Should You Bother with Post-Millennial Output by '90s Rockers?

of 17

Keeping Up with New Releases

No Doubt, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers
Interscope/Cooking Vinyl/Monkeywrench/Warner Bros.

Face it— those of us who came of age in the ’90s are old. We don’t have the same luxury of time and headspace that the youth do to devote to music consumption. Studies have shown we experience songs differently than we did during our formative years, with our interest waning by about age 33. And even though we still pledge our lifelong allegiance to the bands that got us through our teens, some of us can’t keep up with new releases.

So we did you all a favor and looked at the post-millennial careers of some of the ’90s biggest bands and weeded out the unnecessary additions to their catalogs. Agree or disagree with our assessments? Let us know at our Facebook page or on Twitter.

of 17

Counting Crows

Counting Crows
Intel Free Press/Creative Commons

Adam Duritz and friends have been “Hangin’ Around” the summer tour circuit for ages and still command devoted crowds. They’ve graced us with four full-lengths since 2000, each emphasizing Duritz’s songwriting prowess and charm. Inevitably, some of the albums are more charming than others.

SPIN: Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (2008)

Here’s a side of Counting Crows you don’t see too often: furious. Duritz found a cozy place between Eddie Vedder’s marble-mouthed angst and Michael Stipe’s beat-poetry politics. The three guitarists – David Bryson, David Immerglück and Dan Vickrey – had a field day, treating the tracklist like a History of the Riff. And the dual production of Gil Norton (who helmed their Recovering the Satellites) and Brian Deck (Modest Mouse) made for an impressive balance.

SAMPLE: Hard Candy (2002)

The one with the Joni Mitchell cover. Not bad, not great.

SKIP: Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation) (2012), Somewhere Under Wonderland (2014)

Duritz turned into Merriam-Webster on these releases, cramming as many syllables into his songs as possible. Bob Dylan, he is not. Counting Crows weren’t always the easiest band to sing along with (even “Mr. Jones” was a mouthful, if you recall). But Underwater and Wonderland were too intangible. Maybe they’d fair better as literature.

of 17

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow in concert 2008
Image by Anirudh Koul under Creative Commons license

The “All I Wanna Do” artist ruled the ’90s with her bluesy rock stylings. As her career progressed, she cooled it on the beer-swilling songs and embraced the music of her adopted state of Tennessee. In between, she flirted with convention and innovation, with mixed results.

SPIN: 100 Miles From Memphis (2010), Feels Like Home (2013)

If you’re not keen on country music – real country, not bro-country or modern pop-country – these might be in your “skip” category. But on her two most recent releases, Crow does her foremothers proud. You can hear Bonnie Raitt, Reba McEntire and Mavis Staples in her pipes. And her love for her children jumps from the soulful stanzas. It Feels Like Home to Crow because, even more than rock ‘n’ roll, she’s suited for the Nashville sound.

SAMPLE: Wildflower (2005)

Wildflower is her love letter to former fiancé Lance Armstrong. Most of the songs are sexy bedroom tomes that find Crow exploring the upper reaches of her vocal range. Romance makes rockers do funny things, like sing in falsetto. Wildflower is pretty but borders on mushy.

SKIP: C’mon, C’mon (2002), Detours (2008)

It’s a shame when established artists mask selling out under the veil of “experimentation.” C’mon is her version of an overcrowded hip-hop album; appearances from Stevie Nicks, Lenny Kravitz, Emmylou Harris and Gwyneth Paltrow (huh?), among others, relegate Crow to second-class status. Detours lives up to its name, throwing in peculiar electronic bits to kowtow to Top 40 radio.

of 17

Dave Matthews Band

Dave Matthews Band 2009
Moses Namkung/Creative Commons

The feel-good jam band went from Under the Table and Dreaming to living a reality most musicians would kill for. At this point, DMB are legends of their scene. They refuse to rest on their laurels, touring nearly every summer since they formed in 1991 and putting out five LPs after 2000. Here’s where they stand:

SPIN: Everyday (2001), Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King (2009)

The ballads and Carter Beauford’s mechanic-precision drumming make these two the DMB albums to indulge in. Everyday’s “The Space Between” is a weeping single; Big Whiskey will have you bawling the entire time, given it’s a tribute to late saxophonist LeRoi Moore. But you’ll be tapping your toes through the tears because it’s the band’s most energetic and daring album to date, bringing Dixieland soul into the mix.

