If you watch too much VH1 for your own good then you know 1990 is the year that gave us Vanilla Ice, Gerardo, and a hundred interchangeable hair metal bands. Thankfully, 1990 also produced a healthy amount of excellent records from the punk rock underground. Here are 10 of our favorites turning 25 this year.
See also: The Best Punk Albums of 2014
10. Poison Idea, Feel the Darkness
To casual punk fans, Poison Idea is the scuzzy Portland band with a morbidly obese guitar player (RIP) and album artwork that resembles a defaced Trapper Keeper. The daring few who bothered to give them a chance regard Poison Idea as the Pacific Northwest's heirs to Motörhead. Unless you are a clinically-obsessive punk blogger or the owner of one of one America's last 11 record stores, you were probably oblivious to Poison Idea's existence, too. Now you're not. Here's what you also need to know: "Feel the Darkness," now a quarter century old, is one of their best.
9. The Dwarves, Blood, Guts and Pussy
These nihilistic Chicago natives earned a reputation for career-threatening hijinks such as smashing a guitar over a stage diver's skull and faking a band member's death, the latter ploy resulting in their dismissal by the fey nerds at Sub Pop records. As they cultivated their image as rock and roll's criminally-minded saviors, The Dwarves released this standout record of manic and perverse garage rock that pleased fans of The Stooges and hardcore alike.
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8. The Vandals, Fear of a Punk Planet
After toying with country on 1989's Slippery When Ill, the Vandals returned to what they do best with this puerile yet catchy record that features cameos from Dweezil Zappa on guitar and Kelsey Grammar on piano. Yep. Kelsey Grammar, the guy from "Frasier." We don't know how that happened, either.
7. Bad Religion, Against the Grain
When they are not busy finding new ways to cram 28 lines of lyrics into a 2-minute song, Bad Religion has been known to make a good record or two. "Against the Grain" is one of them.
See also: 10 Best Punk Rock Drummers
6. ALL, Allroy Saves
ALL's third album is a sturdy example of the band's unique treatment of pop punk. While the requisite witty lyrics and melodic vocals are plentiful, so is a startling degree of musicianship that somehow avoids cluttering the songs. The guitar can sometimes veer into prog rock territory but the compact rhythm section reliably molds these experiments into listenable hooks. We recommend ALL for anyone who thinks they're too smart to listen to a punk band.
5. Bad Brains, The Youth are Getting Restless
Remember all those simpering pop punk bands that took a stab at ska and reggae about 15 years ago? A concerned adult should have slipped them all "The Youth are Getting Restless," a live record of Bad Brains at their most ferocious, with stern instruction to listen and learn.
4. Jawbreaker, Unfun
The long-defunct San Francisco trio is regarded by music critics as one of the first emo bands, the kind of damning praise that could be responsible for their reluctance to reform. "Unfun" is so lionized for its influence on lesser talents that its merits are overlooked, mainly because the bores who talk about influential records rarely listen to them. We encourage you to transcend the lazy name dropping and experience this record as Jawbreaker intended – through a pair of speakers or headphones and without undue analysis of the lyrics and guitar playing and whether they influenced shitheel posers like My Chemical Romance.
3. Social Distortion, Social Distortion
"Hiya Ralph, did you hear the Fonz started a rock n' roll band?
"No way, Richie!"
"He sure did!"
"Say, what is the name of the Fonz's band?"
"They're called Social Distortion and they're playing at Al's Diner Saturday. We should go!"
2. Green Day, 39/Smooth
Are you a self-christened guardian of the true punk rock lifestyle? Do you rehearse a nightly "Death to Billie Joe" monologue in the mirror after tweezing your brows and applying a soothing aloe lotion to the GG Allin tattoos on your forearm? If so, here's the long-forgotten first record by Green Day, aka the catalyst to your precious punk rock's downfall. If you have a time machine, you can go back to 1990 and steal the master tapes from Billie Joe's car and burn them. You can then return to an altered 2015 in which the guys in Green Day are schoolteachers and graphic designers, and Goldfinger is the most successful pop punk band in history. What will you do?
1. Fugazi, Repeater
Around the time he finally grew pubic hair, former Minor Threat singer Ian McKaye recognized the creative dead end of screaming about his vegetarian diet and opted to expand the musical range of his follow-up projects. For Fugazi, he recruited a rhythm section adept at the brainy arrangements nowadays labeled post-punk. While Fugazi foresaw the irksome '90s trend of merging superficially incongruent genres, they did it less to show off than to make music thrilling and intellectually rewarding. It's an accomplishment few bands then or since have done with as much success.