College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 22 and 21

22. Soundgarden, Down on the Upside

By 1996, it was already a decisive time for the various acts that surged to popularity on the grunge wave started by Nirvana and swelled to terrifying size by Pearl Jam. The commercial alternative bubble hadn’t burst, but it had a troubling shimmy to it, meaning artists who were guaranteed sales as long as their guitars were deep, droning and muddy enough now had to prove their range. Down on the Upside is the fifth album from Seattle’s Soundgarden, one of those band that had established themselves decently well before the grunge movement took them to heights they probably hadn’t thought possible. They clearly tried to craft something a little different, which could help them outlast the scene. It’s not as if the music on the album is wildly different, but there’s a sense of shifting dynamics throughout. It was a sensible thought ultimately fruitless approach. Certified platinum, it still lagged well behind their previous outing, the smash Superunknown. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the band didn’t survive the downswing, with the almost inevitable breakup announced less than a year after the album’s release. But nineties bands never die, they just lie dormant until bills need to be paid, hence the appearance of a reunion effort in 2012.

21. Various Artists, Music for Our Mother Ocean

I don’t really want to disparage an album created expressly to support a worthy cause, but this compilation is one raggedy, unwieldy beast. Earning proceeds for the Surfrider Foundation, Music for Our Mother Ocean brings together an array of artists, most of whom had some amount of commercial alternative clout at the time, for a hefty collection (23 tracks) loosely organized around the idea of surfing. It has covers of surf rock classics (including at least one that had been kicking around for ages) and tracks that actually have nothing to do with the topic of hand by have a convenient word in the title. Released in the summer of 1996, it’s not all that had to figure out why college radio deejays were all over it given the way it was practically genetically engineered to fill out a summertime playlist. The compilation was apparently at least somewhat successful, yielding two sequels over the course of the next few years. If you’re desperate to know what it’s like when a playlist goes from Smash Mouth to James Taylor to Beasties Boys, seek out the third one.

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
–48 and 47: Lay It Down and Pogue Mahone
–46 and 45: I’m with Stupid and XTORT
–44 and 43: Tango and …finally
–42 and 41: Good Weird Feeling and Mint 400
–40 and 39: Happy Nowhere and Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly)
–38 and 37: Turn the Radio Off and Electriclarryland
–36 and 35: Naughty Little Doggie and In Blue Cave
–34 and 33: Eventually and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
–32 and 31: Beautiful Girls soundtrack and Strat’s Got Your Tongue
–30 and 29: Upstroke for the Downfolk and Set the Twilight Reeling
–28 and 27: Born on a Pirate Ship and The Golden Age
–26 and 25: Ænima and Dead Man Walking soundtrack
–24 and 23: Victor and Songs for Pele

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