Sunday, July 25, 2021

Albums of the Year 1996

 

1. Weezer - Pinkerton

2. Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister

3. DJ Shadow - Entroducing

4. Tool - Aenima

5. Beck - Odelay

6. Fishmans - Long Season

7. Swans - Soundtracks For The Blind

8. Outkast - Atliens

9. Belle & Sebastian - Tigermilk

10. Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go

The false and shallow optimism of Brit Pop, New Labour and football as the antidote to all of society's ills continued in the UK. Football didn't come home, England lost on penalties to Germany in the semi finals of the Euros as you somehow knew they would.

But Tony Blair and New Labour did win the General Election after seventeen years of Tory government. It felt for a brief moment as if day was banishing the night. That feeling was not to last either though there was a short space when it seemed as though 'things were going to get better.'

As for Brit Pop, it was pretty much done as a cultural force, though it did struggle on for a couple of years. I very much liked and still like The Bluetones debut Expecting To Fly. It's probably not a very 'cool' record, but I don't care. It's melodic, quirky and warm and the band came from Hounslow, a bus ride from Teddington my family home for the important years, so I felt I had a connection with them. A good enough reason to like a record and a band as any. .

Super Furry Animals were another of the late gifts of Brit pop, though the band themselves would probably not want to be placed there. I'm still tempted to get myself a vinyl copy of Fuzzy Logic one day. I have the first five here on vinyl. Stereolab were one of the finest British bands of the Nineties and Emperor Tomato Ketchup is a wonderful thing. They had no connection whatsoever with Brit Pop save for Laetitia Sadler guesting on Blur's To The End. They were far too savvy and principled to have anything to do with that malarkey. I'd also say how good I still think Beth Orton's Trailer Park is. I played that record, or CD in this case, to death for a couple of years.

Belle & Sebastian arrived quietly, mostly due to extensive night time radio play by Mark Ratcliffe and Marc Riley. They were a proper treat for indie fans. In love with The Smiths, Felt and Orange Juice but also the roots of their sounds. Baroque Sixties classics from Love, The Velvet Underground and The Left Banke. Soft as marshmallows and milkshakes on the surface but with a gritty edge to boot. Stuart Murdoch had been a boxer and an athlete, but one with great outsider taste in literature and film. It was great to see this sensibility asserting itself again. They had an incredible influence. I went to New York in 2001 and you could here their records being played everywhere in the East Village.

Beck gained proper commercial clout with Odelay, but really, the record of the year for me was DJ Shadow's fabulous Entroducing. It was a whole new invention, made up entirely of samples. Pointing the way forward. It still sounds wonderful twenty five years on.

1. DJ Shadow - Endtroducing



2. Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup


3. Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister


4. Beck - Odelay


5. The Bluetones - Expecting To Fly


6. Beth Orton - Trailer Park


7. Super Furry Animals - Fuzzy Logic


8. Wilco - Being There


9. Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go


10. Ash - 1977


Screaming Trees, The Charlatans and  Eels also put out albums I liked during the year.

Me? I went back to Warsaw and had an unecessarily prolonged split with my girlfriend who had stayed in Prague. Then from there to Barcelona for a great three months in Barcelona, though I was obliged to watch my football team, Newcastle throw away a ten point lead and get pipped for the title by Manchester United because they didn't know how or didn't want to defend a lead. I moved to Brighton for a year, arriving there in early Autumn with not the best timing. Too late to get myself a teaching job. So I signed on and got myself  unpaid work as a mental health visitor in a large house on the level plotting my next move. A year on the dole. Not the best thing to do when you're in your early thirties but I had some interesting times during the year.




Will Sergeant - Bunnyman # 10 Pere Ubu

 


The Bunnymen come together and play their first gigs.




Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums - 934 Cloud Nothings

 





This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 354 Nick Cave

 


'the first great Nick Cave love song...'




Song of the Day # 2,737 Cameron Knowler

 


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Albums of the Year - 1995

Here's the Best Ever Albums list for 1995.

1. Radiohead - The Bends

2. Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory 

3. Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness

4. Pulp - Different Class

5. Bjork - Post

6. GZA - Liquid Swords

7. Alanis Morrissette - Jagged Little Pill

8. PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love

9. Elliott Smith - Elliott Smith

10. Mobb Deep - The Infamous

Here is my own list. Just composed from records and CDs I actually own:

'Baby's Got The Bends...'. Brit Pop moved onto another phase. Oasis released (What's The Story) Morning Glory and it came to exert a strange influence over the British mood over the next couple of years. I remember being in a pub in Brighton a year on and the whole bar singing Don't Look Back in Anger, in strange eerie unison at closing time one evening. It seemed to usher in a false dawn of optimism that was illusory and solipsistic for the most part but did at least lead to New Labour surging to power the next year, a definite improvement on what we had.

Elsewhere, Blur released the worst album of their career with The Great Escape a monumental exercise in hubris and misanthropy. They would realise their folly and do better from this point on. Elastica and Pulp both released much better records and are probably the two albums from that era and of that sort that I can listen to without wincing now. Elastica were as full of themselves as either Oasis or Blur but in Elastica they produced probably one of the best pure Pop albums of the Nineties. Pulp stood apart from most of their contemporaries and Different Class still stands up. More incisive and on the money than almost anything Martin Amis ever wrote for me.

