College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 2 and 1


2. Cake, Fashion Nugget

Among college radio kids in the mid-nineties, there was a pretty healthy market for songs that took critical aim at their own music fandom. For example, Ben Folds Five first got noticed with “Underground.” In the case of the Sacramento, California band Cake, their opening salvo against the very consumers they were actively courting was even more scathing. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle” had a clear novelty bend but was also catchy as hell, exactly the sort of thing that can often take hold on the college charts. It helped them get signed by Georgia independent label Capricorn Records, which rereleased their debut album, Motorcade of Generosity. It was the band’s sophomore effort, recorded at the behest of the label, that brought them major success. Fashion Nugget had a slightly more polished sound (the benefit of working with a supportive label) and, more notably, a single written by guitarist Greg Brown that practically defined the band. “The Distance” was one of those seemingly unavoidable songs during the fall of 1996, becoming Cake’s sole Top 40 single (albeit just barely, peaking at #35). Surely there were other songs getting college radio airplay (and a killer cover that required a special radio edit), but “The Distance” got played as often on some station’s as their top-of-the-hour legal ID bumpers. Cake hasn’t exactly been prolific, with only six albums across twenty years, but they have endured, and without much hint of break-up drama. In fact, their most recent effort, 2011’s Showroom of Compassion, managed to become their first chart-topper, debuting at #1 on the Billboard album charts. Now, it did so while setting the record for the weakest sales numbers to claim the top spot on the weekly chart, but a #1 is still a #1.


1. Beck, Odelay

I’ve typed out a lot of fairly unkind words towards a signifiant number of albums on this particular countdown. Credit where it’s due: Beck’s Odelay is undoubtedly a better album than any of releases that topped the year-end 90FM chart during my time at the station. Bek David Campbell’s fifth album overall and his second for a major label, Odelay, is a stunner, offering a melding of old-school soul with modern pop sounds while simultaneously deconstructing everything he’s built. It’s cheeky, unpredictable, and incessantly catchy. It even made me momentarily believe in the possibility in the Grammys, when it became an unlikely Album of the Year nominee, only to lose to some hideous Celine Dion abomination, therefore safely restoring my cynicism. It wasn’t just the Grammys; the album was enough of a wide-ranging success that Beck kept turning up in the strangest of places. If it was a breakthrough, it was a highly deserving one. There are off-kilter gems all across its running time. It was exactly the sort of album I valued most during my college radio days: wherever the needle was dropped (or, by the nineties, the laser was directed) there was something good there, and usually something distinctly different. Arguably, it also established a tough benchmark for Beck. He remained and remains a justly respected artist, but the sonic revolution of Odelay made everything that followed sound drab in comparison, at least until the soul-bearing about face of Sea Change, which mostly matches its predecessor by refraining from any attempts to replicate its tricks. So, yeah, 90FM kids of yore, a lot of what you were playing makes my ears hurt just thinking about it, but you couldn’t have done better with the album you played the most.

