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It's the '90s again with two tours at ACL Live

Tours this month include Everclear, Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms

Patrick Caldwell

It's either an admirable gesture of restraint or a shocking mark of delusion that between the press releases for two tours that stop at ACL Live this month, there's no mention of the '90s.

After all, consider just a few of the bands that will appear as part of the Summerland Tour 2012 on Friday and the Last Summer on Earth 2012 on July 21: Everclear, the Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray, Blues Traveler, Cracker.

If you hear a roll call of those bands and don't immediately think back to the Clinton decade, there's a fair chance you weren't alive at the time — or were young enough to escape the culture-wide radio saturation of "Sex and Candy."

To prepare for ACL Live's impending stint as a time machine to the era when people still bought CDs and you could describe the Austin skyline as "quaint," we take a look back at each of the nine bands set to play one of these two shows. And, with all due respect to these bands' long histories, we ranked them on the basis of the main thing that most people remember about them — their radio hits. Which bands still merit car sing-alongs even today, and which bands send you reaching for the dial as soon as you recognize the opening bars?

First Place: Barenaked Ladies

Notable hits: "One Week," "The Old Apartment," "Pinch Me," "If I Had $1,000,000," "It's All Been Done," "Brian Wilson," "Call and Answer"

How have the hits aged? There's a whole lot of '90s trappings in the hits of the Barenaked Ladies — especially "One Week" — but they remain ruthlessly catchy and fun. That the band has a sterling live reputation and a knack for improvisation, plus a sense of humor that's borderline Yankovician, doesn't hurt.

Are you paying for the same band you remember? Not really. The band's lost only one member in the past 15 years, but that member was Steven Page — the bespectacled singer and songwriter who authored and sang on many of the Barenaked Ladies' biggest hits.

Second Place: Everclear

Notable hits: "Santa Monica," "Everything to Everyone," "I Will Buy You A New Life," "Father Of Mine," "Wonderful"

How have the hits aged? Surprisingly well. Measured against the many bad apples from the post-grunge era that continue to litter the alternative rock radio landscape, Everclear's sun-blasted-yet-heartbroken pop anthems are still perfect giddy sing-along fuel.

Are you paying for the same band you remember? No. Lead singer, songwriter and founding member Art Alexakis is the only member from the band's "So Much for the Afterglow" heyday who's still around.

Third Place: Blues Traveler

Notable hits: "Run-Around," "Hook," "But Anyway"

How have the hits aged? Blues Traveler's signature hits are still fun to listen to, but their radio success was always kind of a fluke — Blues Traveler is more properly grouped with jam bands like Phish or Widespread Panic. And in that milieu — live and surrounded by devoted fans — they're reliably entertaining.

Are you paying for the same band you remember? Yes, essentially. Original bassist Bobby Sheehan died in 1999, leading to the addition of Tad Kinchla and Ben Wilson, but guitarist Chad Kinchla, drummer Brendan Hill, and lead singer and harmonica player John Popper remain.

Fourth Place: Cracker

Notable hits: "Low," "Get Off This," "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)"

How have the hits aged? Pretty well, in an under-the-radar way. "Low" and "Teen Angst" are classic examples of guitar-driven alternative rock. Since "Kerosene Hat," Cracker's spent nearly 20 years releasing a string of solid, generally well-reviewed albums (often dabbling in alternative country) with minimal commercial impact.

Are you paying for the same band you remember? For the most part, yes. Lead singer David Lowery and lead guitarist Johnny Hickman have been Cracker's core members since the beginning; drummers and bassists have come and gone.

Fifth Place: Gin Blossoms

Notable hits: "Hey Jealousy," "'Til I Hear It From You," "Found Out About You," "Follow You Down," "Allison Road"

How have the hits aged? They are very dated. Just hearing the innocuous adult contemporary rock hooks of "Follow You Down" is enough to instantly whisk you back to those halcyon days when gas cost $1.30 a gallon and NBC was the most successful network on television. But there's some solid pop song craft on display; given the choice between the Gin Blossoms and what passes for adult contemporary today, you're probably better off with the Gin Blossoms.

Are you paying for the same band you remember? Yes. Most of the lineup from the Gin Blossoms' 1992-97 heyday is still with the band, including lead vocalist Jesse Venezuela. Tragically, original guitarist and key songwriter Doug Hopkins — who penned "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You" — committed suicide in 1993, a year after he was fired from the band.

Sixth Place: Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Notable hits: "Bittersweet," "Broken Hearted Savior," "Circle"

How have the hits aged? The best you can probably say for the "Sister Sweetly" tracks that brought Big Head Todd and the Monsters national fame is that they're inoffensive. Fortunately for the folks going to ACL Live, the band is much better live.

Are you paying for the same band you remember? Yes. The band's three principal members — Todd Park Mohr, Brian Nevin and Rob Squires — have been around since the band formed in 1986.

Seventh Place: Sugar Ray

Notable hits: "Fly," "Every Morning," "Someday," "When It's Over," Falls Apart"

How have the hits aged? Sugar Ray's faux-reggae and hip-hop trappings were embarrassing even in 1997, and it would be no great national tragedy if no one was ever subjected to "Fly" again. But "Every Morning," "Someday" and "When It's Over" have a certain low-key charm. Plus, lead singer Mark McGrath gets some points for having a sense of humor about Sugar Ray's county fair headliner-level status. ("I like to say, ‘If you smell funnel cake, Sugar Ray's playing,' " McGrath told the Orange County Register this year.)

Are you paying for the same band you remember? About 50 percent of the original Sugar Ray remains. Lead vocalist and former "Extra" anchor Mark McGrath and lead guitarist Rodney Sheppard are holding down the fort, but the other three members are new additions.

Eighth Place: Marcy Playground

Notable hit: "Sex and Candy"

How has the hit aged? 15 years on, "Sex and Candy" is still listenable, yet dull, with a memorable title that does much of the song's heavy lifting. Although Marcy Playground has a devoted following and occasionally crops up in odd places (the band recently had a song featured in popular public radio program "Radiolab"), the rest of the band's oeuvre hasn't made much of an impact.

Are you paying for the same band you remember? Yes. Founders John Wozniak (lead vocals and guitar) and Dylan Keefe (bass guitar and backing vocals) remain the foundation of the band, though drummer Shlomi Lavie hopped on in 2008.

Ninth Place: Lit

Notable hits: "My Own Worst Enemy," "Zip-Lock," "Miserable," "Lipstick and Bruises"

How have the hits aged? Cue up the music video for Lit's "Miserable" and set your face to "cringe." That facial hair! Awkward CGI! Pamela Anderson! Unfortunately, the music hasn't fared much better. It's generically cornball even by the lenient standards of Blink 182-era pop-punk.

Are you paying for the same band you remember? Yes. The only exception is drummer Allen Shellenberger, who died in 2009 from complications related to a malignant glioma brain tumor.

Summerland Tour 2012