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“Dolby’s Top 300 ’90s Alt-Rock Singles (200-101)”

200 Ben Folds Five – “Philosophy” (Ben Folds Five — 1995)
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Ok, let me bolster this with a certain disclosure… uhh. DAMMIT THE START OF THIS SONG SOUNDS LIKE THE CHEERS THEME SONG. It’s probably going to put off a lot of listeners in this murky, shaky American landscape we’re currently in, but particularly allowing for an upturn in Americans’ morale, or like say if you were in a college town in another country like Zurich or something (no idea if that’s a college town), then what emanates up to the surface is the undeniably, deceptively dark jazziness about the whole thing, as well as its knack in playing like a singer/songwriter expedition on totally unorthodox instrumentation.
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199 Bush – “Everything Zen” (Sixteen Stone — 1994)
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There’s such a thing as getting jealous and hating someone for what they do. Then, there’s such a thing as the tactile materials which go into an invention being so intrinsically superior to everything else that it somehow preternaturally aligns itself with garnering jealousy. Bush were big shots from the start — British but on a label in LA for 1994’s Sixteen Stone, probably belting this baby out in some huge and lavish studio (they’d get Steve Albini for ’96’s Razorblade Suitcase), but it was the rhythm/lead guitar interplay as their signature recipe just being so thick, physical and final, that at least sonically, they probably one-upped Pearl Jam, if not Alice in Chains, Soundgarden more reliant on the vocal yowl of a mountain puma.
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198 Liz Phair – “Stratford-on-Guy” (Exile in Guyville — 1993)
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I definitely don’t think of Exile in Guyville as a “singles” album, since it was put out on Matador and the best songs are probably “Help Me Mary”; “Soap Star Joe” and “Shatter” (and there are like just too many LYRICS on these songs), but I suppose this song sets a decent little scene and moves along from point to point stylishly, the complex feeling of flying in a plane back into her hometown of Chicago, listening to some familiar music (Galaxie 500) but somehow having it feel different, this particular time.
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197 Throwing Muses – “Not Too Soon” (The Real Ramona — 1991)
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For anybody not already familiar with Kristin Hersh and her East Coast band here, it’s definitely some fun summer music for driving around to (this album, University, Limbo), though come to think of it this is a Tanya Donnelly track, courtesy of the diva who would go on to found Belly, featured elsewhere on this list.
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196 Stone Temple Pilots – “Sour Girl” (No. 4 — 1999)
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My obligatory kinda-funny story about this song is that one time in ’00, a summer into which this song fit pretty well along with “Country Grammar” but during which “Down” was still sort of an unapproachable enigma, I was cruising along to No. 4 and one of my passengers pegged this track as “The Bay-tles,” using that English accent and everything. Nope, credit goes to Weiland and the gang here, book it and cash it, although it is hard to believe that the same band unleashed “Down,” one of the most sonically crushing songs ever put to wax.
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195 The Cranberries – “Linger” (Everybody Else is Doing it, So Why Can’t We? — 1993)
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What jumps out at me about “Linger” is that is was the first Cranberries song I ever heard, it was filled with a complex, saddening emotion the exact like of which I’d never encountered before, and then I came about it in the movie Camp Nowhere, this boy of about 15 or so listening to it in his room when this girl came in, hence giving it some serious treehouse club clout. That woozy, ethereal and slow guitar intro always comes across well.
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194 Pavement – “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” (Slanted & Enchanted — 1992)
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I think that to an extent, seeing as this is probably Pavement’s most famous song other than “Cut Your Hair,” part of the appeal of it lies simply in trying to uncover the source of said appeal. I am, anyway, an ardent fan of the band’s at-large catalogue and while this one certainly isn’t the most complex, texturally or structurally, it does that have that sort of cavalier swagger about it, the sense that the Statue of Liberty could fall into Mount Vesuvius at any time and Stephen Malkmus would just kinda giggle.
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193 Collective Soul – “Where the River Flows” (Collective Soul –– 1995)
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One time I was listening to this cut, probably my 50th or so instance putting this CD on, and I swear, I could just TELL that Ed Roland and maybe the rest of the band were baseball fans, from the structure of the song and just its DISCIPLINE. Let’s face it, playing most instruments in this band is sort of like standing at third base waiting for a ground ball or a line drive, but then there’s the quintessentially American aspect of the whole thing. Also, I’m a sucker for any second-person “fu** you” songs when they’re actually pulled off with flair, the Southern Ed Roland probably classier here with his gentle, buried sarcasm than many would have been.
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192 Porno for Pyros – “Tahitian Moon” (God’s Good Urge — 1996)
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These songs get so ARCHETYPAL sometimes and attached to their fantastical images like the outer space monsters in the Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” or the cartoons in “Do the Evolution,” that it’s sometimes hard to always contextualize that these are actual, real life people making these sounds. In the case of PFP’s second and final album, God’s Good Urge, it was a LOT of people: Minutemen bassist Mike Watt was a permanent member of the band but Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, known also for some great wah-wah pedal technics on the Chili Peppers’ “Walkabout,” also crashed the party, along with a list of like 10 other people of whom I’d never heard. It’s ironic, then, that this song is about swimming out in the ocean and wanting to “disappear” and “drift away,” you have to admit.
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191 The Smashing Pumpkins – “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness — 1995)
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Right away when this song came up I thought of the Soul Asylum song “Caged Rat,” which actually sidled in on Let Your Dim Light Shine, preceding this album by all of about six months. That’s what it is. It’s a dude who’s a rat in a cage. That’s all for now, class.
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190 Weezer – “The Good Life” (Pinkerton — 1996)
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I guess this is another reason to hate Rivers Cuomo, since it’s about him engaging in any sensual pleasure whatsoever and he’s a white male and all that stuff, so in a way he’s an intrinsically evil person — more than anything it’s just catchy, throwaway pop, which definitely struck me as weird, but memorable and precociously outside the norm, when I first heard it.
