Music for most of us is a passionate and emotional experience…When we listen to great albums and great bands we have the ability to be taken back to key moments in our lives. Music has the power to trigger emotive feelings that are generally buried deep down inside of us. Like most things in my life I am passionate about my music and I tend to stick to the bands and musicians that helped me through my teenage and early adult life.
last week Christian Mohn and Duncan Epping posted a blog listing out their top 10 Albums of all time. I had been discussing this very topic recently so the timing was right to add my contribution to this #vTop10 blogging series. As you will see below my musical passion was forged in the early 90s and I have remained true to the music that got me through my teenage years…Angst filled, heavy rock with a touch of ballad and melody dominated by messy riffs and heavy vocal power.
10 – Nirvana: In Utero
While others would (and have) chosen Nevermind as their top Nirvana album there is something about In Utero that spoke to the 16 year old me. In Utero came after the lesser known, critically hammered Insecticide and was released not long before Kurt Cobain took his own life. To me Heart Shaped Box is such a strong song I hold it higher than Teen Spirit and In Bloom. Beyond Heart Shaped Box, All Apologies and Very Ape standing though the whole album is just raw and angry and you can tell that Kurt was struggling with life and the angst and pain he felt shines through in all the songs. The guitar riffs are a lot thicker in the album and the distortion is on high…put that together with Kurts controlled screaming vocals…That rawness is what made me supersede Nevermind as the only Nirvana album in my top 10.
9 – Weezer: Make Believe
This is probably the softest album in my list but its certainly not short of emotion, passion and great lyrics. Weezer are an interesting band who recently have released albums that probably are best forgotten however they also have some other gems. I saw Weezer a couple of years ago for the 20th Anniversary tour where they played the Blue Album end to end…However Make Believe makes my top 10 because it’s emotional and powerful and contains two amazing songs, Hold Me and Peace. If you haven’t listened to this album I highly suggest giving it a go.
8 – Foo Fighters: Color and The Shape Special Edition
For a long time the Foo Fighters where my go to band. I remember downloading There is Nothing Left to Loose via ICQ and playing partially downloaded songs before they completed. Before that, The Color and the Shape announced the arrival of Dave Grohl and the band as a force. To me this album is special because it’s the story of Dave’s relationship with an ex wife. All the songs tell a story and they follow each other in mood and meaning. Monkey Wrench and My Hero are the more well songs from the set however February Stars is by far my favorite song…so much so that it was the song I choose for my first dance with my wife at my wedding.
I choose the Special Edition because it contains some additional songs from Dave’s b-sides and rarities collection including the Theme Song from the X-Files soundtrack, Down in The Park, a brilliant cover of Baker Street and one of Dave’s best b-sides, Dear Lover.
7 – Papa Roach: The Paramour Sessions
If the Foo Fighter where my go to band in the 90’ Papa Roach was that during the 2000s. Not too many people know them past their initial nu-rap/metal releases Infest. I could have probably listed any of the subsequent albums they have released over the past 16 years however The Paramour Session is the standout for me as its represented a shift in Papa Roach’s music from angry rap/metal to more ballad like songs that still contain all the raw pain of the earlier releases but treated that with maturity. Forever, I Devise my own Demise and My Heart is a Fist and Blanket of Fear standout.
6 – Foo Fighters: Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl is just talented…in fact he is probably one of of the most important rock musicians of the past 20 years. All through his Nirvana days Dave was creating B-Sides and rarities that where pretty damned good. When Nirvana ended he spent some time in his home studio and put together a bunch of songs that would become the first Foo Fighters Album. Dave played every single instrument for all songs. That’s something that you can tell as the songs are fairly basic and not overly complex but there this doesn’t mean they aren’t brilliant. Alone and Easy Target is my stand with Exhausted close behind it but this is the Album that started it all and it’s been quality release after quality release since then for the past 21 years.
5 – Tool: Ænima
Ænima is by far the hardest sounding album in this list and at first I wasn’t drawn to the Tool sound having come from more grunge based riffs. However this album defined my transition from High School into University. During 1997 I would have played this on high rotation and even had it playing during Uni Lectures and Tutorials. The Tool sound is unique and they don’t pay much attention to melody or beat pattern. They use offbeats to create highly charged music with powerful lyrics. Maynard Keenan is a genius and his vocals are outstanding. The music may be hard but Maynard never looses control and songs like Stinkfist and Ænima are brilliant emotional roller coasters. By far my standout track is Eulogy which clocks in a 8:28 seconds and is almost haunting to listen to until it builds and builds into an powerful climax.
