re not for me.

        I like Ben Folds. I listen to him casually. I like some of that suburbs album and his stuff with Shatner. But he didn’t make your list. He is the artist you mentioned in the last paragraph that I’d listen to.

        I’ll never stop with ’90s ZZ. 🤘

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ll let you off on the Tea Party since you have seen then twice. However…Live? Everybody liked Live. Rancid? And Out Come the Wolves cannot be underestimated. Barstool Prophets, I’ll bet you haven’t checked ’em out yet or you’d love ’em like everybody else that’s heard them!

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        2. Live – I guess I’m not everyone. 😁

          Rancid – I’m not big on ska or whatever it is Rancid is doing.

          Barstool Prophets – Yes, I’ve heard of them and checked them out. Probably because of these blogs. I vaguely remember them from the ’90s. Kind of a poor man’s Hip with weak vocals and lame lyrics. I’ve passed on Crank for $2 more times than I can count, lol Just not for me, I guess.

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        3. I have spent many nights
          Staring at the sky,
          Searching for a sign of something more.
          Teased by flashing satellites
          Trying to trick my eyes.
          They pale beside what I am waiting for.
          I know they’re coming back for me.
          But how much longer will they be?
          I didn’t mind the summer’s heat,
          Or being ankle-deep in snow.
          If the hat was dropped, I was prepared to go.
          All the years of vigilance,
          I’ve grown weary of the strain.
          The trouble isn’t nearly worth the gain.
          I know they’re coming back for me.
          But how much longer will they be?
          Am I as absurd as I seem?
          I guess it all was just a dream.
          Just as I rise to leave
          I hear the old, familiar sound
          Of thrusters pounding atmosphere.
          I have spent many nights
          Staring at the sky.
          All the distant stars that shine,
          How I’ve longed to make them mine.
          All of the wasted years
          Will shrivel and disappear.
          Oh come with me.
          You can come with me.
          Won’t you come with me?
          I knew that they’d come back for me.
          To cut me loose and set me free.
          If this is as absurd as it seems
          My whole life was just a dream.
          Just a dream.

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        4. No man, the alien contact story… waiting for them to come back. Wondering if he’s crazy, if he made it up. And then the sound of “thrusters pounding atmosphere”. Fuckin’ chills.

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  4. For those of us into extreme metal the ’90s weren’t too terrible. Death metal was thriving, and on the more melodic side you had Pantera getting huge. I know you’re not too fond of them though.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yay for Testament. Check out Heartwork by Carcass. They’re on the more melodic side of death metal. Lots of tasty solos and good structure. Stellar production too.

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  5. Excellent list. I remember a guy in my university residence played Throwing Copper seemingly five times a day. I can play that album anytime. It’s a classic. I bought the reissue. I was so happy to see Hold Me Up on it. Great tune.

    Tea Party. Edges of Twilight is awesome. It has some heavy bass lines. Jeff Martin’s solo stuff (777 and Armada) have a similar feel and sound. It was the first time I had heard so many of the instruments used.

    Spiritual Machines is easily my favourite Our Lady Peace album. I’ve always been a sucker for concept albums. I find people either love the band or hate them. Raine’s voice sometimes sounds whiny, for lack of a better word.

    I think Liam Gallagher has a similar voice. Oasis’ music is good though. The vocals just don’t do it for me. I didn’t care for the constant broadcasting of brotherly drama either. Throw down and move on already.

    As for the Goos, I couldn’t get into Dizzy Up The Girl. A Boy Named Goo was pretty good though.

    Ahh, Sloan. Navy Blues is solid. Money City Maniacs is so catchy. “Body’s covered in coke fizz”. Such a great line. It sucked to hear about Chris Murphy getting Bell’s palsy.

    I Nine Inch Nails’ Downward Spiral through a roommate. For me, Trent Reznor is also an acquired taste. I love his Joy Division cover from the Crow soundtrack.

    Ben Folds, maybe the piano man of the 90s generation. Rockin’ the Suburbs is fun and catchy.

    Sandbox! Go Bubbles, go Bubbles!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment Andrew! And yes, GO BUBBLES!

      If you are interesting in checking out more Goo Goo Dolls, the compilation that really hooked me is called What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce. Covers the first album to Dizzy, but with a focus on deep cuts not singles.

      Chris Murphy has bell’s palsy? I didn’t know. My dad had it too.

      I know a lot of people like you who didn’t care for the Oasis brother drama stuff. However this is one of my favourites here:
      https://mikeladano.com/2012/09/15/review-oasis-wibbling-rivalry-1995/

      Did you hear that OLP are working with Mike Turner on Spiritual Machines 2?

      Thanks again for the awesome comment.

      Like

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