5. RUN COMRADE! THE OLD WORLD IS BEHIND YOU 1995 – 1999
‘Wake up! It's a beautiful morning, feel the sun shining for your eyes.’ 1995 was the high Summer of Britpop and we celebrated in true ‘cor blimey’ fashion, whistling The Boo Radley’s poxy ‘Wake Up Boo’ as we set off in our charabanc with the in laws for a holiday camp knees up in good old Hastings. Strolls along the pier, amusement arcades, cockles and mussels, bingo every night and arguing with the missus, what could be better? If Damon ‘so cockney it hurts’ Albarn had been there he’d have loved it, or rather he’d have loved the idea of it. For me it was just another nail in a coffin I’d already buried. Within 18 months, much like Britpop, I would be gone.
I think we all know by now what a right load of old shite Britpop really was. My 11 year old loved it, going so far as to compile a series of mix tapes he wittily entitled ‘Britty Good’, but his interest soon faded with the sameness of it all. And he was right because ultimately all that came out of Britpop was one great group, two or three decent others, a bunch of pub rock nobodies, and the triumph of Northern working class oaf-ism over smartarse, Southern middle class nice boy-ism.
Then again, there had always been quite a few flies in the Britpop ointment. Not least was how much electronic dance, hip hop and the Bristol wild bunch of Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky and Roni Size had already educated us with sonic adventures that were all Britpop was not; almost exclusively black, anti retro and female inclusive. What was surprising was how jungle and drum ‘n’ bass in particular refused to go on and engage with the wider world rather than wallowing in increasingly elitist and confusing sub scenes swept aside by the Britpop onslaught. Those ambitious mavericks who had battled popular music on their own terms lost all the ground they had fought so hard to win and were pushed back into the margins, replaced by sixties tribute dullards whose media and marketing savvy was seemingly more important than the noise they made.
Despite the best efforts of individualists like Thom Yorke and Jason Pierce to shock and surprise, Britpop replaced the need for innovation and iconoclasm with fulltime worship at the altar of greed. Whereas the most notable British music had long been countercultural, this new incarnation drew all its energy from being part of the mainstream, celebrated in the tabloids and drinkies with the government, killing off any sense of independence in the process. The result, which still stands a decade on, was that British music lost its excitement, experimentalism and artful defiance, in essence the otherness, that had always characterised its greatest moments.
I can’t deny that the Britpop effect was a welcome sideshow as I trudged on through the daily grind. With my eyes to the floor, my back to the wall and my head in the clouds I had forgotten that as we all move down the beaten paths of our lives, on any given day there are maybe ten, maybe a hundred moments where it’s possible to be mesmerised by the shock of the here and now, by an event, a person or a sensation that can unexpectedly steer you from the tedium. Miraculously, midway through 1996 I experienced such a moment, one that renewed my strength and purpose so enabling me to put into action a course of events that had been uppermost in my mind for a decade or more.
I would be the first to admit that over the years I had gradually submitted to the lack of aspiration and expectation in those around me, at work, at home, or out and about; no-one ever spoke about a brighter future. Their overriding mantra of ‘There must be a heaven above because its hell on earth’ had gradually sucked out my soul, my spirit and my intelligence. I had become just like them, brow beaten and battered, suffering life as if it were to be endured rather than enjoyed. And the really scary thing was that until Claire made her feelings obvious, I hadn’t even known it.
Almost from the beginning, despite all the barriers to overcome, I think we both knew we would spend the rest of our lives together. The all consuming, life affirming glory of loving her made me realise that, like most of us, I had never really known what love truly was. To me it had always been a vague, almost mystical concept, but when I finally fell in love, I knew for sure that I had never been in love before.
The next step was obvious. Knowing what I know now, I’m amazed that anyone summons up the courage to leave their old world of anaesthetising routine and stifling certainty to head into the unknown. To break those chains is hard which I guess is why so many continue to write off their lives and suffer in silence. But I had seen a chink of light in the darkness and nothing was going to stop me diving right through it.
