In the 90s, music went through a lot of changes. There was the Seattle movement, a few years of mediocrity and in the end, there was a hardcore push towards metal, rap and emotion.
After doing my movie “think piece,” I decided it would be interesting to do the same for music albums of the 1990s. The albums I chose are not definitive of the decade at hand; rather they are, to me, the albums that are the most important, most influential and the greatest of the decade.
10. Pearl Jam “Ten” (1991) This album was one of the first for the Northwest invasion. This album is full of depth and emotion and everything that entails what alternative music is. One of the songs on the album is even prophetic. “Jeremy” is about a teenager who is tired of life and shoots himself in front of his class.
9. Smashing Pumpkins “Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness” (1995) This double album is very interesting. It helped propel the Smashing Pumpkins and their sickly-sounding lead singer, Billy Corgan, into fame, which eventually led the group to break up. This album is very musical in nature with songs like “tonight, tonight,” which is one of the greatest rock songs of all times, in my mind, and “Bullet with butterfly wings” help make this album great.
8. Sublime Sublime (1996) How should I describe this band? Take Bob Marley, Green Day, Jimi Hendrix and a balloon of heroin and throw it into a blender. That pretty much sums up this band. Sublime was different. With their unusual mixture of ska, reggae, rap and alternative rock, they made music that was great and even influential. “What I Got” and “Santeria” are the best songs on this album.
7. Live “Throwing Copper” (1995) I put this album on this list grudgingly. I love its music and its emotion. But does it belong? Songs like “I Alone” and “Lightning Crashes” are so good, and yet after you listen to them for a while you get sick of them. But if you don’t listen to it for a few months, you find the urge to pull it out and go through it again only to realize how good it was before you got sick of it. Forget it, it stays.
6. Toadies “Rubberneck” (1994) This album is strange. This band is very emotional and very strong. What makes their music different is the things they sing about. “Backslider” describes the baptismal process in a southern Christian tradition. Songs like “Tyler,” “Away” and “Possum Kingdom” are so original and deep, and their music is built on the Southern rock tradition. It is a downright shame they broke up earlier this year.
5. Nirvana “MTV Unplugged in New York” (1994) This is the only live album on the list. This album has some regional value of note. The last song, “Where did you sleep last night,” was a song originally made by Huddy Ledbetter, otherwise known as Leadbelly, who was from Huntsville. The song talks about being “in the pines”
4. Metallica “Black Album” (1991) This album, from the greatest metal band of all time, was so great the band toured on it for two and a half years. Most bands can hardly live off the success of one album for a year let alone nearly three. Songs like “Enter Sandman” and “The Unforgiven” help make this album great. Every song is memorable and any true hard rock fan should own this album.
3. Red Hot Chili Peppers “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” (1991) Before Limp Bizkit and Korn, before Rage Against the Machine and Sublime and even before Faith No More, there was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This band, which was the first band to mix rap and rock, have been doing it since 1986. This album is very influential and one of the most important works of the 90s. This band’s style of funk, rap, rock and pure lyricism is expressed to its highest degree with this album, and I have yet to meet a person who does not like “Under the Bridge.”
2. Rage Against the Machine self-titled (1992) Ok, I know, I said that Red Hot Chili Peppers came before Rage, but this album is great and very influential. I mean, just turn on a hard rock radio station, and what do you hear? Two chords and screaming in the microphone. All of these bands trying desperately to sound like this one. Too bad. It will never be done. Like the cover of this album, this band is very controversial, and when thinking of Rage Against the Machine, you have to ask yourself: Are they the greatest hard rock band of all time who just happened to be political? Or were they a political band that just happened to be the greatest hard rock band of all time?
Who knows? Who cares? This entire album is great. Not one song is bad, and their influence can still be heard today.
1. Nirvana “Nevermind” (1991) No one will argue this one. This album, without a doubt, is the greatest of the 90s, and as far as the century, it probably comes second only to the Beatles as being the most important band. Their emotion and music is unparalleled as far as the height they achieved. This band can still be heard today with their influence upon other bands like Lit, Staind, Nickelback, Fuel and the list goes on. “Nevermind,” with songs like “Smells like Teen Spirit” and “Come as you are,” single-handedly started the Seattle movement and helped make “grunge” a fashion movement.
Cobain is one of the most important musicians and lyricists of all time ranking with Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley and our own Leadbelly in influence. That is why this album gets my pick as the greatest of all time.