Thirty Years On: Slacker Central, Part I

Going back another decade to 1993 this time? Sure, why not? It’s an era of my past that I’ve kind of glossed over for varying and personal reasons, so maybe it’s time to take a look at some of the records that kept me going at the time.

To set the mood: it was my second and last semester of my senior year at Emerson, and I was exactly where I didn’t want or need to be at. I’d just moved out — more like ragequitted — the apartment I’d lived in for a year and change after having had enough of my then roommate. Moving back to the dorms, I realized I’d lost track of several of my college friends out of my own doing, and was now hanging with several kids younger than me and feeling left behind. My grades were still less than stellar, I had no real idea what my future would be, and the last thing I wanted to do was move back to my hometown.

So yeah, I was pretty much starting from rock bottom here.


The Wedding Present, The Hit Parade 2, released 4 January 1993. In 1992 this British band chose to drop a single a month — an original on the A side and a cover on the reverse — and it was the covers (such as a desperate version of Julee Cruise’s “Falling” and a blistering “Pleasant Valley Sunday”) that caught my attention.

Belly, “Feed the Tree” single, released 11 January 1993. After leaving Throwing Muses, Tanya Donelly surfaced a short time later with her own band that was immediately loved by everyone in the Boston area. She’d always written the less abrasive Muses tracks but never quite got rid of the classic Muses quirkiness, and it shows here.

Stereo MCs, Connected, released 12 January 1993. “Connected” (the single) was everywhere at the time, both on alt-rock and dance stations alike. I used to play this on my show on WECB and cranked the song up loud every time. It’s a really fun dance record worth checking out.

Denis Leary, No Cure for Cancer, released 12 January 1993. I know, this is a comedy record and not alt-rock, but I put it here because a) he’s a fellow Emersonian and b) he’s also a kid from central Massachusetts like me. A lot of the humor here is definitely of its time — irreverent GenX ‘fuck it, let’s go there and a bit beyond because why the hell not’ humor that’s equally ironic, biting, and daring, but you always knew there was an unspoken level of not quite being mean-spirited.

The Tragically Hip, Fully Completely, released 19 January 1993. This was the record that introduced me to this band, and it’s a hell of a fine album. I played at least three or four tracks from this record on my WECB show at the time.

Elvis Costello & the Brodsky Quartet, The Juliet Letters, released 19 January 1993. You never quite knew what EC was going to do next back in the day, his styles changing wildly from album to album. This is probably the first classical album where I finally understood what modern orchestral music was about, and that it could work seamlessly in a semi-pop way.

The The, Dusk, released 26 January 1993. Matt Johnson always took his time between albums, often two or three years at a time, and while his previous record dropped just as I was starting college, this one was released just as I was ending it. While not as angry as 1989’s Mind Bomb, it’s just as tense. This one’s about inner pain, and it shows on many of its tracks.

Duran Duran, “Ordinary World” single, released 26 January 1993. Ooof. If there was any song that encapsulated where my mental and emotional state was at this time, this was pretty much it. My long-term/long-distance relationship with T finally at its end, my less than stellar school years limping to a close, my social connections in the crapper, and my future nowhere to be found, this song saved me from falling any deeper with its constant reminder to keep going.

Jesus Jones, Perverse, released 26 January 1993. Understandably this record didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of 1991’s Doubt, and by the time of its release, the alt-rock universe had moved on to more organic grunge rock, but this remains one of the band’s best records in my eyes. It’s a much darker and denser record and features some of their best singles and deep cuts. I highly recommend it.


…so yeah, not the most spirited of beginnings of what is supposed to be an important year, yeah? But even though I was lost, hurting and feeling rudderless, I knew I had to keep going. By this time I’d realized that I could still use what I’d learned at this college, but in different ways: my film degree helped me understand how to write and tell stories. My connections with college radio may not have gotten me into that business but it certainly helped me continue my long-lasting love for music, as well as my constant drive to find new things to listen to.

I knew I was starting at the bottom and there was no way to go but up…and I also knew I was going to fuck up a lot along the way (and believe me, I did several times)…and ultimately I was the only one who was going to make me do it.


More to come: songs to keep me going, and an album that blew everything else out of the water!

Thirty Years On: 1991, Part V

It really is mindblowing to see just how many amazing records dropped in 1991…so many that either changed the face of rock or just made such a huge impact that they remain important albums to this day. And unlike most fourth-quarter releases, they didn’t just peter out into greatest hits and box sets (although there were many, just like always). We were served amazing records all the way until the very last day of the year!

While I lived off-campus and I still had a habit of sticking around at home, that didn’t mean I was that much of an introvert. I continued to hang out with a number of my friends from the latter half of sophomore year, most of whom were now living up the street at the dormitory on Arlington. After an exceedingly frustrating and confidence-shattering conversation with my student advisor (who, when I said I needed more hands-on filmmaking experience instead of just this continuing sludge of theory and history classes, said “well maybe you should have signed up for art school instead”), I decided that maybe filmmaking wasn’t my strength, but writing certainly was, and proceeded to fill the rest of my mass comm points with script classes. Best education decision I ever made, as that’s pretty much where I decided that writing would become a long-game career for me. And in the meantime, my radio was firmly stuck on 101.7 (WFNX) where I’d be constantly on the lookout for new releases.

So! Off we go with the last of 1991’s amazing run!

Chapterhouse, Mesmerise EP, released 1 October 1991. Just a few brief months after their amazing debut album, they squeaked out a four-track EP of great tunes including the lovely laid-back “Mesmerise”.

Lush, Black Spring EP, released 7 October 1991. After a number of mini-albums and a few singles, Lush returned late in the year with this EP as a teaser for their upcoming 1992 album Spooky. “Nothing Natural” is one of those great songs that really shows the band’s strengths, and yes, I do love that jangly breakdown near the end.

Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger, released 8 October 1991. I actually new of them from my freshman year roommate, but this was the record that first pushed them into the large spotlight, their second for major label A&M. They’d grown beyond the sludgy psychedelia of their early records and embraced a much harder metal sound. A lot of my college friends loved this record.

Erasure, Chorus, released 14 October 1991. This band just continues to be so much fun after all these years. “Chorus” got a lot of heavy rotation on my walkman, as did “Love to Hate You” from the same record. I loved that this wasn’t just a full-on dance record but a super smart one as well, in a year that had a lot of, well, terrible dance singles.