SAMPLE: Stand Up (2005), Away from the World (2012)

Passable LPs. DMB deliver the jazz-folk they’ve expertly crafted, but neither record is terribly memorable— save for Stand Up being Moore’s last full contribution, and the group revealing their fire dancer mascot. Though, we offer kudos for Away’s deep track “Gaucho,” for its shiny horns and Rodrigo y Gabriela-like downpour of guitars.

SKIP: Busted Stuff (2002)

An apt title. Most of these 11 songs came from the abandoned (Steve) Lillywhite Sessions and feel incomplete and hollow. This might have worked better as a Matthews solo release.

of 17

Green Day

Green Day
Warner Bros.

The aughts were good to punk-pop trio Green Day. Though their evolution from talented young stoners to savvy adults began with 1997’s Nimrod, it hit its peak with 2004’s ambitious American Idiot. Alas, when you reach the top, there’s nowhere to go but down.

SPIN: American Idiot (2004)

Its expansive sound and daring experiments – like the nine-minute suite “Jesus of Suburbia” – make this the best Green Day album in a long line of solid hits.

SAMPLE: Warning (2000) and 21st Century Breakdown (2009)

Brilliant bookends to the War and Peace epic of American Idiot. Warning tends to the poppier, mature side, while 21CB is somewhat of a sequel to Idiot. Tracks that stretch Billie Joe Armstrong’s creative muscles – the gorgeous ballad “Last Night on Earth” and the Klezmer dirge “Misery” – rank among the band’s finest works.

SKIP: ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! (2012)

Too much of a good thing. Armstrong was highly intoxicated and medicated during the whirlwind recording of this series. What resulted were three mediocre punk rock albums that could have easily been pared down to one decent release.

of 17


Jonathan Davis of Korn
Mary Ignatova/Creative Commons

Nu-metal marquee men Korn keep on pummeling more than 20 years after their 1994 debut album. Where there’s suburban rage, there they’ll be. See what Jonathan David and his dreadlocked brothers have dished up since 2000.

SPIN: Untitled (2007), The Paradigm Shift (2013)

This crew is at its pinnacle when it demands a mulligan. Following a diluted collaboration with production team the Matrix on the former and an EDM album that showed their age, Untitled and The Paradigm Shift learned from recent mistakes. Korn were never meant to be polished. Bonus: Original guitarist Brian “Head” Welch rejoined the ranks.

SAMPLE: Untouchables (2002), See You on the Other Side (2005)

Untouchables thrust Korn into the new millennium like a leashed guard dog ripping off its chain. “Here to Stay” said it all— and it won a Grammy. Other Side enlisted the producers who softened Liz Phair’s edges to moderate success. The result, unsurprisingly, was a watered-down affair.

SKIP: Take a Look in the Mirror (2003), Korn III: Remember Who You Are (2010), The Path of Totality (2011)

Are we the only ones who feel self-purported “return to form” records are letdowns? TALITM and Korn III were so vehemently marketed as classic Korn that they just turned out boring. But deep-end dives don’t fare well, either. The Path of Totality was the ill-advised electronica release that equally confused metal fans and ravers.

of 17

Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson in concert 2007
Rama, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr

He went from Spooky Kid to The Pale Emperor as his career progressed. There’s a certain gothic regality to Marilyn Manson’s later works. His art seems less brutal but more sinister, a deadly cur that sneaks up on you instead of immediately lashing out. Do you fancy the dark dandy or the brash front man?

