10 Albums That Prove The '90s Didn't Suck

Every decade has its own motifs when it comes to rock and roll.

Ultimate Guitar

Every decade has its own motifs when it comes to rock and roll. Whereas synth-pop, hair metal, and MTV-inspired excess dominated in the '80s, the '90s saw the rise of grunge, techno and a renewed interest in classic rock. The death of Kurt Cobain cast a pall, but groups such as Green Day, Oasis and Radiohead were there to pick up the torch. Below are 10 albums that represent the best of that period.

  • Oasis Definitely Maybe

    Debut albums rarely come as fully formed and confident as this one. From the brash opening chords of "Rock 'n' Roll Star" to the sublime "Live Forever," Definitely Maybe espoused the British rock tradition of mixing great songwriting with a snarling attitude. Noel Gallagher's guitar burns with a passion that lifts his brother's vocals to places it otherwise may never have gone.

  • Radiohead OK Computer

    It's not far-fetched to say that Radiohead's OK Computer was to the '90s what Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon was to the '70s. Sonically ambitious (frontman Thom Yorke told Q magazine the band took "the incredibly dense and terrifying sound" of Miles Davis's Bitches Brew as its starting point), the album also sported themes that ranged from technology gone awry to the encroaching alienation that stems from modern life. Jonny Greenwood's guitar, a near-constant throughout the album, was versatile beyond measure.

  • Nirvana Nevermind

    The term "grunge" hardly does justice to the brilliance that emanated from this landmark album. Blending a roaring, punk-inspired sound with a sense of pristine pop melody, Nirvana came off as a simmering concoction made from '80s rousers like The Replacements and The Buzzcocks, mixed with classic '70s guitar-pop bands like Alice Cooper. Kurt Cobain's guitar work was both serrated and elegant, and was filled with light and dark textures.

  • Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker

    Though it seems to have fallen off the radar, The Black Crowes' debut album sounds as exhilarating today as it did 20 years ago. Rich Robinson's open-G guitar licks, paired with his brother Chris Robinson's white-boy blues rasp, yielded a triumphant mix of southern gospel, Stax-tinged R&B, and southern-flavored blues rock. No band distilled the essence of The Rolling Stones and Faces as effectively as the Crowes did.

  • PJ Harvey To Bring You My Love

    PJ Harvey's third album saw her unleash all the psycho-sexual demons that had been rattling the cages of her previous work. Often employing little more than a skeletal blues riff and a dirge-like organ figure, the Dorset, England native created an ambiance laden with foreboding and tension. Engulfed in a molten, over-amped sound, Harvey sang as if her life hung in the balance, wedding the carnal-spiritual themes of the blues to the experimental inclinations of big-city rockers like the Velvet Underground.

  • Blur Parklife

    It's not hard to understand why many view Parklife as a crash course in the history of British pop-rock. Despite its crazy-quilt synthesis of '70s-style new wave, mod-inspired nuggets, Syd Barrett-like psychedelia, and alternative power pop, the album came off as seamless and spectacularly self-assured. Graham Coxon's brilliant guitar lines punctuated melodies that, when heard today, bring to mind traditions first set forth by the likes of The Kinks, The Jam and The Who.

  • Neil Young Ragged Glory

    Neil Young kickstarted the '90s with his most raucously spirited album since his 1975 effort, Zuma. With veteran cohorts Crazy Horse in tow, Young offered up shards of guitar distortion that in the end became a thing of beauty. Several extended six-string moments most notably those on "Love To Burn" and "Love And Only Love" reached celestial heights. Small wonder the then-nascent grunge bands considered Young a hero.

  • Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion I

    Following up the monumentally successful Appetite For Destruction was no mean feat, but Guns N' Roses pulled it off nicely with their two Illusion volumes. I gets a slight nod over II, mainly because Slash and Izzy Stradlin adhere more closely to the band's original hard rock aesthetic. Some have lambasted tracks like "November Rain" and "Coma" as being overblown, but Slash's soaring solos were as good as ever.

