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Best Bands and Musical Artists of the Decade (1989-1999)

  • Dec 13, 2009
Over the course of ten years a lot of new and great bands emerge. Since I've already showcased my favorite bands of the first decade of the New Millennium (1999-2009), I've decided to shine the light on bandsĀ and artistsĀ that I've been listening to for a little longer. So here are my selections for the years 1989-1999...
The most accomplished politically-charged band since The Clash. From the release of their 1992 debut album, Rage Against the Machine entered the music scene boasting an intelligent combination of punk, metal, funk, and rap. RAtM became one of the greatest bands of the decade despite having only produced three albums worth of music (their final two albums were released in 2000 and 2004). With great song titles and amazingly confident lyrics, the band quickly rose above all competitors with their style and execution. Rage Against the Machine is the best band of the decade. In my mind, there's no doubt about it.

Maynard James Keenan's greatest musical achievement had to be the formation of Tool back in 1990. Mixing together elements of progressive rock, metal, and uniquely complicated melodies, Tool set the standard for intelligent art metal in the '90s. Although, they too produced little in the way of albums (one EP and two full albums) during the actual '90s, their presence was strong. With complex musical arrangements, highly aggressive playing, and deeply emotional and haunting vocals, they became one of the most impressive bands of their respective genres.

Pearl Jam
Frequently referred to as being part of the "grunge" movement, Pearl Jam's longevity has been far greater than other bands given that same label and unlike many of those bands they have transcended categorization. With lead singer Eddie Vedder's heartfelt vocal delivery on every song and with the  musical talents of his fellow bandmates, Pearl Jam earned great critical praise and a loyal following. They were also one of the most prolific and consistently excellent bands, putting out five albums between 1990 and 1999. And they're still a killer group today.

The Band
Faith No More, originally formed in 1981, came to prominence in the late '80s with their albums Introduce Yourself and The Real Thing. They were one of the most eclectic and chameleonic bands of both the '80s and '90s. But it was their 1989 song Epic that won Faith No More a mainstream following, although they already had a loyal cult following prior to that. Ultimately, it was their exposure to the mainstream and their meteoric rise in popularity that caused their downfall. The band was pigeonholed and they didn't fit into anyone's preconceptions of them. They broke up in 1998, but have just recently reformed and they still kick ass!

Anyone who is willing to overlook this band is either supremely ignorant or deaf. Soundgarden has often been grouped together with the "grunge" bands of the early '90s, however they go back further than that and their musical style is far more comprehensive. Formed in 1984, the band would evolve over the years (both in looks and sound) to become a hard rock monster that had some of the most intense guitar riffs, pounding drum sections, and killer vocals since the hey-day of bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Sadly, the band officially broke up in 1997due to artistic differences between the members. Still, they remain one of the most impressive bands in the music industry and one of the all-time great hard rock groups ever!

Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains cannot and should not be underestimated. They were labeled as being a "grunge" band, but their darkly melodic music has a timeless quality and anyone who has ever experienced anger or depression can relate to the haunting vocals and lyrics of late singer Layne Staley. The band also featured one of the best guitarists in the form of Jerry Cantrell. Certainly, one of the heaviest and gloomiest of the Seattle bands of the '90s.

The Band
Although they reached the peak of their popularity in the late '80s (due to their major debut Vivid in 1988), Living Colour managed to be one of the most underrated and under-appreciated bands of the '90s. On their debut album, they had combined funk, metal, rap, and even punk to create a uniqely Afrocentric hard rock vibe and in the '90s they expanded their sound with even heavier riffs and more aggressive vocals. Living Colour is still around to day and some might even say that they are stronger than ever.

The Band (love that '80s hair)
Synonymous with the Goth-Industrial genre, Nine Inch Nails has become the most commercially successful band of their kind. Formed in 1988 by Trent Reznor, the band has risen to the forefront of Industrial music and is best known for their controversial lyrics and music videos. Touching into the void of depression, anger, repressed sexuality, and indignance with society at large, Nine Inch Nails seems to be forever popular with disenfranchised youth and Goth outcasts.

The Smashing Pumpkins
Originally planned as a moody New Wave / Goth band in the mold of those kinds of bands from the '80s, Billy Corgan's group turned into one of the most interesting and unusual bands of the '90s. Combing a fascination with dark and introspective lyrics with a hard post-punk sound, The Smashing Pumpkins became one of the best bands of the decade. They proved to be both very artistic, but also popular.

Whether you love them or hate them, you can't deny the fact that Nirvana was one of the most important bands of the decade and certainly the most emblematic of the "grunge" genre. Although, I personally feel that they were given too much praise and media attention and for the wrong reasons, even I won't lie and tell you that they were anything other than brilliant. With Kurt Cobain's tortured vocals, Krist Novacelic's bass playing, and Dave Grohl's drumming, the band quickly rose in popularity and in controversy, becoming symbolic of teen angst and rebellion.

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January 21, 2010
Loving this list, and all those fantastic videos! Looks like we dig the same music, too :)
January 21, 2010
Cool. I suppose to some extent that's to be expected since I have pretty diverse tastes in music and art, but it's nice to know you like it too. So which ones do you listen to?
December 14, 2009
My favorite band, Sleater-Kinney, did some of their best stuff in the 90's. I'm gonna put up a review of them soon.
December 14, 2009
Dig Me Out is generally considered their best. It's one of the punkier one. It's focused on a collapsing relationship, so it's best if your love life isn't going great. I have a harder time listening to it when I'm happy romantically.

One Beat is my favorite, and perhaps their most musically varied. The Woods also has a lot of acclaim, but it's much different than most of their other stuff with lots of classic rock influences and music disintegrating into noise.
December 14, 2009
Great list, love! At first I thought you were talking about the '00's and I was starting a diatribe here AND THEN....I paid attention- yay I can read!
December 14, 2009
LOL! I would love to see your take on a list like this.
December 14, 2009
I've never been a big music person.  So much so I didn't even know who Kurt Cobain was until... 2005.  Seriously.  And I've NEVER heard the song Smells Like Teen Spirit, even though that's apparently one of the ones that really got them going.  So that sort of shows you how pathetic I am when it comes to music haha. 

I at least heard of the others on your list, though... although I have to admit, unless I heard any of their songs in a trailer for a movie or video game... I probably never heard one of their songs.
December 14, 2009
Man, that's going to become my new mission on the site... to educate you about music. ; )
December 13, 2009
awesome list! I am a little ashamed to say that I haven't heard of Soundgarden...but I have now! Thanks for this, Sean! The only thing that keeps me from making more list is the fact that they need data points created first...and you know I deal with pretty obscure stuff.
December 13, 2009
Yeah, setting up all the data points for these lists can be a pain. Now I have to go and edit and update them. LOL! As for Soundgarden, go get yourself the albums "Badmotorfinger" and "Super Unknown" and you'll be addicted immediately.
December 13, 2009
will do. I plan on getting into more music in 2010.
December 13, 2009
Hey, do you know where everybody else is? I sent out an e-mail to you, Trashie, Ceno, Christy, and djevoke and haven't heard anything. They can't all be hungover. ; )
December 13, 2009
could be. I'm chilling on drinking for awhile. LOL that is until the Holiday party I have to attend.
December 13, 2009
Don't get carried away with your holiday partying (ie, drinking and feasting), otherwise your next review will be on ways to stop puking and on how to nurse a bad headache. LOL!
December 13, 2009
hey...that's an idea. Another reason to get drunk LOL!
December 14, 2009
If I did, I must've forgotten. I told you I was weak when it comes to music. I tend to just listen to radio as background...
December 16, 2009
I think I can remedy that!
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