Modern Rock Tracks, 8/1/92

July and August 1992 were busy months. I was trying to cram in some final good times with IL buds before I rode off into the sunset while also making preparations for that upcoming new life as an assistant prof in KY. In mid-July a bunch of us traveled to Bettendorf, IA for a couple of days of bridge; a little more than a week later, I took off with my friend Jay for Toronto to the summer nationals and another crack at the non-Life Master Grand National Teams event. This time, I was playing with Mark L, since his old partner Milind had graduated; at the other table, Jay would be with Chris, my partner in Las Vegas the year before. Unlike the previous two years, we would advance out of the first round, but that’s as far as we made it.

After saying our farewells to Mark and Chris, Jay and I headed north and east, camping out a couple of nights and taking a quick survey of Montreal. By Wednesday, 7/29, we were back in Toronto for a day of bridge and an evening of baseball.

It was a pretty good pitching matchup, Dave Stieb vs. Kevin Appier. The soon-to-be World Champions lost to the woeful Royals that evening, 5-2. It was the only time I got to see George Brett, who was in his next-to-last season, play; alas, he went 0-4 with an IBB.

From there, it was a whirlwind of travel: Thursday it was back to Champaign-Urbana, and on Friday I drove to my parents’. That was because Saturday, August 1, was my 10th year HS reunion, to be held not far from the high school at a park that hadn’t existed in the early 80s. It was a beautiful day (this was the summer that was significantly cooler than normal, likely due to the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines), and the location was perfect for those who already had small children in tow. One of my classmates who attended was then working for the public radio station at nearby Northern Kentucky University. She had a couple of tickets that she couldn’t use for Sunday night’s Mary Chapin Carpenter concert in Cincinnati–guess who snagged one of them?

The following week, it was another two trips between IL and KY. The first was to load everything for moving and then cart it to an apartment on the southeast side of Lexington; the second was to take my office-mate Paul back to Champaign–I’d needed to rent a small U-Haul and he had graciously offered to drive it. With my UIUC days literally in the rear-view mirror, I had around two weeks to tackle prepping a new set of classes and commence adjusting to the post-student life.

With all those miles being logged in SE Indiana in my ’86 Camry over those weeks, there was plenty of opportunity to listen to my then-favorite station, WOXY (97X), out of Oxford, OH. What might I have heard then? I imagine the 8/1/92 Modern Rock Tracks chart can offer some ideas.

27. PJ Harvey, “Sheela-Na-Gig”
Polly Jean was just 22 years old when her music began crashing on these shores. I’m sure I heard “Sheela-Na-Gig” at the time, though I have stronger memories from a couple years later of watching Beavis and Butt-Head comment on “50 Ft. Queenie.”

26. Toad the Wet Sprocket, “All I Want”
While I do have a fondness for some of the edgier stuff that emerged in Modern Rock world, I’m definitely a sucker for melodic, guitar-driven alterna-pop from the likes of Toad the Wet Sprocket. This would go to #15 on the Hot 100 in September.

22. Beastie Boys, “So What’cha Want”
I’ve said it before, but the Beasties’ growth into a respected act, given their juvenile initial splash, was a genuine surprise to me. You can bank on “Sabotage” getting featured in this series a couple of years from now.

21. The Levellers, “One Way”
I get an amped-up Waterboys feel from the Levellers, I guess because Mark Chadwick sounds plenty like Mike Scott to me on this tune. I purchased a promotional CD single for “One Way” at some point in the first half of the 90s; it’s a good one.

19. XTC, “Dear Madam Barnum”
I don’t think Nonsuch has as many highlights as Oranges and Lemons or (especially) Skylarking. “Dear Madam Barnum” is without a doubt one of them, both catchy and funny.

17. Paul Westerberg, “Dyslexic Heart”
16. Electronic, “Disappointed”
7. Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Face to Face”

Multiple movie soundtracks at the time were centered on or featured alternative music. “Dyslexic Heart,” my favorite of these, comes from Singles. “Disappointed” is one of three songs on the chart appearing in Cool World (the others are David Bowie’s “Real Cool World” at #25 and the resurgent “Sex on Wheelz,” from My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, at #20). “Face to Face” surfaced in Batman Returns, the only flick of the three I saw back then.

14. Catherine Wheel, “Black Metallic”
The video doesn’t look familiar, so this must be one I learned of via 97X. I’m still a fan.

13. Temple of the Dog, “Hunger Strike”
Grunge was never much my scene, but I can recognize “Hunger Strike” as a remarkable musical moment, with the iconic voices of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder coming together before either was well-known.

12. Del Amitri, “Always the Last to Know”
While I never bought any of this Scottish group’s albums, I rather liked all three of their songs that scored U.S. airplay and chart action (of which this is the second). It would peak on the Hot 100 at #30 in October.

6. U2, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
Bono and the boys were still pumping out the singles from Achtung Baby. Seems like they could have come up with a better line than “gonna blow right through you like a breeze,” though.

5. The Lemonheads, “It’s a Shame About Ray”
From that brief moment when Juliana Hatfield joined forces with Evan Dando. I’ve got the re-issue with the added cover of “Mrs. Robinson.” Both the title track and “Rudderless” found their way to mix tapes.

2. Faith No More, “Midlife Crisis”
It’d been a long time since I heard this one; I remember it mostly for the “bleed enough for two” line. Again, what groups like FNM were selling wasn’t what I was inclined to buy–though maybe in their case I was still appalled at the flopping fish scene from the end of the video for “Epic.”

1. B-52s, “Good Stuff”
Down to a threesome at this point after Cindy Wilson took leave. Not that this is bad, but in retrospect it feels like Cosmic Thing was not only cathartic but depleting.

Modern Rock Tracks, 6/6/92

May and June were busy months thirty years ago. I covered part of what happened then in early 2020, but to recap briefly: after going 0-for-March-and-April on getting job interviews, I scored opportunities at a couple of small schools, one in northern Indiana in mid-May that didn’t pan out, and one in north-central Kentucky during the first week of June that did. Once I had an offer from my soon-to-be (and still current) employer in hand, I scheduled my dissertation defense; it wound up happening on my father’s 61st birthday, toward the end of June.

