James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 26: Zeitgeist

James Proclaims (4)

And so we arrive at ‘Z’ in my shamelessly nostalgic A-Z of albums that I liked to listen to when I was young.

Thanks to everyone who has chipped in with comments along the way, even if it’s to tell me that you’ve never heard of the bands I liked or that you completely disagree with my choices.

But, unless I’m much mistaken, ‘Z’ is very much the last letter of the alphabet, so it ends today.

And whether you’ve enjoyed my jaunt down the memory lane of the musical tastes of my youth or been largely indifferent to it (I assume if you’re reading this then you haven’t actively disliked these posts because, y’know, why would you have bothered to read them at all…) what you cannot deny is that they have involved me writing words.

Which, in the spirit of generating content for a blog, is largely better than not writing words.

Whether I’ll continue to use words to write about things other than music from the nineties is something only time will tell.

But today I will, again, write about an album from the nineties.

One that begins with ‘Z’

Z2020

Z is for Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist_(album)

The Levellers are another band that headlined Glastonbury in the nineties, which seems a strange thing to write in 2020. But they did, in 1994, performing to what was then a record number of people.

They hadn’t even released the album ‘Zeitgeist’ at that point. It came out in 1995 and it remains their only album to top the UK album charts.

The peak of the Levellers success does correspond roughly with the general Britpop phenomenon, but they had been enjoying a bit of success prior to that, (hence the headline slot at Glastonbury), and they don’t seem an obvious fit for the Britpop label. Whether they’d have been quite as big in the nineties without Britpop is doubtful though. They’re still going, still seem to have a loyal enough fanbase, but their days of headlining Glastonbury and the like are long behind them now and the demise of Britpop also seems to correspond with their general decline in mainstream popularity.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a massive fan; I like them, I’d probably see them live (I think in fact I did see them live but I saw a lot of bands in the nineties and unless I held onto the ticket stub I struggle to recall whether I was actually there, or just saw them performing at a festival on TV and my memory has subsequently placed me in the crowd…), I’ve listened to most of their albums at one point or another but only a few tracks really stayed with me.

‘Zeitgeist’ would be the one album I really listened to a lot (which is quite serendipitous when it comes to writing an A-Z of nineties albums, because there weren’t any other ‘Z’ albums leaping to mind) and it’s the one I’d probably stick on if I was in the mood for the intrinsically left-wing folk-rock sound that the Levellers bring to the table.

I liked the single ‘Just The One’ and I think a lot of people enjoyed that as a kind of ‘pre-getting-drunk’ anthem (the nineties was perhaps also the beginning of the British bing-drinking culture that appears to continue to this day. I was very much a part of it in my time – I like to think I’ve outgrown it but it could be that increased responsibilities have reduced the opportunity rather than the inclination to drink irresponsibly). Alas though, the album version of ‘Just The One’ is not the same as the single version so we can’t end on that.

So we’ll end instead on ‘Hope Street’, which seems as good a place as any to conclude my A-Z.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 25: You’ve Come A Long Way Baby

James Proclaims (4)

It’s the penultimate day of the A-Z challenge 2020 and it’s time to ask ‘Y’.

Specifically we must ask ‘Y’ to tell us what today’s album is.

It wasn’t easy. I assumed a lot of album titles would begin with the word ‘you’.

Or ‘yesterday’.

But these were not popular choices in the nineties apparently.

So I’ve had to step a little outside my comfort zone.

I could have gone with Pearl Jam’s ‘Yield’ but I stopped listening to Pearl Jam after their third album ‘Vitalogy’ and didn’t get into them again until many years later. If I was going to include Pearl Jam it would’ve been for ‘Ten’ or the aforementioned ‘Vitalogy’. And I didn’t so I’m not going with ‘Yield’ either. It would feel dishonest.

Another option was Welsh band Feeder and their 1999 album ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’, but while Feeder always seemed like a band I would probably like, the only album of theirs I really know is 2001’s ‘Echo Park’ so, again, it would be disingenuous to include them.

Ultimately I’ve switched genres and gone with something that screams the nineties like few other albums could.

Y2020

Y is for You’ve Come A Long Way Baby

220px-YouveComeALongWayBaby2

While two members of The Housemartins went on to form The Beautiful South, one decided to go in a slightly different direction.

Or a very different direction.

Norman Cook became known as Fatboy Slim and was a pivotal part of the Big Beat movement that was very different to Britpop but largely seemed to exist at roughly the same time.

Not really my cup of tea in theory but I actually did like a lot of the acts associated with that genre of music and they were easily as big a part of the nineties soundscape as any of the indie music I was listening to.

In any case, ‘You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby’ was a massive album that transcended its genre.

The singles off that album were everywhere and on everything.  You’d be hard pushed to listen to Radio One (my default radio station until I outgrew their target demographic) without hearing ‘The Rockafella Skank’.

‘Gangster Trippin’ must have been the accompaniment to many a sporting montage.

And you certainly couldn’t expect to go on a night out without at some point finding yourself drunkenly dancing badly and singing loudly to ‘Right Here, Right Now’.

It was unavoidable.

It pretty much was the sound of the late nineties.

And because this A-Z has always been a nostalgia driven exercise, I have to go with the ‘Y’ album that invokes the most nostalgia.

Even if it was rather forced upon me at the time, it’s as evocative of my youth as anything else I’ve written about.

And it’s hard to argue that it isn’t an excellent album.

The track that I liked best back then would definitely have been ‘Praise You’

The video was genius too.

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 24: XTRMNTR

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No A-Z would be complete without the letter ‘X’.

Because ‘X’ is very much a part of the alphabet.

But it’s not the most accommodating of letters and it’s pretty hard to do an A-Z of anything without cheating a bit on ‘X’.

But I don’t think I’ve cheated too much today.

The album I’ve come up with is very much in the spirit of a nineties retrospective.

It just wasn’t quite released in the nineties.

But if you’re going to miss your self-imposed window of a specific decade then being one month out isn’t too bad.

X2020

X is for XTRMNTR

XTRMNTR_album_cover

Could any nineties retrospective be complete without Primal Scream, the band that put out what is oft regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time in ‘Screamadelica’?

Of course it couldn’t.

But this post isn’t about that album.

What about the much less critically-acclaimed ‘Give Out But Don’t Give Up’? Yes it was universally panned but it still produced two of their biggest hits in ‘Jailbird’ and ‘Rocks’ and was an album that I was quite fond of, even if the critics weren’t.

Nope, can’t write about that either.

Because much as those two albums might be worth revisiting, neither of them begins with ‘X’.

That honour goes to ‘XTRMNTR’, which may not have been released until January 2000, but was clearly recorded in the nineties. Plus the first single off it, ‘Swastika Eyes’ was released in 1999.

So it counts.

It does.

Forrest Gump’s mama apparently claimed that life was like a box of chocolates because “you never know what you’re gonna get”. If only someone could have pointed out the little card that comes with the box of chocolates that tells you exactly what you’re gonna get.

What she might have said, were she not a fictional character living in a different time period, is that life is like waiting for the next Primal Scream album to be released because you really don’t know what you’re gonna get.

You have to admire the band for constant reinvention, but if you love one Primal Scream album, there’s no guarantee you’re going to like anything else they put out.

XTRMNTR is a more aggressive album than a lot of their other records, but releasing their rage clear suits Primal Scream (the clue was perhaps always there in the band’s name) because it is generally regarded as one of their better efforts. Not quite up there with ‘Screamadelica’, but as close as they’ve ever been.

Any of the singles would be a fitting way to see us out, but let’s go with ‘Accelerator’. If ever a song was aptly named this would be it.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 23: Wake Up!

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Who, what, why, where and when are all words that begin with ‘W’.

And so does today’s album.

Because we’re on ‘W’ in my A-Z of albums.

So it should begin with ‘W’.

That is literally the only expectation we can reasonably have of this album.

But it is also one of my all time favourite albums.

W2020

W is for Wake Up!

Wakeup_thebooradleys_cover

Wake Up! was the album that was by far the biggest commercial success for The Boo Radleys, and until recent years it was the only album of theirs that I really knew.

Which is strange because I enjoyed this album so much that you might imagine I’d have investigated the rest of their back catalogue. But their 1996 follow-up, ‘C’mon Kids’, didn’t really generate the same level of interest as ‘Wake Up!’ and I neglected to add it to my collection. Which with hindsight was a mistake because that too is an awesome album.

I have rectified this error in recent times and after paying closer attention to their other work, I feel it’s probably fair to say The Boo Radleys deserve to be recognised as more than ‘just another Britpop band’.

But the success of ‘Wake Up!’ did owe a lot to Britpop.

I don’t know if an album like this would have been successful in another era, but I’m glad it came out in 1995.

Firstly, because I might not have heard it otherwise.

But also because, the day after I finished my last GCSE exam, it was absolutely brilliant to switch on my CD player the following morning, with the longest summer of my life awaiting me and listen to the opening track, ‘Wake Up Boo!’ as I lay smiling in bed. It really is the perfect post examination track.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 22: Version 2.0

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As we near the end of this A-Z of albums that I liked when I was younger than I am now, and mostly still like today (except for some albums that frankly only made the cut because they began with the right letter) I feel I should acknowledge the heavy bias towards UK acts.

This in part stems from the fact that I am British. I don’t go out of my way to only listen to music made by people from these isles but there is obviously an element of increased exposure. This is particularly true, given that I’m mostly writing about albums I encountered in the nineties when there was a definite media bias towards British acts.

Not that my music tastes are that international anyway. Aside from a few albums I purchased when I lived in Paris, the vast majority of my music collection (for it is a collection – I have now uploaded it to ‘the cloud’ for ease of consumption but I mostly listen to stuff I bought and so large was my music collection before streaming became a thing, that I have eschewed subscribing to a streaming service to date – occasionally parting with my cash to download albums I really want still seems to be cheaper overall, particularly as most music can be sampled for free via various platforms before I decide whether it is worth spending my money) is English-language, but that does tend to include a fair number of artists from the US.

Why then, have I neglected to include any US acts apart from Weezer and Green Day in my list to date?

I’m not sure.

I definitely liked a lot of American bands back then. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, REM and Foo Fighters all could have made the cut for a nineties-themed extravaganza such as this.

That they didn’t is perhaps a little disingenuous on my part because I liked all of them a lot. To be honest, although it pains me a little to admit it, even Bon Jovi was no stranger to my CD player back then. But when it came to it, while I’d happily concede that Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ is a far superior album to Ash’s ‘1977’ (to the point where even comparing the two is beyond ridiculous) it’s the latter album that spoke to me more as a teenager. I may have been wrong as a teenager, but as this has been a largely nostalgia-driven exercise, we have to go with the judgements I made back then.

And so to ‘V’ and Pearl Jam were really in with a shout for this. They released not one but two albums that began with ‘V’ back in the nineties and both ‘Vs’ and ‘Vitalogy’ spent a lot of time in my CD player.

But instead I’ve gone with this:

V2020

V is for Version 2.0

Garbage_-_Version_2.0

It may come as some consolation to my American friends that 75% of the rock band, Garbage, do indeed hail from the States. And indeed if you’re apoplectic with rage that I overlooked one of the seminal albums of all time in ‘Nevermind’ then it may be some consolation to know that Garbage’s drummer, Butch Vig, was the producer who worked on that record.

Nonetheless Garbage are fronted by Shirley Manson who is Scottish, so I may still be employing a certain level of British bias.

But it is unintentional.

I did really like Garbage.

If you put a gun to my head and asked me which Garbage album I liked the best then I’d be very scared and wonder why you’d pointed a gun to my head to find out such a trivial piece of information.

But I’d tell you truthfully that I preferred their 1995 eponymous debut.

But ‘G’ was taken and I did still really like this 1998 follow-up.

So did quite a lot of other people.

Because it is really good.

So put the gun down and let’s listen calmly to one of the better tracks on the album.

Which is, perhaps unhelpfully, called ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’.

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 21: Urban Hymns

James Proclaims (4)

We’re now at the part of the A-Z Challenge that is all about ‘U’.

“About time,” ‘U’ must be saying.

And I’m sorry I had to make ‘U’ wait.

However, there are 20 letters that come before ‘U’ in the alphabet.

But they’ve had their time and now we finally get to ‘U’.

U2020

U is for Urban Hymns

The_Verve,_Urban_Hymns

If the phenomenon known as Britpop was beginning to decline by 1997 then someone forgot to tell Richard Ashcroft.

Because ‘Urban Hymns’ was about to launch a dysfunctional and fairly unknown band called The Verve very firmly into the spotlight.

Although they’d enjoyed some moderate success with their very decent second album, ‘A Northern Soul’, they had, to that point, been largely overlooked by the record-buying public, who had bestowed greater fortunes on inferior bands.

If you’d asked me before 1997 if I’d heard of The Verve, I could have answered yes, but mainly because their song ‘History’ was on a compilation album I owned, back when owning compilation albums was a thing. I liked the track, but this was pre-Internet, or at least prior to the ubiquity of the Internet (which is a weird thing to write but it really was) and I couldn’t very easily check out the rest of their material. I had no intention of buying their album on the basis of one song. I just didn’t have enough pocket money for that kind of frivolity (actually I would have had a Saturday job by then but I thought pocket money made for a funnier sentence. I’ve now ruined that by adding this, but I don’t want you to think I was some kind of workshy teenager who relied on his parents to pay for everything. I was and I tried to, but they made me get a Saturday job anyway). Also, The Verve split up after they released ‘A Northern Soul’ so it didn’t seem worth investing any time in them.

But then they reformed and released ‘Urban Hymns’. And it was one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums in British music history.

The success wouldn’t last especially long, the band were a pretty self-destructive entity and rather that reap the rewards of becoming the band of the moment, arguably the only band that could stop the direction of British guitar-based music becoming dominated by Coldplay and their ilk, the Verve split up. Again.

Richard Ashcroft went on to enjoy some success as a solo artist and they did reform one more time and released a decent enough fourth album in the mid-noughties, but really their moment in the sun was ‘Urban Hymns’.

But what a moment it was.

It’s a brilliant album from start to finish, but a few tracks still stand out from the crowd.

‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ secured them their only UK number 1 in the singles chart, but the album and the band are probably most synonymous with the opening track, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 20: Tellin’ Stories

James Proclaims (4)

We’ve finally got to the 20th letter of the alphabet, which means the end is in sight.

But we’re not there yet.

First we have to stop for ‘T’.

I prefer mine with milk but no sugar.

Cos I’m sweet enough (ah that office banter that we’re all missing out on because of the lock-down).

But there’s no time for hot beverages because we must press on with the album of the day.

T2020

T is for Tellin’ Stories

Tellinstoriescover

The Charlatans have to be contenders for the most underrated British band of all time.

At least they appear to be underrated by me.

They were around during the pre-Britpop days of Madchester, they were around during the heady days of Britpop and they’ve pretty much been around ever since.

But when I think of Madchester, I tend to think of The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays and when I think of Britpop, the first bands that leap into my mind are Oasis, Blur and Pulp.

For some reason The Charlatans are not a band I really think about, until one of their songs pops up on my playlist, or I catch them on the radio or TV (which still happens from time to time).

Then I remember that I really like them.

Because they are a really good band.

And 1997’s ‘Tellin’ Stories’ is a great record.

‘One to Another’ was the biggest hit of the album, but I slightly prefer ‘North Country Boy’.

So we’re having that today.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 19: Spiders

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If this were an A-S of albums I liked when I was young, then we’d already be at the end.

But it’s an A-Z, so we aren’t at the end.

Because ‘Z’ comes after ‘S’ in the alphabet. But if you look at ‘S’ in the mirror, it looks like a kind of curvy ‘Z’.

I’m sure there’s a point in there somewhere.

S2020

S is for Spiders

Spidersspace

The demise, in the noughties of so many of the bands associated with Britpop, might not have been that surprising given the ever-changing tastes of the music-buying public.

But for Space, it must have been quite surprising that they were ever that big in the first place.

To describe their sound as eclectic would be to do them a disservice. They are absolutely bonkers.

Bonkers in the best way possible though. They were one of many bands that I saw live in the nineties and they definitely seemed to be the group that were having the most fun.

While other nineties bands, even those who have struggled to recapture their former glories, have at least managed to maintain some kind of platform to put out their music commercially, Space appear to have struggled and the only two studio albums you can still easily get hold of are their debut ‘Spiders’ and it’s immediate successor ‘Tin Planet’.

I couldn’t comment on any of their post ‘Tin Planet’ material, but those first two albums were both records that I played a lot in my youth.

Though notionally labelled as Britpop at the time, they really weren’t like anything else out there.

But they were great, and ‘Spiders’ in particular is an album that I enjoyed immensely when it was released.

I could pick any of the singles from this album to play us out today. ‘Me and You Versus the World’ was the biggest UK hit, but ‘Female of the Species’ is probably the track that first brought them to public attention and certainly the reason I bought the album.

So I’ve gone with that.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 18: Return To The Last Chance Saloon

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If you’ve been looking forward to this A-Z getting to the eighteenth letter of the alphabet then here we ‘R’.

But where exactly ‘R’ we?

At the letter ‘R’ of course.

I’d have thought that was abundantly clear from the way I just cleverly substituted the letter ‘R’ for the word ‘are’ above.

And then even more cleverly, I explained what was an obvious and poor joke, in order to increase the number of words in this preamble.

Anyway, on to the music…

R2020

R is for Return To The Last Chance Saloon

Bluetones_RTTLCS (1)

In 1996 The Bluetones exploded onto the scene with an album that stormed to the top of the charts and marked them out as heirs apparent to the Britpop crown.

That album was called ‘Expecting to Fly’, and I loved it.

What I loved slightly less was this, their follow-up album, ‘Return to the Last Chance Saloon’.

I wasn’t alone in not fully embracing the Bluetones sophomore effort, because, while it did OK, it really marked the beginning of the end of The Bluetones brief time at the top table of British music.

But, while it didn’t enjoy the commercial success of its predecessor, it’s not at all a bad album. It doesn’t have as many standout tracks as ‘Expecting to Fly’, and it certainly doesn’t have anything as radio-friendly as their breakout hit ‘Slight Return’ from that first album, but it’s arguably a more coherent work as a whole.

With thirteen songs, it’s probably a little longer than it needs to be, but there are some good songs on ‘Return to the Last Chance Saloon’ and with the benefit of hindsight, The Bluetones might just have been victims of the overall demise of Britpop.

The stand out track from this album is called ‘If’.

 

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 17: Quench

James Proclaims (4)

And so to ‘Q’ in my A-Z of albums I liked to listen to when I was young.

‘Q’ is always one of the more difficult letters in an A-Z challenge.

And it was quite the conundrum in this challenge too.

Not as difficult to solve as ‘X’ in the end but still quite tricky.

Fortunately there was one album from 1998 that came to the rescue.

Q2020

Q is for Quench

Quench_(album)

Born out of the remnants of 80s band The Housemartins, The Beautiful South were oft labelled as ‘everyone’s second favourite band’.

Which is a back-handed compliment if ever there was one, the obvious implication being that  most people quite liked The Beautiful South, but no-one really loved them.

And they are an easy band to like – even my mum had a couple of their albums. In fact I suspect it was her copy of ‘Quench’ that I listened to and eventually ripped to my iTunes.

But as much as they were quite easy on the ears, they always had a bit of an edge about them and the songs are often much darker lyrically than their radio-friendly melodies might suggest.

That said, they do fit rather more into the ‘like them’ rather than ‘love them’ category for me, so maybe the label of ‘everyone’s second favourite band’ is fair.

Quench was a pretty good album, but maybe not all that distinguishable from the rest of their output.

But it’s nice enough to listen to all the same.

My favourite track is Dumb, because it takes me back to the late nineties and sitting under a table (for reasons I’m not entirely able to recall) in a pub with my housemate, completely drunk and bellowing the chorus (no doubt tunelessly) as loud as we could. Happy, irresponsible, days.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 16: Pablo Honey

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If only there were a way to get to the sixteenth letter of the alphabet without referencing the immortal Blockbusters joke, “I’ll have a ‘P’ please Bob”

But there isn’t, so I did.

Obviously the above reference may mean nothing to you, particularly if you didn’t watch the quiz show Blockbusters in the 80s and 90s, when it was presented by the late great Bob Holness.

But let us not dwell on that now, because it has no relevance to the rest of this post.

Except that it is now time for us all to have a ‘P’…

P2020

P is for Pablo Honey

Radiohead.pablohoney.albumart

It would be almost unthinkable to do any kind of 90s retrospective on music without including Radiohead. But I assumed I’d probably go with ‘OK Computer’, given that it is oft regarded as one of the greatest records of all time.

And ‘OK Computer’ was an album that saw me through some pretty dark times in my younger days and for a very long time it didn’t leave my CD player.

But actually the same could be said for Radiohead’s debut album, ‘Pablo Honey’. It is, admittedly, regarded by many critics as by far their weakest album and, from what I’ve read, it doesn’t appear to be beloved by the band themselves.

But whether it’s as good as the rest of Radiohead’s back catalogue is not really the point. When it came out there were no other Radiohead albums to compare it to, and frankly I was around fourteen years old at the time, so I liked it for what it was.

And what it was, was a pretty decent collection of rock songs.

It might lack the innovation of later Radiohead albums, but it was certainly more accessible. Lets be honest, even the most die-hard Radiohead fan would have to admit that some of their later stuff is hard work. ‘Kid A’ grew on me eventually, but it took a long time.

I loved Pablo Honey the first time I heard it, and I still love it now.

If anyone else had released it, it would be probably be considered a great album in its own right and it seems unfair that it suffers in the shadows of it’s more accomplished siblings.

And it does contain one of the stand-out tracks of the nineties in Creep.

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 15: On

James Proclaims (4)

And so to ‘O’ that most circular of letters.

And when you think about the great albums of the nineties, there really could only be one choice for the letter ‘O’.

So it’s almost beyond belief that I’ve gone with a different one.

But I stand by today’s choice.

It was an album that I loved as a teenager.

We’ll deal with the album I should have picked for today in a later post (tomorrow’s post in fact), but for today let’s just enjoy this one.

O2020

O is for On

Echobelly_on

Echobelly were another of those bands that will forever be linked with nineties Britpop, which is a double-edged sword, insofar as they enjoyed quite a bit of success during the height of Britpop but have probably been unfairly tarnished with that brush ever since. They’ve certainly never really had anything like the same levels of popularity in the ensuing years. The health problems of lead singer Sonya Madan immediately following on from the success of second album ‘On’ no doubt stunted their ability to capitalise on their early hits, but in truth, the fickle world of popular music was unlikely to accommodate Echobelly beyond the Britpop era.

The are still going though and still perfectly good at what they do.

If the lyrics of some the tracks on ‘On’ deal with the seedier side of life, it is nonetheless a pretty optimistic and uplifting album.

And no song exemplifies this optimism more than lead single ‘Great Things’.

I couldn’t find the video for it but here’s a performance from one of the great music TV shows of the nineties ‘The White Room’:

 

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 14: 1977

James Proclaims (4)

And so we are officially in the second half of what really is a self-indulgent set of posts about the music I liked when I was younger.

If you’re just joining me, then welcome. Although you are going to have to work hard to keep up with the others.

If you’ve been with me since the start then don’t quit now, you’re doing really well.

Anyway on to the letter du jour.

Which is ‘N’.

N2020

N is for 1977

Ash1977cover

In 2017 I went to the Reading Festival for the second time in my life. The first time was back in 2000. What prompted me to go to another festival after a 17 year hiatus? Well, mostly the fact that I live down the road from the festival site so I didn’t need to camp and had access to my own bed (and more importantly perhaps, my own toilet) for the duration of the festival.

The line-up of the Reading Festival is often hit and miss so even though I’ve lived quite close since 2013,  I don’t go every year.

But I did in 2017.

And it was pretty good for the most part.

Back in 2000 I knew most of the acts, even the more obscure ones. In 2017 I pretty much knew the headliners and that was it. Because I was older and that’s what happens when you get older.

Anyway, on the bill that year was one Liam Gallagher, ostensibly performing as a solo act, but mainly singing Oasis songs.

And, as previously discussed on this blog, I was a massive Oasis fan.

So you’d imagine I’d have watched the entirety of his set. But, while I did watch some of it, I left before he had finished.

Because, on one of the smaller stages, buried so deep in the festival listings that you could be forgiven for missing them completely, were another band I loved in the nineties.

And that band were Ash.

And they were totally worth missing some of Liam’s set for.

They were awesome.

They were so good, that I bought tickets to see Weezer later that year, partly because Ash were supporting them. (Although I do also really like Weezer, as we’ve also discussed previously.)

Ash never set the world on fire (which is ironic if you think about it), but they’ve always been an easy band to like.

You could argue that once you’ve heard one Ash album, you’ve kind of heard them all.

And you might be right.

But what an album it is.

I quite like all of their albums though, but I do get them mixed up.

Still, my favourite is still their debut, 1977, which is so named because that is the year they were born. It’s also the year that the first Star Wars film came out.

Coincidence?

Well yes.

And largely irrelevant.

Except that they do sample some sound effects from that movie on this album.

Which only makes me love them more.

And although it is a fantastic album, the only song I could pick to play us out was the utterly brilliant ‘Girl from Mars’.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 13: The Man Who

James Proclaims (4)

The halfway point of the alphabet lies somewhere between ‘M’ and ‘N’.

Which is where we’ll be at the end of this post.

For we are on ‘M’ today.

I’m not sure if the fact that we’re almost halfway there is a source of comfort or distress really.

M2020

M is for The Man Who

Travis_-_The_Man_Who_album_cover

Yesterday’s entry was an album by James, a band who inexplicably have a person’s name (and my name). And Travis are a band who have a person’s name too. Namely Travis. Whoever he is.

Maybe he’s The Man Who. Although in fact he isn’t.

Anyway, weird band name and weird album title aside, ‘The Man Who’ is an album that inspires mixed feelings to say the least. Travis’ first album, ‘Good Feeling’ was an altogether more raucous affair and it was exactly the kind of thing I liked.

This is more melancholic and, well ‘ballady’. And I didn’t love it when it first came out.

But then it grew on me and I did love it.

But I can’t help but feel it was the record that paved the way for the likes of Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol to dominate the guitar-based music scene in the early noughties. Britpop was already on its way out by the time Travis released this record. The Spice Girls and a resurgent post-Take That Robbie Williams seemed to be dominating the charts by the very late nineties and early noughties, and popular music was…well much poppier.

But there was still a place for indie bands and Travis were the band that was supposed to keep flying the flag.

So ‘The Man Who’ was maybe not the record we indie kids needed them to produce.

Still, it was immensely popular and they headlined the 2000 Glastonbury festival off the back of it.

Seriously, they headlined Glastonbury.

I was there.

It’s hard to imagine Travis being that big now, but they really were back then.

Indeed it’s something of a Travis-ty that Coldplay went on to be a much bigger band than Travis.

A year before they headlined Glastonbury, they made the news at the 1999 version of the same festival, after the weather, during what had been a previously dry weekend, turned somewhat wetter during their rendition of their biggest hit ‘Why does it always rain on me?’

I’m not sure if it happened again the following year.

I was there, but I was also drunk.

Anyway, it seems as good a song as any to play us out today.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 12: Laid

James Proclaims (4)

And so we’re at the time of our A-Z journey through nineties music nostalgia when we ask, what the ‘L’?

And ‘L’ is coming, make no mistake about that.

But what fresh ‘L’ is this?

L2020

L is for Laid

James_Laid

I could hardly do a series nineties nostalgia posts predominantly about indie music without including a band that is called James could I?

The fact that they happen to be a fantastic band is really just a bonus.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t as big a fan of James in the nineties as I should have been. I love their music now, but I didn’t know too much about them back when they were arguably at the peak of their powers (although they’ve churned out some pretty good albums in recent times too).

I knew a few of their bigger hits even back then though and I remember them being pretty well-regarded by the NME and Melody Maker, the two publications that largely informed my views of music back then.

Anyway, regardless of whether I was a fan or not at the time, ‘Laid’ is great album and if I’d purchased it when it came out, I would definitely have liked it.

It’s one of my favourite albums now and my tastes haven’t changes that much since then. Or at all in fact.

I could go with any of the singles to sign off this post, but it would be hard to ignore the titular track, ‘Laid’.

So here it is:

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 11: K

James Proclaims (4)

We’re up to ‘K’ in the A-Z of albums that I listened to a lot in the nineties.

I’m not sure if there’s anything more to say.

I’ll throw in this sentence as a bit of ‘filler’ before we get to the ‘big reveal’.

Although  I always reveal the album in the title of the post, so I’m not sure why I do these preambles really.

But it’s done now.

So lets move on and see what we have today.

K2020

K is for K

KulaShaker_K

If Kula Shaker released the album ‘K’ today, they would no doubt be accused of cultural appropriation.

But back in the nineties, the idea of over-privileged British guys singing a song entirely in Sanskrit based on a Hindu prayer was…

…no we were all a bit uneasy about it then too.

But for all ‘K’ might be a bit misguided at times, it is not a bad album at all.

I played it a lot at the time and theirs was one of the many gigs I went to.

And they were awesome live.

I don’t know if that makes cultural appropriation acceptable, and I can’t even draw on my superpower of being half-Indian (which I am ethnically if not especially culturally) here to say that it’s OK. But surely it would be worse if they were rubbish?

The most obvious choice of song to see us out today would probably be the aforementioned Sanskrit song, ‘Govinda’.

But I preferred the stupidly-titled ‘Hey Dude’.

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 10: Jollification

James Proclaims (4)

And so to ‘J’ in this self-indulgent amble down the memory lane of my music-loving youth.

‘J’ was a pretty hard one to select, because, frankly there wasn’t much to choose from.

And I didn’t expect that to be the case, because while I anticipated ‘Q’ and ‘X’ to be problematic, I expect more of ‘J’. It’s the first letter in my name for goodness sake.

But there was so little to choose from that I was always going to have to compromise.

For a while it looked as though Alanis Morrisette was going to take the spot with ‘Jagged Little Pill’ but, while I do think that is a superb album, I’m not certain it’s one I feel much in the way of nostalgia for.

Whereas, I do feel a bit of nineties nostalgia for my choice, even if I don’t especially think it’s a brilliant album.

J2020

J is for Jollification

Lightningseedsjollificags0

It’s hard to imagine that people who like The Lightening Seeds really love The Lightening Seeds. Equally it’s hard to imagine that anyone that doesn’t like them can really be bothered to hate them.

They are just that kind of band. Largely inoffensive, eminently radio friendly but maybe just a bit bland at times.

I can’t imagine making any kind of effort to buy tickets to any of their gigs, but if they happened to be playing at a festival I was already planning on going to, I’d probably catch their set.

I’m definitely in the camp of ‘like them, don’t love them’.

By far their biggest hit was in 1996, when they teamed up with comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel to record ‘Three Lions’ – the official song of the England Football team for the Euro 96 Championship. Although England bowed out in the semi-finals of that tournament, the song took on a life of its own. It still seems to be the go-to song for England football fans.

Being Welsh, I’d hardly describe myself as a huge England fan, although Wales’ failure to qualify for many tournaments has meant that I’ve tended to cheer on the England team over the years. Until they inevitably get knocked out. Which they always do.

But Euro 96 was one of England’s better goes at a major tournament and for a time, even the half-hearted ‘fans’ like me got quite excited. I did really like ‘Three Lions’ anyway, but it became so intrinsically linked with the buzz of Euro 96 that even hearing it now invokes a mawkish nostalgia.

So big was ‘Three Lions’, it’s sometimes easy to forget that The Lightening Seeds ever recorded anything else.

But they did.

And you might not love their other stuff, but you probably won’t hate it.

If you’re making a commercial, or putting together a montage showcasing the best bits of a sporting event, then there’s every chance they’ve got a song that would work quite well.

And 1994’s ‘Jollification’ is as good an example of their work as any other.

It’s probably why I feel nostalgic about this album. It does genuinely appear to be made up of tracks that were on TV ads in the nineties. They may not even have been especially memorable ads but I watched a lot of TV in the nineties so The Lightening Seeds must have found a way into my subconscious via the ad-breaks.

The songs in question are pretty good though.

However, the biggest hit of the album wasn’t on an advert that I recall.

But it was on the soundtrack of the 1995 film ‘Clueless’. Which is a soundtrack that also features Supergrass’s ‘Alright’ from yesterday. And some other good songs too. Indeed, being on that soundtrack seems to put this song in pretty good company. And the movie itself was quite good if I recall correctly. But I may be wrong about that, it’s been a while since I saw it last. If indeed I’ve ever seen it.

Anyway the song that is both on that soundtrack and also on the album ‘Jollification’ is called ‘Change’.

And because I wrote about it quite a lot, even though it has nothing to do with ‘Jollification’, here’s ‘Three Lions’.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 9: I Should Coco

James Proclaims (4)

Day 9 of this A-Z malarkey and it is time for ‘I’.

The letter ‘I’ obviously.

Not me.

If it was me I’d have said ‘it is time for me’.

Because ‘me’ would be the correct pronoun to use in that sentence.

That’s just basic grammar.

But it’s not time for me, it’s time for ‘I’.

I2020

I is for I Should Coco

I_Should_Coco

When Supergrass released their debut album in 1995, they seemed like they might just be about to become huge.

And outside of the Britpop ‘big 4’ of Oasis, Blur, Pulp and Suede, they may well have been the best of the rest.

But like so many bands of that era, they shone brightly for only the briefest of times really. Their subsequent albums are all fine and they occasionally popped up in the top 40 singles charts in ensuing years.

But Supergrass were really all about the summer of 1995 and that happened to be the summer I turned 16 and completed my GCSE exams.

It was one of the most glorious summers of my youth (when viewed through my rose-tinted nostalgia spectacles) and ‘I Should Coco’ featured heavily on the soundtrack.

No song more so than their very summer-friendly single ‘Alright’.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 8: How To Make Friends And Influence People

James Proclaims (4)

It’s always been my personal belief that the eighth letter of the alphabet should be ‘H’.

Which it is.

I’m not saying I’m responsible for that fact. That’s not for me to say.

If others wish to credit me then that’s up to them.

But, which album has the honour of representing ‘H’ today?

H2020

H is for How To Make Friends And Influence People

Terrorvision-HowToMakeFriends
Terrorvision were a British band that enjoyed most of their success during the ‘Britpop’ period of the nineties.

But Terrorvision were not ‘Britpop’ so much as ‘Britrock’.

They were also not a band that ever took themselves too seriously. Nor really did the British Charts, as Terrovision rarely troubled the top ten.

By far their biggest hit, ‘Tequila’, came in 1999, but aside from encouraging lots of impressionable young people to drink tequila when they might otherwise have not, (ahem), it really came at the end of their modest period of success.

And although their 1996 album ‘Regular Urban Survivors’ did enjoy more sales than this 1994 effort, ‘How To Make Friends And Influence People’ was really the album that brought them to the attention of my friends and I.

I’m not sure, revisiting it now, that it really deserves to go down as one of the great British albums.

But it was a lot of fun back then and it was equally fun revisiting it for this post.

‘Discotheque Wreck’ and ‘Pretend Best Friend’ were both favourites back in the mid-nineties but the track that first brought them to my attention and remains a regular on my playlist is ‘Oblivion’.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 7: The Great Escape

James Proclaims (4)

And so to the seventh letter of the alphabet. Which was ‘G’ the last time I checked.

And it’s probably safe to assume it still is.

G2020

G is for The Great Escape

Blur_thegreatescape

No-one enjoys a bit of pedantry more than me, but I think it’s reasonable to ignore the definite article in the album’s title and claim with conviction that this is a more than worthy candidate to represent the letter ‘G’.

1994’s ‘Parklife’ was the album that really catapulted Blur into the public consciousness, and arguably the album that confirmed the arrival of Britpop as a ‘thing’, but ‘The Great Escape’ was a solid follow-up and in itself a fairly era-defining album thanks, at least partially, to the faux-rivalry with Oasis that accompanied its release, as it came shortly after Blur’s ‘Country House’ went up against Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’ in the singles charts.

The obvious result of the ‘Battle of Britpop’ was that both Blur and Oasis sold a lot of records, which was great for the Britpop movement as a whole. We were all encouraged to pick a side though, and in that sense I would definitely have been on ‘Team Oasis’.

But I would hardly let a silly thing like that get in the way of me enjoying a great album.

And ‘The Great Escape’ was one of my favourite albums of that time.

Incidentally, although it could be argued that Oasis enjoyed the greater commercial success overall, Blur definitely won the ‘Battle of Britpop’, because it was their single that made it to number 1 in the charts.

And if neither song was particularly representative of the best work of either band, Blur’s ‘County House’ deserves to play us out today because of its undoubted place in British pop music history. Even if it is for a pretty stupid reason when all is said and done.

And actually, even if I was ‘Team Oasis’ I did prefer ‘Country House’ to ‘Roll with It’ if I’m honest…

 

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 6: Fuzzy Logic

James Proclaims (4)

And so on to day 6 of this alphabetised meander through the musical memories of my youth.

And what the ‘F’ have we got today?

F2020

F is for Fuzzy Logic

FuzzyLogic-SFA

The Super Furry Animals were a Welsh band, who sometimes had the audacity to sing in Welsh, but the commercial nous to mostly sing in English, which presumably did help them sell more records.

Not that they were ever a huge commercial success but they did have a solid fan base throughout the UK. Wales was, understandably, where they enjoyed their biggest following though.

As it happens, Wales was where I grew up, mostly in the nineties, and I loved them.

Not because they were Welsh, I rarely take a particularly patriotic position when it comes to my musical tastes, but because they were actually pretty good.

They were probably a bit too quirky to ever trouble the mainstream, but they didn’t ever seem too bothered by that fact, releasing the kinds of records that seemed to please themselves for the most part.

They knew their way around a melody though.

‘Fuzzy Logic’ was their debut effort in 1996 and, while perhaps not their most accomplished work, is my favourite album, and of all their releases, it’s the one that invokes the most nostalgia.

Mostly memories of underage drinking and of my friends and I singing the chorus of the opening track of the album ‘God! Show Me Magic” loudly on our way home from the pub.

But my favourite track is the first single they released from the album, the delightfully-named ‘Hometown Unicorn’.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 5: Everything Must Go

James Proclaims (4)

And so, on the fifth day of ‘James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young’ we arrive at ‘E’.

And for this there were a few contenders.

But there was one that invokes so much nostalgia it was ultimately the only choice I could make.

E2020

E is for Everything Must Go

EverythingMustGo(1996album)Albumcover

The Manic Street Preachers fourth album was their first release as a trio following on from the tragic and mysterious disappearance of lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards.

Although Richey’s musical contributions were questionable, his lyrics and personality were a fundamental part of the Manics DNA up to that point. Plus they were all friends from school, so the band felt his loss on a personal level.

‘Everything Must Go’ could therefore have been something much darker than it actually is. After all it’s predecessor, the Richey-inspired ‘Holy Bible’ is as bleak an album as you’re likely to come across.

‘Everything Must Go’ confounded expectations however, and is an uplifting (insofar as the Manics do ‘upbeat’), poignant and cathartic collection of songs, that marked the beginning of a period of sustained commercial success.

Growing up in Wales in the nineties means that the Manics are essentially royalty to me, and they are the band that I have seen live by far the most times.

I like pretty much all of their albums, including some of their more recent efforts. But the nostalgia-inducing albums are the ones from the nineties, both as a quartet and as a trio. Their 1992 debut ‘Generation Terrorists’ and the aforementioned ‘Holy Bible’, both could have been contenders for this alphabetised walk down memory lane.

But ‘Everything Must Go’ was an album that saw me through some of the worst of my teenage angst and it’s still a source of comfort when things are getting me down. Which, given the state of the world, means it’s been on the playlist quite a lot lately.

As with a lot of the albums I’ve been revisiting, it could be hard to pick a favourite track from ‘Everything Must Go’. Except that there is one track that just picks itself.

‘A Design for Life’ might just be my favourite song of all time.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 4: Definitely Maybe/Different Class/Dookie

James Proclaims (4)

As is the case most years, today is my birthday.

But there’s no time to implore you to wish me Happy Birthday in the comments section below. I’ll just have to leave it to you to do the right thing.

No, I must get on with the important business of letting you know which album of my youth made the cut for ‘D-Day’ in the A-Z Challenge.

For many of the letters it’s not been easy narrowing my choices down to just one.

But I’ve been employing a strict ‘one album per post’ rule for this challenge and today should be no different.

Except of course that it is my birthday.

And it turns out that I really did like a lot of albums that began with ‘D’ in the nineties.

So as a special birthday treat to myself, I’m going to allow a couple of ‘bonus choices’.

D2020

D is for Definitely Maybe

OasisDefinitelyMaybealbumcover

The debut album of the Gallagher brothers et al. remains one of my favourite records of all time. I loved Oasis in the nineties and I continued to love them throughout the noughties. If they hadn’t split up I’d still love them now.

I don’t know why. Objectively I know there are other bands who are probably better. Even I can acknowledge that beyond their first two albums and the 1998 B-sides compilation, not much else they ever released was ever really all that great.

Their best stuff was pretty much all released by 1996 and everything that followed was underwhelming.

But during their early years, I was an impressionable teenager and they just struck a chord with me and for whatever reason, however much I might love another album, or band, Oasis still remain my ‘go to’ band when I need cheering up and nothing else will do.

Some might say that ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory’ is actually the better record and I’d concede that I love that album almost as much, but for me’ Definitely Maybe’ is marginally the better of the two.

There are a number or era-defining tracks on the album including ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, ‘Shakermaker’ (which weirdly but sort of brilliantly rips off ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’ from a seventies Coca-Cola advert) and the debut single ‘Supersonic’.

But the song that defines my youth more than any other is ‘Live Forever’

D is also for Different Class

Pulp_-_Different_Class

If this album began with any other letter, it would have been an absolute certainty as first choice for that day. But it begins with the same letter as ‘Definitely Maybe’, which meant that if I was going to stick to my own arbitrary rules, I’d have to leave out one of them. And I couldn’t ever have left out ‘Definitely Maybe’.

But I’m going to invoke my birthday privilege to avoid the crime of leaving out one of the seminal albums of my youth.

Because Pulp’s fifth studio album is nothing short of perfect. They did, admittedly, take their time as a band to produce a decent album, having released their debut effort ‘It’ in 1983. ‘Freaks’ and ‘Separations’ followed in the ensuing decade but 1994’s ‘His ‘n’ Hers’ was really the beginning of their commercial and critical success. ‘Different Class’, however is really…well…different class…

A call to arms to the socially disaffected, it encourages the ‘have nots’ to stick two fingers up to the ‘haves’ and frankly it feels as relevant today as it ever did.

Much as I love a number of tracks on the album, the one that always sends me down memory lane with a hop and a skip in my step is Disco 2000.

 

D is also also for Dookie

Green_Day_-_Dookie_cover

Another seminal album of my youth also begins with ‘D’ and frankly, as I’ve already broken my ‘one album a day’ rule, I may as well just go for it.

Because Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ would definitely feature heavily on soundtrack of my teenage years. When I was failing to lean to play the guitar, it was all too often tracks from this that I tended to butcher.

On the occasions that I still choose to believe there is a guitarist inside me (there is not but I’m still allowed to dream) I’ll often revert to the 15-year-old me, and strum, insofar as I can remember them, the opening chords to ‘Basket Case’.

Which seems as appropriate a track as any to see us out today.

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 3: Coming Up

James Proclaims (4)

Day 3 of the A-Z challenge and who would have imagined we’d be dealing the letter ‘C’?

So we’d better head off to 1996 and ‘C’ what we can find…

C2020

C is for Coming Up

suede b

Given that some people credit Suede for paving the way for many of the bands that were part of the ‘Britpop’ phenomenon of the nineties, it’s perhaps strange that I wasn’t really that into them initially.

Because I liked a lot of those other bands.

But somehow Suede’s first two albums completely passed me by, and I really only began to take heed of them when they released this, their third album.

Although, in fairness, it’s not a bad place to start if you’re discovering the band for the first time.

Coming off the back of the departure of Bernard Butler (arguably one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, and a man who had already achieved his own success a year earlier with McAlmont and Butler and one of the tracks of the nineties in ‘Yes’) Suede’s third album needed to be pretty good to settle the nerves of the fans who thought his exit was terminal for the band.

‘Coming Up’ delivered everything it needed to. Easily representing their biggest commercial success, some of Suede’s biggest hits come from this album, including ‘Beautiful Ones’ and ‘Saturday Night’.

But I’ll leave you today with ‘Trash’. A song that is not at all rubbish…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 2: The ‘Blue’ Album

James Proclaims (4)

Day 2 of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and thus today’s album of the nineties must begin with the letter ‘B’

And I may have taken a bit of liberty with today’s choice.

Because it doesn’t really begin with ‘B’ at all.

Because today’s album is:

B2020

B is for The ‘Blue’ Album

Weezer_-_Blue_Album

Weezer’s 1994 debut was actually just called Weezer. So it should really be filed under ‘W’. But Weezer have subsequently released no less than five other ‘eponymous’ albums, and consequently they tend to be known by the colour of the ‘sleeve’. So it is not uncommon to refer to this effort as The ‘Blue’ Album and, as I already has something lined up for ‘W’ it was becoming quite a difficult choice.

I did have a few options for ‘B’ too, and it was a bit of wrench to not include any of them, in favour of this impostor, but The ‘Blue’ Album was, without question, one of my favourite albums of the nineties and I would have selected it happily for ‘B’ or ‘W’. In the end, the other album I had selected for ‘W’ outranked the other album I had lined up for ‘B’ and so Weezer find themselves here.

In the end, none of this matters, so we can all relax about a ‘W’ album being filed under ‘B’.

And this is really a great collection of songs. There is some debate about whether this, or their follow-up album, Pinkerton, is better. ‘Blue’ enjoyed far more commercial success, but Pinkerton has gained a cult following over the years. What is without doubt is that both are better than any of the eleven ensuing  records put out by Weezer, and no doubt will be better than their upcoming 14th studio album too.

That said, I do quite like most of Weezer’s output, and there are plenty of ear-worms amongst their later efforts.

But in terms of complete albums, ‘Blue’ and Pinkerton stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Ultimately ‘Blue’ is my favourite of the two, probably for reasons of nostalgia if nothing else. I was fifteen when it came out. And it didn’t leave my CD player for weeks after I purchased it.

I saw Weezer tour this album in the nineties, and, though I went to a lot of gigs back then, theirs was one of the stand-out shows from that era. I then forgot about Weezer for quite a long time but saw them again at Wembley Arena in 2017. I bought tickets to that show on the basis of this album and this album alone. I then panicked and spent the weeks leading up to the concert ‘revising’ the rest of their back catalogue.

On the day though, they mostly just played this.

Which was fine with me.

It is hard to pick a favourite track off this album, because there really are no fillers, but the only song I can possibly leave you with is the single that made me buy the CD in the first place.

Which is ‘Buddy Holly’.

The video is pretty awesome too.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 1: Attack Of The Grey Lantern

James Proclaims (4)

And so here we are in April, which means I can stop writing about the terrifying worldwide pandemic and start writing about some albums I liked when I was young (and mostly still like now if I’m honest).

Because today is also the beginning of the 2020 version of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, which is an annual blogging event that, for some reason, I seem to only take part in every other year.

Last time around I wrote mostly about cartoons and this time around I’ll mostly be writing about music.

But it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t throw in some mawkish nostalgia, so I’m mostly writing about music I liked in my teens/early twenties. Which puts us back into the last millennium for the most part and the decade known to many as the nineties.

Although because it’s specifically an alphabet challenge I have had to commandeer the year 2000 a little bit.

But nothing after that and some people think the current millennium anyway didn’t start until 2001 so they’ll forgive me.

And most people won’t care either way.

But to kick off, we’re going to revisit an album from 1997.

1997 was not a great year for me for many reasons, but I did spend a lot of it listening to music.

And this album made the playlist a lot that year (or more accurately occupied one of the three available spaces in my CD player, which is how we listened to music back in the nineties).

So without further ado, allow me to introduce the album that will be representing the letter ‘A’:

A2020

A is for ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’

Mansun_-_Attack_of_the_Grey_Lantern

Mansun’s debut album was definitely a quirky affair. Sort of, but not entirely, a concept album notionally about a superhero called the Grey Lantern, and with periodic references to the characters within said hero’s world, most notably someone called Mavis, who pops up in quite a few songs. The song titles are nothing short of bonkers, including ‘The Chad Who Loved Me’, ‘Egg-Shaped Fred’ ‘Stripper Vicar’ ‘She Makes My Nose Bleed’ and not forgetting the finale of ‘Dark Mavis’.

The things is though, in spite of it’s eccentricities (or possibly because of them) Attack of the Grey Lantern is completely brilliant from start to finish. It garnered the kind of critical acclaim and commercial success that perhaps should have seen Mansun become a much bigger band than they ever actually were.

While there’s nothing particularly wrong with their subsequent output, Mansun never really lived up to the promise of their debut and seemingly imploded just a few years later while recording their forth album.

But in 1997, Mansun were legitimately being hailed as a potential ‘next big thing’, and Attack of the Grey Lantern is worth an hour of anyone’s time.

But, if you don’t have an hour to spare, then the track that still features most heavily on my playlists today, and is arguably their best song, would have to be ‘Wide Open Space’.

Enjoy.

Alphabetical Albums

James Proclaims (4)

boombox-2138198_640
Two years ago this blog was positively thriving. Between November 2017 and May 2018, I wrote a post everyday for 200 consecutive days.

I write a lot less these days.

I would like to write more, but the time to do so is rather less available.

Because my 19-month old daughter has been occupying a lot of that time.

I could, and probably should, write about her. She certainly gives me enough material and indeed I do plan to write about some of her exploits in the near future.

Much as I love her however,  this blog has always been primarily about me. It’s my little space on the internet for my own little brand of narcissism.

But it’s no good having a blog if you never actually, y’know, blog.

So I need to start producing more content.

This is my second post in two days, so I’m heading in the right direction, but I’d need to produce another 198 to match my record.

I feel that may be stretch at the moment.

But part of how I achieved that previous double century was by taking part in blogging challenges and adhering to specific themes.

And one such challenge was the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Which does exactly what it says on the tin.

In April 2018 I wrote about my favourite cartoons from the eighties, because for me the eighties was all about watching cartoons.

This year I thought I might look at another period of my life. The ensuing decade in fact, when my life was less about cartoons (although obviously still a bit about cartoons) and more about music. Mostly listening to music if I’m honest, as I have nothing in the way of actual musical ability. I did own a guitar in the nineties but I couldn’t play it very well. I believed I might get good at playing the guitar and go on to be an international rock star.

I did not.

But I did listen to a lot of bands.

I also went to a lot of gigs.

So this year’s A-Z challenge will be entitled:

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young

Tune in on April 1st to see which indie album beginning with A that I liked to listen to when I was young.

A to Z Challenge 2020: 2009-2020

 

 

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Final Thoughts

James Proclaims (4)

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It’s been a week since I finished my A-Z of Cartoon Characters as part of my participation in the annual A-Z blogging challenge. As part of the challenge, I’m supposed to write a post reflecting on the whole experience, and never one to overlook my responsibilities, I am doing just that today.

So, what did I learn?

Well, I learned that some of the cartoons I watched when I was a kid were genuinely as good as I remember them being, while others were, perhaps not quite so good.

I enjoyed revisiting them all, but it was definitely a mixed bag in terms of quality. The most disappointing show in terms of really not being as good as I remembered was definitely The Getalong Gang. I can see why I enjoyed it as a kid, but it’s really best lost to the annals of history. If I had to pick a favourite (and I’m not sure that’s possible) then Danger Mouse might well be the one that tops the list, but ask me tomorrow and it’ll no doubt be a different one.

There were, of course, a lot classic cartoons that didn’t make the it into my A-Z and perhaps some of those deserve a brief acknowledgement now, as well as my reasons for overlooking them:

Battle of the Planets/ G-Force Guardians of Space

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I really wanted to include this one, but the problem was, although Battle of the Planets was essentially the same show as G-Force Guardians of Space, it also wasn’t. They were  both English-language adaptations of a Japanese cartoon called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. So the animation was the same but the names of the characters, their voices and quite a lot of the plot was different. And I was a small child when I watched this show. I’m pretty sure the version I watched as a kid was G-Force Guardians of Space, but truthfully it was all just noise and moving pictures at the time so I might have watched both versions. I couldn’t tell you much about either without re-watching them, and with there being two identical-looking but essentially different cartoons doing the rounds on YouTube, I decided to leave well-enough alone.

Brave Starr

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Brave Starr was on at the same time as something I wanted to watch on a different channel, so I never really watched it much. I liked it when I did watch it, but I’d be hard-pushed to tell you much about it. Other than the fact that Brave Starr’s horse could walk and talk, which was pretty cool.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

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Literally never heard of this one until it started coming up in a lot of the searches I was doing for other cartoons of the era. Seems it was really popular and looks like one I would really have enjoyed. Not quite sure how I missed it.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold

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I remember this was really popular, but like with Brave Starr, I’m sure I was watching something on a different channel when this was on. I think I would have liked it but fate would not allow our paths to cross, so it remains unwatched by me.

Droids/ Ewoks

 

That there were two Star Wars spin-off cartoons in the 80s and I didn’t see fit to include either of them, does seem an oversight. Because Star Wars is my favourite thing of all. But, while I didn’t hate these shows, neither captured my imagination as much as the 26 shows I did write about. Honestly, at the time, I preferred the Getalong Gang to either of these. I was wrong to feel that way obviously, but I was just a child. That neither the droids nor the Ewoks were ever my favourite thing about the movies possibly had something to do with my indifference. Had there been a Darth Vader cartoon, I’d have been an avid viewer, I’m sure.

Voltron

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I had a Voltron toy. I really liked it. But I never saw the cartoon. Was it even on in the UK? My toy came via my cousins from the US, so there’s every possibility that I genuinely never had the opportunity to watch this when I was a kid. There’s a reboot on Netflix at the moment though and I am tempted to give it a go. Because I did like that toy.

I’m certain that there are many more cartoons of my childhood I’ve forgotten – maybe some people can berate me in the comments below.

Who knows, with a bit of research I might find enough for another 26 cartoon-themed posts for next year’s A-Z challenge…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 26: Zummi Gummi

James Proclaims (4)

And so we come to the end of our journey. And what a journey it’s been. But, as part of this whole A-Z journey, I’m supposed to publish a post in a week, to reflect on all of this, so today I won’t dwell on the previous entries in this collection of cartoon characters, conveniently alphabetised for ease of consumption. But just who is our final entry? The letter today is ‘Z’, but I can assure you that this is no ‘Z-list’ cartoon character.

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Z is for Zummi Gummi

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For how could any compendium of cartoons be complete without including the fantastic Gummi Bears?

One of Disney’s earliest 80s TV show offerings, with a theme song that matches the best of them, Gummi Bears was precursor in many ways for the some of the other Disney greats of the 80s and 90s, such as DuckTales and Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. But it wasn’t really the same as those shows. It wasn’t really like anything else.

Set in a fairy-tale land, it was evocative of Arthurian legend, and other such tales of yore. It was also charming and funny and full of energy. And bouncing bears of course.

I first saw Gummi Bears in the cinema, the first episode was shown as a featurette before the main film. I can’t even remember what the main movie was that day, but the Gummi Bears cartoon made quite an impression.

I can’t think of a better cartoon to finish my A-Z of cartoon characters that I liked as a child.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 25: Yumi

James Proclaims (4)

Sometimes you just have to ask ‘Y’. But ‘Y’ rarely offers an answer. ‘Y’ is just a letter. But it is a letter that can, and today will, represent a cartoon character in my nostalgic, alphabetical trip down memory lane.

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Y is for Yumi

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Yumi is from the cartoon Ulysses 31. She is blue. Because she is an alien. She’s from the planet Zotra.

Which is all well and good, and you might think Ulysses 31 was just a cartoon show set in space with aliens and stuff, and to me, as a child, that’s exactly what it was. But it turns out it was so much more than that.

Ulysses, is, of course, the name of a book that is notoriously hard to read, by James Joyce. And it turns out that Ulysses 31 took the plot of that novel, but set in the 31st century and, y’know, in space.

And if that sounds improbable, it’s because, well it’s not true at all. But Ulysees 31 was a re-imagining of Homer’s Odyssey. Although, in its own way, so was Joyce’s novel, so actually maybe you could argue the parallels of an 80s space-based cartoon and one of the most lauded works of twentieth-century literature. But you probably shouldn’t

Actually the idea of Homer’s Odyssey being set in space is a bit mad too. And quite a hard concept for a small child to understand.

So I didn’t understand it at all.

But I did really enjoy it.

Because it was set in space, with aliens and stuff.

Also, it was really good.

And the theme tune, when it got going, was pretty catchy too.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 24: X

James Proclaims (4)

X was always going to be the toughest letter in my A-Z of cartoon characters. It’s generally the toughest letter in an A-Z of any subject. Fortunately, the world of cartoons offered me a solution from a time when I thought I’d grown out of cartoons.

X

X is for X

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Professor X that is, otherwise known as Charles Xavier, and founder and leader of the X-Men. When X-Men, the Animated Series first hit our screens in the early nineties, I was already a teenager, and to be fair, not really a big viewer of animation. Some of my friends were into the Japanese Manga cartoons that were doing the rounds back then, but, while I acknowledge there are some excellent Japanese animations out there, it wasn’t really my kind of thing at the time.

No, I’d long sinced moved on from watching cartoons. I was vaguely aware of Batman the Animated Series (a show I would later come to love) but I hadn’t really given it much consideration. Then, one Saturday morning, quite by chance, I caught a few seconds of the new X-Men cartoon. Then I caught a few seconds more. Then I was hooked. Everyone was talking about it in school the following Monday. At first it was brought up surreptitiously, one of my mates dropped it into conversation. Did anyone happen to catch the X-Men on Saturday morning? Turns out we had. Everyone had. And slowly it became apparent that we’d all really got into it.

It was official – cartoons were back on the table.

X-Men: The Animated Series, along with Batman: The Animated Series, paved the way for lots more in the way of superhero offerings, the excellent 90s Spiderman cartoon, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, the list goes on. Obviously there were superhero movies before these cartoons became popular, but I’m pretty sure the current plethora of movies owes a lot to the cartoons of the early nineties recruiting a load of new fanboys who had never even considered picking up a comic book before.

Obviously I’ve chosen Professor X to represent the letter ‘X’ in my little series on cartoon characters, but the character that really resonated with all of us was, rather predictably, Wolverine, and this was when he was depicted wearing yellow spandex, which just goes to show what a cool character he was.