Thirty years after it was released, “Disintegration” by The Cure remains a Goth masterpiece. It was Robert Smith’s answer to critics that his band (and, let’s be clear: it was HIS band) could still do moody, dark epics as well or better than anyone. No one was a bigger critic of Robert Smith than himself. So he brought it. It’s all there in its “Cure-iness.” Simon Gallup’s bass is the omnipresent driving low-end of the album. But it’s Smith’s lyrics about creepy lullabies, red-light districts, spidermen and, yes, even love that make “Disintegration” the masterpiece it remains today.
How does a band reach the pinnacle of both commercial and critical success, dominate the airwaves for a handful of years, only to disintegrate into the ether? That’s probably the question that has haunted the members of Līve for two decades now. The band’s second major album, “Throwing Copper,” was omnipresent on both pop and alternative radio. The video for “Lightning Crashes” was an MTV staple. And then? Poof! After some 8 million albums sold (and a couple of moderately successful follow-ups), they were seemingly gone from the radar. (It could have to do with the fact that in this Google/SEO world, the name “Līve” does not render easily on search engines. Shoulda thought that through, boys!) It’s a shame, really. “Throwing Copper” is everything good about quintessential 90s rock, highlighted by singer Ed Kowalczyk’s mystical/nebulous lyrics.
It would be the album that would break up The Smiths, but not before encapsulating all that was SO … Smiths about them. “Strangeways, Here We Come” combines the brilliance of Johnny Marr and the poetic, charming violence of Morrissey into a final testament of one of the most influential — if short-lived — bands of all time.
Young people all around the world were drawn to the angsty lyrics and lilting voice of Dolores O’Riordan when her band The Cranberries were EVERYWHERE in 1993 and 1994. But whereas their debut album featured beautiful pop hits like “Linger” and “Dreams,” their sophomore effort, “No Need to Argue” built upon the passion of relational anguish while shining a light on the horrors and plight of The Troubles in Ireland. Nowhere was that more evident and dramatic than in “Zombie,” which would be The Cranberries’ best-charting song of all time.
What does a band do when the record label shelves their album and ignores them? If you’re Jimmy Eat World, you strike out on your own, save your money, and release a platinum album. With their ability to blend pop-punk, rock, and emo, Jimmy Eat World produced such ear candy as Sweetness, A Praise Chorus, and the perfect anthem in The Middle. Good luck not singing along, and if you happened to be in high school when this album came out? Well done, you!
From the opening notes of “Zoo Station,” one quickly realizes “Achtung Baby” is not your mother’s U2. When the band released the album almost 30 years ago, they were not only the biggest band in the world, but the most important. But the stress of living up to those monikers almost broke them. The resulting album was a masterpiece built on the strains of love, stardom, and alienation. With classic hits like “One,” “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and even the monster radio hit “Mysterious Ways,” “Achtung Baby” was the band doubling down on its power and creativity – and may be their best album of all.
Hailed as “the grandchildren of the Beach Boys” by one reviewer, this soulful Chapel Hill band was also able to do rock, funk, and blues with impeccable harmonies. The band’s first full-length album, “Rosemary,” brought them incredible acclaim — if mostly on a regional level. But for a while there, they were the headliners while a lesser-known band from Columbia, S.C., was the opener. (Hint: it was Hootie.) “Rosemary” remains a delightful work of art that illustrates why North Carolina’s music scene has always been among the best in the land. And it clearly has lasting power, even if the band itself did not.
For our inaugural Valentine’s Day epipod, we take a listen to an album full of passion and want, an album full of self-reflection and obsession. With just one album (and really just 2.5 band members), The Postal Service gave us “Give Up” back in 2003 — an album that meant so much to so many people, and one that exemplifies the extremes of love and lost. Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello’s masterpiece album struck a chord — one that still strikes hard 15 years later.
At the end of the day, Hootie and the Blowfish may have just been four good dudes from South Carolina who hit lightning in a bottle (of probably Bud Light) and offered a pop-heavy, feel-good answer to grunge. But give Darius Rucker & Co. their due: “Cracked Rear View” is one of the best debut albums of all time and it gave us memorable, catchy hits — many of which are way deeper than you may have originally noticed.
They were like nothing we had seen or heard before. From the opening growls of “Welcome to the Jungle” to the pop sensibilities of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and the anthemic “Paradise City,” Guns N’ Roses was the next generation’s answer to Led Zeppelin. And “Appetite for Destruction” pulled back the curtain on the debauchery and insanity that was L.A. and the Sunset Strip in the mid-1980s. Sure, they used hairspray … but mainly just to light a Molotov cocktail to set fire to hair metal. Axl, Slash, and the boys would go on to sell a mere 30 million copies of “Appetite.” And they left a path of destruction in their wake.