Friday, 23 August 2013

The One With All The 90s Groups, #20 - 11








#20. Marilyn Manson




Marilyn Manson’s music fills me with such nostalgia. I had my first slow dance to ‘The Beautiful People’ (yes, it’s possible) and my step-sister and I tore up a Bible (it was actually dictionary) during ‘Antichrist Superstar’ at a New Year’s party. The look on my Catholic school friends' faces was priceless.


Brian Hugh Warner aka Marilyn Manson formed Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids in the late 80s with guitarist Scott Putesky. The name of the band was later shortened to Marilyn Manson after Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez) and Stephen Gregory Bier Jr. (Madonna Wayne Gacy) joined the fold. The group released four albums during the 90s and in my opinion they still remain their best work.




Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson have been involved in a love/hate relationship over the years, but it was all roses in 1994 when he produced the group’s debut album, Portrait of an American Family. Whilst the release itself wasn’t a huge success, the band began to develop a following after touring with Nine Inch Nails. The group’s second release ‘Smells like Children’ propelled them into the mainstream with their cover of Eurythmics' ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’. The video clip for the song was nominated for a MTV Video Music Award for Best Hard Rock Video.


Antichrist Superstar spawned the hugely successfully single ‘The Beautiful People’ while ‘The Dope Show’ was the hit song from Mechanical Animals. Although in hindsight some of the antics of Marilyn Manson seem a bit silly, it was all quite shocking to people in the 90s. And of course that was the appeal. Marilyn Manson pushed boundaries, and for me there’s nothing current that compares.

- Katie Langley




#19. The Whitlams




The early 90s saw the formation of Sydney collective The Whitlams, fronted by keys player and vocalist Tim Freedman.


Out of all the music I immersed myself in back in the 90s, The Whitlams were the band that I saw live the most times. They were a formidable force live and pumped out their gorgeous songs with passion and ease and connected to their adoring crowd with much fun and theatrics. Tim Freedman also drank a full bottle of wine on stage each of the four times I saw them perform. I’m not blaming Mr Freedman for my love of the grape, but the 90s was when I developed a palate for piano driven rock music and fine, fine wine (ok, back then it probably was chateau de la cardboard - but like wine itself, I’ve matured and moved onto glass bottles). I was young. I was impressionable. So, it’s good to find a scapegoat. Now hand me my red while I write...


The following song 'You Sound Like Louis Burdett” was always a crowd sing-a-long pleaser with its gorgeous walking bass, sweet guitar, tight drums and those magic, magic keys. You might also see the addictive energy created which had me forking out money to see these guys live again and again in the 90s. Sidenote: It also sounds best with a vino in hand and your lovable but oh so imperfect friends by your side to sing with. You’ll know what I mean by this when you sing the chorus together....




The album Eternal Nightcap (which the above song was from) was the jewel of The Whitlams 90s musical journey and saw them receiving a handful of ARIAS and winning the highly coveted number one place on Triple J’s hottest 100 for the single 'No Aphrodisiac'. With beautiful ballads, saloon style piano licks, guitar rock and clever lyrics, this album stands the test of time as a piece of art. It also was the highest selling independent Australian record in history.


Although The Whitlams had echoes of 60s American rock (reminiscent of The Eagles and perhaps Credence), they had another element altogether. The Whitlams were defiantly Australian. After all they took their moniker from a past Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (who incidently handed them an ARIA). The Whitlams delivered their music with a sense of humour, a dash of cynicism and much heart. And they were just sublime musicians delivering sublime music. 

- Lou Endicott




#18. Moloko




Theirs is one of those success stories that Lady Luck played a big part in. Story has is that while at a party, Roisin Murphy approached Mark Brydon and asked "Do you like my tight sweater? See how it fits my body." During this moment Brydon saw musical potential (among other potential) in Murphy, so together they set about becoming an underground icon with their first album, Do You Like My Tight Sweater.


It wasn't until the release of their second album I Am Not A Doctor and a chance meeting with DJ Boris Dlugosch that international success would smile upon them. Dlugosch remixed the single 'Sing It Back' giving it a more retro-house-pop feel than its previous dark drum'n'bass sound (album version) which in turn gave Moloko their first UK Dance Chart No.1 and No.4 on the UK charts overall as well as being a top 40 hit internationally.




Their third album birthed their biggest single to date, 'The Time Is Now', which peaked at No.2 in the UK music charts and was nominated for best single at the 2001 Brit Awards, but lost to stinkin' Robbie Williams. Gliding effortlessly between genres, from quirky comedic/parody to serious lyrics, combined with Murphy’s unforgettable, jazzy voice and “left of centre” fashion sense, Moloko occupied a space in the music industry rarely touched by others. 