Spurred on by my wife’s usual threats and bad mouthing over the Christmas of 1996, I packed a few clothes into a bin bag and departed a week into the New Year. As I walked out of the front door, with my sons distraught behind me, it was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do, but I was comforted by an absolute belief that no matter what, they would be living with me as soon as I found somewhere to live. And that’s pretty much what happened. Of course, what I didn’t know was the pandemonium, horror and madness to come before that.
In 1697 English playwright William Congreve wrote ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. I don’t know if old Will had been through his own separation but he was absolutely spot on because I have seen perfectly reasonable, gentle women (and men) turn into seething, rage fuelled Beelzebub’s only too happy to inflict untold mental and physical agony on those who have ‘wronged’ them. My wife didn’t love me, hell, she didn’t even like me, but that didn’t matter to her. Suicide threats, blackmail, going AWOL with the kids, stalking, sexual enticement, random assaults with knives, scissors and boiling water, 999 calls, arrests, social service conferences, court appearances and exclusion orders, I got the lot.
My sons suffered dreadfully but initially at least I was powerless to stop such a raging, psycho nut. There were daily dramas of varying intensity as Claire and I took solace in each other and copious amounts of drinking, the only way I could ease the pain of separation from my sons. As they came to live with us one by one, their loyalties confused, their minds fried, my ex lost interest and refused to see them for nine months, as if all the craziness hadn’t been enough. Presented with an instant family, Claire never faltered when most would have fled.
When you get right down to it, as you ponder the meaning of life, our children are all that really matter. So why then are our lives so completely dominated by futile consumerism, by so many material possessions and keeping up with the Joneses, the glitterati and the fashionista’s. I lost everything I had, all spitefully given away or car booted; my clothes, my books, my magazines, my Technics system, my entire record collection. I didn’t regret the loss of anything except an irreplaceable box of Criminal Damage vinyl, photos, clippings, press gubbins and memorabilia. Thankfully, I wasn’t left entirely without music as I’d salvaged a box of mix tapes and an old cassette player. Also, despite my Luddite resistance, I bought my first CD player. My old man, as infatuated with audio technology as ever was horrified it had taken so long, but I didn’t like CD’s and that was that (I still ended up with thousands of the things). My first was The Greatest Punk Album In The World Ever! Naturally, it wasn’t.
So pre-occupied was I with love, kids and the minutiae of daily living that I barely noticed New Labour’s election victory ridding us of 18 years of Tory rule. When I did bother to listen, the ever increasing emptiness of their cocaine socialist celebrity Britain wasn’t quite what I’d expected. Even more offensive were the new breed of indistinguishable middle youth thirty something’s taking over the radio and TV. In the face of their cultural dominance and shit taste it was difficult to see how any new youth movement would ever stand a chance.
1999 may have been the most science fiction of years but for us it was very real. Still set adrift on domestic bliss, deep within our homely bubble, we were overjoyed to discover we would be having an autumn baby. And then, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, my father died. The world certainly becomes a surreal place when someone close to you dies but as I gazed briefly at my fathers body I was immediately struck by how his soul, his spirit, his very essence was so obviously not there. I had spent a lot of time with him over the years so had no regrets, nothing I wish I’d said, nothing I wish I’d done. Like a wise old mystic, somehow he had a way of empowering me to work out the answers to my own questions without ever saying much himself. Of course, I knew I would miss him, but in a way he had also given me the strength to accept his death and move on, just as I had seen him do with his own parents.
Needless to say, as the clocks counted down to the new millennium, I couldn’t help but reflect on the last few years in which my life had completely turned around. For the first time I felt truly happy and contented, an odd feeling I would have to get used to. On millennium eve, as I clung onto my three month old daughter, with Claire and my sons by my side, peering through the drizzle at the celebratory fireworks, I could see nothing but sunshine.
1.1 LEVITICUS / The Burial / Single A Side / February 1995
Let’s start with something a little bit E. Built around four great samples; a couple of 70’s soul singles, a speeded up Jill Francis song and most recognisable of all, Jigsy King and Tony Curtis's Jamaican hit ‘My Sound a Murder’, ‘The Burial’ is a jungle classic that even scraped the charts to prove exactly what electronic dance could be when it worked within a more structured format and met the pop fan halfway rather than relying on unfathomable micro scenes and regurgitated sonic effects.
