5 Underrated 90's College Radio Albums

1. Material Issue Destination Universe

Though their previous album "International Pop Overthrow" sold more copies, the production on "Destination Universe" was more solid, bigger, punchier, and the songs a bit more cohesive.  (Anyone remember when "What Girls Wants" was played in an episode of Beverly Hills 90210?)  At one point I think I learned how to play every song from this album on guitar. I've re-purchased this cassette/CD about 8 times. It keeps getting worn out.  Jim Ellison, you are missed all these years later; you and your band mates made several damn fine pop albums that I am still listening to, to this day.  Evidence: the band Stereofuse had a semi-hit with their cover of "Everything" and there's an entire festival named after the "International Pop Overthrow" album.  Oh yeah, and my old band covered "Next Big Thing about a dozen times too.

Highlights: What Girls Want, If Ever You Should Fall, Next Big Thing, Everything, When I Get This Way, Who Needs Love

2. E - Broken Toy Shop

Before it was called "The Eels" (or "Eels"), E released 2 solo records.  Less garage-y and more focused pop/songwriter-esque than the Eels records have become (not that I don't love those albums too...I buy everything he/they release).  It's the most beautifully depressing pop songwriter album.  Everyone I've played it for either falls in love with the disc, breaks down crying, or both.  (Tangent: one day I was talking to my friend Marvin about E / The Eels...he asked me to pull the CD cover off my shelf and turn it over...all these years I've known Marvin, and I never knew that he was thanked in the credits on one of my favorite albums.  Apparently he'd helped E with some MIDI/Keyboard programming work on this and the previous solo album.)

Highlights: LA River, Manchester Girl, Tomorrow I'll Be Nine, Shine It All On

3. Possum Dixon - s/t

Local radio picked up Possum Dixon's song "Watch That Girl Destroy Me" and we got a regular dose of that song on the airwaves, leading up to Possum Dixon opening for The Lemonheads at The Crest Theatre that summer.  The show on my birthday that year; my buddy Aaron bought me the Possum Dixon CD as a birthday present.  It was months later before we could finally stop listening to this album.  Incredibly upbeat catchy 2 minute pop songs, with just enough quirky things thrown in to separate it from being a generic 3-chord pop album.  It ebbs and flows, and has all the components of a great pop disc.

Highlights: Nerves, Pharmaceutical Itch, In Buildings

4. Crumb - Seconds Minutes Hours

I first heard Crumb when they opened for Far at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, and bought this CD at the merch table (and since then I think I've had to replace it 2 or 3 times).  Josh Freese played drums, Blair Shehan, Petra Haden and Jani Lane (not kidding!) sing on it. Beau Hill produced it.  HOW did this record not end up selling a bazillion copies? Or did it? I only ever met 2 or 3 other Crumb fans over the years.  I've got everything they ever released, but this is by far the best produced album from the band.  (There used to be a website where somebody had written out the guitar tabs for all the songs from this disc. I really should have saved those when I had the chance.)

Highlights: Record Company, Overboard, Thermostat, Exhibit A

5. Dead Milkmen - Soul Rotation

The album when Dead Milkmen "signed to a major".  It's different than the others, but in a good way.  This is the most "mature" of the Dead Milkmen albums -- better production, just as much quirkiness in the subject matter, but better orchestrated overall.  Some jokes are more subtle ("Silly Dreams" doesn't SOUND like a joke until you really pay attention to the lyrics).  It has the great delivery of all their previous albums, and uses the DM magic to discuss some real-world topics...live getting more complicated ("How It's Gonna Be"), religion ("God's Kid Brother"), weapons ("If I Had a Gun"). But it all still sounds like the Dead Milkmen that I love.

Highlights: God's Kid Brother, The Conspiracy Song, How It's Gonna Be, If I Had a Gun