Released: November 1996
‘Dookie’ placed Green Day as the loveable stoners who’d probably laugh at a fart joke before attempting to light their own, but there was something more going on beneath the three-chord wiggle. Billie Joe Armstrong was singing about the anxiety and panic under all the blissed-out wackiness, and this sense of outsider-ness was something they’d explore later on in their career.
Released: July 1995
Fresh out of kindergarten, Northern Irish trio Ash made the big breakthrough with this paean to a lost Martian love. On ‘1977’ Ash were at their most vital, combining their love of sci-fi with breathless pop-grunge and giving the mid-90s punk revival a friendly face. They were too soft to sneer, but ‘Girl From Mars’ served early notice of Tim Wheeler’s ear for a sharp, neat melody.
Released: February 1997
Having spent half a decade thumbing their noses at the US invasion, and inventing Britpop in the face of the grunge wave, Blur confounded everyone by turning up in 1997 with an album so American it couldn’t pronounce Edinburgh. Stateside slackers Pavement were the touchstone, and ‘Song 2’ was the standout, a lightning blast of clipped post-punk with Damon Albarn’s best ever lyric: “Woo-hoo!”
Released: May 1994
Would this have been that stellar breakthrough smash if it hadn’t been for the Happy Days video? It deserved it anyway, because a song that Rivers Cuomo considered throwaway is the perfect meld of pop and grunge, marrying a dumbassed chorus to some thick, churning guitar. Their producer – The Cars’ Ric Ocasek – knew it was a hit, and you should always trust a man who never removes his sunglasses.
Released: January 1999
Shocking as it was (and still is), the truth is Eminem’s opening gambit was a moment Marshall Mathers never matched again. As complicated as the rapper himself, it was initially hilarious (something only enhanced by the colourful video), but scrape the surface and it actually made for pretty disturbing subject matter. Eminem Inc was a pretty messed-up place to visit, and this was just the beginning.
Released: January 1996
Coming at the end of ‘The Bends’, ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ is both a fitting and uncertain conclusion for the monumental album. It feels like a psychological stripping back of everything that has come before, with Thom Yorke intoning mysteriously about “cracked eggs…dead birds” as the band whip up a quiet riot of minor chords. No wonder Yorke named it as one of the band’s “saddest songs.”
Released: February 1993
Music press darlings Suede came out with a third corker in as many singles, delivering a firm kick in the teeth to anyone muttering about hype. ‘Animal Nitrate’ boasted their best chorus yet, some outrageous guitar swagger from Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson slapping his impossibly bony rump in an epoch-making BRITs performance.
Released: March 1990
“We wanna be free to do what we wanna do/ And we wanna get loaded” The Peter Fonda sample from cult flick The Wild Angels wasn’t just a nifty soundbite; it virtually served as Primal Scream’s mission statement as they espoused the joys of freedom and fucked-up fun, bringing acid house and rave to the mainstream masses with honking horns and a swaggering, soulful groove.
Released: March 1990
Madonna started the new decade at the top of her game. Originally recorded with new collaborator Shep Pettibone for the B-side of ‘Like A Prayer’ single ‘Keep It Together’, 'Vogue''s melding of old Hollywood lyrical references, house pianos and heavy referencing of The Salsoul Orchestra’s ‘Ooh, I Love It (Love Break)’ was too good to go to waste as a mere flipside.
Released: June 1997
The Verve’s triumphant return after one of their myriad splits was marked by a new ‘The’ in front of their name and a whole heap of Allen Klein-baiting cowbells. Klein owned the rights to Andrew Oldham’s arrangement of The Rolling Stones’ ‘The Last Time’ from whence they were lifted, and he sued Richard Ashcroft and co to within an inch of their royalties. But it was all worth it, wasn't it?