When I brain-dumped some of my favorite forgotten 90s alternative rock songs, I never expected to receive so much love. But I should have known better: Gen X will never let the tunes that defined us die. In the spirit of keeping page load times in Google’s good graces, I present Forgotten 90s Alternative Rock Songs: PART II. Check out Part I here.
And if these songs take you back to a different time (a better time), feel free to leave a comment.
Sons of Elvis – “Formaldehyde”
I remember getting the Glodean album for free during a promotion at Tower Records; buy anything and get the Sons of Elvis CD for free. Because of the giveaway, I owned quite a few copies of this disc, several of which were used for frisbee golf and miscellaneous tomfoolery. Pressed on Priority Records, the original home of the magnificent California Raisins, Sons of Elvis were solid musically, and hey, the price was right.
Sugar – “The Act We Act”
At 16 years old, in the heyday of my Columbia House scamming days, I was sent a copy of Sugar’s “The Act We Act.” It was either the “selection of the month,” or I randomly chose it since it was listed in the “Alternative Rock” section of the catalog. Either way, I fell in love with the aggressive guitars that kick the album off. Without an older brother or cool uncle to guide me, I had no idea who Bob Mould was…Husker D-who? In time, I learned of the man’s genius and influence, but on that Yorx stereo system, it was Sugar’s act I followed.
Jawbox – “Savory”
Now That’s What I Call Alternative Music Vol. 1. Jawbox delivered fuzzy guitars, bizarre rhythms, and the feeling that the band rolled out of bed and just played–no prep, no planning, just pure Gen-X listlessness. I’m sure that wasn’t the case, but the reality is that “Savory” feels as alternative today as it did back in 1994–the same which can’t be said for other alt bands who have failed the test of time.
Brad – “Buttercup”
The band Brad was a side project of Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, who had previously been a member of Mother Love Bone. Brad’s debut album Shame was released in 1992 and featured the single “20th Century.” But it was the song “Buttercup” that always felt out of a different era to me. While it did get some play on the Threesome movie soundtrack, the lyrics speak unadulterated truth: “It’s just a matter of time…before we’re thrown back in the wheel.” RIP Shawn Smith, your soulful voice will live forever.
Gruntruck – “Tribe”
Gruntruck was the 90s grunge band that could, though I’m not sure they ever did. Despite having significant influence within the Seattle scene, I don’t recall songs from their self-titled release or Inside Yours getting much sludge love. Blending punk, metal, and funk, the song “Tribe” was the tune on repeat. “I just want to fly my freak flag…Come on, join our triiiiiibe.” Get deposited back in the early 90s with this live performance.
“Squeeze My Macaroni” – Mr. Bungle
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t have that older brother to introduce me to cool alternative music. But I did have “crazy” Uncle Mike, as in Mike Patton. OK, so I’m not related to the Faith No More frontman, but I give him credit for awakening my alt side. His side project, Mr. Bungle, is an eclectic fusion–a wild mix that can only come from the deranged mind of Patton. “Squeeze My Macaroni” is a carnival for the ears and up for metaphorical interpretation.
Butt Trumpet – “I’m Ugly and I Don’t Know Why”
In the world of immature punk band names, Butt Trumpet wins the Golden Sombrero. (I give the Silver Sombrero to Drain Bramaged.) On one of my old CMJ alt-rock compilation CDs, the group sang, “I’m Ugly and I Don’t Know Why,” a song that tells a heartbreaking story with catchy, controlled aggression.
Zumpano – “The Party Rages On”
As a 90s Sub Pop fanboy, I gobbled up every release I could get my hands on, but one band, in particular, had me desperate for more tunes: Zumpano. “Look What the Rookie” delivered catchy and smartly crafted songs with top-notch melodic sensibilities in the vein of the Beach Boys.
Pell Mell – “Nothing Lies Still Long”
Before digital music tracking was a thing, the geographically dispersed members of Pell Mell would snail mail each other completed tracks, each layering a track on top of what was received. I might have my facts wrong, as time makes the mind grow mushy, but that’s the story I recall. Sounds like a good idea for a reality TV show, no? Perhaps best known for “Interstate,” which was used as recap music for HBO’s brilliant Six Feet Under, Pell Mell’s music is emotive, proving once again that vocals can be nothing more than the cherry on top when it comes to tunes that rock.
The Poster Children – “Dynamite Chair”
Tool of the Man from The Poster Children was never a go-to album for me, but I was partially obsessed with the cover, which contained optical illusions and seeped into your eyes so that you would see it even after you stopped looking. The song “Dynamite Chair” kicked things off…and I realize now this is an album I should revisit.
Bettie Serveert – “Ray Ray Rain”
Dutch alternative sweethearts Bettie Serveert are best known for their 1992 debut album Palomine, a classic, blending jangly pop with shoegaze elements. While vintage guitar effects and lo-fi moments make the band unique, their sophomore album Lambrey featured “Ray ray rain,” a beautiful radio-friendly pop song that channels Juliana Hatfield.
Just like last time, bookmark this page, as I’ll be sure to update my list of forgotten 90s alt-rock songs as they come to mind. Please join my email list to get an alert when new content goes live.