The third instalment of this lengthy rundown.
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 are 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.]
Among the fair number of wildly inventive soundtracks released films released in the 90s was the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, put together by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and featuring a vast range of styles and artists – and not a single one felt out of place. Two of Cohen’s songs were used on the soundtrack album (a third was used in the film), and this track, in particular, was pretty special. A musing on the pessimism of the world, and what is to come in light of what has already has happened, its slightly cheesy synth lines and the big gospel chorus are brought together to make a song ostensibly about everything going to shit actually sound quite positive…
The monstrous opening track from Converter’s debut album, its seething, near white noise intro gives way to massive, hulking beats before another set presumably stomped out by AT-ATs obliterates all before it. This is dancefloor noise at its finest.
/Pop Will Eat Itself
/Urban Futuristic (Son Of South Central)
/The Looks Or The Lifestyle?
The first inkling that the Poppies were angling for a heavier sound came from this industrial metal monster, and maybe the repeated refrain “no more Mr Nice Guy” just rammed home the point all the more. Everything about this song rules, and it also hasn’t dated as badly as certain other Poppies tracks…
A while before they became bonafide futurepop stars, earlier Covenant material was a whole lot darker. Brooding synths, less danceable beats, and an almost gothic delivery in the vocals. It’s still recognisably Covenant, though, and if you got into later-period Covenant without ever going back, this whole album is worth a look.
Ah yes, back when Incubus weren’t acoustic bores. Back when they were still a band full of their native california sunshine and funk metal…and were awesome fun. Particularly this track, a song about reinvention, and it simply teems with life.
Interesting here in that I could have picked any number of PL songs from the mid-90s from this list, but hearing it live recently sealed the deal for it to be this. The epic, doomy power of this track for me makes it one of PL’s very best songs, but it’s not all growling and hate – its beating melodic heart is what seals the deal.
The first QA song I ever heard, as I recall. It’s still nuts, too. I’ve no idea what Katie-Jane Garside is on about during it, but its bruising rock is a hell of a thrill, even if it is something of a tease with it only lasting two minutes or so.
/Subterranean Homesick Alien
OK Computer has been analysed to death, befitting its status as many critics view that it is the best album of the 90s. It’s certainly an extraordinary album, vast in scope and frankly fearless in its endless experimentation with their basic rock sound. My favourite track on the album, though, is this gorgeous track, sometimes forgotten in its position in the shadow of Paranoid Android. As guitars shoot across the sky like shooting stars, Thom York muses on the idea of being abducted, how great it would be, and how no one would ever believe him anyway. One of Radiohead’s prettiest songs, and still somewhat underappreciated, in my view.
Part of the coffee-table craze for anything “trip-hop” related, in reality, Sneaker Pimps were always a little more interesting than that (and perhaps were even more so once Chris Corner stepped out on his own as IAMX). This is the track that started it all, though, and its slinky, after-dark feel (and Kelli’s frankly heavenly vocal) is still great. There was no need for it and the rest of the album to be re-recorded, re-mixed and re-issued, though, and if anyone can help me with a copy of the original version (i.e. the one with the motherboard-style green and silver cover), please let me know…
/Inspection (Check One)
There is certainly a case for the album as a whole in a best of the 90s list, and certainly, other tracks from this album could have made this list – however, I had such a long list of possibles for this, that I decided to restrict it to one song per album (and two songs for certain artists at most). So the one from Leftism? This titanic, slower-paced track, which when played loud probably has more bass contained within than I’ve ever heard. The spacey, dubby vocal intro on the album version rules, too.
/My Dying Bride
/The Cry Of Mankind
/The Angel And The Dark River
We’ll be here all day debating which MDB album is the best, but The Angel… puts in a convincing case. Not least for its epic, twelve-minute opener. It’s yearning, bleak seesawing riff that opens it, the stately piano, the occasional vocals that break through, and that foghorn blaring out through the mist as the song descends into it’s ambient second half…the whole thing is a glorious wallow in bleak misery (in other words, exactly what this band should be). I am astonished it has a video, though, even if it is only a third of the song.
/Wesley Don’t Surf
/Reeled and Skinned
I was never entirely sure where this lot was meant to fit in. Broadly a jazz band that used live instruments but filled in the gaps with electronic textures, their early singles were a fascinating mix of styles. Many of their earlier tracks were a rather more mellow, so the uptempo attack of this track was something of a change – and was by far the best of them.
/A Northern Soul
While The Verve may be better known for their later albums and greater success, their earlier material remains intriguing. One track I’ve adored for years now has been this one – a reverb and feedback drenched jam that is one of the centrepieces of A Northern Soul. Rather than the naked emotion that much of the rest of the album gives away, this near-instrumental track (just try and work out the lyrics in the dense sound) gives nothing away and is perhaps all the better for it.
/Long Snake Moan
/To Bring You My Love
No two PJ Harvey albums are alike, which always results in some odd surprises each time around. To Bring You My Love, though, was still a bit of a shock. Much wider in sound than the previous albums, it’s was still bluesy, but less raw (Flood being producer saw to that, I think). The swampy, blues-rock of this track, though, was possibly the most eye-catching on the album, and her almost screamed vocals as the song climaxes still sends chills through me.
/Let Me Drown
Never mind grunge, this was metal. The snarling opener to Soundgarden’s most successful (and on balance, best) album, it’s heavier, and thanks to the big-budget production, much…bigger than anything they had recorded to this point. Lyrically as dark in tone as the rest of the album, listening to it again for the first time in a while has reminded me that if I ever get asked the High Fidelity question of “five side one, track ones” again, this gets included.
Nitzer Ebb’s third album was the first time that they really even moved beyond their EBM core, and the results were pretty impressive – not least in the awesome, steady build-up of opener Getting Closer, as the beat winds up from a standing start into a full-on industrial attack with what I see as their best vocal performance (as a live opener, this is incredible, too), before the sweeping, stabbing chords herald the mid-section, a breakdown, and then back to the chorus where it steps up again. Sod newer industrial, I’ll take this every time.
/There’s Gonna Be A Riot
What much of Barry Ashworth’s material has concentrated on a more ska-based sound, this track was a roof-raising, dancefloor-slaying track that was something of an underground hit back in the days of “Big Beat” – I vividly recall this being played at The Heavenly Jukebox at Turnmills in ’97 and sounding utterly immense.
Originally “discovered” by Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, but honestly, don’t let that put you off. Their first album was impressively dark, emotional metal, and the opening track’s ominous rumble (everything is downtuned, resulting in a marvellously deep, fuzzy sound that the bright production only helps to accentuate) coupled with Scooter Ward’s wracked, gritted teeth vocal delivery is a spectacular start that the rest of the album never quite lives up to.
/Good Morning, Captain
Pretty much year zero for Post-rock as we know it, this band, and the album Spiderland has been feted to an incredible degree as a result. It fully deserves the praise, mind, but it’s this stupendous closing track that takes the honours. Lyrically based around The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – if you can make out the muttered words – it’s the use of quiet-LOUD dynamics that catches the ear, and as the track reaches it’s climax, you realise that more than just post-rock owes this a debt.
/II – The Final Option
They may be EBM pioneers, but their later industrial-metal hybrid phase produced some outstanding material, too. Including this, one of the ultimate tracks on the classic industrial music cliché of shedding human form for robotics. A monstrous, mechanised beat couples with equally mechanised guitars, and that whole cyborg idea gets better with every passing minute of this song.