The fourth instalment of this lengthy rundown.
Countdown: 1990s: Tracks: 140-121
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 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.]
Treated by the music press as if they were the saviours of electronic music, they could never possibly live up to the billing, and nor were they anyway. They did, however, release some pretty special singles. Broadly, they were “big beat” with vocals, but their use of some pretty diverse samples and influences helped to broaden them out of what would otherwise have been a musical dead-end, as the genre was already beginning to peter out creatively even by this point. Of the first album singles – i.e. before the vocalist quit – Vision Incision‘s string-sample-laden, not to mention sampling The Three Degrees, epic soundscape was by far the best of them. To add to that, I was never entirely sure what the lyrics were on about, but their beat-poet stylings work well, before the track itself leaves the vocals behinds and heads off into the stratosphere, picking up more and more elements as it goes along…
We can argue all day what genre this falls into – I prefer to say this is death metal rather than grindcore, certainly – but what is indisputable is just how fucking good this track is. Once you get past the sample describing the arrival of bodies in the mortuary, it’s the ultra-fast drum rhythm that knocks you off your feet, before the guitars sweep in to deliver a quick punch to the face. What is perhaps all the more impressive is the fact that this track never stays still – switching styles, rhythms and riffs where necessary but always remaining coherent.
Who said Goths have no sense of humour? By a long way the most accurate character sketch of the gothic girl ever committed to tape, it’s also hilarious, and the tune ain’t bad, either, even if at eleven minutes it really does go on a bit!
I still remember the sensation that this track caused when played on Radio 1 early on, and I also remember the batshit insane reception it got when they opened with it at the Heineken Festival in Leeds in July 1995. Judging on recent footage of it being performed live this autumn by the newly reconvened band, it still rocks very hard indeed, and it’s less-than-subtle anti-racism message still shines through, too. Nice to have them back.
One of those truly out-there covers that on paper should never, ever, ever have worked, not only that but this was only a B-side, until John Peel and the Evening Session picked up on it. A Northumberland-based pop-punk band whose drummer was the singer, they are now pretty much forgotten, I’d suspect, aside from the oddity of this song. Basically fast-paced guitar rock, this version, but somehow it works, puts a smile on your face, and remains an enduring classic.
Headswim were an odd band, particularly early on. A strange mix of grunge and psychedelia, really, following the death of the lead singer’s brother they changed tack entirely to a more introspective sound, that admittedly still had it’s great moments (Tourniquet in particular). It’s their really early stuff, though, that’s truly ace – like this track. It’s deep, ominous basslines pulls the whole track forward into a dirty groove that stands above just about everything else the band did.
Highly political, (deep breath) industrial-tinged-funk-rap-metal from Sweden of all places, the album raised a few eyebrows with it’s (very) coarse language and confrontational songs (the opener, Nigger, is an anti-racism track), and needless to say was a pretty big success. The most immediate of the singles, though, was this (again easily recognisable for it’s sweary chorus), the stomping, bouncing rhythms almost put in the shade by Zak Tell’s staccato lyrical delivery. Apparently a re-recording of this album is coming soon…
Six By Seven’s first album was a masterwork in control – of holding back the rage that was always seemingly about to explode from the speakers, tempering every last track with such restraint that many tracks took some while to really kick in. One of the notable exceptions to the rule was this track, an urgent, searing exhortation to take a chance with just about anything, that’s such a thrilling track you just want to jump along for the ride.
An obscure album track that was always an impressive song, but really came into it’s own when I saw TYG live – built around the usual trio of vocals, drums and sampler, it’s a track about watching the stars with a lover, and it sounds like a track beamed in from said stars.
