Author: Ian Stewart
Read Time: 7-8 minutes, 867 words
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It’s hard to argue that 1994 wasn’t one of the most important years for music in recent history. It’s a year which saw the creation of music that would define a generation and, more importantly, stand the test of time. People would be forgiven for believing this was a year dominated by the Grunge scene, it was certainly the pinnacle year of the “Rock Star” that would then decline the day Kurt Cobain committed suicide.
When you look across every genre, it’s amazing to see how many important albums were released in this year. Everything from Weezer’s blue album to Definitely, Maybe by Oasis. There were punk releases such as Stranger Than Fiction by Bad Religion, Troublegum by Therapy? and grunge masterpiece Superunknown. In the metal scene, this was the year that Far Beyond Driven, Burn My Eyes and Korn’s self-titled debut that would birth the Nu-Metal domination of the late 90's, hit the shelves. It was also the year In Flames released Lunar Strain, an album that would play a pivotal role in influencing the great artists who rose to give us the Gothenburg sound. In Norway, this was the year that gave us some of the best Black Metal records ever created, some of which – In the Nightside Eclipse, D Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Transylvanian Hunger and a whole array of others by just about every important Black Metal artist in existence.
It’s been hard for me to choose a Top Five, but here are some of my personal favourites from a vintage year that had us spoiled for choice.
5 - Dog Man Star by Suede
This is the first album I remember being released, one that grabbed my attention and left an impression on me. My brother would play this record relentlessly and I would hang around, privately developing my own taste in music. “We Are the Pigs” is a track I still hold dear to my heart, it’s probably the song that started me on this journey that has seen me find an appreciation for all kinds of music – From Suede to Pig Destroyer.
4 – Dookie By Green Day
If I have my brother to thank for Dog Man Star, then it’s my sister I should be thanking for buying me this album. A lot of people consider this to be the greatest album of the year, if you’re one of those people then you’re probably correct, I believe any of these records are worthy of top spot. This album is a must have in every teenage musician’s record collection, it’s one that acted as a gateway for so many of us on a path to Punk Rock and beyond. It’s the one that catapulted Green Day into the mainstream, deservedly so, because it offers hit after hit. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s important.
3 – Smash by The Offspring
Arguably the best album The Offspring have ever written – I’m sure that will also be disputed, as well as listing it ahead of Dookie. This is one of the best-selling albums of all time on an Indie Label, it’s also one that played a huge part in my growing up. I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to this album, in my youth I had it on repeat for hours on end, usually whilst played Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Genocide, Self Esteem, It’ll Be A Long Time and Bad Habit being my personal favourites, in that order. It’s raw, melodic, and wonderful.
2 – Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains
There is something beautifully haunting and melancholic about this EP. That may sound depressing on the surface, but these things tend to have the opposite effect on me. I am possibly the only person in the world who listens to Suicidal Depressive Black Metal to feel happy, for example. Dirt will always wear the crown of AIC best album, but their best individual tracks reside here. I would argue that Rotten Apple and Nutshell are the two best opening tracks of any record ever produced. There is so much subtle instrumentation across these seven tracks, that with every listen you discover something new.
1 – Ill Communication by Beastie Boys
Without a doubt my favourite band of all time. The B-Boys provided me with the first records that developed a musical addiction inside of me. They were the records where I grew up, made connections with friends that would last a lifetime, and it was because of this music. Some of their releases were inaccessible to me, either through lack of money or ability to find them in local record shops, so I would obsessively hunt for them like a junkie. The first time I went to a record shop in America I almost dropped to my knees with tears in my eyes – they had them all. Ill Communication almost feels like an album where the Beastie Boys took things to a new level. They experimented, found their voice, and spoke about important issues, all the while retaining the fun factor from previous albums like, Licensed to Ill. If Rotten Apple and Nutshell are collectively the best opening tracks, then Sure Shot is singularly the best opener ever.
Ian Stewart is on Twitter: @GutterKid101