A big ol’ fat happy birthday to Sub Pop Records, which is celebrating 25 years of putting out stellar albums this week. And, while the record label is now of legal age to rent a vehicle in the U.S. and its releases are currently dominating the CMJ charts, it wasn’t always the case. We decided to look back at the ebb and flow of Sub Pop albums at college radio.

Nirvana, Mudhoney and L7 all got their start on Sub Pop, but while Bleach (1989), Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988) and Smell The Magic (1990) mucked around the middle of the charts for a few weeks, all three bands would hit No. 1 with their respective major-label debuts. All of this happened before the release of Sebadoh’s Bakesale, the band’s third Sub Pop release, in 1994. Bakesale hit No. 1 in late September and remained at No. 1 for four straight weeks, making it Sub Pop’s first-ever CMJ No. 1, a full six years after the label’s inception.

CMJ Chart For The Week Of September 19, 1994


RANK 
ARTIST & TITLE
LABEL
1 SEBADOH Bakesale Sub Pop
2 REVEREND HORTON HEAT Liquor In The Front Sub Pop-Interscope
3 STEREOLAB Mars Audiac Quintet Elektra
4 LUSCIOUS JACKSON Natural Ingredients Capitol
5 MAGNAPOP Hot Boxing PIAS-Priority
6 SUGAR File Under: Easy Listening Rykodisc
7 JESUS AND MARY CHAIN Stoned And… Blanco Y Negro-American
8 SKY CRIES MARY This Timeless Turning World Domination-Capitol
9 L7 Hungry For Stink Slash-Reprise
10 JALE Dreamcake Sub Pop
11 LOVE SPIT LOVE Love Spit Love Imago
12 LUSH Split 4AD
13 DINOSAUR JR. Without A Sound Blanco Y Negro-Sire
14 HELMET Betty Interscope
15 BEASTIE BOYS Ill Communication Grand Royal-Capitol
16 BAD RELIGION Stranger Than Fiction Atlantic
17 V/A Jabberjaw: Good To The Last Drop Mammoth
18 MOTOCASTER Stay Loaded Interscope
19 KILLING JOKE Pandemonium Zoo
20 TOADIES  Rubberneck Interscope

Tellingly enough, though, the album that Sebadoh knocked out of the No. 1 slot was Reverend Horton Heat’s Liquor In The Front. Yes, that could technically be Sub Pop’s first CMJ No. 1, but it was a joint release between Sub Pop and Interscope, a major label that brought a powerful promo machine in tow.

Other great Sub Pop bands of the same era wouldn’t get their due—Eric’s Trip, Sunny Day Real Estate, Murder City Devils and Codeine would all chart but would never reach the top—but Bakesale started things small: Two years later Sebadoh’s Harmacy would spend a full six weeks in the No. 1 slot. But in the early naughts, all it took was the Shins’ 2001 breakthrough, Oh! Inverted World, and while the album would only reach No. 7 in September 2001, it threw open the college radio floodgates. It was, and still is, Sub Pop-topia at college radio. Let’s take a look at the chart history of some essential Sub Pop albums that flew to No. 1 after your mom had heard of the Shins.


ARTIST & TITLE
No. 1 DATE
LOW The Great Destroyer 02/25/03
THE SHINS Shoots Too Narrow 01/13/04
SLEATER-KINNEY The Woods 07/19/05
POSTAL SERVICE Give Up 02/15/05
IRON AND WINE The Shepherd’s Dog 10/09/07
BAND OF HORSES Cease To Begin 11/13/07
FLEET FOXES Fleet Foxes 06/24/08
NO AGE Nouns 06/10/08
WOLF PARADE At Mt. Zoomer 07/15/08
HANDSOME FURS Face Control 03/24/09
IRON AND WINE Around The Well 06/02/09
FRUIT BATS The Ruminant Band 08/25/09
WOLF PARADE Expo 86 07/20/10
IRON AND WINE Kiss Each Other Clean 02/22/11
FLEET FOXES Helplessness Blues 05/10/11
DUM DUM GIRLS Only In Dreams 10/04/11
DUM DUM GIRLS End Of Daze 11/06/12

And, because we can’t all be No.1, this is the bonus section for a few more soon-to-be-legacy albums delivered by Sub Pop over the past decade (or so) that, even though they didn’t top out the college radio chart, cannot be ignored.


PEAK
ARTIST & TITLE
PEAK DATE
3 HOT HOT HEAT Make Up The Break Down 11/12/02
53 WOLF EYES Burned Mind 10/12/04
9 CSS Cansei De Ser Sexy 08/01/06
9 THE THERMALS The Body The Blood The Machine 09/19/06
3 FLIGHT OF THE CONCORDS Flight Of The Conchords 05/06/08
4 MOGWAI Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will 02/22/11
5 METZ Metz 11/20/12