1990 in Music

This page lists reviews I’ve written for music released originally in 1990

1. Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet (10/10)

This is the first Hip Hop album I have ever given my requisite 3 listens to. I am 33 years old. There have been a number of R and B (or “urban”) albums containing raps and Hip Hop that I have listened to, and I listened to an EP recently that might have sort of qualified, but this is absolutely the first Hip Hop album I have ever heard properly.

Read the full review.

Listen to me talk about Fear of a Black Planet

2. Ween: God-Ween-Satan: the Oneness (9/10)

3. The Flaming Lips: In a Priest Driven Ambulance (9/10)

4. My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (9/10)

5. Marty Ehrlich: The Traveller’s Tale (9/10)

This is a really inventive and interesting album that helps develop the sound of ’80s “New York” jazz (for lack of a better term). It’s certainly as accessible as anything “avant garde” could be.

It’s interesting how there is a very faint hint of Klezmer but for the most part it is more of a tinge than an obvious reference point.

6. Henryk Gorecki: “Good Night” (8/10)

“Good Night” is a somber, elegiac thing, at least some of the time, which I guess is some kind of attempt at a modern lullaby, though it definitely will not put you to sleep. (Well I guess it could, but it’s not exactly traditionally tonal enough, to my ears.) Interesting enough.

7. Oliver Knussen: The Way to Castle Yonder (8/10)

This is a suite of brief orchestral passages that definitely feel like they could have paintings or brief videos attached to them. Knussen has a way of conjuring images that is, for me, relatively rare among contemporary composers. This is so vivid it feels like incidental music and I guess that’s a problem as well as a good thing. But I like it.

8. Crime and the City Solution: Paradise Discotheque (8/10)

9. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Ragged Glory (8/10)

10. Pixies: Bossanova (8/10)

For an album that marks a little bit of a more accessible sound, it’s interesting that that it starts out with an instrumental and then a song that’s about as much of a “Fuck off bandwagoners” as I can imagine Frank Black writing (“Rock Music”). But in retrospect, it feels like this is that point where Black had other things in mind than just what he was doing in the band. A couple of these songs could pass for the lesser tracks on Teenager of the Year, for example. Which reminds me: not his strongest set of songs. But still Pixies enough, I guess, to make me forgive them.

11. The Black Crowes: Shake Your Money Maker (8/10)

12. Depeche Mode: Violator (8/10)

I know literally zero about synth pop beyond what I’ve heard on the radio and seen on Much Music and Much More Music. I was reading an AV Club primer the other day and I knew most of the bands by name, because of a post punk book I read a few years ago, but I didn’t know most of the songs and I really wasn’t sure what they were talking about.

This is apparently very sparse for synth pop but you wouldn’t now it from listening to the record. I mean, there are usually at least three distinct synth parts per track, plus the “drums”  and the backing vocals. Sparse isn’t exactly the word I would use to describe this album. It’s certainly darker than I would expect synth pop. The little I know of it (outside of the singles from this record which, like everyone, I have heard a million times) is  lot “brighter” than his.  The lyrics are too, though I wouldn’t know how they compare to other synth pop lyrics. (They are confessional and that’s fine, but they’re hardly brilliant.)

Apparently the band completely altered their method of working in the studio for this record but I cannot comment on that. All I can say is that when you are told a million times a record is a classic, it’s really hard to hear it as a classic.

PS: Is that bass intro ever reminiscent of “One of These Days”.

Listen to me talk about Violator.

13. Ice Cube: Amerikkka’s Most Wanted (7/10)

What the hell do I do with this? Well, here goes…Read the full review.

14. Jane’s Addiction: Ritual de lo habitual (7/10)

I don’t know what I was expecting when I finally got around to listening to this record, but it wasn’t this. That is sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing. But expectations always mess with our appreciation. Hopefully I can get through mine.

Read the full review.

15. Temple of the Dog (7/10)

16. African Head Charge: Songs of Praise (7/10)

As I’ve noted many times before, I’ve been maintaining a list of music to listen to for many, many years. And some of what made it onto that list made it on when I had different interests, or didn’t know any better. Well…

There was a time I wanted to get into dub. I don’t know why I wanted to get into dub. Part of me probably wanted to get into it because it was something most other people I knew didn’t know of, so I could be hipper than them, or what have you. Also, there was that Big Sugar album I liked. (Yes, I said it. Still don’t mind it, either.) So I guess that’s how I got here.

To say something horribly uninformed: this is like the dub version of Moby’s Play, albeit with far more reverence for the sourced samples and considerably less interest in getting on the radio.

If that description sounds bad to you…well, it shouldn’t. It’s just that I have no frame of reference for this – it’s fairly serious (I assume) dub based around field recordings of African music (and the odd other thing). And since I have no field of reference, I have no idea how this compares to other African Head Charge recordings, or other dub recordings from the era.

17. New Music Consort: Pulse (7/10)

Decent Survey of modern “high art” percussion music.

18. Oliver Knussen: Secret Psalm (6/10)

This is a nice, pretty, diverting solo violin piece that adds pretty much nothing to the storied history of the instrument, in my mind. I feel like I’ve heard stuff like this many times before. And like so much of Knussen’s work, it’s so brief as to make you wonder why anyone would single it out for performance.

19. Travelling Wilburries: Vol. 3 (5/10)

Lacking Orbison is one problem. The production is another. It can’t help feeling like an excuse for them to play together regardless of whether they had the songs.

Not ranked: Bo Didley: Chess Box (9/10)

This gives a better summary of his career with Chess than His Best. Read the rest of the review.

Not Ranked: Alicia de Larrocha: Goyescas; Allegro de concierto; Danza lenta by Enrique Granados (8/10)

A great set. Read the review.

Not Ranked: The Grateful Dead: Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It (7/10)

Not released until over 20 years later. Read the review.

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