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189 White Town – “Your Woman” (Women in Technology — 1997)
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I was listening to the remainder of this band’s discography — it’s actually more extensive and creative than I’d originally thought it would be, sort of like a mating of Oasis and twee pop (I imagine they’re from somewhere over the pond over there). Then with this band in general, like how they have a song called “Your Woman 1917” and the original “Your Woman” video depicts antiquated garb, it seems like the general topical fixation is on a perceived irksome lack of progress and communication in Britain, especially as it regards gender relations, perhaps. The album title “Don’t Mention the War” would indicate this too and the date selection of “1917” implies wartime mayhem also.
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188 blink-182 – “Adam’s Song” (Enema of the State — 1999)
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As a rocket scientist genius could probably figure out from the album title here, it wasn’t largely blink-182’s goal to warm your hearts around the dinner table or bang a song out that would soundtrack the last episode of Seinfeld… really, “Adam’s Song,” a paean to the dearly and untimely departed, stands as pretty much an aberration within their whole catalogue, but then, this is when we would put on CD’s for their entireties, noticing every little thing the band was doing. The “The journey was over / We survived” certainly plays as gravely haunting within its context, especially then seeing its eventual metamorphosis into “The journey was over / I survived”, presaging then the final collapse.
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187 Propellerheads – “History Repeating” (Decksanddrumsandrockandroll — 1998)
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Come to find out, Shirley Bassey, the vocalist on this song, is the same woman who sang the original “Diamonds are forever” theme song back in the ‘50s. I remember this video getting some play on 12 Angry Viewers, where they’d usually choose something pretty pithy and out of the ordinary. It’s certainly a forceful statement, lyrically, all over the band’s breakneck trip-hop, perhaps predicting the decline in the quality of music the very next year, with boy bands, rock/rap and Napster.
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186 Mazzy Star – “Fade into You” (So Tonight That I Might See — 1993)
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Embodying a certain early ’90s cafe “cool” with the sort of whip appeal nobody could really deny, Santa Monica’s Mazzy Star here crafted a ballad that’s stood the test of time pretty well, in terms of the acoustic guitar sound, the chord progression and of course that cosmic vocal, full of a rich voice texture and classic pop/rock resignation. I thought perhaps if anything the steel guitar sounded a tad dated but that’s not too significant of a chunk of the song.
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185 Goldfinger – “Here in Your Bedroom” (Goldfinger — 1996)
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Mid-’90s pop/punk rawkers Goldfinger, related tags being Green Day, Stiff Little Fingers, Rancid, The Offspring, The Suicide Machines and blink-182, are another name that always seems to elicit a powerful response from the public when conjured: you tend to either love or hate ‘em and their fans can certainly be loud-mouthed, perverted bastards. But we love ’em for it. Greatly recommended also is the skit on this album where he’s calling someone up wanting to join his band and he’s like “I was in a grind metal band out in Buffalo… gettin’ a bunch of fu**ed up diseases…”
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184 The Verve – “The Drugs Don’t Work” (Urban Hymns — 1997)
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This song is so good sometimes I wish I were actually a discerning individual, so’s I could REALLY listen to it the proper way… oh, it’s about being dependent on a drug addict for any meaning and inspiration in life. I think I can do without that whole discernment thing, in that case. In any regard, I was tickled by the music video, in which singer Richard Ashcroft comes across a little street store in which “Feelings” are being sold.
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183 Pavement – “Cut Your Hair” (Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain — 1994)
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There’s that “Hesitate you die” line. There. There’s at least one part of this song I’m not catastrophically sick of. Sometimes if you think, you’re dead, like in that Saturday Night Live skit about Top Gun: “When you’re shavin’ with a Mach 3, there’s no time to think. You think, you’re dead.”
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182 Pearl Jam – “Wishlist” (Yield — 1998)
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Right away I liked this cut probably even better than “Given to Fly,” which was this album’s lead single and which got PJ slapped with that plagiarism suit from Led Zeppelin. “Wishlist” is easy, catchy and anthemic, just wanting to be “The full moon shining off a Camaro’s hood”, which sort of reminds me of the sentiment being delivered in The Breeders’ “Spacewoman” in which she’s IMAGINING a baseball game going on on an empty field, just wanting to subsume oneself in as many active, spirited archetypes at all times before you die. Report has it that producer Brendan O’ Brien added the pool balls crashing in the background.
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181 U2 – “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?” (Achtung Baby — 1991)
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My classic U2 spiel is that they grew up in a pretty punk- and lad-dominated social environment in Dublin and they easily COULD have been a punk band if they’d wanted (you can definitely hear a Wire influence on their first album Boy), but they just happened to be able to write these celestial and catchy songs, and Bono had enough romance in his life to render it through all this classic metaphor (“You’re a piece of glass left dead on the beach”; “You left my heart empty as a vacant lot / For any spirit to haunt”).
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180 Green Day – “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” (Nimrod — 1997)
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Ah, that dreaded moment when ’90s punker Suicide Machines fans like me finally come around and realize that this song doesn’t really suck. It’s like eating a bowl of Total or something. They used it on the last episode of Seinfeld… that didn’t really help it… they issued it as the lead single… that REALLY didn’t help it… the only thing really coming to its aid, other than its easiness and closure delivered by vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong, is that Nimrod is an exorbitantly underrated album with nary a single bad song on it, sequenced commendably with “Time of Your Life” 17th, second to last.
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179 Dave Matthews Band – “Satellite” (Under the Table and Dreaming — 1992)
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This is a general fan favorite, with cafe cool, a great live permutation coming on Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds – Live at Luther College, but don’t let the coyness fool you — this stuff is aching, worldly and hard-won, as real as Matthews’ Southern Virginia drawl in real life and his jerky, burly figure. This man belongs in fields of gold, without any question.
