My Ten Essential Rock Albums of the 1990s


As I watched the documentary on Kurt Cobain the other night, I found myself trying to fathom where Nirvana fits in rock history. As I thought through it, I realized that you cannot write the history of 1990s rock without them. They are that big of a part of it. They were that big of a deal.

So where do their two 1990s releases fit? I decided to come up with my essential ten rock albums of the 1990s. Here’s the list I came up with:

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers- Californication- One of the top selling albums ever, this is sort of an outlier in that it’s not early 1990s grunge, and yet you can’t have the 90s without it. This is one of the those CDs you listened to in it’s entirety.
  • Pearl Jam- Ten- “Jeremy” tugged at the social consciousness of a generation, but they became big enough from this CD that other great bands were accused of copying them. They were so big that they could take on Ticketmaster after this.
  • Green Day- Dookie- Punk rock, meet mainstream. This was an “in your face,” high energy album that was good from start to finish.
  • Aerosmith- Get a Grip- If I didn’t know this was written in a dark moment of their lives, I’d still say this was one of the more raw emotional, classic rock albums ever.
  • Nirvana- Nevermind- All you need to know about this album is that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is probably not one of the best five songs on the thing, and it’s a great song.
  • Oasis- (What’s the Story) Morning Glory- Yeah, you know the hits, but do you know the rest? If you do, you absolutely place this amongst the greatest.
  • Smashing Pumpkins- Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness- This double disc fits it’s name at some times, and at others, it turns the volume up to 100.
  • Counting Crows- August and Everything After- This is another end-to-end classic. “Mr. Jones” got the headlines, but didn’t make the fans into fans.
  • Stone Temple Pilots- Purple- The height of Scott Weiland just being drugged enough to be awesome, but not being a mess-ism.
  • Live- Throwing Copper- The best example I can come up with of post-grunge, non-west coast, 1990s rock that was good through the whole album. This was a complete CD.

This is not to say these were the *best* ten of the decade- just that they are the ten you have to listen to. I strongly considered putting a second CD on from Nirvana, Aerosmith, RHCP, as well as the Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine, and Bush for one. I just think that if an alien dropped into America tomorrow and wanted to learn about the 1990s rock scene, I’d hand him these to listen to.


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