College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1996, 14 and 13

14. Golden Smog, Down by the Old Mainstream

Golden Smog has a longer history than their best-known recorded history suggests. First formed in 1989 by a batch of Minneapolis musicians with pretty good day jobs (like the Replacements and Soul Asylum), the band was something of a lark, playing countrified rock as a counterpoint to the punk that was flooding the local scene. The group released a covers EP in 1992, with everyone credited under pseudonyms. It wasn’t really until the 1995 release of their debut full-length, Down by the Old Mainstream, that the prospect of this being a more productive creative outlet started to take hold. Still including some of the original members, the band also notably picked up Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy whose presence combined with that of Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks) and Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum) gave Golden Smog something of a y’allternative supergroup vibe (though it’s admittedly a stretch to pull Soul Asylum into that particular subgenre). If there was still something of a tendency to use the band as a clearinghouse for the songwriting efforts individuals probably weren’t likely to propose to their main group, the overall quality of the music was high. The pseudonym conceit was still in place, although the songwriting credits were accurate. By the time of the group’s sophomore effort, the excellent Weird Tales, they’d given up on the pretending. That was about it for approximately a decade, until several of the original members retook the mantle in 2006.

13. Bad Religion, The Gray Race

Bad Religion was coming off the most successful album of their career when they made The Gray Race, but they were also dealing with turmoil. 1994’s Stranger than Fiction sold better than anything up until that point and generally garnered them far more attention than they’d had before. It was also the final album for founding guitarist Greg Gurewitz, who officially left because his attention was needed at the record label he owned, Epitaph Records, because they were suddenly and quite unexpectedly the home of bands that had enormous hits. Surely a bit of consternation over the Bad Religion band decision to move from Epitaph to major label Atlantic Records had something to do with it, too. Concerned about group cohesion, Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin sought more input from his bandmates. They also has a somewhat unlikely collaborator in Ric Ocasek of the Cars, then transitioning into a respectable career as a producer. Whatever contributions the band and Ocasek made didn’t really alter the trajectory of the music in a notable way. These were still clearly Bad Religion songs. In broader commercial terms, the album didn’t do especially well, and subsequent releases on Atlantic were received even more poorly. By 2001, they were back on Epitaph. At the same time, Gurewitz rejoined the band, which hardly seems like a coincidence. They’ve continued on ever since, even recently releasing an EP of Christmas songs.

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
–22 and 21: Down on the Upside and Music for Our Mother Ocean
–20 and 19: Supercop soundtrack and Dust
–18 and 17: Remember and A Worm’s Life
–16 and 15: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits

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