Geffen Records

The 100 Best Albums of the 1990s

Cont’d from Page 9


Deee-Lite, World Clique

World Clique's thesis is simple: The answers to all the world's problems can found in our hearts, our smiles, and of course, a good beat. Born out of the club and rave culture of the late '80s and early '90s, the album is a time-preserved mission statement of a movement that, not unlike the hippie counterculture before it, collapsed beneath the weight of its unattainable ideals and increasingly hard drug use. That Lady Kier's answer to the titular query of the track “What Is Love?” disintegrates into a series of unintelligble scats is confirmation that maybe she didn't have all the answers—and you know all those publishing royalties went right up her nose. But failed utopian revolutions aside, World Clique, with its mix of funk and deep house, tribal rhythms, jungle sounds, and a seemingly bottomless arsenal of pop hooks, is a rare, damn-near-perfect house record. Cinquemani


U2, Achtung Baby

U2 greeted the 1990s by casting off the proselytizing cocoon of their Reagan-era music and delivering the transformative Achtung Baby, the first and greatest of their '90s offerings. Here is where Bono ceased being the scruffy Irish chap singing about war-torn vistas and instead adopted the seductive rock-star persona of “the Fly,” a brilliant composite of Jim Morrison and Michael Hutchence, and an undeniable poke at bombastic pop theatricality. So, too, does U2 become models of efficiency, not wasting one second of their blitz into globe-conquering arena rock: Every track is a gem, from well-known anthems like “One” and “Mysterious Ways” to lesser-known treasures like “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” and “Acrobat.” Rarely does a musical metamorphosis sound this instinctual. Liedel


Tricky, Maxinquaye

Tricky's breakthrough album remains a uniquely evocative experience at once chill and chilling. According to Martine, the government is sending her letters, but does the government even exist? In a time that's seemingly gone, where uncertainty reigns supreme, armies are recruiting and the landscape of Earth—and mind—is riddled with schisms. Having given up on a civilization that sounds as if it has barely survived an apocalypse (nuclear warfare, perhaps, maybe even zombies—it's all the same), Tricky Kid and Martine trudge through industrial playgrounds, not only lost in thought, but suffocated by it, victims of resentment and regret, banging their feet against pipes and bopping their heads as they turn corners, afraid of the danger that awaits them. These sad sacks fear the planet's perils, from heartache to racism, but they refuse to let you see them sweat. They funk their way through an aftermath of discontent, and though they're angry and cynical, they always seem to see a light at the end of their rusted memories and nightmares. Gonzalez


Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

Perpetually trapped in the long shadow of Slanted and Enchanted, Pavement's second album doesn't have the surprising punch of the first, but its chops are equally solid, stuffed with memorable melodies and off-kilter humor. Dropping wild drummer Gary Young and the fuzzy sound that dominated the first album may have seemed like an attempt to erase their roots, but casting off these distractions ended up throwing the band's structure into sharper relief. Astute enough to pull off an aural joke like “5-4=Unity,” an off-time tribute to Dave Brubeck's “Take 5” that's also a splendid song on its own, the album effortlessly highlights the band's musicianship and brains. Cataldo


Air, Moon Safari

Reinventing space-age bachelor-pad tunes for the computer generation, Moon Safari is all cheesy excess cut with ambient simplicity, from the sleepy repetition of “Sexy Boy” to the hazy “New Star in the Sky,” where whispered lyrics are delivered as barely discernable Vocoder murmurs. So much influence gets processed here, from vintage Eno ambiance to easy listening piano and found-sound experimentalism, that the uniformity achieved by the final product, where each track feels unique but distinctly marked by a singular hand, is amazing. It may not be one of the first albums to sound entirely produced by machines, but it's one of the few to retain its insistent humanity while doing so. Cataldo



From our partners