"Man like remember when the music was real and shit, right after those gaywads from hair metal ruined everything and right before those gaywads from indie ruined everything and like people could actually play their guitars and still did like fuckin' solos and shit even if they didn't do them that well but like that's the whole point that like it's all from the fuckin' soul, man, the fuckin' soul because straight up record companies didn't exist back in the early '90s and everything was real and nothing was terrible and you had your first beer, do you remember your first beer? Fuckin' A man, they don't make 'em like that anymore."
If this is a thing you've ever found yourself thinking, you probably still read Rolling Stone Magazine, and you're probably one of the people who voted in their dumbass reader poll of the best albums of the '90s. Congratulations! You're terrible. Your prize is that you're terrible.
So, yeah, you know the drill. Here are ten albums that I, personally, would substitute in place of this foolishness. Waste your time! Waste my time! Be excited!
The Lonesome Crowded West-Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse Fanboy Picks Modest Mouse Album First, Surprises Nobody. If you needed a headline for a newspaper about little-read music blogs that would be a damn fine one, but I won't hear that this album hasn't earned its place as one of the giants of indie-rock. This is without question Modest Mouse's most expansive effort, careening from guitar epic "Teeth Like God's Shoeshine" to tinges of IDM in "Heart Cooks Brain", through the blistering hard rock attack of "Doin' the Cockroach" and over the southern-rock style jam "Trucker's Atlas" and (almost) ending up at melancholy folk number "Bankrupt on Selling", there's a song here for every mood and situation. If it isn't Modest Mouse's masterpiece, it's a close runner-up and arguably their most re-listenable effort.
The Low End Theory-A Tribe Called Quest
As a white person, I'm required by law to love this album. But these laws exist for a reason! It feels downright foolish to try and describe why what many have described as the best hip hop album of all time is phenomenal, but The Low End Theory has very likely the best beat production of any album ever made, letting a stand up bass and kick drum fuel the rhythms with mellow-yet-booming minimalism. When you add in Phife and Q-Tip's distinct wit and verbal agility you have a cocktail that proves relaxing, intense and thought-provoking aren't mutually exclusive concepts. The ethos behind Quest's masterpiece would go on to fuel the ambitions of hundreds of future artists.
f#a#(infinity)-Godspeed You Black Emperor!
"The sun has fallen down, and the billboards are all leering, and the flags are all dead at the top of their poles." There's a reason their music was used in 28 Days Later: Godspeed You Black Emperor! is the soundtrack to a stroll through the barren wastes of Armageddon, and f#a#(infinity) is their most intense and challenging album. This is closer to classical music than rock in every respect-their commitment to majestic despair is so powerful as to require a small orchestra to convey as images of blotted landscapes and urban decay pass on the strings of violins and subtle guitar arrangements. Desolation never sounded so beautiful.
The Battle of Los Angeles-Rage Against the Machine
Where their self-titled debut ran on immensely captivating, if unfocused, fury, and Evil Empire was marred by bad production and poor songwriting, The Battle of Los Angeles emerges as Rage's magnum opus, a collection of battle-ready anthems that steamroll a thousand other comparably "heavy" bands. Tom Morello crafts electrifying riff after electrifying riff and Zach de la Rocha belts out the most piercing lyrics of his career as the rhythm section anchors the whole thing with grooves that would make you feel like dancing, if you weren't already throwing a Molotov cocktail through a store window. Prepackaged rebellion was huge in the music of the '90s, but for about half a second you could feel like breaking a cop's jaw might be a justifiable assault, and we have Rage Against the Machine to thank for that.
Slaughter of the Soul-At The Gates
Slaughter of the Soul forced heavy metal to up its game in a way that no album since Ride the Lightning had managed. It showed that you could be sad without being whiny, furious without being petulant, that your instrumentation could be brutal and bloodthirsty and technically magnificent without being dull and convoluted. Frankly, though, no explanation is necessary: All you need to do is crank up the title track to max volume and in the bat of an eye, you'll find the rest of your metal collection-shit, the rest of your music collection-hopelessly mundane. Slaughter of the Soul is a benchmark in extreme metal that has yet to be met or surpassed.
Angel Dust-Faith No More
Straddling the line between mainstream radio metal and avant-garde insanity, Angel Dust is one of the mos curiously inscrutable albums of the early '90s. It takes a few listens to notice everything about this album: the neurotic-bordering-on-depraved lyrics, Billy Gould's funk from hell basslines, the lush keyboards, the way in which an easy to spot hit can morph into a psychotic monster of a song almost without you noticing. In truth, even once you find yourself appreciating Angel Dust, its appeal will still be difficult to explain. Maybe that's the key, though. It's easy to dismiss, difficult to understand, yet with time it'll hold such mysterious power of you that you'll wonder how nobody else seems to recognize what a work of genius it is.
Rust in Peace-Megadeth
"Holy Wars...The Punishment Due".
That is all.
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea-Neutral Milk Hotel
To say that In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was ahead of its time would be an overstatement akin to saying that the Vietnam war was pretty lame, or that Keith Moon was a good drummer. Every indie, folk, and indie/folk album that came out in the past decade owes this album a debt that they can never possibly repay. Jeff Mangum's lyrics have a sinister, sexual, whimsical bent that would make William Butler Yeats nod in approval, and the melodies are so lush and heart wrenching that you might not have even noticed the words if Mangum's voice weren't impossible to ignore. It could be called psychedelic, but In the Aeroplane Over the Sea doesn't choose to explore the vastness of the cosmos; rather, it plucks out the strangeness of the soul. I have a feeling that even at this stage we're not through seeing the influence of this album spread, but if even one artist manages to capture weirdness and beauty of this masterpiece, that'll be one more artist than I was expecting to do so.
It's a shame that one of punk's defining albums would come at the tail end of the genre's widespread relevance. Still, Repeater is the album that should've redefined and carried punk forward in the wake of grunge. One thing that's immediately noticeable is that Fugazi doesn't sacrifice technicality for raw emotion: Every instrument is expertly played and, in particular, some of the basslines defy belief. That doesn't mean a single ounce of fury and frustration is left out, though, as Guy Piccioto blends noise and prog influences into his scathingly fast riffs and Ian MacKaye howls like a bus fell on his leg. Despite the quizzical lyrics and deft musicianship, Repeater is an album that's impossible to sit still to, combining everything amazing about punk and cutting the fat while blending outside influences with unmatched skill. An indispensable part of any music lover's discography.
Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star
This may be yet another entry in the "Rap White People Love" pantheon, but there's a solid reason that people of all walks of life are still pissed at Mos Def and Talbi Kweli for not making a Black Star 2, and that reason is that this album fucking rules. Def and Kweli spend the majority of the album mocking the rise of gangsta rap and attempting to both dispel stereotypes and defend their sovereignty as black men. It would be horribly condescending if any other group tried to pull it off, but luckily the pair has the chops to pull it off, spitting rhymes with unmatched flow and producing minimal beats in the A Tribe Called Quest tradition while adding a verve and youthful energy that's distinctly their own. Like Slaughter of the Soul did for metal, Black Star became, and remains, the alt. rap album to beat, leaving a wrecked trail of Digable Planets and Arrested Developments in their wake.
...Man, one of these days I'm going to have to do something other than shit out a list. I won't let you down, readers!