Whatever musical elements connect Mudhoney, L7, Sister Double Happiness, Soul Coughing and Uncle Tupelo – the five acts showcased in this collection – it’s certainly not an affinity for grunge. Presumably Some Half-Decent 90s Alt.Rock Albums didn’t have quite the same ring to it.
The best of the bunch here is L7’s Bricks Are Heavy, the LA quartet’s second album. A scuzzy, punkoid rumble, best highlighted by the brilliant singles Pretend We’re Dead and Shitlist, it’s all snarl and bite and bad girl attitude, and stands as the highpoint of L7’s career. The same cannot be said of Mudhoney’s Piece Of Cake, the influential Seattle troupe’s first major label release, and one of the most inconsequential albums in their canon. Suck You Dry is an excellent slice of Stooges-esque ramalama and Blinding Sun is a loving 60s psyche pastiche, but this is far from essential.
Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne is both the alt. country band’s major label debut and their swansong, as tensions between main songwriters Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy led the band to split eight months after its release. Tweedy’s The Long Cut is the best moment here, pre-figuring his successful career with his next band Wilco.
Sister Double Happiness’ bluesy Heart And Mind is really only of interest to anyone curious as to what frontman Gary Floyd did after punk heroes The Dicks, while Soul Coughing’s Ruby Vroom is atmospheric, jazzy, quirky, boho cool and emphatically not grunge. A mixed bag then.