The fifth instalment of this lengthy rundown.
Countdown: 1990s: Tracks: 120-101
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.]
You may be forgiven for forgetting, but once upon a time the Chili Peppers were a funk-rock party band, that made everything they did sound enormous fun, with the exception of the odd ballad. And aside from the singles, they seriously went “out there” at points – like this, one of the closing tracks from BloodSugarSexMagik. It’s lengthy, filthy, funny, and funky as hell. In fact, it pretty much sums up everything that was great about them (except some of the questionable lyrics), and what they’ve lost since in becoming stadium-rock bores…
It’s ridiculous, over-the-top, and fucking rules. Yes, it’s one of the greatest death metal tracks ever written (just check the opening, chugging riff and that bass solo!), a track that never fails to inspire metalheads to go batshit whenever it’s aired in clubs (or at gigs). And, never mind anything else, this has to be the most unlikely song ever to feature in a Jim Carrey film.
One of the first songs BFF released, and one of the first I heard (after the delicious dig at the alternative scene that was Underground), this track has a slightly more down-to-earth subject – dead end jobs and not doing a lot with your life. It’s unashamedly retro – harking back to the piano-led rock of the likes of Billy Joel and Elton John from the seventies, but with a knowing post-modern nod in the delivery, not to mention Ben Folds’ fantastic line in melodies and vicious sense of humour…
Another band who had a brief time in the spotlight, this Sheffield-based band were where Richard Hawley first had success, amongst other things. Their second album sadly sank without trace (it was nowhere near as bad as some would make out), but their first album had some success, mainly thanks to a trio of great singles, of which this – the first, as I recall – was the pick. A slightly-sneering take on the fashion industry (I think that’s the subject, it’s been a long time!), Crispin Hunt’s vocal, that guitar riff…ah, the memories…
I’ve said before just how important Keith Caputo’s voice was to this band – and this blinding, short-sharp-shock of a track is a perfect reason why. His soaring vocal elevates what would otherwise a brief hardcore blitz into a soulful, shimmering track that still sounds incredible nearly twenty years since it was first released.
For me, this is Blur’s greatest single by miles. Parklife may have gained all the plaudits as an album, but this wonderfully whimsical slice of early-90s London life is a spot-on character sketch, and probably the closest in style the band ever got to their beloved Kinks, too.
This album was FNM’s last new material – and it’s something of a miracle that they lasted this long, such were the internal tensions within the band. Perhaps all the more surprising was how good this last album was, too – aside from the likes of the Mr Bungle-esque chaos of Mouth To Mouth, it was played a little more straight than previous albums, but didn’t suffer a bit as a result. All of the singles were marvellous, too, but the muscular crunch of this track remains my favourite (not to mention it being one of Mike Patton’s best vocal performances ever, too).
By some considerable distance the most spiteful song Tori Amos ever wrote, if this was based on fact you have to wonder what exactly the titular character did to deserve this wrath. It starts out calmly, Tori’s near-spoken first verse accompanied only by a piano, the lyrics only hinting at what is to come – when the chorus comes hurtling in out of nowhere, and that’s the marvellous kiss-off: “I believe in peace…bitch“. Yeah, right.
One of the many, many bands to surface in the alt-rock explosion in the aftermath of grunge, this band took more of an influence from Nine Inch Nails and various earlier electronic bands, coming up with a vaguely chart friendly, anthemic take on the style, at least with the singles. Lyrically the band were unremittingly bleak, Christopher Hall wallowing in misery and self-hatred, although it worked well with his vocal delivery and the music – this was probably the most immediate track on the album (and I’d suspect is the song that got me into the band, although my memory is kinda hazy on this), and the reason it caught on is probably something to do with the stadium-sized chorus…
Way back when, Evan Dando’s band were the shit. Like, the band every alternative kid loved. And it was all down to this album (and, likely, Mrs Robinson). The whole album is summery, whimsical indie-rock, with no song overstaying it’s welcome (the whole album – all thirteen songs – is done within half an hour), and it’s still a fantastic listen even now. This track – a single in the UK, at least – is still my favourite, a joyous-sounding track with rather less happy vocals…
A sadly short-lived first incarnation of this band, after Lynn Strait’s untimely death, but their only album with him at the helm was enormous fun. A blast of punk-metal, snarling attitude and the odd breather of lounge-like ambience, they were never a band to be taken too seriously (it was plainly obvious that the band never took themselves too seriously at this point, either). And this, their calling card and the opening track on the album, laid this out nice and clearly. It was party time, and we were all invited.
The Deftones’ first album had a highly unusual, dry production that made the whole album sound extraordinarily raw, burying Chino Moreno’s vocals deep within the mix. Those few moments where he did break through – like his near-primal delivery in this – were matched by some of the most brutal music the band wrote. I’ll never forget the band opening with this in London back in ’98 or so. It hurt, but was utterly exhilarating.
It wasn’t Hallelujah that was the true centrepiece of Grace, it was this. A glorious, slow-burn (it’s seven minutes or so long) detailing his state of mind as a relationship ends, and as much as it’s Buckley’s rich voice that is important here, it’s also the elegant, poetic lyrics that set the scene perfectly, conjuring up rainswept nights lost in a city, musing on what might have been. Not that this ever happened to me, either, right? Honest.
The film may have blown, but the soundtrack ruled. A very of-the-time set of collaborations between “electronica” and “metal” artists, whoever got Slayer and ATR together to do this deserves a knighthood. Quite possibly more extreme than any material either band ever put out seperately, it’s so loud and in-your-face that you can’t help but submit. Shame they never did any more material together, really. Could you imagine how ace an entire album of this would have been?
A band that never quite got the respect they deserved, in my view, merging viciously heavy hardcore with lighter elements and coming up with a couple of endlessly listenable albums at least – not least this one. Of which the title track is one of a number of highlights – impressively changing tempo for each verse and containing at least three awesome breakdowns, and being a great tune to boot, too.
David Yow’s band always sounded like they were teetering on the edge of complete and utter chaos, and it also strikes me that Steve Albini’s production techniques were the perfect fit for such a band: tight, taut, and they could be unrelentingly harsh. Mouth Breather isn’t their harshest, but the glorious riff that heralds the track is worth it alone.
The Chems: one of the few electronic acts to successfully write tracks like a rock band, and cross over in a big way. Certainly, that was how it was in the first place, and while Leave Home got me interested, it was this track that followed it on their debut album that sealed the deal. It sounds bloody huge, and a fantastic, dirty bassline underpinning it that drives the whole track forward.
It wasn’t Different Class that got Pulp their big break after years toiling away on the indie circuit – it was the previous album, His’n’Hers, that got them the wider attention that then paved the way for the huge success that followed. And the opening track from that, Joyriders, is a marvellous sketch about rebellious youth with nothing much to do other than to nick cars for fun, one of those songs that is brilliant because you can picture every single lyrical detail (and, not to mention, it’s an ace song generally). The real story behind the song is rather thinner, though…
Five minutes of brutal metal fury, this track was built around (fake) newscast-style radio reports detailing the police brutality surrounding the Carandiru prison massacre (that eventually saw the police chief in charge acquitted), and was a staggering clarion call for justice. Other tracks on this album may also have had points to make on the state of Brazil and the wider world, but none made their point as forcefully – or brilliantly – as this.
Following the cacophonous, chaotic noise at the heart of their debut album, they somehow managed to fashion this into a more, er, indie mainstream appeal on their second album, without losing an iota of their visceral fury that seemed to drive everything they did. Leading the charge was this extraordinary track, a dramatic kiss-off to someone who really must have done something bad to deserve such a stripping down in the lyrics.