(Neill Jameson (Krieg) returns to our site with some remembrances about under-appreciated albums from a formative period.)
Recently I did a piece for Invisible Oranges about discovering Alice in Chains and Nirvana as a young boy stuck in the shitty Pittsburgh suburbs in the late 1980s, and that got me to thinking about that period of time for music and how there’s some really great records that almost never get mentioned because people’s tastes generally stick to what they hear about, akin to how so much great early ’90s black metal is missed because of a lack of a controversial narrative to them.
So I figured I’d share a few records that never really got their due from that era in my continuing mission to be on your newsfeed as often as possible without it being for exposing myself at a playground. And we’re off!
Screaming Trees – Dust
Screaming Trees are an obvious choice for me to start this off. From the same group of creative individuals who were all over MTV etc in the early 1990s but never really got noticed aside from “Nearly Lost You” being on the Singles soundtrack, nearly every one of their records dating back from the mid ’80s to the late ’90s are fucking excellent. But I chose Dust because it shows a band at the height of their creative prowess, but only a few years too late, because the public are fickle and also morons.
Vocalist Mark Lanegan has such a richness and depth of tone but really began to show the maturity that his solo career and work with Queens of the Stone Age would later reflect on this record.
Helmet – Betty
I’ll be honest, I really did not like Helmet for the longest time. I had a friend in high school who played this shit incessantly and it drove me fucking nuts. About two decades later when I was working at the record store someone decided to put this record on and it clicked.
As far as I can tell, this is a similar story for a lot of people, maybe not taking as long as for me, but this didn’t hit the way people expected it to after Meantime. Like most of this list, I guess it’s all about wrong time, wrong place. To make up for it I eventually had to drive two hours to find a place that had a used copy, so I guess that’s karma.
Catherine Wheel – Chrome
This record is so underrated it’s fucking criminal. Following up a dreary shoegaze record like Ferment with a more aggressively driven tone, both musically and lyrically. This is one I wish would get reissued on vinyl. Their later records yielded a few good moments but nothing touched this record.
Nudeswirl – Nudeswirl
Older folks will remember this band’s 15 minutes occurred on Beavis and Butthead. because that’s how a lot of people found out about new music regardless of whether they’d admit it or not (I guarantee a lot of people’s first exposure to Morbid Angel occurred there, unless you’re obviously fucking cool, but if that’s the case you’re probably not reading this anyway).
These guys got lost in the mix because they were on Megaforce when no one cared and were from New Jersey and not Seattle so no one cared and they were an ugly bunch so definitely no one cared but this is a underrated gem in ’90s rock that I really wish more people knew about.
King’s X – Dogman
King’s X were really the first band I latched onto that none of my friends gave a shit about. The first three records basically ignited my serious interest in having a constant soundtrack to my life, which helped shut out my father and the obvious disappointment in my life of the people I was going to grade school with.
This record basically broke their format and was more bluesy and heavier than their more prog-ish beginnings. I’m not sure I buy their story of how the Seattle bands told them they were a big inspiration, but by the time this record came out they were still holding my interest while a lot of those bands were kind of oversaturated to me. I still think this band never truly got their due.
Earth – Pentastar: In the Style of Demons
OK, hear me out on this: I know that Earth are a massive band and hugely influential and modern drone is basically their fault and all that, but how many people sing the praises of this, their most coherent rock ‘n’ roll statement?
This is dreary and fucking dirty and brings to mind oppressively hot summers spent contemplating if suicide would be an easier way than getting the AC fixed. This is such a massive departure from the first three records and stands out in their now extensive catalog as a moment of genius, not because of innovation necessarily, though it has plenty of moments of that, but because it’s obviously a passionate endeavor and miles above most “stoner” bands.
Another one that no one gave much of a shit about upon release and one that still gets overlooked when the band comes up in conversation.
There’s still plenty of gold to be mined and shit to be mocked from the 1990s, but this seemed to me like a good variety and probably enough to start some kind of dialogue somewhere that isn’t about politics or what someone said on a website somewhere. Face it, that kind of shit is getting exhausting. So take a few minutes out of clicking on tabloid shit and listen to something for once. Til next time.
Nudeswirl! I haven’t thought about them since the mid-90’s. Just put it on: still good!
Great list, and nice piece on IO as well. It brought back a lot of memories. I had no concept of underground music until I got into hardcore around 95, and that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for more mainstream bands that opened me up to extreme music to being with. Soundgarden (also my very first live show) were up there for me along with AIC and Nirvana. Badmotorfinger is a nasty record, and a song like Mailman on Superunknown was still pretty dark. Tool was huge for me, too, beginning with Opiate and Undertow. I checked out Inside Out because of Rage Against the Machine and Social Justice because of Downset. Ironically the Metallica and Pantera variety of metal that was big at the time felt too mainstream to me and I stuck with hardcore for the next couple of years, thus sadly missing out on some of the best years of death metal and black metal as they unfolded. (I still have a flyer for a Mayhem show in NYC that I didn’t attend, haha.)
I guess many would argue that the best years for death metal were already over in the mid 90s, but you get the idea.
You just described my musical upbringing, give or take a few years.
I even outright laughed at Black Metal for years because of the self seriousness of all the hardcore fandom I was going through. As I’ve gotten older I have lightened up by a lot and now what once make me laugh only gets the blood pumping. And thats what I really was always looking for.. Something to enliven the senses.
I dont regret so much now, but I do try and make amends by always being open, if it that leads me to some laughably silly stuff on occasion, which black metal is rife with. BUt then… wasn’t 90s hardcore?
I look back and laugh a lot about it and then toss on some 108 and floor punch through my room while I think about Krishna and Satan in equal measure.
Hah! I had that Helmet record, the King’s X record and the Catherine Wheel record too. Young whippersnapper Jameson and 20-something alcoholic Dalton sure listened to a bunch of the same records during the 1990s.
This is an amazing list. Chrome is one of my Top 3 records of all time and that Nudeswirl album has some of the fuzziest guitar riffs to come out of the 90s. And Dug Pinnick…if you never had the chance to see him/kings X in the 90s you missed out. As much as we love our underground deathy grindy shit around here, I find this list pretty unfuckwithable. I will add that Only Living Witness’ Prone Mortal Form is still my all time favorite album and is one of those horribly underrated albums from the 90s.
Yes, good call. I just listened to Prone Mortal Form for the first time in years the other day. December is such a catchy song. Life of Agony’s River Runs Red is also up there for me, and still holds up fairly well for what it is.
Fuck the 90’s! Only the 80’s are real…