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The Top Ten Most Underrated Major Label Bands From The ‘90s That Will Always Be Sellouts in Our Eyes

Major label bands like Metallica, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam ruled the ‘90s rock world with an iron fist, and even independent labels like Epitaph Records and Fat Wreck Chords had acts that sold quite well as, uh, well. However, this piece isn’t about platinum major label acts or indie ones with different colored certifications; it’s a piece wherein we discuss the top ten most underrated major label bands in alphabetical order that for some reason or another didn’t move THAT many units and are thus considered underrated. A few ground rules for you keyboard warriors: No subsidiary labels count, the band had to have released at least one major label from 1990-1999, we have to anger you with our lack of inclusion of your misinformed opinion, and we have to be able to sleep well at night based on our analysis rivaling Stephen Hawking’s “Theory of Relativity”.

All (Interscope Records)

Self righteous? Maybe! Uncle Critic is here to enlighten, uh, ALL. Anyway, while you most certainly know of All, the majority of Earth’s populous simply/sadly does not, and even casual Descendents fans likely did a whoopsie regarding all things, uh, you guessed it, All. “Pummel” is All’s lone major label release via Interscope Records and is the first LP recorded in The Blasting Room, which was the studio for such seminal punk rock bands like Rise Against, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, A Wilhelm Scream, and Puddle of Mudd; you may think that the last band mentioned is false, which is quite “on brand” here, but alas, it isn’t a joke. However, POM is FAR from punk rock, SO that is a funny! What a mouthful; everything is blurry.

Handsome (Epic Records)

Sometimes ‘90s major label bands like Foo Fighters, Green Day, Weezer, and Rage Against the Machine deservedly get fair shakes and a bouquet of flowers from Erewhon. Sometimes ‘90s rockers like Drive Like Jehu, Jawbox, Jawbreaker, and, I don’t know, a band named Jawline or some shit, just don’t. However, those four bands are too influential to be considered underrated, and while Handsome was ahead of their time, you ugly cats and kittens likely missed the boat on the act, at the very least DURING the ‘90s, so it’s here; fight us in the comments. Produced by Terry Date, who later sat behind the boards for Limp Bizkit’s “Significant Other,” Funeral for a Friend’s “Hours,” Dredg’s “Catch Without Arms,” and Gderd’s “Drop With Feet,” Handsome’s lone LP and self-titled one at that, was captured quite well and still sounds great and fresh today. Helmet, Quicksand, and Cro-Mags. Electric Love Hogs? Ride down!

Marvelous 3 (Elektra Records)

Write it on your hand: Butch Walker is definitely NOT an underrated producer/songwriter, as his work Midtown, The Academy Is…, Bowling For Soup, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra speak for themselves, but his Atlanta power trio act Marvelous 3 sure is, despite them having a minor hit in “Freak of the Week.” This inclusion for yours truly and ours deeply contains quite a loophole in that the goofily titled “Hey! Album” was initially released via the incredibly/creatively named Marvelous Records, but juggernaut Elektra Records signed the act, and released the goofily titled “Hey! Album,” and the band re-recorded nearly half of it prior to its major label showcase. Despite being sticklers for bitterness, we can happily announce that the band reformed seventeen years after their 2001 split, and even put out a new LP in 2023!

The Muffs (Warner Bros. Records for their debut AND Reprise Records for its two follow ups)

Say goodbye/let’s start this section with something sad: Southern California’s The Muffs’ lead vocalist, chief songwriter, general badass, AND former Pixies band member Kim Shattuck sadly lost her battle with ALS in 2019, and she is sorely missed by those with musical taste. Sincerely. You likely heard the band’s “Kids in America” cover in “Not Another Teen Movie,” but the band is SO SO much more than that, and you latchkey kids should be ashamed of yourselves. Fun opinion that doubles as a fact: Kim’s screams were ahead of their time and laid the foundation for so many bands you discovered during the Myspace era. Fun rumor that can’t double as a fact unless it can: Green Day signed to Reprise Records because of The Muffs. In closing, hey Nina, from Pasadena, you’ve no ambition and only ever sit around; we DO know why.