1.2 PJ HARVEY / Down By The Water / To Bring You My Love LP / February 1995
In seriously macho times, when men were lads and women were in Elastica, Polly Harvey was an enticing concoction of death rattle ‘n’ roll, sex ballad suffering and earth mother yearning. In her riot grrl frocks she reminded me of The Slits, all stuffed into one skinny frame. To Bring You My Love was the nearest any woman ever got to a cock rock album; defiantly shouting ‘Gimme It!!’ while proclaiming that the basic impulses, desires and needs of men and women really aren’t all that different if only we would all stop hiding behind all those bullshit Venus and Mars cliché’s.
1.3 PULP / Common People / Single A Side / May 1995
Britpop’s greatest four minutes by a mile. As Oasis and Blur fought out their ridiculous class war and the proles dutifully obliged by picking their own side, Jarvis Cocker, being both smarter and wiser, chose to say it all with absolutely no room for misinterpretation, safe in the knowledge that class friction is just a distraction to keep us all firmly in our place.
1.4 BLACK GRAPE / Shake Your Money / Its Great When You’re Straight Yeah! LP / August 1995
It’s Great When You’re Straight Yeah! was the soundtrack to my summer of 95’. The return of Shaky Shaun proved to be a brief one but this LP was irresistible. It wasn’t all a laugh a minute though. Underneath the giggles there was some serious doom and gloom, a glimpse of Ryder’s demons that had nothing to do with the drugs he chose to hide behind. But the real reason I loved this record was the feel of it, the soundtrack to a drugs orgy where a band play funky versions of Stones songs as everyone gets righteously wasted. What’s not to like about that?
1.5 ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT / Born In ’69 / Scream Dracula Scream! LP / December 1995
I’d forgotten all about gettinabitarockin’ until San Diego’s Rocket From The Crypt arrived and somehow gate crashed the British charts. Pure smart dumb rock’n’roll raised from the spirits of James Brown, Fat Elvis, The Clash, and US hardcore it stood out like a syphilitic knob in a world ruled by Ocean Colour Scene and Shed Seven, ‘Born In ‘69’s chorus smacking you over the head screaming ‘I want it! I need it! I feel it! Awllllllllright!’ as the horns blew, the girlie soul singers harmonised and the geetars came crashing down.
1.6 NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS / Stagger Lee / Murder Ballads LP / February 1996
Art for arts sake or killing for the sake of it? Murder Ballads was a lot more than just another album or Nick Cave’s ninth long player. From beginning to the surprisingly cheery ‘Death Is Not The End’, it sucked me deep inside it’s hellish world of classic Old Testament fire and brimstone the like of which I’d never heard before, not even on my old mans sacred Cash LP’s . The most macabre tale of the lot was Cave’s take on the legend of ‘Stagger Lee’. With The Bad Seeds bastardised swamp blues steaming in the background, Stag promises to ‘crawl over fifty good pussies just to get to one fat boys arsehole’, and that wasn’t the half of it. Murder Ballads was a gothic masterpiece so far outside of modern pop culture that to explain it is pointless. You just have to hear it. Be warned though, even with the sweet voice of Kylie Minogue, it’s never pretty.
1.7 BECK / Devil’s Haircut / Odelay LP / June 1996
When Kurt Cobain blew his own head off, Beck had the dubious honour of being tagged ‘a generation’s consolation prize’ after his slacker anthem ‘Loser’ and the Mellow Gold LP. However, his masterpiece would be Odelay a couple of years later. Shimmying in and out of various disguises, from scruffy folk strummer to techno beat raver, in anyone else’s hands it could so easily have sounded like a cold blooded, calculated art experiment. Luckily, Beck had some good things going for him; a bunch of infectious tunes, those irresistible, slightly peculiar Beck grooves, and a knack for exposing the dread of America amongst all the satire, wit and irony.