I spent a lot of time on the road during this period: if I’m reconstructing correctly, it was home to Kentucky after classes ended to see family and college friends, up to Indiana for the first interview, over to Urbana again for a few days, including an appearance at a bridge tournament, then back to Kentucky for the second interview. During that second trip to the Bluegrass, my 81-year-old grandmother underwent heart surgery, so lots of relatives were around to visit. (She came out of it just fine, living almost nine more years.) Gran was the first to learn of my job offer; I leaned over and whispered the news to her in her hospital bed.

I was mostly flipping between stations while in the car throughout the period, sometimes Top 40 (big fan of what Tom Cochrane and En Vogue had on offer that spring), occasionally country (Mary Chapin Carpenter was the main attraction–more on her in the August installment of this series, believe it or not), and college/alternative when I could find it. As usual when traveling between Florence and Indianapolis, I’d tune in to WOXY in Oxford, OH. That’s how I was introduced to several of the songs discussed below–#24, #16, and #14, in particular.

25. Tom Tom Club, “Sunshine and Ecstasy”
Dark Sneak Love Action, the Club’s fourth album, had just been released. “Sunshine and Ecstasy” is trippy and groovy, but there is no mystery as to why Tina or Chris were featured as vocalist on any Talking Heads tune.

24. Meryn Cadell, “The Sweater”
Boy, do I love this piece. It’s so eminently quotable, and you can be sure many of its lines run through my head plenty–“different is NOT what you’re looking for,” “Monday…wear the sweater…to school,” “definitely wear lip gloss,” “you realize that love made you temporarily blind.” The favorite, though, gets wheeled out anytime a certain synthetic substance arises in conversation, in almost any context: “100% acrylic.”

23. Curve, “Horror Head”
Hearing “Horror Head” in Record Service prompted me to buy Doppelgänger and led to a minor obsession with Curve. Maybe a tossup whether this or “Coast Is Clear” is my fave of theirs.

Greg was already familiar with Toni Halliday’s 1988 solo work Hearts and Handshakes–you can definitely hear in “Time Turns Around” where her future was headed.

21. Pearl Jam, “Even Flow”
This was a much bigger hit on the Album Rock Tracks chart. Gotta say I’d much rather hear it now than “Jeremy.”

18. L7, “Pretend We’re Dead”
The first compact disk I purchased in 1990 (don’t ask me why or how I remember) was an obscure compilation called The Radio Tokyo Tapes, Volume 4: Women. Radio Tokyo was a studio in Los Angeles operated by Ethan James, who served as the disk’s producer and also played on several of the tracks. The overall conceit of the (wildly eclectic) compilation was to try to break some new female voices/bands. A few of the acts appearing on Women did wind up with record deals, but the only one to have any sort of chart success was the rock quartet L7. (For the really curious, here’s a link to “Sweet Sex,” their contribution to Women.)

Now I need to pull that CD out and listen to its highlights (there are a few) again.

17. Ride, “Twisterella”
Time for this post’s lost gem–I’m aghast at having missed it in real time. Amazingly close to perfect: fabulous bass line, snazzy drum fills, chiming guitars, charmingly cryptic lyrics, and everybody’s showing their best moves in the video, to boot. Put this one on replay.

16. Indigo Girls, “Galileo”
Rites of Passage is my favorite album from Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, and this meditation on reincarnation (which includes what I’ve always taken as a playful jab at Shirley MacLaine) is one of its best songs.

14. Annie Lennox, “Why”
Diva was the first we’d heard from Lennox post-Eurythmics. She gives a great performance on “Why,” though I happen to like “Walking on Broken Glass” and “Little Bird” better.

12. Material Issue, “What Girls Want”
Maybe Destination Universe was a case of sophomore slump, a bit rushed to capitalize on the momentum of International Pop Overthrow? I’ll admit I wasn’t as taken by “What Girls Want” as I had been with their earlier singles.

11. The Beautiful South, “We Are Each Other”
We last visited the Beautiful South a little over two years ago, when “You Keep It All In” paid a trip to the MRT charts. This one turned out to be their most popular song on this side of the pond.

7. Cracker, “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”
Things former Camper Van Beethoven leader David Lowery and his new band think are needed: a new kind of tension, true words of wisdom, and a new Frank Sinatra. Another folk singer, on the other hand…

5. The Charlatans, “Weirdo”
This one sure had gone down the memory hole, not that it’s especially regrettable to be the case. Two weeks earlier it had been #1 on this chart. The Charlatans had only a little more success on the U.S. alternative scene but kept generating hits in Britain for another decade.

3. The Soup Dragons, “Divine Thing”
In contrast, this Scottish band was almost to the end of their line; Hotwired would be their final album to generate any traction anywhere. “Divine Thing” would make the U.S. Top 40 in September, eventually peaking at #35. I’ll grant it’s got a memorable riff.

2. The Cure, “Friday I’m in Love”
The days-of-the-week litany in the verses is cute enough, but it’s the bridge that pulls everything together and convinces me that our protagonist really is in love, dammit.

1. XTC, “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”
Is Peter a stand-in for JFK? Jesus? Some random populist dude? All or none of the above? Got me; what I do know is I was disappointed that Nonsuch became the last new music from XTC until almost the end of the decade.

Modern Rock Tracks, 4/11/92

By mid-April 1992, my job search for a college math position was languishing. An interview in February at a regional school in northwest Indiana had bombed (looking back it’s easy to see that now; then, I had to be told by the chair of the search committee just how far down I was on their ranked list of interviewed candidates). Around this time, a small school in Illinois to which I’d applied did send me a letter, essentially offering me a job sight unseen. That, along with the accompanying minuscule salary, set off enough red flags to cause me to quickly decline. I was beginning to countenance the possibility of staying at UIUC another year, leading me to put off scheduling the defense of my dissertation.

Probably the most memorable event of the spring was a trip to Maryland that Greg, Karl, and I took over a long Easter weekend to see Greg’s wife Katie. Like this year, Easter fell pretty late in 1992, on April 19. All three of us had research assistantships without teaching duties that spring, so we left early on Thursday morning in my 1986 Camry, easily the most reliable of the vehicles at our disposal.

It’s about 700 miles between Urbana, IL, and the Maryland suburbs northeast of DC, so despite switching off drivers, it was a pretty long day. We all crashed at Katie’s apartment–being poor grad students, Karl and I slept on couches or in sleeping bags on the living room floor. It was nice to meet Chrissie and Lisa, Katie’s roommates (and also first-year math grad students at UMD), after learning some about them over the previous months via Greg and Katie’s phone conversations.