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178 Orgy – “Stitches” (Candya** — 1998)
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Ain’t no mix tape fodder like industrial-fu**ing mix tape fodder… this song used to get me hype for track meets back in school, the probably preferable option to “Blue Monday,” since that’s a cover, and not even a cover of a good song, in the first place.
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177 CAKE – “Never There” (Prolonging the Magic — 1998)
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It was funny to me how often on Wikipedia I saw CAKE described as “mariachi,” as if that’s like some founding element of their music — to me the samba rhythms and the trumpet are a pretty expendable flair, although one not lacking in style. At its heart, this is jittery funk rock, a song Phish would have been proud to pen, with crisp and unflagging senses of rhythm in all the players involved.
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176 Throwing Muses – “Bright Yellow Gun” (University — 1995)
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This is the proud and trumpeting opener on the fine album University, not necessarily the best song but beloved still for its tenacity: “With your bright yellow gun / You own the sun / And I think I need a little poison”. Yeah, the second song is about giving head, too.
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175 Oasis – “Champagne Supernova” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? — 1995)
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There are songs that sound within their album and time and then there are songs that immediately change your life, right when you hear them. I don’t think anybody would deny that “Champagne Supernova” falls firmly into the latter category, which would explain why they positioned it last on Morning Glory, their textural and aching followup to the solid pop/punk of Definitely Maybe. These images of the “champagne supernova in the sky” and these slyly everyday and malleable mythological people “getting high” have etched themselves into our mental rock landscapes and I’ve met hippies, Mexicans and probably even ICP fans who like this song.
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174 Green Day – “Longview” (Dookie — 1994)
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CD’s on road trips are a valuable thing to me, still, call me crazy (considering I was listening to an album with poo all over the cover, that probably wouldn’t be too much of a stretch), and I come to “Longview” in my blurb intro to this list as especially an achievement in slackderdom, with masturbation and crushing, blinding nothingness as its lyrical stopping points. It was when the world stopped, and started, all over again, with the help of course of a six-foot bong christened “Bong-zilla,” if you’re the guys from this band.
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173 Stone Temple Pilots – “Pretty Penny” (Purple — 1994)
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I remember I had this on this one mix tape (tape) rolling around with these friends and before it was blink-182’s “Don’t Leave Me.” It garnered accolades all around and then I swear this song came around and I think this stony, deathly silence cloaked my entire hometown, people were so weirded out by it. Me, I was just quiet ‘cause I was listening. That’s my usual m.o., you might say. The unplugged version on the MTV VMA’s is worth checking out, although as usual Brendan O’ Brien does a fine production job here.
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172 Bush – “The Chemicals Between Us” (The Science of Things — 1999)
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Really, I’ve never met a Bush song I didn’t like — this is 1999 when Bush was like thoroughly on top of the world and every da** girl had a picture of Gavin Rossdale in her locker and probably on her bedroom wall too. The music got faster and catchier, still draped though stylishly by a sense of grimness and urgency, the lack of intimacy in a relationship which should be thriving, and the complex, implacable reasons for this quandary.
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171 Foo Fighters – “My Hero” (The Colour and the Shape — 1997)
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In probably my favorite Foo Fighters video, where a dude keeps running like hilariously slow into and out of this burning building to keep saving people, the Foos slow it down and get “grunge” on us a little bit, deepening from their usual pop/punk radio gloss, and prove that they can do it, too, right down to those refreshingly opaque lyrics in the chorus (meaning of course that I don’t really know what the fu** he’s saying).
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170 Collective Soul – “The World I Know” (Collective Soul — 1995)
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Lots of people would go with “Shine” from their last album or maybe “December,” but if I had to pick a quintessential Collective Soul song, it would probably be this one, residing at that fragile, elusive place where the melancholy meets the anthemic much like with LIVE’s “Lightning Crashes” or maybe Pearl Jam’s “Better Man,” the cruel irony of an elevated vantage point only bringing you more hurt and confusion.
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169 Third Eye Blind – “Never Let You Go” (Blue — 1999)
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There are many reasons why “Never Let You Go” should especially NOT be the favorite cut amidst discussions in the proverbial 3EB fan club. Here’s one: it’s a blatant “Sweet Jane” ripoff (let’s see a “Who Loves the Sun” ripoff materialize anywhere, for Christ’s sake… the FCC would probably step in). Here’s another: it opens with one of those barbaric “Woo”’s by singer Stephan Jenkins (ok they’re KINDA cool, I’ll admit it), hence both symbolizing and presaging that this is intrinsically his song and not Kevin Cadogan’s, the latter the highly skilled guitarist who was snubbed on production rights on Blue despite his paramount work on several instruments on “Wounded,” and then shouldered it out of the band. Eh, I’ve never skipped over this track, at least that I remember. Maybe I’m just weak willed.
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168 Everclear – “I Will Buy You a New Life” (So Much for the Afterglow — 1997)
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I would put on the video but Art Alexakis’ eyes scare me a little bit — this is the band that made that uncompromising grunge debut World of Noise and then “Heroin Girl,” about his significant other OD’ing — Alexakis was already in his mid 30’s when So Much for the Afterglow and the hard-won, cutting wisdom and sarcasm he delivers lyrically just speaks volumes of need, like if he didn’t have rock and roll he’d only have… well… The Crystal Method. Yuck.
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167 Beck – “Devil’s Haircut” (Odelay — 1996)
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Ah, that opening riff — as far as I know nobody has ever used that exact catastrophic, nihilistic statement to open a song or thread together a bridge. It’s like the twisted hip-hop/American take on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” curiously optically imbibing a bunch of “devils” right there in the city of angels. Hmm, how’d that happen?
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166 Tonic – “Open up Your Eyes” (Lemon Parade — 1996)
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At first I hated this band because they’re drummer can’t play a lick and then I noticed… oh, they’re from LA, hehe. Nobody practices in LA. Everybody knows that. Just see Jane’s Addiction. They definitely muster up a big ol’ tinseltown sound here, though, like their Hollywood brethren Stone Temple Pilots, with some of the slowest, eeriest palm muting ever laid to wax.