The Shamen, En-Tact, released 22 October 1991. This was the album a few of my friends used to listen to before they headed over to Landsdowne Street for club night. The band had gone full-on rave act by this time (though still hanging onto their psych-rock origins) and “Move Any Mountain” was a staple both at the clubs and on the radio. It blows my mind how many big-name producers are on this one: William Orbit, Paul Oakenfold, Steve Osbourne, Evil Eddie Richards, Irresistible Force, and Beatmasters, just to name a few.

Wir, The First Letter, released 22 October 1991. With their shift to samplers and drum machines, longtime Wire drummer Robert Grey left the band, and taking the “e” with him. This record tends to be widely ignored even by the band, but it’s one of my favorites of theirs. They retain their signature ‘angular’ sound with twitchy tracks like “Stop!” and “A Bargain at 3 and 20 Yeah!” but they also veer into heady electronica territory with the midtempo “So and Slow It Grows”, “Footsi-Footsi” (my favorite track) and “No Cows On the Ice”. I’ll still play this record every now and again.

Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend, released 22 October 1991. After two albums favored by critics but completely ignored by so many others, Sweet hit the big time with a bright and jangly album that dispensed with the quiet moodiness and went full-on guitar rock (thanks to Robert Quine and Television’s Richard Lloyd). Catchy as hell and unrestrained, this is an amazing and super fun record to have in your collection.

Del The Funky Homosapien, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, released 22 October 1991. This was another record my friends would listen to, simply because Del’s mixes were just so odd yet enjoyable. “Mistadobalina” was one of those easy crossover hits that would get play not just on the pop stations in Boston, but the rock stations picked it up too.

My Bloody Valentine, Loveless, released 4 November 1991. The record that nearly bankrupted its label, and the record that lay the groundwork for noise rock, modern shoegaze, and pretty much every other similar alt-rock subgenre. I remember my first reaction to this record was “I have no friggin’ idea what I’m listening to, but damn…” It just went in so many unexpected directions where it should not have worked at all, and yet it did. It really was that groundbreaking.

U2, Achtung Baby, released 19 November 1991. I didn’t know of anyone who didn’t own this record on day one. Pretty much everyone I knew was a U2 fan to some degree, and after the amazing Joshua Tree and the not-so-amazing Rattle and Hum, no one was sure what to expect. And it is a great album! Only one or two filler songs near the end, but for the most part this a solid record that set them off in a totally different direction and to even higher popularity. Moving past their folk and punk origins and influences and fully embracing the future was certainly a winning move.

Teenage Fanclub, Bandwagonesque, released 19 November 1991. The album known as the one Spin magazine voted as the best of the year over Nevermind, it’s very much one of those indie-stoner type of records that bands like Pavement would perfect just a few years later.

Talk Talk, Laughing Stock, released 19 November 1991. This UK band bowed out with such a strange yet stunning record that sounded nothing like their first few. It’s less a pop record than it is a jazz record, meandering and swirling and never quite picking up steam, but that’s its beauty: it’s a record so out of place it created its own.

Various Artists, I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, released 26 November 1991. Cohen has always been one of those amazing songwriters that’s either been lauded or been the butt of jokes (see The Young Ones), but he’s written so many superb folk and pop songs that are still covered today. This particular mix is of note due to its several alt-rock covers, and the amazing thing is that each band owns the song. “I Can’t Forget” sounds like the Pixies wrote it. “First We Take Manhattan” sounds like REM wrote it. That’s how influential Cohen could be.

Various Artists, Until the End of the World soundtrack, released 10 December 1991. I will always suggest this record to anyone looking for interesting soundtracks to listen to, and I will also suggest they watch the movie as well, as it is still one of my all-time favorites. (And yes, I have indeed sat through the Criterion 5-hour version.) Wim Wenders asked bands to write songs they thought they’d be writing in 1999, when the movie takes place, and each song works perfectly.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Where’d You Go? EP, released 12 December 1991. This single dropped a few months before their second album More Noise and Other Disturbances, but “Where’d You Go?” hit the Boston airwaves and became one of their signature songs years before “The Impression That I Get”. This particular EP is well worth looking for partly for the lead song, but also for its hilarious Aerosmith, Van Halen and Metallica covers as well! The Bosstones were another local band that everyone loved, and pretty much every college kid went to see once or twice. And they’re still going strong!

Live, Mental Jewelry, released 31 December 1991. Sneaking onto the airwaves on the last day of the year, Ed Kowalczyk and his school friends released a sometimes overly earnest (and sometimes preachy) but amazingly strong album that set them on a long career of great rock tunes. We’d see them reemerge a few years later with the even stronger worldwide smash Throwing Copper.


…WHEW. Yeah, that was a hell of a year, wasn’t it? I mean, most years just have maybe about a dozen or so bangers or groundbreaking records that stand the test of time, but 1991 really did have a bumper crop of albums that completely changed the face and sound of rock, didn’t it? Alternative rock may have been making major chart inroads by at least 1986 or 1987, and by 1989 we were seeing even more breakthroughs. If anything, I think 1991 wasn’t when the genre ‘broke’ but when the dregs of the outdated and increasingly embarrassing 80s rock styles finally faded away into the background and cleared the way for the 90s to fully embrace it with a clear conscience.

Would there be other years as groundbreaking as this? Certainly! They seem to pop up every five to six years: once a few years into a new decade and another coming close to the end, lining up quite nicely with the bigger changes going on in the world. This is why I always talk about my “2-8” music theory (great records always drop in or close to years ending in 2 and 8). But 1991 will always be seen as alternative rock’s initial break from semi-obscurity into chart and radio success.

Thirty Years On: 1991 Part IV

September 1991 was when I moved in with L to a loft apartment on Beacon Street, just up the way from the Emerson campus. It was a surprisingly roomy place with a high ceiling so the loft itself wasn’t a stuffy narrow crawlspace. I really loved living there, even if L was the next-worst roomie in terms of cleanliness (that would be M, my good friend and sophomore year roomie, and he’d be the first to admit that). It was on the third floor and faced south, so we didn’t get the noisy street sounds but did get a view of the Prudential and Hancock towers. I still used the school cafeteria so I didn’t have to worry too much about food, though I was still barely scraping by moneywise, between the rent and other things. And despite having to deal with some of my worst personal and emotional problems around then, I also had some absolutely fantastic times there as well. Oh, and we shared a pet ball python that we named Kipling!

