By the time the year turned to 1990, the ‘80s had been going on for far too long. In the midst of all the neon flashiness of the MTV generation, some of the poignancy started to get lost in the shuffle, instead getting replaced with one cheap video after another, some bands that were only in it for the minute, and a whole mountain of hairspray. Rock had lost its heart, and the next decade was going to take the genre all over the map stylistically.
Because when you go back to all of the classic records that came out during the alternative generation, there’s no real way to put them all into one category. You may have had grunge in the beginning, but that gave way to everything from Britpop to pop punk to industrial rock to nu metal, with everything vying for a place on the charts. It may have been a free for all, but you were also pretty much fine anywhere you fell.
Despite being called the slacker generation, each of these bands put everything they could into their work on these songs, turning in tracks that could do a number on your soul and even change your entire outlook on the genre if you weren’t careful. Grunge may have started, but there was more going on in this decade than just rebellion. This was the music that was meant to change the world, and the rock scene looks like a much different place these days because of these albums.
10. Achtung Baby - U2
The bombastic sounds of U2 didn't really have a prayer once Nirvana kickstarted the alternative movement. Along with all of the glitter rock bands that were tearing up the scene around the same time, the overblown side of U2 was starting to seem extremely passe, leaving the next generation to usher in a more authentic side of rock. Just when they started to fade from relevance though, U2 got a second chance by leaning into their star power even more.
Doing an almost mock version of what a rock star was supposed to be, Achtung Baby acts as a transition for U2, making sounds that were more influenced by dance textures as well as industrial sounds on songs like Zoo Station. Moving to Berlin to strip down their sound, what turns up on this record is a lot more human form of the band, as Bono starts to dissect the layers of what it means to be a celebrity, like the over the top sounds of a song like The Fly or the wish fulfillment on Even Better Than the Real Thing.
Fame can also be misleading though, and a majority of this album deals with them being lost in a world they no longer understand, like never finding a someone to relate to on Love is Blindness before finding a way to make some kind of connection on One. The age of the big rock stars might not have gone anywhere, but these Irish souls let us know that it's actually a lot more jaded at the top than you might think.