But I think Radiohead's The Bends is the outstanding record of the year. The band reacted to the unexpected, and for them not particularly welcome American success of Creep, in the most startling and inspired manner. By becoming exceptionally and ridiculously paranoid. Paranoia was one of the defining emotions of the Nineties. I experienced a fair bit of it myself during the decade. But Radiohead managed the extraordinary feat of making it an asset rather than a flaw, and at the same time reinvented themselves and set themselves on the road for OK Computer at one and the same time.The record manages to sound both very much of its time yet still remarkable and notable now.

I only have four of the albums on here on vinyl. The first four listed because of the rules I am setting for myself that if I like a record enough I will have it on vinyl. Elsewhere, Tricky and Leftfield really stand out. Dave Grohl produced a very brave record in the first Foo Fighters album, where he played virtually all the instruments himself, nursing him back to some kind of health following the death of Kurt Cobain. Most of my favourite Foo Fighters songs are on here. Teenage Fanclub returned to form after mis-stepping slightly on Thirteen. The Cardigans offered something slightly different. And the last of my Top Ten choices, is a slightly obscure one. Scots Telstar Ponies, (featuring former Fanclub drummer Brendan O'Hare), produced a great clammy, claustrophobic debut in In The Space of a Few Minutes. A fascinating album which I recommend highly.

1. Radiohead - The Bends


2. Pulp - Different Class


3. Elastica - Elastica


4. Spiritualised - Pure Phase


5. Tricky - Maxinquaye


6. Leftfield - Leftism


7. Teenage Fanclub - Grand Prix


8. Foo Fighters - Foo Fighters


9. Telstar Ponies - In The Space of a Few Minutes


10. The Cardigans - Life

Tindersticks second album just missed out. Another great record. As for me, I had an interesting time. I had a nice girlfriend from just outside Birmingham during this year. We fell in love in Warsaw then moved to Prague together and fell out of love there. Brit Pop on the BBC soundtracked our love affair. Meanwhile, my parents retired from Teddington to Canterbury. My links to London, (the place where I'd grown up), were essentially cut.


Will Sergeant - Bunnyman # 9 The Fall

 


The Eric's memories come thick and fast. The cast of characters who gather there start to plot and form bands. In one of the best passages of the book, Will describes seeing early Joy Division playing to a sparse group of punters in the front part of the club. Transformed from the rough and negligible Punks they'd been shortly beforehand as Warsaw, he recognises immediately just how remarkable they are now.




Long Players: Writers on Albums That Shaped Them # 32 Olivia Laing - R.E.M - Automatic For The People

 


'It was released just before I went to sixth form college... The sadness of Michael Stipe's voice seeped under my skin, creating a convivial fug of memory.'



Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums - 935 Aerosmith - Rocks

 


Aerosmith do what Aerosmith back in 1976. And though for the most part it's second hand Stones, there are pleasures to be had here. I always think of the kids in Dazed & Confused enjoying this.Listened to with that in mind I find this impossible not to enjoy it myself.




This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 353 Primal Scream

 


'shatteringly sexy fusion of the Stones, Soul II Soul, wild biker B-Movies and somewhere underneath it all, a wee smidgin of an actual  Primal Scream '60s retro dirge called I'm losing more than I'll ever have.'



Song of the Day # 2,737 Disguise

 


The lone single from Disguise released on Chiswick Records in 1978. Simple Power Pop that draws on The Ramones, but mostly on The Sixties. From this distance it feels like an innocent time drawing on an earlier, even more innocent time. Of course we know, there were no truly innocent times.

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Beatles

 


Albums of the Year 1994

Here's the Best Ever Albums Top Ten from this year.

1. Jeff Buckley - Grace

2. Weezer - Weezer (The Blue Album)

3. Nas - Illmatic

4. Portishead - Dummy

5. Oasis - Definitely Maybe 

6. Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral

7. Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York

8. Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

9. Soundgarden - Superunknown

10. Blur - Parklife

A funny year. Both musically and for me personally. The transition in my life from Vinyl to CD's begins properly here. Here's my list. I own the Top Five here on vinyl, all bought since the event. The other five I own only on CD, although I did buy Parklife on vinyl at the time but since then have unaccountably lost it.

Now there's a big part of the tale of this year. 1994 was nominally the year of Brit Pop, a big, big thing but not one I care to revisit now except for a few records, probably Elastica and Pulp's Different Class, and a couple more from Supergrass and The Bluetones, this far down the line. The Trip Hop records beginning to come out at this point, feel like a truer, and deeper soundtrack for the British mindset of those days. Hence my Number One here. I listened to Oasis a lot at the time but simply can't anymore now they've been so thoroughly thrust in everybody's faces in the UK for almost thirty years now like some grim, Mancunian Groundhog Day. I tried with Definitely Maybe yesterday in order to give it some kind of fair hearing but only got as far as the end section of Rock and Roll Star where it felt like the song had got stuck in some endless coda you wondered whether you'd ever fight your way out of. That's how I feel about that band and their legacy these days. Honestly, I've had enough.