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165 Liz Phair – “Never Said” (Exile in Guyville — 1993)
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Sometimes it really pi**es me off because they’ll put out like the SIMPLEST songs off an album as singles, or the ones that most closely jibe with prevalent themes in romance and dating, or in this case both at once… anyway you’ve gotta admit this song as a wicked pocket ace of a second verse: “So don’t look at me sideways / Don’t even look me straight on / And don’t look at my hand in my pocket baby / I ain’t done anything wrong”, all growled out over disarmingly simple indie power chords (Pitchfork would be proud of her for not playing any riffs or having any creative instrumentation).
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164 Matchbox 20 – “Back 2 Good” (Yourself or Someone Like You — 1996)
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“I was thinkin’ if you were lonely / Maybe we could leave here and no one would know / At least not the point that we would think so”. Can I paraphrase Pitchfork’s great Brent Discrescenzo, who betokened Modest Mouse? “Anybody not still convinced of the genius of Rob Thomas should immediately consult the Target music section.”
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163 The Wallflowers – “One Headlight” (Bringing down the Horse — 1996)
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Eh, all in all Bringing down the Horse coulda been worse — one good thing is that with his first subject being a platonic female friend, sort of like the one in the Chili Peppers’ “My Friends” or The Verve’s “Sonnet,” we at least get some emotional groundwork for all the depicted humanistic desolation he’s taking in. It’s like being Bob Dylan’s son, he picked up the folk honcho’s sensitivity, and channeled it through his own verbiage and social circle, and for that reason, deserves the success he gets. Still, the lyrics are about a B+, I’d say. I give them props for incorporating album cover imagery into the video.
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162 Stone Temple Pilots – “Down” (No. 4 — 1999)
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As many people know, I’m like Mr.-“Down”-head… I’m quite the fan of Brendan O’Brien’s wizardry in the studio, the ability to get a sound out of a Fender stack that’s literally like an animal growling, like there’s a living organism within the amp. And this is something that really hit me later on in life: this entire song is in fact built around the very presence of that sound itself, never to detract or distract from it an inch.
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161 LIVE – “Turn My Head” (Secret Samadhi — 1997)
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This is a funny song to think back on because by this time, ’97, ska and pop/punk had gotten pretty big, so LIVE was sort of like that uncle over smiling at you in the corner that you forget about a little bit — this song existed in my mind as of course an arbiter of great guitar sound which at that age I wouldn’t really fully process, a curiously mild climax, sonically speaking, giving our ear drums a rest, and, at least for a while, a track I’d get mixed up with Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page.” When I listen back to it now, anyway, I notice the ramped up and amped up drum beat of Chad Gracey, way more complex than you typically remember it being.
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160 Collective Soul – “Gel” (Collective Soul — 1995)
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This was my favorite song on this album in high school and… hey… it looks like it still is, from the contents of this list, although “Bleed,” a slow mourner toward the end which wasn’t released for the chomping jowls of radio, offers a memorable and poignant climax of its own, toward the end of the album.
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159 The Smashing Pumpkins – “Ava Adore” (Adore — 1998)
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Adore is an entity on Earth that to me attracts light in a photosynthetic and unexplainable way, the Pumpkins’ perplexing, bloated and brooding fourth album full of delicate, patient guitars and lugubrious vocals. Taking “Ava Adore,” track two which follows only an ambient intro, as a single itself, it’s a wild success to me, introducing the guitar sound of Nine Inch Nails to some twisted, treated but still defiantly methodical kicks and snares on the part of Jimmy Chamberlain, Billy Corgan lyrically laying waste to our hearts and the entire world, which is surely his typical habit.
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158 Counting Crows – “A Long December” (Recovering the Satellites — 1996)
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Ack… I really wanted to listen to this song but it’s not December, so I decided not to… eh I doubt anyone needs an intro to it anyway.
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157 Cracker – “Low” (Kerosene Hat — 1993)
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“Low” issues as the sole single and opening track from Cracker’s sophomore effort Kerosene Hat, which I remember being pretty solid all the way through: the reflective and climactic “I Want Everything” probably plays as a little bit pastoral and “country”-ish for radio, but makes for a rewarding listen anyway. Their discography can be a little hit or miss but another solid effort is 2014’s Berkeley to Bakersfield.
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156 The Verve – “Bittersweet Symphony” (Urban Hymns — 1997)
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Interestingly, all of the singles off of this album that I can think of take a major key (as opposed to the ominous mood exuded by Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Come as You Are,” for instance), although to me this one is probably the most chordally complex, a puzzling pop/rock rhapsody about the tragedy of the interpersonal, the impossibility of perfection within this “bittersweet symphony” that is life itself.
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155 Bush – “Swallowed” (Razorblade Suitcase — 1996)
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With Steve Albini’s help, Bush… er… made about the same album they did in ’94, in my opinion, full of these punchy little pop/rock numbers and that guttural, wolverine guitar sound. It’s a solid album and it’s a solid song, which albeit I had to hear every day in seventh grade on our student-led news station.
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154 Beck – “The New Pollution” (Odelay — 1996)
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Ah, the days when Beck was a conscious being.. those were great, weren’t they? On Odelay he enlists the help of The Dust Brothers from the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and surely I don’t think their contribution is immaterial, but the songwriter himself crafts another labyrinthine and jazzy head-scratcher, and about about those weird matching-light-blue-wearing choir members in the video doing the “doo-doo-doo”’s? I’m pretty sure he was able to recruit them for a VMA performance as well, from what I remember.
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153 Big Head Todd and the Monsters – “Bittersweet” (Sister Sweetly — 1993)
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Oddly enough, “Please Don’t Tell Her” was never released officially as a single, leaving “Bittersweet” to reap all the benefits as the Big Head Todd elder statesman. I’ve never really listened to their other stuff… I think Fat Tire starts pouring out of your computer when you do.