- Nayt Housman




#17. Korn




Korn have been credited with sparking the nu-metal genre of the 90s, influencing Slipknot, Coal Chamber and Limp Bizkit. Their self-titled album release in 1994 was a huge success, going gold during a tour with Ozzy Osbourne and Deftones, later becoming certified two-times platinum in the United States.


Given the success of their first album Korn were under a significant amount of pressure for their follow up. They needn’t have been worried. Life is Peachy also went on to to become certified two-times platinum! There were three singles from this album – ‘No Place to Hide’, ‘Good God’, and ‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’. ‘A.D.I.D.A.S.’ was a sort of tribute to the popular sporting brand whom the guys loved, although the title actually stands for ‘All Day I Dream about Sex’. However the lure of a six figure endorsement deal from rival brand Puma in the late 90s saw their loyalties change pretty quickly!


Korn's third album, Freak on a Leash gave them more mainstream success, with singles ‘Got the Life’ and ‘Freak on a Leash’ getting regular play on MTV. The album has gone on to sell almost ten million copies worldwide, and has been certified five-times platinum. ‘Freak on a Leash’ was nominated for a number of awards, with the video clip winning a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video, and MTV Video Music Awards for Best Rock Video and Best Editing.




The group put together the Family Values Tour in 1998, joining buddies Limp Bizkit, Ice Cube, Incubus, Orgy and Rammstein. It was a huge success, and the tour continued in subsequent years. Issues was the band's fourth album, released in 1999. This album had mixed reviews, although it was still commercially successful. The album had less of a hip hop influence, and began moving away from the nu-metal sound. The big single from this release was ‘Falling Away From Me’. The band has continued to tour and record and will release their eleventh album later in 2013. Yes, eleventh!


Personally, I still have such a soft spot for Korn. Although I can’t admit to keeping up with their more recent releases, I still know all of the words to their 90s gold. Earlier in the year I did a karaoke duet to ‘Freak on a Leash’. The “da boom na da mmm dum na ema” part was definitely the crowd favourite. 

- Katie Langley




#16. Foo Fighters





It’s difficult for me to write about the Foo Fighters, because they are a band I adore. My taste in music reaches far and wide, but when I’m picking from the generic rock genre to describe music I like, the name Foo Fighters seems to be mentioned often. I can’t imagine existing without them and the same goes for the 90s. That decade would never have been the same without these five American boys and in particular, one very talented guy, Mr Dave Grohl.


If you were the drummer in one of the most successful bands of the 90s and that band suddenly no longer existed, what would you do? Find another band? Stop drumming? Start working in a shoe store? Form your own band? Thankfully, Dave Grohl took the last option (although, I’d buy a pair of shoes off that man any day. Actually I’d buy almost anything from that man any day) and formed a project named the Foo Fighters when his former band, Nirvana, disbanded after the terrible and untimely death of Kurt Cobain. The first self-titled album he released in 95, wasn’t really a band though, for Dave had recorded all (except one guitar part) of the instruments and vocals himself. Kind of incredible for a guy who’d been standing (sitting?) in the shadow of Kurt Cobain for the previous few years. The success of that album and it’s four hugely successful singles; ‘This Is A Call’, ‘I’ll Stick Around’, ‘For All The Cows’ and ‘Big Me’ ensured the Foo Fighters were not a moment in time after Nirvana, but a band to be recognised within their own right.


They wouldn’t be a real rock band without some kind of in fighting and line up changes though, would they? So before the next album was released, people came and went, including former Nirvana member Pat Smear and the original drummer replaced with Taylor Hawkins (who used to play with another 90s icon; Alanis Morisette. Today’s trivia lesson complete.) Line up sorted (for the time being) and the rock world was probably not prepared for what was to come, the second album The Colour And The Shape and its singles including ‘My Hero’, ‘Monkey Wrench’ (and one of my personal favourite songs and clips) ‘Walking After You’. The rock world was also probably not prepared for the personalities of the Foo Fighters to really appear, with the clips that accompanied the singles some of the most amusing of the decade (and those boys really do like costuming it up, don’t they?)




Their final album release of the 90s, There Is Nothing Left To Lose won the band their first Grammy, but it also won them a firm place in the hearts of their fans. Six singles, amusing clips and something that’s often overlooked with this band; incredible lyrics (“I'm looking to the sky to save me, looking for a sign of life, looking for something to help me burn out bright”) the Foo Fighters ended the decade on a high, beyond the dreams that I’m sure any of them ever had.


