‘90s Albums I Still Rock

‘90s Albums I Still Rock
"Flannels are still in, right?"

What is it about the music you listened to when you were a teenager?

How does listening to one song from that era (whichever it is) make you happy? Does it bring back better thoughts and feelings? That old idealism? Or is it because it’s the music you used to shield yourself from the inevitably crushing doom of a world that would soon come after you like several packs of highly-trained wolves in night-vision goggles working in tandem (awkward metaphor? I’m not a zoologist. Deal with it)?

I’ll just go with D.) All of the above.

A good amount of my adolescent physical growth occurred during the ‘90s (mostly in my feet). It was a pretty solid time to enjoy rock ‘n’ roll – Nirvana and Pearl Jam had shown everyone that you didn’t need to wear clown makeup to play guitar and flannels were widely accepted as evening wear.

My high school wardrobe consisted of so many 311 shirts that you can probably still read the ink-stained tour dates off my back. Those albums, of course, are still in heavy rotation for me.

But you’re not me. There are a few seminal ‘90s albums that may be obvious – if you’re a listener of music, you still might listen to albums like: Radiohead’s OK Computer, Pearl Jam Ten or Vs., Weezer’s blue album and a couple different (Mother’s Milk, Blood Sugar Sex Magik) Red Hot Chili Peppers albums and perhaps even some Nirvana (I always enjoyed In Utero).

I dig all that. But let’s go a little deeper into the obsession. There are a few, for me, that most casual listeners have probably heard of. Whenever I'm a little down, these albums truly make me feel solid again:

- 311, Transistor in particular right now.
- Sublime, 40 oz to Freedom… I still hear this epic album rocking frat parties.
- Beastie Boys, Check Yo’ Head… My personal fave from the B-Boys. It literally has everything. A party etched into a disc.
- Blink 182, Dude Ranch… Just fun punk rock madness.
- Marcy Playground, self-titled first album… “Sex and Candy".. cool karaoke song.
- Eve 6, self-titled first album… Superb. Still catchy. Still listen to their second one, too.
- Smashmouth’s first album… Fun and weird lyrics. Eclectic stylings. Showed their potential.
- Goldfinger’s first… One of the harder mosh pits I ever hopped around in.
- NOFX, Punk in Drublic… If you know, you know.
- Tool, Aenema… 17-years-old. Bought it – turned out the lights – lied down on the ground with my headphones – got up after ten minutes because I was terrified – listened to rest with the lights on.
- They Might Be Giants, Flood… Nobody beats triangle man.
- And L. says Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn… and any Rage Against the Machine… Hardcore. (If you don’t think Fiona is hardcore, YOU tell her that.)

But there are other really random albums I break out on a regular basis that even other students of the genre may not have taken to. These are the albums that made it past mere one-hit-wonder status to somehow fit into a crevice of my brain and settle-in. Another quick list:

- The Flys, Holiday Man… The “Got You Where I Want You” band. One-hit-wonder my foot. This might be THE most eclectic and insanely awesome album that nobody has ever listened to all the way through.
- The Refreshments, Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy… The music is grand as the name. Songs full of energy speak to you like a drinking buddy still finding optimism in all those teenage breakups. Unique sound and voice.
- Cake’s first album, Motorcade of Generosity… How do you afford your rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle? I just got this on CD last Xmas. Still great, front to back. These guys prove that you can be quirky and still effing jam. With trumpets.
- For Squirrels, Example… Remember they had that one hit and then two of them died in a freaking TRAIN crash? A very well-made album. It would have been poignant without the tragedy. And they might have been huge.
- Triplefastaction, Broadcaster… Was an awesome local band. Drummer now hits skins for Local H.
- Sugar Ray, Lemonade and Brownies… They were a hard-rock band once. I’ve got proof! This heavy-hitting album punched with just enough clever and soul to differentiate themselves from the masses. So what the hell happened to Mark McGrath??
- Local H, Pack up the Cats… This is Local H’s best effort. Sprawling rock anthems infused with true emotion. And another of the hardest mosh pits you'll ever be in, if you see them around their hometown Chicago (technically Zion). 
- Cornershop, When I was Born for the Seventh Time… Recall Fatboy Slim’s remix of “Brimful of Asha”? This album runs a pretty weird gamut.

Does all this music resonate because it’s so timeless? Or did I just need it so bad back then that I still wrap it around me like an old blanket.

These lists may seem pretty lengthy, but at 30 I’ve gone through several phases of re-listening to all this awesome music. (Am I John Cusack in High Fidelity?) If you’ve checked this blog once or at all you know I’m not stuck in the past. But then… There’s something about it we can’t shake.

Consider a list like this one giant layer of your own archeology. A layer with bones in it.

This may be another get-an-iPod-old-man! type question, sure, but I refuse to listen to everything on random just because the little matchbox tells me to. So put it this way: what old CD’s might you pop in the case to take on your road trip down to.. I dunno, St. Louis to see the Blackhawks kick the.. Sorry, no sports here. You get the question.

What albums from your teenage years do you still put on?

Rock and/or roll.


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  • Ok, well not to sound to obvious here but I do still pull out Tori Amos, Boys for pele. Even though most people would associate Ani Difranco with the 90's I didn't connect with her music til later when she calmed down a bit.

  • In reply to lila8517:

    Hahah... I feel so punk-heavy now. "Leather" still a great song from the '90s (anything but "Cornflake Girl"!). And i dig Ani's sound frequently, but butt heads with her often lyrically.

  • Aw man, those were the days! I agree with all those bands, but 311, Sublime, and the Smashing Pumpkins always bring me great memories. Of course, those are just to name a few. A lot of different music from a lot of different genres came out then. Rap to grunge, it was all there. Actually, "Judgement Night" pitted some artists from both of those camps together. Good call!

  • In reply to radstarr:

    Man... i almost forgot the Pumpkins. I went to a homecoming dance at Billy's former high school Glenbard North once (dumb brush with fame). That girl hated me, but i did date her friend for a second...

    Siamese Dream should have definitely made my list, though. What an insanely dense collection of great songs.

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    And honestly, i have heard of this "Judgement Night" album before (and that the movie was not good). Just looked at the playlist on Wiki... I'm gonna have to find it.

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