Honourable Mentions: Your fave '90s Australian albums that didn't make our countdown
Any kind of list canonising a particular era of music is going to seem incomplete to someone.
Compiling Double J’s countdown of the 50 Best Australian Albums of the 90s was tough, but with such a rich decade of releases, we could have made it 200 and still not covered everything.
That said, we wanted to pay tribute to some other beloved artists and albums that didn't make our final cut. Having kept a close eye on our textline and social channels, we've pulled together even more of the best Australian albums of the '90s.
You won’t find any artists here that alredy did make the Top 50, even if they had many more great albums to offer (shout outs Double Allergic, Freak Show, Horse Stories, Elsewhere For 8 Minutes, Leaves Me Blind etc. etc.) but what you will find is some very worthy honourable mentions and unsung masterpieces, in the words of the people who loved them – you, the Double J listeners.
Ratcat – Blind Love
Fronted by shiny haired heartthrob Simon Day, Sydney trio Ratcat hit the top of the ARIA charts in 1991 with their second album Blind Love, bridging the gap between the mainstream and alt-rock gulf with their indie pop sensibilities and spiky guitars closer to the realms of punk.
“At the time I don’t think we had previously had anything quite like the sound of Ratcat,” says Double J listener Ben. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence they hit the mainstream just as grunge was about to go global. I remember seeing Ratcat live in both small pub venues and festivals - the energy of the band and the moshing crowds were like nothing we’d seen before. Most of all I remember stripey t-shirts.”
Meanwhile, Zoe first saw #1 single ‘That Ain’t Bad’ on Rage. “I was about 10 and remember thinking how cool Ratcat were,” she says. “I recorded some of their songs off the radio onto cassettes and had posters of them from Smash Hits magazine.”
“As a teen, maybe 5 years later when Ratcat weren’t cool anymore, I bought a copy of Blind Love at a second-hand shop and listened to it on repeat, appreciating the songs that weren’t hits. It was really a bit of a go-to CD for me. It mostly evoked happy feelings in me at a time when I was listening to much heavier, angsty, grunge music. It was like a little ray of indie sunshine.”
“Many years later, as a fully-fledged grown up, listening to Blind Love brings back happy, warm feelings. I sing ‘Baby Baby’ to my children sometimes and the line from ‘Don’t Go Now’ – ‘I will love you, I will love you forever / when you smile at me you make me feel so happy’ - just fills me with love. I still listen to it and sing along all these years later.”
The Fauves – Future Spa
Released in 1996, the third album from the Morning Peninsula group saw them changing up their art rock endeavours, resulting in national visibility and a period of popularity that included two songs in the Hottest 100 and an ARIA nod. However, it’s an album that still remains underrated.
“Double J listeners, please go beyond ‘Dogs Are The Best People’ and discover a raft of gems,” implores Ian. “No better frontman in the business than Coxy. What other band would have a line like ‘Long before we ever sent off for those marital aids’ (per ‘Sentimental Motel Journey’). That sums up why they are so brilliant and why they never made it.”
“See the thing about Future Spa was the yarns,” says Glen. “Every song had a brilliant yarn. That, and it was surrounded by three basic instruments which sounded like a trailer being dragged down the highway without wheels. It was raw, it was honest, and it was real.”
Rebecca’s Empire – The Way Of All Things
Not many acts have the distinction of kicking of their career with a TISM cover, but singer-songwriter Rebecca Barnard does. She and partner Shane O’Mara began as a domesticated music duo in 1989 but found their breakthrough with their 1996 debut album. Brimming with smart power pop, quality ballads, and tough riffs, it struck a chord with many – but we’re going to hand it over to Shellie:
“I grew up listening to triple j, which is where I first heard the melodic voice of Rebecca Barnard – what a girl! Red lips and a guitar, loved her. She had a knack for writing catchy, poppy rock songs that stuck in your head.”
