College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 48 and 47

48. Cowboy Junkies, Lay It Down

During my years as a student in college radio, I offered some fairly unkind assessments of albums by Cowboy Junkies. When I arrived in 1988, the Canadian band was just starting to experience some massive success with their sophomore album, The Trinity Sessions, thanks largely to an exquisite and just-loved cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.” Perhaps understandably, subsequent albums hewed to the same formula, and I became increasingly comfortable dismissing the band for doing the same old thing each time out. As early as The Caution Horses, their 1990 follow-up to their biggest hit, I was reviewing their work entirely with a snide dismissal, writing, “Well, if you liked their last record…” on the sticker affixed to the album cover of the station’s copy. While I certainly know the band wasn’t concerned with me personally, their 1996 album, Lay It Down, seemed to be a direct answer to people who thought the way I did. Lead single “A Common Disaster” had a bluesy prowl to it, which nicely suited the vocals of Margo Timmins, giving their low, languid beauty a new edge. Others seemed to appreciate the shift too, as Lay It Down was their highest-charting album since The Caution Horses. They couldn’t sustain whatever fresh momentum they’d developed, however, as soon they were back to releasing largely ignored music and cursed to forever cycle back to their breakthrough release. What I really want to know is why I had no idea until today that my favorite song from Lay It Down was released as a single accompanied by a music video featuring Janeane Garofalo at the precise time my crush on her was peaking.

47. The Pogues, Pogue Mahone

This is the final studio album released by the Pogues, and their second after the departure of perpetually pickled lead singer Shane MacGowan. While their first outing sans Shane yielded one of the band’s biggest singles, it was immediately clear with Pogue Mahone that the group was struggling creatively without the tottering force of nature. The new music simply wasn’t up to par, no matter how much their devoted, hopeful fan base wanted the opposite to be true. The band officially broke up shortly after Pogue Mahone was released. When their various endeavors away from the group received not much better than a lukewarm reception, the inevitable reunion gigs beckoned. They still haven’t released any new music, but one-off gigs and brief tours have been fairly commonplace since 2001. They’ve also been coming together under sadder circumstances, supporting and (roughly two weeks from the time this post goes up) paying tribute to key member Philip Chevron, who has terminal cancer.

An Introduction
–90 and 89: Antichrist Superstar and Three Snakes and One Charm
–88 and 87: No Code and Unplugged
–86 and 85: Greatest Hits Live and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts
–84 and 83: To the Faithful Departed and God’s Good Urges
–82 and 81: Billy Breathes and Sweet F.A.
–80 and 79: The Process and Test for Echo
–78 and 77: Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and Breathe
–76 and 75: Bob Mould and Walking Wounded
–74 and 73: It’s Martini Time and Trainspotting soundtrack
–72 and 71: Aloha Via Satellite and Fever In Fever Out
–70 and 69: Hi My Name is Jonny and One Mississippi
–68 and 67: Everything Sucks and The Aeroplane Flies High
–66 and 65: First Band on the Moon and Razorblade Suitcase
–64 and 63: Comic Book Whore and Peachfuzz
–62 and 61: All Change and Rude Awakening
–60 and 59: 12 Golden Country Greats and Songs in the Key of X
–58 and 57: Brain Candy soundtrack and Pinkerton
–56 and 55: Sublime and Count the Days
–54 and 53: Wild Mood Swings and The Cult of Ray
–52 and 51: Bringing Down the Horse and Crash
–50 and 49: No Talking, Just Head and New Adventures in Hi-Fi

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