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152 Toad the Wet Sprocket – “All I Want” (fear — 1991)
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There’s this certain quality in Glen Phillips’ voice in this song, one of the finest the band ever orchestrated, that’s just so undeniably real and genuine — it’s almost like an African quality or a Jamaican natty dread type thing, like he’s so locked into his subject matter that all of his sanguine WASP attributes fall by the wayside. “All I Want” is a nice and inspirational little pop song in its own right.
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151 Dave Matthews Band – “Don’t Drink the Water” (Before These Crowded Streets — 1998)
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Is that FUNK and BANJO in the same song? Yes it is, and while Before These Crowded Streets and the millennial cusp certainly mark the apex of “Dave” trendiness and hatred, it is unmistakably easy to forget how universally listenable this track is, dark, relentless, thorough, climactic and worldly, lamenting the quandary of basic amenities in third world countries.
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150 U2 – “Numb” (Zooropa — 1993)
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Sort of like R.E.M. with “Tongue,” U2 laced ‘em up for “Numb” here, an excellent, expansive radio single on an album which otherwise leaves a considerable amount to be desired. “Numb” is sung by guitarist The Edge and not the usual singer Bono and it’s Edge’s creation, through and through, featuring these relentless, brutal and jarring guitar stabs which sort of sound like somebody having a root canal… but in a good way.
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149 Cowboy Mouth – “Jenny Says” (Word of Mouth — 1996)
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Cowboy Mouth are certainly an interesting story, springing from N’awwlens (that’s New Orleans… sorry I’m gettin’ kinda delirious from writing so many of these mini-blurbs) just like Better than Ezra, and in general I like a lot of bands from the South — Collective Soul, Fastball, Less than Jake, R.E.M., Ben Folds Five — they seem like nose-to-the-grindstone folk with nothing to hide. “Jenny Says” is an aggressive stomper that was way less poppy than most things going on in ’96.
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148 Pearl Jam – “Even Flow” (Ten — 1991)
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With this one I SLIGHTLY prefer the live version on Live on Two Legs (1998) which yes I do sleep with under my pillow thanks for asking but eh this is the Pearl Jam song people make fun of more than any other of ‘em, with the possible exception of “Better Man,” so it must be good, the way I see it. Dog gone it one time at a show they started playing this and I darted into the pavilion, only to get kicked out by the ushers and then flashed by this Turkish or Cambodian lookin’ chick. God, Kurt Cobain would hate me on multiple counts for that one.
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147 Hootie & the Blowfish – “Only Wanna Be with You” (Cracked Rear View — 1994)
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Juke. Box. Motha. Motha. Sh**hole. Lucinda Williams. Steve Earle. Fastball. Hootie & the Blowfish. Where the rivers of beer flow. This song has probably easily the worst Bob Dylan name-check of all time, but I love ‘em for it in a way because it ingratiates them to Counting Crows and “Mr. Jones” within this precarious but in my opinion charming realm of “‘90s Alternative Rock” as divorced from grunge, pop/punk, ska, swing and rock/rap… so everything produced by T Bone Burnett, in other words.
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146 Pavement – “Spit on a Stranger” (Terror Twilight — 1999)
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Hmm.. yeah… it’s not very quintessentially “Pavement” but still nobody would doubt that this is a pretty sharp little melody, full of turns and frills countless little earmarks of playfulness that it… really makes me want to play with somebody.
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145 Foo Fighters – “Monkey Wrench” (The Colour and the Shape — 1997)
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When I was a youngster this was about my favorite song on the planet — strong and powerful as Niagra Falls and replete with that classic eighth note yell-fest at the end (“One last thing before I quit…”) You know what, I forgot Lit on this list. Well, this song should almost make up for it.
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144 Alice in Chains – “Over Now” (Alice in Chains — 1995)
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The closeur on a very underrated album, Alice in Chains (1996) also known simply as “The Dog Album,” “Over Now” begins with a little trumpet rendition of taps in which I believe they actually screw up the rhythm, although they do it in a way that renders it even more haunting and lugubrious, certainly appropriate for the general subject matter on this album. The closure becomes all the more haunting when the listener deducts that this was probably the last song on the Layne Staley-borne Alice in Chains catalogue, like Nirvana’s “All Apologies.”
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143 Goo Goo Dolls – “Name” (A Boy Named Goo — 1995)
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Everybody’s favorite Buffalo bandits chimed back in on this one which to be honest took me a little while to come around to, striking me first as sort of bland, its aching and true qualities sort of lying in wait all the while around the heady line “Don’t it make you sad to know that life / Is more than who we are”. Well, it would, John Rzeznik, except I’d never even thought of that before.
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142 Weezer – “Buddy Holly” (Weezer — 1994)
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Every time I come around to this song I’m like, ok, THIS time it’s gonna suck — it’s got no instrumentation flair, it’s about a crusty old singer from the ‘50s (I am a huge Buddy Holly fan for the record), it’s dumb pop punk, it’s… well they just got up and did it, and that’s why they’re where they are and we’re where we are.
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141 The Offspring – “Self Esteem” (Smash — 1994)
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Just as, when this song is playing on the radio, the listeners usually sit in rapt attention, it’s equally hard to know what to say about it mini-blurb form, other than I guess the obvious way in which the “low self esteem” thing fits into the whole slacker zeitgeist… and then you can never tell if these guys are telling the truth anyway… but maybe it seems to me that people with low self-esteem would be more likely to do a bunch of outlandish things and activities in order to try to compensate for that… well I dunno. I don’t think anyone does. The ability to properly listen to this song is probably an endeavor of diminishing returns but it’s fun anyway.
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140 Primitive Radio Gods – “Standing outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” (Rocket — 1996)
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It’s fitting in a way that the title of this song references a small, enclosed thing into which a person can walk, because literally in my mind it’s existed since I was 13 or so as just elevator music, albeit probably the best elevator music on the planet. It’s perfect for grocery stores or any public place where there’s lots of people doing their thing and it’s also got this dark, haunting quality which can warm you up at night. I think I just learned the artist and title like last year. Hooray for the ’90s revival, I guess.