Nerf Herder (Arista Records)

Even though this band never truly broke through the mainstream or the minorsteam, the single on Nerf Herder’s lone major label LP known simply as “Nerf Herder” managed to piss off Sammy Hagar; Google it if you don’t believe us even though you know that you do. We’re not the ones who were in a high school hardcore bands, but neither were you, and Nerf Herder’s self-described and perfectly stated style of “geek rock” is for all easy marks, nosering girls, apologetic golf shirts, and Capes of Joey in a Sea of Good Astronauts. Like the aforementioned Marvelous 3, Nerf Herder’s first (and last) major label LP was initially released by an indie label My Records, and Arista Records smartly picked it up, and stupidly failed miserably at breaking it. Sigh. You’re gonna be the one who’s sorry; sorry, Diana.

Puya (MCA)

Likely the most underrated ‘90s major label act here, or one of the most in general, Puya, Puerto Rico’s hybrid aggressive Rico’s/salsa band seemingly took influences from EVERYTHING/EVERYONE all at once. “Fundamental,” the band’s second full length LP, came out in 1999 (baby!) and was their first release on an international label. You fakers definitely missed the boat on this one and we aren’t taking any further questions on the matter; whatever. If you like your vocals in two different languages, this band is for you, and if you don’t, don’t tell anyone. If you had the chance to see the Sno-Core run which came out a year after “Fundamental,” then you saw or missed Puya as the first of four or five bands which also included Mr. Freaking Bungle, Incubus, and System of a Down pre-“Chop Suey!” Keep it simple, and eventually form a union.

The Rentals (Maverick Records)

You naive non-brilliant boys 110% have issue with this leased position, but compared to juggernaut of juggernaut band Weezer, Thr Rentals, bassist Matt Sharp’s eventual side project act that eventually morphed into a full-time act are definitely underrated. Even though it seems it’s all lies, we still believe you should be with us. Anyway, if you want a helping of Weezer’s Eiffel 65 inspired LP with a large helping of moogs, which are pronounced like “vogue,” but we digress, strings, female backup vocals, and rimmed glasses that are now described as “emo,” and listen the act’s debut record, “Return of the Rentals.” Now spin/stream the band’s 1998 sophomore follow-up, “Seven Minutes More,” which is a literal lie in the best manner that sounds like a combination of Blur and Maya Rudolph. FYI: Motion City Soundtrack owe The Rentals a sweaty and dorky hug.

Shades Apart (Universal Records)

Here’s a foolproof formula from us know-it-alls: “American Pie” + Bridgewater Township, New Jersey + Former Revelation Records who went on to sign with a conglomerate on the collared line statistic + Windows Separated By Several Miles = A Major Label misfire that should’ve hit a humongous bullseye… Anyway, “Eyewitness,” Shades Apart’s major label debut and first of two, is twelve tracks of perfection, but it was definitely polarizing amongst the band’s gruff punk rocking the clock fan base; pity as this end result gets stranger by the day. “Second Chances” got literal second chances on “Eyewitness” and if we can successfully travel via Time Machine a la Emmett Lathrup Brown, Ph.D, we would go back to the unproblematic Woodstock ‘99 and hand out SA, and not sexual assault, CD samplers to all of those watching DMX; RIP, Ruff Ryder. Save it, bear eyewitness, and yell into the eternal echo, “SHADES APART”!

Superdrag (Elektra Records)

Like The (aforementioned) Rentals, Knoxville, Tennessee’s rock group of rock groups known as Superdrag is a combination of popular and underrated, and had a similarly successful minor hit themselves, but it didn’t reference P.; it sucked out your feelings and wounds. The band released two perfect major label LPs in the ‘90s, and even released two flawless ones during the ‘00s; the band’s 2009 fifth and final record as of now, “Industry Giants,” is not 100% solid, but there are some good gems on it as well. How “Head Trip in Every Key” didn’t have a similar impact as much worse 1998 records is still behind us, and we blame “Slappy and the Stinkers” and you for such a global gaffe; wrong vs. right doesn’t matter. Bring your karma down and avoid Superdrag; elevator your vibes up, and you will no longer be too dim to explain that.

Zebrahead (Columbia Records)

Imagine if members of 311 formed a more lighthearted punk rock band, and was not raised in America’s breadbasket, and there you have La Habra, California’s Zebrahead. The band’s lone ‘90s major label release and second studio album, “Waste of Mind,” exposed many to retro seats, had a small hit in “Get Back,” did VERY well in Japan, and was successful enough domestically for one more 2000 Columbia Records follow-up, “Playmate of the Year.” Maybe the 1998 Donald Trump reference via “Get Back” in the year of our lord known as 2024 is now a party foul that inspires foul parties, but move on: Take a chance, kid, as others did and are mid. In closing, if you’re afraid to stand alone with literal high praise on this Zebrahead hill, well, now you’re tripping. Walk away.