You know how it is with commercial radio stations. Just before a commercial break they’ll tease an upcoming track from one of your favorite bands from the past, and guaranteed, it will always be that same damn song you’ll hear every single time. Even if the band has twelve albums to their name, including one that dropped just two weeks previous, they’ll still play that one damn song. [This is why Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain” is one of my least favorite songs of theirs, because that’s the de facto Zep track for every classic rock station.]
Continuing my 90s theme, here’s a few bands from that decade that are actually worth checking out past their one claim to fame.
Hum, You’d Prefer an Astronaut, rel 11 April 1995. This album kind of got lost in the shuffle of mid-90s grunge pop and everything else, but it’s an excellent album full of crunchy riffs and great melodies. They followed this up with a further album, Downward Is Heavenward (released 27 January 1998) which unfortunately also got lost in the shuffle, but is just as great. [You may even want to go deeper and look for their two pre-major label albums from the early 90s.] And yes, I will admit that “Stars” is still a kickass track, even if it gets all the attention.
Eve 6, Eve 6, rel 28 April 1998. We all know the hit “Inside Out” (you know, that “put my tender/heart in a blender” track of theirs), but they’ve released three further albums over the years (including a reunion album) that are just as great. Second album Horrorscope (rel 25 July 2000) featured singles “Promise” and “Here’s to the Night” (the latter of which got minor airplay on MTV); third album It’s All in Your Head (rel 22 July 2003) featured “At Least We’re Dreaming” and “Think Twice”; fourth album Speak in Code (24 April 2012) featured “Victoria” and “Curtain”.
The Verve Pipe, Villains, rel 26 Mar 1996. EVERYONE knows “The Freshmen”…even lead singer Brian Vander Ark has accepted that’s his calling card at this point. But have you heard the rest of that album? If not, I strongly urge you to do that RIGHT NOW. While this hit plays to their softer side, there’s a much deeper and darker sound to Villains that you need to hear. “Cup of Tea” is the creepier cousin to that song; “Photograph” has a badass bassline; and the title track “Villains” is the most sinister track on the album. Even the album tracks are solid: the lovely “Penny is Poison”, and trippy album closer “Veneer” is the best song ever about driving through upstate Michigan while high as a kite.
But that’s not all — go do yourself a favor and check out their follow-up albums, The Verve Pipe (29 July 1999) and Underneath (25 September 2001), as well as their recent album Overboard (17 June 2014) and their numerous single releases they’ve been putting out over the last two years. Yeah, you could say I’m quite a big fan of these guys!
Dishwalla, Pet Your Friends, rel 21 November 1995. Another 90s band I love to pieces. Yes, this is that “tell me all your thoughts on God/’cause I’m on my way to see her” song. Singer JR Richards is a stellar songwriter who digs quite deep when it comes to emotional, soul-searching songs, but he’s not afraid to belt it out either. After this first album (which also includes the funky “Charlie Brown’s Parents” and the slinky “Haze”), they went on a long and grueling tour that kept them busy until the recording of And You Think You Know What Life’s About (rel 11 August 1998) — and the days on the road were evident on the harder, crunchier tracks here. Unfortunately the album fell through the cracks thanks to a major distributor shake-up at the time (PolyGram and Universal merged, and unceremoniously, a hell of a lot of great bands were either dropped or lost all their backing in the process), but this is by far their most cohesive and solid album. “Once in a While” was a minor hit, but the elegiac album track “Until I Wake Up” became a fan favorite that JR Richards still performs to this day. Third album Opaline (23 April 2002) saw the band on a new label and easing back to their lighter side, with great tracks like “Somewhere in the Middle” and the lovely “Angels or Devils”. Their last self-titled album (15 May 2005) and the last recording to feature JR before he left to go solo, is just as good, with tracks like “Collide”. There’s a rumor that a new Dishwalla album might surface this year or next as well!
Lit, A Place in the Sun, rel 23 February 1999. Yeah, that track, the worst-hangover-ever one. What happened to these guys, anyway? Like most of the 90s pop-punk bands, their star faded but they never quite went away. After a minor follow-up hit with “Zip Lock” (check out the brief cameo of a streaking Blink-182 in the video!) and a quick appearance on the soundtrack for the animated movie Titan AE with “Over My Head” (a movie that was sadly much maligned but in all honesty I quite enjoyed it), Lit released their follow-up Atomic (16 October 2001) with the single “Lipstick and Bruises” and a self-titled album (22 June 2004) with the single “Looks Like They Were Right” before sticking to the local live circuit for a number of years. They’d surface one more time with The View from the Bottom (19 June 2012) and “You Tonight”. They’re back in the studio working on a new album at this time.
Bush, Sixteen Stone, rel 6 December 1994. That first album of theirs was insanely huge, enough that they had hits well into early 1996 with the singles “Glycerine”, “Everything Zen”, “Comedown” and “Little Things”. They were somewhat unfairly written off, being too British to fit in with American grunge, but too grunge to be lopped in with the (now waning) Britpop movement…but MTV loved them just the same. They finally followed up with the wonderfully weird second album Razorblade Suitcase (19 November 1996) with another wave of great singles: “Swallowed”, “Greedy Fly”, “Cold Contagious” and “Personal Holloway”. An even weirder remix album popped up at the end of the following year with Deconstructed (11 November 1997), and then….nothing for a good couple of years.
By the time of their next album, The Science of Things (26 October 1999), their sound seemed a bit dated — or more to the point, alt.rock stations by that time had shifted to alternative metal and rap metal, and the more commercial alt.rock stations had shifted to the calmer sounds of Collective Soul and so on. They had a few minor hits like “The Chemicals Between Us” and “Letting the Cables Sleep”, but their time in the spotlight had waned considerably. They managed one last album, Golden State (23 October 2001) with another minor hit, “The People That We Love”, but by 2002 they’d broken up.
Lead singer Gavin Rossdale (having gotten in the headlines for marrying No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani) released an album in 2004 with his band Institute, and followed that up with a self-titled solo album in 2008, but that was pretty much it until 2011, when Rossdale reignited the band and released The Sea of Memories (13 September 2011) with two more radio hits, “The Afterlife” and “The Sound of Winter”. After a successful tour he returned once more with Man on the Run (21 October 2014) and another great single, “The Only Way Out”. And they’ve just released a new single a few months ago, “People at War”, which may hint at yet another new album in the works.
I could of course go on, but I think this is enough to get y’all started. No go scour the used record bins and find some of these tasty albums!