Yep, the list you’ve all been waiting for (not really) is finally here. Feel free to offer up some laughs and critical remarks for the music I listened to the most 20 years ago. You’ll notice a heavy T&N presence and I just couldn’t help myself. There were a lot of albums and releases I found myself spinning back then and still getting plays today. I think that’s where this list falls in place, it’s the albums that had the longest lasting impact with me and had a catchy sound that I just couldn’t get enough of. I ride more on the commercial, melodic side of the market rather than all that arty ear splitting noise rock 😉 I created a special Spotify play list that you can find near the end of the article. Some of these titles are out of print and only available in YouTube form so enjoy those unheard hits within the article. Remember kids, “some” of these releases may not have the best language so if you get queasy at the thought of dirty words from the general market (do we still use the word ‘secular’?) bands, you may want to skip those parts. So check out my faves below and don’t forget to check out “The Best of 2007” list which can be found here. Hop in your time machine and let’s get ready to party like its 1997!
The below listed albums is a rare glimpse into the year 1997. So much great music released in that 97′ year, some of which can be found below. This is my top 20. Some you may enjoy and others will be cast aside. Feel free to critique my choices in the comments section below. Don’t forget to check out the special spotify playlist at end of article for an actual listen to these fine songs.
The O.C. Supertones – Supertones Strike Back
From the heavy metal with horns opening of “Supertones Strike Back”, you know you were in for a fun ride. 12 tracks of sunny orange county ska-punk. Taking cues from old school rap mixed with melodic punk rock and plentiful amounts of ska upbeats, this album was unlike any other in the scene. This band played Christ centered ska music that got the Church dancing and people to contemplate a life in Christ through the band’s evangelistic message. This band impacted me greatly throughout the more than 20 years of listening to their music and I can’t help but sing a long with every song on this record. I love this album so much that I spent way too much money on a vinyl copy so I could listen to it in the living room at home. Some faves from this album would have to be “Unite”, “Resolution”, “Supertones Strike Back”, “Grace Flood”, “Little Man”, “Perseverance of the Saints”, “Shut Up”, and all the rest. I was lucky enough to catch the band’s final show back in June and it was a fitting farewell to a group whose music has meant so much to me over the years. RIP OC Supertones. You can purchase the band’s final LIVE Vol. 2 album and Acoustic Final Show in digital format here (The show in 1080 HD is also available).
Five Iron Frenzy – Our Newest Album Ever
Between OC Supertones and FIF, are we sensing a trend here or what? Yep I think so. These two albums could literally be a tie for top position. People may lump “Ska” bands together and especially the ones of the Christian variety but these two groups couldn’t be more different. They have drastically different styles and technique. This album literally blew my brain right out of my head! Seriously, when I first heard “Our Newest Album Ever” I sensed a great deal of maturity in this band especially after realizing there was only like a 1 year gap between the debut and this record. Starting off strong with the in your face anthem “Handbook for the Sellout” which was directed at crowds (mostly little children with fingers to point) who projected their indie scene cred points at bands like the above two groups who were experiencing a certain level of “success”. I loved the song and felt it was fitting for the time period. Other stand out tracks included “Blue Comb 78′”, “Oh Canada”, “Suckerpunch”, “Most Likely to Succeed”, “Litmus”, “Banner Year”, “Fistful of Sand”, “Where is Micah”, and the beautiful song “Every New Day” which has spawned countless hands in the air worship sessions at all those FIF shows. I’ve seen FIF at different gaps in their timeline from the mid-late 90’s, after 9/11, at their reunion gigs, and just a few years ago with MxPx and Slick Shoes. Each time was a captivating show, full of good-hearted humor and sing at the top of your lungs antics. Reese Roper has a funny way of expressing social topics, Faith, and a call to action on a number of issues. I’ve always loved this band and their message. I mean how many “Christian” bands have a song like “Banner Year” on their albums? Nope, not too many. Come on FIF, make that NEW record we are all dying to own 🙂