For me, my love of the Foo Fighters is a strong one. From the 90s until today, every time they’ve toured the country I live in, I’ve seen them play. Whenever I see their name, I stop. Whenever I press play on one of their tracks, I smile. Why? They’re a rock band, but somehow, they are exactly a representation of so many things in my life, exactly as it should be. Hilarious but introspective, amusing but intense, emotional but so much fun, they feature so many times on my soundtrack in so many ways. They are just a bunch of guys who have managed to fulfil their dreams and actually appreciate the lives they live. While I endeavour to do the same, I have the love of a band, some amazing live music memories and some awesome songs to fill my soundtrack. I don’t think I could sum up my adoration for them any better than Dave himself does, ‘cause for me they are a band that make everything ok whenever I press play;


“When I sing along with you, if everything could ever feel this real forever if anything could ever be this good again the only thing I'll ever ask of you you've got to promise not to stop when I say when…”

- Jo Michelmore




#15. Powderfinger




My fellow blogger Katie was once told that not liking Powderfinger was un-Australian. That’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but they certainly were quite important to Australian music in the 1990s.


Five guys from Brisbane, at a time when Brisbane was probably still growing up in the eyes of the Australian music industry, they met at school and uni in the very early 90s and went on to do something that is mostly done via the internet with music sharing and social media pages now, but in the early 90s things were different. They self-funded and recorded an EP, as in, an actual physical CD. Retro, I know. A year later, in 92, they did the same thing again releasing Transfusion which had a single that knocked Nirvana’s ‘Heart Shaped Box’ from the top of the Australian Alternative Charts at the time (and now you can thank me when you win that pub trivia next time. You do pub trivia?).


It was 94 though when things got real for those unassuming boys, as they got a gig on the Big Day Out lineup (along with Bjork, The Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden, among others. Yes, another piece of useless trivia for you, you’re welcome) and they released their first full length album, Parables For Wooden Ears in the same year. While it wasn’t incredibly commercially successful, its introverted rock sounds were a little teaser for what was to come, in the hugely successful Double Allergic album.


Double Allergic introduced Powderfinger to the massive loyal audience that grew and grew as the 90s went on. Four singles, number four on the ARIA charts and one of my personal fave Powderfinger tracks in ‘D.A.F.’, this was an album that ensured they become the poster boys of Australian rock. They did the things that all successful bands do, they toured and toured and toured and did one more important thing – they planted themselves in the very heart of the Australian music industry and the music buying public by being, I know, wait for it - nice guys. You could love Powderfinger and your Mum could love Powderfinger. It was this unassuming charm and some incredible songwriting skills that ensured their next album Internationalist, released in 98, made them icons of the Australian music scene.


A little bit less straightforward rock and a little bit more experimental, Internationalist’s heart still lay where Powderfinger always based themselves; in clever emotional, storytelling lyrics and five incredibly talented musicians. That was clearly the right place to be, because that album was certified five times platinum and it’s obvious why. Although the singles are strong, it’s an album that should be listened to from track one to thirteen as it takes the listener on an emotional journey of love and loss, of growing up and loneliness and self-esteem; telling the stories of all of the things Powderfinger themselves had experienced in their career up to that point.




The importance of those five guys to the Australian music scene in the 90s is simple but beyond simple words. They are one of those bands that placed themselves in the consciousness of Australians and love them or hate them, they played an incredibly important role in the music of my home town, Brisbane. A city that still at times struggles to shake its dull image, Powderfinger proved you can be cool and be from Brisbane. They also wrote some lyrics that I had sung along to at many gigs and still love to this day; “Promises already gone, there's no escape, it's said and done, so keep your love forever young”

 - Jo Michelmore




#14. Chemical Brothers




They weren’t brothers. They weren’t chemists. They were electronic music artists, so one could assume they knew of many chemicals, but that’s not really for me to say now is it? What they were was one of the most awesome duos of the 90s and they were responsible for some of the most awesome electronic songs of the decade.


Like all good electro dance acts, they learnt their craft DJ-ing, especially across Manchester (their home town) and the UK in the early 90s as The Dust Brothers (not the same Dust Brothers who had famously worked with the Beastie Boys, but interestingly, named after them. Weird.) They were noticed by all sorts of UK musicians (most notably The Prodigy and Noel Gallagher, who requested they remix a track for him, then in true Gallagher style, changed his mind. That track was 'Wonderwall'. Huh!) before they changed their name to The Chemical Brothers in 95 and released their first album, Exit Planet Dust. It was an album made to be danced to, preferably in a dark, dark room with strobe lights and since it was the 90s, some awful pants and a glow stick or two. It looked horrible but was probably a whole bunch of fun. Dance music generally is.