Onto September, which was absolutely bloating with great new releases! Which, y’know, fourth quarter and the kids coming back to school and all, just waiting to be an epic release month. No wonder I was always broke!

Slowdive, Just for a Day, released 2 September 1991. A favorite of many shoegaze fans, Slowdive’s debut record introduced many to the quieter and dreamier side of the genre, clearly inspired from similar mid-80s post-punk atmospherics like Cocteau Twins.

Trip Shakespeare, Lulu, released 3 September 1991. Years before Dan Wilson introduced us to his wonderful songcraft with Semisonic and the near-ubiquitous “Closing Time”, his previous band was a critic and cult favorite with their special brand of super fun pop and folk.

Tribe, Abort, released 10 September 1991. Tribe was the Boston band everyone loved. They wrote amazing songs you danced and sang along to, their shows were extremely popular and exciting, and Janet LaValley was voted best local singer of the year in the Boston Phoenix multiple times. I originally had this one on tape and I don’t think I’ve ever stopped listening to it since.

The Ocean Blue, Cerulean, released 10 September 1991. They may not have had nearly as much popularity as most alternative rock bands, but they wrote such sweet and lovely songs that they were hard to forget. “Ballerina Out of Control” still gets airplay now and again!

Billy Bragg, Don’t Try This at Home, released 17 September 1991. This isn’t Bragg’s first record with a full band, but it was one that broke him onto the commercial alt-rock scene and featured a who’s-who of famous musicians like Kirsty MacColl, Peter Buck, Michael Stipe and Johnny Marr. “Sexuality” was a bold song to release back then, but I distinctly remember many of my LGBT+ friends loving the song because it was so positive.

The Golden Palominos, Drunk with Passion, released 17 September 1991. This was a band I’d always wanted to get into but could never find until this record. Its cover by 23 Envelope’s Vaughan Oliver hinted at its dreamlike 4AD-esque sound (which sadly had gone straight over the heads of many critics who were bored by the record), and it’s one that demands constant attention. It’s a record you happily get lost inside. I’d gotten a copy of this from a friend and ended up buying the cassette, which nearly wore out from so many plays. It’s still one of my top favorite records of that year.

Guns ‘n Roses, Use Your Illusion I and II, released 17 September 1991. Sure, you could easily make fun of GnR and their ridiculously over the top epic videos that felt like they were three hours long and cost millions. You could say they’d fallen deep into their own navels (and lost a few original members along the way) by releasing what is essentially a way-overlong double album, but in truth, there’s a lot of great stuff here too. They certainly proved they weren’t just a cheesy late 80s hair metal band on this twin release.

Primal Scream, Screamadelica, released 23 September 1991. This is such a brilliant record because it has so many different styles and parts to it that fit so seamlessly as a whole. It’s got the mood and feel of cheerful mid-60s British pop, the weirdness of psychedelia, the blissful grooves of 90s house, and it was the perfect soundtrack for the GenX club scene thanks to the brilliant production of Andrew Weatherall. It’s so relentlessly uplifting it became my go-to whenever I needed to listen to something positive.

Pixies, Trompe Le Monde, released 23 September 1991. Their (then) last album seemed to be a mix of Doolittle‘s angular weirdness and Bossanova‘s catchiness but with a gloss they could finally afford, and even if they did have somewhat of a bitter breakup at the time, it was a hell of a great way to go. I of course had a particular love for “UMass”, dedicated to a college just a short distance away from my hometown.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, released 24 September 1991. I tend to prefer their previous album Mother’s Milk, which had been their almost-breakthrough record, but this one shot them into the stratosphere. I have a particular love for “Breaking the Girl”, which had a video but alas never really got all that much airplay.

Blur, Leisure (US version), released 24 September 1991. One of the bands that would become the face of Britpop, they were such a wonderful, fun and strange band from the start and wrote so many memorable songs and melodies. Just out of college, these four boys brought such a refreshing and distinctively British blend to alternative rock. Still one of my top favorite 90s bands.

Nirvana, Nevermind, released 24 September 1991. I’ll admit I’ve never been the biggest Nirvana fan (I had a grudge against them for for stealing the riff of “Come As You Are” from Killing Joke, for a start), but I’ll admit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is indeed one of the best GenX anthems out there. It was one of the first songs that hit so many of us square in the gut and had us responding with “yeah, that’s us.”

MC 900 Ft Jesus, Welcome to My Dream, released 24 September 1991. Who knew an army brat from Kentucky would become one of the strangest obscure hip-hop musicians of the 90s? And more to the point, who knew his biggest hit would be a super catchy (and creepy) rhyme about a serial arsonist? “The City Sleeps” is one of those songs you don’t hear all that often but when you do, you’re blown away by just how groovy and spooky it really is.

Swervedriver, Raise, released 30 September 1991. On the other end of the shoegaze spectrum was the visceral noise attack from walls of effects-laden guitars and soaring drones, with often-dreamlike lyrics on top. Swervedriver came from the My Bloody Valentine mold, never quite hitting any heights in the US but getting some decent alt-rock station airplay with the excellent “Rave Down”.


Just a few more months to go! Stay tuned!

Thirty Years On: 1991, Part III

Summer 1991 was a change season for me. Here I was, on the top floor of a Fisher College dorm overlooking the Charles River. I set up my typewriter at one of the desks, borrowed a friend’s acoustic guitar, and set my TV on top of one of the bureaus. I worked full-time at Emerson’s Media Center in the always-cool basement of the library up the street. [This, of course, was back when the school’s campus still centered around the intersection of Berkeley and Beacon Streets. They’d sell all those properties by decade’s end.] I was dead broke and hungry most of the time, but I somehow managed. I spent most of my free time listening to music, watching the evening news, writing new songs, and watching the free movies and concerts at the Hatch Shell. I did a lot of deep thinking, chased away some old demons and let myself embrace a few things I’d been avoiding. I was still far from perfect emotionally or mentally, but I was getting there.

ANYWAY. On with the music! There’s a LOT of it, all within the span of three months!

Siouxsie & the Banshees, Superstition, released 10 June 1991. I was a huge fan of 1988’s Peepshow and this was a great follow-up; they’d grown out of their post-punk sound and had fully embraced more radio-friendly alt-rock by this point.

