Being born in 1983 technically makes me an 80s baby, but I've always pledged more allegiance to the 90s than the 80s since I remember that decade clearer. And one thing I will always remember was the great music from that era. Sure, the 80s had its own distinct sound, as did every preceding decade before it. But there's just something about the edgy, almost nihilistic music of the 90s that just does it for me. There are SO many great albums from that period, that it was hard picking out my ten personal favorites, but these were the albums that influenced me the most growing up. Have you heard all ten of these masterpieces?
10. Flood by They Might Be Giants
Just making it as a 90s album as it was released in January of 1990, Flood was the album that introduced me to TMBG. Like many young people, I first heard the album on Tiny Toon Adventures, where they played a great deal of the songs and made sort of music videos to accompany them. A classic, bizarre, and wonderful album. I listened to it on repeat as a child at my aunt's house. May she rest her soul.
9. Illmatic by Nas
I still love rap music to a certain extent, but I definitely went through a rap phase. And while I listened to a lot of garbage in that period, Illmatic still holds up today. Nas' debut album encapsulates the sound of an MC too hungry to stay quiet any longer. Every last track on this relatively short album is a winner, and none of the tracks feel unnecessary. It ain't hard to tell that this album is a classic.
8. Evil Empire by Rage Against the Machine
Few albums rocked me as hard as this one did back in the 90s. From its buzzsaw riff on the opening track, "People of the Sun" to its heavy snare drums and thunderous bass line on every single track on the album, it's a hard album to beat. But the best part was Zack de la Rocha's political, searing lyrics, which were a step up from the band's self-titled debut album. Because "we're rollin' down Rodeo with a shotgun, therepeopleain'tseena, brown skin man since they're grandparents bought one." Best line ever.
7. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins
This double album was a monster hit. Between the stylistic videos ("Tonight Tonight" being the grandest), the varied tracks, and the overall vibe of the record, this is the Smashing Pumpkins' at their greatest. It never got any better than this album for the group, and not too long afterward, they fell apart and reshaped to form Zwan. The less said about that group the better.
6. 311 by 311
While not the greatest album ever made, this was the album that got me into the band. And for anybody who knew me back in the 90s, I was DEEPLY in love with 311. Deeply. "Down" was the video that did it for me. This was the first group I ever heard rap and rock work so effectively together. Soon afterward, a whole lot of other rap/rock groups starting forming, with only 311 really doing it well. The two albums before this one (Music and Grassroots were really great, too). It kind of went downhill after this one for the band. They would never reach this kind of wild popularity again.
5. Pinkerton by Weezer
Some prefer the Blue album, and that's a great one, too. But for me, Pinkerton is it. Seen as a failure when it was first released, it is the quintessential emotional album (I hate the term "emo".) River Cuomo was in a pretty fragile state when he put the songs together, and it shows. You can feel his thumping heart on every song, and they're all really catchy, too. This will always be the last, truly great Weezer album, which is a shame, given it was only their second.
4. Enter the 36 Chambers by The Wu-Tang Clan
Believe you me, there are plenty of rap albums I bemoan not putting on this list (Aquemini, Ready to Die, The Chronic, Only Buily 4 Cuban Linx, etc). But if I were to encapsulate all of those great albums into the one that truly got me into rap music, it would have to be Enter the 36 Chambers by the Wu-tang Clan. It was gritty, it was raw, and it sounded like it was recorded in somebody's basement (Which I believe it was). Not all of the tracks are great, and there are a lot of better Wu-Tang albums (Supreme Clientele comes to mind, as does Liquid Swords), but this was the album that truly got me into the group. You best protect your neck, son!
3. Purple by Stone Temple Pilots
I honestly don't know why this album is called Purple, given that I don't ever remember seeing the word "Purple" on the cassette I had, but whatever. This is STP's best album. And besides 311, STP was probably my favorite group back in the 90s. I did love their debut album, Core, but it all had the same kind of grungy sound. Purple
let the group spread their legs a bit more, while still retaining that signature, husky sound of theirs. It was the perfect medium, as I think their follow-up album, Tiny Music...Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop was a bit too expansive and odd for its own good. Purple was perfect. It was the second album...with 12 gracious melodies...to listen.
2. Nevermind by Nirvana
Yeah, I know. I'm sorry it's so predictable, but Nevermind truly was the greatest album of the 90s (Though, not my favorite). I can't stand "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but the rest of the album is solid gold. If there were only one Nirvana album that one would have to listen to to get a sense of what they were all about, this is the one. Angst-ridden, angry, poetic, hard, and catchy, let's not forget catchy. I wore out my Walkman listening to this gem so many times. A pure masterpiece of the most astounding kind.
1. Pony Express Record by Shudder to Think
Okay, even I must admit that I'm cheating a little bit here, as I never heard this album back in the 90s, even though I heard of the band because of Beavis and Butt-Head, where they actually made fun of one of their videos (Even though I actually liked the song they were mocking). That said, once hearing this masterpiece, I can undoubtedly say that I would have adored such a dark and haunting album back then, just as much as I love it now. And given that you've never even heard of this group before, I think you should take it upon yourself to try and track this album down. It's very difficult to find, but it's worth it. It's a masterpiece of sonic brilliance. Probably the most underappreciated album of the 90s. I'm not kidding.