Jeff Buckley: Grace (1994)
Best Tracks: where to start ?
Remarkable isn’t the word. Well, it IS the word, or one of them at least. But it’s not enough. Nowhere near enough of a word to do this album justice. This is as close to musical balletics as you’re ever likely to come. Buckley’s version of ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ is haunting and beautiful, ‘Hallelujah’ has remained magnificent despite its 2008 X-Factor pastiche, and ‘The Last Goodbye’ is, when listened to against the backdrop of its creator’s
untimely death, spine-tingling.
Pearl Jam: Ten (1991)
Best Tracks: ‘Black,’ ‘Garden,’ ‘Even Flow,’ ‘Alive’
I DO love Nevermind. Really I do. It’s fabulously enjoyable. And some of the tracks on it, especially ‘Polly,’ make me delightfully thoughtful and pleasurably melancholy. But of all the grunge masterworks of the early 1990s Ten is my first love. It’s the one that makes me stand up and un-rhythmically shake my hips when I hear it, the one that makes me wish I was twenty years younger getting my rib-cage pummelled in a mosh pit. For this is an album so full of all the things life should be that I never tire of hearing it. If you like your music hard and raw and despairing, this is as good as it gets. And ‘Black,’ for those who take their romance without milk and sugar, is the love song of all love songs.
Jane’s Addiction: Ritual de Lo Habitual (1990)
Best Tracks: ‘Been Caught Stealin,’ ‘Three Days,’ ‘Classic Girl’
Once upon a time I was talking on the phone with a girl I thought I might like. Then she told me that her favourite band was ‘James,’ the festival-friendly student fodder of the early 90s (and a band I hated), and at once the romance died. These things are important, after all. But after a few more minutes I realised I had misheard her – she had said ‘Jane’s’ rather than ‘James,’ and at once I was interested again. Because Jane’s Addiction (and this album is their best) are radical, edgy, alternative, TOO DAMN COOL for their own good. There is a freedom and a playfulness to their music that is as enticing as it is delightful. As the video for ‘Been Caught Stealin’ reveals, in which the band frolic around a supermarket in drag and bankrobbers tights. It is vaudeville tomfoolery of the highest order. And genius.
Nine Inch Nails: Pretty Hate Machine (1989/90)
Rating: 9/10 Best Tracks: ‘Something I Can Never Have,’ ‘That’s What I Get,’ ‘Terrible Lie’
Released at the fag end of 1989 but only getting into the British music consciousness in 1990, this is the last NIN album before they went industrial. As such it is less manic, but (significantly) it is far more menacing. It is an album where if your lover leaves you you remove their appendages (‘Ringfinger’), where self-loathing and world-hating go hand-in-hand as if they were intimate bedfellows. It has an intensity unlike any other album I can think of, never letting up from the alternative dancefloor violence of ‘Head Like a Hole’ to the offbeat anti-romance of ‘Kinda I Want To.’ It encapsulates an aggressive, brutal, honest view of the world of love and loss that is barely contained, if ever containable. Handle with care.
Morrissey: Maladjusted (1997)
Best Tracks: ‘Trouble Loves Me,’ ‘Wide to Receive,’ ‘Alma Matters’
For a while it seemed like Morrissey wasn’t sure how to make an album anymore. He was making them, but they weren’t all ALBUMS, in the sense of coherent, thematic, flowing pieces of work that unashamedly told the devotees where he was in his life. Vauxhall and I (1994) was the closest he’d come, wonderful in parts, but even that had some ‘fillers’ towards the end. And Your Arsenal and Southpaw Grammar had been odd cocktails of the sublime (‘You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side,’ ‘The Teachers are Afraid of the Pupils’) and the distinctly half-hearted (‘Certain People I Know,’ ‘Reader Meet Author’). But Maladjusted was, for me, different. Each track carefully crafted and thoughtfully delivered, the production meaningful and deliberate. And it contains, in ‘Roy’s Keen,’ the best football anthem never to be have been belted out from the terraces.
The Man Who – Travis (1999)
Best album of the decade for me.