Stavesacre – Absolutes
Through and through, pure beauty and aggression. What was started on “Friction”, a super band of sorts, continued on through “Absolutes” and put all of us fans in our place. Some people doubted this band could follow up such a strong debut but sophomore slump definitely wasn’t in the cards for Stavesacre. New Drummer Sam West came into the mix on the recording of this record and has cemented his place as one of the finest rock drummers of the past 20+ years. I think musicians these days don’t get the credit they deserve when it comes to the art they create. Every single musician in this band has a unique style that when mixed together makes for an absolutely entertaining listening experience. Having a guitarist like Jeff Bellew (Ex-The Crucified), Bass player Dirk Lemmenes (Ex-Focused), Drummer Sam West (Ex-Savior Machine, Ex-Scatered Few), and that unmistakable voice in Mark Salomon (Ex-The Crucified), was a combo to be reckoned with. The album exploded with the track “Shiv” right from the get go. Other solid stand outs include “Sand Dollar”, “Colt .45”, “Inclusive”, “Acquiesce” (later covered by Ghoti Hook), “An Eclipsing”, and “The Two Heavens”. As much as I (still) love “Friction”, it is this album that really set the stage for the band’s rising successes. Not to knock other bands but I felt their unfair comparisons to Quicksand, Orange 9mm, and Tool wasn’t always the correct finger pointing. As much as those bands had their “moments”, nothing could compete with the music of Stavesacre for they have always been in a league of their own. Returning this year with their impressive new full length “MCMXCV” was the best move this band could have ever made. Make sure you listen to this album and then go out and buy the new one!
Model Engine – The Lean Years Tradition
Model Engine played alternative rock music with the intelligence of a college professor. This band was unlike any other in our little music scene and could have competed with the biggest bands of their day on radio/mtv. The sad state of the music industry as a whole is that this band has been mostly forgotten with the sands of time. It’s members scattered around and seemingly unheard of in years. It is my hope to revitalize interest in mid-late 90’s Christian music to bring about a certain level of awareness. These bands certainly shouldn’t be forgotten. “The Lean Years Tradition” started off with the song “Hang You Upside Down” which was simply a tale of our Faith in music form. Read the lyrics to this song (and others by the band Black Eyed Sceva which was their name before it got changed) and all the others on the record especially “Reeperbahn” if you can find them. It always blew my mind how their tour mates Switchfoot got worldwide notice and acclaim over the past 20 years and yet this band seemingly disappeared into the heaps of thrift store cd piles. Why, their music was as good if not better than their fellow contemporaries in the music scene. Jeremy Post’s lyrics, witticism, and voice was something I still find myself in awe of. Come on Jeremy, if you’re reading this please surface and make music one more time.
Living Sacrifice – Reborn
Thunderous, pounding drums, huge aggressive guitars, in your face loud and unafraid brutal vocals made this a release I certainly wasn’t prepared for in 1997. There wasn’t anything like it from what I listened to. It wasn’t exactly hardcore, wasn’t exactly heavy metal (and certainly not Ska 😉 but something about this release was just plain special. You mean to tell me there were musicians in the 1990s who weren’t drugged out of their minds and could actually play their instruments, not to mention with a ferocity unlike any other? Yep, that band was Living Sacrifice and nobody could compete with their sound in that time period, I don’t care what indie scene cred you may have tossing other band names at me. Sorry, but these guys were (and still are) the real deal. Lance’s drumming really is a focal point in this band, almost as if the guitars/bass take a second seat to them. This band has always had an amazing percussion section. Everything about this record is pure greatness from Jason Truby’s guitar work, Bruce’s in your face brutal vocal delivery and Lance’s drum work. Not knocking the bassist here as the record does have a perfect balance of deep sound bass depth. Songs like “Reborn Empowered”, “Reject”, “Truth Solution”, and “Sellout” are some of my faves but really the whole album is great. Oh and for the record, this album was my first real introduction to the band since I didn’t follow their R.E.X. stuff too closely (wasn’t a Death Metal fan in that time period).
