90's Alternative One-Hit-Wonders

One band/song posted a day, until I run out. Some bands are two-hit wonders, I've decided to include them as well. Usually one is more well known than the other anyways. One-hit-wonder status is based off of US charts.
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Ruby - Tiny Meat - 1996

Ruby was alt rock that verged on electronica.  I will not lie.  I loved Ruby’s first album, Salt Peter.  I love Lesley Rankine’s kind of growly voice.  What can I say, I was an angry teenage girl in the 90’s.

Ruby was a collaboration between Lesley Rankine and Mark Walk.  Each had a grandmother named Ruby, thus the name. Rankine is Scottish, with her previous project being in the band Silverfish.  She left London for Seattle (in of itself, a very 90’s thing to be doing), where she collaborated with Walk.  Wikipedia informs me Salt Peter was done almost entirely electronically, including this fabulous quote from Rankine: “I didn’t use a band on this record because I honestly believe that I was not put on this earth to share my life with a bunch of other people…”  The first single was “Paraffin,” which I remember fondly, but apparently never charted in the US (FOR EXTRA CREDIT, here’s that video: http://youtu.be/J5O56vmE_s8 I actually like it a lot better than the “Tiny Meat” video).  ”Tiny Meat” was the second single, charting at 22 on the Modern Rock chart in May of 1996.  Ruby released a remix album of Salt Peter in the spring of 1996.

Ruby would not release their follow-up album until 2001, due to record label issues, which has been the downfall of other one-hit-wonders on this list.  Neither of the two subsequent albums had singles that charted in the US.

So the video involves a amazingly blue-haired Lesley standing in a lopsided box with images projected on the sides.  She has to squat and slouch to look into the camera.  She’s wearing a grey suit.  Many hearts (tiny meat) are projected onto or held in hands, along with the song.  It’s very much in the 90’s vein of singer sings with weird imagery and a very brightly colored palette.  And maybe I was a dirty-minded teenager, but I always assumed that “tiny meat” was double entendre, but WHO KNOWS MAYBE SHE JUST MEANS A HEART OKAY?  Anyways, watching this video kind of makes my back hurt from her stooping, I just want her to stand the hell straight up the whole time.  I love the song, but it’s not one of my favorite videos.  Watch “Paraffin” (linked above) and then we can discuss her amazing silver glitter platform boots together, you and I, friends. Glitter platform anything, the 90’s, yessss.

Cherry Poppin Daddies - “Zoot Suit Riot” - 1997

On this here tumblr we have frequently discussed how many of the 90’s one-hits featured here were cases of bands popular within their kind of underground sub-genre suddenly making a break into the mainstream.  Today we are going to discuss for the first time one of my personal favorites, the 90’s swing revival.  I will not lie.  Next to the Breeders, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies might have one of the most thorough Wikipedia pages I’ve seen.  I admit that I judge the fervor of the band’s fanbase based on the thoroughness of their Wikipedia page.

I have never heard another Cherry Poppin’ Daddies song outside Zoot Suit Riot, though in this time of nostalgia, maybe I should rectify that.  Their music is apparently primarily a mixture of ska and swing, with some other fun stuff thrown in.  The album that everyone bought, and which Zoot Suit Riot was known to come from, was actually a compilation of their swing stuff.  They had three studio albums prior to the release of Zoot Suit Riot: The Swingin’ Hits of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, forming in 1989.  The band is from Eugene, Oregon, where the two primary bandmates Steve Perry and Dan Schmid met while attending the University of Oregon.  The band was originally called “Mr. Wiggles.”  Their original influences were primarily punk, funk, and jazz.

Much of their growing popularity in the Pacific Northwest seems to have come from the fact that they put on a crazy spectacle of a live show. Choice bit from the Wikipedia article: “The most infamous element of the Daddies’ early stage shows, however, was the “Dildorado” (alternately “Dildozer”), a penis-shaped modified ride-on lawnmower which mimicked ejaculation by shooting salvos of colorful fluids from its tip” (drama ensued in the ultra-liberal college town).  The band started touring nationally in the mid-90’s, but remained indie to resist pressure to conform to any specific music genre.

Then the swing revival came, and they made an album that compiled their swing hits.  The financial strain of self-funding national tours led them to talk to a bigger label, which got “Zoot Suit Riot” on the radio.  The song hit 17 in the Billboard Top 40, and they were suddenly in crazy demand, however the swing stuff is what everyone knew and wanted to hear.  Their fourth album was in their usual eclectic style, and thus when it was released in 2000 it received little promotion or support.  The band went on hiatus from what sounds like post-fame burnout in 2001.  They are now back together and indie again.

