Adventurous albums of 1990

By Sean Leary

The boundaries of music genres were tested in a long overdue way in 1990. Bands no longer felt compelled to stick to radio’s generic labels and mixed and molded new forms of music built around a common strand. The result was some of the most adventurous music to be released in quite some time.

Unfortunately, the radio stations still choose to play schlock like Milli Vanilli, but the acceptance of bands like Faith No More, Living Colour and Jane’s Addiction by fans and critics alike can only be a welcome sign for the popular music scene.

All three of the aforementioned bands released superior music in 1990. Faith No More finally gained radio airplay with its rap influenced “Epic,” which also included a huge, funky bassline charged with electric metal guitars and ending with a haunting piano melody. The rest of the album blended everything and the kitchen sink arround a rap/metal base all energized with Michael Patton’s visceral lyrics.

Jane’s Addiction and Livin Colour romped through impressive sophomore efforts in 1990, with “Ritual de lo Habitual” and “Time’s Up,” respectively. Although neither reached the heights of their previous efforts, both were head and shoulders above 99 percent of the records released in 1990.

Not all commercial successes were disappointing though. Depeche Mode released the best album of its career with “Violator,” which also happened to be the album that broke the group out of its cult sttus and onto commercial radio. “Violator” was Depeche Mode reaching the potential it had always flashed; a singularly striking blend of gloomy synth effects and pop melodies featuring Martin Gore’s intriguing lyrics.

George Michael’s second album, “Listen Without Prejudice” was another commercial and critical success. “…Prejudice” was as musically infectious and radio-ready as his first LP, yet still remained artictically sound.

While 2 Live Crew was garnering all the publicity for saying bad words, Public Enemy was going about the business of making rap music into a strong artistic statement. “Fear Of A Black Planet,” and its debut single “Welcome To The Terrordome” showed the fierce fury that rap music could epitomize.

Both Nine Inch Nail’s “Pretty Hate Machine,” and Jesus Jones’ “Liquidizer” bottled u the same kind of rage, only on a more personal level. Dealing with topics of personal relationships and religious faith, the industrial bands blasted their way through the senses. Listening to Nine Inch Nail’s “Terrible Lie” is like getting your flesh dipped in acid.

Michael Penn’s debut “March” brought a melodic guitar direction to music, complete with some of the best lyrics of the year.

The two finest albums of the year, however, belong the Britain’s The Lilac Time (“And Love For All) and Aztec Camera (“Stray”). Both LPs were simply brilliant melodic pop, with the kind of instrumentation that is usually reserved for artists like XTC. The music painted an indelible picture, the lyrics were poignant and intelligent. Both bands promise to produce some of the finest music of the 90s, as do all the bands mentioned.