In part one of this, the vague consensus flapping about was that the record gods had their attentions elsewhere in 2001. That you could replace significant in the above title with the word difficult, and still retain the general tone. Albums as challenging constructs, vogues fleeting and inconsequential, or disparate and lacking in nutritional value. ‘The Night That Minnie Timperley Died’, from the Scott Walker-produced We Love Life, prowls with dark intent, its inflexion coerced and channelled by the strident Mark Webber guitar riff, then entirely subverted by the mundane cornicing of Jarvis’ tragic narrative; a blousy, suburban sentimentality that’s invigorating to engage with – in my big list of Pulp songs, I have this somewhere near the top. It’s just that the rest of the album has a discernibly uncertain lustre – something caught between the twisted twilight glamour of This Is Hardcore and a band dynamic running low on impetus. A pre-hiatus record, it stays here in my notebook. Because the words in my notebook are wise beyond their years, obviously. Hmm.
I have the sneaking suspicion that I must have been out of the loop in 2001. That the year was throbbing with sonic wonderment, only I was too drunk or otherwise incapacitated to notice. This would help to frame the particulars of how I was listening, albums such as Quiet Is The New Loud by Kings Of Convenience flitting across perception. Danse Macabre by The Faint; the eponymous !!! – oh, didn’t we have fun trying to pronounce that title (answer: no – although I do recall the drummer being a nice chap to have a beer (or nine) with, post-gig). I do admit to becoming highly smitten with Here Be Monsters, the début Ed Harcourt disc; sure, it’s slick and polished and perhaps pointed towards the cappuccino crowd, yet there’s a glittering strand of beauty about this, ‘She Fell Into My Arms’ a clever take on such a tired topic.
Elsewhere on the list: Weezer, otherwise known as The Green Album, to differentiate itself from other albums cunningly sporting the Weezer title. It’s all very radio-radio, of course, but it does radio-friendly with panache. Souljacker by Eels oozes a beguiling form of grubbiness, the swamp guitar and trumpet combination on ‘That’s Not Really Funny’ fiendish and kinky. Air’s 10000 Hz Legend is wider in scope than their first two albums, the electronic nuances more shadowy and compelling. Beautifulgarbage by Garbage and Read My Lips by Sophie Ellis-Bextor are both pop records with bite – ‘Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)’ on the former is a classic of the genre if I’m going by what’s scrawled in that notebook – whilst from pop to post-rock (as if that’s some form of natural progression), Mogwai’s Rock Action is LGM’s Scottish Album Of The Year (loaded with delightful textures and sonic resonance), and Those Who Tell The Truth Will Die , Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever by Explosions In The Sky, although difficult to write about in any meaningful fashion, is simply remarkable. Mesmerising. A punch to the stomach. In fact, ignore the final three records in this piece – just buy this one.
When it comes to synth pop, there have long been constraints of credibility. Electronica – this carries panache; a general acknowledgement of adventure, boundaries stretched, warped, toyed with. Synth pop however fails to create a similar buzz. The perception is that of a lightweight cousin; disposable, to some extent. Insubstantial.
This is not a viewpoint I’ve ever subscribed to, for the simple reason that at its most engaging, electro-pop has a dynamic that liberates. An appreciation of flight, of lift, patterns etched across the evening sky in neon-edged hues. That said, even I’m happy to admit that Fischerspooner is a problematic construct. The layers of hype that surrounded début album #1 were cloying. Swirls of innuendo in amongst the theatricality; the curse of music press attention, ridiculously generous recording contracts waved about like over-enthusiastic semaphore – as any student of the hype machine will attest, there’s only one way the career trajectory can travel after such overbearing attention, and that plummet will be hard, swift and vicious.
This didn’t stop me from being wowed at the time, of course; I was lucky enough to have been present at their first ever UK gig; a subterranean space beneath London Bridge railway station, bedecked with the trappings of art-school decadence – the inference: bearing witness to something special. And whilst time may have moulded our perception of particular records (but never, ever that evening) – #1 is incapable of living up to attention previously afforded – I’m still attracted to this LP for its savvy poses, the glint in its eye, the fact that it never, ever takes itself too seriously (even on the cover of Wire’s ‘The 15th‘ – an alluring take upon an iconic song).
The Old Me Vs The New You by Laptop received but a fraction of the attention offloaded upon #1, yet as an electro-pop construct it deserves to be equally as well known. I’ve written about the artist formerly known as Jesse Hartman before (here, in fact), so no need to retread old ground – other than to confirm this record is a wonderfully sassy affair, full of wry, self-depreciating sorties and metropolitan statement. Does he think about you every day, just like I have ever since the girl I left you for, showed me where to find the door? Hartman asks an ex-lover of her new beau on ‘Back Together’; it’s such a witty, satirical take on the whole boy/girl dynamic – it’s the male protagonist that comes out of this without a great deal of credit.
The final element of this synth-pop triptych also happens to be LGM’s Album of 2001: 604 by Ladytron – and some questions for regular visitors hereabouts: is this a contentious selection? Am I alone on this one? Have hipsters swiped my marbles? And as much as find out in the next exciting episode of Lazer Guided Melody is a cop out, I’m not going into detail here. Instead, the next post on this site will illustrate in full the manifold attractions of this album. Because life’s all about the complex relationships between record and listener – it’s what this blog is here to catalogue.
Pulp / The Night That Minnie Timperley Died (Live On Jules Holland)
Eels / That’s Not Really Funny
Fischerspooner / The 15th
Laptop / Back Together