Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 Essential Albums by LGBTQ Artists, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Considering that the qualifier “LGBTQ” can often be open to various interpretations, for the purposes of this particular list, we have defined an artist as LGBTQ if he, she or they have ever publicly identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer. Moreover, albums by groups have been included in the list if any of their members fit the aforementioned criteria, even if some members do not.
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FRED SCHNEIDER | Just Fred
Warner Bros. (1996)
Selected by Steven Ovadia
It's easy to forget just how big grunge was in the 1990s. Just Fred, Fred Schneider's second solo album, is a great reminder. Improbably produced by Steve Albini, who in addition to producing acts like Nirvana, the Pixies, and Helmet ,was also a respected punk performer, the album featured Schneider, the distinctive male voice in the B-52s, performing in front of loud rock bands (Six Finger Satellite, Deadly Cupcake, and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, best known for performing the surf-rock theme to "Kids in the Hall" and empirically proving this was indeed a late 1990s album).
There are two amazing things about this album. One is that it works. Really well. Schneider is an amazing frontman, his voice holding up to the raucous, propulsive rhythms. Schneider maintains his trademark whine that's little more than rhythmic talking, but he does lots of subtle things to make it work with the music. It's not like Schneider goes punk. It's more like Schneider taps into a rock & roll energy while remaining true to himself.
The other amazing thing about this album is how well it holds up. Released in 1996, it still sounds exciting and fresh today. Credit Albini's production, which is crisp, and the backing bands, which keep things simple, focusing on providing the canvas for Schneider's vocals. When the album first came out, I sort of guffawed about the concept, but it quickly and often found its way into my CD player.
I mentioned Just Fred to a colleague a few months ago which got me listening again and it's impressive how good it still sounds. Schneider is angry and aggressive and it doesn't sound silly. The album might be a relic of its time, but it's a beautiful one.