Things had not changed much from 1990 to 1991. I was still obsessed with all things British. Still listening to a lot of Depeche Mode and The Smiths. Still very much living in the '80s. I had only just been introduced to Morrissey the year before. I listened to Viva Hate and Bona Drag all the time. I was a fan of Morrissey first since The Smiths had broken up before I even knew who they were. So it was fun to go back and discover The Smiths' albums for the first time. I started with Louder Than Bombs which was a fantastic way to introduce myself to the band. I then went back and discovered their studio albums one by one. Queen Is Dead, Meat Is Murder, Strangeways Here We Come and then The Smiths. I was hooked on Morrissey and The Smiths and there was no going back. I became a vegetarian in 1991. I started reading magazines more obsessively and trying to find out as much as I could about my favorite bands.
Both Morrissey and Erasure had new albums in 1991. These albums would both be a big part of my life that year. I can't really think about 1991 without thinking about Kill Uncle and Chorus. Nirvana released Nevermind in 1991. This album would change everything. Not everything exactly, but it did change a lot! I still remember my dad having the conversation with me about grunge. He asked me if I was "grunge." I probably answered "sort of." It was like me coming out of the closet. I also listened to so much Erasure in high school that I should have never really had to come out to my mom! I was still very much obsessed with my British bands. I was still into the goth, shoegaze, grebo and indie bands of the UK. But I also became a huge fan of Nirvana. I really had no choice. I didn't really notice Nirvana until Nevermind came out. But I listened to this album probably more than anything in 1991. Although I was probably still a bigger fan of my UK favorites then all the bands coming out of Seattle. Brit pop was just around the corner and would completely take over my life in the years that followed. But it was nice to actually be into a band from the US for a bit. Nirvana are actually one of three bands on my top ten of 1991 from the US. But the other two I actually always thought were British! They may have come from the US but they fit more into the British sound of the era. Nirvana sort of don't really fit in. But this album was too big to ignore and not put on this list. I couldn't deny its place on this list. I was quite obsessed with it. A lot of us were.
So here it is. My top ten albums of 1991...
My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (Sire)
Loveless was released in 1991. My Bloody Valentine had released Isn't Anything in 1988 and many singles and EPs in between. But I had never heard anything about them until Loveless. I don't really remember a point in my life not liking My Bloody Valentine. But obviously there was life before this band. I think I just fell in love with My Bloody Valentine after a couple of seconds into Loveless. I actually probably just bought this album because of the artwork. "Only Shallow" was the first track on the album and all I needed to know that I had found my new favorite band. They sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. And they got me ready for a whole new type of music. I would soon be obsessed with Lush, Chapterhouse, Slowdive, Curve, Spiritualized and anybody who sounded like My Bloody Valentine. The music was loud and full of feedback and distortion and all sorts of stuff that I really not heard before. Except for maybe Sonic Youth. They were sort of the Sonic Youth of Ireland. The music was somehow beautiful beneath all that noise. I could not get enough Loveless in my life. I have listened to this album so much over the years. These albums have never not been a part of my life since I first heard them. I picked up Isn't Anything a couple of years after Loveless and collected all the EPs that I could find. Loveless features "Only Shallow," "When You Sleep," "Sometimes" and "Soon." But this album is really just fantastic from start to finish. You can't not listen to the whole thing once you start it. Some of my favorite songs are on the EPs. I love "Cigarette In Your Bed," "Drive It All Over Me," "Honey Power" and "You Made Me Realise." But Loveless will always be one of my favorite albums. It was my introduction to the band. The album cover remains one of my favorites. Where would we be without Loveless and My Bloody Valentine? The band only released two studio albums, but when you create something so amazing sometimes it is better just to stop there. These albums could never be replicated. We finally got some long overdue remastered reissues of the My Bloody Valentine catalog this year.
