Campus Life

WMBR Top Ten Albums of 1990*

WMBR Top Ten Albums of 1990*

Brought to you by Ben Shanks and Dugan Hayes from WMBR 88.1 FM

Ben: We need to write an intro to our top ten or else our editor will beat us up.

Dugan: Dude, I have a paper to do. Why don’t you do it?

Ben: I have no creativity right now and I want to go to bed.

Dugan: Come on, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with something. It was your idea anyway.

Ben: What idea? Having a top ten albums of 1990 — the year most prefrosh were born — for the CPW issue of the Tech?

Dugan: Yeah, as a way of promoting WMBR, the student-run on-campus radio station, which also has a booth at the activities fair and is showing the Pavement documentary at the station on Saturday evening before battle of the bands. You know, the one we had published in the CPW guidebook?

Ben: Well I hope it gets the attention of the hip prefrosh who are interested in doing radio next year!

Dugan: Psh, like anyone would ever pay attention to a top ten of 1990 that didn’t include Cop Shoot Cop or Alice in Chains!

Ben: Grunge sucked, Dugan. Get over it.

Editor: You guys suck at making up self promoting conversations. I mean, what the fuck? I ask you to write an intro and you phone in this self promotional conversation? I can’t believe I’m giving you space in the newspaper. Also Dugan, I know you still keep plaid shirts in your closet but seriously, grunge sucked.

10. They Might Be Giants, “Flood”

As quirky, humorous, and fun as always, TMBG wrote some on their most infectious and unabashedly dorky (and sometimes inscrutable) songs for the record that scored them two videos on “Tiny Toons.” “Birdhouse” may have been the hit, but “Dead” is my personal favorite.

9. The Breeders, “Pod”

You may know them from “Cannonball,” but before Kim and Kelley Deal were in car commercials there was the Breeders’ dynamic debut album “Pod” — Kurt Cobain’s favorite record ever. Bitter but still fun, “Iris” is a perfect rock-out track.

8. Jawbreaker, “Unfun”

In a time when punk, well, sort of sucked, Jawbreaker reinvigorated the scene with an intelligent, literary (count the Kerouac allusions), and uniquely melancholic approach. “Want” is the most accessible track on their debut.

7. Spacemen 3, “Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To”

The title says it all — Spacemen 3 were masters of making ultra-mellow psychedelic guitar harmonies that perfectly soundtrack a sunset, an afternoon nap, or (of course) a drug trip. “Amen” is a great example that also anticipates the gospel influence of Pierce’s later band Spiritualized.

6. The Jesus Lizard, “Head”

tJL’s debut featured that unmistakable Chicago Albini-produced sound — low vocals and heavy on the fuzz. Dark lyrics typify their brutal noise-rock — like a way angrier Sonic Youth. “7 vs 8” is the Jesus Lizard at their best.

5. The Pixies, “Bossanova”

From here in Boston, the Pixies conquered college rock with impossibly catchy riffs and Black Francis’s spastic vocals, and Bossanova is the surfier, spacier followup to their breakthrough “Doolittle.” “Velouria” is so good that the theremin doesn’t even sound annoying.

4. A Tribe Called Quest, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm”

Releasing their debut in 1990, Tribe managed to hit the perfect balance between political lyricism and laid-back but innovative beats, essentially setting the bar for underground hip-hop. “Bonita Applebum” features both a great melody from Q-Tip and the sitar.

3. Galaxie 500, “This Is Our Music”

This shamefully underappreciated Boston band cemented their legacy with this, their final release. Opener “Fourth of July” typifies everything great about Galaxie 500 — a dreamy, feedback-laden landscape cut by poetically lazy vocals about surreally mundane topics and a great guitar hook.

2. Sonic Youth, “Goo”

Could no-wavers turned alt-rockers Sonic Youth preserve the urgency, the kool attitude, and more importantly the kick-ass noise squall of their previous output on their major label debut? Check out “Dirty Boots” if you have any doubts.

1. Fugazi, “Repeater”

The debut LP from Fugazi is also their gem, bursting with 3-chord punk spiced with funk and reggae influence. “Merchandise” is their anthem and manifesto — today’s image-conscious hipster set could stand to listen to frontman Ian Mackaye’s defiant “You are not what you own!”

*E-mail us at (or seek us out at our events) if you disagree. Seriously, we love arguing about music. Listen to WMBR on the air at 88.1 FM or online at for the best independent, underground, and underplayed music