Previously…
An Introduction
–90 and 89: Antichrist Superstar and Three Snakes and One Charm
–88 and 87: No Code and Unplugged
–86 and 85: Greatest Hits Live and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
–84 and 83: To the Faithful Departed and God’s Good Urges
–82 and 81: Billy Breathes and Sweet F.A.
–80 and 79: The Process and Test for Echo
–78 and 77: Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and Breathe
–76 and 75: Bob Mould and Walking Wounded
–74 and 73: It’s Martini Time and Trainspotting soundtrack
–72 and 71: Aloha Via Satellite and Fever In Fever Out
–70 and 69: Hi My Name is Jonny and One Mississippi
–68 and 67: Everything Sucks and The Aeroplane Flies High
–66 and 65: First Band on the Moon and Razorblade Suitcase
–64 and 63: Comic Book Whore and Peachfuzz
–62 and 61: All Change and Rude Awakening
–60 and 59: 12 Golden Country Greats and Songs in the Key of X
–58 and 57: Brain Candy soundtrack and Pinkerton
–56 and 55: Sublime and Count the Days
–54 and 53: Wild Mood Swings and The Cult of Ray
–52 and 51: Bringing Down the Horse and Crash
–50 and 49: No Talking, Just Head and New Adventures in Hi-Fi
–48 and 47: Lay It Down and Pogue Mahone
–46 and 45: I’m with Stupid and XTORT
–44 and 43: Tango and …finally
–42 and 41: Good Weird Feeling and Mint 400
–40 and 39: Happy Nowhere and Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
–38 and 37: Turn the Radio Off and Electriclarryland
–36 and 35: Naughty Little Doggie and In Blue Cave
–34 and 33: Eventually and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
–32 and 31: Beautiful Girls soundtrack and Strat’s Got Your Tongue
–30 and 29: Upstroke for the Downfolk and Set the Twilight Reeling
–28 and 27: Born on a Pirate Ship and The Golden Age
–26 and 25: Ænima and Dead Man Walking soundtrack
–24 and 23: Victor and Songs for Pele
–22 and 21: Down on the Upside and Music for Our Mother Ocean
–20 and 19: Supercop soundtrack and Dust
–18 and 17: Remember and A Worm’s Life
–16 and 15: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits
–14 and 13: Down By the Old Mainstream and The Gray Race
–12 and 11: Star Maps and Car Button Cloth
–10 and 9: Black Love and Highball with the Devil
–8 and 7: Recovering the Satellites and Evil Empire
–6 and 5: XOC and Irresistible Bliss
–4 and 3: The Cable Guy soundtrack and The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack

College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 4 and 3


4. Various Artists, The Cable Guy soundtrack

To the degree that anyone’s especially invested of reevaluating the bygone cinematic output of either Ben Stiller or Jim Carrey these days, I think the critical consensus on The Cable Guy has shifted somewhat, offering it the dignity of seeing it as a misunderstood cult classic. Back in 1996, though, it was widely seen as a disaster. Certainly, it was poised to be torn apart by critics, already resentful about the dismal crap Carrey was building his stardom on and freshly irritated by his twenty million dollar paycheck for the film, a record at the time. The reviews were scathing and the movie barely crawled over the $100 million mark at the box office. The movie is better than it was given credit for, though it doesn’t quite commit to its inherent darkness and is finally too spoofy to be substantial (though there will always be a place in my heart for Janeane Garofalo as a Medieval Times serving wench). The soundtrack album is an accurate representation of the dire state of “alternative rock” at the time, as it’s filled with horrid quasi-metal and tepid industrial-edged nonsense. The major selling point for the college kids was the first official solo effort by Jerry Cantrell, of Alice in Chains, but I’m betting the deejays were more likely to cue up the grating novelty of Carrey’s take on “Somebody to Love.” Listeners probably despised that track by the end of the summer.


3. Various Artists, The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack

The soundtrack for the sequel to the 1994 hit film The Crow is its own version of state of the music landscape hell, with contributions from the likes of Seven Mary Three and Korn. And that doesn’t even mention the ultimate sacrilege of Bush covering Joy Division (you’ll get no hyperlink to that one from me). Yet, I will forgive the soundtrack all of those sins for delivering to the world Hole’s spectacular cover of “Gold Dust Woman.” This was right in the middle of the span between the band’s acclaimed Live Through This and the unfairly maligned follow-up, Celebrity Skin, and Hole is in fine, fiery form, absolutely burying Fleetwood Mac’s drab original. Like a lot of people, I don’t exactly want Courtney Love over to my house for a dinner party, but she was a helluva rock vocalist for a time. The song shows offers stunning evidence of that. Luckily, as someone who was sulking his way through a commercial radio gig at the time, that was the only track I had to play from the soundtrack. Let the college radio deejays have White Zombie’s dopey, ironic cover of “I’m Your Boogie Man.” It’s one of the few instances where I don’t envy the playlist freedom they had.

