Part two of the epic run-down, that took me an eternity to write.
To recap: 200 it is, simply as I have far too much to even try and cull it further. There are things missing, I’m sure – I’ll have committed a cardinal sin somewhere and have neglected one of my favourite bands, no doubt! – but then there are a few deliberately missing as it will be easier to deal with them in the albums list, as I simply cannot pick a particular song.
[Note: This was initially written in 2009, and has been left “as is”. I’ve considered changing it and updating it, but at least for now, I’m not touching it.]
/The Ideal Crash
An impossibly sad song, a slow, minimalist track that lyrically deals with a man confessing to the titular character his crime. dEUS have never come close to the naked emotions of this track since, or to that matter before it, either, and it’s such an affecting track that I can only listen to this once in a while.
/The Dandy Warhols
/Every Day Should Be A Holiday
/…The Dandy Warhols Come Down
Way back before they were soundtracking Vodafone adverts, this band of American slackers were writing wonderful summer pop songs like this, psychedelic electro-pop that hooked me from the first moment I heard it (and I ended up buying the album on import months before it was eventually released over here).
/They Might Be Giants
/Birdhouse In Your Soul
One of the greatest and most enduring indie-pop songs, perhaps, the reason it is a bit further down this list is that it does every now and again grate if overplayed. But still, it’s probably the only song ever sung from the point of a nightlight, has a quirky video and the kind of chorus that bolts itself behind a sturdy door in your head…
/The Future Sound Of London
The lead single from FSOL’s darkest album, this beautiful, elegant track brought together Blade Runner samples and a feeling of a decaying London on a soft bed of electronics that carries the listener along for five blissful minutes. The video, with London being invaded by all kinds of computer-generated aliens, is well worth a look, too, even if some of the effects have dated a little.
/Do We Speak A Dead Language?
A little surprised, I have to say, that this band lasted as long as this year. But then, seeing as they were formed originally from the ashes of one of the very first rap-metal bands (Social Justice) I guess it’s kinda apt that they should outlive most of their followers, too. This song also has the “honour” of being the first song I saw performed live in London once I’d gone to Uni (and also that was the first gig I ever reviewed, too. Happy days…), and that makes it a little special to me – but either way, this is searing stuff that like much of Downset’s material, features lyrics that are considerably less destructive than many other rap-metal acts. Vocalist Rey Oropreza instead chose lyrics that encouraged listeners to make a positive difference to their life – and this song’s message was no different, as it simply burns with it.
/Roni Size / Reprazent
/Brown Paper Bag
When drum’n’bass kicked off in a big way in the mid-to-late 90s, it was remarkable that each of the names that broke through to the dance mainstream all had such different styles within the same broad remit. Roni Size may not have had success on the same level as Goldie, but his winning of the Mercury Music Prize twelve years ago for the extraordinary New Forms perhaps gained him greater musical recognition. And it was tracks like this that were really special – the broad, jazzy sweeps fused perfectly with the charging drum’n’bass, and the full nine-minute version passes in a flash.
/Buy Me… I’ll Change Your Life
David Thrussell’s strange, strange band welcomes the end of world…in pop form. Well, I say pop. This is twisted, strange stuff, but it does have a habit of burrowing into your head and becoming one of those earworms that won’t quite shift. For all its apocalyptic lyrics, too, it’s bright and summery as his songs go – but then, perhaps that’s the point…
/This World and Body
To some, this fact that this band never had the success of other bands lumped in as “Britpop” was criminal – and I’m one of them. Infinitely more talented than certain other north-west based peers, with a clutch of killer singles, they sadly vanished into a haze of drug problems, and their (also brilliant) second album limped into view some years later with barely a whimper and sank without trace. Something of an unlucky band, really, and tracks like this remind me of what could have been: a glorious, aching lament to lost love and reflections on past mistakes, and Jaime Harding’s vocal performance is something to behold.
/Chasing a Bee
/Yerself Is Steam
Way back in the mists of time, before Mercury Rev cleaned up, kept off the drugs, kicked out original singer David Baker and turned to (blissfully great) Americana, they were a very odd band indeed, drenching completely “out there” pop songs in masses of fuzz and feedback. And sometimes, those pop songs would fight to the forefront – and Chasing A Bee is one of those moments. It’s epic, beautiful and wonderfully mental.
One of Apop’s earlier singles, I have to admit that I didn’t know this even had a video until I was trying to find a link for this. With the changes this band have gone through stylistically in the past ten years or so, this sounds like almost a different band entirely – a thumping electro-goth track that rightly is still part of Apop live sets even now (and it reminds me, I must use it in a DJ set again sometime…).
