1993, and we’re fast approaching the point in the show where the type of music generally written about here – broad canvas alternative, indie disco, guitar-orientated pop; call it what you will – began to infiltrate the mainstream with far greater enthusiasm (especially from a British perspective). And with that infiltration arrived an edge of conservatism; music as looking back, revisiting themes and styles that decorated the hit parade back when mod suits or flared trousers were the order of the day. There were some fantastic left-field releases in this year: Forever by Cranes. Goodbye California by East River Pipe. Pram’s wonderfully named The Stars Are So Big, The Earth Is So Small… Stay As You Are, which includes the 16 exotic minutes that is ‘In Dreams You Too Can Fly’. And yet from this perspective, 1993 feels like a year of transition; the moment that accessibility became a tangible facet in the type of music I dig, and albums arrived pre-packaged with statement.
For instance: I’m not going to be furnishing many words on the subject of Blur in this series. It’s an area not exactly deficient in elsewhere analysis, reflection or hyperbole. And without wishing to appear deliberately contrary (one or two regulars will disagree firmly with the following statement), I’m not certain how deep any tendrils of significance permeate – the strands of innovation counter-balanced by ego, or playing to the gallery, or Britpop fromage, or a combination there-of; it’s important not to confuse significance with units shifted, or the size of indentation made upon vogues that don’t necessarily stand up to close scrutiny…
… which isn’t to say that Blur didn’t have their moments. Modern Life Is Rubbish both pre-dates and pre-empts mid-nineties sensibilities in such a fashion that future musical direction is explicitly sign-posted, yet as a sub-Kinksian proposition, loaded with suburban detail and wistfully spiky portraits of pre-millennial ennui. And whilst not a concept album per se, there’s a narrative that runs through every track that’s most agreeable. Overlooked by later endeavours – and it shouldn’t be.
Significant débuts in this year don’t include Debut by Bjork – she released solo album #1 aged just 12 – but this is her first since the Sugarcubes split. Not necessarily my cup of tea, it does nonetheless feature so many of the tricks and feints that define her career that it simply has to be included in any significant list. Débuts do however include the first Tindersticks LP (the voice of Stuart Staples – oh my). And then there’s the Suede first album. An aesthetic it’s so easy to dismiss. The posturing, the dodgy lyrics and car crash interviews, the fact that, when the magic (and Bernard Butler) left them in the middle of the night, their refusal to simply go away was stubborn (and in retrospect, not the wisest decision). Yet regardless of the reams of hype thrown at this at the time, or the fact that Matt Osman’s bass is a little too low in the mix, this is a record that’s instantly and instinctively evocative, filtered through a lens of sleaze and ball-breakingly gorgeous guitar hooks. There are similarities here with the themes of Modern Life Is Rubbish, but it tackles them from a polar opposite; with seedy interaction, pouting inflexion – should you ever wish to see me drunkingly reminisce about a certain time, whack this on the jukebox – and mine’s a snakebite and black.
Next; Beaster, the second Sugar release. Six tracks, the perfect marriage between guitar-heavy power pop and a gravity well of dark thought – dimensions so immense that I can only describe them as fuck-off. This is gripping fayre – that rare splicing of melodic rapture and melancholic positioning, in which the heavy religious undertones leave a impression long after the needle hits the run out groove. It’s hard to argue that this isn’t Bob Mould’s finest (plus ‘Walking Away’ always leaves me on the verge of tears) – so I won’t even try.
Part two of ’93’s Significant Albums won’t feature too many records. But those it does are important enough to demand focus and attention in sizeable volume. In the meantime – and not the type of record that usually garners space here – Morning White Dove, the only album by Scottish trio One Dove. As with every album in this series, the research process prompted me to listen, and boy – does it sound dated (Andy Weatherall at the production desk, natch). And yet, despite the powered-down’90’s dance thing going on, the adjective that comes to mind is: lovely. Or dreamy. Or enfolding, like the caress from a favourite lover. I don’t usually recommend records for lovers to have sex to – if I did it would probably be ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’ by the Dead Kennedys – but if you are in the mood, there sure are worse albums to be soundtracking your bedroom intensity.
Cranes / Cloudless
Bjork / Venus As A Boy
Suede / The Drowners
One Dove / Sirens