Previously…
An Introduction
–90 and 89: Antichrist Superstar and Three Snakes and One Charm
–88 and 87: No Code and Unplugged
–86 and 85: Greatest Hits Live and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
–84 and 83: To the Faithful Departed and God’s Good Urges
–82 and 81: Billy Breathes and Sweet F.A.
–80 and 79: The Process and Test for Echo
–78 and 77: Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and Breathe
–76 and 75: Bob Mould and Walking Wounded
–74 and 73: It’s Martini Time and Trainspotting soundtrack
–72 and 71: Aloha Via Satellite and Fever In Fever Out
–70 and 69: Hi My Name is Jonny and One Mississippi
–68 and 67: Everything Sucks and The Aeroplane Flies High
–66 and 65: First Band on the Moon and Razorblade Suitcase
–64 and 63: Comic Book Whore and Peachfuzz
–62 and 61: All Change and Rude Awakening
–60 and 59: 12 Golden Country Greats and Songs in the Key of X
–58 and 57: Brain Candy soundtrack and Pinkerton
–56 and 55: Sublime and Count the Days
–54 and 53: Wild Mood Swings and The Cult of Ray
–52 and 51: Bringing Down the Horse and Crash
–50 and 49: No Talking, Just Head and New Adventures in Hi-Fi
–48 and 47: Lay It Down and Pogue Mahone
–46 and 45: I’m with Stupid and XTORT
–44 and 43: Tango and …finally
–42 and 41: Good Weird Feeling and Mint 400
–40 and 39: Happy Nowhere and Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
–38 and 37: Turn the Radio Off and Electriclarryland
–36 and 35: Naughty Little Doggie and In Blue Cave
–34 and 33: Eventually and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
–32 and 31: Beautiful Girls soundtrack and Strat’s Got Your Tongue
–30 and 29: Upstroke for the Downfolk and Set the Twilight Reeling
–28 and 27: Born on a Pirate Ship and The Golden Age
–26 and 25: Ænima and Dead Man Walking soundtrack
–24 and 23: Victor and Songs for Pele
–22 and 21: Down on the Upside and Music for Our Mother Ocean
–20 and 19: Supercop soundtrack and Dust
–18 and 17: Remember and A Worm’s Life
–16 and 15: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits
–14 and 13: Down By the Old Mainstream and The Gray Race
–12 and 11: Star Maps and Car Button Cloth
–10 and 9: Black Love and Highball with the Devil
–8 and 7: Recovering the Satellites and Evil Empire
–6 and 5: XOC and Irresistible Bliss

College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 6 and 5


6. Fuzzdolly, XOC

Surely there was no better way to guarantee airplay on 90FM in the mid-nineties, when then station was arguably at the peak of its commitment to Wisconsin-based bands, than being a group with specific ties to the city that the Federal Communications Commission required to be named at the top of the hour, immediately following a statement of the station’s call letters. Fuzzdolly was apparently a indie-goth band (a newspaper article at the time described the voice of lead singer Dan Dieterich as “an exact cross between Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy and Crash Test Dummies’ Brad Roberts”) that had its origins in humble Stevens Point, Wisconsin before moving downstate to the state capital. Without much additional information to draw upon, I’ll defer to the review of the album that appeared in the October 10, 1996 edition of The Pointer, the student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point:

See! It said right there that it was going to get played a lot at 90FM. Who says you can’t trust record reviews?


5. Soul Coughing, Irresistible Bliss

Irresistible Bliss was the sophomore effort from Soul Coughing, the band that served as the broader introduction of Mike Doughty. Following the “Deep Slacker Jazz” (a joking description that stuck) of their excellent debut, Ruby Vroom, Doughty was actively seeking a tighter, sleeker sound. When the producer of their debut was unavailable, Doughty enlisted David Kahne, who’d recently presided over one of the most unlikely comeback albums of the decade and generally had a knack for slicked-up material. The results were exactly what Doughty was looking for: steeped in the band’s established sound, but bigger and punchier. It’s not really what the label was looking for however, as they joined with several of the band members in protesting this creative shift (bass player Sebastian Steinberg even quit, albeit only briefly). The whole process was a glimpse into the artistic restlessness of Doughty. Soul Coughing would release only one more album together. Thus far, they’ve resisted any urge to reunite, perhaps because it seems there’s a lot of bad blood there, thanks to disagreements about how songwriting credits and publishing rights (and the revenue streams they represent) should be divvied up.