Seal, Seal, released 11 June 1991. I absolutely love “Crazy”. It’s an amazing song, up in the top five of my favorite songs of all time. His first record focuses a bit more on the British dance scene than the soul he’d lean towards just a few years later, partly due to it being helmed by Trevor Horn (whose production albums often end up being “a TH record featuring the band”), but it was a fantastic debut for a long and incredible career.

Big Audio Dynamite II, The Globe, released 16 June 1991. BAD has always been kind of an odd band with a revolving membership, and its second iteration featured none other than an ex-Sigue Sigue Sputnik drummer! (This isn’t as odd as it sounds; Mick Jones is a close friend of SSS mastermind Tony James.) “Rush” and “The Globe” get most of the airplay nowadays, but nearly every song on this album is great.

Raindogs, Border Drive-In Theatre, released 25 June 1991. This Boston band never quite got the push it needed even though they were known to put on a blistering live show with a raucous Celtic feel to it. “Dance of the Freaks” got some significant airplay on WFNX at the time and I’ve always liked it.

Chapterhouse, Whirlpool, released 25 June 1991. This is probably the album where I really started leaning heavily on Britpop, and one I equate most with the signature sound. A dreamlike groove that mixes both the indie 4AD reverb echo and the beats of Madchester. Their sound was less about partying at the Hacienda and more about kicking back and letting your mind wander.

Sarah McLachlan, Solace, released 29 June 1991. Before she hit the big time with “Possession” and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (and a lot bigger a few years later with “Angel” and Surfacing), Sarah came out with a strange yet alluring second album that went all sorts of interesting places.

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, God Fodder, released 2 July 1991. Two bassists in the band? Sure, why not? Ned’s was your classic weirdo British band that refused to fit into any set format. They weren’t grunge, but they weren’t Britpop either. They were just noisy and jumpy as hell and a hell of a lot of fun. Definitely worth checking out their other albums!

Crowded House, Woodface, released 2 July 1991. Originally created to be a record featuring Neil and Tim Finn, it ended up being their third record and broke them into the mainstream. Because of this there’s definitely a shade of wackiness and quirkiness that their previous band Split Enz was known for. It also contains some of CH’s beset songs as well, including the lovely “Weather with You”.

The Psychedelic Furs, World Outside, released 30 July 1991. The (then) last Psychedelic Furs record of their original run, This one tended to be forgotten due to its lack of promotion but I think contains some of their most mature songs. “There’s a World” remains one of my favorite songs of theirs.

The Orb, The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, released 1 August 1991. I remember hearing “Little Fluffy Clouds” on the techno show on WFNX well before it achieve renewed fame in a 1998 VW Beetle commercial (and also referenced in a scene in the comic The Invisibles) and this record was always spoken of with glowing reviews and late night plays.

The Wolfgang Press, Queer, released 5 August 1991 (UK). I actually didn’t pick this up until some months later when it was released in the US with a slightly changed track listing, but it remains one of my favorite records of the early 90s. TWP was known as a kind of weird band even by 4AD standards (one of its members was actually in Rema-Rema, one of the first signed to the label back in 1980) but by the latter half of their career they became more melodic and introspective. Queer does retain a bit of their weirdness, but it’s also catchy as hell. Highly recommended.

PM Dawn, Of the Heart, of the Soul, and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience, released 6 August 1991. This record was totally not in the same kind of genre I was listening to at the time, but “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” was inescapable (even WFNX played it!) and I grew to love it.

Toad the Wet Sprocket, Fear, released 27 August 1991. This record got a lot of play on my Walkman at the time, as I really loved “Walk on the Ocean” at the time. I’ve always been a fan of the band since the Bread and Circus days and this breakthrough album is extremely enjoyable.

Pearl Jam, Ten, released 27 August 1991. I’ll admit I preferred Pearl Jam over Nirvana (who I thought were good but derivative), Alice in Chains (who felt like metal-lite) and Soundgarden (who were great but impenetrable at times). [Note: I grew to love each one of those bands anyway as the decade wore on.] PJ had that perfect blend of great melody and smart songcraft and weren’t showing off or trying to prove a point. They felt like the Beatles of grunge to me — doing their own thing and being freakishly brilliant at it. They still remain an “I will buy every album they put out” band on my list, and last year’s Gigaton proves they still have it, so many years later.


Daaang. That was one hell of an amazing summer of music. But wait! There’s more to come!

Thirty Years On: 1991, Part II

This one’s a long one, kids, even if it is just two months’ worth of music! We’re rolling off right to the end of my sophomore year and already things are changing. I think around this time I’d finally trunked my Infamous War Novel (for the time being, anyway) and started playing around with different story ideas. I’d written a short fun script for a film class, I’d shot the first of a few 8mm films (all of them terrible, btw) and a bizarre home video with a few of my dorm friends (probably my best work at the time, btw), and I’d gotten so much better at guitar and bass playing. And somewhere between all this, I had this crazy little idea about writing a Gen-X novel entitled Two Thousand. Things were indeed changing. Maybe for the better…?

Lenny Kravitz, Mama Said, released 2 April 1991. I remember buying this cassette at Planet Records in Kenmore Square on spec — I’d heard maybe two songs off it — and I was absolutely blown away by how brilliant it was. While his debut Let Love Rule leaned more on the funk and hippie rock, he decided to go full-out Flower Child on this second record. The funk was still there, but the psychedelia was a lot more up front. It’s still my favorite of all his records.

Massive Attack, Blue Lines, released 8 April 1991. When “Unfinished Sympathy” hit the alternative airwaves early that summer, the resounding response was whoa, what is this?? Most people I knew equated techno and electronica with clubs and hi-NRG dance beats, but they’d never heard this kind: moody and atmospheric with much darker tones and lyrics…yet still irresistibly danceable. The Bristol UK trip-hop scene had arrived. [Also, this video was indeed the one that inspired one for the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”.]

The Crash Test Dummies, The Ghosts That Haunt Me, released 9 April 1991. A few years before their unexpected hit with “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”, these Canadians dropped a curiously odd yet heartfelt album of sad folk and clever humor, and had a minor hit with “Superman’s Song”. It’s a lovely record that often gets forgotten.

School of Fish, School of Fish, released 9 April 1991. “3 Strange Days” ended up being the theme song of my first summer away from my hometown. The semester was over, the summer months had begun, and I knew almost no one in town. My college friends had all gone home, and considering this was pre-internet, it wasn’t as if I could chat with anyone else without incurring a ridiculously high phone bill. Strange days indeed, but it also gave me a lot of time to get my shit together. This album, of course, was one of my soundtracks for it.