/Rocket From The Crypt
/Scream, Dracula, Scream!
RFTC: one of the greatest rock bands of the 90s. Fact. Also a fact: one of my biggest regrets is never seeing them live. Anyway, rather than choosing perhaps one of the more obvious singles, this is the short (minute-long) opener to their breakthrough album Scream, Dracula, Scream. A torrent of gang vocals, a surging beat, and a clever pacing that steps up the track each verse until it bursts into life…before stopping way too quickly. Either way, if you ever wanted a reminder as to whether rock’n’roll can still be great decades after it first began, here’s your pointer.
Not all mid-90s indie in the UK was Britpop. One of the bands on the fringes for a while was Tim Arnold’s first stab at the pop world, followed by a prolific solo career that has seen some unusual influences. Not that Jocasta was particularly normal – although like other bands I’m mentioning here, both my wife and I are struggling to remember anything other than this song (I did have the album way back in the mists of time) – mixing in poetry influences (the lyrics are marvellous) as well as a harder, rockier sound than many other indie bands of the time. Anyway, this song is simply a perfect example of why there was so much more to the mid-90s indie scene than Blur, Oasis and Pulp.
I can remember little about this band, other than this track. What I do recall – they were a Belgian band who supported both dEUS and Girls Against Boys over here at some point, and they had a handful of great songs, of which this, in particular, stood head and shoulders above the rest. A strange, really quite sleazy drawl over an electronic backing, this was good fun if nothing else.
/Meat Beat Manifesto
/Helter Skelter / Radio Babylon
An absolute stone-cold electronic classic, the year it comes from depends on which version you have. I have it on Original Fire, which dates from 1997, but sonically it’s obviously older, and in fact, dates from around 1990. A dub-influenced, quasi-breakbeat underpins things, and it’s tracks like this that make me wonder how exactly they were ever lumped in as industrial (signing to Wax Trax seemed to be the main reason!). MBM’s influence is huge, though, and while they may have had better songs, to me they never made a better dancefloor track than this, period.
/Stone Temple Pilots
A band perhaps somewhat unfairly maligned at the time – seen as riding on the coattails of the grunge bands, and perhaps also because they ended up with greater success than many of them. Whatever the reason, their mix of hard rock, whimsical pop and much, much darker moments certainly caught the ear of many. This was always my favourite song, though, a perfect balance of the elements above, the bruising verses and melodic, lighter chorus contrasting well. It was the opener on their comeback tour in the US, too (a shame they never came over here).
1995 was Pulp’s year in Britpop terms, without a doubt – Different Class was probably the finest album of the Britpop period, and that wasn’t just down to the singles (as great as they all were). It was down to tracks like this – the 60s film-soundtrack sweep, and the fuming, spiteful lyrics detailing a tale of suburban jealously and revenge. In fact, I’m not sure Jarvis Cocker ever wrote lyrics better than this.
No, not the truncated and butchered single version, but the original, epic album centrepiece. Screamadelica may have been endlessly dissected over the years, but at its heart, it is simply an awesome fusion of rock and dance that perhaps just came along at the right moment. This track’s blissed-out dub textures and gospel samples (and, perhaps, its oh-so-slightly hippyish tendencies) make it a glorious summer track – so writing this in a cold mid-November perhaps loses a little of its impact. Still, the fact that I’m still listening to this eighteen years on perhaps helps to explain just how good this is.
Where Dave Wyndorf proclaims his desire to become a full-time rock star and let’s be honest, this sure as hell sounds like the deal worked out well for him. A massive, stadium rock track, a world away from their more stoner rock beginnings, but frankly the sound suits Dave and the band well. The over-the-top video is a hoot, too…
/Pull the Wires from the Wall
A now long-departed indie band from Glasgow, who was much spikier than their sometimes dreamy sound often suggested. Often it was Emma Pollock’s casually detached vocal delivery – and caustic lyrics – that made the difference, as here. Although the sweeping orchestral backing helps too.
/Second Bad Vilbel
Nearly fifteen years old, and probably still ahead of its time, this track’s mechanised, pounding rhythms thrilled then and they still thrill now. I’ve never dared try to play this in a DJ set at an industrial club, perhaps I should sometime – but its steadily shifting pace probably would scare the dancefloor away. Shame, as enjoyed really loud this track is extraordinary.