Previously…
An Introduction
–90 and 89: Antichrist Superstar and Three Snakes and One Charm
–88 and 87: No Code and Unplugged
–86 and 85: Greatest Hits Live and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
–84 and 83: To the Faithful Departed and God’s Good Urges
–82 and 81: Billy Breathes and Sweet F.A.
–80 and 79: The Process and Test for Echo
–78 and 77: Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and Breathe
–76 and 75: Bob Mould and Walking Wounded
–74 and 73: It’s Martini Time and Trainspotting soundtrack
–72 and 71: Aloha Via Satellite and Fever In Fever Out
–70 and 69: Hi My Name is Jonny and One Mississippi
–68 and 67: Everything Sucks and The Aeroplane Flies High
–66 and 65: First Band on the Moon and Razorblade Suitcase
–64 and 63: Comic Book Whore and Peachfuzz
–62 and 61: All Change and Rude Awakening
–60 and 59: 12 Golden Country Greats and Songs in the Key of X
–58 and 57: Brain Candy soundtrack and Pinkerton
–56 and 55: Sublime and Count the Days
–54 and 53: Wild Mood Swings and The Cult of Ray
–52 and 51: Bringing Down the Horse and Crash
–50 and 49: No Talking, Just Head and New Adventures in Hi-Fi
–48 and 47: Lay It Down and Pogue Mahone
–46 and 45: I’m with Stupid and XTORT
–44 and 43: Tango and …finally
–42 and 41: Good Weird Feeling and Mint 400
–40 and 39: Happy Nowhere and Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
–38 and 37: Turn the Radio Off and Electriclarryland
–36 and 35: Naughty Little Doggie and In Blue Cave
–34 and 33: Eventually and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
–32 and 31: Beautiful Girls soundtrack and Strat’s Got Your Tongue
–30 and 29: Upstroke for the Downfolk and Set the Twilight Reeling
–28 and 27: Born on a Pirate Ship and The Golden Age
–26 and 25: Ænima and Dead Man Walking soundtrack
–24 and 23: Victor and Songs for Pele
–22 and 21: Down on the Upside and Music for Our Mother Ocean
–20 and 19: Supercop soundtrack and Dust
–18 and 17: Remember and A Worm’s Life
–16 and 15: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits
–14 and 13: Down By the Old Mainstream and The Gray Race
–12 and 11: Star Maps and Car Button Cloth
–10 and 9: Black Love and Highball with the Devil
–8 and 7: Recovering the Satellites and Evil Empire

College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 8 and 7


8. Counting Crows, Recovering the Satellites

I can’t. I’m sorry, I just can’t.


7. Rage Against the Machine, Evil Empire

Back in the day, I had loads of three-beer-in, barroom arguments with Rage Against the Machine fans, pointing out what I found to be a fundamental hypocrisy in the far-left, almost anarchistic views regarding corporations and capitalism embedded in their songs and their apparently contented willingness to be funded by a record label owned by Sony, about as major of a corporation as there is in the music industry. “They know their message will reach more people this way,” was the well-reasoned, highly rationalized argument I usually got in return. Never mind that there are folks like Ian MacKaye and Ani Difranco who never saw that a necessary compromise, the simpler counter is that when an album like Evil Empire sells over three million copies in the U.S. alone, a lot of the resulting funds go to prop up exactly the sort of machine they’re supposedly raging against. Being steeped in hypocrisy myself, I will absolutely concede that I may be more charitable to the band if I actually liked their music, but I find it to be bludgeoning and overly didactic, qualities that only increased my impression of shammy uselessness. Evil Empire, the sophomore full-length from the band, did very well for them, topping the Billboard album chart, yielding a couple hit singles and even nabbing them a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, for the song “Tire Me.” There were two more albums before the band called it quits, although the inevitable reunion gigs started a few years later, after their subsequent projects didn’t exactly take off.

