So many of the noteworthy albums from 1991 are loud and aggressive. From classics I’ve already covered like Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten and Metallica’s Metallica to lesser-known but heralded albums by Soundgarden, Fugazi, Mudhoney and Hole.
When I saw that a band called Primal Scream released a celebrated album in ’91, I assumed it would be another loud one. But Primal Scream turns out to be a much more interesting band than their name suggests. Somewhere a metal band wishes they’d gotten to that moniker first.
Uncle Tupelo is regarded as the definitive alt-country band, pioneering a blend of folk rock and traditional country sounds. Great contemporary artists like Neko Case and Jason Isbell can be traced back to the music these guys put out in the early 90s.
Uncle Tupelo’s members are better known for their follow-up efforts, as Jay Farrar went on to form Son Volt and Jeff Tweedy achieved even bigger success with Wilco. When still together, they released four albums between 1990 and 1993. Still Feel Gone was their third.
Noisy pop bands were big in the late 80s and early 90s, and the Pixies stand out as one of the most celebrated and influential of the bunch. I’m surprised to see I’ve never featured a Pixies song on the blog, given how often they’re referenced by bands I like.
‘Trompe Le Monde’ was the band’s fourth album and their last before the original lineup broke up. The band reunited ten years later without bassist Kim Deal and released two more albums this decade.
These Decades weeks usually turn up a couple of artists I feel like I should like, whether or not that ends up happening.
For 1991, the lucky winner is Teenage Fanclub, the Scottish alternative pop act that released its breakthrough third album, titled Bandwagonesque, that year. Influenced by bands like The Beatles, The Byrds and Big Star, Teenage Fanclub paid as much attention to melody as the grunge guitar sound of the time.
Continuing my latest Decades installment, focusing on the year 1991, brings us to Irish band My Bloody Valentine’s sophomore release, Loveless.
My Bloody Valentine is considered the pioneer of the shoegazing genre, a type of alternative rock featuring heavy guitar distortion and muffled vocals. In fact, they might be the first, best and last example of a shoegazing band because the genre quickly fizzled out and branched into grunge on the one hand and Britpop on the other.
Ice Cube had an ugly break-up with N.W.A. in 1989, followed by his well-received solo debut, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted in 1990. A year later, his Death Certificate dropped to even better reviews.
The release also generated a lot of controversy, with Ice Cube’s lyrics (deservedly) called out as misogynistic, racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic. Let’s just say the Oscars won’t be tapping him to host anytime soon.
Power pop seems to transcend trends and find an audience no matter the decade. From The Beatles in the 60s through Todd Rundgren and Big Star in the 70s, into a legacy carried on by R.E.M. and others in the 80s and 90s.
Matthew Sweet is solidly in that tradition, and his 1991 album Girlfriend is considered one of the definitive albums both of the year and the genre.