Chapterhouse - Whirlpool (Dedicated)
Whirlpool was the first album released by Chapterhouse. It is another classic shoegaze album that really still holds up. It sounds just as good as it did back then. And it is similar to Loveless in that it is fantastic from the first to last song. I don't even know what to say about this band. They are just one of those bands that I love. I feel like they existed for such a short time but had such a big impact on me. For some reason this album never got as popular as albums by Ride, Lush, Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine. It really should have. The band went on to put out one more studio album a couple of years later, but Whirpool is the album that I always go back to. "Pearl" is the second track on the album and simply one of the best songs of the 1991. I can listen to this song over and over again. It never gets old. The album also features "Breather," "Falling Down" and "Something More." I never had the chance to see these guys live back in the '90s, but I did get to see them last year when they came back to LA for a quick little tour. It was so fun to see a band that I had never seen before performing songs from an album that I was obsessed with from 20 years ago. It seriously felt like it was 1991. I also got to see My Bloody Valentine a couple of years ago. And I also thought I would never see them perform live. This album did get reissued a couple of years ago and I think probably got some new fans along the way. It is one of greatest of the era of early '90s shoegaze.
The Ocean Blue - Cerulean (Sire)
I always had an album like this every year that I was obsessed with. It was The Lightning Seeds in 1990. Years later it would be Belle & Sebastian or Jens Lekman. I needed something from the lighter side of indie music to balance me out. And I can always use some jangly twee in my life. The Ocean Blue are another band that I always thought were British, just like Anything Box and Book of Love. I was really surprised to find out these guys are from Hershey, Pennsylvania! I didn't do any research on these guys back in the '90s. I sure don't remember them ever being covered by any magazine I was reading. I just assumed they were British! I guess I never looked at the liner notes on the album! This band were clearly influenced by the British bands of the '80s like Echo & The Bunnymen and The Smiths.
I think I got into this band by first listening to them at my friends house. I remember borrowing Cerulean and their self titled album. They released that self titled album in 1989. Cerulean was their second album. I was obsessed with Cerulean, like any of the other albums on this list. The album featured "Cerulean," "Ballerina Out Of Control" and "Mercury." They went on to put out 5 studio albums total. I was really only a fan of those first three. But this one is still my favorite. It is just a perfect pop record. They were popular on college radio and developed a small cult following, but never really got that big. I was actually excited when I first heard that band The Drums a couple of years ago. They also sounded British and totally reminded me of The Ocean Blue!
Book Of Love - Candy Carol (Sire)
Book of Love were another band that I got into in the '90s that sounded like they were in the '80s. They had been in the '80s so it made sense that they never really lost that late '80s sound. But it worked for them. They were also another band that I always thought was from the UK. But like The Ocean Blue they were from Pennsylvania! I had no idea. I first probably heard this band in the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles in 1987. I was obsessed with this movie. I still am. And like most John Hughes movies it had a great soundtrack. The Soundtrack featured "Modigliani (Lost In Your Eyes)" from their self titled debut album from 1986. That album also featured "Boy." Book Of Love released Lullaby in 1988 and then Candy Carol in 1991. Candy Carol was the first album that I owned from Book Of Love. But I had been a big fan of their songs from the first two albums. They were a new wave band from the '80s, but one of the few popular new wave bands that didn't come from the UK. They transitioned into synthpop in the late '80s and early '90s - which is pretty much the same. Book of Love had a sort of dark feel to them even though their songs were very much pop songs. I was excited when this band was again featured in another movie in 1991, The Silence Of The Lambs! "Sunny Day" from the Candy Carol album was actually featured in the movie. Lauren Roselli is also featured in the movie while their song is playing in the background! This album featured "Sunny Day," "Counting The Rosaries" and "Alice Everyday." Book Of Love will always have a special place in my heart. I have a lot of good memories attached to these songs and albums.
