The 25 best Indie Songs of 1990

6 April 2024, 12:00

Some of the biggest indie tunes from 1990, including tracks by Depeche Mode, Inspiral Carpets, The Stone Roses, EMF, Happy Mondays, Pixies and more.
Some of the biggest indie tunes from 1990, including tracks by Depeche Mode, Inspiral Carpets, The Stone Roses, EMF, Happy Mondays, Pixies and more. Picture: Press

1990: a new decade, full of new bands and new tunes. What was shaking the world of indie in those heady days? Radio X looks at the year of Loaded, Come Home, Unbelievable and One Love.

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  1. The Beloved - Hello: release date 15th January 1990

    Jon Marsh and Steve Waddington had formed The Beloved as a standard indie band in the mid 80s, but the Second Summer Of Love saw them embrace the wave of house music that had just broken in the UK. Their 1989 single The Sun Rising is a classic example of Balearic bliss, but their follow-up, Hello, was a more poppy affair, as Marsh lists friends, colleagues, celebrities and even the odd saint and sinner.

    The Beloved - Hello (Official Video)

  2. The Sundays - Here's Where The Story Ends: release date 15th January 1990

    Can't Be Sure was one of the most acclaimed indie singles of 1989 and hopes were high for the subsequent album, Reading Writing & Arithmetic, which emerged in the first days of the new decade and spawned this beautiful song.

    The Sundays - Here's Where The Story Ends (Official Music Video) [HD Upgrade]

  3. The House Of Love - Shine On: release date 22nd January 1990

    Guy Chadwick's romantic indie rockers were originally signed to the influential Creation label, but a move to major subsidiary Fontana in 1989 seemed to spell the big time for the band. A remake of HOL's debut from May 1987, the single broke the Top 20 in February 1990 and the accompanying self-titled album went Top 10. However, Chadwick couldn't follow-up the success the House Of Love had enjoyed in 1990, and their third album, Babe Rainbow, was lost in the rush of Grunge in the summer of 1992.

    The House Of Love - Shine On (Official Video)

  4. Primal Scream - Loaded: release date 19th February 1990

    The song that changed it all for Bobby Gillespie: up until this point, the Scream were a modestly successful garage-rock band, but this remix of their song I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have by DJ Andrew Weatherall changed their audience, their fortunes and their career, peaking at Number 16 on the singles chart.

    Primal Scream - Loaded (Official Video)

  5. Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence: release date 5th February 1990

    Released in advance of the band's seventh album Violator, Enjoy The Silence was accompanied by a plethora of remixes and a brilliant video by photographer Anton Corbijn, which sees frontman Dave Gahan dressed as the childrens' book character The Little Prince in a variety of locations. The single made Number 6 in the UK charts.

    Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence (Official Video)

  6. Inspiral Carpets - This Is How It Feels: release date 5th March 1990

    1988 and 1989 had seen Oldham's Inspiral Carpets enjoy underground success with their singles Joe and Find Out Why, released on their own label Cow. The Inspirals signed to Mute - home of Erasure and Depeche Mode - and released this slice of kitchen sink drama in March 1990. Inspired by songwriter Clint Boon's personal experiences, the single made Number 14 in the charts.

    Inspiral Carpets - This Is How It Feels (Official Video)

  7. Happy Mondays - Step On: release date 26th March 1990

    Salford's Mondays were signed to Factory in 1986 and became New Order's support band of choice for a number of years, but it was this cover of John Kongos' 1971 hit He's Gonna Step On You Again that saw them become genuine pop stars. Peaking at Number 5, it ties with Kinky Afro as the band's biggest hit.

    Happy Mondays - Step On (Official Music Video)

  8. Jesus Jones - Real Real Real: release date 26th March 1990

    Signed to Food Records (who would soon meet a young band called Seymour, later to become Blur), Jesus Jones hailed from Wiltshire and were fronted by the charismatic Mike Edwards. Food were distributed by EMI and this period saw many major labels dip a toe into the world of indie rock. with their corporate muscle getting Real Real Real to Number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

    Jesus Jones - Real Real Real (Official Music Video)

  9. Ride - Like A Daydream: release date 2nd April 1990

    The lead track from the Oxford band's second EP, Play, Like A Daydream was written by Andy Bell, one of the shoegaze genre's brightest young talents. Ride were the hottest indie band of the era and the key artist belonging to the Creation label... until a young Manchester band called Oasis came along.

    Ride - Like A Daydream

  10. My Bloody Valentine - Soon: release date 23rd April 1990

    Another glorious 1990 release from Alan McGee's Creation label was the Glider EP, which featured this decidedly danceable piece of shoegaze noise from sonic genius Kevin Shields.

    Read more: The loudest bands of all time

    My Bloody Valentine - Soon (Official Music Video)

  11. The Charlatans - The Only One I Know: release date 14th May 1990

    After the underground success of their debut Indian Rope, released on the band's own Dead Dead Good label, The Charlatans followed it up with this memorable baggy hit, which broke the UK Top 10 and was awarded Silver status by the BPI.

    The Charlatans - The Only One I Know

  12. The Farm - Stepping Stone: release date 14th May 1990

    Forget Groovy Train, this is the REAL 1990 banger from The Farm, a cover of the Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart garage classic (I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone, made famous by The Monkees. Featuring the soon-to-be-famous drum sampled from Mantronix' King Of The Beats - it later appearaed on Snap's The Power - this is one of the original "Baggy Shuffle" classics. The single cover features a sheep dressed on baggy jeans and a bucket hat, indicating that The Farm thought themselves ahead of the curve somewhat.

