Ahhh...the early nineties. So many memories of these years. 1994 was Year 10 for me, and not a particularly good year. Not as bad as 1993 the year before, which was probably one of my most depressing years of all time, but that's not a discussion for this forum. No, this forum is all about the muzak, and there was lots of great music this year. In grand tradition...let's start with the classics.
Who can forget Jeff Buckley's masterpiece Grace? Gorgeous is the only way to describe this album. I didn't get into Jeff Buckley's music until after he had died, and this occurred on May 29th 1997, which was many years after the year we are discussing here. So I guess you could say I jumped on the bandwagon just like many other people who didn't discover the genius of Grace until after he was dead and buried. I wish I could go back in time and hear this album when it first came out, basking in its beauty and being astounded by the talent of this brilliant young singer/songwriter. But that would have made me very depressed when he drowned... so maybe it's for the better that I didn't get into the music until later. Anyway, this album is a true gem, one of the best albums ever (and even more amazing when you consider it was his debut). His posthumous release Songs for my sweetheart (the drunk) is as good as you would expect it to be - it has its moments, but it was an unfinished album and you can really hear it.
A relatively unknown band called Oasis released their debut album Definitely maybe this year. I didn't get into this album until after their 2nd album, (What's the story) morning glory? was released in 1996 -- but it's an amazingly energetic debut album. Probably not the kind of album one would love if their heard it for the first time nowadays, but it just felt so bloody right in the mid-90's. Also, Live forever and Slide away are two of their finest cuts ever released. I actually heard this album first when my brother bought it (and later returned it). I remember listening more to the bonus single (Whatever) which came with it, mainly due to the amazing B-Side Half the world away, which is possibly my favourite Oasis song.
And then there was a certain live album by a relatively unknown band called Throwing copper. Wait a second, that doesn't sound right. Although I'm sure there's a lot of people who thought that at the time. Of course, the band was Live, and the album was Throwing copper. But you can easily see how many made that mistake. Interesting story behind me getting into this album. I remember hearing a few songs by this grungey sounding band on the radio (I listened more to radio back then), and liking all of them. They were some great tunes...and then I remember finding out that all of the songs were not only by the same band, but from the same album! The songs I remembered were Selling the drama, Lightning crashes and All over you. It took my a while to find out the name of Selling the drama, because the lyrics don't actually say that anywhere -- and this was before the days of google! Anyway, even when I give this album a spin nowadays, I consider it a very solid album. There isn't a bad track on here (even the bonus country track Horse is superb). Like the Oasis album, this is probably not an album I would like if I heard it for the first time today (because my musical tastes have changed a lot, and a heap of other bands sound like Live now) -- but this album has the memories.
Of course, in 1994 we were knee-deep in Britpop. Here's some notable albums from 1994 that fit into this mould:
- Blur - Parklife (probably the quintessential Britpop album, this is simply a fun album that never fails to put a smile on my face when I listen to it. So many great tunes, and an epic [almost]-closer in This is a low)
- Suede - Dog man star (their first album was pure Britpop. This was a very pretentious follow up which has aged the best out of all of their albums, and it still sounded amazing when I gave it a spin recently. A very ambitious, theatrical album.)
- Pulp - His 'n' hers (together with Different class, this is Pulp at the peak of their Britpopness. Just a fun album!)
- Portishead - Dummy (together with Blue lines, this album practically defined the genre. A classic album which includes one of my favourite songs of all time, the haunting Roads.)
- Massive Attack - Protection (their follow up to Blue lines didn't quite have the consistency of their debut, but it's a very solid slab of triphop. Includes what is possibly my favourite Massive Attack song, the instrumental Heat miser.)
- Manic Street Preachers - The holy bible (Pete got me into this one. I'd heard their follow up albums Everything must go and This is my truth tell me yours. Those albums are like a walk in the park compared to the utter darkness and despair of this album. Possibly one of the darkest albums ever released, this is a harrowing listen, but nothing less than brilliant. I was hooked from the opening track Yes.)
- Pavement - Crooked rain, crooked rain (I only recently got into these guys. While their debut album Slanted & Enchanted seems to get more of the acclaim, their second album CRCR does it for me a lot more. This has been classified as slacker music. I'd describe it as sloppy early 90's alternative rock/pop. Whatever you call it, it sounds awesome.)
- Pulp Fiction soundtrack (another soundtrack which I'll allow, simply because it's very much of its time and a fantastic collection of songs chosen by an up and coming film director Quentin Tarantino -- as he was at the time. What was great about this soundtrack was how it brought many brilliant songs such as Son of a preacher man by Dusty Springfield into popular culture.)
- The late Elliott Smith released his debut album Roman candle this year. Together with his eponymous second album, this is Elliott at his most lo-fi. Luckily, lo-fi doesn't mean lo-melody or lo-beauty. The guy never put a step wrong in his 10 year career.
- Green Day released their classic album Dookie. Yes, it's Green Day. Laugh away. But I'll never be ashamed to say that I enjoy this album. It absolutely reeks of early 90's. But the memories that this album brings back. Do you have the time to listen to me whine?
- Weezer released their self-titled debut album, affectionately known as The blue album. So many brilliant tunes on this one. Who can forget the Happy Days film clip for Buddy Holly?
- Elvis Costello released his album Brutal youth, which was his first with his old backing band The Attractions since Blood & Chocolate in 1986. Definitely a return to form, if not quite the form of his earlier work.
- Radiohead and Suede released their respective EPs, My iron lung and Stay together. My iron lung was a good taster for what was to come the following year with The bends, while Stay together had the brilliant title track (not available on any of their albums) and some great B-Sides including The living dead and My dark star.
- R.E.M. released their critically panned album Monster. I've always considered this album to be terribly underrated. Sure it has a few duds on it, and it was definitely hurt by being released after the brilliant Automatic for the people, but it's really not a bad album. They should be praised for trying something different and releasing an alternative rock album -- at least they tried something different which is a lot more than can be said about some other bands.
- Grant Lee Buffalo released their second album Mighty Joe Moon. Many consider this to be their best album. There are many beautiful cuts on this album (including Mockingbirds), but I don't get an urge to spin it a lot. Although when I do, it usually rewards me.
- Ben Harper released his debut album, Welcome to the cruel world. This is probably my least favourite Ben Harper album as it's a bit too mellow and bit too preachy. He would really start to get brilliant with his 2nd album Fight for your mind.
- Stone Roses released their 2nd album, appropriately titled Second coming. Has there ever been a more eagerly anticipated album in the history of music? Their self-titled debut album (released in 1989) is a work of genius and my favourite album ever released. Fans had to wait 5 years for a follow up. And yes, they are some good songs on this album. But it can only disappoint in comparison to their brilliant debut. I'm sure Pete will disagree with this entry, and I hope to see a retaliatory post :-)
- Tori Amos released her second album, Under the pink. Some great songs on this one, but doesn't top her debut Little earthquakes.
- Nick Cave released his album Let love in. Many choice cuts on this one, including Red right hand, Do you love me? and the title track. I remember loving this album when I bought it (second hand, a few years after it was released). I gave it a spin recently and didn't love it as much. But it's not without its charm.
- Dream Theater released Awake. Ahh Dream Theater. How much money you guys have made me on Ebay. Anyway, out of the Dream Theater albums I have, this is easily my least favourite. Maybe it hasn't grown on me enough yet. I'll see how it goes.