Just as promised Part Two is everything Part One wasn't. Twenty-five albums not listed in the previous installment, proving that 1991 was a year that consisted of more than just U2's Achtung Baby and Nirvana's Nevermind. Yep, there were other albums and I can't wait for the 20th Anniversary Edition of that Fatima Mansions album.
25) Teenage Fanclub — Bandwagonesque: Kids who grew up in the 1980s pretty much expected that all bands given any kind of push were automatically terrible. So, the 1990s skewered that average. Not that there still weren't moments where I pitched Sister Double Happiness and got asked "How about Crash Test Dummies instead?"
24) Dire Straits —On Every Street: The final Dire Straits album features several session musicians in addition to a band that has neither Pick Withers nor David Knopfler, but then the mega-successful Brothers In Arms used the same floorplan and it sold like hotcakes, assuming that people buy a lot of hotcakes. Do they? There's no questioning which one's pink here. It's Mark Knopfler. You gentlemen work for him.
23) Richard Thompson — Rumor And Sigh: Though a great guitarist and songwriter, Thompson had trouble focusing his albums. Productions were often thin and just when he caught a groove he'd do a polka or some tune that made you want to throw the LP out your basement window (sorry mom!). But this one, in those days when CDs were catching on, had too many songs, but you could patch it together and make it perfect and under 50 minutes if you desired. I desired.
22) The Fatima Mansions — Berties Brochures: For all the praise heaped upon Nirvana and the Seattle sound, it would've been nice if audiences weren't so monolithic and could enjoy other things at the same time. Multi-task people! And by that I don't mean enjoy Garth Brooks and Guns N' Roses, I mean explore the great unknown. This mini-album is, like the rest of their catalog, incredibly hard to find. Yeah, physical media is dead. Just trust those streaming services to provide for all your listening needs! Great, if you're not picky.
21) Morrissey — Kill Uncle: Without Johnny Marr there to ensure that enough music had been prepared, Morrissey wrote his lyrics into a void. He still wrote the kind of songs others dreamed about, but the music was tentative. He learned on the job that when you find good collaborators, you don't let them go.
20) The Mekons — The Curse of the Mekons: Their curse is their inability to ride whatever wave is moving in front of them. They've done everything from punk to country to post-punk and beyond, but they've never done it in the proper order or with the right people looking their way. In thirty years, they'll be huge. Or not.
18) Warren Zevon — Mr. Bad Example: In the long underexposed career of Warren William Zevon, there are many moments not known as "Werewolves of London" that are worth your time and attention. This album is a case in point. If you do not own it and do not have it committed to memory, you are doing yourself and your loved ones a grave disservice. Rectify the situation before it's too late. I have wasted my life.
17) Nirvana — Nevermind: Watching Nirvana become the biggest band in the world was quite the event. Bands that made music like them never made the charts with any authority. Why would it be different this time? Yet, in a matter of a few short weeks after its release, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was everywhere. Kids who never left their barstools for anything "alternative" in their lives, suddenly came to life. It was strange.
16) Metallica — Metallica: The 'Black Album' had the hits. Finicky metalheads dismissed it, while others heard it as another step in their continued evolution. Interesting to see how conservative metalheads really are. For all that perceived wildness, many want the rules strictly followed and enforced.
15) Public Enemy — Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black: I was surprised to learn that this album did so well critically. I thought everybody jumped ship with this one. It would be interesting to hear how many people still stand by it. A lot of albums get high marks due to contact highs resulting from the previous one.
14) Temple of the Dog — Temple of the Dog: Only because their bands got famous did this tribute to Mother Love Bone's Andrew Wood become a "supergroup." When they recorded it, Vedder was just some dude from Southern California and Cornell was a guy in a modest underground sensation. (Soundgarden had an album out on SST!) Time takes a cigarette and fills it with famous tobacco.
13) Monster Magnet — Spine of God: Among the earliest Stoner Rockers, Monster Magnet were often misunderstood by the metalheads who were their true audience and instead they had to settle for rock critics and people who liked the Swans. As much a product of the Jersey Shore as Bruce Springsteen, MM are that element no one wants to discuss. Unlike those party kids who get drunk and fall down, MM ain't playing to no stinkin' cameras, OK?