1.8 SNEAKER PIMPS / 6 Underground / Becoming X LP / August 1996
An engaging by product of trip hop, Sneaker Pimps may not have had the doomed romanticism of Portishead or the experimental tendencies of Tricky, but they did possess a cool sense of pop which made ‘6 Underground’ in particular an entrancing, sexually subversive, post modernist delight.
1.9 BJORK / Isobel (Deodata Mix) / Telegram LP / November 1996
With the sheer beauty of her music, Bjork helped me understand the truth about love, loss, faith, abandonment and the dark horror of losing myself in a life of suffocating gloom. ‘Isobel’ was a glorious thing, written and remixed in the days when Bjork was still interested in defining the rules of a new pop game informed by electronic dance and technology. As feminine and dreamy as ever, she came on like the hippy love child she is, with fairy tales of mystery, mountains, forests and creatures called lust, a contradiction of ancient and modern giving me hope for a future.
1.10 THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. / Hypnotize / Life After Death LP / March 1997
When Biggie Smalls was finally blown away, together with his West coast nemesis Tupac Shakur, he became the most high profile victim of black on black violence and relentless white exploitation. In the messy sensationalist aftermath, his remarkable mic skills were usually forgotten despite ‘Hypnotize’ and parts of Life After Death where he balance’s his unremittingly bleak visions and remorseful pathos with all sorts of hi-jinx and joie de vivre.
1.11 RADIOHEAD / Exit Music (For A Film) / OK Computer LP / June 1997
OK Computer’s sheer magnitude of sound, themes and aspiration served notice on Britpop, replacing the laddish anti intellectualism and vacant hedonism with the secret glamour of intelligence, literacy and angst. Almost singlehandedly Radiohead put seriousness back on the agenda, their message being that while progress may be a real bastard, try not to let the machines, their masters, the soul sucking isolation or enforced routine grind you down. A sort of semi concept album, it was a bold attempt to encapsulate all that was misguided, shallow and spiritually vacant about Western society in twelve songs. ‘Exit Music (For A Film)’ was the best of them, one of the most beautiful, heart wrenching songs I’ve ever heard. The tale of two lovers trying to escape the grim realities of a cruel, cruel world it chimed absolutely with what we were trying so hard to do.
1.12 SPIRITUALIZED / I Think I’m In Love / Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space LP / June 1997
Spiritualized were another much needed nail in the coffin of unambitious Britpop although theirs was a completely different kind of seriousness, the kind Thom Yorke would never have indulged in. When Jason Pearce’s girlfriend Kate Radley famously ran off and married Richard Ashcroft, he sank into a dark abyss where there was no salvation, no redemption, only cold life, sudden death and an overwhelming desire to fill the hole in his arm, or was that the hole in his heart. Somehow, and to this day I don’t know how he did it, poor, pitiful Jason turned this heroin fuelled self pity into the greatest rock’n’roll wall of sound the modern age has produced.
Ladies And Gentlemen was all about sonic ambition. At once old and new it blended layer upon layer of bluesy cosmic shimmer, avant-garde obscurism, stadium sized orchestras, wailing gospel choirs, space jazz country and epic pop, a unique recording forged from some profound heartache and some less profound drug taking. Just Like Radiohead, Spiritualized rewrote the rulebook, ushering in a new literate age that blew the Gallagher’s bloated cocaine posturing into charity shop bargain bins everywhere. As for ‘I Think I’m In Love’, I like to substitute ‘know’ for ‘think’ and while Jason Pearce’s love was heroin, mine wasn’t, even if she was and is like heroin to me.
1.13 SOUL COUGHING / Super Bon Bon / Single A Side / June 1997
A great example of what white boys can do with the funk if they can ever get over their desire to be black.
1.14 MASSIVE ATTACK / Risingson / Single A Side / July 1997
Blue Lines turned Massive Attack into a cause celebre, a favourite of middle aged hipsters and their terminal wine bar, coffee table, dinner party lives. It was a shame really because the inevitable sanitisation resulting from that popularity undermined the subversive messages and singular vision, so much so that I stopped listening. And that is why I love the not quite so obvious ‘Rising Son’ a whole lot more. One of Massive Attacks glamorous, existential angst jobs, it’s jammed with half formed questions, overwhelming dread and a symphonic construction that could well be something of a challenge for the uninitiated. If you’ve not heard this before, stick it on. I guarantee you will be stunned.