SPIN: Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (2000), The High End of Low (2009)

Manson was still riding high when he unleashed Holy Wood two years after his game-changing industrial-glam Mechanical Animals. “The Fight Song” felt like his blowback to the media who accused him of inspiring the Columbine massacre. And “The Nobodies” gave voice to the disenfranchised spooky kids. The High End of Low marked a high point, thanks to the return of Manson’s right-hand man, Twiggy Ramirez. That album was a cohesive, groovy work that proved the shock rockers knew their way around a chorus. (Who doesn’t like to scream along to “Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon”?)

SAMPLE: Eat Me, Drink Me (2007), Born Villain (2012), The Pale Emperor (2015)

Slow and steady does not win in Manson’s world. This threesome is deliciously creepy, but its absinthian tempos can wear on one’s attention. Essential cuts include the Lolita tribute “Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)”, the head-banging “No Reflection” and the seductive, smart “Deep Six.”

SKIP: The Golden Age of Grotesque (2003)

It’s cute when some artists parody themselves, but The Golden Age of Grotesque is too meta. Manson raps (yikes) on “This Is the New Shit” about “sex, and don’t forget the violence, blah blah blah” as though he grew tired of living up to his persona. This is the former Brian Warner begging for a vacation.

of 17

Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette in concert
Olivier Chareyre/Creative Commons

Time heals most wounds, and it often soothes the angry artist. Between growing older and adopting a meditative lifestyle, Alanis Morissette’s post-’90s catalog is serene. The question is whether this inner peace translates to relatable albums. Jagged Little Pill resonated because it captured the zeitgeist of the feminist movement. Is a mellow Morissette as gripping a writer?


We cannot with confidence recommend sitting through a post-millennium Morissette album. We don’t wish turmoil upon her, but none of her last four full-lengths taps into any emotion above frustration. She’s practically a New Age artist at this point— more Sting than Poly Styrene.

SAMPLE: So-Called Chaos (2004), Flavors of Entanglement (2008)

These twin records have glimpses of the old Alanis— “Versions of Violence” is Evanescence on E, and “Everything” is a charming companion to the grand “Uninvited.” But there’s a lot of syrupy, lovelorn drivel to wade through. Stick with the aforementioned and the braver tracks.

SKIP: Under Rug Swept (2002), Havoc and Bright Lights (2012)

You’ll zone out while listening to this pair. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

of 17

No Doubt

No Doubt - Push and Shove

The Orange County, Calif., ska-sters immigrated to dance halls in the new millennium. With singer Gwen Stefani gravitating toward straight-up pop and R&B, the rest of the band followed suit in their later releases. No longer were they “Trapped in a Box” when it came to genres. But would that alienate longtime audiences?

SPIN: Return of Saturn (2000)

No Doubt’s darkest record was a precursor to Stefani’s 2016 solo album, This Is What the Truth Feels Like. Its lyrics dealt with her stormy relationship with Bush’s Gavin Rossdale, whom she would later wed (and divorced). “Ex-Girlfriend” straddled the fence of punk and reggae, while “Marry Me” and “Simple Kind of Life” begged her beloved to grant her domesticity. Yet with all the calming down, No Doubt managed to create a visceral and heartrending work.

SAMPLE: Rock Steady (2001)

The band left its heart in Jamaica for this one, featuring rappers Lady Saw and Bounty Killer. “Hella Good” is one of No Doubt’s springiest singles, and Prince makes a cameo on the silky “Waiting Room.” However, Rock Steady feels less a group effort and more a Stefani passion piece.

SKIP: Push and Shove (2012)

EDM suits Stefani all right, but this reunion record pushes the instrumentalists aside for a sea of synths. No wonder the men of No Doubt have started a new project with Davey Havok of AFI— they want to rock again. 

of 17


Oasis Photo Session At Wembley
Dave Hogan / Getty Images

The Britpop giants had a hearty buffet of music in the aughts. Miraculously, the brothers Gallagher stayed together until 2009, when elder Noel professed that singer Liam was too difficult to work with anymore. “Some Might Say” the same about that High Flying Bird. Still, what the siblings created was pretty darn triumphant, even into their sunset years.

