The steady march of music progress does not bode well for some bands. For whatever reason, bands that achieved success during one era are sometimes promptly forgotten within a few years. This occurs often in alternative and indie circles, where bands are subject to the changing musical styles and a quest by listeners to always find something new. When looking at 90’s alternative and indie, bands that survived to stay in our conscious either continued to record well into the 2000’s (Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie) or were able to score hit albums that would later be considered classic (Neutral Milk Hotel, Yo La Tengo.) Here are five bands from the nineties that have been left in the dust and have not achieved either a following or resurgence in the following decades. They are quality bands that are desperately in need of rediscovery because for whatever reason they have not maintained a sizable fan base in the new generation of indie or alternative fans.
KITCHENS OF DISTINCTION
Kitchens of Distinction had the misfortune of releasing their greatest material at a time when grunge was really starting to conquer alternative airwaves. KOD played a swirling dense brand of shoegaze that was more reminiscent of mid-80’s college rock than the 90’s wave of alternative bands. With the preferences of their would be audiences shifting away, KOD was never able to meet the success that they needed or deserved and often get ignored today.
It is unfortunate that KOD never achieved the widespread success that they needed, because listening to the music that they did release shows a band of immense talent that would have fit in equally well in the 80’s as the late 2000’s when shoegaze started to make a comeback. While listening to “Drive That Fast” it is hard to believe that they only have two guitars playing. The amount of atmosphere and effects is astounding. Fortunately KOD has made a bit of a comeback, releasing an album last year, but we will have to wait to see if they will make enough of a comeback to meet the success that they deserve.
Hum was an early 1990’s post-hardcore band that bears more than a little resemblance to the highly successful band Smashing Pumpkins. Hum ended up scoring a radio hit with their song “Stars” but other than that never really was able to gain success. After four albums, Hum broke up and ended up being regulated to the ash-heap of inactive alternative bands.
Although similar to Smashing Pumpkins, Hum tended to have a more space oriented sound, with lyrics often revolving around philosophy and space travel. Throughout their life as a band, they retained a guitar heavy sound that was able to alternate between loud blowouts and quiet, sensitive songs. Unfortunately contemporary audiences tended to view them as little more than Smashing Pumpkins soundalike and they never received as much independent acclaim as they deserved. Listening to their albums demonstrates how great this band was and how unfortunate that they were unjustly grouped with Smashing Pumpkins. They never were able to escape from that shadow.
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS
Ok so maybe this one is not fair, since The Magnetic Fields is still an active recording band. However, their prominence decreased in the 2000’s as indie sensibilities shifted from lo-fi and synthpop to post-punk revival and alternate folk. Having a generation of indie fans who have not heard of The Magnetic Fields is a tragedy. This is a band that sorely needs discovering.
Revolving around Stephan Merritt’s cavernous voice and dry wit, The Magnetic Fields spent much of the 90’s developing and releasing an eclectic discography which bridged dozens of different genres. In their most basic form, The Magnetic Fields supported Merritt with a kaleidoscope of electronic sounds and sometimes folk guitar. The bands 90’s career culminated in the great triple album 69 Love Songs. Unfortunately they have not achieved the same acclaim since then and have petered off in their quality. However, that should not stop a new generation of indie fans from discovering this gem of the 90’s.
THE OLIVIA TREMOR CONTROL
The Elephant 6 Collective was a recording group that flourished in the mid-90s with a variety of indie acts. Most notable among them was Neutral Milk Hotel, who released the indie rock classic In The Aeroplane Over the Sea. Most of the other Elephant 6 bands have not received as much modern focus as Neutral Milk Hotel. Most unfortunate among these is The Olivia Tremor Control, a psychedelic rock band that sounded like a crash course in 1960’s psychedelia.
The Olivia Tremor Control has an uncanny resemblance to The Beatles and the Beach Boys, but merely stating that they were ripping of the sound of those classic bands misses the brilliance of Olivia Tremor Control. Although influenced by 60’s bands, their sound was a function of what they felt that the perfect psychedelic album would sound like. Their first album, Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle is a masterpiece of psychedelic rock that stands on equal footing as Revolver–era Beatles. Now that the lo-fi movement has ended, it is time for a rediscovery of Olivia Tremor Control’s pristine psychedelic sound.
Sebadoh was one of many lo-fi bands that cropped up in the 90’s at the same time that grunge was developing in the more mainstream alternative rock circles. Sebadoh combined all the classic ingredients of lo-fi indie rock, coupled with beautiful and heartbreaking lyrics.
While not entirely unique, Sebadoh was a highly competent band that took a 13 year hiatus from releasing music after their 1999 album. Since then, they went the way of many quality lo-fi acts of the 90’s, ultimately being forgotten as indie sensibilities shifted towards post-punk bands and alternative folk. Although they have not been able to gain a new following in the current indie rock generation, Sebadoh is a classic lo-fi band that does not deserve to be as forgotten.