1.15 PHOTEK / Ni Ten Ichi Ryu (TeeBee Remix) / Single A Side / July 1997
There wasn’t that much going on in the late 90’s that was truly fantastical and futuristic. Photek, aka Rupert Parkes, was one of the few exceptions, forging a drum ‘n’ bass hybrid that was immediately individual and innovative. Taking the theme of a meditating samurai, ‘Ni Ten Ichi Ryu’ was a stark, stripped back set of manipulated breakbeats, wilfully artful and experimental, and very groovy in a dislocated industrial kind of way.
1.16 ULTRA NATE / Free / Single A Side / August 1997
In 1997 I knew enough to know that to stop, to look, to worry, was to stop surviving and all I really wanted to do was mark out my own little corner of the world, build the barricades high and hope to Christ that the gruesome hand of reality didn’t come a knocking too often. I just wanted to be free and Ultra Nate’s pop house anthem said it as well as any.
1.17 TIMBALAND & MAGOO / Up Jumps Da’ Boogie / Welcome To Our World LP / October 1997
The most sonically astonishing sounds coming out of America in the late 90’s were those spawned in the no mans land between rap and R&B. Leading the way was Timbaland who outshone and out funked hip hop itself, it’s obsession with darkness, tension and paranoia, and fetish for ‘keepin’ it real’ suddenly out of step with the good time zeitgeist. Even though Timbaland’s productions for the likes of Aaliyah and Missy Elliott were ground breaking enough, best of all was his own ‘Up Jumps Da Boogie’. Quite the weirdest contemporary urban shit I’d ever heard, every nook and cranny was packed to the gills with syncopated beats, eerie loops, cyber funk squiggles and grating grooves. The perfect soundtrack for the 21st century.
1.18 ALABAMA 3 / Woke Up This Morning / Single A Side / November 1997
Coming from Brixton with names like the Very Reverend Dr D. Wayne Love and Rock Freebase, you could say the Alabama 3 and their acid house approximations of
Southern country blues weren’t completely serious. With all the right references in all the right places; tinkly saloon piano, sleazy harmonica, driving swamp beat and Stonesy gospel choir, while it may have been a bit of a con, it was a mighty fine one.
2.1 MADONNA / Ray Of Light / Single A Side / April 1998
I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to feature Madonna, after all I do love a bit of Madge. ‘Ray Of Light’ was another highpoint where she reinvented herself for the pop kids. Kicking off with what I swear is the jangly intro from The Cures ‘Boy’s Don’t Cry’, it’s a gem of bubbling sexual joy and no holds barred freedom.
2.2 THE TAMPERER / Feel It / Single A Side / April 1998
Jarvis Cocker was spot on when he wiggled his arse at Michael Jacksons I am Christ fantasy, and The Tamperer was spot on with this tastelessly inspired reworking of The Jacksons dull theme.
2.3 BOARDS OF CANADA / Aquarius / Music Has The Right To Children LP / April 1998
We all have bits and pieces of our past that shape our lives, much of it coming from far too much time spent in front of the TV as youngsters. Boards of Canada, a couple of Scottish chaps who’s name derives from documentaries produced by Canada’s National Film Board, took these fragments, added just the right amount of crumbly decay and came up with their own take on a 60’s/70’s childhood in old weird Britain. Unsettling ghosts from the past haunting the present and the future.
2.4 MJ COLE / Sincere / Single A Side / May 1998
Once jungle bit the dust I lost interest in electronic dance as it split into a myriad mess of micro scenes. I do know that ‘Sincere’ is two step but I only learnt that from my son and his mates. Each week I would drive them to footy and they would play the latest dance tunes, carefully recorded from pirate radio, and patiently explain the subtle differences and infinitesimal genres they came from. It was knowledge that only teenage boys could ever have had the time, energy and inclination to acquire. Naturally, none of them rated ‘Sincere’ but it sounded good to me.