SPIN: Heathen Chemistry (2002)

“Stop Crying Your Heart Out” is prime Gallagher. You’ve got the Beatles-like harmonies and strings, the encouraging lyrics and the surefooted instrumentation. Its beauty bolsters the rest of the collection, which includes the blazing “Better Man” and the cordial country ditty “Songbird.”

SAMPLE: Standing on the Shoulder on Giants (2000), Don’t Believe the Truth (2005)

The radio hits were fantastic— “Go Let It Out” was cathartic and fun; “Lyla” shone like the best of the original British Invasion. The rest of the records were muddy retreads of Definitely Maybe, with Noel yearning for more placid timbres. Oasis underwent multiple lineup changes during these years, and they struggled to find solid ground.

SKIP: Dig Out Your Soul (2008)

It sounded as though Noel was digging out of his songwriting role here. The work wasn’t bad, but Oasis at this point were also-rans. Fellow Englishmen such as Muse, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys had overshadowed them, and Dig was their last grasp at relevancy— by going bluesy and obscure. It was a disappointing sendoff by one of the most captivating ’90s bands.

of 17

The Offspring

The Offspring in Concert at Blizzcon - October 30, 2005
Lee Celano / WireImage / Getty Images

Humor has served these California kings well over the years. “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” and “Self Esteem” dominated the charts and gave us all a good belly laugh. But what happens to a punk band once they’re not so youthful anymore? Blink-182 left behind the bathroom jokes in their later albums; the Offspring not so much. If you like that sort of thing, maybe these records are for you.

SPIN: Conspiracy of One (2000)

The Offspring intended to “Come Out Swinging” at the dawn of the new millennium. This album equally relied on their old-school speed-punk sound and their comical timing, like on the goofy “Original Prankster.” Dexter Holland lamented, “Dammit, I Changed Again,” but if anything, the embracing of light and dark benefited his band here.

SAMPLE: Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace (2008)

Were they trying to pull a Foo Fighters? This collection recalls Dave Grohl’s Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace in title and in material. It’s middleweight rock with no real roll— though “Half-Truism,” with its My Chemical Romance grandiosity, was a pleasant surprise.

SKIP: Days Go By (2012), Splinter (2003)

The joke’s on them with these releases. Nobody ever needs to hear the juvenile “Hit That” or the hip-hop catastrophe “California Cruising (Bumpin’ in My Trunk)” ever again.

of 17

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam in Concert at Madison Square Garden - June 24, 2008
Kevin Mazur / WireImage / Getty Images

Yes, non-believers, grunge messiahs Pearl Jam are still “Alive.” They’ve maintained a career by doing things their way, between wrestling with Ticketmaster and sharing a drummer with Soundgarden. Eddie Vedder might not stage dive anymore, but PJ still have heft.

SPIN: Backspacer (2009)

We’re softies here, so “Just Breathe” earns our vote for one of Vedder’s sweetest offerings. It’s an outlier in a record full of mighty tunes. “The Fixer” clobbers. “Got Some” is a bullet train of percussion. “The End” is dreamy. Backspacer is altogether yummy.

SAMPLE: Pearl Jam (2006), Lightning Bolt (2013)

Agitated Vedder is an admirable Vedder. Both albums have moments where he’s a prickly junkyard dog. “Mind Your Manners” is a gnarly threat with thrashing solos by Mike McCready and Stone Gossard. And “World Wide Suicide” is a screed in the vein of “Do the Evolution.” But both releases suffer from sameness. Manic riffs are OK, but the self-titled and Lightning Bolt LPs burn out too quickly.

SKIP: Binaural (2000), Riot Act (2002)

It must have been that Y2K malaise, because Pearl Jam sounded aimless on these two. They play out like listless Yield sequels, struggling to find footing between cock rock, folk and even no-wave. 

of 17


Radiohead circa 2006
Pat Sullivan / Photoshot / Getty Images

How many other bands can truly boast that they’ve improved with age? British trailblazers Radiohead are the only outfit on this list who made the new millennium their own. Just think— the same quintet who whined “I don’t belong here” in 1993 ended up making the rules in the 2000s.