Ned's Atomic Dustbin - God Fodder (Columbia)
Right before I got into Nirvana and grunge music I got into all the grebo bands of the UK. I don't think that I really knew that it was called grebo at the time. But I loved these bands. Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Jesus Jones, Wonderstuff, Pop Will Eat Itself and Carter USM. Grebo was sort of a mix of grunge and hip hop with garage rock and dance music. It was similar to the Baggy sound coming out at the same time. Bands like The Farm, The Soup Dragons and The Happy Mondays. Those bands were perhaps a bit more psychedelic and dancey, while Grebo was a bit more loud and punk influenced. The fashion of Grebo was similar to grunge: baggy clothes and lumberjack shirts, dreadlocks and partially shaved heads. The music also often featured lots of sampling. God Fodder was the debut album from Ned's Atomic Dustbin. And I really got into this album. Are You Normal? was released the next year. God Fodder featured "Kill Your Television" and "Grey Cell Green." I don't remember if I first heard these guys on KROQ or maybe saw their videos on 120 Minutes. I quickly became a fan though. My first roommate in college was a big Ned's fan and we quickly bonded over our mutual love of Grebo! Bands like this definitely got me ready for grunge.
Nirvana - Nevermind (DGC)
This is another one of those albums that I can't imagine high school without. This album was such a part of my senior year. The album was released in September of 1991, the month that my last year of high school started. It seems that somehow over the summer and the next couple of months that everyone had stopped listening to metal and started listening to Nirvana. Or they still liked metal and hated Nirvana. I somehow had never heard Nirvana until that summer before Nevermind came out. Bleach was released in 1989, but I seriously don't remember anyone listening to that album until after Nevermind came out. Obviously somebody listened to it. Just nobody that I knew. Sonic Youth, The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. had sort of gotten me ready for Nirvana. And Ned's Atomic Dustbin! But I really didn't know what I was getting in for when I first bought this album. I listened to this album over and over in late 1991 and all through 1992. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the first single on the album and took over KROQ and MTV. You could not get away from this song. I can sort of understand why people who didn't like the band just got sick of seeing them everywhere. But I was hooked and was happy to hear them everywhere. "Come as You Are" was probably the song that really got me obsessed with this band. Nirvana would be a part of my life for many years to come. They released In Utero two years later in 1993. And of course we all know where we were on April 8th, 1994. Kurt Cobain was my generation's Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix. He died at the height of his popularity. It doesn't seem like such a big deal anymore, but his death had a profound impact on many of us. This album has stayed with me after all those year, like any album on this list. Putting it on brings me right back to this period on my life. I love the album, but Kurt Cobain's death forever changed the way that I listen to it.
Morrissey - Kill Uncle (Sire)
Kill Uncle may not be everybody's favorite Morrissey album, but it remains my favorite of his from the '90s. Kill Uncle was released in March of 1991. I was a junior in high school and right in the early stages of my Morrissey obsession. I had only really gotten into him the year before, but I had already worn out all my Morrissey and Smiths albums. So I was ready for this new album. Your first album that you hear by an artist is always special. But that first album that you actually buy the day it comes out is even more special. I still remember listening to it for the first time while reading the liner notes. The album opens up with "Our Frank." This album is seriously fantastic! You might have forgotten. It also features "Sing Your Life," "Mute Witness," and "(I'm) The End Of The Family Line." "Sing Your Life" is still one of my favorite Morrissey songs. And I always forget how good "Mute Witness" is. The Kill Uncle tour was also the first time that I saw Morrissey live. So this of course is probably part of the reason that I love this album so much. I saw him many times over the last 20 years. But that first time was still the best! I don't need to waste any of your time explaining why Morrissey is so fantastic. You either love him or you hate him. And some of us may just love The Smiths. But I was always a fan of his solo work. And especially the first couple solo albums.