It was a pretty laid-back time. I don’t recall going into DC to do any sightseeing–I imagine overall we stayed within a decent radius of the apartment, though I’m sure a visit to a record store or two was high on the list of things to do. I tuned into the alternative station WHFS when I could, as I had done three months earlier when in Baltimore for the math conference where I’d had some initial interviews.

The guys did drive up to Baltimore ‘s Inner Harbor on Friday evening to see the fourth-ever game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards–we sat in the right field bleachers.

The O’s won 8-0, the fourth consecutive time one of the teams had failed to score in the new park. Rick Sutcliffe started for Baltimore, pitching the last of his career 18 complete-game shutouts; the offensive hero was first baseman Randy Milligan, who had two jacks and 6 RBI. The main thing I recall from the evening, though, is the razzing from the fans (one of whom might have been Greg) that Rob Deer, playing RF for the Tigers, endured throughout.

On the way home on Easter, we made the mistake of assuming that a straight line was the quickest way between two points, and lost a few hours on the back roads of northern West Virginia and southern Ohio. I don’t know now whether it was planned in advance, but we veered a little south to Florence to spend Sunday night with my parents and sister (who happened to be home at the time), arriving back in IL on Monday afternoon. A long trip for a short visit, but well worth it.

As for what was on the Modern Rock Tracks chart (and likely WHFS’s playlist) at the time, well, let’s take a gander…

30. Cowboy Junkies, “Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park”
This still-active Canadian outfit, best known for their cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” never could quite break through. At one point I owned Black Eyed Man but I’m not finding it in my collection now.

28. Tori Amos, “Silent All These Years”
My favorite song of the year, from my favorite album of the year. I’d picked up Little Earthquakes by this time, and Greg and I had already connected Amos to her past life as Y Kant Tori Read.

WHFS was also playing her version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (which is included on the soon-to-be-released “Crucify” EP) while we were visiting.

27. Peter Case, “Dream About You”
I like Case’s third solo album, Six-Pack of Love, quite a bit–I believe I bought it on that trip. While I get the criticism about Mitchell Froom’s (over-)production, “Dream About You” is still a pop delight.

20. E, “Hello Cruel World”
I was last-week-years-old, doing research for my radio show featuring many of the songs on this chart, when I learned that E (Mark Oliver Everett) went on to found the band Eels (“Novacaine for the Soul”) later in the decade. This catchy number deserved more attention.

18. Lush, “For Love”
If Lush is on the countdown, you can be sure I’m going to note it and embed a video. “For Love” was their second and last MRT Top 10 song. It’ll be another four years before they appear here again (how “Hypocrite,” from Split, didn’t score remains a mystery to me).

17. Nirvana, “Come As You Are”
Currently, the owner of the second-longest run on the chart (13 weeks)–the endurance champ is still to come.

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Under the Bridge”
I’m not a big RHCP fan by any means, but I’ve always really, really liked “Under the Bridge.” Can’t help but note, though, that seemingly every song of theirs I’ve heard on the radio since bears at least some resemblance to it.

9. Concrete Blonde, “Ghost of a Texas Ladies’ Man
Johnette and company had peaked in various ways with their previous release Bloodletting; I wasn’t as impressed with this first single from Walking in London.

7. James, “Born of Frustration”
Seven came out on the heels of the re-recorded “Sit Down” from the previous year. “Born of Frustration” was its second single, but the only one to make a dent in the U.S.

5. The Sugarcubes, “Hit”
It’s been a long time since I’d heard “Hit,” but after taking a listen preparing this post, I can unequivocally say it’s the ‘Cubes best song–I’d completely forgotten how good it is. Stick Around for Joy was their swan song, though–in just over a year, we’d be treated to Björk’s first solo project, Debut.

4. Sarah McLachlan, “Into the Fire”
The song that informed us that McLachlan was well on her way. The stuff on Vox is nice enough, but “Into the Fire” was a major step forward. Likely my favorite of hers.

3. David Byrne, “She’s Mad”
From his second post-Heads solo album Uh-Oh. The video has lots of special effects that were revolutionary at the time but sure feel dated now. I do like the line, “If sex is a weapon, who’s winning the war?”

2. U2, “One”
The previous week’s #1, in its fifteenth of twenty-three weeks in MRT-land. Sure, Bono’s lyrics got more and more precious over time, but I’m giving him a pass on this tune.

1. The Cure, “High”
Wish was about a week away from its release. “High” isn’t the album’s most enduring track–we’ll be featuring that one in June–but it definitely satisfied Cure fans’ appetites after almost three years without new material.

Modern Rock Tracks, 2/1/92

At the beginning of February 1992 I was well into my search for a tenure-track job at a college or university. I’d blanketed the country with packets containing a cover letter, my CV, and statements summarizing my dissertation research and teaching philosophy. I was not discriminating in where applications were sent–part of that was naivete, though it was true that the market was probably a little tight, with a number of mathematicians from the former Soviet Union looking to migrate to the U.S. Three weeks earlier, we’d all descended on Baltimore for the Joint Mathematics Meetings to give talks and attempt to impress institutions that were hiring with our potential. I participated in the Employment Register, which was run in a manner comparable to a speed-dating event. Both applicants and employers submitted lists of desirable targets, and a computer did its best to make matches. Applicants spent the better part of a couple of mornings visiting tables for 15-minute stretches. (I have no idea how many success stories arose from this practice, but it was still going on twenty years later–I got to participate on the employer side three times over the years.)

While I also had a few more extended interviews outside of the Register, I returned to Illinois without the sense I’d made a favorable impression anywhere. Truth be told, I really hadn’t given enough thought over the past couple of years about how I might contribute to the profession, and I imagine that showed when I talked with prospective future colleagues. The one thing I did come to realize as the process unwound was that I felt better suited for a smaller liberal arts place (much like my undergraduate institution) than a regional state school or (heaven forbid) a research university.

Three nice things from that conference external to any of the goings-on: 1) I had my first experience with Indian cuisine one evening–I’ve been a huge fan ever since; 2) I was able to hang some with Katie, who was in the middle of her first year at the University of Maryland; 3) I got a chance to listen WHFS, D.C.’s alternative rock station. It was a welcome change of pace from the options in Champaign-Urbana. That said, I was already aware (through 120 Minutes, mostly) of a number of the songs on this Modern Rock Tracks chart. It’s one I’ve been anxious to tuck into for some time, so without further ado…

#28. Lush, “Nothing Natural”
I’ve written about my affinity for “Nothing Natural” before, on a mixtape write-up–it’s the song that really turned me on to Lush.