Fishbone, The Reality of My Surroundings, released 23 April 1991. If I was going to go it alone, I was gonna need some music that I could crank the f*** up when things got tense, and “Sunless Saturday” was the heaviest song on my playlist. The whole album is a wonder of senseless fun, inner city turmoil, pain and injustice, and everything in between. It was Fishbone’s heaviest album to date (both sound and message) and it still blows me away.

Inspiral Carpets, The Beast Inside, 7 May 1991. The Carpets’ second album dispenses with the sixties-influenced pop and leans a lot heavier on the chunky grooves and jams. This is by far one of my favorite Britpop records because of it, by proving they weren’t just a scene or a passing fad with a grindy Farfisa organ.

This Mortal Coil, Blood, released 13 May 1991. The third and final TMC record doesn’t quite capture the reverb-heavy cathedral-like mood of their previous records — the 4AD label had already started expanding past its original signature style — but it still contains some absolutely lovely and tender covers and originals, including Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly’s take on Chris Bell’s “You and Your Sister”.

Curve, Frozen EP, released 13 May 1991. Not that long before the brilliant single “Fait Accompli” and debut album Doppelganger, Curve dropped three solid EPs (later to be collected on 1992’s Pubic Fruit) and the single “Coast Is Clear” that introduced many Americans to their strange yet alluring mix of sultry vocals, rumbling percussion and imposing walls of guitar.

EMF, Schubert Dip, released 14 May 1991. Like Jesus Jones, their hit single (in this case, “Unbelievable”) eclipsed everything else from the record it came from, but this truly is a fun, irresistible and addictive record. It was also the album of the summer, with several singles hitting the WFNX playlist and getting several repeated plays during a weekend trip to Maine with a few high school friends.

The Wonder Stuff, Never Loved Elvis, released 27 May 1991. This third album brought the band in a new direction, toning down the nutty humor of Eight Legged Grove Machine and the too-serious pop of Hup and letting them return to their more folksy roots. This record almost sounds like a Waterboys record, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Electronic, Electronic, released 28 May 1991. The idea of Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr recording together sounded like a brilliant plan: two Mancunians with a deep love for guitars and dance music. It takes the best of each musician — Sumner’s gift for melody and Marr’s ability to write amazing riffs — and turns out a bright and powerful summer record.

The Smashing Pumpkins, Gish, released 28 May 1991. Long before their forays into White Album-like excess, weird goth chic, multi-album navel-gazing themes and several drug-related dramas, this band put out a supremely mind-blowing album of grunge-meets-psychedelia.


Stay tuned for the summer!

Thirty Years On: 1991, Part I

The other day KEXP was celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of albums that had come out on 24 September 1991, particularly four albums that have become important classics of the alt-rock genre: Nirvana’s Nevermind, Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, Pixies’ Trompe Le Monde, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

But there was SO much more than just hearing “Under the Bridge” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on extremely heavy rotation, as the modern ’80s, 90s and beyond’ iHeart playlists will lead you to believe. This wasn’t just the year punk “broke” (which even then I thought was a questionable boast), nor was it the year MTV decided that their 120 Minutes playlist would suddenly also be their regular daytime rotation. It was a year filled will burgeoning Britpop, electronica, college-rock inspired pop, and everything in between. And weirdly enough a ton of it had an extremely positive edge to it. As young Gen-Xers finally given the stage, we’d just entered the first year of the last decade of the last century of the current millennium. When the clock ticked over to 2000 (yes, yes, I know…stfu, no pedants allowed on WIS), we thought and hoped everything shitty and broken in our lives to date would have been fixed by then. We were hoping beyond hope that several painful years of destructive Thatcherism and Reaganism and the Gulf War Live On TV would wilt away and we’d finally get our own and make things better. [It of course didn’t exactly work out that way despite our best efforts, but for a while I’d like to think we had a good thing going.] And our music definitely mirrored that, especially in the early nineties.

Let’s see, where was I in 1991? In college! Finishing up my sophomore year at Emerson with a new circle of friends, getting ever so slightly better grades, still holding onto a shaky long-term/long-distance relationship and already planning not to return back to my hometown for another summer. I was going to stick around in Beantown one way or another. I was consistently broke af and I probably wasn’t in the most stable of emotional places at the time, mind you, but I was bound and determined to get out of that particular rut one way or another. I signed up to work the summer at the college library and rented out a huge dorm room from Fisher College down the block. By the time junior year started, I moved in with a friend on Beacon Street and stayed there until August of 1992.

So kick back, kids, this one’s gonna be a long one! [I should probably create a Spotify playlist as well, come to think of it…]

The Judybats, Native Son, released 16 January 1991. Perky, quirky and catchy as hell. This was always a fun band to hear on WFNX, back before they leaned so heavily on grunge later that year. This is a very early 90s sound that was everywhere then: kind of inspired by REM’s poppier side, lighthearted and extremely melodic.

Pop Will Eat Itself, The Pop Will Eat Itself Cure for Sanity, released 22 January 1991. The Poppies pull back considerably on their noisy ‘grebo’ sound this time out and entertain us with club grooves. The samples are still there, but they’re more intertwined in the melodies rather than just blasting out of nowhere.

Jesus Jones, Doubt, released 29 January 1991. “Right Here Right Now” might be played to death and is most definitely a product of its time, but Doubt really is a fantastic banger of a record from start to finish. It’s relentlessly groovy and beat-heavy and translates well both on the radio and on the dance floor. It also sounds amazing in headphones, considering they were masters at highly creative sampling and sound production.

Material Issue, International Pop Overthrow, release 5 February 1991. Another classic album of its time that takes a page from the Replacements with its mix of jangly and wobbly pop and punk. This could have easily been released a good few years earlier or a decade later and fit in nicely with other current sounds.

Throwing Muses, The Real Ramona, released 18 February 1991. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Muses. They could slide between awkward and hard-to-grasp tunes and gorgeously pop melodies — sometimes within the same song — and they were also sort-of local, which was always a plus for me. [Boston’s music scene in the 80s and 90s was flipping AMAZING and I really should give it its own blog entry soon.] “Counting Backwards” remains one of my favorites of theirs.

