Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Top 26 Albums of the 1990s (Part 2)


Who: My Bloody Valentine
What: Loveless
When: November 5, 1991
Why: The ultimate in shoegazer bands makes their (his?) ultimate album. Kevin Shields was always the auteur extraordinare behind the band, albeit a reclusive and anal-retentive one. With this album he went into an extended hiding period (although if you want to see what he’s been up to more recently, check out the DVD or soundtrack of Lost In Translation – the movie makes spot on use of “Sometimes” from this album, as well Kevin Shields old and new, Jesus & Mary Chain, Air, etc.). The album opener, “Only Shallow” sets a perfect tone for the album, with its heavy, heavy lead riff looming as the instrumental chorus between the strummed guitar and ethereal vocals (and intelligible lyrics) of the verses. Exhibit 1 in the "Wall of Sound" approach that this album exemplifies.

Check Your Head
Who: Beastie Boys
What: Check Your Head
When: April 21, 1992
Why: Phat beats abound on this follow-up to Paul’s Boutique. On Paul’s the B-Boys completely revamped their sound – keeping the metronomic raps (always with the accent on the final syllable), but layering it over all kinds of jazzy riffs and bassy licks. This album kicks it right from the start – “Jimmy James”, “Funky Boss” and “Pass The Mic” make for a righteous opening trio. “So Whatch’a Want” follows soon after with the megahit template for several Beasties singles in the ‘90s. The most interesting tunes, though, are the beat-filled loping instrumentals at the back of the album: “Groove Holmes,” “In 3s” and “Namasté.” A far cry from the days of “Fight For Your Right.”

Babe Rainbow
Who: House Of Love
What: Babe Rainbow
When: August 18, 1992
Why: A truly underrated band. The band was often considered, if at all, as an afterthought to The Smiths, and their popularity was seemingly cut short by the appearance of the Madchester bands on the scene at the turn of the decade. By the time that Babe Rainbow was released it seemed that little remained of a once dedicated fan base. More’s the pity, as this is an outstanding album from step-off to stern. Alternating chugging rockers (“You Don’t Understand,” “Feel,” “Yer Eyes”), glistening mid-tempo gems (“Crush Me,” “Cruel,” “High In Your Face”) and melodic ballads (“Fade Away”), House Of Love manages to take The Smiths formula one step better. They manage to have the ringingly tuneful guitars without any maudlin lyrical comedowns. A lamentably underappreciated gem.


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