12) Matthew Sweet — Girlfriend: Though it was never a huge hit in that mega-platinum, you-hear-it-everywhere sense, it did seem like most listeners who bought new albums (and in 1991 there were plenty of people still collecting the Grateful Dead) were playing it with the kind of enthusiasm of a surefire classic. Had it been released when Sweet's kind of pop music had a chance, it might have had a chance.
11) Chris Whitley — Living With the Law: Whitley was a dark man. The bigger budgets made his music sound foreign to the man he was. While I'm sure he liked the big budgets and the idea that he was to be a huge star, his music preferred the acoustic, low budget route where the notes cast shadows and his voice sounded like it was coming up from under the floorboards.
10) Geto Boys — We Can't Be Stopped: "Mind Playing Tricks On Me" is pretty classic, as is any song called "Gota (sic) Let Your Nuts Hang." But for different reasons. Not as essential as the self-titled previous album, it still proves that if you're going to shock people, you need to step up your game.
9) Diamanda Galas — Plague Mass: One of the interesting weirdnesses of nostalgia is how alternative and arty kids plunder a decade in exactly the opposite way that they approach their own. For all the hip kids out there who are smirking to the hits of the era while wearing their Flashdance clothes, I advise you to crank up the Kelly Clarkson and the Justin Bieber and admit that your own music won't be worth a hill of anything in two to three decades. Because your older brethren didn't find the mainstream that amusing in their day. They mostly hid and listened to this artsy stuff where rooms were cleared in record time.
8) Grant McLennan — Watershed: Everyone's band breaks up at some point and its songwriters go on to make solo albums. If your beloved band has more than one good songwriter, the situation has potential. Especially if the band eventually gets back together. Unless you're favorite band is so big and bloated that they can't even hear themselves anymore. While Rolling Stones, Ltd. fans suffer, Go-Betweens fans had it pretty good. Until G.W. had the audacity to die of a heart attack at the age of 48. Explain to me again how it is that Keith freakin' Richards is still alive?
7) American Music Club — Everclear: By still having a drummer that sometimes missed the point, AMC turned up the ambience to mask the faults and in return got an album that is hazy and dreamlike on account of that frosting.
6) Various Artists — I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen: If you think this is odd now, it was odd then. But alternative rockers were looking for alternative heroes to celebrate. Cohen was someone everyone could champion without irony. He'd been down so long that all he needed was a hand. I'm Your Man had put him back into the American consciousness. Europe never gave up. From here, he becomes Leonard the legend. That's not always what happens when Nick Cave interprets your music, but he'll take it.
5) Talk Talk — Laughing Stock: Another album recollected in tranquility and found to be quite profound. How did people miss this one? Well, it's pretty quiet, not one for drawing too much attention to itself. But for anyone who's allowed themselves to float on its static waters, well, you've likely had entirely new worlds opened to you. Seriously.
4) Blur — Leisure: While their later records would find them channeling the Kinks and Pavement, respectively, for their debut album Blur kept it pretty simple, letting the hooks do what words rarely do. A shame Americans rarely understand English.
3) Vic Chesnutt — West of Rome: You can hear the traces of his suicide in the tribute to his friend who killed himself with a nail gun in "Florida." But you can also hear his life, his whimsy, his ability to take little moments and blow them up. His life in a wheelchair may have been torture for him, but it made his music better. It really did. It forced him to slow down and take deep breaths and that gave his music its identity. Rave on, rave on.
2) Julian Cope — Peggy Suicide: Cope received strong reviews for this rather involved collection of folk meditations and extended psychedelics. His commercial aspirations were waving goodbye and he'd spend the rest of the 1990s making increasingly weird and enjoyable albums. Somewhere the Bevis Frond weeps.
1) My Bloody Valentine — Loveless: Kurt Cobain committed suicide, while Kevin Shields simply refused to follow up his greatest hit. It's not uncommon these days to hear people pointing to Loveless as the best album of its generation. I'm squeamish about speaking in those terms, but it is really good if you like getting lost in feedback. And really who doesn't?