    The Farm - Stepping Stone (1990)

  13. EnglandNewOrder - World In Motion: release date 21st May 1990

    It's not the greatest New Order song of all time, but it's the most notable - and it topped the charts. Recorded to officially promote England's 1990 World Cup campaign, the notorious rap by footballer John Barnes was written by comedian and actor Keith Allen.

    New Order - World In Motion (Official Music Video) [HD Upgrade]

  14. St Etienne - Only Love Can Break Your Heart: release date 21st May 1990

    Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs' debut single featured vocalist Moira Lambert - rather than regular Etienne vocalist Sarah Cracknell - and is based on a sample of Dusty Springfield's 1967 song I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face.

    Only Love Can Break Your Heart - Saint Etienne

  15. James - Come Home: release date 25th June 1990

    The Manchester collective originally released Come Home on indie label Rough Trade in November 1989, but after the band signed to major label Fontana in early 1990, the track was remixed by producer Flood and issued as the follow-up to the bit How Was It For You. The cover art was updated too, to reflect the James "flower" logo that would soon adorn a million t-shirts.

    James - Come Home

  16. The Soup Dragons - I'm Free: release date 2nd July 1990

    The Scottish indie band - named after the friendly character from kids tv programme Clangers - had been releasing singles since 1986, but this cover of a 1965 Rolling Stones tune saw them break the UK Top 5 with a new, danceable sound. Featuring reggae star Junior Reid on guest vocals, there was no escaping this tune in 1990. While the album Lovegod sold well, the band struggled to follow-up their monster hit and called it a day in 1995, although they performed a series of reunion shows in 2023.

    The Soup Dragons - I'm Free (Official Video)

  17. The Stone Roses - One Love: release date 2nd July 1990

    The Roses finished 1989 on top of the world, with huge acclaimed for their debut album and a Top 10 hit in Fools Gold. All eyes were on the band - what would they do next? Frustratingly, despite the enormous show at Spike Island in May 1990, legal troubles with their former label would put a halt to any more new material for four years - after the release of this one-off single, which made Number 4 but didn't live up the promise held by their debut.

    The Stone Roses - One Love (Official Video)

  18. Paris Angels - All On You (Perfume): release date 2nd July 1990

    This New Order-esque single was a huge club favourite at the time, and gave the Ashton-under-Lyne band Single Of The Week in the NME. Despite signing to major label Virgin and reissuing Perfume in 1991, Paris Angels' second album Eclipse went unreleased until it was issued on Bandcamp years later in 2015.

    paris angels - perfume

  19. Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Kill Your Television: release date 2nd July 1990

    Named after an episode of The Goon Show, Neds hailed from Stourbridge in the West Midlands and were something of a "little brother" band to chart favourites The Wonder Stuff. Their debut Ingredients EP was issued on the indie lable Chapter 22 and the follow-up was the live favourite Kill Your Television. The band soon signed to major Columbia, who issued their debut album God Fodder. After two more LPs, Neds split in 1995 but have since reunited.

    Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Kill Your Television (Video)

  20. Flowered Up - It's On: release date 16th July 1990

    London's answer to Madchester, Camden's Flowered Up featured their own "Bez" in the shape of dancer Barry Mooncult. Their masterpiece is the epic 13-minute odyssey Weekender, but this was their much-admired debut on the Heavenly label.

    Flowered Up - It's On

  21. Pixies - Velouria: release date 16th July 1990

    The Boston band's 1989 album Doolittle was a huge breakthrough hit, meaning there was much anticipation for the follow-up. The resulting LP Bossanova was seen as a disappointment by many, but there are some gems to be found - most notably this growling tribute to myths, legends and UFOs, accompanied by a promo clip that must rank as the least amount of effort ever put into a video.

    Pixies - Velouria (Official Video)

  22. Nirvana - Sliver: release date 1st September 1990 (US release)

    Recorded in July 1990, Sliver sees Nirvana at a crossroads in their career: it's their last piece of new material recorded for indie label Sub Pop and features a one-off performance from drummer Dan Peters. Within a year, the band would have hired Dave Grohl and signed to major label Geffen. Written by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, Sliver snuck out in the UK in January 1991.

    Nirvana - Sliver (Official Music Video)

  23. The Cure - Never Enough: release date 17th September 1990

    After the huge success of their 1989 album Disintegration and the mammoth world tour that followed, Robert Smith and his crew retreated to the studio to think about a follow-up. Unexpectely, this was to be a remix album, Mixed Up, which featured Never Enough as the sole piece of new material. A guitar-led tribute to Smith's ambition, the memorable video sees Cure manager Chris Parry as the host of an end of pier sideshow... featuring the band members as the exhibits.

    The Cure - Never Enough

  24. The La's - There She Goes: release date 22nd October 1990

    Liverpool's La's had been knocking around since 1983 when they were fronted by songwriter Mike Badger, but the arrival of Lee Mavers changed their fortunes. Originally released on the Go! Discs label in 1988, the track didn't break the Top 40, but once Mavers had completed the accompanying album in 1990, the track was reissued and made Number 13. Despite a number of reunions over the intervening years, there was never a second La's album.

    The La's - There She Goes

  25. EMF - Unbelievable: release date 22nd October 1990

    The Epsom Mad Funkers were apparently a New Order fanclub, but their name was taken in vain by this Forest Of Dean indie band, whose debut single Unbelievable would remain their greatest hit. Their follow-up, I Believe, also made the Top 10, but the band called it a day in 1995 after three albums, reuniting in 2022 for a new album, Go Go Sapiens.

    EMF - Unbelievable (Official Music Video) HD

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