2.5 JEFF BUCKLEY / Everybody Here Wants You / Single A Side / May 1998
Poor Jeff Buckley, forever fated to follow in his father’s footsteps and die young, not of an overdose but in the Mississippi with his boots on. Grace, the only album proper released in his lifetime was another game changer, another OK Computer or Ladies And Gentlemen yet completely different. ‘Everybody Here Wants You’, released almost exactly a year after his death, is different again. Produced by Television’s Tom Verlaine, it was recorded as a demo, a precursor to the real thing although the otherworldly soulfulness of Buckley’s voice belies that fact. Evoking a spirit connecting music, God, love and community that makes the injustice, harshness and waste of this world disappear in a way that music, and only music, can ever do. Breathtaking.
2.6 DIVINE COMEDY / The Certainty Of Chance / Fin De Siele LP / August 1998
The Divine Comedy didn’t fit into the Britpop scheme of things, but hey, they rode that opportunity for all it was worth and why not? Thankfully Neil Hannon didn’t end up selling his art for the sake of celebrity, cold hard cash or some of the white stuff. Instead he was able to hang around long enough to give us Fin De Siele. Tabloid hell, falling in love on public transport, apocalyptic obsessions, the theory of chaos, Romans, Northern Ireland, a lust for modern thrill seeking and the richest orchestrations possible are all contained within its digital bumps.
2.7 COBRA KILLER / Six Secs / Single A Side / September 1998
Obscurist corner. A seven inch vinyl release on the Digital Hardcore label I have no idea how I first heard this but I do know its very noisy, very James Brown grunty, and if I had ever been a Bill Drummond DIY sampling kind of bloke my stuff would probably have sounded similar; amateurish, messy yet brilliant.
2.8 OUTKAST / Rosa Parks / Aquemini LP / September 1998
Hip Hops new future began around here. Once upon a time Outkast were absolutely fearless, exactly what hip hop was always meant to be. As avant-garde and revolutionary as Public Enemy, the only difference between them was that whereas the Bomb Squad had done it all with samples, Andre and Big Boi did it all with real instruments.
2.9 HOLE / Celebrity Skin / Celebrity Skin LP / September 1998
2.10 AFGHAN WHIGS / Uptown Again / 1965 LP / October 1998
Two supposed mediocrities from the arse end of grunge I’d never really listened to before. Not expecting much I was surprised when both turned out to be minor melodic masterpieces; dirty, arty and adult with songs about fame, beauty and sex with, certainly in 1965’s case, an underlying theme of being saved by the love and lust of a good woman. Maybe the Whigs Greg Dulli meant someone like Courtney Love but I had my own London version to save me. White American girls and boys were never supposed to make records like this!
2.11 JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION / Bernie /Acme LP / October 1998
‘Hey diddle diddle / Pussy eat the fiddle / Lick my curds and whey / Along come big daddy / Oh baby, I just got one thing to say’. So Jon Spencer finally got around to writing a song for my Dad. I don’t think my Dad ever heard it but he would certainly have appreciated the sentiment. Cheers Jon!
2.12 MERCURY REV / Goddess On A Hiway / Single A Side / November 1998
When we first got together, Claire would drive us all over the south in her dodgy silver Citreon in a vain attempt to escape the madness in our world. She was the Goddess on the highway, the motorway and the back doubles, even when the brakes failed as they occasionally did.
2.13 APHEX TWIN / Windowlicker / Single A Side / March 1999
Aphex Twin, AFX, Richard D. James, weird or what? I debated long and hard whether this dollop of oddness should be here because this was one of those revolutionary records that was far more important for what it was telling us than for its sonic delivery. And what ‘Windowlicker’ was telling us was that most of the greatest musicians of the coming age would be no better at playing guitar than my daughter - ‘Smoke On The Water’ a bit of ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ and that’s your lot - but that was of no consequence because if you understood machines and technology you could still have it all.
In effect it was a serious return to the ideology of Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and The Normal, where groups with no obvious musical ability but loads of ideas could still make records and Richard D. James was very much the new pioneer, able to do things with computers, drum machines, samplers and sequencers that couldn’t be found in any instruction manual. After numerous recordings of rampant experimentalism he had finally arrived at ‘Windowlicker’, a porno soundtrack for the new blank generation, and proved once and for all that even introverted boys in their bedrooms could have hit potential. 21st century music culture hasn’t looked back since.
