Metropolis – The Church

  • First Appearance: April 14, 1990
  • Weeks on the Chart: 1
  • Album: Gold Afternoon Fix
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

This is another band on the list that I was totally unfamiliar with. For The Church, a psychedelic/goth rock band out of Sydney, it was less surprising than The Psychedelic Furs or Jesus and Mary Chain. This isn’t exactly my wheel-house.

Metropolis is a lot more mainstream than the rest of the album. Significantly more upbeat, brighter guitars, and less brooding than the bulk of their songs on Gold Afternoon Fix. It’s enjoyable, but a bit subdued.

I actually had to take a break mid-album. It was very gloomy and dark, and listening to it in the middle of a cold, nasty, and windy storm in New England with sheets of rain coming down was too much. I needed music that would contrast the deluge, rather than compliment it.

Blue Sky Mine – Midnight Oil

  • First Appearance: April 7, 1990
  • Weeks on the Chart: 1
  • Album: Blue Sky Mining
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

Midnight Oil had two songs from Blue Sky Mining on the chart, Blue Sky Mine, and Forgotten Years. Each was on the chart for one week, and each was the week following a Sinéad O’Connor song. They’re probably best known for their late 80s hit Beds are Burning.

I burst out laughing at the start of Blue Sky Mine, which starts with a neat guitar riff, gets a late-80s synth layered on top, and then is all drowned out by some harmonica playing that makes Blues Traveler seem low energy.

The album as a whole is pretty enjoyable. Some of the songs are a bit more rollicking and it was a fun listen. It’s not going to change lives, and I’m not compelled to go further into their catalog, but I don’t regret the time I spent with it.

I feel like Forgotten Years should have been a longer lasting song than it was, but for the utterly weird synth break.

Midnight Oil was an Australian band, and make the most prominent use of synths of any album featured here so far.

The lead singer, Peter Garrett served in the Australian government for nine years, including as a Member of Parliament and as Minister for Environmental Protection and School Education.

Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinéad O’Connor

  • First Appearance: March 31, 1990
  • Weeks on the Chart: 1
  • Album: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? Yes
  • Have I actually heard this song before? Yes.

This was the first of two songs from this album to make it to the list. The second is “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which also popped up for one week starting May 12.

My enduring memory of Sinéad O’Connor will always be watching Michael Ian Black talk about seeing her tear up a picture of the Pope on shows like I Love the 90s. Of course I’ve heard the song, and remember the music video, but the main memory is of other people remembering her.

This album feels a little all over the place. There are some tracks with very traditional Irish influence, others that are backed by crunchy guitars and have very traditional pop vocals. All-in-all it feels a little anodyne. Nothing really elicits an emotion from me, which is honestly a little disappointing. I expected more from something which such a cultural impact.

There has yet to be an American band or artist featured on this blog, and the first appearance of one isn’t until July 14, 1990.

Cuts You Up – Peter Murphy

  • First Appearance: February 10, 1990
  • Weeks on the Chart: 7
  • Album: Deep
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? Yes, at least I think so.

For a song that was apparently popular for two solid months, I’d have expected to at least have had the slightest memory of the name of the artist. It rang exactly no bells.

Upon hearing the song, it sounded incredibly familiar, in that generic 90s Brit Rock kinda way. Peter Murphy was in Bauhaus (along with another artist we’ll be seeing later), so it’s possible that I really haven’t heard this song, but the underlying influence was so widespread that it sounds like a lot of things I have.

This is the first album in the project that I didn’t really click with in any meaningful way. There’s nothing off-putting about it, but it didn’t draw me in like Book of Days or Automatic. It did make me want to go back and listen to more Bauhaus.

House – The Psychedelic Furs

  • First Appearance: January 20, 1990
  • Weeks on the Chart: 3
  • Album: Book of Days
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

I’ve certainly heard of the Psychedelic Furs before, but I did not recognize this song.

My first impression is that this song starts with the mix entirely in the left channel, which is amazingly disorienting. My second impression was that it reminded me a lot of The Field Mice, which is a good thing. It does feel like 90s Brit-pop, but not in a negative way.

Coincidentally, like Jesus and Mary Chain, this is another UK-based band fronted by two brothers. Were British youth not allowed to jam with neighbors growing up in the 70s? I ask because Oasis can’t be that far away.

While the track House reminded me of The Field Mice, much of the rest of the album swings a little darker, with muddier guitars, a slower tempo, and of a gloomy outlook. All said, this is really enjoyable album, and I’ll have to listen to some more of their stuff.

Blues from a Gun – Jesus and Mary Chain

  • First Appearance: December 30, 1989
  • Weeks on the Chart: 3
  • Album: Automatic
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

I listened to Blues from a Gun before going back and listening to the whole album. My first thought, during the intro, was that it was kind of like Depeche Mode (who we’ll see later). Then the guitars kicked in more and I thought it was like Depeche Mode minus sadness. Also, I love their drum machine programmer.

Jesus and Mary Chain is made up of two brothers, Jim and William Reid, from Scotland. They sing without pronounced accents. Automatic is their third album, and I will certainly be going back and listening to more of their catalog. While I wouldn’t go as far to say that their music is timeless, it doesn’t shout out that it’s from the 80s and 90s.

Overall: This album was quite good and if you’ll excuse me I’m going to listen to their whole back catalog now.

Black Balloon

On Sunday, February 25th, 2018 I heard an a cappella cover of Black Balloon by the Goo Goo Dolls. As the song played, I thought to myself, “I don’t even remember the last time I even thought about the Goo Goo Dolls. I wonder how the rest of 90s music stands up?”

Well. I’m going to find out.

After digging through a bunch of different lists and categorizations, I landed on the Billboard Alternative Song List as a good indication for what was trendy, and what I was listening to in the 90s.

Here’s the plan:

I’ve pulled the lists of every #1 Alternative song for each week in the entire 1990s. I’m going to listen to the entire album that song was on (if I can find it). I will listen to each album only the first time a song from that album appears on the chart. After I listen to the album once, twice, or a few times, I’ll write up a post.

Here are some things I’m strongly considering including in each post:

  1. Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)?
  2. Have I actually heard this song before?
  3. When it first hit the chart, and how long it was on top
  4. What is my initial reaction?
  5. What is my final reaction?
  6. Trivia.

The way the chart is constructed, I think it will omit some things like Lisa Loeb. So I’ll likely call audibles and add those obvious omissions in as I get to them chronologically.