Anyways!  So much info! Now to the video.  As stated, I’m a sucker for the swing revival. My favorite part of the video is Steve Perry’s facial expressions.  Also vintage clothing and swing dancing.  Also, y’all know I’m a sucker for a video that vaguely tells a story.  Sailors come in at the end and get pissed with the Zoot Suit-ers.  LIKE IN THE SONG.  Also, bonus alternate version with a bit more crazy swing moves: http://youtu.be/rq7fuCRJULk

Dig - Believe - 1994

There’s not a lot of information to be found about Dig.  Most of the bands featured here have had at least one dedicated fan still obsessed enough to fill out their Wikipedia page with obscure facts.  For Dig, there wasn’t much there besides the basics, nor was there much on their AllMusic bio.  The most info I could find was a fan page that looked like it had been little changed since its creation in 1998: http://defgav.com/dig/

The band got picked up by a label in the early Nirvana grunge rush, so they predate the round of one-hits we find clustered around 1996.  Their sound is punk-influenced rock and roll, much as was the sound of alt music at the time, with heavy guitars (there were THREE) and drums.  They’re from LA, and the band was named for their lead guy Scott Hackwith’s dog, whose name was Dig. KROQ and MTV picked up “Believe” and gave it heavy rotation, and the band did a lot of touring.  It sounds like the second album got poor promotion while the band got shuffled around in a label reorg in 1996, and the third album in 1999 didn’t seem to really get any attention either.  After that it seems that working hard for no recognition burnt them out and the band kind of petered out.  No exciting break-up stories here that I can find. Rumor on the internet, at least that one fan site, is that they are once again back together.

The video has the band playing its song, interspersed with scenes from a vintage-styled pool party, maybe 60’s era?  The pool party has the vintage film look (you know, like an Instagram filter), and the band playing part has the light balance turned up to bright and all washed out, which seems inexplicably popular among pretty much every single video I’ve featured on this site.  I’m not a big fan of the song, so I asked my fellow list compiler, Zole, what he liked about the song: “It’s very dense-sounding and it has a nice contrast between the verse and chorus.”  There you go.  FAIR AND BALANCED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

EDIT: I forgot to add this quote from Scott Hackwith from one of the articles on the fan site.  I always like finding out about the origin of the song.

"Believe" was written during the riots in Los Angeles. It was a veryintense time in the city. It affected everyone. People were starting toseparate and go into their own groups, a true segregation. I thought peoplewere searching for something to believe in, to find their own God."

The Folk Implosion - Natural One - 1995

The Folk Implosion, was Lou Barlow’s side project while he was in Sebadoh.  We’ll get to Sebadoh at some point on here as well.  As you probably know, Lou Barlow was previously in Dinosaur Jr., and was kicked out after having a falling out with J Mascis.  Lou Barlow involved projects are staples of the 90’s Lo-Fi indie music goings ons, so I’d say this is another case of when an indie or scene band breaks into the mainstream for a brief period of time.  The Folk Implosion’s success came at the hands of the Kids soundtrack, for which Barlow and his bandmate John Davis contributed most of the songs, one of which was “Natural One.”  ”Natural One” actually wasn’t in the movie at all.  Somehow  the radio stations picked up on it, and it became a hit single.  The band never again had such success, and Davis left the band in 2000.  I’ll just ignore the fact that Barlow tried to keep it going afterward with new members.

The video’s pretty wack.  Barlow sings the song with the least amount of expression possible for a human being, looking like he might fall asleep at any moment.  There are all sorts of vintage toys moving about, and then there are some astronauts who’ve crash-landed someplace.  Oh and the occasional technicolor worms.  I’d say it’s about what I think of when I remember 90’s alt rock videos, kind of a constant, “WHAT THE WHAT???”  But, hey, that’s what makes them fun.

Salt - Bluster - 1996

There is very little information on my normal sources (Wikipedia and Allmusic) regarding Salt.  ”They are Swedish,” being about all everyone knows.  Suffice to say, Bluster was their only hit, though they managed to have two albums.  I liked this quote from Allmusic: “[Singer Nina Ramsby] writes lyrics in English rather than Swedish because she finds it a more melodic, potentially obscure and poetic language.”  As compared to what, I wonder? Even a Google search gives me little additional information, I found more info on some Christian rock band called Salt.

Also, note, once again, 1996.

Anyways, the video features an adorable bull terrier pulling some kind of soapbox-derby-esque contraption.  Apparently the band is in some alternative universe that exists inside the car.

Thanks Jason for bringing this to my attention.  I figure I’d pass it on here, as some of the featured songs (or to be featured eventually) are on here for your purchasing pleasure.

I Mother Earth - One More Astronaut - 1996

Ooooh Canadians!  Another classic one-hit-wonder story is of the Canadian band trying to also find success in the US market.  Dear Canadians, don’t waste the effort.  I lived close enough to Canada once to get Canadian TV and radio.  You guys sound like you’re doing a better job.

Also note, yet another one-hit-wonder from 1996.

A fun fact!  IME came first, like “I am me,” but then they decided it should stand for something, and kind of pulled I Mother Earth out of their ass.  I like the IME = I am me thing much better.