This takes me back. US Industrial, Wax Trax! Style. A pulsing, heavy heavy beat underpins the really quite sleazy lyrics – trying to get some unnamed girl to sleep with him. For some reason, though, I love this song. The furious desire in the lyrics, the hushed delivery, in fact just about everything about it. They just don’t make industrial like this any more…
The first Rammstein track I ever heard, way back at the beginning of 1997, this was the beginning of my love of this band that has taken me as far as Prague to see them live (not to mention three other occasions in the UK, and soon another in London in the new year). Like all of the best R+ tracks, it’s ridiculously over the top, very heavy, and needless to say live (although it’s not been played for some years) it involves a lot of fire, as befits it’s title. Lyrically it’s about the battle of the sexes, in a very descriptive way, and would probably still fill metal/industrial dancefloors if anyone had ever bothered to pick up the first R+ album…
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (featuring Kylie Minogue)
Where the Wild Roses Grow
I bet you weren’t expecting Kylie in this list. She isn’t the primary reason, of course, she just happens to feature on one of Nick Cave’s more remarkable tracks – a murder ballad that somehow became a reasonable hit. Of course that is likely down to the fact that it sounds like a lush love song, of first love and then loss. Listen a little more closely, though, and the full horror of what happens becomes clear: boy meets girl, falls in love with girl…and then murders her because he can’t bear for such beauty to stay alive. Daisy and I long-since agreed that if we ever get married, our first dance will be to this. That should be fun… [2017 update: We stuck to our promise last year, and did it, too]
Stanford Prison Experiment
(Very) Put Out
The Gato Hunch
(no longer available)
A band so long gone that there is barely a web mention of them now, they were a small footnote in hardcore, perhaps. A shame, as this was a pretty special band. Ultra-political (to the point of putting a 28-minute Noam Chomsky lecture on the end of this CD), they specialised in a bass-heavy, near-funk metal-influenced hardcore, and they had a habit of managing to write tracks that grabbed you by the through and slammed you against the wall. This two-minute track was one of those – and the bone-dry production only helped to accentuate it. Much to my regret I never got to see this band live – I believe they only came to the UK once, anyway, in ’95 with Quicksand.
An industrial dancefloor monster, this, that was inescapable in the clubs for many, many years. And with good reason, too – this is pure industrial aggression with a pulsating beat and gigantic chorus that remains something of a classic, even if it is a little overplayed – yes, fifteen years on. It still fucking rocks, though. Side note: ex-Cubanate member Phil Barry’s new project Be My Enemy is well worth a look if you liked Cubanate…
An already beautiful ballad gained added poignancy three years after release, when singer Shannon Hoon succumbed to a long battle with cocaine addiction. Not that this song is about that – more about battles with depression and finding the small moments of positivity within it, as I see it – either way, it’s one of those songs that touched a nerve and became huge, single-handedly driving sales of the band’s first album. Not a lot else I can say about this, really: this is a song I emotionally connected with a long time ago, and the bond still hasn’t been broken yet.
Easy-listening, chillout music perhaps had a bad name by 1998 – dreadful, throwaway cheese like Mike Flowers Pops saw to that – and it could perhaps be said that Air were a lot of the reason that this situation changed. The whole album was brilliant, but this is the track I prefer of the majestic pair of singles (Sexy Boy being the other). A bit more uptempo, with it’s marching beat and odd, detached vocodered voice, it takes off into space quite literally halfway through, with the sound of the stars whooshing past your ears. It’s mightily odd video – featuring a table-tennis match – is worth a look too.
Quite probably one of the strangest lyrics that Richey Edwards left the Manics when he disappeared, this opener to their triumphant comeback album Everything Must Go didn’t half sound odd having already heard the single A Design For Life. Seemingly a musing on the Americanisation of British culture, it paints a sad and slightly pathetic image of the titular character, but explodes into such a life-affirming track – something kept up by the tracks that follow it – that it’s no surprise that the album was such a huge success, really. Triumph in the face of adversity and all that, right? And the positive nature was something of a change to the relentless Holy Bible, too…
Sadly nowadays shorn of it’s iconic sample (the Carl Orff samples from ‘O Fortuna’ had to be removed pretty quickly), the original version – the version I’m referring to – is an astounding tour de force, and is certainly one of the best KMFDM tracks ever. Bombastic, skyscraping, and a crunching symphonic metal backing, frankly this could be seen as being years ahead of it’s time. It works without the sample, but for the full effect hunt out the original. You won’t regret it.
The first song of many to sample Full Metal Jacket? Probably the best, too. Stop-start dynamics in full-force, along with the titanic thrash-metal interludes, result in one of industrial metal’s finest moments, never mind Ministry’s. Also notable as one of only two or three tracks to survive the car crash that was the C U L8 Tour in 2008 without being butchered by the dreadful performance.
To follow-up the greatest rap album ever (sadly out of my remit here), PE somehow made an album almost as amazing, but it was the first single that always stood out the most. A dense meshing of many, many samples (including god knows how much James Brown), and Chuck D bringing his thoughts to bear on everything that was pissing him off at the time (and that was quite a lot, judging on how much he stuffs in to his raps). PE’s best moments were always all about righteous fury, and this perhaps tops them all.