Edited by Brett Buchanan
Ahhh…the 90’s. The good, the bad, the Grunge, and bubble gum pop that could give the average pre-teen juvenile diabetes of the brain. Deep under that, though, was a realm of musicians that spanned from a velvety, mod, Lou Reed inspired digs, to Punks that weren’t Green Day. This article is to tell you all about these bands that slid under the radar while making some catchy, unforgettable tunes. Millennials, make room on your Spotify playlists, and prepare to hear some things we missed while we (well, I, don’t judge me) were listening to Blink-182 and the Backstreet Boys.
While Supergrass had their stardom in the early to mid nineties in the UK, they never quite struck gold in the US. Formed in 1993 by brothers Gaz and Rob Coombs, Danny Goffey, and Mick Quinn as “Theodore Supergrass”. After cutting the “Theodore” in 1994 they released pure joy with their first single “Caught By The Fuzz”(which is quite good, really). It recalls the night Gaz gets arrested for Marijuana possession with impeccable storytelling and a catchy sound. Their debut album I Should Coco was a dream blend of the Punk, Britpop, and just genuine energy made them a force to reckon with that stood out from the sadness and sometimes repetitive nature of the Britpop standards (Blur, Oasis, and Radiohead), while still appealing to the Britpop crowd. Unlike some OTHER bands that contained British brothers with Beatle haircuts (sorry for so much shade, Oasis), these guys didn’t fight. They stuck around for a few fairly successful, and very good, albums. Sadly, they played their final show in Paris, 2010. They are all doing solo projects, so keep your eyes and ears open.
Slowdive was formed by Rachel Gosswell and Neil Halstead in October 1989 after playing together since age 6. Their impact on the Shoegaze and Dream-Pop movement brought them moderate success through the early to mid nineties. Fun Fact: Their name comes from a song by singer/guitarist Rachel Gosswell’s favorite band Siouxsie and the Banshees. They broke up in 1995, all doing side projects to keep their musical blood flowing. They did, however, reunite in 2014 to play live shows and festivals. Huzzah! Aside from Gosswell being beautiful, talented, and having one of the best haircuts in the biz, she is a female rock inspiration.
3. The Dandy Warhols
This may come off a tad biased, as The Dandies are one of my absolute favorite bands and features my all time woman crush, Zia McCabe. Formed in 1994 in the ever so cool Portland, Oregon by singer/guitarist Courtney Taylor-Taylor, guitarist Peter Holmstrom, and soon after, drummer Eric Hedford. After an unsuccessful run with another bass player, a young (and hot) Zia McCabe, who had no prior experience in a band, joined to play key bass (self-taught), percussion, and synthesizers. Another admirable fact is they learned to play their instruments together over the years. Their first album, Dandies Rule OK, had elements of all the great music of the past, present, and beyond. Heavy inspiration by the garage rock of the 60’s, early Velvet Underground, and elements of shoegaze, and psychedelia while still being original. Each song is very different, yet riding with perfect flow.
From Britpop to punk rock, this band could pull it off gracefully. After being signed to Capitol Records, they put out their debut with Capitol dubbed …The Dandy Warhols Come Down, which sported a more polished, commercialized sound, but is still absolute perfection from start to finish. They reached fame with their third album, the masterpiece that is Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, which is still critically acclaimed as one of the best psychedelic albums of the last 40 years. Following that was a David Bowie inspired Welcome To The Monkey House which featured the hit “We Used To Be Friends” which gained popularity as the opening theme song for the TV show Veronica Mars. The Dandies are still rocking twenty-two years later with fun, energy and talent and no album sounding the same. Their latest album, Distortland, is absolute and pure magic. The musical chameleons created a world of their own, one that is inimitable. Go see them live for one big party and a loving crowd.
2. Ugly Kid Joe
Ugly Kid Joe is a starkly different band from the rest on this list, but that is the beauty of them. Ugly Kid Joe formed in 1987 in California, featuring Whitfield Crane and Klaus Eichstadt. Their name, which is a spoof of LA Glam band Pretty Boy Floyd. The band was so offended by the joke, they pulled out of a show scheduled with Ugly Kid Joe. With fun sounds ranging from glam rock, metal, to funk, and grunge, they are unlike any other. Their sense of humor and heavy Black Sabbath influence makes them a fun listen while never taking themselves too seriously. Their single “Everything About You” reached No. 3 on UK Singles Charts, and became popular in the United States, but never quite reaching the stardom they deserved.
1.The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Where do we start? The Brian Jonestown Massacre is a band like no other, with pure madness surrounding their sound and live shows. The band started with vocalist, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist and all around genius Anton Newcombe in San Francisco in 1990. Name a genre, and they have experimented with it. They are widely known for their incredible throwbacks to psychedelic music of the 60’s, that may have actually been better than the psychedelic music of the 60’s. With a vast discography of 14 albums and a constantly changing lineup, at one point releasing 3 albums in one year (1996). BJM is still rocking with an unforgettable name and unforgettable live shows that should never be missed. They gained a bit more popularity as the stars of Ondi Timoners’ documentary “Dig”, which followed BJM and The Dandy Warhols rivalry, friendship, and musical journeys side by side. To learn more about them, definitely watch the documentary with an open mind. They are still putting out albums to this day, with Newcombe working solo under the name in Berlin where he resides, as well as with the band. You may know their song “Straight Up And Down” from the opening credits of Boardwalk Empire.
All in all, these incredible bands are worth a good listen. No matter what your favorite genre is, it is always fun to open up, and check out something you may not think is your style. njoy the music! All kinds! Support your local bands, and not so local bands, go to shows, and always listen with an open mind.
In the meantime, lace up your light up sketchers and listen to one of the best POP songs of the 90’s (Dance a little, too…). Also check out our Top 10 Underrated 90’s Alternative Rock Albums.