The '90s were an incredibly interesting time for music. There had just been a huge boom among grunge/alternative music and as a result it saw major labels throwing money recklessly around in order to find the next big thing. When you look at the aftermath of it all, it was almost like they adopted a "throw it at the wall and see if it sticks" mentality to signing artists/bands. That's what made it so fascinating for those of us now, as there were such a vast amount of bands that didn't go anywhere or barely even made a blip on the radar among mainstream music fans. A lot of times it was because many of the bands just didn't make music that would likely appeal to a huge audience, or they simply just couldn't break through and were quickly forgotten. Either of these scenarios left a number of forgotten artifacts that—thanks in part to the internet—have started to surface for people to hear that either weren't there the first time around or just didn't manage to catch it.
That brings me to the list, which is 10 of my favorite bands/records from that time period that may have gone unnoticed and that can be found in record stores across the country for practically nothing, I imagine. The "cut-out bin classics," if you will...
Bakamono, The Cry of the Turkish Fish Peddler (Priority/Basura!, 1994)
No idea how this ended up on Priority, which was primarily a rap label, but apparently this preceded that era a bit. I mean, I really like Bakamono, who I think were from the west coast and made some pretty out there experimental/noise rock. The opening track to this record is an 11-minute long all over the place mess of feedback and what have you... so naturally I like it. I'm guessing that not very many felt the same way. Their follow-up record, Long Time Cain, is pretty good, too; but was obviously a better fit on Super 8 Records.
Dirt Merchants, Scarified (Epic/Zero Hour, 1995)
A true casualty of the chew 'em up and spit 'em out approach of which bands were signed and then promptly dropped after fledgling record sales, corporate restructuring, etc. All of this being what happened to the Massachusetts-based band Dirt Merchants. They originally released Scarified on Zero Hour, but quickly drew the attention of Epic, who later reissued the album. Soon after, they were kicked to the curb, even after recording a follow-up that never saw the light of day physically, however just last year was finally released digitally. I suggest checking it out, it's on Amazon, it would appear. Anyway, Scarified is a gem of a record for those that enjoy some off-kilter, crunchy rock that shares a lot in common to fellow Mass contemporaries of the time like Spore, Swirlies, etc.
Molly McGuire, Lime (Epic, 1996)
Molly McGuire is quite the familiar name around where I live, but outside of the Midwest might not be as commonly spoken of. The band was from my own backyard of Kansas City and are typically referenced when speaking of bands that kind of helped develop the small niche that's become the Midwestern rock sound, among a handful of bands over the years. Lime was the second of the band's albums, produced by Ken Andrews of Failure, no less... so it has a very slick sound to it. They later kind of morphed into Gunfighter and released three albums on smaller independent labels under that name. This album has one of my favorite opening tracks ever in "Coin Toss." I always feel Lime had the potential to latch on to a bigger audience but, alas, it never did. I think recent years have been kinder to the band, as they reunited for some one-off shows last year and have successfully funded a new album through Kickstarter, that will hopefully see the light of day later this year. In the meantime check out Jason Blackmore's most recent project, White Mule, for more rocking good times.
Porch, Porch (Prawn Song/Mammoth, 1994)
Apparently being in the good graces of Primus has its benefits. Todd Huth, who spent time in Primus (along with some of the band's side projects like Sausage), had his own band called Porch. Naturally they ended up on Primus' own label, Prawn Song, which was tied into Mammoth Records for a bit in the '90s. This spawned the release of Porch's self-titled debut, that when listened to is pretty obvious that it had no chance of reaching an audience any larger than maybe Primus diehards and those who were listening to things like The Jesus Lizard, Tar, and various other similar bands. After being off the radar for a number of years, Porch eventually returned in 2011 with an EP titled Givin' Up, and followed that up last year with the new album, Walking Boss, which I highly recommend downloading off their Bandcamp. Those that dig the classic beardo-styled noise rock will find something to like in Porch.
Monsterland, Destroy What You Love (Seed, 1993)
Now wait a minute, Seed Records was an independent label, right? Nah, owned by Atlantic. So yeah, I'm including this because it's one of my favorite cut-out bin treasures. This whole album smokes and pretty much every other release that these guys did does, too. One of my favorite songs ever is found on one of their earlier singles on Rockville. But anyway, Monsterland were from Danbury, CT—which had, and still has, a pretty excellent music scene. The band played a nice, loud, melody-driven and distortion-heavy brand of rock. It's probably even fair to say that they kind of had a shoegazey vibe on some of the tracks, all the while keeping within a more rock-centric direction. Monsterland are a band I've been trying to expose people to for years now, so I'm glad to get a chance here to do so. Definitely suggest grabbing everything else they did if you dig what you hear on this record.
Stompbox, Stress (Columbia, 1994)
I'll admit, this one sounds increasingly dated the more I listen to it, especially the vocals. Probably a lot of money spent on flannel and thermal undershirts on this one, however there are still some pretty good jams on a record that didn't make much of a dent on the airwaves. Fans of Helmet, Orange 9mm, and the more obscure Paw would probably do well in checking out Stress. They were from Boston, I believe, and you can certainly gather that a bit as they sound pretty similar to bands that released records on the Wonderdrug Records label as well.
Lustre, Lustre (A&M, 1996)
Maybe a bit too pop-friendly for those out there, but for whatever reason this record always appealed to me. I think I remember seeing a couple of songs or so performed live on some PBS show late at night, and the tunes kind of stuck with me. Unabashedly radio rock material, these guys at least provided some decent hooks/melodies that kind of worked into a sound that wasn't necessarily like everything else you would hear as you made your way across the wasteland of FM radio. Even if this record ends up sucking, it can probably be had on Amazon for a penny and shipping... so you're not out much.
Bob Evans, The Bradley Suite (East West, 1995)
This album is kind of what instigated a list like this. I wasn't familiar with Bob Evans when they were actually around, and as I was listening through their discography I was shocked to find that this was released on a major. I mean, I guess I shouldn't be... but it has a certain production that doesn't necessarily have that shiny gloss that one would kind of expect. It's all the better for it, though, as this is actually probably my favorite album by these guys. I'm also just now realizing how many Boston area bands are on this list, as Bob Evans marks yet another. They released a couple of records before this one on Skene! that are worth checking out as well. If you dig post-hardcore in the vein of bands like Jawbox and so forth, then Bob Evans should certainly be of interest.
Season to Risk, Season to Risk (Columbia, 1992) and In a Perfect World (Columbia, 1995)
Okay, I'm kind of cheating here because I'm including both Season to Risk albums that were released on Columbia. Why? Because it's kind of unbelievable that someone at Columbia heard them and thought it would succeed on a mainstream level. Let alone letting them release two albums. I'm stoked they did, though, as they are another KCMO favorite who took the opportunity and made some pretty warped noise rock at times—in a city that doesn't necessarily have a deep history in such a genre. They still play the occasional one-off show here and there, but these days members are spread around in a number of different bands, and singer Steve Tulipana is busy running the excellent recordBar & miniBar here in town.
Candy Machine, A Modest Proposal (East West, 1994)
More overlooked post-hardcore tunes from the Baltimore outfit Candy Machine. The second of three albums that they released, they could have easily been mistaken for something released on Dischord during that time—sounding similar to bands like Jawbox, Bluetip, etc. In fact, their third album was released on DeSoto Records, which is the label run by members of Jawbox. Good stuff all around.