#27. My Bloody Valentine, “Only Shallow”
Under all the noise–and despite the vocals being buried in the mix–there’s a conventional song structure here (although with an instrumental interlude instead of a chorus). Loveless is regarded as a masterpiece, but it also proved to be a dead-end for MBV–how do you follow up something like it?

I am a big fan of this song.

#25. Pearl Jam, “Alive”
Something tells me we’ll be hearing more from these guys.

#23. The Real People, “Window Pane”
I noted last go-round how some album covers (for records I never bought) from this period plant me right back in the Campustown Record Service. Here’s another one, seen below. Not sure I heard “Window Pane” back then. It’s a nice piece, but I think it would have gotten more notice had it been recorded about a year earlier.

#21. The Lightning Seeds, “The Life of Riley”
The title of the U.S. 1940s-50s radio and TV series The Life of Riley came from an already well-known expression. After reading through the Wikipedia page for that show, I now understand where a phrase my mother and grandmother frequently used–“What a revolting development this is” –originated.

I realize this really doesn’t have anything to do with Ian Broudie’s latest single, but that’s part of the price you pay for coming here.

#19. Lloyd Cole, “Tell Your Sister”
Cole borrows ‘Rue Morgue Avenue’ from “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” but this solid rocker about an other-side-of-the-tracks relationship bears no other resemblance to Dylan.

#14. Live, “Operation Spirit (The Tradition of Tyranny)”
The pride of York, PA, made a little noise with debut album Mental Jewelry. This Jerry Harrison-produced tune is just a little too earnest; I’m more of a fan of songs on their 1994 breakthrough Throwing Copper.

#13. Social Distortion, “Bad Luck”
Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell helped Mike Ness and band maintain the momentum their previous, self-titled release had established. “Bad Luck” wound up as their greatest success on the MRT chart.

#12. Midge Ure, “Cold, Cold Heart”
The former singer for Ultravox strikes with a single from his third solo album, Pure. No relation to the Hank Williams classic (or the recent Dua Lipa/Elton John hit, for that matter)–instead it’s a uplifting tune with a delightful African feel. Somehow I overlooked this one back in the day; it was the discovery of the weekend.

#11. Saint Etienne, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”
There’s a strong chance this will be the best Neil Young cover you hear today. Even if I think it goes on a little too long, these Brits came up with an irresistibly trippy groove. This gets two big thumbs up as well.

#4. Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend”
Another excellent song featured on an earlier mixtape post. Twelve days after this chart date I’d hear Sweet play this in concert, opening for Robyn Hitchcock.

#7. U2, “Until the End of the World”
#2. Lou Reed, “What’s Good”
#1. The Talking Heads, “Sax and Violins”

The top ten is chock-full of tunes off the soundtrack of Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World. U2 still has “Mysterious Ways” on the chart at #15, as well as yet another song from Achtung Baby that we’ll address come April. “What’s Good” also appeared on Reed’s Magic and Loss, while “Sax and Violins” showed up on the Heads’ compilation Sand in the Vaseline. Somehow this last song escaped my notice then; I’m making up for lost time now.

Modern Rock Tracks, 12/7/91

The American Contract Bridge League has just wrapped up its first in-person National tournament in two years (they usually hold them three times annually, in March, July, and November–host cities vary from tourney to tourney). My friend Mark L jetted off to Austin on Thanksgiving Day and quickly garnered a third-place finish in a big team event–congrats, Mark! I’ve never been good enough at the game to attend any and all Nationals, but I’ve often showed up for a few days when they’re geographically close.

That was the case in late November 1991, when the Fall Nationals landed in Indianapolis–fortunately for me, the midpoint between grad school and home. I played both weekends, on either side of Turkey Day (yes, one could spend the holiday at the card table if one so chose). On the first weekend, my friend Chris and I drove over from Champaign to play in a multi-day pairs event for non-Life Masters. We survived the first-day cut, and were in contention for a high finish going into the last session. For a brief moment that evening, it felt like we might have a shot at glory, but it was not to be.

As for the world of modern music from thirty years ago, it’s the usual mix of bands from the UK making their mark, along with a few tasty American entries. Let’s see what had us licking our chops.

28. Top, “Number One Dominator”
Please let me know if you know anything about this British troupe. Their sound is very much of the times—almost to the point of being derivative, already—but they seem to have disappeared without a trace after releasing Emotion Lotion.

25. Ian McCulloch, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”
A cut from the Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan. My recollection is that R.E.M.’s version of “First We Take Manhattan” got the most notice.

22. Dire Straits, “Heavy Fuel”
Don’t want to be a snob, but it feels a little strange to see Mark Knopfler and company on this chart. The song was at #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart this week.

21. The Pixies, “Letter to Memphis”
Somehow, I don’t remember hearing anything from Trompe le Monde when it came out. This is a nifty little tune.

20. Texas, “In My Heart”
Lead single from their second LP. I bought Mothers Heaven because I’d enjoyed Southside so much, but it never clicked with me the same way. That said, I’ll be playing this song on my radio show this Thursday.

19. Enya, “Caribbean Blue”
Much more lilting than “Orinoco Flow,”though not nearly as immediately arresting.

17. Curve, “Coast Is Clear”
Hypnotic beat, brutal lyrics. I’m a big fan—it made a mixtape that I wrote up a couple of years ago.

16. This Picture, “Naked Rain”
Last December when the Irish band An Emotional Fish appeared in this series, I commented on the similarity between their sound and that of U2. In response, my friend Greg emailed me with the following: 

“Now if you want complete U2 wannabe poseurdom, you need to listen to Energy Orchard (“Belfast” 1990) or This Picture (1989-1995). Now there are two bands completely devoid of independent creativity.”

Based on “Naked Rain,” I think Greg was being too harsh on This Picture (it’s probable he was being a little over-the-top, too). I like its intensity.

15. Teenage Fanclub, “Star Sign”
Not that these guys aren’t good (they are), but apparently choosing to channel Big Star can garner your band positive critical reception.

14. The Smithereens, “Tell Me When Did Things Go So Wrong”
I knocked Blow Up last go-round; this brief song feels much more like classic Smithereens fare.

12. Blur, “There’s No Other Way”
Did Blur garner its moderate 90s success only because of chameleon-like changes in style as musical fashions evolved? I dunno, but their singles still rock my world from time to time.