Parklife fares a bit better for me, but it, and Damon Albarn's Mockney-isms of the period have had their day too. Blur did better, before and afterwards for me with the benefit of time and hindsight. 1994 was also the year of course that Kurt Cobain died, bringing back a particularly bleak afternoon in Dortmund which I spent with my good, late friend Matt as the story unfurled grimly in front of us on MTV. Damon said that Kurt would probably still be alive if he had played football a bit later in the year. A deeply unfortunate and insensitive comment which in many ways summed up the arrogant and slightly ugly tenor of the times.

Soundgarden's stupendous Superunknown now seems to indicate some of the the bleak, nightmare truths that lurked just under the glossy surfaces of those days. See what happened to Chris Cornell, way down the line, telling of the demons he must have struggled with all along. If I owned it on vinyl it would probably be Top Three here now, but these are the strange unaccountable rules I've set for myself in this particular task and I should stick to them. A number of us saw the band play that year in a club in Dortmund called, erm, Soundgarden. It was a highly memorable night.

Anyway, Portishead and Illmatic are a couple of highly deserving albums from this year for the Top Two placings which leads me on to 1995.

1. Portishead - Portishead



2. Nas - Illmatic


3. Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain


4. Jeff Buckley - Grace


5. Beck - Mellow Gold


6. Soundgarden - Superunknown


7. Massive Attack - Protection


8. Stereolab - Mars Audiac Quintet


9. Blur - Parklife


10. Sebadoh - Bakesale


As for me, I left Dortmund, had a brief and slightly farcical sojourn in Izmir, Turkey with a job that never materialised, then landed up in Warsaw, Poland for the next real chapter of my life to begin. Just as Winter was beginning to set in. Warsaw was an incredible place to be at the time, with shadows emerging from the gloom on bleak evenings on Marszalkovska, Senatorska and Nowy Swiat. It was my new home.


Will Sergeant - Bunnyman # 8 Television

 


Quite wonderfully written passages in the book where Will describes how he found his people at Eric's.






Long Players: Writers on Albums That Shaped Them # 31 Ben Okri - Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

 'There are some rare albums that seem to lift from their physical condition and become part of the decor and mood of a life.'



Best Ever Albums - Top 1,000 Albums - 936 David Bowie - The Next Day

 


Listened to this on a very memorable Record Player experience on a Friday night when it was released. Then woke up on the following Monday morning to the realisation of what it was all about.




This is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk & Disco # 352 Public Enemy

 


'rivalled Pil and Happy Mondays for Top 20 sonic subversion.'




Song of the Day # 2,736 L'Rain

 


Brooklyn atmospherics.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

McCarthy

 


Albums of the Year 1993

The Best Ever Album's Top Ten

1. The Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream

2. Nirvana - In Utero

3. Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers)

4. Slowdive - Souvlaki

5. Pearl Jam - Vs

6. Bjork - Debut

7. A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders

8. Counting Crows - August & Everything After

9. Suede - Suede

10. Red House Painters - Red House Painters (Rollercoaster)

Here's my list. The last year where I actually own all ten on vinyl. Almost certainly not the Top Ten, or at least the order I would have chosen at the time. Number One would almost certainly have been Siamese Dream for many years. I bought the record on an impulse, became obsessed with it and went and saw them play with a good friend Matt, in Cologne. We lived in nearby Dortmund. It was one of the gigs of my life. However, with the years, I've tired of Billy and his petulant, snotty ways and also tired of listening to records with this guitar sound, so good as the record is, it's slipped down my list.

Numbers One and Two here might surprise some as it's the year of In Utero and all that. But I don't own a vinyl copy of In Utero, it's too sad, and I prefer to endorse these two. The First Tindersticks Album and New Wave instead, two of the most acute and atmospheric musical dissections of the British Class system ever made. Both, just get better with time.

Talking of atmosphere. This is one of the most atmospheric set of records of any Top Ten I've posted. Virtually every record on here is drenched in it and could easily be imagined as a film or novel. Suede could be higher here too, but some poor choices were made in terms of its tracklisting and it should have been even better than it was.

These are reminders of what was probably one of the best years of my life. I was in Dortmund, among some of the best and closest friends I ever had, still felt young and lived it up in a way I've rarely done before or since. It was intense and very strange at times, but looking back almost thirty years on, it just seems wonderful. Everybody should have a year like I did in 1993. 

1. Tindersticks - The First Tindersticks Album


2. Auteurs - New Wave


3. Digable Planets - Reachin' (A Refutation of Time & Place)


4. The Breeders - Last Splash


5. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream


6. Suede - Suede


7. Red House Painters - Red House Painters (Rollercoaster)


8. Cypress Hill - Black Sunday


9. The Afghan Wigs - Gentlemen


10. The Verve - A Storm in Heaven


                      I also own fine Madder Rose, Urge Overkill and Teenage Fanclub albums from this year.


The late and still dearly missed Matt.


Sigrun, myself, Rachael and Thorsten.