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139 Better than Ezra – “Desperately Wanting” (Friction, Baby — 1996)
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Better than Ezra has been fighting an uphill battle basically their whole musical career, hailing as they do from the South, toting their folky, songwriter’s knack in full band to what was otherwise the grunge mainstream party. If not for record stores and CD’s, then, I might have never gotten their Greatest Hits and heard this song, a haunting rocker with the meaningful tinge of “This Time of Year” and an added sense of urgency, like a moment is embedded forever in the songwriter’s mind, producing something we can all digest.
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138 Soundgarden – “Pretty Noose” (Down on the Upside — 1996)
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Another one of my mix tape staples from back in the day, “Pretty Noose” is a song I never envisioned, obviously, being as prescient as it was literally, especially with, as I know I denote often on this blog, Chris Cornell basically being complete living idea of what I considered as invincibility. This Down on the Upside opener is strong, emphatic and voluminous, and best of all quintessentially “Soundgarden,” emulating exactly no one and taking no prisoners.
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137 Beck – “Where it’s At” (Odelay — 1996)
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Now, would I sound like a lame-a** if I told you my first exposure to this song was on that Saturday Night Live skit with Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri playing those grown cheerleaders? Don’t answer that. Anyway, I’ve been trying to piece together the puzzle ever since then, especially since Beck’s always sort of been a singles and not an album guy and this is like a wimpy and goofy sounding rapper pumping out these cuts from LA a place I’ve never been to… aghhhh… hmmph. Looks like I’ll be working on this stuff for a while, doesn’t it.
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136 Everclear – “One Hit Wonder” (So Much for the Afterglow — 1997)
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Definitely one of the best songs this group ever made, it sort of aligns itself pretty nicely with Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones” in just handling all the songwriters’ neuroses about hitting it big, within the ebullient economic time that was the 1990s. Alexakis and company full deserve all the success they incurred, in my opinion, building Everclear from the ground up on a sonic level as a confrontational beast that would stalk the world wielding a bona fide Pavement influence (either that or they just transposed “Box Elder” onto “My Sexual Life,” one of the two). Anyway, this is a great, brisk and easy-going summer rocker, my favorite song in the summer of ’98.
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135 Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping” (Tubthumper — 1997)
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It’s always sort of a glop hearing this song on my Dolby Radio thing — I mean it’s fun as he** but it’s almost disorienting how many little interludes you get… there’s that intro voice-over which is there for some reason God knows what and then the album version, which differentiates from the radio version I grew up on, also has an electro OUTRO too, which is pretty cool except that I always think like somebody slipped on a Mouse on Mars CD, which wouldn’t be too bad, actually. My hockey friend really likes this tune… great hockey or rugby song without question. And what, is this really their eighth album, Wikipedia? Haha, wow. That’s crazy.
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134 The Breeders – “Saints” (Last Splash — 1993)
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In 2008, The Breeders came out with a tenacious if somewhat scattered LP Mountain Battles which I faithfully purchased on CD right away and thoroughly enjoyed on repeated occasions… anyway there was this song “It’s the Love,” which comes to mind because I can remember some times of putting this song and having the homosexual love escalate a little too high at IU, in the form of some people getting shy and awkward (not me).
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133 LIVE – “All Over You” (Throwing Copper — 1994)
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I really just like LIVE in general, quite a bit… a lot of people don’t know this but they started actually way back in 1983 as a group called “First Aid Kit,” they’d play a lot of gigs in New York City even way back then and another cool fact is that this album (Throwing Copper) was produced by Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison, as well as the band itself (Harrison hailing from the East Coast and New York, LIVE springing from York, Pennsylvania which lies halfway betwixt Philadelphia and Baltimore). This is just really a great 100-meter-dash type of rocker and that’s about all I can say about it.
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132 Nirvana – “The Man Who Sold the World” (live) (MTV Unplugged in New York — 1994)
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Now, I have to admit, even the original Bowie version of this song is really cool and obviously I love the Nirvana piece… the Bowie has that crazy click-y sounding percussion instrument which I believe goes in some quarters by the name “guiro” and maybe just “wood block” in others… it’s so da** COOL and it obviously didn’t save Kurt Cobain’s life but I guess it’s there, as a way of filling the quota of pop structures, or something.
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131 Days of the New – “Touch, Peel and Stand” (Days of the New — 1997)
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Without a doubt, on the strength albeit of course of an entirely classic album cover, this song is built around the unique, otherworldly vocal of Travis Meeks, who reminded us all over again when swing and ska were taking over the world that rock itself could be intimidating and relevant still, paving the way for Saliva, P.O.D., Papa Roach and any number of others who would come along and honestly sort of beat a dead horse in the next decade.
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130 Porno for Pyros – “Kimberly Austin” (God’s Good Urge — 1996)
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The 120 Minutes compilation is an interesting thing in a certain sense because it embodies MTV sort of giving back to the music community (not financially, that’s crazy talk), but just in terms of the songs which accompanied relevant videos also being valuable musically in and of themselves. To be honest I’ve never seen the video for this Perry Farrell ballad — the tunes themselves have always conjured up majestic little visions of leaping gnomes for me just fine thanka.
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129 Annie Lennox – “Walking on Broken Glass” (Diva — 1992)
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Annie Lennox… well what the he** is that… well Britain… well what the he** is that… well this stuff beats the sh** out of The Eurythmics, that’s for sure, coming with the force of about 10 times the emotion, yet cornering itself into a catchy, radio friendly and infinitely playable format, piano, strings and all unable to pin it down as anything predictably “stately.”