11. Kate Bush, “Rocket Man”
Another tribute album out at the time was Two Rooms, meant to suggest the method by which Bernie Taupin and Elton John collaborated. Kate sure made this her own.

8. Dramarama, “Haven’t Got a Clue”
We’re getting to the tail end of the era where 12” album covers dominated the scene inside record stores. From this countdown alone, I can remember seeing those for current releases from the Pixies, Teenage Fanclub, Blur, This Picture, U2, and Dramarama in various spots around Record Service in Champaign at the end of 1991. Dramarama’s new one was even called Vinyl, of all things.

7. The Ocean Blue, “Ballerina Out of Control”
The top comment on this video proclaims The Ocean Blue as “the best British band to ever come out of Pennsylvania.” They deserved more attention than they ever received.

9. U2, “The Fly”
1. U2, “Mysterious Ways”

I’m an unrepentant fan of Achtung Baby, and I’ll even go so far to say that I’d rather listen to it than The Joshua Tree these days. They’re absolutely glomming on to sounds emanating from the UK, but to these ears it’s a brilliant synthesis rather than blatant copycatting.

Modern Rock Tracks, 10/5/91

My fall of 1991 was a mix of work and play. By October, my advisor had assured me the results I had in hand were sufficiently novel and substantial to comprise a dissertation; still, I was investigating additional cases and beginning to accumulate other bits of new knowledge. Academic job postings for the 1992-93 year had begun showing up in the Director of Graduate Studies’ office, so efforts at constructing teaching and research statements for applications were underway, too. I was also playing a ton of bridge, having made trips to tournaments in St. Louis and Ft. Wayne since the school year had started.

And there was music to listen to at Greg’s and my apartment. Much of it was hitting the Modern Rock Tracks chart of the day, so it’s natural to take our usual gander at bits and pieces of that. (About a third of the songs written up below didn’t register with me at the time.)

30. Gary Clail On-U Sound System, “Human Nature”
Starting off this month with a sermon, almost literally: this club hit is channeling parts of a Billy Graham speech (according to Wikipedia, anyway). Current mood: Clail’s thesis isn’t incorrect, at least across too-wide swaths of the population.

26. The Blue Aeroplanes, “Yr Own World”
I don’t recall having seen a group list a dancer as one of its official members before, but thirty years on, Vojtek Dmochowski is still with the band. Vocalist Gerard Langley’s sing-speak is a cross between the Godfathers’ “Birth, School, Work, Death” and the Nails’ “88 Lines about 44 Women.”

24. Mary’s Danish, “Julie’s Blanket”
Circa came out a couple of years after MD’s debut There Goes the Wondertruck… and produced this gem, undoubtedly the only song in recorded history with the parenthetic subtitle pigsheadsnakeface. After one more album in 1992, the band chose to pack it in.

It’s the month for interesting (?) covers. Circa includes a take on “Foxey Lady.”

22. The Golden Palominos, “Alive and Living Now”
Drunk with Passion mostly features collaborations between head Palomino Anton Fier and ex-Information Society member Amanda Kramer. It also includes songs co-written with Bob Mould and Michael Stipe; “Alive and Living Now” is sung by the latter.

19. Big Audio Dynamite II, “The Globe”
Mick decides to sample a song from his old band, and makes it work. Sure seems like I heard this a lot more than “Rush” back in the day.

15. Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Shadowtime”
If there’s fault to find with “Peek-a-Boo” and “Kiss Them for Me,” it’s that each has a whiff of novelty to them. Maybe that’s enough to push the utterly delightful, elliptic “Shadowtime” into the conversation about Siouxsie’s best song?

13. Voice of the Beehive, “Monsters and Angels”
Honey Lingers, the Beehive’s second album, produced their first song to make the pop charts here in the U.S.; “Monsters and Angels” would reach #74 in November. (The album also contains an overhaul of “I Think I Love You,” with melody and chorus you expect, but musical backing that could have only been created in 1991 Britain.)

Edward Hopper fans may or may not enjoy this video.

12. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Give It Away”
RHCP’s ascension had begun with Mother’s Milk and their cover of “Higher Ground,” but Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the album put them on almost everyone’s radar. Wouldn’t object if “Give It Away” were about a minute shorter, though.

11. Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Welcome to the grunge era. I’ll admit that I found “SLTS” revolutionary; to me, it’s the closest thing I’d know to hearing “Satisfaction” in the mid-60s.

8. Lloyd Cole, “She’s a Girl and I’m a Man”
One of two songs in this Top 10 on a mix tape I made in early 1992 (#5 is the other). I’ve not liked its title for some time, but a fair reading of the lyrics leads one to conclude Cole isn’t necessarily on the side of the “man.”

7. Squeeze, “Satisfied”
Play was the fourth post-reunion album from Difford, Tilbrook et. al., the first after Jools Holland’s second departure, and the final with Gilson Lavis on drums. “Satisfied” would be their last song to garner chart action of any sort outside of the UK.

5. Northside, “Take Five”
One huge advantage Katie had over Greg after she moved to Maryland was access to mighty fine alternative radio. WHFS, 99.1, was the absolute bomb compared to anything we had in the hinterlands of Urbana-Champaign. “Take Five” is one of the songs she passed on to Greg (and hence me) that fall/winter. Yes, it’s goofy, but I way dig it.

4. Billy Bragg, “Sexuality”
Can’t say much for Bragg’s voice, but he does have a way with a tune. Kirsty MacColl does her usual bang-up job on backup vocals, as well as hamming it up behind Billy’s back.

2. The Smithereens, “Top of the Pops”
Greg brought Blow Up back to the apartment pretty much immediately after its release. Overall I wasn’t as impressed as with previous efforts, particularly “Too Much Passion.” I worry they were a wee bit too passionate about reaching the top of the pops.

1. Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, “So You Think You’re in Love”
Cult favorite enjoying his last relatively decent commercial success, Perspex Island. These days he’s hanging out in Nashville with Australia native Emma Swift, who released an album of Dylan covers last year.

