1998 really wasn’t that long ago, but after saying the number 2021 out loud, it feels like it happened during another lifetime. To put things in perspective, Billie Eilish was born three years after 1998, and, hell, even FINNEAS was born the year before.
Despite the fact that said year was toward the end of the previous century, plenty of diverse and multifaceted music came out in 1998 that influenced many of your favorite bands today and deserve your attention. Here are 21 perfect examples.
Alkaline Trio – Goddamnit
Alkaline Trio debuted onto the scene in a super-strong fashion with Goddamnit. The LP came out of the gates aggressively demanding your attention with a cower (“Cringe”), took us on a short trip to the West Coast (“San Francisco”) and closed with an apology (“Sorry About That”). We forgive you, Alk3. The dual-vocal dark lyric attack of the Trio resonated from first listen, and eight albums later, they still inspire new bands and fans in droves.
Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty
Four years after their breakout fourth album, Ill Communication, Beastie Boys released their most eclectic and genre-fluid record, Hello Nasty. Hip-hop artists who fully embrace the weird in a no-rules fashion such as Tyler, The Creator likely love the hell out of this ambitious full-length. Hello Nasty was certainly ahead of its time, much like their sophomore album, Paul’s Boutique, but with much less initial alienation from the scene and far more record sales. In fact, in its first week, Hello Nasty shocked the world by selling nearly 700,000 copies and went No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Eve 6 – Eve 6
’90s kids know that Eve 6 are so much more than just a shitcore band who post acerbic witticisms on Twitter. However, had this self-titled debut album not been released, many wouldn’t care about the band’s social media account. “Inside Out” has certainly proved to stand the test of time, as the number of streams for this karaoke favorite exponentially increases on the daily, but the 10 other songs could all dominate montage scenes in modern throwback movies as well. Check out Eve 6’s new single “black nova” now, which is their first release in nearly 10 years.
Far – Water & Solutions
The band may have created the perfect emo revolution album a few years too early, but its sheer grit and aggression have resonated with many bands who label themselves under that moniker ever since. Still, the modern revival needs to highlight more songs from Far’s perfect full-length on nostalgic playlists and at emo nights. This album’s overall influence on future bands in the scene far exceeds the number of royalties that have come through for it, and we forever marvel at why it has slipped through so many public cracks. Let’s change that.
Garbage – Version 2.0
Many industry pundits think that if this record had come out just before Garbage’s 1995 debut self-titled record, the band would still be headlining stadiums today. It’s not as mainstream and single heavy overall as its predecessor, yet the songs and melodies that comprise it are so much stronger sonically. Still, Version 2.0 is so damn cool that a cover band playing this album in full sans announcing such could rock your hippest Echo Park club and win over the most jaded audience. Maybe we think we’re paranoid, but this album should’ve gotten more love.
Hole – Celebrity Skin
In terms of production and overall gloss, Hole’s Celebrity Skin is more akin to Nirvana’s Nevermind, while their 1994 effort, Live Through This, is analogous to In Utero on the rawness front. However, despite what many punk rockers think, sleek recordings can rock, and Courtney Love and company created a record that sounds like a million bucks. She certainly reaped its benefits. And don’t even get us started on the fashionable designer rebrand behind it, which was ahead of its time.
Hum – Downward Is Heavenward
Hum released Downward Is Heavenward in 1998 and broke up two short years later, never to return again till last year’s surprise full-length, Inlet. Surprisingly, the band sounded like they didn’t miss a beat and impressively picked up on the spacey post-hardcore sounds that made both fans and bands fall in love with them in the first place. Pro tip: Listen to those two records back to back with great headphones.
Lagwagon – Let’s Talk About Feelings
Punk rock and musicianship don’t often occur together in the same sentence, but Lagwagon really changed the game in a growing and evolving fashion. From their 1992 debut release, Duh, up to and including Let’s Talk About Feelings four full-lengths later, the five-piece showcased their guitar shredding skills, sweet harmonies and the ability to unnoticeably change time signatures on a dime while still making their songs catchy as fuck. “Practice” isn’t a dirty word anymore, and in the world of so many perfect recordings, it’s good to see a band flexing their musical muscles in the best way.
Less Than Jake – Hello Rockview
Hot take: This is easily the best or second-best ska-punk record to not go platinum. Go to a Less Than Jake show when it’s safe to do so and you will hear that a majority of this album still gets played regularly live over two full decades later. Also, there’s a modern ska revival going on through the scene right now. Regardless of whether it has the same cultural effect as it did in the ’90s, ska is far from dead, and this record deserves all of the reverence it’s received and then some.
The Living End – The Living End
Speaking of trends coming and going, a few years before rockabilly got cool again with bands such as Tiger Army, the Living End happily hung the standup bass flag high in a violent fashion in 1998. Blasting through modern rock ’n’ roll with a different old-school lense, the band proved that incredible songs will always be timeless, and for a moment, they were quite large in America. Still, nothing compares to the Living End’s huge reception in their native Australia to this day.