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Let’s Face It
This band will never be a one hit wonder as much as radio continues to only play that one song over and over again. Yes “The Impression That I Get” IS a great song but so was the most often overlooked single “So Sad To Say” or even “Someday I Suppose”. The band has had a collection of “hits” over their entire nearly 3 decade run, all you have to do is hop on your little spotify time machine and listen to their discography. Even recent releases like “The Magic of Youth”, and “Pin Points & Gin Joints” had some great songs. Ok enough trying to convince you guys to listen to the complete MMB discography, you either get it or don’t. This album is and was the perfect SKA album. I still crank out these jams at every chance I get. “Royal Oil”, “The Rascal King”, title track “Let’s Face It”, and of course that unforgettable MMB anthem “The Impression That I Get”, are enough to convince any fan that this album is one of the finest of 1997 and deserves it’s rightful place on anyone’s list.
Jars of Clay – Much Afraid
After the enormous success of “Flood” just a few years prior it was always going to be a tough sell to avoid the sophomore slump. Did they do it? Yes I believe they did it and far exceeded expectations. Some may not have appreciated the more commercial sound of this follow up but I appreciated the better production and music cohesiveness of this 2nd full length. “Much Afraid” was one of the few “CCM” (if you can even call it that) releases I had in my CD deck at that time period but I really enjoyed it. Songs like “Crazy Times”, “Overjoyed”, “Tea and Sympathy”, “Fade to Grey”, “Five Candles (You Were There)” are all stand outs on the impressive “Much Afraid” record. I guess the tag “Adult Alternative” would fit better than CCM. These guys fit in the same league as Toad The Wet Sprocket, Gin Blossoms, Matchbox 20, LIVE, etc. and those are hefty comparisons to be lumped in with but they pull it off with perfection. The band is still making music today and have multiple side projects all proving why they are one of biggest and most powerful groups to come out of the alternative-ccm genre in the past 20 years.
Quayle – Quayle
I spun this band quite a bit back in the day. Under their prior band name Spud Puddle they released one full length on Alarma Records before departing, changing their name to “Quayle” and releasing just one new full length through a label called “Sublime Records”. Like all sad stories and situations within the Christian music industry, the label went under, band broke up, album went out of print and seemingly disappeared from public eye (why does this always happen?). Quayle took all the best elements of alternative rock and the newly introduced “emo” genre and mixed it up in a blender. Their frontman carried this band well and with his raspy yet melodic delivery, was able to transcend the stagnant sound-alike clones out there. You can hear two of their songs (more if you click the youtube link) right here in this article so check them out. Their sound was sort of a combination of Sunny Day Real Estate, Knapsack, Gameface, and Plankeye.
Millencolin – For Monkeys
Oh Millencolin, how much I loved your music back in the day. This punk-ska band from Sweden made the greatest tunes in their genre even if it was a little goofy at times (Monkey Boogie). I didn’t care for their debut but this album, wow, it was impressive to me at a time when I was beginning to shed my ban on music from outside the Christian market. “For Monkeys” was a unique take on a tired genre of punk rock by mixing it with some ska upbeats and melodic skate punk aesthetics. I truly love this album and the tracks found in my spotify list like “Lozin’ Must”, “Puzzle”, “Boring Planet”, and of course…. “Monkey Boogie”, are some of my faves.
Save Ferris – It Means Everything
If you were living in Orange County, CA. back in the mid-late 90’s, ska/skapunk/skacore/skapop was all the rage. For all the No Doubts and Save Ferriss there were dozens of other similar bands popping up all over the place and yes even in the Christian underground scene. Save Ferris were so different from No Doubt and it’s sad they got lumped together just because they both had female singers. It’d be like lumping Bad Religion and Mxpx together just because they had male singers. Monica’s smooth voice was actually more in tune than their comparison band (sorry Gwen). She could really belt out those notes! This band had a steady horn section and their lyrics were all over the place from humor and good hearted dance type numbers to that full on “cover” we all know (Come On Eileen). Save Ferris made the catchiest music that any genre fan and non fan could equally enjoy.