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128 Marcy Playground – “Poppies” (Marcy Playground — 1997)
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I have zero memory whatsoever of ever seeing a video for this song or hearing it on the radio, but I did have the CD and this was the first song, one of the best on the whole album without any doubt. Marcy Playground has an interesting story behind their band name: when John Wozniak would get in trouble in grade school, the “Marcy” school, he would sit at the window, unable to go outside, and look down on the playground, having it etch these images and feelings into his mind which would then go on to feed the music itself.
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127 Foo Fighters – “Big Me” (Foo Fighters — 1995)
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It took me so long after viewing the obnoxious video for this tune for so many years to realize that it was actually a pretty good song — and like I said I think Foo Fighters (1995) would be advantageous to own on vinyl, not diminished by the warm acoustic sound on this particular number. It must feel weird to come up with a number as droll and innocuous as this and see it basically take over the world, but then, I think “My Hero” is the bigger song.
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126 Third Eye Blind – “Semi-Charmed Life” (Third Eye Blind — 1997)
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Last summer I worked at this high-end steak house and straight up the early-20-somethings or teenagers would be rocking out to this song, which I first heard at summer camp 21 years ago. It’s basically hard rock with a doo-wop influence, to Nirvana’s hard rock with a Beatles influence, which isn’t as good, hence why it placed 126th on this list and not higher up. Still, all the lyrics about crystal meth are pretty intriguing and god da**, for my money you can’t beat this album cover (again depicting said drug crystal meth).
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125 PJ Harvey – “C’mon Billy” (To Bring You My Love — 1995)
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Ha wow this is getting random… I really didn’t listen to PJ Harvey at all until about ’04 and that was Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, supposedly akin to goose droppings within the British singer’s catalogue… anyway this To Bring You My Love centerpiece certainly can turn on a dime within itself into some nice chordal poignance and it’s sort of hard to pin down what the song’s about, as she keeps repeating “Don’t you think it’s time / You met your only son?”
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124 Pearl Jam – “Given to Fly” (Yield — 1998)
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Probably at the crux of this song’s importance, despite the fact they got sued for the verse run sounding too much like “Going to California,” are the lyrics, which are about a person learning to fly, but more importantly offer the line “He floated back down ‘cause he wanted to share / His key to the locks on the chains he saw everywhere”. Also the band on here is tight, issuing quick power chord changes and a full grunge sound with a newfound patient, classic rock sense of songwriting and of course excellent, live-sounding production by Brendan O’Brien.
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123 Meat Puppets – “Backwater” (Too High to Die — 1994)
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This is like that song we’d always hear on the radio that was awesome but we’d never know who it was by — a commendable single although “London” really should have put out “Never to Be Found” and “Flaming Heart” as singles instead of “We Don’t Exist” and “Roof with a Hole”… the album might have sold better and we might have actually known who they were.
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122 Bush – “Machinehead” (Sixteen Stone — 1994)
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To me, this IS the ‘90s: pure noise and recklessness, a simple, dumb and infectious riff repeated throughout, primal, anarchical and apocalyptic lyrics all seeming to say, “Come get some.” And boy did we.
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121 Soul Coughing – “Circles” (El Oso — 1998)
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Oh, this song’s not good enough for PITCHFORK (yeah I know, they’re not as good as like Okkervil River and crap like that)… it’s only like a great catchy song everybody loves that you hear in bars all the time. I follow Mike Doughty on Facebook and some of his solo stuff is definitely pretty good, like even 2016’s The Heart Watches While the Brain Burns, but I’ll always be partial to this old material with his old band which, he** he hates as much as everybody else seems to.
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120 Stone Temple Pilots – “Vasoline” (Purple — 1994)
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As a sort of first-wave millennial, I consider the ‘90s a simple time of sort of playing wiffle ball and eating hot dogs all the time, but really, they were anything but — I mean every other STP song it seems like is about “lies,” at least on this album Purple (on Core Scott Weiland wrote up that little fictitious essay about technology taking over the world and invading our lives and minds, which ended up being prescient), and so if you’re more like a guileless person in a complicated world that takes you closer to the place of “flies in the vasoline,” hence the catharsis and the success of the song, and what a weird video!

119 Alice in Chains – “Heaven beside You” (Alice in Chains — 1995)

Jerry Cantrell wrote the lyrics apparently for “Heaven beside You”… did he write them about Layne Staley, maybe? I dunno… they’re really beautiful, that’s for sure, better than your average Staley banger of “We are an elite race of our own / The stoners junkies and freaks”, “Heaven beside You” then showcasing the softer side of Alice in Chains which really was a pretty significant side, given their overall body of work.
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118 Green Day – “She” (Dookie — 1994)
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At this point with Green Day pretty much being the first mainstream “punk” band, unless of course you count Nirvana (they were no doubt a key influence on Green Day), you had a lot going on to the point where a line like “She screams in silence”, even though it makes no sense to either your right or left brain and also doesn’t even quite fit in with the rest of the song’s lyrics, still doesn’t pi** you off, because you’re too busy processing the fact that this is actually a band having fun, on wax, in the 1990s, on mainstream radio.
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117 Nirvana – “On a Plain” (Nevermind — 1991)
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This song was IN MY OPINION a radio classic, although I can’t really tell you for sure why. Oh yeah I can: I heard it on the radio and I really liked it. There. That’ll be 50 bucks.
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116 Toad the Wet Sprocket – “Good Intentions” (In Light Syrup — 1995)
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This song is like so droll and majestic to me that it’s almost like a fairy tale or like something off of The Lion King — something embedded deep in my childhood and psyche that I find to be truth, just not the kind of truth that’s applicable to the rat race in America, where conformity is the goal and individuality is stamped out, if it’s even noticed at all. Wow, here’s a fact: it wasn’t officially released on its own (it’s on their b-sides and their greatest hits so I deem that enough for this list) because according to Wiki the band “felt it was too catchy and sounded like an obvious ‘hit single.’” It looks like mainstream punk was born in ’91 after all, but silently.