The Charlatans UK, Over Rising EP, released 25 February 1991. After their lovely, psychedelic debut album Some Friendly, the Charlatans chose to prove that they weren’t just a flash in the pan Madchester group. This EP might capture some more of that signature sound, but it also hints at a darker and heavier sound they’d capture the next year on their sophomore album.

The KLF, The White Room, released 4 March 1991. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing “3AM Eternal” somewhere on someone’s radio, in the club or in the car. The duo’s musical and political shenanigans never really translated to the US, but this song and album did make a significant dent in the psyche of kids just entering their 20s. Its production is freakishly trebly — the bloop-bleeps, synth stings and PP Arnold’s blistering vocals are all pushed into the red — but that’s how the clubs loved it.

Too Much Joy, Cereal Killers, released 12 March 1991. The TMJ boys were firmly entrenched in that ‘goofy punk’ style that had been a staple of college radio for most of the 80s, but thanks to a major label deal with Giant, for a few years they were able to sneak onto alt-rock radio with some super catchy and fun tunes like “Crush Story.” Later that summer I was able to see them live at the Hatch Shell!

REM, Out of Time, released 12 March 1991. After a super-long tour supporting 1988’s Green — their first major-label record — they followed up with an extremely glossy album that on one hand turned off more than a few IRS-era fans but on the other hand shot them straight into the stratosphere, all without a tour to promote it. Somehow a gloomy mid-tempo song with a strange southernism as its title ended up becoming their hugest hit to date…and still gets radio play to this day.

The Godfathers, Unreal World, released 12 March 1991. The last album of theirs to be released by Sony in the US, this album may not have gotten much airplay or promotion, but it was one of my favorites of that year and it got a ton of play on my Walkman. It’s not as angry as Birth School Work Death or as Johnny-Cash-bluesy as More Songs About Love and Hate; instead it leans more towards garage band psychedelia (including a powerful and badass cover of The Creation’s “How Does It Feel to Feel”) and it’s strong from start to finish.

Slint, Spiderland, released 27 March 1991. Considered one of the first important albums of the post-rock genre, this record was a hell of a headscratcher for some of us that had never heard this type of sound before, but those of us hanging out in the record stores and building up our college radio station’s library, it quickly became a staple. I used to play “Good Morning, Captain” some days during my WECB run because it was just so weird yet amazing.


More to come soon!

Thirty Years On: Spring 1989

Hello and welcome to another episode of Thirty Years On! At this point in time I’m winding down the remaining weeks of my high school years…all the term papers handed in and graded, all final exams about to be taken, and future plans made. I’ve gone to an open house at Emerson College, which I’ll be attending that September. The biggest change at this time is that I’m going out with a lovely girl introduced to me by a mutual friend, which changes my emotional outlook considerably at the time. [Decades after our split, we’re still friends and talk online occasionally, by the way.] I’m focusing more on my poetry and lyrics than my novels, and in hindsight I realize that helped me get out of that creative rut.

I graduate in early May. My old friends from the year before have just come home from college temporarily and take me out for a celebratory dinner. I’m thrilled to spend more time with them again. I’m prepping myself for a new life in a new city. Now all I have to do is survive a few more months in my hometown. The waiting drives me absolutely bonkers, and there’s also the fact that I’ll have a newly-minted relationship turning into a long-distance one pretty soon. It’ll be a hell of a tough balance.

The Cure, “Lullaby” single, released in the UK on 4 April 1989. After waiting nearly a year for new music from one of my all-time favorite bands at the time, I was utterly blown away by their new sound. It wasn’t the upbeat alternarock of their last few albums, that was for sure. I’d first heard it on 120 Minutes and then on WAMH and I was hooked. I picked this twelve-inch up at Main Street Music down in Northampton (roadtrip with Chris, natch). I especially enjoyed the bizarre throwaway b-side “Babble” with its crying-baby samples and “shut up shut up” lyrics.

Xymox, Twist of Shadows, released 10 April 1989. I’d been a fan of this band since hearing their fantastic “Muscoviet Mosquito” on the 4AD compilation Lonely Is an Eyesore. By this time they’d moved away from their colder goth sound and embraced a more snythpoppy mood that fit them quite well. This is an excellent album that combines rich moods and dance beats without sounding soulless. Highly recommended; they just released an expanded remaster of this earlier this year!

Pixies, Doolittle, released 17 April 1989. There was always cause for celebration for a new Pixies record in Massachusetts, especially out yonder in the Pioneer Valley, and this one fast became a favorite of pretty much everyone. While less ear-splitting than Surfer Rosa, it still provided quite a few memorable tracks that would become fan favorites for years to come.

The Cure, “Fascination Street” single, released in the US on 18 April 1989. The lead-off single for this side of the pond was a much stronger — and angrier — track that held a power I hadn’t heard from the band probably since their Pornography album. If their upcoming record was going to be as damn good as their two singles, then it was gong to be pretty friggin’ amazing.

Wire, It’s Beginning to and Back Again, released May 1989. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this particular record, on the other hand. Wire had been a huge favorite of mine the year previous, but instead of a new album with new and intriguing music, they’d gone in a slightly different direction; this was a record borne out of sound experimentation and live recording. Half the tracks were reinterpretations of songs from their last two albums and singles, with maybe one or two new songs added. (And the second new single, “In Vivo”, only available on cd. Because of this I never got around to hearing it for another year or so.) In retrospect it is an interesting record, but it’s not exactly a must-have unless you’re a dedicated fan.

The Cure, Disintegration, released 2 May 1989. “This music has been mixed to be played loud so TURN IT UP.” So says the liner notes on the Cure’s eighth and by far most popular and most-loved record. And turn it up I did, when I bought it on cassette the week it came out. From the glorious crash and downpour of synth strings on the opener “Plainsong” to the sad goodbye of a slightly out of tune melodica on the closer “Untitled”, it is so aurally immersive it’s almost impossible not to be drawn in by its beauty. It’s a completely perfect album on so many levels.

Bob Mould, Workbook, released 2 May 1989. Almost completely obscured by the above, Mould’s debut solo album, recorded after (and in some ways in response to) his acrimonious split from Husker Du, is a gorgeous masterpiece itself. He’d wanted to record an album that was the antithesis of the noisy punk he’d been known for, to prove he could write solid songs that were more melodic and acoustic. It as a smashing success for both critics and fans, paving the way for a successful long term career.

