Well, it took me long enough! After writing my Top 10 Albums of the 1980s a few years back, it seemed to me that this list would come easily and I could bang it out in no time at all. Funny, it didn’t work out that way at all. AT ALL! However, after going down a rabbit hole of music right before the turn of the New Year, I was suddenly inspired to finally do the write up.
But then I remembered…..
My original ranking document resides on a VERY dead computer that occupies space in my garage. So, despite my go-getter attitude, I had to start from square one, which meant compiling a list of about 30 or so records from the decade, whittling it down to 15 or so, and then the arduous task of actually RANKING them. For some reason, I take this WAY too seriously. As if I was writing a Pulitzer quality piece for Spin or Rolling Stone. In the grand scheme, MAYBE 300 people will look at this, and 298 will disagree vehemently, and I am sorry for that, but you know what? I just love music. ESPECIALLY this decade, as I was the program/music director of my college radio station for the first 3 years (which may be quite evident when you get to the end of this) and really consider the 90’s as the “lost decade” of incredible music.
Once I was able to get the list down to 16, the ranking process started. And this list, unlike any other I have ever done, has two VERY distinct personalities to it. The first, the bottom half (6-10) could be replaced by any of the honorable mentions (11-16) and I wouldn’t blink twice. I could argue ANY of the 6 left off to be put on, and vice versa. In the end though, I am quite happy with how my brain stopped the hamster wheel. The second personality? The top 5 has ALWAYS been the top 5, so that part was very simple. However, the ORDER, truly, depends on the day of the week, which pants I am wearing, how my morning coffee (carafe…..I wrote “pot” at first, considered the audience, changed it accordingly) was….you get the picture. For me, these five ALL have personal meaning, a story behind them, and are beloved by me in a #1 way. Alas, like anything, they can’t all occupy the top spot, so an order is what I came up with. And I struggled with THAT, as I questioned myself, how much do I take into account:
I will dive into those criteria and more as the list goes on, and I think I found the balance that I am pleased with.
And that, of course, leads me to THE disclaimer that I always feel the need to write. This is MY list. I don’t look at other lists, I don’t feel the need to rank something because everyone else did (I am looking at you Beck and Lauren Hill), and I understand that my tastes may vary from yours. And that….is OK! That’s the fun of this. What I feel is genius, you may feel needs to be in the bargain bin. What you think is the second coming of *insert your favorite ‘70s band/record*, I may see it as the first coming of Seals and Croft. And again, that’s ok.
As always, the normal Doug List rules apply:
No Live Records
No “Best Ofs”
Before I dive into the top 10, a quick recognition of the 6 honorable mentions with a sentence for each:
Ride-Nowhere As fine a shoegaze album ever made. …except maybe the one that landed in the top 10.
Green Day – Dookie Pop – Punk brought to the forefront on their major label debut.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless A couple of the records ranked in the top 10 would never have been made / been as good if it were not for this groundbreaking noise.
Radiohead – The Bends Leads off with such an incredible three-song run, it was tough to leave off the top 10.
Peter Gabriel – Us The case where one REALLY bad song (Kiss That Frog) can make me turn a LITTLE bit on an entire piece.
Beastie Boys – Check Your Head If it didn’t have as much filler material, and maybe one more top notch song, it would have a number in front of it in this post
10: Catherine Wheel – Ferment
Right from the jump, we start with a record that many people either A) don’t know or B) don’t know. Catherine Wheel, while finding a modicum of commercial success on their third album (Happy Days with the MTV favorites Waydown and Judy Staring At The Sun) in the United States, debuted to large success in their home UK with this tremendous offering. Lead singer Rob Dickenson (yes-related to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickenson / no-the bands do not sound alike) and his band mates used heavy guitar fuzz, a pounding rhythm section, and Rob’s unique voice, to create a wall of sound not unlike their peers in the same genre. However, while most shoegaze records had a consistent feel throughout, Ferment took twists and turns as the tracks unfolded. Black Metallic in particular, is a 7 minute anthem of pure joy that takes the listener on a one-of-a-kind ride. While the band never really DID find its elusive American ears that other British bands did mid-decade, they continued to produce quality records throughout the 1990s. This, their debut, was their absolute best.
9: Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album)
While I don’t find myself leaning towards the HEAVY of heavy metal, this record is an absolute must to include in any discussion regarding albums of the 90s. Lifelong Metallica fans have a tendency to scoff at the commercial aspect of this masterpiece (it sold over 650,000 copies in its first week state-side…..actual hold-in-hand sales, not digital downloads, which skew sales numbers in my opinion) as well as trumpet Master of Puppets as the much better album. Look, I get it. I get that way about some of my favorite bands and the lesser commercial records. However, you can’t overlook what this album meant to the world of rock music. The dynamic was already shifting (more on that to come) to a different sound, and James Hetfield and company put their stake in the ground, and did it on THEIR terms. And then, there is this…..have you EVER heard Enter Sandman and NOT sung (in an as-angry-as-possible tone) the chorus? (not to mention that the song is a baseball staple with Mariano Rivera using it as his 9th inning music) There is something to be said about that, something that transcends what a song “is” v. what a song “means”.
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Coming Up NEXT :
A major label debut after a very large bidding war.....