Parklife – Blur
Just for laughs I asked SWC what he thought of ‘Parklife’ the other day. This is his response, word for word.
I hate ‘Parklife’. I utterly despise it. I hate its cover, which has physically put me off ever owning a greyhound, lurcher or whippet for the rest of my life. I hate the faux cockneyness of it. I hate the chirpy ‘cor blimey guv’nor’ attitude that seeps out of it. I hate the fact that Blur tried to portray themselves as decent working class cheeky chappies whilst promoting it. Most of all, I detest the single of the same name with its guest vocals by professional Londoner Phil Daniels. I mean it sincerely when I say that if I ever hear Phil Daniels tell me about the ‘dirty pigeons’ one more time I will devote the rest of my life to inventing a time machine. When I achieve this I will go to his house and lock him in a cupboard in order to prevent him ever recording this travesty.
I do like ‘This is A Low’ though, the second greatest song about shipping forecasts ever written.
This Is A Low.
Whereas on the other hand, this is what KT has to say about it.
He’s wrong obviously. Without Parklife there is no Britpop. The album is Blur’s crowning glory (although not their best album – that falls to ‘Modern Life Is rubbish’) a wonderful tribute to London and Britain and popular culture. It has songs about mundanity, suicide, dead end jobs, relationships that are going nowhere and in ‘Girls and Boys’ it has one of the greatest singles of the nineties, a bouncing slice of brilliance about gender confusion, binge drinking and embracing chavs.
He is right about ‘This Is A Low’ though, it is a masterpiece.
Girls and Boys
To the End
Personally, I’m with KT. ‘Parklife’ is bloody close to pop perfection.
Elastica – Elastica
I love this album and it still gets played on a regular basis in my house. It is an album I associate with being young. When this came out in 1994 I was barely 15. I had only just discovered drinking, cigarettes, boys, parties, late nights, rebellion, back chat, attitude, make up, clothes, rock music, and after hearing this I wanted to be a rock star. Although I have previously written I didn’t want to be Justine Frischmann I wanted to be Donna Matthews.
A day and a half after listening to this for the first time Alice and I with the help of Jane a girl from our gang, formed our first band ‘The Waifs’. The fact we had no musical talent what so ever, owned precisely no instruments, couldn’t sing and had nowhere to practice didn’t put us off. We announced to everyone who would listen that The Waifs had arrived and we intended to be on the cover of Select within a year. We had the attitude and that was what mattered. Apparently.
The Waifs played no gigs at all. We rehearsed once, and Alice wrote a song about snogging boys in the bus stop. That was it. When we rehearsed we were all afraid to sing in front of each other. We’d all naturally agreed that Alice would be the singer, I would be the guitarist and Jane would play the drums. I’d even persuaded a lad I knew to lend me an old guitar he had. But we all just stood there in Jane’s dad’s garage and laughed, gave up and covertly smoked cigarettes and drunk a bottle of Blue 20/20 that Alice nicked from her mum’s cabinet. Rehearsing could wait.
A Northern Soul – The Verve
The fact that all three of us picked ‘A Northern Soul’ over ‘Urban Hymns’ when selecting this list of Britpop albums should tell you how tremendous this record is. We all happen to think that this album is The Verve’s finest moment. Badger even made a few notes about it when he emailed across his selections, according to him “‘A Northern Soul’ is brilliant, and that is largely due to the fact that throughout Richard Ashcroft sounds extraordinary, moving from this fragile tortured soul to rock god genius effortlessly and brilliantly”
He is of course quite right. I’ll give you two obvious examples. ‘This Is Music’ is the first one, where we have Ashcroft sneering about “being born like you without a silver spoon” and then compare that with ‘On My Own’ a ballad so achingly beautiful that you can’t help but sit in reflective silence at its wonder. He sounds vulnerable, he sounds sincere, and he’s not putting this on either. Of course, The Verve were a band at the point of breaking at this stage of their career (not helped by the drink and the drugs one supposes), it wouldn’t be for the last time either.
This Is Music
On Your Own
About halfway through you start to realise that ‘A Northern Soul’ is a confessional kind of record (although it’s kind of an hour long ode to drugs as well). An album about pain, suffering and feeling abandoned by everything. It’s about giving up and that is hammered home perfectly in the beautiful ‘Drive You Home’. In which Ashcroft pretty much admits that he is too stoned to care anymore.