Previously…
An Introduction
–90 and 89: Antichrist Superstar and Three Snakes and One Charm
–88 and 87: No Code and Unplugged
–86 and 85: Greatest Hits Live and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
–84 and 83: To the Faithful Departed and God’s Good Urges
–82 and 81: Billy Breathes and Sweet F.A.
–80 and 79: The Process and Test for Echo
–78 and 77: Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and Breathe
–76 and 75: Bob Mould and Walking Wounded
–74 and 73: It’s Martini Time and Trainspotting soundtrack
–72 and 71: Aloha Via Satellite and Fever In Fever Out
–70 and 69: Hi My Name is Jonny and One Mississippi
–68 and 67: Everything Sucks and The Aeroplane Flies High
–66 and 65: First Band on the Moon and Razorblade Suitcase
–64 and 63: Comic Book Whore and Peachfuzz
–62 and 61: All Change and Rude Awakening
–60 and 59: 12 Golden Country Greats and Songs in the Key of X
–58 and 57: Brain Candy soundtrack and Pinkerton
–56 and 55: Sublime and Count the Days
–54 and 53: Wild Mood Swings and The Cult of Ray
–52 and 51: Bringing Down the Horse and Crash
–50 and 49: No Talking, Just Head and New Adventures in Hi-Fi
–48 and 47: Lay It Down and Pogue Mahone
–46 and 45: I’m with Stupid and XTORT
–44 and 43: Tango and …finally
–42 and 41: Good Weird Feeling and Mint 400
–40 and 39: Happy Nowhere and Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
–38 and 37: Turn the Radio Off and Electriclarryland
–36 and 35: Naughty Little Doggie and In Blue Cave
–34 and 33: Eventually and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
–32 and 31: Beautiful Girls soundtrack and Strat’s Got Your Tongue
–30 and 29: Upstroke for the Downfolk and Set the Twilight Reeling
–28 and 27: Born on a Pirate Ship and The Golden Age
–26 and 25: Ænima and Dead Man Walking soundtrack
–24 and 23: Victor and Songs for Pele
–22 and 21: Down on the Upside and Music for Our Mother Ocean
–20 and 19: Supercop soundtrack and Dust
–18 and 17: Remember and A Worm’s Life
–16 and 15: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits
–14 and 13: Down By the Old Mainstream and The Gray Race
–12 and 11: Star Maps and Car Button Cloth
–10 and 9: Black Love and Highball with the Devil

College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 10 and 9


10. The Afghan Whigs, Black Love

Black Love was the second album Afghan Whigs released with Elektra Records, and it would prove to their last such collaboration with the major label. Greg Dulli’s band had been snapped up by Elektra after a significant bidding war, releasing the 1993 album Gentlemen, which could be termed a modest commercial breakthrough. The group largely had the rock critic community enthralled, but they were denied the sort of huge success that other “alternative” acts were enjoying in the grunge era, perhaps because their take on dark, thick rock ‘n’ roll was notable for its more intricate, interesting layers of soulfulness. That wasn’t going to fly in Pearl Jam’s radio kingdom. Black Love was inspired in part by Dulli’s interest in moviemaking, particular the notion of a modern film noir, giving songs like “Crime Scene Part One” (supposedly inspired by the then-famously-unproduced screenplay for The Million Dollar Hotel) and “Faded” an almost cinematic heft. Black Love failed to build on the commercial promise of its predecessor (even with the boost a few months later of a fine supplemental EP release that had, among other things, a sharp, cool cover of a TLC hit), leading Dulli and his bandmates to turn against the label, charging them with promotional neglect. They managed to part ways, recording their next full-length for Columbia. There wasn’t that much time left for the band anyway, with the official announcement of a break-up arriving in 2001. There have been the expected occasional reunions, and Dulli has largely occupied his time since with both the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, neither of which has garnered admiration quite on par with the Afghan Whigs.


9. Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel, Highball with the Devil

Before the Fearless Flying Frog Brigade and Oysterhead and Electric Apricot and Bucket and Bernie Brains and Duo de Twang and god knows what else, this was all bassist Les Claypool had away from his day job, Primus. Considered his solo debut, Highball with the Devil delivered all the funky weirdness fans of Claypool and his band were surely expecting, along with the dopey sense of humor, of course. Surely someone out there can offer a thoughtful explanation of how this album is interestingly different from any number of other releases that bear Claypool’s sonic signature, but–aside from noting a cover that looks like it was barely upgraded from its certain late night bar napkin concept sketch–I’m willing to concede that the task is beyond me.

Previously…
An Introduction
–90 and 89: Antichrist Superstar and Three Snakes and One Charm
–88 and 87: No Code and Unplugged
–86 and 85: Greatest Hits Live and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
–84 and 83: To the Faithful Departed and God’s Good Urges
–82 and 81: Billy Breathes and Sweet F.A.
–80 and 79: The Process and Test for Echo
–78 and 77: Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and Breathe
–76 and 75: Bob Mould and Walking Wounded
–74 and 73: It’s Martini Time and Trainspotting soundtrack
–72 and 71: Aloha Via Satellite and Fever In Fever Out
–70 and 69: Hi My Name is Jonny and One Mississippi
–68 and 67: Everything Sucks and The Aeroplane Flies High
–66 and 65: First Band on the Moon and Razorblade Suitcase
–64 and 63: Comic Book Whore and Peachfuzz
–62 and 61: All Change and Rude Awakening
–60 and 59: 12 Golden Country Greats and Songs in the Key of X
–58 and 57: Brain Candy soundtrack and Pinkerton
–56 and 55: Sublime and Count the Days
–54 and 53: Wild Mood Swings and The Cult of Ray
–52 and 51: Bringing Down the Horse and Crash
–50 and 49: No Talking, Just Head and New Adventures in Hi-Fi
–48 and 47: Lay It Down and Pogue Mahone
–46 and 45: I’m with Stupid and XTORT
–44 and 43: Tango and …finally
–42 and 41: Good Weird Feeling and Mint 400
–40 and 39: Happy Nowhere and Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
–38 and 37: Turn the Radio Off and Electriclarryland
–36 and 35: Naughty Little Doggie and In Blue Cave
–34 and 33: Eventually and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
–32 and 31: Beautiful Girls soundtrack and Strat’s Got Your Tongue
–30 and 29: Upstroke for the Downfolk and Set the Twilight Reeling
–28 and 27: Born on a Pirate Ship and The Golden Age
–26 and 25: Ænima and Dead Man Walking soundtrack
–24 and 23: Victor and Songs for Pele
–22 and 21: Down on the Upside and Music for Our Mother Ocean
–20 and 19: Supercop soundtrack and Dust
–18 and 17: Remember and A Worm’s Life
–16 and 15: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits
–14 and 13: Down By the Old Mainstream and The Gray Race
–12 and 11: Star Maps and Car Button Cloth

College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 12 and 11

possum
12. Possum Dixon, Star Maps

This is one of the albums that drove home for me that commercial alternative radio was going to follow a different path than my old, preferred home of college radio. Possum Dixon’s second full-length, Star Maps, was praised in many quarters, the band had a nifty radio hit with their previous record and they even had a major label backing them up. This was exactly the sort of release I expected us to jump on, all celebratory excitement. Instead, Star Maps was barely touched at the commercial station where I worked. The band only had one more album in them after this one, but marketplace indifference was hardly the only problem they faced. The wife of Rob Zabrecky, chief songwriter for the band, committed suicide during the recording of Star Maps and there were rife drug problems, that the new stress of the tragic situation only exacerbated. How much the personal turmoil seeped into the songs is open to debate. There was certainly a prevailing sense that some of the jokey cleverness of their first album was slipping away. The band officially broke up in 1999, with Zabrecky having an especially odd career afterlife, working as an actor (including a small part in Ryan Gosling’s upcoming directorial debut), a magician and an auctioneer.