4 – Alice in Chains: Unplugged
Yes Nirvana has a great Unplugged but Alice in Chains set in my opinion was as special as they come. Not withstanding the fact that it was the first time the band had played in a number of years following lead singer Layne Staley’s substance abuse but it was pretty much the last time the band played in public before Layne overdosed in 2002. There is something about Layne’s voice that’s just different to any other that was around at the time and together with Jerry Cantrell’s backing the two produced some incredible melodies put together with Jerry’s talent for creating riffs that can come out of no where and blow you away. The fact they where able to translate their music to an acoustic set shows the talent this band had. What makes this set even more amazing was that Layne was clearly not all there and certainly under the influence.
I spent many late nights listening to this album but be warned…it’s not one that fills you with joy and happiness. It hurts and is more an album to help you drown sorrows…I know it helped myself and my close friends get through some tough times. Nutshell, Brother, No Excuses and Got me Wrong are the most powerful songs in the set. Actually…they are all brilliant!
3 – Jerry Cantrell: Degradation Trip Volume 1 & 2
Jerry Cantrell recorded two solo albums in between Alice In Chains hiatus and the death of Layne. If you, like me are a 90s grunge fan then do yourself a favor and listen to Boggy Depot (that contained Jerry’s my famous solo releases My Song and Cut You In) and Degradation Trip. I generally combine these two albums together when listening but I choose Degradation Trip Volumes 1& 2 in this list specifically because it’s a double record of haunting, heavy, powerful music. There are no weak songs and if you let yourself listen to the music that Jerry created while locked up in a basement for an undisclosed period of time you will understand the genius behind it. Siddhartha has some of the best understated solo riffs I’ve ever heard and is a brilliantly constructed song. Other standouts are Pig Charmer, Solitude and Feel the Void…in fact they are all brilliant…even the instrumental Hurts Don’t It?.
Give this album a go…appreciate it and absorb it.
2 – Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream
While I haven’t listened to the Smashing Pumpkins recently I often tell people that Siamese Dream is the greatest of all the 90s grunge/rock albums simply because end to end is hits the mark. Billy Corgan is one strange cat and it shows through his music…while I loved some songs on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness overall it was too experimental (as was subsequent albums) but Siamese Dream is near perfect. Starting off with the power Cherub Rock, through to Disarm and then my standout track Soma. Soma is a masterpiece…starting off low and slow and building to an amazingly powerful crescendo. And just when you think the album can’t get any better, Geek USA comes off and finishes things hard. I can’t say enough about Siamese Dream and it was tough not having it as my #1…not withstanding that I still have memories of keeping the CD in my pencil case at school…guarding it with my life…it meant that much to me.
1 – Stone Temple Pilots: Core
Core takes my #1 spot not only because it’s a masterpiece of rock it was the song (Plush) and the album that changed my musical taste from 90s pop/rap (which is still don’t mind) to the guitar heavy, distorted goodness of grunge/rock. I will never forget my school mate when I was 14 handing me this CD telling me to give it a go. When I got home I played it for the first time and when I clicked play on Dead and Bloated something changed inside me.
I AM SMELLING LIKE THE ROSES SOMEBODY GAVE ME ON MY BIRTHDAY DEATHBED!…
I AM SMELLING LIKE THE ROSES SOMEBODY GAVE ME ON MY BIRTHDAY DEATHBED!…
I AM SMELLING LIKE THE ROSES SOMEBODY GAVE ME ME CAUSE I’M DEAD AND BLOATED!
Enter drums and a heavy riff…and that’s it…the rest is history for me. The rest of the songs are powerful but what I love about STP is that they do the power ballad so well…(not in a Nickleback kinda way)…I’m talking power grunge/rock ballad.
I do believe that Scott Weiland has the best voice of all 90’s bands in this genre…yes, even better than Eddie Vedder’s. Many called him a clone of Vedder but he was a lot more…mainly because he obviously had a lot more demons to deal with and again…raw emotion and pain shine through in Core and subsequent STP Albums…they are all brilliant and I was cut down a little last year when Weiland finally succumbed to his substance abuse.
Core should go down as one of the greatest of all time!
So that’s it…it took a little longer than expected to put this together and I would encourage others out there to continue this series as the just writing about the albums and songs brings back memories and emotions and feelings that your had probably locked away for safe keeping. This is what music does…this is why it’s so powerful.