I’ll be at SPX this weekend with the DC Conspiracy, at table W5b. I’ll have issues 1, 2, and 3 for sale (probably for the last time as I’m moving to trade paperbacks next month) and a few new, awesome surprises!
So, I’m a huge fan of nineties alternative music. And we’ve covered 90s alternative before on YMB with an article on The Top Twenty Overplayed 90s Alternative Songs. But today I’m here to to flip that all upside-down and backwards and talk about the most underrated 90s alternative bands.
If a band made this list, it’s because people either stopped loving them, forgot they loved them, or never loved them enough. These are the bands that would be on the sweetest obscure retro 90s CD compilation ever… except no one buys CDs anymore.
I don’t normally cotton to bands that get big doing a cover, but Frente!’s cover of “Bizarre Love Triangle” is so charming, and their album, Marvin the Album, so delightful, they deserve a spot on this list.
Recommended Songs: “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Labour of Love”
9. The Blessing
The Blessing’s first album, Prince of the Deep Water hit like a hurricane laying low a field of sugar cane. Long out of print, the album yielded one hit in 1991, “Highway 5,” a song about love and loss that powerfully mixed rock, blues, and soul.
Recommended Songs: “Highway 5″ (re-recording) and “Flames” (unavailable, sorry)
8. Too Much Joy
Too Much Joy hit their peak in the early 90s with their albums Cereal Killers and Mutiny. This band had attitude to spare and it’s a shame they didn’t go further.
Recommended Songs: “King of Beers” and “Crush Story”
7. Material Issue
Material Issue came on strong in 1991 with their album International Pop Overthrow, a record full of great guitars and songs about girls. The band left their label in 1995 and the lead singer, Jim Ellison, committed suicide in 1996, leaving us with just one last posthumous release of songs they had planned to shop to a new label.
Recommended Songs: “Diane” and “Valerie Loves Me”
6. The Judybats
Looking for folky rock with quirky lyrics? Then say hello to The Judybats. Never able to build on the modest success of their first album, Native Son, the band tried everything to court the mainstream before being dropped by their label and breaking up in 1995.
Recommended Songs: “Daylight” and “Ugly On the Outside”
5. The Ocean Blue
Before most of us were out of college, The Ocean Blue had already completed a three record deal with Sire Records. Their albums sold a combined 425,000 copies, but the band found themselves cut free following the mid-90s record company mergers that lead to many alternative acts being dropped by their labels.
Recommended Songs: “Ballerina Out of Control” and “Sublime”
4. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin was an English Grebo band founded in 1987. Grebo was a short-lived but popular subculture known for dreadlocks, partially shaved heads, and baggy army surplus clothes. Unusual for their use of two bass players, Ned had an edgy, complicated sound with strong lyrics.
Recommended Songs: “Grey Cell Green” and “Not Sleeping Around “
Something terrible happened in 1998 to split up Louise Post and Nina Gordon. Hopefully some future time traveler will go back and fix things so that these “Volcano Girls” never broke up. Post continued on with the band and various line ups, Gordon released a solo album in 1998.
Recommended Songs: “Seether” and “Number One Blind”
Dada’s “Dizz Knee Land” hit at just the right moment for Generation X. As Gen X became politically active and helped elect Bill Clinton in 1992, a band proclaiming they “just flipped off President George” kinda hit the right note.
Recommended Songs: “Dizz Knee Land” and “Dim”
1. The Soup Dragons
Again, I’m not a huge fan of covers, but The Soup Dragon’s 1990 cover of “I’m Free” and the album it was from, Lovegod, were iconic and helped define the “oh so important and influential to the 90s” Madchester scene. Their music went all over the place from there, and eventually so did the other band members, leaving only singer Sean Dickson, who then started a new band.
Recommended Songs: “I’m Free” and “Divine Thing”
Pinder wanted cakepie, and now bright-eyed Charles Phoenix has introduced the reverse-named Cherpumple “Monster” Pie Cake, a three layer cake with each layer stuffed with a different kind of pie. Has Mr. Phoenix cracked the cakepie mystery? Could be…
I found this station when I was in Ireland three years ago called Phantom 105.2. Was just driving across the country when it started coming in. Had to pull over to the side of the road and start writing down names like Vesta Varro, Juno Falls, Television Room, and Cathy Davey. And then I hunted down whatever I could by the artists once I was back home.
One of my recent finds (along with Villagers, The Avett Brothers, and Two Door Cinema Club) was Crystal Castles. This is what I’ve had stuck in my head the last two days. Now it can be stuck in your’s, too! It’ll be like we’re freaky twins sharing thoughts!
So, this week’s “Song Stuck In My Head” is from The Avett Brothers, off their 2009 album I and Love and You. The song is an absolute blast. Please to be enjoying…