my top 50 Alternative songs of 1990...the fountain of youth

Posted by Brad Schelden, May 22, 2020 11:00am | Post a Comment

This quarantine has got me reminiscing about the early '90s. Although honestly I am always thinking about this musical period in my life. The '90s were my decade and have defined my musical tastes. It all began in 1990. I have been obsessed with music since I can remember. From the first time I heard my parents playing Fleetwood Mac & the Eagles I was hooked. I wanted to listen to music whenever I could.

I remember when I first got a radio in my room. I would tape songs off the radio on my tape deck and create my own mix tapes. My brother and I would even create our own radio shows and put in samples and songs from the radio. I probably listened to Power 106 the most in the '80s. I was super into pop music but soon discovered there was something else out there. I remember when a friend in elementary school first told me about the cool radio station KROQ and I went home and put it on and never looked back. I got obsessed with The Cure, Depeche Mode, Oingo Boingo, Love & Rockets, New OrderPet Shop BoysErasure. KROQ was my everything. I was obsessed with all the DJs and learned about all my new favorites bands in the late '80s and early '90s. I was now officially an alternative modern rock kid.

We didn't have cable growing up but I watched MTV at my grandma's or friend's house whenever I could. MTV and KROQ would shape me into an alternative anglophile kid. I got obsessed with new wave and synth pop in the mid '80s and easily transitioned to alternative rock, shoegaze and dream pop in the early '90s. I bought new albums whenever I could afford them. I quickly bought old albums by Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and The Cure. But I also bought albums by new artists in 1990 like Sonic Youth, Sinead O'Connor, The SundaysThe Charlatans. 1989 was really defined by just 10 albums for me. It was the year of Disintegration by The Cure. But also the first self titled Stone Roses album. Doolittle by The Pixies, Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails, Technique by New Order, Wild! by Erasure, Cosmic Thing by The B-52's, Hup by The Wonder Stuff, Deep by Peter Murphy & the self titled album by Love & Rockets. I pretty much listened to these 10 albums exclusively in 1989.

1990 really changed everything for me. It was my first year in high school. I finally started making friends with similar musical tastes and interests. I was becoming my own little person and getting more obsessed with music than ever before. These first couple of years of the '90s really cemented my taste in British music. These albums that came out in 1990-92 are still some of my favorites. I do consider myself lucky to go to high school at the perfect time. There has really never been anything like that perfect time in music when the '80s became the '90s.

I've always wanted to go back to the early '90s and make a list of my top 50 songs. I am starting with 1990 because that is when I became a real serious music obsessed fan. These are not only the songs I loved in 1990, but the songs that I still love and listen to today. I skipped some songs that I may have loved at the time. While I may have loved them at the time I never actually owned the albums. And the songs were so overplayed that I can't bear to listen to them anymore. So here we go.

I will post 10 songs as a time, working back from #50 to #1. These are, of course, not what I claim to be the best songs of 1990. These are my personal picks. Please share with me your favorite songs from this year in the comments.

my top 50 ALTERNATIVE songs of 1990...

world party way down now#50 World Party "Way Down Now" (Ensign)

World Party was basically Karl Wallinger of The Waterboys. Goodbye Jumbo was their second album released in April of 1990. "Way Down Now" was the first single. Like most songs on this list I first heard this song on KROQ. This album was actually named album of the year by Q magazine. It was even nominated for the best Alternative album Grammy! The nominees in this category never really made sense but Sinead O'Connor was the right choice to win this award in 1990. This song takes me right back to 1990. Karl sort of has a Bob Dylan kind of voice. The song was a sort of 60s psychedelic throwback kind of song. Many of these British songs of the early 90s had a psychedelic retro feel to them.

heart throbs dreamtime#49 The Heart Throbs "Dreamtime" (One Little Indian)

The Heart Throbs released three albums but this first album Cleopatra Grip was the only album I ever heard. "Dreamtime" is one of those songs that I can listen to over and over again. The vocals sort of remind me of Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde. The Heart Throbs were another British band that could only come out of that perfect time when the 80s ended and the 90s began. I have probably liked a hundred songs that sound similar to this song over the years. But this sound really started in 1990. It is the kind of dreamy dream pop that I live for.

candyland fountain o youth#48 Candyland "Fountain O' Youth" (Non Fiction Records)

