by Skif (Vanity Project)
1996 was a bit of a pivotal year in terms of my musical taste starting to broaden out from the weekly purchase of Kerrang! and the denim jacket I used to cover in patches. The album cover of Master Of Puppets was one of those patches, if I remember rightly, whilst another, ahem, read simply ‘ZZ Top’.
Regular gigging with college mates at the Wedgewood Rooms and Pyramids in Portsmouth as well as the Joiners in Southampton; a plethora of interesting CD singles snapped up from Pompey HMV for 99p; listening to Radcliffe & Riley each evening; attendance at the wonderfully diverse Phoenix Festival during a red-hot mid July; moving onto University in September, joining the Student Union rag and being given loads of records to review – all of these things played their part in pushing an interest towards an obsession.
Had I allowed myself the luxury of hindsight, I might have included Billy Bragg’s Upfield and Belle & Sebastian’s Dylan In The Movies but having come to these slightly after the fact seems a bit wrong. This, as requested, is a snapshot of 1996 as I lived it then.
Bennet – Someone Always Gets There First
The original single release (it was re-released in 1997 after the relative success of Mum’s Gone To Iceland) and for a young man who genuinely didn’t know where to start when it came to the ladies, this song really spoke to me. Rest assured, I am cringing as I type, not just about finding this tune to be somehow profound, but just about how clueless I was in the romantic arena back in them days. Arguably though, not much has changed.
Cable - Seventy
Saw this lot four times between February and September of 1996 so they must have been doing something right. This quiet/loud/quiet/loud effort, re-released as a single in the February, was certainly one of the highlights of that live show.
China Drum – Can’t Stop These Things
The first single from their superb Goose Fair LP; this was the release which had their cover of Wuthering Heights on the flip. I say ‘flip’; I had it on cassette single, so it probably appeared on the notional ‘A’ side as well.
David Devant & His Spirit Wife – Cookie
I’m always fond of a visual element in a live gig and, in that respect, this lot threw the kitchen sink at it. This was their second single, and was one that came to my attention thanks to it costing just under a pound in HMV.
The Divine Comedy – Something for the Weekend
Probably came to this via Chris Evans if I’m honest. His breakfast show tended to be what woke me up via the clock radio and he got behind this tune in a big way. Whenever I attend karaoke nights, I always check if this is in the song book before anything else. Sadly, most seem to just have National Express, which is nowhere near as good.
Earl Brutus – Life’s Too Long
One of my all time favourites these, discovered thanks to this single being another one of those 99p efforts in a certain high street entertainment retailers. Week of release this, not bargain bin I hasten to add. HMV really did spoil me back in them days. You know, when they used to actually sell music.
The Fall – The Chiselers
Released as a single with versions of various lengths (as opposed to remixes) and, having picked up a copy on the cheap at Focus Sounds in Waterlooville, my first experience of a band I now own about 30 LPs by. 1996 was also the year of my first Fall gig (a beguilingly ramshackle display on the main stage at Phoenix which helped cement my interest) and first LP The Light User Syndrome, from which this was taken. Not an all-time classic LP in the standards of many Fall fans but still my favourite for having been an entry point into not only a huge back-catalogue but a fascinating world.
Puressence – India
In fact it had been the previous year, when they were just jaw-fracturingly incredible at the Wedgewood Rooms despite being third on the bill beneath Marion and Catatonia, when they first came to my attention. Needless to say their self-titled debut LP’s release in 1996 was eagerly awaited. My favourite album of the year I’d say.
Space – Neighbourhood
Released in April, and re-released in November after Female Of The Species went large. Not a band that has stood the test of time really, but the fact I bought the original release on cassette and then on 2xCD format when it came around again suggests I really was into these scally bastards at the time.
The Sweeney – Why?
Not a chart troubler at all, but made #9 in Peel’s Festive 50. Why? is a giddying, infectious, feel-good tune. Not for everyone, sure and they were then, and remain, largely unknown. For me and my old mucker Steph back then though, well, they were ‘ours’.