1994: The 40 Best Records From Mainstream Alternative's Greatest Year

Green Day, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and 35 other bands who made the word "alternative" lose all meaning

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Beck, 'Mellow Gold'
Courtesy of DGC Records11/40

11. Beck, 'Mellow Gold'

Sure, the breakthrough was "Loser," an independently released mush-mouthed novelty rap 12-inch that walked on Johnny Jenkins' "Gilded Splinters" and tried its best to evoke a beat-poetry Chuck D — the "I'm a loser, baby" chorus wasn't some slacker-generation zeitgeist-grab, it was Beck's honest reaction to his own rapping skills. "I mean, I never had any slack," he told Rolling Stone in 1994. "I was working a $4-an-hour job trying to stay alive. I mean, that slacker kind of stuff is for people who have the time to be depressed about everything." He was picked up by Geffen and the single vaulted into the Top 10 — but anyone expecting a full album of quirky goofs was in for a shock. Recorded on an 8-track, Mellow Gold was an ambitious genre pastiche of coffeehouse strum, blasts of Melvins feedback, screwed ballads, sludge-punk and offbeat raps for a generation that grew up with hip-hop as their folk music. Christopher R. Weingarten

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