A time of frenzy. Grainy and frayed about the edges perhaps, all those memories of snakebite nights in sweaty clubs and flea-pit venues, the fuzzy, fuggy music an urgency of soundtrack colours, a scrapbook filled with clear, sharp image.
And maybe it’s just a kink in perception; that all those hours spent in record stores or lashed to the stereo system was part of a context wider than reminiscence implies, and 1992’s vitality grew more from who we were back then than specific sonic tremors – all I know is that usually in these pieces I try to stick to ten or so long-players from each year, lest things grow a little unwieldy; for ’92 I’ve persevered, managing to whittle the list of significant albums down to twenty-six.
Not that I need to overcook the detail on each and every release. The endearing inflexion that is Copper Blue by Sugar, for instance, received the LGM treatment only a few months ago. L7’s Bricks Are Heavy is probably too dumb to withstand serious analysis – better to play it with irony not permitted near your faculties, and the amp of your air guitar turned up to eleven. And the same is probably true for Ministry’s appalling titled Psalm 69: The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs – but it merits a reference here, even if it’s only because ‘Jesus Built My Hotrod’ (guest vocals by Gibby Haines of The Butthole Surfers) is a wonderful sentiment.
Other recordings, however – we need to delve into the depths to substantiate any gut feeling that – yes – the early 1990’s stand for something of far greater magnitude than the initial packaging implies. Your Arsenal would be one such example. For a number of reasons, it’s difficult not to see this as Morrissey’s finest solo disc to this point (even if I know of those who’d argue otherwise) – albeit this isn’t so much to do with the man himself; despite being such the focal point of everything he touches, Morrissey stands above the politik of how his records are gilded – he’s too unchanging and iridescent for such mortal behaviour. Instead, Your Arsenal succeeds due to who he surrounds himself with, this being the first with the twin-engined pomp of Boorer and Whyte powering the music. For the first time since The Smiths era, the band implicitly understand how to accentuate their singer’s acute detail; how to create a platform for Morrissey’s strut, his preen, his confident swagger. And then there’s the production, courtesy of the late, great Mick Ronson – the technical élan behind a seriously demure LP (he certainly played on enough of them).
And I haven’t even got to the voltage behind each specific track… although this being a mere flyover of ’92, I’d best park my Your Uncle appreciation in some other post, lest all this grows ridiculously rotund. Because there’s still quite the trek ahead of us. Play More Music by Consolidated is one of those rarely remembered records that deserves another visit. Hip hop that’s thankfully not easy going; the radicalism comes across as genuine rather than posture, and although this is delivered at the expense of the production values – the ’90’s polemic sounding very dated at times – the sentiment behind each track is what makes this stand out against the apolitical tendencies today’s alt-music frequently displays.
I’m yet to type the words Lou + Reed in an LGM context – which feels a little counter-intuitive, considering that the band he was once in (The Monkees? Simon & Garfunkle?) was just that wee bit influential. Or that Berlin, his 1973 album is seared across my being in incandescent waves. Magic And Lost is no Berlin, but it is the LP that interests me the most since that time – I think because there’s a parallel of mood (if not precise subject matter) – Reed as facilitator of a graceful melancholia, and thus contextualising the narrative in phalanxes of sophistication.
Speeding things up: Generation Terrorists by The Manic Street Preachers is a fascinating début; it’s not so much the content that drips with lustre than the whole package – the look, the intelligent abrasion, the agit-pop attitude – standing as a promise that never arrived. Stick Around For Joy = my favourite album by The Sugarcubes, just as 99.9F° is the Suzanne Vega disc I return to (particularly the refined balance of the title track). And then there’s It’s A Shame About Ray, which Atlantic Records – in a move totally unlike the usual, cuddly, “musical integrity before profit” motives of a major record label – quickly re-released with The Lemonhead’s god-awful version of ‘Mrs Robinson’ as an extra track. This is such an obvious detraction that I almost considered not including this album on the list; that it does appear is due to the alignment of record god favour – the endearing qualities of such fuzzy slacker rock (‘My Drug Buddy’ especially) seguing with the demands of an early ’90’s sensibility and a specific upswing in career trajectory (Evan Dando’s muse left him pretty soon after his affair with that Robinson woman, subsequent records drifting off into the fug).
Talking of albums that balanced on the verge of unmention, both Julian Cope’s Jehovah Kill and Wish by The Cure are emotively difficult. Both interesting, engaging, more than adequate… except that the default notion is to frame against previous output, in which instance they drift towards the periphery of attention. Better to stick to something far more vital (and in part two of 1992, the vitally will arrive in manifold hues of engagement). I’ll finish part one with Doppelgänger, Curve’s first LP. Which despite not dating terribly well, and perhaps not hitting the the peaks of their earlier EPs, is still encrusted with a dark and yet alluring immediacy, Toni Holiday’s coy, seductive vocals backlit by a refined frenzy of guitar shards, machine dissonance and studio alchemy. The aesthetic is a mash, influenced by goth(ic) undertones and industrial inflexion, but what could easily fall between hackneyed parameters avoids doing so by a fleetness of foot – poppy hooks, sultry lyrics, a flirtation. Curve aren’t to everyone’s tastes – and as with a few acts referenced above, the effort to out-do on subsequent releases often fell flat – but when things do work the stark vs luscious duality of this disc never fails to excite.
Lou Reed / Sword Of Damocles
Suzanne Vega / 99.9F°
The Lemonheads / My Drug Buddy
Curve / Faît Accompli