The Godfathers, More Songs About Love and Hate, released 9 May 1989. These British punkers followed up their brilliant Birth School Work Death with a record that leaned less on their psych-rock origins and more on their other influences, including Johnny Cash. There’s a fun raucousness on this record and doesn’t take itself entirely seriously sometimes, but it’s a solid album.

Tin Machine, Tin Machine, released 23 May 1989. This record divided Bowie fans something fierce when it came out. Some (like myself) thought it was an excellent about-face from the sterile pop-rock he’d been attempting for most of the 80s; some thought he was an old man past his prime trying to be relevant by playing hard rock out of his league; some had no idea what to make of it and ignored it completely. It’s full of anger, humor, and relentless power, and Bowie pulled it off brilliantly.

Public Image Ltd, 9, released 30 May 1989. This was a slow burner for me; while it had the groove and melody of 1987’s Happy? (which was a big favorite of mine), it also felt a little bit like a retread of that album, only with slightly longer songs and not nearly as much humor. Over the years I’ve come to enjoy it, however. It still feels a little overlong, but it’s still solid.


Of course, now that I’ve revived the “___Years On” series, I’m half tempted to do some more reviews of previous years, especially the 1985-1987 era when post-punk started to sneak its way into the US mainstream, little by little, paving the way for the classic alternative rock albums and singles we all know and love.

Not to mention that I’m half-tempted to revive the Walk in Silence book project, which I’d put on the back burner quite some time ago.

We shall see…

Thirty Years On: Spring 1989

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been thinking of whether or not to follow up on this series. It’s hard to follow up on what I personally consider one of the best years for alternative rock in the 80s in terms of musicianship, quality, consistency and creativity. On a more personal note, it’s also hard to follow up having a positive and stellar year when nearly your entire circle of friends has left for greener college pastures. Regardless, I did my damnedest to remain as positive as I could; I still had the other friends in my year and younger.

In retrospect this makes me sound rather shallow, and I suppose it does in a way. My connection to the just-graduated gang had been a deep and close one that I hadn’t had previously, and I suppose their moving on affected me more than I’d expected. I suddenly found myself going from ‘part of the gang’ to flying solo (or almost solo), and it took me a long time to get used to that.

Regardless, I still had college radio and 120 Minutes to fall back on. Plus, I was on the final circuit towards the end of my high school career, and it was time for me to find myself and shine somehow.

The Darling Buds, Pop Said…, released January 1989. If there’s anything I noticed about 1989, is that it seemed to have a more pop sheen to it. Not in the ridiculous plastic way that permeated the mid-80s pop scene, but in a fun, free-for-all way. This was thanks to multiple scenes in the UK kicking off the party culture that soon became known as Britpop. The Buds, coming from South Wales, brought in a sparkly indie-pop sound that caught the ears of many a fan.

Love and Rockets, “Motorcycle”/”I Feel Speed” single, released 3 January 1989. Meanwhile, the trio once known for its dreamy psychedelic indie rock over the last four years suddenly changed pace and delivered a growling punch of raucous surf rock about singer Daniel Ash’s love of motorcycles. The b-side “I Feel Speed” is a gorgeous dreamlike interpretation of the song done almost entirely on David J’s bass.

Throwing Muses, Hunkpapa, released 23 January 1989. The last album featuring bassist Leslie Langston, this outing was much more pop-oriented than their previous records, providing a college radio favorite with “Dizzy”.

New Order, Technique, released 30 January 1989. While not as brilliant as Low Life or Brotherhood, it’s nonetheless a solid album featuring some of their best hybrid sound of synth and guitar. It’s also quite melodic compared to some of their earlier records.

Morrissey, “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” single, released 31 January 1989. An absurd yet catchy ode to the Reggie and Ronnie Kray, London’s most famous (and infamous) mobsters of current history. It was the first of numerous non-album songs Morrissey would drop over the course of the next decade. Also a song and video that surprised many: it features three other ex-Smiths (Andy Rourke on bass, Mike Joyce on drums, and tour guitarist Craig Gannon), briefly firing up rumors of a sort-of Smiths reunion.

The Replacements, Don’t Tell a Soul, released 7 February 1989. Paul Westerberg and Co followed up 1987’s fantastic Pleased to Meet Me with an album that sounds like maybe they sobered up a titch and started writing more solidly and melodically. They’re older and perhaps a bit wiser at this point.

Fine Young Cannibals, The Raw and the Cooked, released 20 February 1989. The trio’s second (and so far final) album was a big hit across the board, both on pop and modern rock charts, thanks to its lead-off single “She Drives Me Crazy”. It also had quite a memorable video (choreographed and directed by Phillippe Decouflé, whose only other music video was the equally memorable “True Faith” for New Order).

XTC, Oranges and Lemons, released 27 February 1989. Perhaps partly inspired by their side project The Dukes of Stratosphear, whose records were a straight-up 60s psychedelic rock pastiche, this record blended those psych tendencies with lovely pastoral sounds and catchy pop tunes.

Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls, released 28 February 1989. Their second album (and first for a major label) was a stellar folk-rock record that gained them a huge following, and major airplay on both college and commercial stations with their hit “Closer to Fine.” It’s an amazing album from start to finish and a must for anyone’s collection.

Robyn Hitchcock, Queen Elvis, released March 1989. His follow-up to the fan favorite Globe of Frogs — and named after one of his songs that would appear on 1990’s solo record Eye — is full of beautiful and introspective songs, yet still peppered with his trademark eclectic wit. It’s my personal favorite of his 80s output.

De La Soul, Three Feet High and Rising, released 3 March 1989. Goofy, fun, and relentlessly creative, it’s a blast to listen to with its positivity and humor. Thirty years later and they’re still going strong with new records and high-profile appearances, including Gorillaz’s ace track “Feel Good Inc.”

Depeche Mode, 101, released 11 March 1989. Their first live album is a two-record sprawl of their biggest recorded at the Pasadena Rose Bowl (the 101st and last show on a their Music for the Masses Tour with Erasure and Wire). While the songs may not be all that different from their studio versions, they deliver a great show nonetheless.