SPIN: Kid A (2000), Hail to the Thief (2003), In Rainbows (2007)

When future generations read about That Moment When Music Changed Forever, they will see Thom Yorke’s name all over the place. OK Computer was his cyborg record; was his full transformation into a music machine. Never before had rock so fluidly mixed with electronic elements. Song structure was redefined. Hail to the Thief was a pleasant bridge between their organic ’90s releases and the synthetic elements of In Rainbows— itself revolutionary with its pay-what-you-want scheme.

SAMPLE: Amnesiac (2001)

Though solid, Amnesiac is too reminiscent of Kid A to stand on its own. “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Can” is the breakout track, with the title describing the claustrophobia of the whole album.

SKIP: The King of Limbs (2011)

“Lotus Flower” may have sprouted a funny meme, but the long-awaited follow-up to In Rainbows left many fans deflated. It was more of the same echoing industrial art the band had started to coast on.

of 17

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers Perform At The O2 Arena In London
Jim Dyson / Getty Images

The Peppers’ popularity stayed strong in the aughts, as they headlined Coachella and other festivals, and drummer Chad Smith did battle with his “twin,” comedian Will Ferrell. But after 2006’s double LP Stadium Arcadium, beloved guitarist John Frusciante left permanently. It was up to newcomer Josh Klinghoffer to carry the veteran funk-rock group into the teens.

SPIN: By the Way (2002)

The title track was killer. Flea’s bass sounded like a muscle car roaring down the street. Anthony Kiedis was at his wildest. These guys were fully middle-aged but were professionally banging on like rowdy frat boys. Extra kudos to the mid-tempo “Can’t Stop” for giving us a tour of the universe by “coming to teach you of the Pleiades.”

SAMPLE: Stadium Arcadium (2006)

Like Green Day, RHCP got too big for their britches (or socks, in their case) and crammed too much into Stadium Arcadium. Intriguing efforts such as the garage gem “Make You Feel Better” or the Led Zeppelin-like “Readymade” rock, but the two discs rely too heavily on noodle-y ballads.

SKIP: I’m With You (2011)

You can feel the cold absence of Frusciante here. Klinghoffer is adequate, but he lacks the soul and spirituality of his predecessor. And “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” might be the Peppers’ dopiest single to date.

of 17

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins in concert 2007
Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

Billy Corgan is undoubtedly the heart of the Smashing Pumpkins. But with so many lineup changes throughout the band’s existence, their sound has morphed dramatically. Psychedelic grunge gave way to alternative radio hits, which further gave way to mellow techno and folk. And that was just in the ’90s. SP’s latter-day releases sound like an entirely new group, for better or for worse.

SPIN: Machina: The Machines of God (2000)

The final album by the original lineup, Machina meshed new wave and metal. “I of the Mourning” was like a fantastic lost Cure song. “The Imploding Voice” was surprisingly playful for Corgan. And “Stand Inside Your Love” was hands down the most beautiful composition to come from his raging soul.

SAMPLE: Oceania (2012)

Outside of his chipper project Zwan in the early aughts, Oceania was Corgan at his most gleeful. His collaborators were fresh-faced— new bassist Nicole Fiorentino and drummer Mike Byrne, barely out of his teens. Jeff Schroeder proved a worthy partner with his malleable guitar licks. Their leader kept things light in this work loosely based on the tarot. He sang of Mother Moon, a pantheon of gods and wildflowers. Oceania was his Nicholas Sparks novel— sweet, if not a bit cloying.

