While the nineteen-eighties was surely the peak of influence for music videos, the nineteen-nineties, at least the early to middle part of that decade-long span, represents the stretch of time when the directors behind those promotional efforts had their collective heyday. I don’t remember anyone really talking about the filmmakers behind the seminal videos of MTV’s first years, but director Spike Jonze was as famous — or maybe even more famous at times — as the artists for whom he helped craft music videos. Yes, the Los Angeles punk band Wax had just enough credibility that they could drum up attention on their own. Even so, their second album and major label debut, 13 Unlucky Numbers, owes a lot of its success to the eventual contributions of Jonze, who directed their music videos, notably the conceptual marvel “California.” The band broke up shortly after the release of 13 Unlucky Numbers, though the nearly inevitable reunion process started in 2009.
In 1995, I would have easily pegged Spacehog as a one-hit wonder, convinced that “In the Meantime,” a Top 40 hit and a Mainstream Rock chart-topper, was going to be the total of their contribution to the pop discourse. I would have been simultaneously correct and way off-base. Indeed, the lead single from their debut release, Resident Alien, is so clearly the English band’s greatest success that even acknowledging any other material is a sort of charity. And yet I feel duty-bound to note that their sophomore release, the perhaps unfortunately titled The Chinese Album, is one of the great undervalued rock works of the decade, an ingenious T. Rex pastiche that should have locked arms with Todd Haynes’s Velvet Goldmine, released the same year, to revive glam rock just in time for the 21st century, where it seemed to truly belong. Much as I like and respect The Chinese Album, it didn’t exactly stir an impulse to go back and figure out if the band’s debut held riches I somehow didn’t initially notice. The band released one more album, 2001’s The Hogyssey (they were so bad at naming records), before breaking up. Their obligatory reunion began with concerts in 2008 and included one new album thus far, released in 2013.
— An Introduction
— 90-88: The Falling Wallendas, Parasite, and A.M.
— 87-85: North Avenue Wake Up Call, Live!, and Life Begins at 40 Million
— 84 and 83: Wholesale Meats and Fishes and Orange
— 82-80: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, Fossil, and Electric Rock Music
— 79-77: Coast to Coast Motel, My Wild Life, and Life Model
— 76-74: Gag Me with a Spoon, Where I Wanna Be, and Ruby Vroom
— 73 and 72: Horsebreaker Star and Wild-Eyed and Ignorant
— 71 and 70: 500 Pounds and Jagged Little Pill
— 69-67: Whirligig, The Basketball Diaries, and On
— 66 and 65: Alice in Chains and Frogstomp
— 64 and 63: Happy Days and Exit the Dragon
— 62-60: Lucky Dumpling, Fight for Your Mind, and Short Bus
— 59-57: Good News from the Next World, Joe Dirt Car, and Tomorrow the Green Grass
— 56 and 55: …And Out Come the Wolves and Clueless
— 54-52: We Get There When We Do, Trace, and Twisted
— 51-49: Thrak, Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig), and You Will Be You
— 48 and 47: Shamefaced and Here’s Where the Strings Come In