“I’m a serial front seat singer and when I first heard ‘The Way Of All Things’, I instantly loved the guitar riffs and harmonies (most important when you’re singing in the car)! I went out and bought the album straight away and absolutely thrashed it. The music makes me so happy, an album that makes me want to sing and dance.”
“When I was listening recently, after all these years, I couldn’t stop smiling through my favourite songs: ‘The Way Of All Things’, ‘Atomic Electric’ ‘So Rude’, ‘In Deep’. I love how music can evoke memories of being young and not having a worry in the world.”
The Porkers – Hot Dog Daiquiri
At a time when Australia’s alt-rock and electronica obsessions often drowned out all other genres, The Porkers deserve credit for keeping the ska scene vital. Hailing from Newcastle, the hard-touring ensemble released a raft of skankin’ releases through the ‘90s but 1998’s Hot Dog Daiquiri is arguably their best. A colourfully bold and brassy cocktail of ska, punk, rock, and reggae.
“It was the soundtrack to some of the best years of my life,” says Rhonda. “‘Chemical Imablance’ was my theme tune and saw some crazy shows at the Annandale Hotel; they did two nights one weekend.”
“The Porkers have been, in a way, my Aussie Ska Punk fairy godmothers,” Simonne shares. “I first saw them when I was 12 in Noosa at the Warped Tour '99, when it toured Australia for the second time. I was already into ska but this was the first I had heard of them.”
“A year later, I coincidentally tuned into a J Files episode about Ska curated by Pete Porker, and heard all the 2-tone bands that I had heard about, plus newer bands I hadn't heard yet (I still have the mixtape that I taped off the radio). Finally, in 2014, my own ska punk band, Alla Spina, got to support The Porkers in our hometown, Brisbane!”
Pollyanna – Long Player
Despite their split in 2002, nearly everything on Pollyanna’s CV scans like a band who’d achieve lasting success. The Sydney trio played all the big ‘90s festivals (Big Day Out, Homebake, Livid), supported some of its biggest bands (Weezer, Garbage, The Cranberries), and their 1996 debut album Long Player spawned two ARIA nominations and four Top 20 singles, two of which landed in the Hottest 100 (‘Lemonsuck’ and ‘Pale Green Eyes’).
If you need proof of the special place Long Player holds in a Pollyanna fan’s heart, just ask them which of the 14 tracks is their favourite, you’re likely to get a completely different answer.
“The jarring first chord of opener ‘Big Bully’ still sends a shiver down my spine, but ‘Railride’ is probably my pick,” says Tim. “I’ve always loved the feeling of foreboding throughout Long Player. So much energy but a sense that something more powerful is threating to overwhelm everything. I saw them supporting Hoodoo Gurus… they were okay, Pollyanna blew me away.”
For Cass, her faves are ‘Squeeze’ and ‘Keep Me Guessing’. “Listening to Long Player (and follow-up Hello Halo) just instantly takes me back to when I’d just moved out of home: living with friends, Doc Boots and long skirts, live music and drunken shenanigans. A great time and largely underrated band.”
Andrew discovered Pollyanna “in April 1996, when they performed on the second ever episode of ABC TV’s Recovery.”
“There isn’t a bad song on Long Player,” he says. “Some of my favourites include ‘Cut The Cake’, ’16 and Counting’, and the brilliant closer ‘Kickboard’. 22 years on the album still sounds as good as ever, and remains one of my favourite albums of all time. If only Pollyanna would reunite and perform some of these amazing songs live for us again.”
Rowland S. Howard – Teenage Snuff Film
Returning home from London after the dissolution of his band These Immortal Souls, Howard recruited longtime colleague Mick Harvey and Beasts of Bourbon’s Brian Hooper to record his debut solo record.
Released to critical acclaim in 1999, Teenage Snuff Film is a desolate and achingly austere listen. The trademark sound he brought to The Birthday Party had evolved but these shady songs possees the same vampiric elegance that helped shaped Australian punk’s infancy. It’s a record that’s influenced artists ranging from Courtney Barnett and The Horrors, to Against Me! (Laura Jane Grace once named it her favourite album of all time).
