Jurassic 5’s self titled debut EP was the best of alternative hip hop in 1997. At its heart is the old school ‘Concrete Schoolyard’. Have a great weekend.
A compilation for the weekend. My favourite songs of 1998 in no particular order:
Honourable mentions also go to: Air for ‘La Femme D’Argent‘; Elliott Smith for ‘Waltz#2‘; Eels for ‘Last Stop: This Town‘; People Under The Stairs for ‘San Francisco Nights‘: The Beta Band for ‘Dry The Rain‘; and Massive Attack for ‘Teardrop‘.
Bring It On was the debut album by Gomez that won the 1998 Mercury Music Prize. The Southport band had an original take on bluesy rock, as exemplified by one of the LP’s standout tracks ’78 Stone Wobble’. Acoustic guitar and distorted vocals were an unusual mix, but absolutely on point. It was reminiscent of Beck.
In 1998, the Eels took an introspective turn for their second release, Electro-Shock Blues. It was still pop music, but much darker than debut Beautiful Freak. ‘Last Stop: This Town’ is about singer-songwriter Mark Oliver Everett’s (aka E) sister Elizabeth, who had committed suicide. The video features a spinning carrot that slowly turns into a clone of E. Yes, indeed.
The art rock of Radiohead’s seminal OK Computer paved the way for new levels of creativity in the decade that followed. I will feature some of my favourite alt rock this week. Neutral Milk Hotel’s second album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was released a year later and was once described as like listening to a marching band on an acid trip. Take its song ‘Holland, 1945’, on which Jeff Mangum sings about the only girl he had ever loved being buried alive with her sister by her side and being reincarnated as a boy playing piano in Spain. All of which make complete sense, when accompanied by buzzing indie-rock, a harmony of horns and a zanzithophone. Good morning and have a great week.
By 2004, it had been almost 20 years since Colin Hay had fronted the new wave outfit Men At Work. The public eye had turned away from Hay’s output despite a number of solo projects. Then suddenly, ‘I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You’ pops up on the Garden State soundtrack. The song had in fact featured as the closing song on his 1998 album Transcendental Highway. It’s a song that does his distinctive voice great justice.
Seven years after Massive Attack’s Blue Lines introduced what would become to be known as trip-hop, they released another ground-breaking affair, Mezzanine. Last month, I featured Felt’s collaboration with Elizabeth Fraser. This was 13 years after ‘Primitive Painters’ and Massive Attack had the wherewithal to collaborate with Fraser, a worthy successor to their previous muses Tracey Thorn and Shara Nelson. The dubby treatment of the album’s ‘Teardrop’ would reach a wide audience via the Hugh Laurie series House.
‘Waltz #2 (XO)’ is indeed a waltz, but not like the ones I’ve been subjected to via Swiss TV wallpaper this last week. It is written in 3/4 time signature, but its sentiment is not for the ballroom. Released as a single off Elliot Smith’s 1998 album XO, the song is about his mother. It’s a introverted start to the week; it must be all the over consumption of the last few days.
In 1993, German DJs Kid Paul (aka Paul Schmitz Moorman) and Cosmic Baby (Harald Bluechel – he should have stuck with Harald) clubbed together to produce what many consider to be the greatest house tune of all time. ‘Café Del Mar’ isn’t, but this bonafide trance classic certainly had an impact during its journey from German warehouse to Ibiza outdoors. The zenith was the 1997 release on Hooj Choons that housed the almighty Three ‘N One remixes.
Asian underground was given a turbo boost when Panjabi MC had the grand idea to mix Bhangra with a sound so hardwired into the male 20-something psyche that the western world would dance before they could say “Isn’t that the theme tune from Knight Rider?”. It was 1998 and the track was ‘Mundian To Bach Ke’ (Beware of the Boys).
The song opens with an electric keyboard riff that Ray Manzarek would have been partial to. But then ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ features a bass guitar, handclaps, flute, piano, drums, more organ, acoustic guitars – all laced with a poppy melody. For that, singer-songwriter Stuart Murdoch needed several hands and Belle and Sebastian’s were at the height of their powers in 1998.
“Came out rapping when I was born/Mom said rock it ’til the break of dawn/…Like a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape/I’m fine like wine when I start to rap”. Pure Beasties genius. These guys were the lyrical rhymenoceros and the hiphopopotamus amphibius. ‘Body Movin” was the second single from their fifth studio album Hello Nasty. Play, then repeat.
In their third album, Silver Jews’ frontman David Berman reunites with Stephen Malkmus, one of his original Silver Jews co-founders. You can tell so too, as the influence of the Pavement sound shines through, but with the added humour of Berman’s worldplay. The summery wah-wah sound of ‘People’ is a great example. “The drums march along at the clip of an IV drip/Like sparks from a muffler dragged down the strip.”