10 ’90s Bands That Are Still Worth Your Time

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It’s one of the great truisms of the music industry that music moves in 20-year cycles, and sure enough, ’90s nostalgia is in full swing — just this year, The Stone Roses have re-formed, Chris Cornell abandoned his ill-fated Timbaland experiment for a Soundgarden reunion… and even Everclear and Gin Blossoms did a tour together, for Chrissakes. We’re not sold on all such ’90s revivalism — it’s difficult to remain together and relevant for two decades, after all — but while some of the decade’s best bands sadly no longer exist, there remain plenty of ’90s bands that are still around and still worth your time. With the new Dinosaur Jr. album I Bet on Sky out this week (and currently available to stream at NPR), we thought we’d look at a selection of such acts. Our picks await you after the jump.

Dinosaur Jr.

J Mascis and Lou Barlow are like an old married couple these days — they’re grumpy, they bicker, but somehow they make things work. And in fact, since Barlow returned to the fold in the mid-2000s, things seem to be working better than ever — 2007’s Beyond and 2009’s Farm were both excellent, and we like the sound of their new record, too.

The Breeders

They’ve never been the most prolific band, but Kim and Kelley Deal’s on-again, off-again project has been more on than off during the 2000s. They’ve released two excellent records, and while only they know when another might be due — their Breeder’s Digest site (“The world’s least read website!”) hasn’t been updated since 2010 — they’ve generally managed to hold it together a lot better recently than they have in the past, so we’re optimistic for the future. And if you’ve never seen the Kim ‘n’ Kelley cabaret act live, it’s well worth it.

Cornershop

One of the great overlooked ’90s bands, the megahit Norman Cook remix of “Brimful of Asha” aside, Cornershop have largely slipped below the radar over the course of a fascinating career. They’ve had their ups and downs — there was a seven-year gap between 2002’s excellent Handcream for a Generation and its follow-up Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast, but since then they’ve been on a tear, releasing three albums in four years.

Spiritualized

Permit us a moment of shameless fanboyism here — we were at the Radio City Music Hall show where they played Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space from start to finish, and it was the best show ever ever ever. Such one-off occasions aside, Jason Pierce is still making entirely worthy music (see: this year’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light), and his band is tighter than ever.

Pulp

Speaking of Radio City triumphs, we were also there to witness Pulp’s triumphant return to the USA last year (this ’90s Brit fannishness is costing us a fortune in tickets, but it’s totally worth it). Sadly, it doesn’t look like Pulp will be recording a new album any time soon, but they’re still one of the best live bands in the world.

Mudhoney

The original (and arguably the best) grunge band are coming up on 25 years together, and they’re still pretty great. Their most recent album (2008’s The Lucky Ones) was something of a career renaissance, too, 11 tracks of snarling, Stooges-esque punk that evoked the energy of the band’s beginnings while managing to also sound more composed and coherent than their endearingly ramshackle early records.

Super Furry Animals

Gurff Rhys has been busy soundtracking video games of late, while his bandmates have been making solo albums — but happily, Super Furry Animals remain a functioning band, albeit one taking something of a break for now. Their brand of psychedelic whimsy has aged better than perhaps even they might have imagined when they first arrived (in a blue tank) during the mid-’90s, and Rhys remains one of music’s finest, most idiosyncratic songwriters. According to bassist Guto Pryce, it’s going to be “a few years” before another album arrives, but we’re sure it’ll be worth the wait.

Placebo

“When ‘Nancy Boy’ tickled the Top Ten’s balls in January 1997,” wrote Select magazine sometime around the turn of the millennium, “you wouldn’t have put you money on Brian Molko being anything more than a six-week-long Marc Almond flashback.” And yet here we are in 2012 and Placebo are still with us — not quite the ultra-hedonistic bohemians of yore, but still a perfectly good rock ‘n’ roll band featuring one of music’s most distinctive, love-it-or-hate-it voices.

Guided by Voices

Another month, another Robert Pollard album! We’re pretty sure that Pollard will be writing songs until the End Times, and as such, GBV are in it for the long run (so long as Pollard keeps getting along with Tobin Sprout, that is).

Portishead

Back in the mid-1990s, when Dummy was soundtracking dinner parties the world over, who’d have guessed that a) Portishead would release only two more albums by 2012 and b) they’d nevertheless remain one of the most inventive, wonderful bands around? Another album is apparently on the way — we can’t wait to hear it.