Plankeye – The One and Only
I was a big fan of “Commonwealth” and really believed it was the band’s high point in their discography. However, that is not a knock on this album or their place in classic Christian alternative rock. “The One and Only” was faster paced and a bit more “commercial” and upbeat than the prior album. I still remember hearing “Playground” on some alternative station out here and recording it on cassette tape so I could listen more (remember those mixtapes?). Tracks like “Someday”, “Fall Down”, “Playground”, “One or The Other”, “Let’s Try Again Tomorrow”, “Compromise”, and the closer, “Sterling”, were all extremely solid songs. It’s really tragic that Scott Silletta quit the band after this album. As much as I appreciate “Relocation” with the revamped lineup, there was just something special about the band led by Scott and the 4 full lengths they released in that time period.
Slick Shoes – Rusty
Has it really been 20 years already? Wow! This album doesn’t miss a beat and it’s hard to believe that many years have passed since it first hit the streets. What’s also crazy to note was Ryan’s age when he joined the band and released his first 2 albums. I believe he was still in high school during the first couple releases (correct me if I’m wrong). The solid guitar work by one of the finest punk rock guitarists I’ve ever heard – Jackson, is without a doubt the craziest licks, solos, and fastest pace that I’ve heard in punk rock. Those first 2 full lengths by Slick Shoes (and the Ep) are pure gold for me. Everything from the guitar work, bass, and Joe’s crazy fast drumming mixed along with Ryan’s vocals is purely unique. Songs like “Cliche”, “Joe’s Sick”, “Rusty”, “Regrets”, “Losing Sight”, “Proved Me Wrong”, “Last”, and the aggressive “Fall” are all some of my personal faves. It’s hard to believe this falls into the realm of “90’s Music” because it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
Dogwood – Through Thick and Thin
Spiritual punk rock that wasn’t goofy or light on subject matter. Josh and his bandmates made heartfelt praise worthy punk rock that was unlike any other in the scene. Sure the production quality wasn’t as full sounding as other records in the scene but this WAS the 90’s and it didn’t matter. This was a definite improvement over the debut which I wasn’t the biggest fan of. It’s incredible to look back and realize this band put out 6 records + a split ep all by the year of 2003! There is no other band that made such a powerful and emotional song like “Preschool Days”. “All Hands on Deck” was a call to Faith and it was as much a worship song as you could get in punk rock. “Tribute”, “Daddy Dearest”, and “In The Line of Fire” “Family Values”, “Who Am I To Decide Who Deserves What” and “Jesus” were some of my faves along with the two mentioned beforehand. How can you forget the final LIVE track “Joy Through Movement”? Heck yeah! 20 years of some of the best in punk rock by this San Diego based band.