2.14 EMINEM / Any Man / Single A Side / May 1999
Aged 12, my youngest son and his mates fell in love with Eminem causing sensationalist outrage amongst some of their parents, which tends to happen when you live life with The Sun as your bible. I was bemused by all the fuss. Even at their tender age those boys understood well enough that Eminem was nothing more than a cartoon satire of the violence and hate they were exposed to each and everyday, in music, TV and on the street. He wasn’t telling them anything they didn’t already know.
2.15 JOHNNY DOWD / God Created Woman / Pictures From Life’s Other Side LP / August 1999
The extraordinary Johnny Dowd didn’t start recording until he was fifty and when he did he sounded at least double that, an ancient, cowboy visionary eulogising on the futility of relationships: Why do we set ourselves up knowing we’re going to fail? What is it in our childhoods and relationship with our mother’s that makes us want to be with someone so obviously wrong? Why are relationships, even the good ones, so full of despair and more to the point why do we cling onto them even when we know? ‘God Created Woman’, he did indeed and I say thank fuck for that because us blokes are pretty useless aren’t we?
2.16 LE TIGRE / Hot Topic /Le Tigre LP / October 1999
In a parallel universe ‘Hot Topic’ would have been a cert number one and we’d all have been chanting its handy list of feminine heroines from Joan Jett to Vaginal Crème Davis?
2.17 MAKE UP / White Belts / Save Yourself LP / October 1999
Make Up’s sexy souly garage punk was a kick up the arse for all those spoilt public school choirboys proliferating like flies round shit at the end of the century, their soft rock melodies hoovering up the cash from total suckers, pretending their sensitive hearts were bleeding for the world as they got smashed at celeb parties, boned skinny actress’s and bought mansions with big fuck off moats and devil dogs to keep those same suckers out. I think you know what and who I mean.
2.18 / MOS DEF / Rock’n’Roll / Black On Both Sides LP / October 1999
I fell so out of love with hip hop in the late 90’s I thought it had gone for good. It was hard to judge what the worst thing about it really was. Was it the rappers themselves, the Mafiosi styled moguls and hangers on, or was it the rap fans and media jerking off all over the bitches, guns and bling bollocks? Then, right at the death there was a sudden influx of revitalised beats and rhymes. ‘Rock’n’Roll’ was one of those. It’s not often you hear an MC relaying his theory on rock’n’roll history and Mos Def mostly gets it right in his attempt to reconnect black folks with the music they invented. Rock ’n’ Roll was Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddly, and the Stones didn’t come up with their shit on their own. The way it ends, with a snatch of a Hendrix lick and a Bad Brains punk blast, you could tell he knew what he was talking about. The only thing he got wrong was Elvis P. That cat had a truck full of soul motherfucker.
2.19 Q TIP / All In / Amplified LP / November 1999
When A Tribe Called Quest imploded, Jonathan ‘Q Tip’ Davis looked like a man relieved he no longer had to carry the full weight of hip hops conscience amongst all those nasty, bling wearing, bitch fucking, gun totin’ gangsta’s churning out the same sicko records year after year. So, it wasn’t a shock when Amplified sounded like the record of a man unexpectedly released from a life sentence, free at last to indulge his passion for women and for getting deep down and dirty inna club without worrying whether it was morally right to do so. No question, the best intelligently empty hip grinding party album of it’s time.
2.20 OL’ DIRTY BASTARD & KELIS / Got Your Money / Single A Side / November 1999
Unlike the troubled Q Tip, Ol’ Dirty Bastard never had to pretend he gave a shit, his numerous drug problems, failure to pay child support for his thirteen kids, charges for domestic violence, shoplifting and robbery marked him as the stereotypical gangsta rapper you couldn’t make up if you tried. I should have hated every little thing about him and I would have too if he hadn’t made such fantastic records. And there’s none better than ‘Got Your Money’, so brilliantly put together that as much as I tried all I could do was love it.