Continuing the long journey through the decade, part seven.
Countdown: 1990s: Tracks: 80-61
To recap: 200 it is, simply as I have far too much to even try and cull it further. There are things missing, I’m sure – I’ll have committed a cardinal sin somewhere and have neglected one of my favourite bands, no doubt! – but then there a few deliberately missing as it will be easier to deal with them in the albums list, as I simply cannot pick a particular song.
[Note: This was initially written in 2009, and has been left “as is”. I’ve considered changing it and updating it, but at least for now I’m not touching it.]
Play More Music
Rude, crude, and something of a dancefloor smash, Consolidated’s ultra-political output took a neat turn into sexual politics with this track, when they got The Yeastie Girls in to provide a rap detailing the delights of cunnilingus. Aside from it’s headline-grabbing vocals, it’s not hard to see why it became a dancefloor favourite – it’s thumping beat is somewhat, er, infectious…
Angel With the Scabbed Wings
Back in the 90s, Brian Warner’s alter-ego was actually something thrilling to listen to: particularly on this staggering concept album, the album that made him an arena-level rockstar and offended an awful lot of people along the way, too (both religious types and sneering alternative types – he must have been doing something right to get them both on the same side…). This track was initially, perhaps, lost in the torrent of fury and hate that this album brought forward, but once a few listens passed, it finally revealed itself as one of the highlights of the album – with much of the electronic effects stripped away, this was a raw, feral four-minutes that gets better and better with every listen.
Just in case you needed reminding, the Beastie Boys weren’t always about hip-hop – they could rock too, as this awesome funk-rock pastiche (and soundtrack to imaginary cop show) showed in spades. Obviously best appreciated in conjunction with the legendary video…
Kill II This
Amid the stampede of nu-metal bands in the late 90s, some more interesting bands did appear. Kill II This were one of those, owing more to the industrial metal of earlier in the decade than anything else. Not all of their material was great, it has to be said – the band all-but-disowned the first album other than the title track, and the last album wasn’t up to much either – but the two in between were certainly of interest. The standout on second album Deviate was this monster – opening with scratching and heavy-duty techno, before a thunderous industrial metal juggernaut storms through it all. A rather unusual touch were the quasi-gospel backing vocals, which while they didn’t always work on other tracks, sure as hell did here. Random fact: main man Mark Mynett nowadays is a senior lecturer in the music technology department at the University of Huddersfield…!
No, I had no idea what the hell this lot were on about, either. They had apparently been around for some years in Japan before they first broke through in Europe with this fantastic, techno-metal beast, with impenetrable lyrics but one hell of a groove. They subsequently gained quite a fanbase over here, too, even if they were never quite as impressive as this again.
She Makes My Nose Bleed
Attack Of The Grey Lantern
Is this where I admit to being something of a Mansun fanboy back in the day? At one point, I had everything – including the white label CD release of Egg-Shaped Fred – released up to the third album, although a large proportion of my CD collection being stolen a long time ago meant I don’t have it any more. I still listen to the band with some fondness, though, particularly the lofty aims of the first album. One of the later singles from that album is my choice here, one of the more straight-up indie rock tracks here but still with some glorious harmonies and those quite odd lyrics about a dominant lover…
I’ve no shame in admitting that my interest in Sonic Youth’s output ceased in 1994 or thereabouts, having found just about everything they’ve done since profoundly boring. The reason is tracks like this – a searing, thundering tribute to a roadie of theirs who was murdered, and the storming opener to their most commercial album by far.
Mouth for War
Vulgar Display of Power
One album where the cover summed up exactly what was going on – this was thrash/groove metal that was like repeated punches to the face, such was the aggression contained within. And this was the first of those – seemingly a challenge by Phil Anselmo to whoever was talking shit about him to come and say it to his face. Good luck, folks…
The Afghan Whigs
Fountain And Fairfax
Greg Dulli’s band were never quite like other “alt-rock” bands. With a clear love of soul/R&B music from decades past, their sound stood out to say the least. None more so than on their finest album, Gentlemen, where Greg Dulli’s frank honesty about his and male failings in general made for some brilliantly observed songs. This one – about trying to give up the booze, apparently – was one of many highlights on the album, and Dulli’s vocals on this track are simply awesome – the wracked emotion in his voice clearly from personal experience of what he was singing about…
Killing Of A Flash Boy
One of few bands able to release a B-sides compilation that was easily the equal of the “A-sides”, hearing them all together on Sci-Fi Lullabies perhaps made a convincing case that the first CD at least was the best album they ever released. And one of the centrepieces of that first CD was this track, a snarling, spiky glam-rock stomp with all of the sexual ambiguity and darkness that Suede did so well in the early years. It was also an astoundingly good live track, too.
