College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1989, 38 and 37

38. Toad the Wet Sprocket, Bread and Circus

The band Toad the Wet Sprocket doesn’t actually have a lead electric triangle player named Rick Stardust who had to have his elbow removed, although anyone who listened to the sketch “Rock Notes” on Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. That was the source of the Santa Barbara band’s unique moniker, which undoubtedly grabbed them some attention right away. But it was their earnest, finely honed songs that kept that attention and helped them build fans as they toiled tireless across the clubs of California. Before long, they had enough songs to record a full album and their debut Bread and Circus emerged as a cassette-only release they put out themselves. A year later, it received a full-fledged rerelease from no less than Columbia Records, a pretty exceptional result for an effort recorded for around $650 while individual band members were still in the process of finishing up high school.

37. The Screaming Blue Messiahs, Totally Religious

It took a little while for the band The Screaming Blue Messiahs to settle on their name. When they first formed, they were briefly known by the redundantly redundant Motor Boys Motor. They tinkered around with the name The Blue Messiahs until an exec at their record label pointed out that it made them sound like a pub rock band, kilometers away from the pounding assault of their actual songs. Simply adding “Screaming” seemed to do the trick, and the band started building a reputation as some of the toughest rockers the U.K. had produced in ages. They continued their ferocious sonic march on their third album, Totally Religious, released in 1989. It was a characteristic slab of thick, generous rock songs, though their fellow countrymen perhaps took some added pleasure in the fact that the band’s well-established appreciation for pop culture icons migrated home from the American keystones of previous outings to celebrating homegrown comic book lawman Judge Dredd in the centerpiece song “Mega City One.”

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