More 90s stuff — God you’d think we were 90s kids! No seriously, please think we’re 90s kids even though we were fully not born in the 90s.
Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)
This has topped countless lists of mine in the past – no song will get me P U M P E D like this one. As soon as those snares crash into the intro, kicking the doors open for the wailing guitars and sliding bass — possibly one of the best opening instrumentals of all time. It’s a tornado of complete explosive groove, Anthony chanting “GIVEITAWAYGIVEITAWAYGIVEITAWAYNOW” over the top like a cherokee chieftain — waging war on people sat down.
Sabotage – Beastie Boys (1994) – Much like that RHCP classic, the Beastie Boys set a stick of dynamite for each of their previous releases, and detonated them all at once, AdRock’s scream being the button pushed. The gravelly bass is nothing but legendary and the bobbing drums smash like broken windows.
In Bloom – Nirvana (1991) – I’ll tell you this for free, there’s not one moment in a song that’ll get me giddy more than Dave Grohl’s pounding drums in the chorus of this, the diamond in grunge’s denim crown. The predatory groove of the bass seeps under the acidic guitars as only Nirvana can — brought to a height with Kurt’s demented circus call.
Groove Is In The Heart – Deee-Lite (1990) – Mock me if you want, YOU arE MISsiNG OUt. The kitsch fun of The B-52’s meets the funk of Bootsy and the chill grooves of Q-Tip. Maybe my favourite pop song of all time, Lady Miss Kier will always keep faux fur fashion cool. Deee-Lite have solidified slide-whistles in history, and for that we can only thank them.
Learn To Fly – Foo Fighters (1999) – An anthem that can fill a stadium full of singing hearts, Dave Grohl leads choruses of die-hard fans belting this song out almost 20 years after its release. The elitist in some could criticise the arena rock tendencies the Foos are obviously showing here, but Learn To Fly always has me singing along.
Soundgarden – The Day I Tried to Live (1994)
This song won mine and Milo’s Top 25 Chris Cornell Songs and considering the fantastic competition that is an amazing honour. I also sung its praises in my Top Fifteen Grunge Songs. I’m gonna be a lazy bastid and recycle what I said before, because I don’t know how else I can put it: “It’s a masterpiece. By the time the rolling drums and bass kick in I’m already covered head to toe in goosebumps from the opening high-pitched guitars, which are just so recognisable, branching through the entire song to poignant effect. Similar to Like Suicide, that foundation of the aforementioned rolling drums and bass is rock-solid and gives it a heavy, dark sound which not many bands can match. Building perfectly to a collection of climaxes in the wailing choruses and weaving through the brooding and iconic verses and bridges, it’s 5 minutes of perfect songwriting.” I would also like to say that Chris Cornell is absolutely incredible here.
Rage Against the Machine – Bulls on Parade (1996)
This was exceptionally close to trumping The Day I Tried to Live for the top spot, but I’m still giving it the equivalent honour. Rage’s greatest song, Bulls on Parade possesses the coolest bass riff to walk this earth, stomping like a tyrannosaurus rex as the guitars wind and whir like gears, grounded and given its groove by Brad Wilk’s unique drumwork, as Zack raps his guts out with his strongest lines to date. If I were to go back in time to see any concert, it would be any of Rage’s shows in the mid-90s where they played this.
Before we get into these other songs I’d like to say that this was incredibly tough to narrow down to five choices, but here we have it:
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Give it Away (1991) – This song is just energy. It epitomises the Chili Peppers in this time period and it’s essentially the swansong for their early days. In all its crude, filthy funkiness its as beautiful as the world’s finest art – it’s funk rock in its most pure, powerful form. As soon as those drums kick in, I just can’t resist moving; and the joy just keeps getting shovelled into your earholes.
Pearl Jam – Jeremy (1991) – It was exceptionally close between this and Even Flow, but King Jeremy the Wicked had to get a shout here. It’s goosebump heaven, an emotional outcry and a song that really cuts deep, while providing STRONG melodies and Eddie Vedder’s greatest vocal performance. It’s just iconic.
Primus – Shake Hands with Beef (1997) – I sneaked this in over Nirvana’s Come as You Are, the Chili Peppers’ Californication and Korn’s Freak on a Leash, plus a bunch of others, so I hope its weird ass enjoys its stay. It’s a mouldy, dangerously infectious fungus of pure funky goodness, a rusty blast to the orifices and Primus’ signature, and best song.
Losing My Religion – R.E.M. (1991)
Alive – Pearl Jam (1991)
Sometimes Always – The Jesus And Mary Chain (1994)
The Mary Chain occupy a strange space in this day and age. There are school teachers and CEO’s and grandparents who used to listen to the Scottish goth feedback merchants. It was awkward and obstropolous music for outsider teens who wanted noise instead of melody and alienation instead of commerce.
Land Of Sunshine – Faith No More (1992) – Let Faith No More pummel your unease away with this tale of pre-millennial tension now turned an anthem for the ages.
Get a pep talk from the prescribers of some taught platitudes that take on a tone of mocking indifference building to anger as they’re trotted out again.
“Prepare for a series of comfortable miracles from fasting to feasting, to feasting
Life to you is a dashing, bold adventure so sing and rejoice, sing and rejoice”
The First Big Weekend Of The Summer – Arab Strap (1996) – The track that most reflects my 90’s experience. Arab Strap weren’t stylised. They didn’t have a uniform like Blur or Oasis, they didn’t dress up like the past or the future. They wore the same clothes as the rest of us.
The experiences they sang about were not pushing sexual politics or ambition forward. They did not belong to a scene. Arab Strap talked about the working week and the days that fill in the glorious gap between the drudgery.
New Generation – Suede (1994) – I was fully familiar with Suede and New Generation’s parent album Dog Man Star when I had my sleep deprivation-inspired Suede epiphany. After a set of shifts that ended one Friday Morning at 7am I got on the bus to take the hour-long journey back to my digs. The sun was up. The sky was blue and the Walkman batteries were playing full speed for once. As New Generation kicked in I was swept up in a weird euphoria. I was young, free and single, it was a sunny Friday, I’d just got paid and this song was fucking brilliant!
My Baby Is A Headfuck – The Wildhearts (1993) – This track is one half of the centre piece of their debut long player Earth Versus The Wildhearts. After building into a monster pop rock party anthem with Beach Boys harmonies, chanted obscenities and slide guitar breaks comes a truly ace card. Ginger has pulled in a genuine rock legend. The guitar solo on track eight of this band’s debut album is none other than Martian Spider and friend of the Starman, Mick Ronson playing his last ever studio recording. And it’s a (scary) monster.
Stay tuned for more Best Thangs of All Time!