When We Say EP
(no longer available online)
One of a handful of Tool-esque bands that appeared around this time, Liberty37 played it less deliberately obtuse, hard-rocking in sound at times but with clear, intelligent lyrics for the most part (and frequently referencing Bill Hicks and Tool in their lyrics and themes, too). Their second album sank without trace, but the first album was a joy to listen to. Better still was this B-side, a slow-burning missive of anger that had vocalist Ishmael Lewis calming enunciating every single syllable clearly of lyrics that screamed revenge. By some considerable distance their most powerful live track, too…
And yes, I know this sits above the track that it is more than a little bit of a nod to (Slint’s Good Morning Captain, if you needed to ask). Back in the days when Idlewild were still a small band from somewhere in Scotland, they were also still interesting, a spiky, rough’n’ready post-rock-influenced punk band who were yet to turn into a dull R.E.M. clone. This EP – all 19 minutes of it, of which six minutes were the last track of the six here – flew by in a flurry of youthful energy, but it was the title track that was king here. A bit slower, but all angular rhythms and Roddy Womble’s rasping, partly-screamed vocals adding to the excitement. The biggest shame is that Idlewild seemed to be trying to erase this from their history: quite why it wasn’t on their best-of a few years ago I have no idea.
The finest one minute and fifty-six seconds Therapy? ever recorded, this is a short, pounding metal track of tongue-in-cheek hatred and self-loathing (it’s tempting to suggest this was a pisstake of the grunge scene) that opened their most successful – and best – album by miles.
The Beta Band
Dry the Rain
The Beta Band’s first single, a marvellous, shambling electronic-folk track that quite rightly caused something of an indie sensation (and initially was an absolute bitch to get hold of until The Three EPs compilation followed eighteen months or so later). I’m not exactly sure what it is that made me love this track so much – maybe it’s the pure simplicity of it, maybe it’s just that it’s a brilliant song, plain and simple.
My Bloody Valentine
The glorious, in-turns-screeching-then-dreamy opener to one of the critic’s favourite albums of the 90s, this track took the whole idea of quiet-LOUD to insane extremes – opening with a cacophony of squalling guitars (multitracked and through god only knows what effects pedals), before settling into a mellow feather bed for Bilinda Butcher’s vocals to float on – and the two sections trade places for the rest of the song. It’s bloody marvellous, and really, it lives up to the hype. Honestly.
It really is hard to overstate just how revolutionary this sounded when it first dropped. The first really seamless attempt at bringing together extreme metal and industrial electronics, the whole album is a masterpiece, but more than anything it’s the opening (title) track that left jaws on the floor. The machine-like riffing, the tool-like precision of the drumming…this really was cybermetal, and the band have spent fifteen years unsuccessfully trying to better it.
One Minute Silence
Available In All Colours
Presumably a comment on the salivating mass media when it comes to another serial killer on the loose, this was a marvellously tongue-in-cheek track that even went to the lengths of creating fake news reports and station idents to back up the subject matter. Musically, of course, it’s what OMS always did so well – chunky, riff-tastic funk-rap-metal…
Long-since removed from R+ live sets (it finally returned in 2012), this track (it translates as Bend Over, by the way) was at one point the climax, so to speak, of the live set, where Till would lead out a be-gimped Flake onto the stage, unveil a dildo from his trousers, and I’m sure you can guess the rest. The track itself is great on record – rampaging industrial metal that R+ do so well – but live it really is something else (and is about ten times heavier, too). Need I remind you that this (live) video is not especially worksafe?
Hotellounge (Be The Death Of Me)
Worst Case Scenario
One of dEUS’ most majestic songs, a musing on getting old, and reflecting on the past with a rueful smile, it’s also one of their most tender songs, too. Much of the first dEUS album was reflective, but never quite like this. It’s weird, bluesy-rock feel is gradually chipped away and replaced by fuzzy, surging rock, before returning to the original calm to close. Older live versions used to add an additional verse at the end, and I was never sure why this wasn’t kept in for the recorded version…
Add N To (X)
Metal Fingers in My Body
This band’s endearingly retro take on electro – only using analogue synths, not to mention their image – certainly made them stand out among the legions of other electro bands at the turn of the century. It also helped that they wrote a number of spectacularly odd tracks, too, of which this was certainly the wierdest. The robot-fetishism only hinted at in the repeated (robotic voiced) title refrain of this otherwise (kinda) straightforward electro-rock track was made really bloody obvious by the ultra-not-worksafe video…of a girl ordering a robot, umm, escort, and then being, er, pleasured. A lot.