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
Some bands don’t warrant their hype. Although this is a 100% subjective statement, few would disagree with the thought that even though Massive Attack received much love on the press front when this record came out, they’re deserving of so much more love now. If you’re not well versed in trip-hop and or electronica, the 63 minutes that comprise Mezzanine make for a perfect gateway. We’re surprised about how infrequently the band get name-checked now.
MxPx – Slowly Going The Way Of The Buffalo
1998’s Slowly Going The Way Of The Buffalo is still MxPx’s best-selling record. Due to the incredible Kickstarter campaign for their comeback self-titled record 20 years later and the glowing fan response since, it feels like the legendary pop-punk band are even bigger now than they were last century. That’s difficult to do in any climate, but MxPx’s take on the Ramones have made them an equivalent for many young bands.
Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
If you ever wanted the Decemberists to listen to more Sunny Day Real Estate, have we got the band for you. We struggle to believe that a 1998 version of Neutral Milk Hotel would believe that they’d eventually have a cult-like effect among the hipster community in the 2010s, but we’re not complaining. Many attribute the band’s post-breakup growth to the rise of the internet, but that’s not simply enough of a reason for something to eventually become successful. You need at least one all killer, no filler record like In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Speaking of albums, please make another one?
The Offspring – Americana
Two albums after the Offspring officially entered the mainstream with Smash, the band truly struck gold in the form of a Latino-influenced non-punk-rock hit single known as “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy).” The entire Americana record was filled with diverse surprises (“Why Don’t You Get A Job,” we’re talking to you) and showed the world that a punk-rock band can graduate into another musical scene while expanding their base. Usually, it’s one or the other, so the Offspring are major musical anomalies (and “The Kids Aren’t Alright” is one of the best rock radio singles ever).
Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing
The United Kingdom’s effect on the ’90s rock world is often understated, as bands such as Nirvana, Metallica and Pearl Jam get name-checked much more often than Oasis, Blur and Placebo. In Placebo’s particular case, this is quite criminal because so many more current acts seem to take their cues from the angsty alternative rock band than the three American juggernauts previously mentioned combined. Without You I’m Nothing was a hell of a sophomore album, and thankfully the band are currently working on their eighth record right now.
Rancid – Life Won’t Wait
Rancid embraced their ska influences in full on this follow-up to 1995’s hugely successful …And Out Come The Wolves by literally recording some songs on Life Won’t Wait in Jamaica. While it alienated more of Rancid’s less open-minded punk-rock fans when it was first released, the record has since become a cult favorite among fans of the band. And with good reason! The songs showcased a sonic depth for the four-piece and proved that they could successfully pull off any genre they chose to perform in. FYI: “Crane Fist” walked so Transplants could run.
Refused – The Shape Of Punk To Come
Do you love screamo? Do you miss nü metal? Do you dig electronic music? If you responded yes to one of these three questions (and we know that you likely affirmed all three), Refused are a fantastic gateway to a literal shape of punk to come. Ahead of their time is an understatement, and Refused would disappear for over 15 years shortly after this masterpiece of a record was released. Thankfully, they returned in 2015 to make some new noise.
The Smashing Pumpkins – Adore
The Smashing Pumpkins officially left the hard-rock world with Adore, and unfortunately, many of their fans abandoned ship as well. It’s sad because this underrated fourth album has some of the band’s better songs and still holds up production-wise. Sure, it’s noticeably less heavy, but true Smashing Pumpkins fans are versed in that side of the band. The electronic elements that they embraced for Adore would rise to acclaim the following century, but Adore itself never climbed to those heights. Perhaps some cool influencer needs to make a TikTok for “Perfect.”
Sunny Day Real Estate – How It Feels To Be Something On
The legendary Sunny Day Real Estate broke up for a short time after releasing two emotional classics in the mid-’90s and returned to the fold with a slightly different lineup for this 10-song epic, somber album. While there’s less distortion on it than the others, it still rocks just as hard on the power and dynamic fronts. Listen to How It Feels To Be Something On on vinyl if you can, as you will hear intricacies that streaming services just cannot provide, and your days will forever be golden.
Superdrag – Head Trip In Every Key
Superdrag’s last major-label outing Head Trip In Every Key seemed doomed from the start. This perfect pop-rock band were preparing to spend as much money on this recording as possible because they anticipated getting dropped by the label after its release. While the record would later rightfully grow to much greater acclaim the following century, it didn’t take its producer Jerry Finn much time to climb to the top of his field. Fun fact: He eventually produced blink-182’s Enema Of The State the following year. He’s forever missed. So are Superdrag.
The Vandals – Hitler Bad, Vandals Good
Speaking of blink-182, the band wouldn’t have existed without the Vandals. So, by proxy, All Time Low also owe a lot to the Vandals. It’s rare for an acclaimed early ’80s punk-rock band to musically peak in a different decade, but the Vandals proved that they were pros at combining punk rock and comedy with 1998’s Hitler Bad, Vandals Good. The album remains their best-selling record and is nonstop fun across all 14 tracks. While you’re listening, marvel at Josh Freese’s drum skills.