The '90s were a fun time to grow up, with some great music to enjoy during formative years.
1. This Is Hardcore, by Pulp
I would say that Pulp's 1998 album, This Is Hardcore, signifies the band at the height of their success. It was the much-anticipated follow-up to the Different Class album from three years earlier. The group would go on to release another great effort, We Love Life, in 2001, before calling it a day. The Different Class era lineup reunited between 2011 and '13 for some shows and tours.
Pulp was no flash-in-the-pan act. Formed all the way back in 1978, the band toiled through much of the 1980s with many sound and personnel changes before hitting their stride in the '90s.
2. Boggy Depot, by Jerry Cantrell
After the dissolving of Alice in Chains due to lead singer Layne Staley's personal problems in 1996, Jerry Cantrell, the main songwriter of the band, began working on his first solo album, Boggy Depot. Jerry used the album as a vehicle to expand some of the other facets of his influences, namely classic rock and country while staying true to his hard rock and metal roots.
It was referred to at times as the ''lost'' Alice In Chains album because of the contributions from Sean Kinney (drums) and Mike Inez (bass). Boggy Depot also had guest appearances from Les Claypool (Primus) Rex Brown (Pantera) and John Norwood Fisher (Fishbone).
If you are a fan of solo Jerry or Alice In Chains, be sure to also check out the follow-up to Boggy Depot, 2002's Degradation Trip which is a great album in its own right.
3. Munki by The Jesus and Mary Chain
For 1998's Munki album, brothers Jim and William Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain were divided. The brothers would work separately with the rest of the band, resulting in an album with different sounding songs from track to track, but still resulting in a solid album and a great effort from the Scottish band. Legendary alternative label Sub Pop Records handled the United States release of the album. The record also features an appearance from Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star.
The first single and my favorite track from the album ''I Love Rock 'n' Roll'' was written by Jim Reid and was a response from his brother William's song about his dissatisfaction with the music business called ''I Hate Rock 'n' Roll''. Jim thought the song only told one side of the story and found it largely negative and only showed one side of being a musician. Munki was mostly overlooked at the time but in hindsight was a strong release from that year.
4. Pack Up the Cats, by Local H
Local H was a precursor to The White Stripes so to speak, due to the fact that both bands were two-piece outfits in a live setting employing drums and a singer/guitar player supplying the frequencies.
The band has toured as recently as 2016 and remains active today. They had a nice run starting out in the mid to late nineties alternative movement on the strength of some good early albums, Ham Fisted (1995) and As Good As Dead (1996).
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Pack Up the Cats (1998) from Local H was a nice effort as well. The album got lost in the mix due to some record label changes and turmoil, so perhaps proper promotion was not executed, resulting in a failure of really big impact but remains a hidden gem of sorts. The single ''All The Kids Are Right'' is a highlight from this album. Dean DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots also did some guest guitar work on the song ''Cool Magnet''.
5. Yield, by Pearl Jam
For the follow-up to 1996's No Code, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam asked his other bandmates for more contributions on the upcoming album. Eddie had been a key and primary writer on the previous No Code and Vitalogy for chunks of those recordings.
And respond the guys did. For Yield, Eddie has only two songwriting credits, for the tracks ''Wishlist'' and "MFC'', and the rest of the tunes written pretty much evenly between Mike McCready (guitar) Stone Gossard (guitar) and Jeff Ament (bass). Drummer Jack Irons got the songwriting nod on ''Untitled'' from Yield.
Speaking of Jack Irons, I think his drum work on this album is simply incredible and drives the album with his unique approach to drumming. Not looking forward to touring commitments, Jack soon left Pearl Jam after recording the album and was replaced by Matt Cameron of Soundgarden who remains with the band today.
Standout songs include ''Low Light'' the wonderful Eddie track ''Wishlist'', and also the Stone Gossard penned ''In Hiding'' amongst others. The Mike McCready song ''Given To Fly'' may very well be my favorite Pearl Jam tune, ever.
For the promotion of Yield, I still remember the television promo clip of the car coming down that swirling and winding road with the music tied in perfectly and being aware that a special piece of music was upon us at that time.
6. Frank Black and the Catholics, Self Titled
What's really interesting about the Frank Black and the Catholics self-titled album is that it was actually the first commercially available album on the internet by a notable artist. It was recorded on two-track tape quickly with minimal to no embellishments. American Recordings who was the band's label at the time, refused to release it because of the raw sound. The dispute delayed the release for 18 months before finally seeing the light of day, and has remained a gem from the year 1998.
7. Adore, by The Smashing Pumpkins
Adore, released in 1998, was a big change in style for the Smashing Pumpkins. The band was on absolute fire during 1996, supporting the previous years Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness vast and expansive double album with aggressive touring.
It all came to a screeching halt though after the tragic death of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin from a heroin overdose, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain was subsequently fired for his involvement.
Adore was a nice album, and also a big departure for the band. It was a more quiet and subdued effort from the previous Pumpkins albums of bombast. The album featured more acoustic passages and electronic drumming.
8. Head Trip in Every Key, by Superdrag
A Head Trip in Every Key was by far Superdrags most commercial-sounding effort. It had top-notch production from Sound City Studio's, where Nirvana's Nevermind and countless other legendary recordings were produced and was known for its sweet-sounding environment and soundboard.
The band was signed to the major label Elektra Records at the time and supplied the budget for the band to make the album. Knowing they perhaps would never see this kind of backing for a recording, they went all out. They used expanded instrumentations too like pianos, sitars, strings, and organs.
It remains today a great album although it failed to make an impact at the time. Promotion and radio airplay was virtually non-existent and the band didn't tour behind the album. The band was eventually dropped from Elektra.
© 2017 The Write Life
Kyriaki Chatzi on July 27, 2017:
The list you put together is simply awesome! As for the Smashing Pumpkins, I'd say I'm more into their Zeitgeist era. But, still, Adore had its impact on me. Thanks for sharing!
Christopher from Northridge, CA on July 13, 2017:
This is a great list. I'm glad to see Jesus and Mary Chain recognized; they're a fantastic band but they're too often overlooked.
Ryan from Louisiana, USA on July 13, 2017:
Great list of albums. Man the 90's produced some of the best music in history. Glad to see Jerry Cantrell on this list. Love Alice in Chains and I love his solo stuff. I would say Yield was a decent album but not Pearl Jam's greatest. Fun article and I look to read more of your works.