Because there’s all kind of texture, of nuance going on. The way records were composed, crafted, compiled and ultimately assimilated by an audience ravenous for sound, again and again. And yet there’s an entire decade’s worth of contrasting context between – say – 1980 and a 1990. The changes (if that’s what they are) – they’re difficult to quantify, to isolate from the ambient hum. All I know is that an album of 1980 vintage feels intrinsically different to something released ten years later. Or that’s what it says here. These last few days I’ve been re-reading Mark Z Danielewski’s House Of Leaves for about the seventeenth time – which has nothing to do with 1990’s Significant Albums except for the fact that the book’s most shadowed corridors are located in that very year. It’s a fascinating piece of work – cloying and deeply unsettling in that manner in which shards of narrative stay with you in spectral form, long after the book’s safely locked away again. A presence that makes 1990 a far less alluring proposition – especially when considering Gala by Lush, Nowhere by Ride, and Morrissey’s Bona Drag are all compilations, thus technically not eligible for significance in quite the same fashion as the rest of this series. Especially when considering the previous episode of LGM featured words on Pixies, ensuring that any further discussion on Bossanova is strictly superfluous. And Violator… as brooding, sultry and atmospheric as you could wish a mainstream post-synth pop LP to be; and yet again, there’s been words on the subject before. In 1990, I curled up on the sofa and read a book…
My record shelves somewhat reflect this vague sense of 1990 ennui. Flood by They Might Be Giants. A band not a natural fit in the LGM psyche, this record is incohesive and at times annoyingly featherweight, but it does harbour a couple of tracks whose flight they’ve never bettered. Happiness by The Beloved flits between intelligent, catchy, blissed-out electro pop and something inconsequential, whilst Betty Boo’s Boomania is either joyously dumb or relentlessly dumb, depending upon mood-swing, or alcohol consumed.
I played The Cramps’ Stay Sick to death upon release – the presence of ‘Bikini Girls With Machine Guns’ not entirely coincidental, I’d wager Reading, Writing & Arithmetic by The Sundays probably wasn’t played at every party I was invited to back then – although as I probably did attend more than my fair share of weird and disjointed parties, I might run with my recollection on that score. Both the accessible curve of Gold Afternoon Fix by The Church and the accessible lustre of Heaven Or Las Vegas, the Cocteau Twins’ biggest seller, contain manifold moments of interest, but as I’m always a sucker for the slightly more esoteric: The Boo Radleys’ Ichabod And I is a slyly textured début. The density of Loop’s A Gilded Eternity is their high water mark. Goo by Sonic Youth, Viva Dead Ponies by The Fatima Mansions… and yes, the overt American influences and hair metal undertones of Vision Thing by The Sisters Of Mercy make the whole thing ridiculously enjoyable – even with frequent Meatloaf accomplice Jim Steinman sharing the production duties.
And all that detailed… perhaps “significant” is relative. Perhaps the inference is that 1990 acted as a musical dividing line, beyond which layers of luminescence stretch out. I’m not sure – in a funny mood (amongst other things, you’ll have guessed that Violator is the one album from this year you really should be owning if you don’t already). I think I’m going to read a book – see you in 1991.
The Beloved / The Sun Rising (Eurovisionary & Gumerman Remix)
Sonic Youth / Mary Christ
Fatima Mansions / The Door To Door Inspector