Modern Rock Tracks, 8/3/91

Greg and Katie arrived in Champaign-Urbana in the fall of 1987 from Atlanta (he’d gone to Georgia Tech, she Emory). They’d been high school sweethearts in North Carolina. Greg was a year ahead of Katie in school, so he’d gotten a Masters from Tech while waiting for her to graduate. He came to Illinois for electrical engineering, while she was there for physics. Somewhere along the way, though, Katie realized she wasn’t on the right path. Not long after I met them in late 1989, she started taking math classes. When that turned out not to be wholly satisfactory either, she began looking for another school, and wound up deciding on the applied math program at the University of Maryland, beginning fall 1991. Greg still had a couple of years left on his Ph.D., and they made the very hard decision to live apart while he finished up. He and I had bonded over both the bridge table and shared musical interests, I’d been living by myself for the past year…it made decent sense to become roommates.

And so not long after my return from the bridge excursion to Las Vegas, we each moved about a quarter-mile (to the east for Greg, to the west for me) to my fifth and final home in IL. After a couple of weeks, Katie took off for College Park, and there he and I were, playing (and buying) lots and lots of music; I learned a lot that year. My old roomie John continued to drive down from Chicago to fulfill the duties of his teaching assistantship, crashing on the couch on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, just as he had in my apartment the previous year.

Rooming with a good friend has potential to ruin said friendship, but Greg and I got along just fine. I’m sure the situation was much tougher on him than I realized, but I had a great time over those last twelve months of being a grad student.

Some of the songs on this week’s Modern Rock Tracks chart were quite familiar at the time, others not at all. It can’t hurt to take a look, though…

27. O.M.D., “Pandora’s Box (It’s a Long, Long Way)”
Sugar Tax was the first O.M.D release without Paul Humphreys; Greg spun it a few times in the apartment that fall (Katie was a huge fan of theirs). This song was inspired by American actress Louise Brooks, who starred in the late 20s German silent film Pandora’s Box.

26. Ric Ocasek, “Rockaway”
Fun lead track from Ric’s third solo disk, Fireball Zone, co-produced by Nile Rodgers.

23. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, “Sex on Wheelz”
Cannot say I was much into the industrial scene, and this one’s not encouraging me to give it a longer look. From the LP Sexplosion! (Only partially-related aside: does anyone else think Errol Brown is really singing “It’s sextasy” toward the end of “You Sexy Thing”?)

22. Milltown Brothers, “Which Way Should I Jump?”
Lots and lots of British acts here–it’s where so much of the interesting stuff was happening at the time. Probably have noted this before, but maybe the best part of this series for me is uncovering great songs that eluded my attention thirty years ago. Love the snarl in the vocals and the exuberance of the guitar and drumming on this one; I’ll have to seek out more of Slinky.

20. James, “Sit Down”
The original version of this very catchy thing, released two years earlier, ran for over seven-and-a-half minutes. The lads re-recorded it after experiencing some success with their 1990 album Mother Gold (and included the new take on a re-issue of MG).

19. Richard Thompson, “I Feel So Good”
It felt like Record Service was playing Rumour and Sigh every time I was in the store during the summer of ’91. I didn’t know (but am hardly surprised) that “I Feel So Good” was a promoted cut. It’s a standout.

18. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, “Happy”
Greg and I jokingly called this British bunch Ned’s Atomic Bedpan, really much more playing with language than commenting on the music. I heard (and likely enjoyed) “Grey Cell Green” more back in the day, but “Happy” isn’t bad.

13. R.E.M., “Shiny Happy People”
Athens folks meeting in the crowd and taking it into town here, with Kate Pierson joining in on one of her two contributions to Out of Time. R.E.M.’s fourth and final Top 10 pop hit.

11. The Candyskins, “Submarine Song”
This driving number is solid enough, yet somehow it doesn’t leave all that much of an impression afterward.

10. Seal, “Crazy”
The relatively rare song to be high on the Modern Rock and Hot 100 charts simultaneously. “Crazy” had already topped out here, but was #18 pop and aiming toward a #7 peak. I’ll take this over “Kiss from a Rose” 10 times out of 10.

8. Erasure, “Chorus”
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke were having trouble duplicating the commercial success they’d enjoyed with The Innocents; this perfectly serviceable dance track, the title song of their new album, stalled out at #83 on the Hot 100.

7. Chapterhouse, “Pearl”
I’ve got to go online and add to my shoegaze collection. I don’t recall hearing “Pearl” thirty years ago–I have to think I would have been all over it if I had. While about half-way through it sounds as though that Chapterhouse is ripping off the song at #1 below, this blog post from four years ago claims that the riff was a standard offering on Roland synthesizers (the bands were working with the same producer, too).

5. Crowded House, “Chocolate Cake”
Neil Finn’s brother (and former Split Enz mate) Tim joined the band for Woodface, their third album. The boys from New Zealand were definitely not suffering fools (or at least Tammy Faye Bakker Messner–of course, they should have taken aim at her former husband instead) here.

4. Kirsty MacColl, “Walking Down Madison”
Probably not what I expected to hear from Kirsty after digging Kite so much for the previous year, but it’s utterly brilliant. Certainly the closest she came to having a hit stateside.

2. Big Audio Dynamite II, “Rush”
“The only important thing these days is rhythm…and melody.” Right?

1. Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Kiss Them for Me”
They’d been making noise on the UK charts since 1978 and had enjoyed a little success on the Dance chart over here, but like many folks in the U.S., I didn’t give Siouxsie and company much mind until “Peek-a-Boo” (which, I’ve mentioned before, was #1 on the inaugural MRT chart in September 1988). This one actually cracked the Top 40, peaking at #23 in October. I’m a big fan, having included it on a mix tape almost three years after this.

A sea change begins with our next installment, in October.

Modern Rock Tracks, 6/1/91

It was around this time that I started a subscription to Hoot, a bi-weekly comics newspaper out of Columbus, OH. I’d learned about it on a May visit to a college friend who was doing the med school thing at the Ohio State University. Not all of it was to my taste, but it did serve as an introduction to Zippy the Pinhead and Bizarro. Not sure now whether I kept getting it after I moved back to KY; I do wish I’d held on to at least one copy. It’s long been defunct, but I’ll bet I could find issues in the archives at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at tOSU.

Anyway. Moving on to our next survey of the alternative scene of 30 years ago…

30. Jesus Jones, “International Bright Young Thing”
JJ is tied for having the oldest song on the countdown, as Casey liked to say: 11 weeks, same as “See the Lights” from Simple Minds, to which we tipped our cap back in April.

