2013 was like a walk down memory lane for many music fans as big records like Nirvana’s In Utero (TFN Review), The Breeders’ Last Splash (TFN Review), Pearl Jam’s Vs., The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream, and Radiohead’s Pablo Honey all turned 20 years old.
There were also some lesser known albums that turned 20 this year that still hit my playlist today like Morphine’s Cure For Pain, Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne, Guided By Voices’ Vampire on Titus, and The Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen to just name a few.
Even more interesting, 1993 also was a big year for several debuts that I still hold close to my player like Come’s 11:11 (TFN Review) which was already celebrated this year with a special edition reissue. With that said, this week’s top ten covers 20 year old debuts that still hold up in today’s scene. Hope you enjoy the list and feel free to shout out the ones I missed!
Happy 20th birthday to the following…
Ok so we cheated here with the honorable mention but I could not leave The Auteurs debut New Wave off the list. This is a guitar record from England that has solid three minute songs with deep lyrics and pop undertones. Luke Haines, the group’s guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter could do it all and played in The Servants which has recently had their records reissued by Captured Tracks. The Auteurs never caught on the US (big surprise) but released several really good albums and it all started here with New Wave.
Honorable Mention 2
I know – we cheated again! Grunge was still king in 93’ and even though Lawrence, Kansas was many miles from the Pacific Northwest, Paw’s debut Dragline hits the right notes. Singer Mark Hennessy always sings with strength and on their small hit “Jessie” you can’t resist taking notice with his gruff delivery of the line “Aw, but Jessie; It’s cold outside; And i’m not comin’ home.” Dragline was not nearly as special as some of the mammoths of grunge but it has a big heart which carries it a long way!
Possum Dixon was part of the early 90’s alternative blow up based on the strength of this debut. Catchy wordplay melodic indie rock sums it up and their self-titled record is a fun sing along 32 minute ride. This was one of those bands that could have easily risen with Beck and Weezer but just didn’t have things go their way. Regardless – this record still sounds great loud today!
How about this – Bikini Kill is the reason that the Riot Grrrl genre even exits. One listen to “Rebel Girl” is all the proof you need!
If anyone ever listened to New York hardcore band Gorilla Biscuits then you were crazy excited that Walter Schreifels had a new band with Quicksand. Their debut, Slip, is still one of my favorite “turn it on and let roar” type of records in my collection. One listen to “Fazer” and I think you will hear what I am talking about.
I still remember Michael Stipe of R.E.M. calling this record from GLB the best of the year. If it was good enough for Stipe then it was good enough for me. It also helps that singer Grant-Lee Phillips has one of the smoothest voices in indie rock. As the group continued their sound their albums expanded as well. This was probably expected but Fuzzy is where it all started and it grabs you by just being simple, clear and dynamic.
With a resume that included the Throwing Muses and The Breeders how could Tanya Donnelly’s Belly be bad? Guess what – it wasn’t. Their debut Star not only plays well with songs like “Feed The Tree” and “Gepetto” but actually went Gold in the US. The album also had two Grammy nominations which I still find surprising thinking about it today – not because the record wasn’t good but 1993 had a much different mindset as Belly’s sound was a new thing!
Suede (or London Suede to the States) had one of the fastest selling debuts in British history and is considered one of the first records in the 90’s Britpop movement. It is a record that instantly turned my ear to the scene and I have never turned away.
I am not sure what people expected from Rancid’s debut. The album cover was scary and I know that some people were let down when the ska sounds of Armstrong’s previous group, Operation Ivy, were nowhere to be found. Instead this debut was a full throttle punk rock kick in the face and still is today. It proudly helped launch the re-surge of punk music in the 90’s.
Here is a debut that lit the Midwest indie scene on fire as people found out about Dayton, Ohio’s Brainiac. At the time, Smack Bunny Baby sounded like the band was still looking for their final sound – today it sounds like Brainiac was ahead of their time. This record laid the groundwork for their next two solid LPs but unfortunately everything came to an abrupt end when lead singer Timmy Tailor tragically was killed in a 1997 car crash.
“Web in Front” and “Might” are still songs that get the volume cranked on my player. Archers of Loaf were such a tight group musically and each track here is an exciting listen anytime you spin it. With noisy guitar and quick indie rock flurries this is a debut that I believe gets even more respect today as it plays with the same burning intensity.
Like so many debut records, Exile In Guyville will be an album that Liz Phair will never top. This female fronted lo-fi recording feels so indie and with memorable tracks like “Never Said” and “Stratford-On-Guy” it is never easy to turn off. This record is so raw and tough but also leaves Phair exposed to all that listen. That vibe is hard to create and Exile In Guyville not only still holds up to being 20 years old today but is now an alternative classic!
-Feature by Christopher Anthony