1994 was arguably the year the alternative rock boom of the 90’s reached its pinnacle, offering some of the most creative and enduring albums of the decade. In honor of the year’s twentieth anniversary, lets take a look at some of that year’s most memorable albums…
Honorable Mention – The Crow Soundtrack
The soundtrack to the tragic cult classic film The Crow is probably one of the best representations of the era; Nine Inch Nails, Henry Rollins, Rage Against the Machine, STP, The Cure, and Helmet only top off an atmospheric, diverse album with star power.
10. Green Day – Dookie
Infusing punk in the way of the Clash with MTV generation sensibilities, Green Day’s major label debut remains one of the most popular albums of the decade. The band were hard pressed to find a truly successful follow-up until 2004’s American Idiot, but “Longview”, “Basketcase”, and “Welcome To Paradise” permeated the radio airwaves during those ten years and still do to this day.
9. Meat Puppets – Too High To Die
The storied indie cowpunk band Meat Puppets took full advantage of their association with Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance by releasing their first “mainstream” sounding album the following year. Produced by Paul Leary from the Butthole Surfers, Too High To Die is essentially a front-to-back rock record, featuring several classics like the radio single “Backwater”, the trippy and climactic anthem “Comin’ Down”, and a rerecorded version of the band’s (then) newly popularized tune “Lake Of Fire”.
8. Jeff Buckley – Grace
The first and sadly only fully completed album of the late, great Jeff Buckley, Grace demonstrated Buckley’s angelic and soulful vocal style. Though best known for his passionate cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, Grace also contains a number of solid rock songs, including the almost Zeppelin-esque tracks “Mojo Pin” and “Grace”.
7. Weezer – The Blue Album
One of the most highly regarded debut albums of the past three decades, Weezer’s self-titled debut (commonly referred to as The Blue Album) recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary. An acolyte of Kurt Cobain, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo took the alternative sound popularized by Nirvana’s Nevermind and infused it with a bombastic, arena ready attitude.
6. Soundgarden – Superunknown
I’m sure most of our readers wouldn’t need an introduction to this one, but, yeah. “Black Hole Sun”. “Spoonman”. “The Day I Tried To Live”. “Let Me Drown”. “My Wave”. Enough said.
5. Stone Temple Pilots – Purple
STP’s sophomore album successfully cemented the band as being a modern classic of the 1990’s before the usual rock stardom issues tore the band apart several times over. Purple gave us some of the most endearing radio rock singles of the era: “Vasoline”, “Big Empty” (also featured on The Crow soundtrack), and “Interstate Love Song”.
4. Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
Trent Reznor tried and succeeded to make a modern classic similar to David Bowie’s Low or Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The result was one of the darkest mainstream albums of all time, popularizing industrial rock to the MTV crowd.
3. Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
Released at the height of Pearl Jam’s boycott of Ticketmaster, Vitalogy was the band’s first recorded act of rebellion towards the music industry, featuring lyrics detailing the band’s struggle with mainstream success and expanding their sound into experimental territory. The album possesses an almost manic vibe, jumping back and forth between loud and aggressive tunes like “Spin The Black Circle” and “Not For You”, somber anthems in “Nothingman” and “Betterman”, and flat out weird sounds in “Bugs” and “Satan’s Bed”.
2. Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York
Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged performance in New York was packaged and released in album format in November 1994 following Kurt Cobain’s April suicide. Kurt had eschewed many of his band’s radio hits, instead mostly covering old blues tunes and songs from contemporary indie bands who he wanted to expose, such as the aforementioned Meat Puppets and the Scottish indie pop band The Vaselines. The band’s haunting rendition of the standard blues tune “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” is a fitting epitaph to the band’s legendary career.
1. Hole – Live Through This
Say what you will about Courtney Love, but Live Through This is an unquestionable masterpiece, offering some of the most powerful songs of the nineties. You can feel Courtney’s anger and depression over her darkening relationship with Kurt Cobain (who guested on “Asking For It” and “Softer, Softest”) in the heart wrenching “Doll Parts”.