28. Peter Himmelman, “Woman with the Strength of 10,000 Men”
This one is new to me. It’s based on an encounter the artist had with Susan, who was dying of ALS yet persevered in communicating with others after she lost use of everything except her left eyebrow. Himmelman, originally from the Twin Cities, wrote at length about the experience three years ago here. It’s an affecting, earnest song about an important lesson learned.

26. The Popinjays, “Vote Elvis”
This Brit-pop group had one album that went nowhere under their belt by this point. “Vote Elvis” (I’m unsure which one they’re lobbying for) was a subsequent single that ultimately appeared on 1992’s Flying Down to Mono Valley. Fun track, but “Monster Mouth,” which I’ll play here someday, is that album’s best song.

24. Dream Warriors, “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style”
I wasn’t much of one to seek out rap/hip hop back in the day, though there were acts (De La Soul, Beastie Boys, Arrested Development, Us3) that held appeal. Dream Warriors would have been another had I ever encountered them.

The cute thing here (which I confess I wouldn’t have known without consulting Wikipedia) is that the song being sampled–Quincy Jones’s “Soul Bossa Nova”–was the theme for the long-running, 70s and 80s Canadian game show Definition.

20. Too Much Joy, “Crush Story”
Is “Crush Story” my favorite song on this chart? It sure is in the running.

The guys from Scarsdale got back together recently and just released Mistakes Were Made, on Bandcamp, in March.

17. Hoodoo Gurus, “Miss Freelove ’69”
A little less Australian music this time than we sometimes get in these MRT forays. This psychedelic track, from the perhaps appropriately named Kinky, commemorated a real-life bacchanalia involving head Guru Dave Faulkner.

15. Material Issue, “Diane”
Somewhere around the spring of 1992, I created a mix tape consisting of songs with women’s names in their titles. I had my choice from among the first three tracks on International Pop Overthrow–“Diane” won the day. What an intro this song has.

14. Fishbone, “Sunless Saturday”
These fellows from SoCal have been a thing of sorts for over forty years, first getting together while in junior high (a couple of them, vocalist Angelo Moore and bassist John Fisher, have been there the whole time–three other original members are back with the band after taking leave at various times). I don’t think I’ve heard much of their music, but man, “Sunless Saturday” sure is a ferocious, unrelenting piece.

13. Dave Wakeling, “I Want More”
From No Warning, his one solo album. Wakeling and Ranking Roger fronted competing 21st century re-formations of the (English) Beat on the two sides of the Atlantic.

7. The Farm, “All Together Now”
The things one didn’t catch in real time, part 28,517: a song about a soccer match on Christmas Day, 1914 between the warring sides on the Western Front of WWI. And yes, there’s good reason for you to think about Pachelbel’s Canon during the chorus.

6. Electronic, “Get the Message”
A year after “Getting Away with It” had charted on this side of the pond, Sumner/Marr/Tennant finally released their debut self-titled disk. “Get the Message” would hit #1 on this chart in three weeks; it’s long been a fave.

5. Violent Femmes, “American Music”
Why Do Birds Sing? was the Femmes’ fifth album. I didn’t think much of “American Music” when I first heard it that spring–too repetitive, too far removed from their epic debut. I’m hearing some of its joy now.

3. The La’s, “There She Goes”
Amazing to me that the La’s just seemed to vanish after this big breakthrough. The Sixpence None the Richer cover is fine, but I’ll take the original every time.

Am I alone in thinking that vocalist Lee Mavers was kinda doing a Frankie Valli thing when he sings, “And I just can’t contain…”?

1. Elvis Costello, “The Other Side of Summer”
Lead track from Mighty Like a Rose. In many ways this sounds like vintage EC, but the string is just about played out: he’d chart with only one more single in the U.S. after this (1994’s “13 Steps Lead Down”).

Not what Costello was on about, but: here we are, on one side of summer 2021; what will we learn by the time we reach the other?

Modern Rock Tracks, 4/6/91

This marks the second anniversary of my dives into the increasingly influential world of alternative music as it unfolded thirty years ago. Grunge is creeping closer to the horizon, but there are still a few more episodes of MRT to go before that tsunami hits.

As for my April 1991: I was in my last semester of grad school teaching (had the good fortune that my advisor could support me via a grant for the final year). Otherwise I was making strides on my dissertation and playing too much bridge; at the end of the month, Mark L, Milind, Chris, and I spent a weekend in Peoria qualifying for a July trip to the summer nationals in Vegas.

29. Eleventh Dream Day, “Rose of Jericho”
Chicago bands often garnered attention in the record stores of Champaign-Urbana, so I was a little familiar with this band. They’d gotten a major-label deal following their epicly-titled, breakout indie 1988 release Prairie School Freakout, but were unable to parlay that into significant sales in three tries on Atlantic. “Rose of Jericho” was their second and last time on the Modern Rock Chart; it had already topped out at #27.

28. The Feelies, “Sooner or Later”
This sounds like it comes from a completely different era, maybe late 70s? I’m definitely digging on it now, though–could be time for a trip through their catalog.

27. Dinosaur Jr., “The Wagon”
J Mascis has one of the more distinctive voices of the alternative scene; wasn’t hard to pick it out when he helped out Band of Horses on “In a Drawer” five years ago.

23. Lenny Kravitz, “Always on the Run”
Kravitz channels Sly Stone on this first featured track from Mama Said. Slash is also in the house, wielding his axe. (I prefer Kravitz’s remake of “That’s the Way of the World,” er, I mean “It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over.”)

Light Skin Girl from London,” one of the B-sides of the CD single for “Always on the Run,” came up more than once while listening to WOXY on travels back and forth to KY during this period.

19. Enigma, “Sadeness (Pt. 1)”
Gregorian chant meets up with the master of pleasureful pain and hits the dance floor. The result is a #1 hit all over the world, but only #5 here in the States.

18. Lush, “De-Luxe”
I guess this is in straight 3/4 time, but I’m sorely tempted to say it’s alternating between 3/4 and 6/4 in spots. Whatever it is, this is squarely in my wheelhouse.

17. Throwing Muses, “Counting Backwards”
Lead single from The Real Ramona. I was only 27 at the time, but that made me a little long in the tooth compared to some of the folks on this chart. The Muses’ Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly weren’t even 25 yet; Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson of Lush had just turned or were about to turn (respectively) 24. Makes me feel like a wastrel, only thinking about polynomials in three or four variables…

14. John Wesley Harding, “The Person You Are”
Last April we spun “The Devil in Me” from Harding’s previous release; this one comes from The Name Above the Title. Haven’t steeped myself in his work, but I’ve found both of these songs thought-provoking, appealing pieces.