This Mortal Coil - Blood (4AD)
This Mortal Coil! I love anything and everything that this band has put out. Blood was my first This Mortal Coil album. The third album that they released. This Mortal Coil was not really a band. It was basically a super group of the artists from the label 4AD. Ivo Watts-Russell was the founder of the label and the man behind This Mortal Coil. He brought them all together and managed to put out 3 amazing albums. It'll End In Tears in 1984. Filigree & Shadow in 1986 and Blood in 1991. I love all three of them. But this is my favorite. Most of the songs on these albums were covers of folk songs. This my first introduction to the songs of Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen! Blood features Tanya Donelly (Belly/Throwing Muses), Kim Deal (Pixies/Breeders), Deirdre & Louise Rutkowski, Caroline Crawley (Shelleyan Orphan), Anne Garrigues, Alison Limerick, Gini Ball, Heidi Berry, and Dominic Appleton (Breathless). The previous albums had featured members of Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and Cindytalk. I got obsessed with all three of these albums. They became my going to sleep albums. I would often play one of them while I was falling asleep. But I would never want to fall asleep until I got to the last song on the album. These albums introduced me to many of these artists for the first time. I really feel like I need to personally thank Ivo Watts-Rusell for giving us 4AD and these This Mortal Coil albums. I still go back to these albums whenever I need some comfort in my life. It is a sort of therapeutic experience listening to these albums. This Mortal Coil recently released a box set of these albums and they have now also been reissued individually.
Electronic - Electronic (Warner Bros.)
Electronic was like my dream come true. It was basically a supergroup combining two of my favorite bands. Bernard Sumner from New Order & Joy Division and Johnny Marr from The Smiths. They also worked with Neil Tennant from The Pet Shop Boys on a couple of songs. The album sounds way more New Order than The Smiths. I think it allowed Johnny Marr to experiment with new instruments and create different kinds of songs. The name of the band was perfect. The album was perfect. It featured the single "Getting Away With It" which had been released a couple of years earlier. The album also featured "Idiot Country," "Reality," "Tighten Up" and "Gangster." You can't really get better than this album. It might have seemed weird at first that Bernard Sumner and Jonnny Marr would be collaborating on a new project, but it proved to be the perfect match. The album is full of great energy. It is a dance record for sure. But it has the intensity of a really good collection of New Order songs. These are dance pop songs. These guys knew how to write a great song. I still can't turn this album off once it starts. They also went on to create one of my favorite songs, "Disappointed," a couple of years later. That song was featured on the Cool World soundtrack. Electronic went on to create two more albums in 1996 and 1999.
Erasure - Chorus (Sire)
Erasure had already been in my life for many years. In the late '80s I was obsessed with only a couple of bands. They were The Cure, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie & The Banshees, New Order, The Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths and Erasure. I think I had discovered Erasure around their second album, The Circus, in 1987. They just seemed to be getting better and better as the years went on. They released The Innocents in 1988 which featured "A Little Respect" and "Chains Of Love." Then they put out Wild! in 1989 which featured "Star" and "Blue Savannah." Chorus was their fifth album and their last truly great album. It featured "Chorus," "Breathe Of Life" and "Love To Hate You." I had really like Wild! so I was very excited for this album to come out in 1991. It was released in October of 1991, a month after Nevermind by Nirvana. It couldn't be more different than Nevermind, but somehow I loved both of these albums equally. I am sure there were many days when I listened to both Nevermind and Chorus on the same day. Erasure really helped create the whole dance pop sound that influenced tons of bands over the years. I am not sure if we should thank them or not for that. But they did manage to create some brilliant pop songs over the years. Erasure was Andy Bell and Vince Clark. Vince Clark managed to help create three of my favorite bands: Depeche Mode, then Yaz, and finally Erasure. Every once in a while I go back and listen to this album and quickly remember why I fell in love with it in the first place. It is just a perfect album of its genre. Erasure was never able to create an album this consistently perfect ever again. But they sure did create some catchy songs and they have made a lot of us very happy over the years.
Check out the video for Everyday Glo Remix of "Alice Everyday" by Book Of Love...
Check out the video for "Grey Cell Green" by Ned's Atomic Dustbin...
Check out the video for "Pearl" by Chapterhouse...