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115 Hootie & the Blowfish – “Time” (Cracked Rear View — 1994)
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Ah, pure Chicago ’90s: I’m grabbing a burger at some little sh**hole train station stand in Chicago and I’m standing there like a reject, after the black dude makes fun of me for getting mayonnaise (not to be confused with the Smashing Pumpkins song “Mayonaise”) and ketchup on it… “Time” is playing and I say “I’m just listening,” needing anything else in the universe like a hole in the head or a third fu**in’ tit.
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114 Soul Coughing – “Screenwriter’s Blues” (Ruby Vroom — 1994)
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On first listen I think this was my very favorite cut on Ruby Vroom although I’ve come around to the surrealistic lyrics and upbeat piano hits of “Moon Sammy” and the speedy, askance jazz of “Mr. Bitterness” as well. Really there’s no going wrong with this album or band except could maybe skip the first three cuts on this album.
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113 Third Eye Blind – “How’s it Going to Be” (Third Eye Blind — 1997)
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I have to say this might be Kevin Cadogan’s stoopidest riff, although he’s got a lot of ‘em … it always reminds me of that stupid stuff like Lit (who I forgot on this list like a dumba**) — the veritable power of that one infectious riff bulwarking an entire radio hit under obvious lyrics, although Jenkins’ tales of fighting and doing the do are always pretty welcome.
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112 Blues Traveler – “Carolina Blues” (Straight on Till Morning — 1997)
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This is my second “Cleveland blues” selection standard concerto for this particular list manifestation, preceded in sophisticated fashion by one Miss Tracy Chapman and “Give Me One Reason”… well this one lets the buckle off the belt a little more and gets to rockin’ in true trucker fashion… he** maybe I was born to be a trucker, between this and all my crazy Grateful Dead stuff.
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111 Soul Asylum – “Somebody to Shove” (Grave Dancers Union — 1992)
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That “Grandfather watches the grandfather clock” line has always depressed me pretty bad, I have to admit, which then only serves to further inspire me to get out and make something of myself, so I never end up, well, retired, which sounds really boring. I love all of Grave Dancers Union and Let Your Dim Light Shine and Candy from a Stranger, while a slight step down, is still the best album ever to get a band dropped from its label.
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110 Barenaked Ladies – “It’s All Been Done” (Stunt — 1998)
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I put this album on on Youtube last year at work and cheers erupted… to be honest I don’t remember hearing a single bad song on it, although back in the day before the days of streaming and file sharing I never owned the CD. This is my favorite song on it, a song the ski club in high school once got in trouble about for singing it too loud on the bus up to Swiss Valley.
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109 Green Day – “Basket Case” (Dookie — 1994)
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This song just screams early ‘90s to me, with its expedited, sure and perverted quickness, its powerful, visceral and sonic sneer and most of all its originality, drawing on the Beatles like Nirvana would do to the Counting Crows and Hootie’s obvious Bob Dylan influences.
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108 Jane’s Addiction – “Been Caught Stealing” (Ritual de lo Habitual — 1990)
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Nice raucous and fun tune here which I’m pretty sure is on one of my already extant ‘90s Alt-Rock playlists on DD. It’s got a classic video of a dude wearing a giant fat chick costume and stuffing like 17 different food items in different places, like the crotch and the… left crotch, and stuff.
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107 The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – “The Rascal King” (Let’s Face it — 1997)
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Ooh yeah this is a smooth rocker here… a great summertime juke box song if you need such a thing, a song so good it almost makes up for that horrible album cover which looks like they’re a bunch of FBI agents waiting around to get their driver’s licenses renewed.
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106 Weezer – “El Scorcho” (Pinkerton — 1996)
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Really, nobody to this day can explain the beast that is Pinkerton, not that they can explain the beast that is the blue album, either, necessarily — Weezer has this way of playing as pliable psychedelic pop with also this inner rottweiler underneath that’s capable of tearing your heart out at any time, and this is surely how any newcomer would take them as well, I would think.
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105 Liz Phair – “Whip-Smart” (Whip-Smart — 1994)
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Ah, you can’t beat a good title track… especially when it starts with the sounds of birds chirping and then some gut-busting drums meant to tear a whole through your whole conception of music. Phair’s second album is as a whole… eh… “Supernova” is really bad but I’m pretty sure I can listen to the rest of it. This track is a simple, methodical rocker with a rounded chord progression and some good ol’ fashioned sadistic ’90s lyrics to ‘em.
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104 Radiohead – “Just” (The Bends — 1995)
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The Bends represent! This is kind of the red-headed stepchild of Radiohead albums among individuals younger than me, I noticed, falling off a little bit probably after this cut but featuring a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 punch to rival any and every. “Just” is about as close as The Bends gets to grunge and would have been a welcome addition on Pablo Honey.
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103 Bush – “Comedown” (Sixteen Stone — 1994)
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Ah, two of my favorite things in life: radio rock, and rock radio. The two come together in sublime convergence here, to where sometimes, you’ve just GOTTA smoke a spliff and go with the flow, unless of course you’ve got too much to lose. He**, that’s what the song’s about anyway, isn’t it?
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102 Pearl Jam – “Better Man” (Vitalogy — 1994)
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“Better Man” has easily one of the best background stories to it of any Pearl Jam song, along with “Faithfull” and the Mike McCready playing the part to Stone Gossard over the phone… but anyway Vedder found this song near and dear to him and didn’t want to release it and legendary producer Brendan O’Brien coaxed it out of him just before the album was due, O’Brien himself covering first-verse duties on pipe organ in a session with just him and Vedder, then transposing that session on to the full band recording, which begins halfway through the second verse, the way I understand it.
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101 R.E.M. – “Drive” (Automatic for the People — 1992)
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I first heard this song when I was nine and loved it and I love it still to this day for the very same reasons — the undeniable, palpable sense of melancholy, of the loss of everything, of the ugliness of everything… I guess it was something I felt at such a young age with my parents getting divorced right around when this album came out, but in hindsight, I consider it a blessing, just like this wondrous musical vision now is for all of us.

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