Sunday, 17 September 2017

Lost in (90's) music

No blog post last week as we had company, and this week's is going to be a little different too! I could write a review of the Italian restaurant I went to on Friday - Bellini. The lasagne was as good as you're going to get in Dundee, and this was the panna cotta:
Complete with ice cream, strawberry sauce, chocolate sauce, wacking great slice of pineapple and Italian flag on a cocktail stick, naturally. The whole experience had a vaguely retro feel, in part because of the above, but also because my earliest culinary adventures would've been quite likely to involve an Italian restaurant, which would have felt like the height of sophistication back in the 1990's but felt oddly provincial on this occasion. I would put that more down to the specific restaurant rather than Italian restaurants in general!
Of course, it's also possible it was more to do with the 90's vibe that's been following me around this week after getting involved with a Facebook post that posed the question 'what's the best album of the 90's', which should have come with the subtitle 'how to lose an entire Saturday evening reminiscing about he music of your youth'. The 90's took me from 14 to 24, so included a fair chunk of school as well as my uni years, saw me in nightclubs infrequently but more than any other decade, and covers the vast majority of my cd collection. As such, it would be impossible to pick just one album to represent the decade, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some people liked my suggestion of Slight Return by the Bluetones! Anyway, I've whiled away some time today compiling a list, not of the 'best' albums of the nineties necessarily , but 20 that featured heavily in my version of the nineties - enjoy!
At the start of the 90's most of my music collection consisted of albums I'd borrowed from the library and taped, using my faithful 'ghetto blaster', so my taste in music was influenced by whoever bought in music for Gateshead libraries! Hence I'm including:
1. 3 years, 5 months and 2 days in the life of...Arrested Development. I have a very specific memory of listening to this in the car on the way to record my part for a cassette of traditional North East folk music all played by young people - an odd experience, made all the stranger by the fact that the recording studio was in the same place where they filmed a famous scene from Byker Grove: "Duncan man, I'm blind!" There's a test of your age....
2. Levelling the Land, The Levellers. I moved in folky circles in the early 90's and everyone had this - I can smell the incense and see the tie dye just thinking about this album, but it has some great tracks if you can cope with the didgeridoo interludes!
3. Everyone Else is doing it, so why can't we, The Cranberries. Their debut album and the first cd I owned, after winning a competition in the local free paper - the prize was 3 cd's from Windows music shop in Newcastle. I had to wait till Christmas to get a CD player to play them on....
4. Woodface, Crowded House, another one from the library. Four seasons in one day, and weather with you probably got overplayed at the time but there are some great witty lyrics on the album, and the harmonies are fantastic.
5. Automatic for the People, R.E.M. This was tricky picking which of their albums to include but this one takes me back to 6th form and endless debates about what Michael Stipe was actually singing on Man on the Moon. 25 years after the album came out and I'm still not sure!
6. Electric Landlady, Kirsty Maccoll, and not just for the cheeky title! She suffered crippling stage fright and didn't perform live for a long time, so I feel incredibly lucky to have seen her play the Heineken Festival in Leeds in 1995, along with the Pogues, and yes she did join them for a rendition of Fairytale of New York, even though it was the middle of summer.
7. Different Class, Pulp, who headlined the above festival. I always preferred Jarvis Cocker's slightly sleazy kitchen sink dramas to Oasis's swagger, and Blur's cheeky mockney act, but all three bands take me back to the ground floor of my favourite Edinburgh nightclub of yore, the Mission. Which leads me neatly on to
8. Dookie,  by Green Day. I'm not a fan of their later stuff, and the idea of a Green Day musical makes me cringe, but Basketcase on the dance floor of a sweaty rock club in 1995 was just perfect. To be replaced a year later by
9. Garbage's eponymous album, and specifically Stupid Girl. Shirley Manson is still one of the coolest women on the planet, and in a world of grunge was a welcome injection of glamour.
10. How to make friends and influence people by Terrorvision is another one from that era, showing that rock can be joyfully silly if it wants to be. I'm sure we even had a dance routine going to Perseverance...
11. Trailer Park, Beth Orton. Uni wasn't all about nights out - I bought this album off the back of hearing She Cries Your Name on the radio, and played it pretty incessantly to be honest. It adds a folky edge to the more electronic and trip hop stuff that was around at the time, which is why it makes the list over Portishead or Massive Attack.
12. Glow by Reef. Cornish surf rock shouldn't really appeal to me, but I do love Reef and this is one of three of their albums in my possession. I saw them play live and witnessed the bass play almost lose his trousers in a crowd surfing incident. They're pretty cheesy, but who doesn't like a bit of cheese now and then?
13. Fin de Siecle by Divine Comedy. I once walked past Neil Hannon in the Pleasance Courtyard at the Edinburgh Fringe - he's surprisingly tiny! He's also a genius lyricist, which is why I love this album.
14. Saturnalia, the Wedding Present. Not their most popular album, but it was the one I heard first, and still listen to fairly often. Rather like fellow Northener Jarvis Cocker, I reckon David Gedge would make a terrible boyfriend, but you can't beat a bit of passive aggression in a 'love song'. We saw them live for the first time this year, and my ears were still ringing days later!
15. Exile on Coldharbour Lane, Alabama 3. A bit of an oddity, that would have disappeared into obscurity if it hadn't beeen for the Sopranos using 'Woke up this morning'. Haven't listened to it in ages, but it's pretty funky.
16. Music for the Jilted Generation, the Prodgy. I've never really been into dance music as such, but there was a point in the mid 90s where there was some really exciting stuff happening in the crossover between rock, indie and dance music. I could have gone with Chemical Brothers, or even Fatboy Slim, but Prodigy were the masters. I was only briefly into them, but at my brother's wedding I did discover that one of his mates credited me with getting him into Prodigy and he's still a massive fan. I was quite tickled at the thought that I was the cool older sibling, providing a gateway to great music!
17. Screamadelica, Primal Scream, falls into the same kind of space to be honest. I was a bit late to the party and didn't buy this album till probably after the 90s, but it's considered a classic for a reason.
18. Become What You Are, Juliana Hatfield Three. As well as all the British Indie stuff that was around, there was same great college radio coming over from America whilst I was at uni, including some fanatstic female fronted bands like Belly and the Breeders. This album makes the list because the girl who borrowed this from me during freshers week was one of my best mates throughout uni, so I guess it was a pretty important one.
19. Expecting to Fly, Bluetones. This one takes me back to the student union, but actually I do still listen to it more than a lot of albums from that era.
20. Going for Gold, Shed Seven.  I know, I know - I've missed off Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, and any number of other legendary 90s bands, but I was never that cool and besides I've always been a sucker for the underdog so yes, I will admit I prefer Shed Seven to the Stone Roses - it's probably an East vs West thing.

So that's a fairly random selection. If you asked me another day it would be a different list but that's what I've come up with today!

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