lemnheads
11. The Lemonheads, Car Button Cloth

Let’s be real: Evan Dando was doomed from the moment he was included on one of People magazine’s yearly “50 Most Beautiful People” lists. At least his credibility was doomed, and further not helped by the handful of other articles that drew a straight line back to that feature, declaring, for example, his band the Lemonheads as “hot with the Sassy set.” “Indie cred” wasn’t really a term back then, but it was certainly a thing, and Dando couldn’t have shed it faster has he taken a big check to rename his band the Urban Outfitters. Of course, he might have been forgiven had he been making quality music. But after the creative peak of 1992’s It’s a Shame About Ray and the commercial success of their cover of “Mrs. Robinson” (recorded for the 25th anniversary home video release of The Graduate and later grafted onto copies of Ray), Dando’s songwriter grew less inspired. But the time he reached Car Button Cloth, the last album he owed Atlantic Records, it could seem like he was barely trying. Other than the occasional okay track, the album is pretty dire. This would be the last album under the Lemonheads moniker for a decade.

Previously…
An Introduction
–90 and 89: Antichrist Superstar and Three Snakes and One Charm
–88 and 87: No Code and Unplugged
–86 and 85: Greatest Hits Live and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
–84 and 83: To the Faithful Departed and God’s Good Urges
–82 and 81: Billy Breathes and Sweet F.A.
–80 and 79: The Process and Test for Echo
–78 and 77: Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and Breathe
–76 and 75: Bob Mould and Walking Wounded
–74 and 73: It’s Martini Time and Trainspotting soundtrack
–72 and 71: Aloha Via Satellite and Fever In Fever Out
–70 and 69: Hi My Name is Jonny and One Mississippi
–68 and 67: Everything Sucks and The Aeroplane Flies High
–66 and 65: First Band on the Moon and Razorblade Suitcase
–64 and 63: Comic Book Whore and Peachfuzz
–62 and 61: All Change and Rude Awakening
–60 and 59: 12 Golden Country Greats and Songs in the Key of X
–58 and 57: Brain Candy soundtrack and Pinkerton
–56 and 55: Sublime and Count the Days
–54 and 53: Wild Mood Swings and The Cult of Ray
–52 and 51: Bringing Down the Horse and Crash
–50 and 49: No Talking, Just Head and New Adventures in Hi-Fi
–48 and 47: Lay It Down and Pogue Mahone
–46 and 45: I’m with Stupid and XTORT
–44 and 43: Tango and …finally
–42 and 41: Good Weird Feeling and Mint 400
–40 and 39: Happy Nowhere and Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
–38 and 37: Turn the Radio Off and Electriclarryland
–36 and 35: Naughty Little Doggie and In Blue Cave
–34 and 33: Eventually and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
–32 and 31: Beautiful Girls soundtrack and Strat’s Got Your Tongue
–30 and 29: Upstroke for the Downfolk and Set the Twilight Reeling
–28 and 27: Born on a Pirate Ship and The Golden Age
–26 and 25: Ænima and Dead Man Walking soundtrack
–24 and 23: Victor and Songs for Pele
–22 and 21: Down on the Upside and Music for Our Mother Ocean
–20 and 19: Supercop soundtrack and Dust
–18 and 17: Remember and A Worm’s Life
–16 and 15: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits
–14 and 13: Down By the Old Mainstream and The Gray Race

College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 14 and 13


14. Golden Smog, Down by the Old Mainstream

Golden Smog has a longer history than their best-known recorded history suggests. First formed in 1989 by a batch of Minneapolis musicians with pretty good day jobs (like the Replacements and Soul Asylum), the band was something of a lark, playing countrified rock as a counterpoint to the punk that was flooding the local scene. The group released a covers EP in 1992, with everyone credited under pseudonyms. It wasn’t really until the 1995 release of their debut full-length, Down by the Old Mainstream, that the prospect of this being a more productive creative outlet started to take hold. Still including some of the original members, the band also notably picked up Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy whose presence combined with that of Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks) and Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum) gave Golden Smog something of a y’allternative supergroup vibe (though it’s admittedly a stretch to pull Soul Asylum into that particular subgenre). If there was still something of a tendency to use the band as a clearinghouse for the songwriting efforts individuals probably weren’t likely to propose to their main group, the overall quality of the music was high. The pseudonym conceit was still in place, although the songwriting credits were accurate. By the time of the group’s sophomore effort, the excellent Weird Tales, they’d given up on the pretending. That was about it for approximately a decade, until several of the original members retook the mantle in 2006.