Like Double J listener Brad, those that make the effort to discover Howard’s back catalogue, will find only gothic treasure.
“After watching the documentary Autoluminescent, I wanted to discover Rowland’s music and ending up finding Teenage Snuff Film on CD,” he says. “First listen, it didn’t hit me but the second time, his amazing mastery of dark storytelling became evident – through his own work and others. ‘Autoluminescent’ and his cover of Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’ are great.”
Even – Less Is More
One of the local scene’s most talked about bands in the '90s, Melbourne trio Even’s brand of guitar-charged pop slotted snugly alongside the Britpop boom but equally drew from its classic past. They released some of the most overlooked but consistently great rock records of the decade, but it all started with their 1996 debut album, which scored Even a nod from Rolling Stone as ‘Hot Band of the Year’
No surprises. ‘Stop And Go Man’, ‘Don’t Wait’, ‘Peaches and Cream’ - Less Is More is rife with first class hooks and deceptively infectious tunes any band would kill for, all powered by the band’s not-so-secret weapon…
“Ash Naylor is a genius,” says Jamie. “Less Is More is a real ‘postcard’ album for me. Lots of memories from my youth, living in Sydney and gigging loads. It was a time of real trad. guitar pop and I thought Even were great and this record set the standard. It also made me want to be a better guitar player. Favourite gig? Macquarie Uni midweek in about 95/96 with a handful of people.”
David, who ran the indie label Spinning Top (home to Jack And The Beanstalk, Superscope, P76, Chevelles and more), has his own interesting twist to finding Less Is More.
“I was lucky enough to know Nick Phillips from Courdroy records in the mid-90s,” he explains. “While visiting Melbourne from Perth, I popped into his vinyl manufacturing plant (yes, there was one hidden away in the suburbs) and saw records being made first hand. He gave me a test pressing of Even’s Less Is More. Best test press I ever got.”
Here’s a list of some of the other great underrated or overlooked Australian albums of the '90s we saw getting namechecked by Double J listeners.
- AC/DC – The Razor’s Edge (1990)
- John Farnham – Chain Reaction (1990)
- Not Drowning, Waving – Tabaran (1990)
- Jimmy Barnes – Soul Deep (1991)
- The Church – Priest=Aurua (1992)
- The Badloves – Get On Board (1993)
- Kev Carmody – Bloodlines (1993)
- The Meanies – The Meanie of Life (1993)
- Tex, Don & Charlie – Sad But True (1993)
- Things of Stone and Wood – The Yearning (1993)
- Nitocris – Screaming Dolorous (1994)
- Smudge – Manilow (1994)
- Ammonia – Mint 400 (1995)
- Glide – Open Up And Croon (1995)
- The Lucksmiths – The Green Bicycle Case (1995)
- Max Sharam – Million Year Girl (1995)
- Screamfeeder – Kitten Licks (1996)
- Snout – The New Pop Dialogue (1996)
- Big Heavy Stuff – Maximum Sincere (1997)
- Front End Loader – Last of the V8 Interceptors (1997)
- Leonardo’s Bride – Angel Blood (1997)
- Natalie Imbruglia – Left of the Middle (1997)
- Savage Garden – Savage Garden (1997)
- Sidewinder – Tangerine (1997)
- Ben Lee – Breathing Tornados (1998)
- Bodyjar – No Touch Red (1998)
- Cordrazine – From Here To Wherever (1998)
- Gerling – Children of Telepathic Experiences (1998)
- Not From There – Sand On Seven (1998)
- Deadstar – Somewhere Over The Radio (1999)
- Icecream Hands –Sweeter Than The Radio (1999)
- Renee Geyer – Sweet Life (1999)
- Sonic Animation – Orchid For The Underworld (1999)