The best of 1990 mix tape
So my best of mix tape project is entering its third decade, the 1990s. I had a complicated relationship with music in this decade because there was a fairly long period after I graduated college in 1992 that I just didn’t follow much of anything new, until about three years later when Radiohead brought me out of my 80s nostalgia and reminded me that there’s always great new music out there, as long as you know where to look.
Before I press on with the first year of the decade, a quick reminder of the ground rules for this project:
- The “mix tape” has to fit on an old school Maxell 60-minute cassette. Some decisions will inevitably be made based on run time, so if I’m deciding between two songs, a shorter one might get the nod just because it is better fit
- Only one song from one artist per year (also known as the Michael Jackson Thriller rule)
- Songs chosen have to be on Spotify, so that rather famously eliminates The Beatles (and much of their solo incarnations) from consideration here
- There are certain genres of music that just aren’t my jam. In the 80s it was hair metal. In the 70s you will be find little to no “prog rock.” In the 90s/00s, my disdain for “nu-metal” is pretty much absolute
- No live albums. I added this for the 70s, since bands got into the habit of cranking out live albums (or, more horribly, double live albums). There’s only a handful of decent ones ever, so it’s just easier to eliminate them outright
Okay, those are the ground rules. I do reserve the right to ignore them when I feel like it, but I try to stay within the boundaries established there. On with the show.
Step On – The Happy Mondays
Watch the great movie (with the great Steve Coogan as possibly even greater Tony Wilson) to get a sense of how insane these guys were. It’s one those cases though where the truth is more bizarre than any fiction writer could dream up. Great tunes though.
Jealous Again – The Black Crows
It’s easy to forget how great Shake Your Money Maker is, and how utterly fresh it sounded on the radio in 1990.
Birdhouse in Your Soul – They Might Be Giants
Flood is far and away my favorite TMBG album, and this is one of the handful of tracks that I could have picked for this list.
Here’s Where the Story Ends – The Sundays
A great song that I had mostly forgotten about until I started putting this list together.
Fight the Power – Public Enemy
Three decades later and this song retains all of the power and energy that it had when released.
Kool Thing – Sonic Youth
Speaking of powerful riffs, this one’s a monster.
Queen Elvis – Robyn Hitchcock
Equal parts poetic, tuneful, and downright weird. In others words, your typical Robyn Hitchcock song.
Way Down Now – Word Party
This one was is heavy rotation in my college DJ days. Great song.
Joey – Concrete Blonde
Another song that had drifted from my memory banks a bit before putting this list together. I think that says more about my memory than it does the quality of the song though.
Can I Kick It? – A Tribe Called Quest
Arguably the greatest hip hop act ever (though Wu Tang probably has something to say about that).
Hello Hello Hello Hello Hello (Petrol) – Something Happens
Welcome to the part of the list where I make my “if you take nothing else from this list, go listen to this artist” plea. Their album Stuck Together With God’s Glue is really great. Seek it out and thank me later.
Velouria – The Pixies
Who would have thought in 1990 that there was only one more Pixies album to come? (We shall not mention that alleged recent release, ever. Agreed? Trompe Le Monde was it, m’kay? Cool.)
There She Goes – The La’s
Along with Big Star’s September Gurls and a handful of others, as close to a perfect pop song as has ever been written.
Raspberry Beret – The Hindu Love Gods
A repeat offender! I love the original, but this cover by the HLG (better known as the musicians from R.E.M. fronted by Warren Zevon) is one of my favorite covers ever.
Everyday Is Like Sunday – Morrissey
Morrissey’s first solo album, Bona Drag, was ever bit a good lyrically as any of The Smith’s output. The imagery in this song is simultaneously bleak, sad, and gorgeous.
I had to leave out a lot of great songs to get this one down under an hour. A special apology to the Digital Underground for not finding room for The Humpty Dance. Here’s the Spotify playlist for your listening/subscribing pleasure.
Which one of your favorites did I leave out? Also, Tribe vs. Wu Tang – who ya got?