The Best Music Box Sets of the 1990s

Oversized selections from Nirvana, Metallica and more

In honor of Phish’s massive eight-CD platter, Amsterdam, we’re digging for treasure chests from other ’90s bands. Our selections range from live metal assaults, Minotaurs and even some unmentionables. Get the goods below.

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Nirvana - "With the Lights Out"

Nirvana with the Lights Out

Though Seattle trio Nirvana became full-fledged rock stars in the 1990s, they gripped furiously onto their punk roots. These nascent beginnings were celebrated in this 2004 set, composed of 81 songs— 68 of which were previously unavailable to the public. Fans also got to witness via DVD an early Nirvana show, live from Krist Novoselic’s mom’s house. Nice to see the band’s families were behind them from the start. Music videos, exclusive photos and liners by admirers Thurston Moore and Neil Strauss also populated With the Lights Out

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Dave Matthews Band - "The Gorge"

Dave Matthews Band box set
Moses Namkung/Wikimedia Commons

Washington state’s Gorge is hailed as one of the most scenic concert venues in the United States. So you can imagine the fervor from DMB fans when the group played a three-night stand there in 2002. Dave devotees chose the song list, and more than 20 high-definition cameras captured the action. The DVD went behind the scenes of the “Grace Is Gone” video and also features hits like “Ants Marching” and “What Would You Say.”

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Pixies - "Minotaur"

Michael Halsband

Twenty-four carat gold-plated CDs. Audio in practically every format imaginable. Hand-signed artwork by the Pixies and their artists, Vaughan Oliver and Simon Larbalestier. A full 1991 concert from Brixton. A 96-page fine art book. And a case that weighs more than 25 pounds. You could bench press this puppy and get fit while indulging in the Bostonites’ five influential records. Minotaur might be an understatement. Titan is more like it.

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Neutral Milk Hotel box set

Neutral Milk Hotel box set

It’s tough being an obsessive music fan. You covet every last morsel from a musician and feel incomplete if you don’t have all the different versions of the singles, the albums or the Blu-rays. Thankfully, if you’re into troubadours Neutral Milk Hotel, you can get their entire catalog in one relatively affordable package. It includes on vinyl their two full-length releases, On Avery Island and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, as well as two EPs, three 7-inches and two posters. It’s a treasure for followers of the notorious hermit Jeff Mangum.

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Smashing Pumpkins - "The Aeroplane Flies High"

Smashing Pumpkins The Aeroplane Flies High

There aren’t too many box sets you can treat like an accessory. But the original square container of this 1996 CD collection was a mod wonder that worked well as a purse. And the music was indispensible, featuring the five Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness singles and a flurry of b-sides and covers. (The Pumpkins’ takes on Blondie’s “Dreaming” and the Tin Pan Alley standard “My Blue Heaven” were standouts.) They outdid themselves in 2013 with the 104-track vinyl re-release. 

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Rammstein - "Liebe Ist Fur Alla Da"

Rammstein Liebe Ist Fur Alla Da
Victor Climent/Wikimedia Commons

German industrial gods Rammstein gave listeners tough love with their 2009 box set that came with six plastic penises, handcuffs and lubricant. (Read Chad Bowar’s music review of Liebe Ist Für Alla Da here.) Not known for their subtleties, the band reveled in the raucous. The case looked like a death rock makeup container and could barely contain the sexual energy within. Because nothing says romance like the bruiser Till Lindermann barking at you. Thanks, MusicRadar, for the, uh, tip.

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The Magnetic Fields - "69 Love Songs"

Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs

What was once supposed to be a staged musical became this sprawling accomplishment. Stephin Merritt was already one of the most puzzling characters in alternative rock, but when he ushered out this mass of songs in 1999, he reached a new echelon. His sound of the Great White Way snuggled up to that of Rufus Wainwright’s, and Beck later gave it a whirl.

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No Doubt - "Boom Box"

No Doubt Boom Box

Think ska’s greatest ambassadors grew their Tragic Kingdom overnight? Think again. No Doubt formed way back in 1986, and Gwen Stefani didn’t become lead vocalist until a year in. They toiled in the underground for nearly a decade before their 1995 breakout, and Boom Box showcased their pre-fame offerings. B-sides and rarities galore reigned here, alongside a live concert VHS/DVD. The reviews on this set? Hella good.

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Metallica - "Live Metallica: By Request 2014"

Metallica By Request

Encyclopedia-sized concert archives are usually reserved for jam bands. But the “Lords of Summer” are happy to give the fans what they want. This product boasts more than two-dozen recorded shows, including an acoustic gig. Metallica’s performances run long and hard— you can almost hear the sweat drip from James Hetfield’s brow. Too bad they couldn’t package the pyrotechnics, too.

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311 - "311 Archive"

311 Archive box set
Volcano Entertainment/Legacy Recordings

Omaha’s feel-good gang have been around for 25 years and are marking the occasion with this four-CD gift. It comes with eighty-one songs, 60 pages of photographs, handwritten lyrics and “artifacts”  Could it be they included the actual legume from where bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills got his nickname? Probably not, but if you pre-order the Archive on PledgeMusic, you will get a “secret society” patch