We continue our January journey through the big 2024 anniversary years with a look back at the best rock albums from 1989.


I started the trip at the beginning of the month with a 30-year look back at the big rock albums from 1994. That was an absolutely stacked year if you’re a fan of alternative rock. Breakthrough albums from Beck and Green Day, unplugged Nirvana, Weezer‘s debut. Take a look at the whole list here and cast your vote if you haven’t done so yet. It’s yet another installment of my 12-Inch Poll.


I followed up the Class of ’94 with the Class of ’99. It ended up being a study in contrasts. 1999 was heavy on rap rock, nu metal, and stuff that was so far removed from grunge it had deteriorated into what can only be defined as butt rock. Not my favorite subgenres of alt-rock. Nevertheless, I made my list, checked it twice, and I invite you to check it out and cast your vote, too.


The Best Rock Albums From 1989: What’s Your Favorite?

So where do we go from the ’90s? Back to the ’80s. I know 35th anniversaries aren’t as round and sexy as 30th or 25th anniversaries, but it turns out 1989 has a pretty strong crop of contenders. Much like in ’99, rock music in ’89 reflected the closing of a decade with an eclectic mix of albums, both mainstream and underground. But in the case of ’89, they hold up a little better. No butt rock.


I tried to capture those eclectic sounds of ’89 in my list below. Take a look, cast your vote and, as always, hit up ROCK 92.9 on your social network of choice to let me know if your favorite album of that year is missing from my list. Hell, social media probably brought you here, so just reply to the post you tapped on. And thanks!

  • Aerosmith ‘Pump’

    Released on September 12, 1989. The Bad Boys from Boston started the decade weak, but finished strong with 1987’s Permanent Vacation and this one two years later. They struck while the iron was hot, giving ’89 a batch of bangers and setting the stage for their ’90s pop-rock domination.

  • The B-52's 'Cosmic Thing'

    Released on June 27, 1989. If you were alive and aware in ’89, you probably remember that The B-52’s were EVERYWHERE. “Love Shack” and “Roam” absolutely owned MTV and not just the rock radio airwaves, but the radio airwaves in general. Just massive.

  • Beastie Boys ‘Paul’s Boutique’

    Released on July 15, 1989. An album that was truly a product of its time. It could never be made today; the samples would cost millions to clear. What the B-Boys did on this album was groundbreaking at the time, which makes this not only a product of its time, but timeless.

  • The Cult 'Sonic Temple'

    Released on April 10, 1989. I can’t take credit for this take because I think my pal Michael O’Connor Marotta was the first to voice it, but I’ll paraphrase: The Cult were the perfect bridge between the hair-tinged hard rock of the ’80s and the grunge bands of the ’90s.

  • The Cure 'Disintegration'

    Released on May 2, 1989. This is the greatest album, of any rock genre or subgenre, to be released in 1989. It likely won’t be the top finisher in this particular poll, but that doesn’t change that fact.

  • Faith No More ‘The Real Thing’

    Released on June 20, 1989. The band’s first album with frontman Mike Patton, aka when they finally found the right mix of members and sounds to launch themselves into the rock stratosphere.

  • Motley Crue 'Dr. Feelgood'

    Released on August 28, 1989. Hair metal’s last gasp before the grunge and alt-rock onslaught of the ’90s? You be the judge. One things for sure: if hair metal was going out with the ’80s, it was going out with a bang. And this album is a big reason why.

  • Neil Young ‘Freedom’

    Released on October 2, 1989. How does a legacy artist like Neil Young make their 17th album, released at the end of a decade they didn’t exactly own, relevant? By writing an era-defining song like “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

  • Nine Inch Nails 'Pretty Hate Machine'

    Released on October 20, 1989. Fans gave me hell for leaving The Fragile off my list of 1999 releases, so consider this a make-good. It’s also a scene-defining debut that would inspire a lot of the industrial-based rock to come in the ’90s, so there’s that, too.

  • Nirvana ‘Bleach’

    Released on June 15, 1989. Their debut. You didn’t own it until you got into Nevermind; please don’t pretend you did.

  • Pixies "Doolittle'

    Released on April 17, 1989. The greatest of all Pixies albums. If you grew up in the Boston area in the late ’80s into the ’90s, you grew up listening to Pixies on FNX, BCN, and college radio. And if you didn’t, you probably checked them out when Kurt Cobain named-dropped them.

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Mother’s Milk’

    Released on August 16, 1989. While it didn’t have the impact of their breakthrough 1991 follow-up, this album was the stage-setter. I find myself going back to it a lot more often than their late ’90s and 2000s releases; it’s that good.

  • The Rolling Stones 'Steel Wheels’

    Released on August 29, 1989. A comeback album of sorts for the Stones. Remembered less for the actual songs on the album and more for the massive tour that the band struck out on that year.

  • Soundgarden ‘Louder Than Love’

    Released on September 5, 1989. Another one I almost left off the list because I honestly feel it’s not as strong as its contemporary releases. But, on the other hand, it’s Soundgarden. So how am I going to leave it off?

  • The Stone Roses 'The Stone Roses'

    Released on May 2, 1989. I debated on including this one on the list, as it certainly wasn’t a huge release stateside in ’89. But it helped define an entire scene in the U.K. and it’s influence has gone on to be felt and appreciated worldwide by bands and fans alike. Legacy counts.

  • Tom Petty ‘Full Moon Fever’

    Released on April 24, 1989. Imagine being the record exec who passed this album over. It charted five singles. Lol.

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