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses, released 13 March 1989. Meanwhile, the long-simmering sound of Manchester — brought to the fore previously by The Smiths and New Order, among numerous others — finally exploded internationally with a guitar-heavy rock dance beat that blew everyone away and inspired and influenced so many others for years to come and laid the ground for the classic 90s Britpop sound.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Dress for Excess, released 31 March 1989 (US). Okay, so perhaps this record didn’t inspire or influence anyone at all, but it’s still a fun album. It’s not as blissfully chaotic as 1986’s Flaunt It, but in the process they sound so much more professional, perhaps a bit more serious as a band. Lead single “Success” was a deliberate plan in that direction, hiring hit UK producers Stock Aitken Waterman to make their sound as slick as possible. Bonus points for writing and recording an absolutely gorgeous album closer in the form of the dystopian ballad “Is This the Future?”, still one of my all-time favorite tracks of theirs.


More to come soon!

Thirty Years On, December 1988

Well here we are, on the back end of one of my favorite years ever.  Despite the emotional ups and downs I dealt with, it was a highly creative one for me, and started me on the long road of becoming a more serious writer.  My circle of college friends returned for a brief holiday break and we met up a few times before it was time to return for spring semester of 1989.

The brief meet-ups we had were just what I needed to get myself back on track emotionally and creatively.  It would still be a sad parting, but at the same time I had to remind myself that I was only a few months shy of escaping my small town as well.

Various Artists, Winter Warnerland, released early December.  The Warner Bros distribution team kicked this fine and fun double album out to radio stations across the land, and ended up in my vinyl collection later on.  Its quirky lineup includes Danelle Dax, Los Lobos, Hugo Largo, Throwing Muses and REM alongside more lighter fare like Gardner Cole, PM, Honeymoon Suite and Peter Cetera.  It also features a few holiday cheer bumpers from  bands and singers such as ZZ Top, Randy Travis, Nelson Wilbury (aka George Harrison), and, weirdly enough, multiple bumpers from Pee-Wee Herman.  It’s worth checking out if you can find it, if for it’s kitschiness.

The Pogues, “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah” single, released December.  A stopgap single between albums, this a wonderful take-off on early 60s British pop, complete with a fantastic video riffing on European music programs like Beat Club.

The Cowboy Junkies, The Trinity Session, released 7 December.  This band came out of nowhere and immediately became a critic and fan favorite with its gorgeously sparse album of tunes and covers recorded in a single day using the natural reverb of a Toronto church.  While their follow-up albums may not have garnered the high praise this one received, they’ve remained active and dropped a lovely bluesy album just this year.

Compilation, Does Truth Dance? Does Truth Sing?  The Singles 1988, created 27 December.  My first end-of-year, multi-tape mix encapsulating my absolute favorite tracks released throughout the year.  Partly inspired by the end-of-year countdowns I used to record off the radio, this one ended up being a favorite mix of mine, even though the tracks do get a bit thin by the third tape.  Not bad for a first try, though!  The title was snagged from a repeated line from Wire’s “A Public Place” that closes out side 2 of the first tape.  I’d make more of these mixes off and on throughout the years, and by 2011 I’d made it a consistent annual event.

…and that’s it!  Hope you enjoyed this series!  It was certainly a fantastic year for music, a year that in my opinion was going to be hard to top.  For years I held it to the highest regard and no years would ever come close, at least not until ten years later, with the HMV year of 1998…

Thirty Years On, October 1988, Part II

Continuing with more great music from October 1988!

Compilation: Walk in Silence…, created mid-October. Way before it was the title of my music blog, it was the title of an ongoing mixtape series, starting with this one. The focus of this one was similar to my Listen in Silence mixtape in which it featured my favorite songs both old and new, but this one contained more emotional favorites and ones connected to my writing projects, such as tracks form Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Wire, Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and of course Joy Division. This past June I created the twenty-first volume.

REM, Eponymous, released 8 October. REM’s first greatest hits record may in fact be a contractual obligation album — it’s their last for IRS — but it’s a great mix that contains both popular hits and rarities. It’s not exactly essential, as all the rarities are easily available in later best-of mixes, but at the time it was a perfect retrospective for the band.

John Lennon: Imagine soundtrack, released 10 October. This is the soundtrack to the documentary of the same name, featuring the story of John (and Yoko) post-Beatles. It’s a touching tribute and a great mix. It also features the first official appearance of “Real Love”, which would be rerecorded eight years later by the surviving Beatles for the Anthology 2 album.

U2, Rattle & Hum, released 10 October. While some people think of this album as too long with too many throwaways (and the documentary as too self-important and navel-gazey), it really is a fantastic album, and contains some of their best late-80s tracks. The documentary, by the way, holds up surprisingly well!

Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey, released 10 October. After Ministry’s change from synthpop to aggressive industrial with 1986’s Twitch, they followed up with one of their loudest and most powerful albums to date. It’s a hybrid of industrial, speed metal, and unrestrained punk, and it’s a trip.

Duran Duran, Big Thing, released 18 October. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the slick Europop of 1986’s Notorious I really enjoyed the straightforward rock of this particular album. It’s got a lot of really great tracks on it, even though it tends to be overshadowed by 1993’s Wedding Album.

Various Artists, Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films, released 18 October. A curious tribute album to songs from the House of Mouse, it contains some of the most interesting and/or odd covers from Los Lobos (a goofy “I Wanna Be Like You”), The Replacements (a wonderfully drunken “Cruella De Ville”), Suzanne Vega (the lovely “Stay Awake”), Tom Waits (a fantastically creepy version of “Heigh Ho”), and more.  Definitely worth checking out.

The Traveling Wilburys, The Traveling Wilburys Vol 1, released 24 October. What was originally supposed to be a b-side project for a George Harrison single became a supergroup that not just wrote and recorded a great classic rock album but reignited the careers of all five of its members.

The Fall, I Am Kurious Oranj, released 31 October. This band had evolved from atonal punk to noise-rock and beyond, so it was only a matter of time before they joined forces with UK dancer Michael Clarke to create a rock opera about…William of Orange? Sure, why not? It’s actually one of their most accessible and melodic records of this era, and a personal favorite of mine.

Ultra Vivid Scene, Ultra Vivid Scene, released 31 October. Kurt Ralske’s sort-of one man band project took its influence from the sludgy noise of The Jesus and Mary Chain, and was one of 4AD’s first signings to break out of the label’s reverb-drenched signature sound. While it’s noisy as hell, it can also be quite beautiful. Music trivia: a very young Moby was once its bassist!


Next Up: Coming close to the end of the year, but there’s still a lot of great music to come!