Sunday, February 27, 2011

Reeling In The Years: 1997

by Joe Mahon

This list took me longer than I expected, and only partly because I’m a terrible procrastinator. Basically, I spent far too much time picking over the middle ground between what I wish I’d been listening to and what I was actually listening to. I turned 16 in 1997, as Britpop bloat was setting in, and – if you want a horribly mixed metaphor – my musical taste was still losing its milk teeth. Put simply, I was listening to a fair amount of music that nowadays just makes me laugh, or shudder.

The obvious over-polished turd in the punchbowl is Be Here Now, which like every Oasis fan I bought on the day it came out. I don’t really listen to Paul Weller’s Heavy Soul any more, or Fatboy Slim’s Better Living Through Chemistry, or Do It Yourself by the Seahorses, or Word Gets Around by the Stereophonics (although it’s a decent first record about growing up in a small town). Or Urban Hymns by the Verve – at any rate, I don’t bother with the singles on it, which I still feel like I’ve heard enough times over a decade later. Or Maverick A Strike by Finley Quaye, which gave rise to an amazing argument at sixth form where someone defended it by saying, “It’s a great album. There’s a song on there he co-wrote with Bob Marley.”

An alternative list could draw from Belle and Sebastian’s first three EPs – which I like at least as much as any album they’ve made – as well as Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, Let’s Get Killed by David Holmes, New Forms by Roni Size (1997’s Mercury winner), Mogwai’s Ten Rapid collection and Big Loada by Squarepusher, as well as IPC Sub-Editors Dictate Our Youth by Clinic, Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin, Deftones’ Be Quiet And Drive, some Sleater-Kinney and maybe some Built To Spill. Some of these were bands I was aware of and just hadn’t checked out yet, while others I didn’t discover until I went to university two years later. But truthfully, I wasn’t listening to any of them, and it seems a bit dishonest to try and pretend I was a cool 16-year-old. I mean, the photos speak for themselves.

Pavement – Transport Is Arranged
Brighten The Corners was the album that changed everything, given to me on tape by a cool uncle.

Blur – Beetlebum
Is there a name for the genre of songs where heroin is referred to as a lover and vice versa?

Sneaker Pimps – Six Underground

Beck – Deadweight

Radiohead – Climbing Up The Walls
In June 1997, they headlined the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury; in September 1997, I saw them at Gloucester Leisure Centre. It was incredible. And when they played this song, the bass was so heavy that a girl I know actually puked.

Portishead – All Mine

The Divine Comedy – Everybody Knows (Except You)

Laika – Prairie Dog
Supported Radiohead at the aforementioned gig in Gloucester. Two bands united by a love of percussion and texture, among other things.

Supergrass – Late In The Day
In It For The Money is a perfect blend of sophisticated songwriting, stylish arrangements and youthful exuberance. Gaz Coombes was still only 20 when they recorded it.

Cornershop – Sleep On The Left Side

Master list

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