According to the Wikipedia, two brothers find a vocalist, then after firing a bassist, pick up some other guy.  They go on tour and win a bunch of Junos.  Strife develops between the brothers and the vocalist over “creative control” during the making of the second album.  US charting single is off of this second album.  They win some more Junos.  Vocalist parts ways with the band after his contractual obligations with the label are fulfilled.  They find a new singer, but after some setbacks, never seem to quite get their groove back.

Anyways, the video!  There are two stories going on here, the band doing its thing (I like the painted wooden scenery bits in the otherwise natural setting), and some guy who keeps being involved in disasters (crashed planes and cars, tornado, tripping all over himself).  Bright saturated colors.  The polyester printed vintage-esque bowling/leisure shirt thing…I vaguely remember this being kind of A Thing.  I could do without the fisheye thing.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals - Scooby Snacks - 1996/1997

[I apologize for slacking lately guys]

Oooh, this is a fun one.  Another band in the hip-hop / alt-rock crossover category (though it seems that every band that did this, did it in completely different ways).  If you can’t remember the song off the top of your head, maybe it will help you if I said, “You know, that song that sampled Tarantino films.”  I had never bothered to find out how it went over with Tarantino, and this interview provided me with the answer: not well.  He apparently made them give him a songwriting credit and 40% of the song profits.  I imagine that that meant after Tarantino’s cut and the record company’s cut, they sure didn’t make much money off their one and only US hit.  Like every other teenager my age, I had seen and loved Pulp Fiction, but it wasn’t until after the song came out that I bothered with Reservoir Dogs.  I sat through that movie mostly just to find out what scene the sample came from.  So, like it or not, Tarantino may have had a point.  His shit was big at the time, and I kind of wonder if they’d have even had this hit without the attachment to his films.  I also learned in my research that Scooby Snacks is actually Valium.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals is from New York, and apparently most of their music deals with gritty city life.  Two of the band members met while working at a club together.  The band started doing fill-in gigs at the club when the scheduled bands failed to show.  A record company exec happened to be at one of these gigs, and gave them his card.  A total rags-to-riches band story, eh?

They never had much success in the US.  The first release of “Scooby Snacks” in 1996 only found minor success in the US, but did pretty well in the UK.  They re-released it in 1997, and this time it made it a little higher on the US charts.  They never charted again in the US, but their subsequent albums, particularly their third album “Loco,” did well in the UK.

I like this video, but you all know if you’ve been reading my posts for any amount of time now that I am partial to videos with a story line.  It’s got scenes of them essentially acting out the song, the story of a bank robbery, interspersed with scenes of them playing a gig/telling the story to a club full of old people.  I like it.  And they are totally wearing suits, which is appropriate considering the Tarantino sampling.  Though, my compatriot, Zole, pointed out the samples don’t really work well with the video.

Eels - Novocaine For The Soul - 1996

Eels are yet another example of an indie band that did quite well for themselves within the indie scene, but only rarely broke into the charts with mainstream radio play or MTV music video rotation.  In fact, this is easily one of the bands that surprise me most that they didn’t chart more.  Novocaine For The Soul was their highest chart ranking (solely within the Modern Rock charts), but they also had some minor success with 1998’s “Last Stop: This Town.”  The Eels started after the lead singer Mark Oliver Everett, AKA “E“‘s solo albums, one of which also had a minor hit, 1992’s “Hello Cruel World”.  

So yeah, it’s kind of confusing.  Most of the time there’s a band, and then the members do solo projects, but this kind of worked the opposite way.  E met the other two after he released his solo albums, and after getting dropped by his label, they formed Eels.  I kind of love this anecdote from Wikipedia: “The name ‘Eels’ was chosen so that the band’s records would be close to E’s solo records in an alphabetical ordering, although it was too late realised that numerous ‘Eagles’ and ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ releases were in between.”  But, through the many albums released since E first formed the Eels, the only thing consistent in Eels’ membership remains E.  

They’re (or maybe E is) very prolific, recording nine albums thus far (along with doing collaborations with a number of other musicians), and their songs have been used in a number of movies.

The video involves the band floating around a New York alleyway.  Also E is rockin’ the hipster frames before it was cool and there were hipsters.

Remy Zero - Prophecy - 1998.

Remy Zero was billed as “The Next Radiohead”.  However, this is the only song that charted, until 2001 when one of their songs was used for the Smallville theme song (“Save Me” in 2002).  I’m still counting them as a one-hit-wonder of the 90’s.  Aside from Smallville, their songs have made it into a lot of movies, including Crazy/Beautiful, Suicide Kings, Garden State, Fanboys, She’s All That, The Last Kiss, Stigmata, and The Invisible.  So, while the public at large never seemed to really latched onto them, Hollywood sure liked them.

They are high school friends from Birmingham, Alabama, which I also think is pretty awesome.  It’s like the American High School Band Dream.

Anyways, the video is a pretty standard band-plays-live-show thang. Not bad.