Forgotten singles of the ’90s

We revisit forgotten classics from an era when music journalists used “alterna” as a prefix to every genre, when songs needlessly opened with samples, when one-hit wonders never stuck around past their used-by date and when penning a novelty single was a sure fire way to get played on triple j. There’s nothing ironic about this list – you won’t see Eiffel 65, East 17 or Aqua here.

Bran Van 3000 – Drinkin In LA (1997)

This Montreal collective put out two great albums – Discosis and Glee – but are best known for this late-’90s single that trades Beck-lite verses with soulful vocals, chilled-out beats and a reference to Snoop Dogg’s ‘Gin and Juice’.

Len – Steal My Sunshine (1999)

A Canadian brother-and-sister duo – neither of whom could really sing – alternate nonsensical verses over a snippet of Andrea True Connection’s 1976 disco hit ‘More, More, More’. Only in the ‘90s. An equally memorable video shot in Daytona Beach, Florida.


The Caulfields – Devil’s Diary (1995)

Better known by its declaratory chorus: “I’m bigger than Jesus now.” Fun fact: They toured Australia in the mid-1990s in support of Died Pretty. Did they play any other songs?

Not From There – Sich Offnen (1998)

How did one of the most interesting noise-pop outfits of the late-’90s garner high rotation on triple j? With a novelty single featuring lyrics in German, of course. Frontman Heinz Riegler is still making great ambient music in Brisbane.


Ammonia – Drugs (1995)

Observation #1: Val Kilmer could easily star as Dave Johnstone if anyone was stupid enough to make an Ammonia biopic. Observation #2: This song has a really underrated bassline.

Primitive Radio Gods – Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand (1996)

This ambient bit of mid-’90s melancholy is all about the BB King sample (“I’ve been downhearted baby, ever since the day we met”) which only appears twice. It’s a clever device that forces you to listen to this song the whole way through. All four minutes, 42 seconds of it.

Violetine – You Know (1998)

Q: Whatever happened to Violetine? A: They’re still paying off the debt from this needlessly expensive video that bands in the ‘90s were conned into thinking they needed to make.

Tokyo Ghetto Pussy – I Kiss Your Lips (1995)

Tokyo Ghetto Pussy was actually a German duo who performed under a bunch of aliases, most notably Jam & Spoon. This driving trance lullaby scored them a top 10 hit in Australia and the Netherlands – and pretty much nowhere else.

Fastball – The Way (1998)

A morbid true story about an old couple that gets lost in the desert set to a spaghetti-western backdrop. See also: ‘You’re An Ocean’ (2000).

Spacehog – In the Meantime (1996)

Was the sample of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s ‘Telephone and Rubber Band’ really that crucial to the alterna-glam pay-off? Likewise, did the drummer really need that double kick?

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