Drive You Home
And then you get ‘History’. The strings break out and the result is a heartbreaking work of genius. Ashcroft gives us a spine tingling tale of “how he loved and failed”. It is a soaring brilliant moment and I remember distinctly sitting in my lounge listening to it and silently pleading with The Verve to carry on, because they, this, and everything they touched was just too good to stop.
Then you hear ‘Stormy Clouds’ and you realise that it had to. There is to be no happy ending and if you were ever in doubt Ashcroft confirms it near the end, whilst the guitars twist and the drums pound in sombre and ominous way he reverts to a kind of whisper and you can hear him, just, say “Stop the Love”.
Tellin’ Stories – The Charlatans
During the recording process of this album, tragedy occurred. A car crash took the life, prematurely of Rob Collins, the keyboard genius within The Charlatans. The album was half finished and for a while it looked touch and go as to whether or not the album would ever be finished and indeed whether the band would ever resurface again.
The family of Collins, persuaded them to finish it, so they did and the result was ‘Tellin’ Stories’. A barnstorming slice of brilliance and easily as good as anything that they have ever recorded. In fact I’d say not only is their best album but I’d say it was their most important and one the most important released during the Britpop era. It was important because this album perhaps more than most bridged the gap between indie dance and indie rock. It did that by employing one of the chemical brothers on the production desk.
It also pushed Charlatans back into rock’s Premier league.
‘Tellin Stories’ and the singles released from it were incredibly successful. The album entered the charts at Number One and stayed there for another week until it was replaced at the top by the debut album from the Spice Girls. It also spawned three Top Ten singles, ‘One To Another’ which went to Number 3, ‘How High’ which went to number 6 and ‘North Country Boy’ which went to Number 4.
One To Another
North Country Boy
All of which are tremendous obviously. The real highlight is though the tender tearful, heartbreaking ode to the departed Collins.
How Can You Leave Us
Even now more than twenty years after its release ‘Tellin Stories’ stands out as a classic
….bottom right, hair tied back, looking gormless, just above the word ‘Film’. A young innocent SWC. Butter literally wouldn’t melt in his mouth. The date is 22nd June 1991, I am just 16 and this was my first ever open air concert, I’m loathed to say festival because it obviously wasn’t but still,these gig opened the doors for me to a world of outside gigs, festivals and all that. I am with Adrian and his brother Andrew – who can be seen roughly two blokes back in the same photograph. We drove up in Andrews car. largely fueled by a soundtrack of Pop Will Eat Itself, The Doors and Cud
It rained. In fact it more than rained it pissed down most of the day, but after a couple of bottles of cider and a couple of decent support acts (Kingmaker, Vic and Bob and New Fads if I remember rightly – although Andrew claims that Swervedriver played that evening – I don’t remember that) I soon ignored the rain. The Stuffies were ace, although I seem to remember them having technical difficulties all evening.
Why am I telling you this? Well, for two reasons, firstly I was rummaging through the record box the other day and pulled out this 7″ and it reminded me of that day and the fact this is the only record that I have ever featured on the cover of. The second reason is that it is a teaser…A teaser for something that is coming up in the summer…
Over the next two weeks we will be tidying up a bit – pretty much dedicated to the Britpop Run down – which has reached the Top Ten but after that we should revert back to the usual nonsense.
Welcome To The Cheap Seats
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Me, My Mum, My Dad and My Brother
Everything Flows – Saint Etienne
Originally by Teenage Fanclub
When I gave this list of cover versions to everyone involved in TSOBO I expected some tracks to be higher than they ended up, this was one of them because I know that Badger absolutely loves this version of ‘Everything Flows’. This stems from an evening he had in a seaside town in Wales, where for an hour he sat in a bus stop with only a tramp, a portion of chips and seven feral youths for company. This came on his ipod and helped through a particularly miserable evening.
The original of course if one of indie rock finest moments, possibly one of the greatest debut singles of all time. A track that achieved legendary status right from the get go. The legend goes that Raymond McGinley sold his fridge and Norman Blake stole £200 off his parents in order for them to record this single. Two weeks earlier they had been at a Dinosaur Jr concert and recruited Gerard Love and the rest is history.
‘Everything Flows’ is timeless, a simple and effective ode to the passing of time and one that has aged like a rather splendidly
Saint Etienne have a history of cover versions, some of them good, some of them rather colourless if you ask me. Here is another one which you can place somewhere in between Good and Colourless
I’m Too Sexy
When I was Born for the Seventh Time – Cornershop
When this album came out, Britpop was staggering on, probably in denial, oblivious to its irrelevance which was growing on an almost daily basis. By now of course, Oasis had imploded and Big Beat had come along and started to remix the hell of Britpop. Enter Norman Cook stage right and Cornershop stage left.
