With the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s massive Nevermind just a few short weeks away, much attention is being paid to rock’s last great era: 1991, a year that was overflowing with important, iconic (and, in some cases, overlooked) albums from bands both big and small. In a lot of ways, it was the year rock truly rocked, and so, to celebrate that fact, MTV News has been asking some of today’s biggest acts to remember their favorites form that truly epic year.
So far, we’ve looked back at Metallica’s Black Album, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Dinosaur Jr.’s Green Mind, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Slint’s Spiderland, Pearl Jam’s Ten and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger. Today, we’re turning our attention to Fugazi’s Steady Diet of Nothing and the Jesus Lizard’s Goat — two lesser-known (yet equally important) gems, that are fondly remembered by some high-profile fans.
Fugazi, Steady Diet of Nothing
It starts ominous, like the buzz emanating from a disturbed hornet’s nest (“Exit Only”) and ends frothing and growling, like a chained Doberman (“KYEO”), yet in between, the second studio album from Washington, D.C., stalwarts Fugazi is a precise, downright surgical exercise in rhythms, interwoven bass and guitars, and — dare we say it — melody. Most noted for its sparse production (which highlighted the lockstep team of bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty) and its overtly political tone (“Dear Justice Letter” was inspired by the departure of liberal judge William J. Brennan from the Supreme Court), Steady Diet of Nothing set the blueprint for the next 10 years of the band’s exploits. It also remains a testament to the coiled, colossal power of, above all things, restraint.
As Remembered by Damian Kulash, OK Go: “I grew up in Washington, D.C., and
Fugazi was everything. Ian MacKaye, Fugazi, Dischord Records, they were like the Holy Trinity, they were the apostles, they were the entire religion of D.C. Everyone worshipped them, and when Steady Diet of Nothing came out … Repeater was the first record I had gotten by Fugazi, and Steady Diet was the first one that I could wait for, I could feel it coming out. It was so amazing, it was so musical, it was so timely, it was unlike anything else that was out there. I mean, everything Fugazi did seemed like it was coming out of the earth, you know? Like, the rest of the music in the world was all this crappy, commercial stuff, and they were this. They could not be ignored. The politics, the way they ran D.C., I mean, it was unbelievable. All shows were five bucks, all shows were all ages, it was incredible. I mean, when I was 15, I walked up to Ian MacKaye’s house and said, ’Could I borrow some money to start a record label?’ And he said, ’Yeah.’ Isn’t that crazy? Unbelievable.”
The Jesus Lizard, Goat
The pounding, primal, pretty-effed-up second album from one of alt-rock’s most disturbed (and sorta disturbing) bands, Goat is arguably the best of the Jesus Lizard’s many team-ups with producer Steve Albini — a claustrophobic, eternally sludgy thing that’s nearly stripped to the core. Still, it packs a punch, thanks in no small part to David Yow’s near-patented wild-man yowls, Duane Denison’s wobbling, skuzzy guitars, and the downward-spiraling rhythm section of David Wm. Sims and Mac McNeilly. After two more albums on Touch and Go, the Lizard would inexplicably make the leap to Capitol Records in 1996, a stint that lasted until 1999. They called it quits soon after, but to this day, the Jesus Lizard remain an important intersection of art-damaged noise and rock.
As Remembered by Patrick Hallahan, My Morning Jacket: “It’s one of the best albums of all time. I think, if I’m not mistaken, it starts off with ’Then Comes Dudley,’ ’Mouthbreather,’ just so great. I’ll never forget the first Jesus Lizard concert I ever went to, they were the tightest rhythm section I’d ever seen, and then they had this f—ing amazing jazz guitarist playing on top of this rhythm section. Ear X-Tacy, that’s the name of our music store in Louisville, and I was there when it came out. The Jesus Lizard, Goat. One of the best accomplishments of 1991, and there were a whole lot of them that year.”
Share your favorite memories of 1991’s seminal albums in the comments below!