10. The Judybats, “Native Son”
Quite a few acts on this list were signed to Sire Records, including this sextet out of Knoxville (others are Dinosaur Jr., Muses, and Harding). This summer we’ll be checking out a 1991 Sire sampler on which all of them–and more!–appear.

This quirky, fun track is the title song from the Judybats’ debut LP–it’s also the tune currently lodged firmly in my head. I think what vocalist Jeff Heiskell is wearing in the clip is more cow than horse, but what do I know?

8. Havana 3AM, “Reach the Rock”
Short-lived band featuring Clash bassist Paul Simonon. This was their one stab at glory.

6. EMF, “Unbelievable”
Signs of the alternative scene’s increasing impact on the pop charts abound. Back in February, the top three of that MRT review went Top 10 on the Hot 100. This time, there are four songs out of these 30 that accomplished that: in addition to Enigma, the Divinyls and R.E.M. made it to #4, and EMF shot all the way to the top. I’m still a fan of “Unbelievable.”

5. Simple Minds, “See the Lights”
How did I miss this at the time? Gorgeous piece; even spent a week at #40 on the Hot 100 at the end of June. They still had it, five-plus years after Once Upon a Time.

4. Divinyls, “I Touch Myself”
Co-written by two members of the band and the powerhouse team of Steinberg/Kelly. This wasn’t the first time the band had leveraged the talents of outside writers: Mike Chapman and Holly Knight composed 1985’s “Pleasure and Pain,” a song I know I heard my senior year in college.

True story: the first time I heard “Birthday” from the Sugarcubes, I wondered if Christine Amphlett was singing (yes, I should have known better).

3. Material Issue, “Valerie Loves Me”
Our second Chicago band, though with a completely different approach: the classic power-pop trio. What a complete delight this is; we’ll feature another stellar cut from International Pop Overthrow in June.

2. Morrisey, “Our Frank”
Morrisey’s been a regular on the Modern Rock Track chart over these last two years, though I’ve frequently skipped over his contributions in these write-ups. We’ll throw him a bone this time; he’s pretty much still the same lyrically as he was with the Smiths.

1. R.E.M., “Losing My Religion”
The guys from Athens were coming off their first extended hiatus from recording; 1989 and 1990 were the first years without a new R.E.M. album since they’d started. Even if I don’t listen to Out of Time as much as some of their other albums, I can’t gripe that this wound up being their best-known song.

Modern Rock Tracks, 2/2/91

When I think of this point in time thirty years ago, just about the first thing that comes to mind is Operation Desert Storm, which officially began in mid-January and came to a close right as February did. The ground phase that ended it all was surprisingly short, just five days. On the last weekend of the month, I was in downtown Chicago, at a bridge tournament with Mark L when the announcement came over the PA that tanks were on the move. There was a lot of applause throughout the ballroom in response, though not at our table.

As for our first check-in with the nascent alternative scene for the year…while a number of these songs are awesome, I’m not feeling quite as much cumulative love this go-round as I have other times. We’ll look for things to get better later in the year, but we might as well take a peek.

28. Cocteau Twins, “Heaven or Las Vegas”
Songs are beginning to stay on the MRT chart longer on average–more and more frequently going forward, I’m getting to choose between two opportunities to write ’em up. This one was #21 back at the beginning of December and is now on the way down after a peak of #9.

27. The Pogues, “The Sunny Side of the Street”
Next time I’m in need of a pick-me-up, I may turn to this jaunty thing.

24. Inspiral Carpets, “This Is How It Feels”
I noted the silliness of the lyrics of “Commercial Rain” last time out, but the Carpets bounce back here with a thoughtful piece.

23. Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, “Fly Me Courageous”
I’d heard “Honeysuckle Blue” quite a bit on WPGU a couple of years earlier; they latched on to this one, too. Last March I’d made plans for a quick trip to the DC area to see 10K Maniacs with Greg and Katie, which obviously got postponed–these guys were scheduled to do a show in the area that weekend as well, though I doubt we would have gone.

18. The Charlatans UK, “White Shirt”
“Then” is sitting at #11 in its 15th week on, while this third single from Some Friendly is debuting.

14. Danielle Dax, “Tomorrow Never Knows”
What happens if you cover the Beatles using a Madchester backing track and female vocals? I believe it’s this.

13. The Darling Buds, “It Makes No Difference”
Two songs in a row produced by Stephen Street. A strong contender for my very favorite Buds tune. It’s close between this and #5 for best song on the chart.

12. Jellyfish, “That Is Why”
Saw Bellybutton featured at Record Service in Campustown for months on end, but never came close to pulling the trigger on a purchase. Please tell me how misguided I was. This is much better than “The King Is Half-Undressed,” which I passed over back in October.

10. They Eat Their Own, “Like a Drug”
Obscure band from LA that came and went very quickly. This is their one notable song, but it’s quite the song. I think I’ve got this CD somewhere still, no doubt courtesy of Greg.

9. The Mission UK, “Hands Across the Ocean”
These guys got their start after two of them left The Sisters of Mercy. Based on this song, I’d take them over SoM any day.

5. Lush, “Sweetness and Light”
This one slipped by me in real time–it’d take the release of “Nothing Natural” a year later for Lush to catch my attention. Started off as sort-of protegees of the Cocteau Twins but evolved a more rockin’ sound by the mid-90s, led by twin guitar attack of Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson. Their ascent was derailed by the suicide of drummer Chris Aclund in 1996; they broke up not long after. A Top 5 90s band in my head.

4. Happy Mondays, “Kinky Afro”
They get to the chorus and I’m suddenly having flashbacks to “Lady Marmalade.” Dig it, but it’s not quite at the level of “Step On.”

3. Jesus Jones, “Right Here, Right Now”
Sounds entirely of its time–about events of its time–yet somehow I don’t consider this a dated piece. Maybe it’s the infectious, unwarranted optimism…

2. Chris Isaak, “Wicked Game”
I think Isaak’s pretty good, and I’m definitely glad he made some coin off of this song, but there are plenty others of his I like better.

1. Sting, “All This Time”
Am I the only one who didn’t consider Sting an alternative/college rock artist by this point? I hear “We’ll Be Together” on SiriusXM’s 1st Wave, and it just sounds out of place. Ditto for this perfectly fine pop song.