No, I was not immune to the grunge craze, but thanks to prolific magazine reading back then, I picked up on it about six months before it took over the world. I bought Nirvana’s Nevermind because an article mentioned Butch Vig produced it. I was already digging Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish, also produced by Vig, so I thought that was reason enough to check it out. A friend of mine thought the album cover was weird. Months later, he’d be listening to the album himself.
I find it funny that Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion and Nirvana’s Nevermind were released in the same year. The two albums pretty much bookend different eras — ’80s hair metal and ’90s grunge.
1991 was also the year I discovered the joys of anime theme songs, the root of what would be come a major source of coverage on this site. And my classical interests started to blossom as well.
Musicwhore.org Favorite Edition 1991
Smashing Pumpkins, Gish
I will never hold Siamese Dream in any esteem because Gish set some ridiculously high expectations. Siamese Dream is a dreary bore next to the vibrancy and drama of Gish. I pretty much had this album on repeat for a good year, and I was blind to the idea that maybe Smashing Pumpkins were fallible enough to make a sophomore slump. It certainly was a slump that sold a lot of units. Were that Gish had such exposure.
At first, I was gratified my hunch about Nirvana turned out to be bigger than anyone expected. Then the major labels started flooding the airwaves with clones. Oh, fuck me.
R.E.M., Out of Time
The ideas explored on Out of Time would eventually be ground to salt on subsequent R.E.M. albums, but here, the lush orchestrations and polished sound married nicely with jangly guitars and melodic bass.
U2, Achtung Baby
WTF? U2 turned into a dance band? My first instinct was to write this album off, but after getting through the heavy-handed production, I realized this album was every bit as tuneful as The Joshua Tree. Then I had to concede that such a drastic make-over was kind of clever. It’s too bad the sound pioneered by Acthung Baby would eventually lead to Pop.
Throwing Muses, The Real Ramona
Something about House Tornado hinted I might be the target audience for Throwing Muses, but I was not yet an experienced enough listener to grasp it. So Kristen Hersh and company made their sound easier to digest with The Real Ramona, and it’s what just what I needed to keep Throwing Muses at the forefront of my consciousness.
Soundtrack, Bubblegum Crisis Vocal Collection, Vol. 1
In all honesty, the songs from Bubblegum Crisis are pretty much J-pop in the guise of Def Leppard and Survivor. Instead of excessive, raspy, testosterone-driven male singers, you had Japanese voice actresses. But it helps that the Bubblegum Crisis songs have some damn good melodies. Well suited for karaoke.
Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion II
The second of two simultaneously released albums, Use Your Illusion II was the more contemplative of the pair, and it had fewer filler. Perhaps Use Your Illusion I could have been scrapped entirely. The excess of ’80s hair metal pretty much reached its apex with Use Your Illusion. The albums would sound terribly dated only months later.
Enya, Shepherd Moons
My friend and I joked about Enya’s excessive overdubs, particularly after the introduction of "Caribbean Blue".
NICKY RYAN: OK, Enya, take 498.
ENYA: Sings. Ah!
NICKY RYAN: All right, take 499
ENYA: Sings. Ah!
NICKY RYAN: Take 500 …
Lou Harrison, Music of Lou Harrison
I wouldn’t discover this album (and the following one) till 1992, when I was working for CRI. I borrowed both discs from the label’s recording library and instantly loved them. The gamelan works of Harrison in particular were a nice complement to the Akira soundtrack.
Elliott Carter, Music of Elliott Carter
Syringa sticks out from the more nationalist orchestral works on this collection. At some point, I might see if time has changed my perception of the work, but on the whole, it seems Anton Webern is as far as I can go when it comes to dodecaphony.
I think maybe I’m being too revisionist by not ranking the grunge albums up in the list proper, but I can’t really remember the last time I played Ten, and I never upgraded Badmotorfinger from cassette.
- Pearl Jam, Ten Without Pearl Jam, there would be no Stone Temple Pilots and 4 Non Blondes. What a terrible legacy to live down.
- Igor Stravinsky, Le Sacre du Printemps/Symphony in Three Movements (Zubin Mehta, New York Philharmonic Orchestra) My first recording of the Rite and probably the one which informs other interpretations, by virtue of being the first.
- Mazzy Star, She Hangs Brightly This album can meander a bit, but Hope Sandoval has a haunting voice. Or maybe that’s just the reverb.
- Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger If forced to include Soundgarden in my collection again, I’d probably choose Badmotorfinger over Superunknown.
- Bill Frisell, Where in the World? I gave this album some reconsideration after I heard Wayne Horvitz cover "Again".
- Mr. Bungle, Mr. Bungle I kind of wondered how Mr. Bungle’s piece for Kronos Quartet turned out.