Value Pac – Jalapeno
This gets personal for me. Long story short, I’d known these guys back in the 90’s, before getting signed and during the T&N years. Saw them multiple times and even had them play at my Church as well as a friend’s backyard party. I had that connection and loved their simple So. Cal. melodic pop-punk style. I’ll leave out all the bad parts of the story about how I ticked off their manager for ditching one of my shows and a little bit of bad blood in 1997. I was still optimistic about “Jalapeno” and waited to get my hands on the CD upon release date. The band dropped Isaiah (Bass) between the debut and this record, in place picked up Sean who played bass and sang bgvs too. It was always simple three cord punk rock but there was something entirely different about this band compared to some of the “bigger” punk bands in the 90’s. Maybe it was Ryan’s snotty and grit fueled vocals that kept them on a path of their own. The album art for this CD is/was horrible and I never understood why a big label like T&N/BEC would have let art like that pass on through. Songs like “Nothing”, “We Are The Ones”, “Don’t Look Back”, “Mindgame”, “Prom Queen”, “Preacher Man”, and the ballad-like track “Big Dream” were all favorites of mine. The production on this record was much improved over their debut and there was much more cohesiveness among musicians. A much better album than the debut (still not as good as “Incognito” though 😉
Strongarm – The Advent of a Miracle
You can’t talk about 1997 and not mention Strongarm’s huge sounding 2nd full length “The Advent of a Miracle”. The band had somewhat of a lineup change between the first T&N album and this Solid State debut. Former drummer Chris Carbonell moved up to lead vocals and the band recruited Steve Kleisath to take over the drum set. From the opening chords and screams of “These Times That Try Men’s Souls” you just knew you had stumbled on to something special. It was heavy, melodic, in your face, and spirit filled. No other band played with the intensity that Strongarm did. So emotional and pulling at all the heart strings. Strongarm were a force to be reckoned with. It was just hard to explain in words the way these musicians played their instruments throughout the album. It had all these chord and pace changes, even mid song, and a vocalist that I felt was going to spill out his guts through each word he screamed. There was so much excitement and intrigue with this band. When they broke up, it nearly ended a whole scene because they literally defined a genre. Listen to these songs and tell me I’m right: “These Times That Try Men’s Souls”, “The Advent of a Miracle”, “Supplication”, “Sorrow Is a Sage”. Strongarm IS spirit filled hardcore. Done, I’m out.
ZAO – The Splinter Shards The Birth of Separation
As much as Strongarm was about melodic hardcore/punk, ZAO rode the more metallic side of the genre and exposed something called Metalcore to listeners across the globe. This band really defined the new genre of mixing heavy metal and hardcore/punk with a whole generation of music fan. What they did, they did it well and by professing their love for Jesus through heavy music was really a sight to be seen. While I didn’t get a chance to see them live (still have never seen ZAO) I’d heard stories about their smashing live shows and intense spirit-filled blend of metal and hardcore. This album is a heavy hitter and something that couldn’t be replicated on future albums. What began here was for merely one album for the next ZAO to emerge was something of a new creation. Shawn Jonas’ guttural, ear piercing screams were something entirely original and awe inspiring. I seriously began to wonder if he was going to throw out his vocal cords with each scream. It wasn’t all about the vocals even though they led the band, the heavy, deep sounding guitars and pounding drums not to mention thundering bass sound literally lept/leaps out of the stereo with each listen. It’s surprising this is a 90’s record because it doesn’t sound that way, even listening 20 years later. Although it’s a shame the band lost all members but Jesse by the time of “Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest” at least we got two great things out of it, that new ZAO sound and Symphony in Peril. Now we also get To Live As Sons which features two former ZAO members from this record. Listen to the songs “Times of Separation”, “Surrounds Me”, “In Loving Kindness”, “Repressed”.
Every Day Life – American Standard
Oh wow, where do I begin? Tedd Cookerly was a monster vocalist and not just because of height. His rapping was spot on and his screams were otherworldly. It truly was the best combination of rap, metal, and hardcore. They would have been the biggest thing had they switched to another certain label and had that kind of exposure. I always felt that Alarma Records kind of limited their reach. Anyway, “American Standard” was the perfect follow up to the hard charging first record “Disgruntled” which had issues of it’s own with censorship. This album too had some issues with topics. Even the album cover which had women sowing American Flags upside down but most people didn’t catch that so it slipped on through. Topics ranged from social issues like American politics (title track), to treatment of Native Americans (Ten Little Indians), and even touched on the topic of Molestation (Touched) and Abuse. The album was ripe for complaints from everyone in the industry including little old ladies (and men) in the Christian Music Industry. Sadly this album disappeared under bargain heaps at your local thrift shop which never should have been the case. The band was a hip and rock powerhouse and when the turn of the century happened with all the Limp Bizkits, RATM, PODs, etc. this band should have exploded into the populace. Tedd if you’re reading this I just want you to know that you influenced me and the music you created wasn’t left unheard or fallen on deaf ears. It’s the reason I connected with these guys and booked them for two gigs while I still did that sort of thing. I even remembered the retooled lineup from 2001 with Scott (Plankeye) on DJ tables scratched those records. Eric and Carl certainly weren’t left under appreciated either. This band had only one guitarist but they played like there were tons of guys up on stage. Carl was a intense and influential guitarist but was limited by recordings, what we all saw LIVE was an explosive set filled with hard pounding drum section, wailing guitars, deep bass, and the style of Tedd blowing speakers nearly off stage. Those screams though, wow!