If Big Beat did indeed fill the vacuum left by the demise of Britpop, then this album should be held up as possibly Britpop last hurrah and should have been used as a bridge to span the two genres. Because ‘When I Was Born For the 7th Time’ is one of those records, stylish, political, nonconformist, and utterly spellbinding. At a time when Britpop was in all honesty, one dimensional, plodding and far too white, here was an album that revelled in being different, musically, ethnically, lyrically, everything. This was truly an album that mixed cultures and style with unabashed excellence
This was an album that took a bunch of musical styles chucked them in a bag and deliberately twisted them until tunes came out. Perhaps the best example of this is ‘We’re In Yr Corner’ sung almost entirely in Punjabi apart from three key words and the end “IBM”, “Cocoa Cola” and “Motherfucker”.
We’re In Yr Corner
They even took a Beatles song and twisted it inside out. Norwegian Wood is covered and translated it into Punjabi but by keeping the sitars like the original it sounds almost like they are reclaiming it. Of course they are not.
Of course, you have Brimful of Asha – which here on the album is much slower, much less bouncy and much better than the Cook remix. I love this version with it mid song call out to bygone heroes and the bit where Tjinder Singh asks for a “77,000 piece orchestra set” and the strings kick in is one of musics greatest ever moments if you ask me.
Brimful of Asha
Power To the Small Massive – Asian Dub Foundation
There were so many choices for ‘small’ everything from the Manics to Interpol via Mogwai and Massive Attack. In the end I reread the story of Mr Small to myself and plumped for something that seemed relative.
In the story poor old Mr Small, couldn’t get a job because he was so tiny. He got trapped in matchboxes, sweet jars and various other things. In the end he becomes the inspiration for a writer and the rest is literary history.
Also this puts me two points clear at the top of the leader board.
March to Fuzz – Mudhoney
Bought from Oxfam, St Peters Port, Guernsey
I was in Guernsey in January for five days, for work, and I met some lovely people, ate some tremendous food, drunk in some dodgy pubs, and walked along at least one truly stunning beach. All that though pales into insignificance when compared against the moment I found a copy of ‘March to Fuzz’ in the only branch of Oxfam on the entire island for 75p.
I may have mentioned this before but what makes this discovery even more amazing is that this is the double CD version, so it contains more than 50 tracks, for 75p. What I find even more exciting is that the CD was hidden.
It was deliberately placed behind a copy of ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens, in a different section of the store entirely. It was like someone had found it, realised that they had no cash and moved it so that they could get it later. Saying that once I did something similar in a record store in Gillingham, I moved a Fishmonkeyman 7” and hid it behind a bunch of other records so that people wouldn’t find it and buy it. But I did it because it was terrible and didn’t deserve to be bought (hands up if you remember Fishmonkeyman – because that is literally the most press that they have had in about twenty years) and I genuinely thought that it would stop them getting in the charts.
History tells me that my plan worked.
So here’s something…
We have statistics and things on these pages, and I do occasionally (read hourly, religiously checking like a new parent with a child) check them and that tells me that we do have a few regular readers from the wonderful island of Guernsey. So on the off chance that it was one of you who might have wanted it, please get in touch. I’m genuinely going to be back on the island in a few weeks, and you can have it as a gift.
In and Out of Grace
You Got It
Seagull – Shout Out Louds
In 2005 a small indie band from Stockholm, Sweden made one of the great lost records of our age. A record that if it wasn’t for the release of ‘Funeral’ by Arcade Fire would have been the most talked about indie rock record of that year. It should have been an album that took them from humble Stockholm clubs to international exposure.
They ticked all the right boxes, they were talented, their music was just catchy enough to satisfy the radio stations, and just poppy enough to not be considered difficult. Also in ‘Very Loud’ and ‘The Comeback they had genuine hits in the waiting, the lyrics were honest and painfully romantic, almost childlike. The choruses made you sing along to it regardless of whether or not you wanted to or not.
The track at the top of the page ‘Seagull’ is probably their finest moment, an eight minute blast of Cure like indie pop, full of tumbling drums, barely played guitars, and easily the finest use of a flute since Smurfette found one in the Magic Forest (Google it). The singer Adam Olenious whipping himself up into a frenzy of ‘Aahhs’ and cute little wails, whilst the drums pound away majestically.
But then around five and a half minutes it all goes quiet and you assume that it has finished and you wait and a full thirty seconds later it all kicks back in, that drum, that flute, those barely there guitars…Just wow.