It seems that in the last couple of years, more and more bands from the 1990s are coming back, either taking the reunion route like Pavement, Chavez, the long-inactive Superchunk, and even (God help us all) Soundgarden, or releasing new material long after their last memorable hit. Nada Surf, which you probably know from their 1996 summer anthem “Popular,” have actually built a fairly successful indie career over the past decade and released a new album this week, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy. Their resurgence got us thinking about other ’90s one-hit wonders whose music is worth revisiting — our list of nine to add to your iPod is after the jump.
Why you know her: “It’s a Shame (My Sister),” ca. 1991
Why she’s worth checking out: Before making her debut on this side of the pond, Love had long been a respected figure in the British hip-hop scene. Her feminist, positive rap message made her a pioneer. Though her records are uneven, her debut Down to Earth deserves a listen for its early Native Tongues sound. On her second album, In a Word or 2, Monie worked with the legendary Marley Marl — and the song “Born to B.R.E.E.D.” was produced by none other than his purple majesty, Prince.
Why you know him: “Baby Got Back,” the ubiquitous big booty anthem
Why he’s worth checking out: No, really. The Seattle-based Sir Mix-a-Lot has a lot going for him other than his ode to buns. Before landing on every VH1 show as a talking head, Mix-a-Lot co-founded a record label and helped carve a niche in the scene for Northwestern rappers. “Posse on Broadway” and Mix-a-Lot’s cover of “Iron Man” both have that je ne sais quoi novelty characteristic, but both are also interesting songs in their own right. Take another look.
Why you know them: “Nearly Lost You,” ca. 1992
Why they’re worth checking out: The Screaming Trees were among the grunge forefathers that got lost in the Nirvana avalanche. Their sound is more psychedelic than sludgy, and their major label debut Sweet Oblivion has interesting touches of garage rock. It’s worth digging it out of the Soundgarden/Alice in Chains box and giving it another listen
Why you know them: “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” ca. 1994
Why they’re worth checking out: The Planets infused old-school hip-hop with the laid-back chill of jazz, a sound that influenced people like the Fugees and even Talib Kweli.
Why you know them: “No Rain,” ca. 1993
Why they’re worth checking out: Though the slow whine of “No Rain” — and its bumblebee girl video — may have driven you crazy from repeat listening in the ’90s, Blind Melon’s self-titled debut album actually has a lot more interesting stuff to offer. Try the rolling car ode “Galaxie” and the quieter, almost pretty “Change.” (Both music videos are just as full of edge-of-grunge weirdness as “No Rain,” too.)
Why you know her: “Wild Night,” ca. 1994
Why they’re worth checking out: Ndegeocello came up in the D.C. go-go circuit, but adapted the beat to a slowed-down, honeyed version of the music. Try out “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” and “Who Is He and What Is He to You.”
Why you know them: “Novacaine for the Soul,” ca. 1996
Why they’re worth checking out: The band’s power-pop stylings mixed with frontman E’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics rub some people the wrong way, but we found much redeeming in the eels, particularly in their debut album Beautiful Freak, like the always-satisfying “Your Lucky Day in Hell.”
Why you know them: “Naked Eye,” ca. 1997
Why they’re worth checking out: Beastie Boy friends and label mates Luscious Jackson have a sound that’s cool, dark, and hip-hop-influenced. Their debut EP In Search of Manny is the band before its sound got a little slicker and more pop-centric. It’s a slacker record from those heady days when the Beastie Boys were caught between careers in hip-hop and punk rock. If you give it a spin, you won’t be sorry.