Candyland was one of those mysterious British bands that just put out one album and then disappeared. "Fountain O' Youth" was the first single from their one and only album Suck It And See. This song could easily be a little-known Depeche Mode song. They had a sort of psychedelic new wave sound. Similar to the dance alternative music about to come out of Manchester. This song is another great little time capsule of 1990 that takes me right back to that year.

faith no more falling to pieces#47 Faith No More "Falling To Pieces" (Slash)

The album The Real Thing and the single "Epic" were released the year before in 1989. Epic was everywhere and you couldn't avoid it. I loved this band and had never really heard anything like them before. These were the years I went through my brief funk metal period and got obsessed with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More and Living Colour. I loved Epic but I kind of liked this second single better. "Falling to Pieces" was fun and crazy and sort of like nothing else I listened to.

the railway children every beat of the heart#46 The Railway Children "Every Beat Of The Heart" (Virgin)

This was the first single from their third album Native Place. These guys were the beginning of my love for modern jangle pop. I was starting to get into bands like The Ocean Blue and The Lightning Seeds. They spawned all sorts of bands that I fell in love with over the years. Reminiscent of The Smiths. Nerdy and bookish but also effortlessly cool. It has been so fun to go back and revisit these music videos for these songs. Some of them I remember like it was yesterday. But some of them I never saw at the time.

the wonder stuff#45 The Wonder Stuff "Cartoon Boyfriend" (PolyGram)

The Wonder Stuff released their second album Hup in 1989 and I was obsessed. This album had so many singles. "Golden Green", "Don't Let Me Down Gently", & "Radio Ass Kiss" were all great songs. "Cartoon Boyfriend" was one of my favorites but I really did love this entire album. These dudes all had long hair and looked like Ned's Atomic Dustbin who were also from the Black Country West Midlands region of England. I was a fan of all of The Wonder Stuff's first three albums but this was the one that made me a fan. I for sure wore out this cassette.

stone roses one love#44 The Stone Roses "One Love" (Silvertone Records)

1989 was basically the year of The Stone Roses. Their debut album came out that year and forever changed everything. Everyone was obsessed. "I Wanna Be Adored", "She Bangs The Drums", "Elephant Stone", "Made of Stone" & "Fools Gold" were some of the best songs ever. They got me obsessed with British culture and everything Madchester. "One Love" could have easily been included on their debut album that came out the previous year. It's hard to compete with anything on that debut but I still love this song. Super cool and jangly pop. I always get lost in this band's songs and never want to come out.

trash can sinatras only tongue can tell#43 The Trashcan Sinatras "Only Tongue Can Tell" (Go! Discs)

One of three great singles from their debut album Cake along with "Obscurity Knocks" and "Circling the Circumference". One of the many bands that I would soon fall in love with from Scotland. Bands like Aztec Camera, The Associates, Teenage Fanclub, Simple Minds, The Jesus and Mary ChainThe Cocteau Twins. The Trashcan Sinatras  use bookish harmonies sort of like The Smiths. They were sort of the Belle & Sebastian of the early 90s. Catchy and heartfelt perfect little songs. I always loved the name of this band.

oingo boingo#42 Oingo Boingo "Skin" (MCA Records)

I really only liked 10 bands in 1989 and Oingo Boingo were most certainly one of them. They were everything a young teenage boy into dark and spooky things would love. "Skin" was the third single from their 7th studio album Dark at the End of the Tunnel. "Flesh & Blood" was the first single and had already appeared on the Ghostbusters II soundtrack. Danny Elfman was already doing scores at this point for Tim Burton and it was like my two worlds colliding. This was the last album I liked by these guys but they only had one album after this. "Skin" is just another great fun song by this great and amazing band. There is really nobody like them.

sonic youth kool thing#41 Sonic Youth "Kool Thing" (DGC)

I don't think I had even heard of Sonic Youth before the album Goo came out in 1990. This was their sixth album and they had been around almost a decade but it took them that long to get popular enough for me to hear them. I was hooked after this album and loved "Kool Thing." I would become a life long fan and I think I have seen them live around 10 times. Everything about this song and video is literally the coolest. And so was Kim Gordon. I think I also just felt cool listening to this song. Such a great discovery. There is nothing like that feeling of hearing your new favorite band for the first time. This song and album couldn't have come at a better time in my life. The 90s had officially began and I was just starting my journey through the best decade of music ever!

"Dreamtime" by The Heart Throbs...

"Every Beat Of The Heart" by The Railway Children...

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Kroq (1), Top 50 (5), Best Of The 90s (6), 1990 (4), 90s (7)