SKIP: Zeitgeist (2007), Monuments to an Elegy (2014)

Not even the mighty clubs of Jimmy Chamberlin or Tommy Lee could rescue these strange LPs. The former was the Pumpkins’ “comeback” album, yet only Corgan and Chamberlin appeared. They tried to recapture the brutality of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, with droning epics like “United States” and David Bowie-biting throwaways such as “Starz.” Monuments was really an unintentional Elegy – a sad song for the dead – for the Siamese Dream era. It was a Pumpkins release only by name, with Lee squandering his talent on less-than-moving treacle. The passion and angst behind SP’s older works were gone.  

of 17

Third Eye Blind

Third Eye Blind In Concert - Valley Center, CA
Harmony Gerber / Getty Images

Stephan Jenkins’ “Semi-Charmed Life” turned into a dream come true in the late ’90s with Third Eye Blind’s brand of poppy, verbose rock. “Never Let You Go” was another smash, making Jenkins a revered wordsmith and a swoon-worthy icon. His group kept a lower profile in the aughts but still brightened up nostalgic lineups at SXSW and other festivals. Their subsequent albums kept up the pensive yet finger-popping vibe.

SPIN: Dopamine (2015)

We went in-depth on this comeback collection and discovered some fun, artsy pieces. It’s all about finding pleasure in one’s life, and how those pleasures change with age. Jenkins’ lyrics hearken back to Third Eye Blind’s recklessness, forgiving himself for youthful transgressions. Nowadays, his passions are jazz, rockabilly and fine arts. In that growth, 3EB expanded their musical horizons and tried on dance-rock and power ballads. Dopamine does a great job showing that getting older doesn’t have to be a bummer.

SAMPLE: Out of the Vein (2003)

It’s a middling Jimmy Eat World or Yellowcard wannabe, but songs like “Blinded (When I See You)” burst with energy. It’s very of its time and hints at the bill they’d later share with emo lords Dashboard Confessional.

SKIP: Ursa Major (2009)

There’s a lot of nifty guitar happening here. Jenkins and crew manipulate the six strings to mimic keyboards and other space-age instruments. Otherwise, the record is stuck in Stephan’s emotional quicksand. Misery can be beautiful (example: Beck’s Sea Change), but it’s merely narcoleptic here.

of 17


Weezer band shot
Emily Shur

There are those among the literati who won’t acknowledge any Weezer album past 1996’s Pinkerton. That and their self-titled 1994 debut were near perfection, but that doesn’t disqualify their later works outright. In fact, their highest-charting singles didn’t come along until 2005, according to Billboard. Theirs has become one of the most contested catalogs in alternative rock. Here’s where we rank their post-millennial releases.

SPIN: “Green” (2001), Maladroit (2002), Everything Will Be Alright in the End (2014)

Chock full of Rivers Cuomo’s clever lyrics and riffs you can practically sing along to, this trio does Weezer fans proud. The Green Weezer album gave us the anthemic “Island in the Sun” and the cheeky “Hash Pipe.” The following year, Cuomo brandished his KISS-loving side on the volatile Maladroit. Then came what we refer to as the dark years, where transcendental meditation and fatherhood sapped his creative energy. The light at the end of the too-quirky tunnel was 2014’s exemplary Everything Will Be Alright in the End, a return to form that featured Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast and some of the band’s raddest instrumentation since their debut.

SAMPLE: Make Believe (2005), “Red” (2008), “White” (2016)

Make Believe was Weezer on autopilot. The singles were catchy (“Beverly Hills” and “Perfect Situation” conquered the pop airwaves), but the deep tracks felt soggy. The Red Weezer album jutted into megalomania, with “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)” going all American Idiot. Conversely, Red also saw guitarist Brian Bell, drummer Pat Wilson and bassist Scott Shriner taking turns on lead vocals. Cuomo would later renege in 2014’s “Back to the Shack,” “Maybe I should play the lead guitar and Pat should play the drums.” Ouch. We also included White in this batch because its singles have been all over the place. “Thank God for Girls” is among the most hip-hop-influenced Weezer tracks and comes off as an embarrassment, but “L.A. Girlz” and “King of the World” capture the youthful joy of the band’s first two releases.

SKIP: Raditude (2009), Hurley (2010)

The album covers are of a flying dog and Jorge Garcia of Lost. Enough said.