13. Bad Religion, The Gray Race

Bad Religion was coming off the most successful album of their career when they made The Gray Race, but they were also dealing with turmoil. 1994’s Stranger than Fiction sold better than anything up until that point and generally garnered them far more attention than they’d had before. It was also the final album for founding guitarist Greg Gurewitz, who officially left because his attention was needed at the record label he owned, Epitaph Records, because they were suddenly and quite unexpectedly the home of bands that had enormous hits. Surely a bit of consternation over the Bad Religion band decision to move from Epitaph to major label Atlantic Records had something to do with it, too. Concerned about group cohesion, Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin sought more input from his bandmates. They also has a somewhat unlikely collaborator in Ric Ocasek of the Cars, then transitioning into a respectable career as a producer. Whatever contributions the band and Ocasek made didn’t really alter the trajectory of the music in a notable way. These were still clearly Bad Religion songs. In broader commercial terms, the album didn’t do especially well, and subsequent releases on Atlantic were received even more poorly. By 2001, they were back on Epitaph. At the same time, Gurewitz rejoined the band, which hardly seems like a coincidence. They’ve continued on ever since, even recently releasing an EP of Christmas songs.

Previously…
An Introduction
–90 and 89: Antichrist Superstar and Three Snakes and One Charm
–88 and 87: No Code and Unplugged
–86 and 85: Greatest Hits Live and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
–84 and 83: To the Faithful Departed and God’s Good Urges
–82 and 81: Billy Breathes and Sweet F.A.
–80 and 79: The Process and Test for Echo
–78 and 77: Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and Breathe
–76 and 75: Bob Mould and Walking Wounded
–74 and 73: It’s Martini Time and Trainspotting soundtrack
–72 and 71: Aloha Via Satellite and Fever In Fever Out
–70 and 69: Hi My Name is Jonny and One Mississippi
–68 and 67: Everything Sucks and The Aeroplane Flies High
–66 and 65: First Band on the Moon and Razorblade Suitcase
–64 and 63: Comic Book Whore and Peachfuzz
–62 and 61: All Change and Rude Awakening
–60 and 59: 12 Golden Country Greats and Songs in the Key of X
–58 and 57: Brain Candy soundtrack and Pinkerton
–56 and 55: Sublime and Count the Days
–54 and 53: Wild Mood Swings and The Cult of Ray
–52 and 51: Bringing Down the Horse and Crash
–50 and 49: No Talking, Just Head and New Adventures in Hi-Fi
–48 and 47: Lay It Down and Pogue Mahone
–46 and 45: I’m with Stupid and XTORT
–44 and 43: Tango and …finally
–42 and 41: Good Weird Feeling and Mint 400
–40 and 39: Happy Nowhere and Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
–38 and 37: Turn the Radio Off and Electriclarryland
–36 and 35: Naughty Little Doggie and In Blue Cave
–34 and 33: Eventually and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
–32 and 31: Beautiful Girls soundtrack and Strat’s Got Your Tongue
–30 and 29: Upstroke for the Downfolk and Set the Twilight Reeling
–28 and 27: Born on a Pirate Ship and The Golden Age
–26 and 25: Ænima and Dead Man Walking soundtrack
–24 and 23: Victor and Songs for Pele
–22 and 21: Down on the Upside and Music for Our Mother Ocean
–20 and 19: Supercop soundtrack and Dust
–18 and 17: Remember and A Worm’s Life
–16 and 15: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits