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 23: Wake Up!

James Proclaims (4)

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

James Proclaims (4)

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 19: Spiders

James Proclaims (4)

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.

 

 

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 6: Double Impact

James Proclaims (6)

 

Image result for double impact van damme

Last week I wrote about 1992’s Under Siege, a film in which Steven Seagal solved the problem of being a mediocre (at best) actor by surrounding himself with much better actors thus producing a film that is really quite good (for a mindless nineties action flick).

A year earlier, Jean-Claude Van Damme opted for a different strategy and instead decided to elevate his own credentials by appearing in a movie in which everyone else was a much worse actor, and casting himself in not one, but two leading roles. It sort of works in that he is pretty much the best thing about the movie (twice over) but that doesn’t necessarily mean that either of his performances is particularly good and the notion of Van Damme playing twin brothers, separated at birth, only to be reunited years later to avenge their parents’ death is exactly as mad as it sounds.

On any objective level, 1991’s Double Impact is not a good film, but when I saw it was available on a popular internet subscription service my curiosity was piqued – because I did remember rather enjoying it in my youth. And truthfully, the combination of nostalgia and the ‘so-bad-it’s-actually-good’ nature of the movie did result in 107 minutes of me being vaguely entertained.

Van Damme almost convinces as two distinct characters, although we do have to get past the bizarre notion that, although each ‘twin’ has experienced very different upbringings, one growing up in an orphanage in Hong Kong, the other raised by his deceased parents’ American bodyguard, they both somehow wind up being experts in martial arts and, more bizarrely, with identical French accents (well Belgian accents if we’re honest but the film would have us believe that they are French). This strange coincidence is explained by the fact that the Hong Kong orphan is brought up by French nuns and the other child is brought up by his American guardian in France. Logically neither of these facts would necessarily result in quite such a pronounced accent as Van Damme’s but I do admire the effort to add some credibility to an otherwise implausible plot.

Really though, there isn’t much plot to speak of, and action is the main selling point of this movie. And double the Van Dammes means double the action.

Except it doesn’t because there really is only so much action that can be crammed into the running time.

In reality, the novelty of two Van Dammes wears off after a while and this is really just another ‘by the numbers’ second-rate nineties action flick. In Bolo Yeung and Corrina Everson are two performers who might have made great Bond baddies, but there’s nothing much else on offer.

Probably only worth watching for reasons of nostalgia, if you watched it back in the nineties, and even then with the expectation that it won’t be as good as you remembered it being.