Huntingtons – Fun and Games
This band was just a good time all around. Their songs were poppy, snotty, and just plain FUN. You always felt good listening to Huntingtons, you really did. They mixed up classic 50s/60’s pop along with Ramones inspired punk rock and threw in a little of that current 90’s pop-punk style. It was the perfect combination of tunes to lighten anyone’s mood. This wasn’t a band that wanted to take on the establishment with overtly political tunes or shake things up spiritually. What started on “Fun and Games” continued right into their first big record on T&N called “High School Rock”. This album was a step up from the basic sounding debut and amped things up a bit production wise. I loved the BGV on this album. These songs were a bit more “poppy” than their follow up in 1998 but I’m certainly not knocking that fine record. “Alison’s The Bomb”, “The Only One”, “Leave Home”, and “Losing Penny” were some of my faves. Even the cover of “Come on Let’s Go” was a great take on a classic song by Ritchie Valens.
No Use For a Name – Making Friends
There were a lot of great punk rock albums released in 1997 (Lagwagon, Pennywise, Blink 182, The Bouncing Souls, Mad Caddies, etc.) but this band has always ranked near the top of my list of faves. There was some “language” to be found on this release which probably showed conflicting opinions and beliefs that I may have had. I was just coming out of my Christian music only phase (which is why the majority of albums from 1997 fell under this banner) and “Leche Con Carne” was still a record I held dear to. This album isn’t my favorite NUFAN album that title belongs to everything released from 1999 (More Betterness) and onwards (Hard Rock Bottom, Keep Them Confused, The Feel Good Record of the Year). It’s tragic that we lost such an outstanding vocalist and guitarist in Tony Sly. Whatever reason for his passing it’s the recorded music that continues to inspire and offer a glimpse into the head of one of punk’s most underrated vocalists/songwriters.
Six Feet Deep – The Road Less Traveled
Last on my 1997 “list” is this little gem from Ohio based hardcore band, Six Feet Deep. This band followed up their fantastic debut “Struggle” with a more melodic influence. This was a heavy and in your face dose of hardcore fury. Listen to the track “Broken Tree” and you’ll get a sense for where some of the guys went with their future sounds on Brandtson albums. This was a really fine record for the time period but like with other stories of the Christian market in the 1990s their label was short lived and this record basically got shelved for a bit. It’s maddening to me because of how good this was and how big this band could have been. For every Strongarm, ZAO, Living Sacrifice, Overcome, etc. there were groups like Six Feet Deep and Every Day Life that got pushed further underground for lack of label support. It was a huge bummer. Listen to some of these tracks that I managed to dig up on Spotify after searching the site for a bit. It’s all in the play list below. “Apathetic”, “Congruent”, “Meaningless”, “More in Sorrow”, and the soft sounds of “Broken Tree” were some of my faves.
20 Honorable Mentions:
The Inysderz – Motor City Ska
Ghoti Hook – Banana Man
Foo Fighters – The Color and Shape
Green Day – Nimrod
Blink 182 – Dude Ranch
Pennywise – Full Circle
Lagwagon – Double Pladinum
Everclear – So Much For The After Glow
Third Eye Blind – Third Eye Blind
Toad The Wet Sprocket – Coil
Klank – Still Suffering
Switchfoot – The Legend of Chin
Fold Zandura – Ultra Surround
All Star United – All Star United
Common Children – Delicate Fade
Grammatrain – Flying
Helmet – Aftertaste
Mad Caddies – Quality Soft Core
Crux – Cakewalk
Everdown – Straining