1992 was a year when most people didn't own a computer. You had one at work. Your phone was in your house and MTV still played videos. In fact, they were playing very different videos from the ones they were playing just a year and a half earlier. "Generation X" was a term that saw actual use -- seriously by aging pundits and ironically by the kids!
Were things better in 1992? I certainly felt better.
25) Rage Against The Machine -- Rage Against The Machine: Paul Ryan's favorite band, Rage raged against people like Ryan, making the irono-meter pin deeply into the red and smoke uncontrollably. Yet, it makes complete sense to me. I don't care what your politics are. Rap-metal is a crime against humanity.
24) Tori Amos -- Little Earthquakes: It turns out Tori could read. She studied Kate Bush pretty darn close for the blueprint and then took things from there. She'd make better records, but few albums felt apart of the era like this one. Or maybe you never rode in a car with a twenty-something girl in 1992.
23) PJ Harvey -- Dry: Ha, ha! Remember when "PJ Harvey Is A Band" was the assertion. Pure coincidence that their songwriter, singer and guitarist was named -- get this -- Polly Jean Harvey. OK, so she dispensed with the band once she had the funds to pay her session cats. It wasn't like there weren't thousands of bassists and drummers who would work for scale and bring similar results. Anyone who doesn't insist on singing and writing songs for the band they're in deserves what they get. You've been warned!
22) Morrissey -- Your Arsenal: Moz had a band that mattered with the Smiths and he sent them packing, teamed up with Alain Whyte, who agreed to write most of the music to songs like "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful," "You're The One For Me, Fatty" and "Seasick, Yet Still Docked," while the legendary Mick Ronson produced it right before he died. Morrissey's the Tom Sawyer of his generation. Catch the spit!
21) Lucinda Williams -- Sweet Old World: Six long years later she'd release the album that ensured her the day job of her dreams. However, anyone listening back in 1992 could hear the genius in the elegant prose of "Something About What Happens When We Talk," "Pineola," the title track and pretty much the entire album. Smart enough to employ Gurf Morlix on anything he felt like playing and producing, Williams had "cult artist" written all over her. C'mon, she was recording for Chameleon!
20) Helmet -- Meantime: Heavy Metal had been around for like…forever. Surely, it would change! In fact, it did. Just listen to Norwegian Death Metal! But the Glenn Branca crowd had to crash the party with some math and these computations made the serious art crowd take notice of this metal thing.
19) Beastie Boys -- Check Your Head: Paul's Boutique had been indifferently cared for by their label, so the BBs figured they'd bring their punk rock roots into the fold. It was 1992, after all, and groups with guitars were on the way back in!
18) The Jesus Lizard -- Liar: With a side one that doesn't quit, Liar might just be the band's best album. The "angular" riffs, the "warehouse" drums, the hoarse shouting and a sense that everything going to hell are reasons enough to celebrate. It's what made the Jesus Lizard the one band to crossover between alternative pop, rock and metal in the 1990s. I'm getting into hard rock here!
17) Def Leppard -- Adrenalize: The industry was ready to move on to grunge and alternative bands, but the fans were still out there who liked the same music they did five years earlier when this British pop-metal combo made Hysteria, the biggest album of their career. Over seven million sold! Who would seriously imagine Def Leppard as the underdog? Yet, in 1992, there they were!
16) Los Lobos -- Kiko: Sure, Los Lobos were a roots-rock band. But they had artsy aspirations and who better than Mitchell Froom to sink their commercial potential? You can't eat 5-star reviews, but you can still sell the record 20 years later.
15) Sugar -- Copper Blue: Something about Bob Mould responds to a tight unit. Husker Du brought the competition, with drummer Grant Hart writing his 40% of the contractually allowed material. Sugar gave Mr. Mould total control, but forced him to think in terms of a trio again, after solo records that sounded ungrounded. Less is more. More loud in this case.