  • Sam Phillips Martinis And Bikinis

    Lots of male artists have tried to channel John Lennon, but with this under-appreciated album, Sam Phillips outdid them all. Rife with classic-worthy pop melodies, swirling psychedelic arrangements, and topical (though never preachy) lyrical themes, Martinis And Bikinis is, simply put, a masterpiece. By turns harrowing, touching and indignant, Phillips's songs dazzle, and T-Bone Burnett's guitar-work (he was Phillips's husband at the time) has never been better.

  • Teenage Fanclub Bandwagonesque

    In a better world, this 1991 disc would have propelled Teenage Fanclub into the superstar stratosphere. Couching broken-glass lyrics in pristinely crafted pop songs, the British band evoked such melody maestros as Big Star, The Hollies and Badfinger. As was often the case with Big Star's Alex Chilton, Fanclub guitarist Norman Blake employed an ES-335 as his go-to guitar.

    Thanks for the report to Russell Hall, Gibson.com

  • 133 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Metallicas black album?, RHCPs Blood Sugar Sex Magik?, any of Panteras first 3 albums could have been there also, just my opinion.
      Oh, here we go again...everyone bitching that their favorite CD didn't make the list.
      ryansthewalrus wrote: So glad Parklife is here, although I think Blur's self-titled is pretty amazing...
      Yeah I like Parklife, but the self-titled album is the best album they did in my opinion. blur is to underated of a band.
      I would put Matthew Sweet's "Altered Beast" there. That album is the tits!
      Nirvana Nevermind The term "grunge" hardly does justice to the brilliance that emanated from this landmark album. Blending a roaring, punk-inspired sound with a sense of pristine pop melody, Nirvana came off as a simmering concoction made from 80s rousers like The Replacements and The Buzzcocks, mixed with classic 70s guitar-pop bands like Alice Cooper. Kurt Cobains guitar work was both serrated and elegant, and was filled with light and dark textures.
      wrong. none of that existed. nevermind was more like the pixies covering a black flag song. not this. if your gonna call nevermind grunge dont call out the punk side of the album. and besides its not grunge its alternative, and its the record that killed the band. bleach was their "grunge" album
      Seeing as this has degenerated into a bitch fest about what the best 90's album is, heres my two cents. Welcome to Sky Valley trumps any album previously mentioned so far. Followed by California. I miss the 90's ...
      Metallica - Black Album Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik Easily top 5.
      - Pantera - vulgar display of power -metallica - "the black album" -megadeth - countdown to extinction -ozzy osbourne - no more tears. are also great reasons why music in the 90s didn't suck.
      EssentialZero wrote: dtj88 wrote: I think some people aren't realizing the title is "10 Albums That Prove the '90's Didn't Suck" not " The Only 10 Good Albums of the 90's" or even "The 10 Best Albums of the 90's". This.
      *Bump* for people listing every album made in the 90's from their ipod.
      I hated every album on that list. And the fact that Foo Fighters - The Colour and the Shape wasn't on there ruined the list for me anyway.
      Chatboy 91
      Nowhere near enough in this list Rust in Peace, Painkiller, The Black Album, Purple, Black-Ash Inheritance, The Color and the Shape, Hellbilly Deluxe, Californication, Blood sugar sex magic, Everything You Want, S&M, There is Nothing Left to Lose, Facelift, Ten, and on, and on. WHO THE HELL HAD THE BALLS TO CLAIM THAT THE 90s HAD TERRIBLE MUSIC?
      Angel Dust? King for a day fool for a lifetime? Around the Fur? Mellon Collie and the Infinite sadness? Undertow? Aenima? Blood sugar sex magic? Californication?
      oh my god where is [obscure progressive metal album] you guys are idiots!?!?!?!? ... This is sad.
      Wakisazhi wrote: Whats the Story is a much better and much more cohesive album than Definitely Maybe . Also the list needs Weezer's Blue Album or Pinkerton.
      bullshit, that album has like 5 fillers and DM is pure killers, from the first song to the last, even DD
      WTF this list is stupid; they left out every Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Metallica and Pantera album!
      Not including Rust in Peace by Megadeth or any PanterA album of that period makes this list invalid, ****ed up, and made by a retard who listens to mainstream shit ****age. only good thing up there is Nirvana
      You really gotta give it up to Metallica's Black Album, so what if its mainstream, it was still enjoyable and its the album that really put em on the map. Without that you wouldn't know them today as your favorite metal band. They would have far less recognition and there probly wouldn't be old school elitists to attack me after I post this.
      Now the 90's really really sucked(compared to the 80's) , so this would be the descent list, i guess. I would of really included Pearl Jam 10, but i guess it's going to always be Nevermind. Depeche Mode Violator was a 90's cd.
      Should be called "10 random albums from the 90s from somewhat popular bands."
      What a lame list. They always are. Where's PEARL JAM's TEN, METALLICA, ALICE IN CHAINS, RATM, SOUNDGARDEN, FOO FIGHTERS, STP??? the only people who think the 90's sucked are ones who refuse to listen to anything past classic rock
      Helen Keller. And everybody else that appreciates musicianship.
      Hmm. Don't kill me for expressing this, but Pantera really should be on there. The 90s was kinda there stomping ground wasent it?
      10 albums that prove that 90's did sucked.Man,but i wished i lived in them because of the fourth wave of punk rock!!!
      I love grunge/metal as much as the next guy, but the fact that I haven't seen a SINGLE comment about the absence of Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, or Downward is Heavenward by Hum makes me disappoint.
      coolmanwc5 wrote: Velvet Revolver's "Contraband", Audioslave's "S/T", Green Day's "American Idiot", System of a Down's "Toxicity", U2 "All You Can't Leave Behind", The Strokes "Is This It", The White Stripes "Elephant", and Jimmy Eat World's "Bleed American".
      Hate to say it, but learn to music. Oceansize- Frames Circa Survive - Juturna Thrice - Vheissu At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command Oh, Sleeper - Son of the Morning RX Bandits - ...And the Battle Begun Closure in Moscow - First Temple And so I Watch You From Afar - Self-Titled Brand New - The Devil and God Dredg - El Cielo
      Manic Street Preachers? Generation Terrorists,Gold Against The Soul,The Holy Bible of course .. hmm,whatever.
      Wtf? What about the strong upsurge of Death metal and Norwegian Black metal? And to everyone who says "stop whining about your album not being there" go **** yourself that's what the comments section is for.
      Jason Fenimore
      I think that an article on "the top ten most influential bands of the 90's" would have been more interesting and probably would have yielded a more intelligent discussion as well...
      90's sucked? I thought it was just another decade with great albums, both listed and unlisted [Californication, Ten, The Colour and the Shape, Weezer Blue Album, and more].
      There is no such thing as a top 10 90s album list. There are WAY to many good albums.
      emphaticleech wrote: scottishmob wrote: Generic list. Here, my turn: 3 Kick ass Punk Bands: Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones 3 Kick ass Metal Bands: Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath 3 Not kick ass things you're tired of reading on this website: Opinion lists as news, stories about guitar hero, spin on news stories that weren't news in the first place. Now, did we read anything new here? No. Then again, I'm tired of long rants too, like this one. But then again, dude, 1, loL, Metallica VS Megadeth!!!!1 Why do you say Sex Pistols and the Clash? The Clash split in the 80s and Sex Pistols made ONE album in '77. And you're complaining about a generic list, and you name three of the most well known punk bands, and three of the most mainstream metal bands? Bravo. This wasn't a generic list, it was actually decent...but the 90s never sucked and I don't think anyone on this site will disagree with me. That wasn't a long rant, that was pathetic. However, I AM sick of seeing Nirvana on lists. They really weren't that good.
      uhh missing the point much?