To me the 1990s was the final era of music that I really gave two shits about. Oh I still enjoy the new music and whatever comes out that sounds good to these ears but in a era of three major labels and a zombie label (EMI) none of them develops a band anymore. Either get a hit now or forever get booted.
The 1990s up to 1994 was grunge incorporated until Kurt Cobain, tired of his life and pain blew his head off and that was the end of that. The next four years would see a new punk band take over in the likes of Green Day but since I talked about them in the Consortium blog, I'll focus on the lesser known.
I guess the other big punk band that made it big in the 1990s had to be The Offspring and they may have been the most left field punk band, blowing up the charts with Smash and although I didn't like that album much I come to find that if you get past the overplayed Come Out And Play (Keep Them Separated) or Self Esteem it's somewhat enjoyable although the drummer can't keep the beat very well. Sony Music threw big bucks at them and they moved over to record Xnay On the Hombre which kinda bombed despite me liking the majority of songs, Amazed should have been released as a single. Americana turned out to be a better selling with the jive Pretty Fly For A White Guy and Why Don't You Get A Job, After that, I did buy Conspiracy For One but that and later albums simply didn't hold my interest. The Offspring Greatest Hits, like Green Day's International Superhits is a perfect introduction and only one that you really need from The Offspring.
For hardcore, Sick Of It All was by far the most hardcore punk out there and if you're an angry teen and a guy in his 30s trying to find himself then rock on, but I come to find out that this type of Hardcore punk I have outgrown. Lou Kollar's screaming gets to me after a while but I did have Built To Last and their most recent album Based On A True Story. However this is not the type of music to listen to at work and Sick Of It All is acquired taste if you're not into Kollar's gargling on Draino vocals screams. He is a pretty good lyricist though.
For my taste I prefer the fast punk pop style of Face To Face with Trevor Keith's Bob Mould type vocals. I'd say their first three albums are excellent including the 1992 debut Don't Turn Away with the original version of Disconnected, the 1995 Big Choice (produced in the red by Thom Wilson) and the A & M 1996 S/T album. Keith decided to go hard rock on the failed effort Ignorance Is Bliss but after the failure of that generating new fans or getting on the radio Keith and FTF stuck with three chords and overdrive beats.
Even Christian rock got into the act with MXPX, a band that was signed to Tooth And Nail when they were still in high school and they made Life In General which was called Green Day light but their drummer Yuri played caffeinated punk beats that makes it hard to dance to. A&M released Slowly Going By The Way Of The Buffalo in 98 but their best album remains 2001's Ever Passing Moment to which Dave Grhol helps out on a couple numbers and is produced by the late great Jerry Finn. Before Everything And After, shows MXPX going for a Good Charlotte pop sound and falling on their faces. They have returned to the fast and loud sound of their early years with later albums.
The late 90s showcased more bands incorporating ska into their punk and bands like No Doubt and Reel Big Fish had their moments in the sun as well. No Doubt Tragic Kingdom rivaled Green Day in sales but whereas Green Day was looking with an eye on rock and roll, No Doubt was going to the dance floor. Their last effort was the pop originated Push And Shove. Reel Big Fish, I had their Turn The Radio Off debut (hilarious cover shot) and there was a couple decent numbers on it (Sell Out) The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were a bit more better in terms of style. Less Than Jake, another band that used horns were a bit more metal driven. Hello Rockview and Lucky Streak are worthwhile pieces of that punk period although I have a fondness for their Sire records debut Anthem (produced by Rob Caviallo (green day))
And then there's Smash Mouth, a punk band from So Cal that hit it big with Walking On The Sun which was more retro Question Mark than punk although their Fush Yu Mang is still punk rock. With Astro Lounge (great title) Smash Mouth continued to mine the cheesy keyboard and lyrics and got a major hit with All Star. The punk purists got off the bus and although Smash Mouth continued to make albums, none of them sold the 10th of the first two.
The mid 90s showed the labels signing anybody and everybody with a mohawk or tattoos. Suicide Machines from Detroit made a hard to believe four albums for Hollywood Records (including the F bomb laden Destruction By Definition, mixed by Jerry Finn, their best, the rest you can live without). Klover made Feel Lucky Punk for Mercury in 95, and Schleprock's America's Dirty Little Secret came out on Warner Brothers that same year. CIV made two albums for Atlantic, the best being Set Your Goals with their MTV hit I Can't Wait One Minute More and Shades Apart made four, best known was the 1999 Eyewitness album with Edge Of The Century for Universal. And let us not forget Blink 182 who made their classic album Enema Of The State. Or Sugar Ray, who started out being early Red Hot Chili Pepper wannabes before hitting the pop market with Fly and The Best Of Sugar Ray captures all of their hits and early rockers.
I could go on and on but these bands were the most that I knew about and listened to on the radio before the Telecom act of 1996 killed radio for good and ushered in the Corporate Greed era. But it was a fun time.