Following on from my last post, you can see I have some obsession with the 90s. It was a very paradoxical time for music. If you looked up any of the bands I included in the top 20 list, you will find that they all started out on their own and weren’t created by some big record label to make money.
It was around 1997, the fad of ‘manufactured pop’ came into being. Everyone fell in love with the saccharine sounds of the Spice Girls, Westlife; and music pretty much fell into a coma with S Club 7 and allSTARS* invading childrens’ TV. Thankfully we’ve recovered from that very bleak, sugar-coated time.
But there are several underrated bands which require attention. Bands who shaped 90s music and didn’t gain as much recognition as I think they should. That is why I am counting down the Top 5 Underrated 90s Bands to bring their memorable tunes to a new audience. Here’s to the five long lost rock bands of a rather revolutionary decade of music. The resurrection starts here.
It surprises me how little people know of a pretty radical group from the heart of Grunge. Seaweed were fans of old school Hardcore Punk and Surf Rock, which they fused into the angsty yells of the Seattle scene. They were also signed, quite early on to the primary Grunge label: Sub Pop and released 3 albums. They released their last album in 1998 and split in 2000, before reforming 7 years later and are still touring today.
Sadly, they are best remembered for their very good cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ which was featured in the awesome film, Clerks. But I will forever hold these guys dear for giving a dirtier, more aggressive sound to the Grunge movement.
4. Stone Temple Pilots
It was of no shock that Chester Bennington of Linkin Park is now this band’s vocalist. Stone Temple Pilots were a massive influence of the Alternative Metal and Nu Metal which graced the airwaves in the latter half of the decade. The group were renowned for fusing Hard Rock and Grunge with experimental psychedelic progressions which formed the basis of Alternative Metal.
They have cemented themselves into cult band status by being included on the soundtrack to 1993’s The Crow (my favourite film). However, this band were political and I am quite surprised that their anti-rape anthem ‘Sex Type Thing’, hasn’t caught on in the current feminist movement. Well, if you’re looking for an insight into the minds of Robin Thicke, here’s to one very radical band.
3. 7 Year Bitch
The 90s had many girl bands. But not all of them wore the latest fashions, nor did they have atrocious movies or TV shows made about them; nor, did they always sing about love and the hope of finding the ideal boyfriend. Riot Grrrl served as the musical frontline of third wave feminism. And right on that frontline were four very strong women from Seattle who gave a new sound and image to the underground punk scene. They released 3 albums and headlined several anti domestic violence gigs which helped fellow Rioters: Babes in Toyland and Jack Off Jill break big.
7 Year Bitch named themselves after the Marylin Monroe film 7 Year Itch with a feminist twist. Forget about the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child, this was the real sound of Girl Power! And why the hell hasn’t there been a recent resurgence in the popularity of Riot Grrrl? We can’t always count on big names like Beyonce to proclaim themselves as feminists; we need more angry young women to fight back against the sexist music industry. 7 Year Bitch may be gone, but never forgotten.
2. Spin Doctors
Sadly no underrated list is complete without a One Hit Wonder. New York’s Spin Doctors added blues and jazzy twangs to the ripening Alternative Rock sound of the early 90s. They later started releasing improvised ‘jam rock’ albums similar to those pioneered by The Greatful Dead. Unfortunately, Spin Doctors weren’t able to match the doped up surrealism of the Dead and quickly escaped into obscurity. These guys were the finest band to emerge from NYC in the early half of the decade, and thankfully no 90s compilation album is complete with their one hit wonder: Two Princes. I’d love it if Todd In The Shadows devoted an episode to these brilliant guys.
And the number one Underrated 90s Band is...
After discovering these Scottish rockers, who’s career began to peak around the time I was born, I used to wonder if my parents had named me after them. Del Amitri are a classic example of a band remembered for what they deem a ‘throwaway pop song’, when they actually created some very intelligent tunes. I think it was how they fused quirky rhymes with easy listening acoustic rock that made most people ignore the band for what they really stood for and see them as just another Britpop outfit – when these guys were not Britpop at all.
Del Amitri emerged from the post-punk scene of Glasgow, and went on to create a sound, almost universally adopted by today’s ‘Adult Contemporary’ scene. They experimented a lot but eventually split in 2002 – but, after 11 years of focussing on other projects, Del Amitri reformed last year and will be touring the UK again shortly.
Possibly the most intelligent pop rock band of the 90s, who so badly wanted to be recognised as artists and not poster boys for teenage girls. For those of us who actually listen to the lyrics of songs, here is their most intelligent number: ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ (pay attention to the last verse in particular).
And for the silent majority who just want to be entertained; enjoy their most popular hit song: ‘Roll To Me’. (Which isn’t a terrible number, it’s just sad that nobody seemed to care about their more ambitious stuff).