14) Lou Reed -- Magic and Loss: Ol' Cranky Pants croaks through a concept album about his friends dying of cancer. Take that, you mopey grungeponies! You want a reason to be bummed? I don't want to hear, it's raining!!! This is serious business! Nearly unlistenable, too! Art is hell! And your pretty face is going there. Eventually.
13) Lyle Lovett -- Joshua Judges Ruth: Mr. Ex-Julia Roberts never quite organizes his thoughts into a cohesive style. Eclectic, I believe they say. However, when he's on, as he often is here, then it's quite a thing to behold. If we could just convince Lovett he's a country-folk performer and not an uptown blues and gospel man, I think things would work out fine. For me.
12) Blind Melon -- Blind Melon: Whereas St. Cobain's legacy has been proudly claimed by the industry, Shannon Hoon, the lead singer for Blind Melon, who like W. Axl Rose traveled from Indiana to Los Angeles to become a rock star, has a legacy that hasn't aged as well, despite having used the same video director, Samuel Bayer, for the band's video with Bee Girl. It's all a roll of the dice. Some live on like Gram Parsons or Janis Joplin, but others die off like Gary Thain or Bob "Big Bear" Hite.
10) The Black Crowes -- The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion: I'll never blame a band for wanting to sound like a band from the 1960s or 1970s. It was a great era for sound. Technology frequently advanced before musicians and producers knew what to do with it, but that era's best records have staying power. It also had to do with where the music was in terms of development, but you can't choose when you're born. Naturally, this is derivative. But that matters little. And if the singer comes off like a jerk, well, it's in the job description.
9) They Might Be Giants -- Apollo 18: As one of John Kordosh's favorite bands (yes, that John Kordosh over at Framed, the blog that likes you), TMBG made this album specifically for him. In fact, it isn't meant to be enjoyed by anyone else, though it often is. because John, despite his gruff exterior, is a generous man. The 21-part "Fingertips" track is what I personally imagine it's like in the mind of a scientist!
8) Lindsey Buckingham -- Out of The Cradle: At a time when grunge and alternative rock was in its ascendency, Lindsey (no, not Parker) Buckingham worked up this solo album having left Fleetwood Mac forever, or in music biz time, for a few years. Tracks such as "Instrumental Introduction To:" and "Spoken Introduction To:" really pepped up an album that was bogged down by so many complete songs.
7) Kendra Smith -- The Guild of Temporal Adventurers: Kendra Smith was here. Then she wasn't. She recorded a single with The Suspects, an album and a couple EPs with The Dream Syndicate, jammed with Rainy Day for a pick-up album, made an LP with Opal and this mini-LP with two dudes who got dumped for a solo career that consisted of one album and two gigs. Then she left. Unlike...
6) Madonna -- Erotica: I understand people are intrigued by Madonna and they enjoy listening to her songs in the clubs and while driving down the freeway, but I'm a little lost that so many people relate or feel in some way connected to a person who is more savvy businesswoman and cultural touchstone than someone relatable. But then people send fan mail to Honey Boo Boo. What the hell is a Honey Boo Boo?
4) The Chills -- Soft Bomb: Name a band from New Zealand….THE CHILLS. And with that, you take home $10,000 in cash and a new car. It's not only a right answer, it's the BEST answer.
3) The Fall -- Code: Selfish: Leading off with the inspiring "The Birmingham School of Business School" and ending with "Crew Filth," Code: Selfish is yet another fine 12-song album by Britain's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band. (The Rolling Stones are American, for those keeping score at home.)
2) Bob Dylan -- Good As I Been To You: Being a Bob Dylan fan means making lots of excuses. A lot more than being a fan of Leo Kottke, John Martyn or Donald Fagen, for example, requires. Not that I blame Dylan. If I had people reading my garbage and telling me I spoke for a generation, I'd probably make records that sounded like I played with gloves on, too! He's messing with us, right?
1) Body Count -- Body Count: Even without "Cop Killer," this album's pretty amazing for reasons both legit and silly. It was controversial for its socio-political issues, but more importantly it was such hilariously played heavy metal that only a hardcore devotee of Spinal Tap would have a problem with BC encroaching on their territory.