As the new darlings of the dance world, much of the mid-nineties were spent remixing, until the extremely popular and more commercially viable album, Dig Your Own Hole, was released in 97. It was an album that corporate types played in their car on the way to work, cafes played as background music and clubs pumped as anthems and in a way not many had done before them. Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons somehow made electronica accessible to everyone. ‘Block Rockin Beats’ and ‘Electrobank’ were popular, but ‘Setting Sun’, the song that the aforementioned Noel Gallagher guests on, was the track that confirmed their spot as darlings of the pop charts as well as the dance charts.




That title was cemented with the release of Surrender at the very end of the 90s and especially the single ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’. If you were alive in 99, you would know the lyric and the beat in an instant, ‘cause let’s face it, it’s not hard: “hey girls, hey boys, superstar djs, here we go (repeat)”. What I know is you haven’t experienced dance music if you haven’t danced in the middle of summer in a dark, sweaty room squished amongst a couple of thousand other sweaty people, with your eyes closed screaming “hey girls, hey boys….here we go!” Just sayin. 

- Jo Michelmore




#13. Silverchair




"You gonna wait ‘til fat boy, fat boy, wait ‘til tomorrooooow!" And in a world that was reeling from Kurt Cobain’s suicide, three 15 year old lads from Newcastle were able to take a grungey little tune called 'Tomorrow' and conquer the world. In 1994, Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou hit number one in Australia with 'Tomorrow' for six weeks, following that huge achievement up with stints atop the New Zealand singles chart and the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and Album Rock Tracks charts. When they weren’t performing on Saturday Night Live, the MTV Music Awards or taking home more ARIA Awards than you can shake a stick at, they were busy doing crazy stuff like… homework. With their debut album, Frogstomp, Silverchair had achieved more than 99% of Australian acts could ever hope to and they were still in high school!


Grunge came and went, school was out forever and Silverchair were able to shake the ‘Nirvana-lite’ label and become one of two bands that would define Australian rock music for the next decade. I’ll give you a clue as to who the other was. Powderfinger. Great clue, yes? Sophomore album, Freak Show (1997), placed the band in the alternative field with classic tracks like 'Freak', 'Abuse Me' and 'Cemetery'. With lyrics like, "no more maybes, your baby's got rabies, sitting on a bull, in the middle of the Andes," and a creepy memorable film clip, 'Freak' again saw Silverchair hit #1 on the Australian singles chart. While it only garnered a fraction of the international success achieved by Frogstomp, Freak Show solidified Silverchair as Australia's premier rock act. 




Their third and final 90s release, Neon Ballroom, is widely regarded as one of the best Australian albums of all time. I wholeheartedly agree and will add that it's one of the greatest albums of the 90s and Silverchair's best LP. From the opening devastation of 'Emotion Sickness' to the disenfranchisement of 'Anthem for the Year 2000', the despair and isolation inherent within 'Ana's Song (Open Fire)' and hopeless longing in 'Miss You Love', this is an album that speaks to those navigating the difficult path between youth and adult. Sex, drugs, eating disorders, politics... all discussed in the form of well constructed rock songs. At the time, I didn't fully appreciate the themes. In fact, I thought 'Ana' was some skank that 'wrecked' Johns' life and he wanted her dead. You know, like when Anaaaa wrecks your lifeeee. You should have seen my (stupid) face the day the penny dropped and I was like, "oh it's anorexia life. Derrrr." Yeah. Derrr. Neon Ballroom managed to outsell Freak Show throughout the world, obtaining gold status in the USA in the process. 


Silverchair changed the Australian music industry in the 90s. From becoming the young faces of Australian grunge to one of the greatest alternative rock acts in the world, these three Newcastle guys left a trail of awesomeness in their wake. They even had the honour of holding the #1 position in my best songs of ever chart (which I compiled between the ages of seven and fifteen) for about a year with 'Miss You Love'. There was something about the opening lines, "millionaire say, got a big shot deal, and thrown it all away but, but I'm not too sure, how I'm supposed to feel, or what I'm supposed to say," that made me feel incredibly sad. As a fan of sad music (as far as I'm aware I am not a psycho), I liked that. They just don't make music like this anymore. Heck, even Silverchair couldn't make music like this in the 2000s. But let's not get caught up in a debate about how much 'Straight Lines' sucked (answer: hard). Let's take a moment to appreciate how incredible Silverchair were in the 1990s. 

- Matt Bond    




#12. The Prodigy





“I’m the firestarter, terrific firestarter”….then you hear those crazy sounds of synths and beats and welcome to the world of The Prodigy. Forming in 1990 at the very start of the decade we’re currently loving, The Prodigy were an electronic act that the world needed at the time, someone to shake things up a little and someone to take the anger of rock and the movements of dance and mash it all together nicely to make one of the most recognisable sounds of music in the 90s.


It’s funny listening to ‘Everybody Is In The Place’ now, from their first album Experience, because it’s so familiar, it’s like listening to the baby Prodigy, it sounds like them, but just a little off, a little cute, a little different, a little younger, which I guess it really was, being released in the very early 90s. It was only a glimpse of the magic that was The Prodigy’s creator and main composer, Liam Howlett and the incredible anthems of the rave world that were to be created later in the decade.


The second album Music For The Jilted Generation took The Prodigy to a new level of popularity, with edgier tracks like ‘Voodoo People’ and ‘Poison’ proving they were a group growing up and getting darker, which is probably the key to their massive success later in the decade. While they were tracks that made you want to dance, they were also tracks that sounded a little scary and threatening, sounds that were amazing in a world filled with pop and happy electronica.




The third album is the one that pushed The Prodigy into the world of super-dance-stardom, with Fat Of The Land being released in 1997 and containing the singles ‘Breathe’, ‘Firestarter’ and the ever controversial ‘Smack My Bitch Up’. While I can’t attest to what that last track was actually about, I know this; The Prodigy made music to dance to and that song had a damn good beat to dance to but it’s the faces of The Prodigy, Keith Flint and Maxim, whose images linger when one thinks of dance music in the 90s. Who could forget the face of Keith’s in the clip for ‘Firestarter’? His hair of horns, his angry glares and his Americana jumper? That’s the 90s all together right there and that’s still some kind of awkward cool.  

- Jo Michelmore




#11. No Doubt 




If you're reading this (thanks, we appreciate your patronage or something), there's a very good chance you've heard the album Tragic Kingdom. There's almost a 100% chance you've heard the track 'Don't Speak'. It's kind of a big deal. Scrap the 'kind of', 'Don't Speak' was a huge deal, a worldwide radio dominating phenomenon and pop culture highlight of the 90s. It made No Doubt into megastars and one of the best groups of the decade. But No Doubt weren't some one-hit wonder band and there was a whole lot more of them to enjoy in the second half of the 90s. 


"I'm just a girl, what's my destiny? What I've succumbed to is making me numb." When Gwen Stefani declared that she'd had it up to wherever 'here' was on 'Just A Girl', the world listened. Brash, beautiful, blonde (platinum, duh)... Stefani would become one of the leading female figures in music at a time that 'Girl Power' was starting to take over. While the Spice Girls had the positive bubblegum aspects of feminism covered, Stefani and her 90s rock compatriot, Alanis Morissette, covered the more mature side of the issues women were facing and music fans, male and female alike, were loving it. Gwen Stefani became one of the biggest music stars of the decade seemingly overnight and it was the focus on 'Gwen Stefani' in the media and not 'No Doubt' that led to the video that would accompany 'Don't Speak'.




Yeah, remember that clip? 'Don't Speak' the song was about the breakdown of Stefani's relationship with bass player, Tony Kanal. It's pretty much the go-to break up song for 90s kids. 'Don't Speak' the video put Stefani firmly in the spotlight, much to the imagined chagrin of Kanal, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont, mirroring the real-life media situation. The drama-fueled track took them to the top of the charts around the world, but not the official US Billboard Hot 100 chart (excluded from charting under old rules that only counted physically released singles). Instead, the band had to settle for a record-breaking sixteen weeks atop the US Billboard Airplay chart. Tragic Kingdom was picking up steam all the while, well on its way to selling upwards of sixteen million albums worldwide. Not too shabby for a ska influenced pop/rock outfit from Anaheim, California. 


No Doubt's influence would be felt far and wide, with the major labels promoting ska acts (for a while) and a new generation of female rockers following in Stefani's footsteps. They're still kicking around today after Gwen's foray into super-pop and they've still got that star quality that made the world fall in love with them almost twenty years ago. And yes, I did neglect to mention any of the No Doubt albums released before Tragic Kingdom. Nobody likes to talk about them. It's probably best we just forget they exist. But Tragic Kingdom... oh, Tragic Kingdom. Now there's a 90s album you can be proud of. Go and listen to it. Now.

- Matt Bond  

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