You may not have read my previous, recent, posts about some of my favourite albums through my life. If you haven’t, well done. You’re one of the cool kids. Here I will recount a few life favourites that I forgot to mention at the time. Each of these albums has a particular person from my past tied to the memories they evoke, one person per album, which in itself makes them kind of special.
Pop Will Eat Itself: Dos Dedos Mis Amigos – Any of their albums really, they were one of my favourite bands for a few years in the mid-90s. But it’s Dos Dedos Mis Amigos that stands above them all. A new direction, supposedly influenced by Clint Mansell’s friendship with Trent Reznor (he provided backing vocals on NIN’s The Fragile), this saw a previously upbeat, generally happy, positive band move away from samples and towards a more industrial sound. Lyrical themes became darker. Everything about it is what I needed in my early teens. I’d heard of the band through friends, but not really heard them until Donkey Kong Country came out on Super Nintendo… it shipped with a CD called Go Ape! which a friend leant me. As far as compilations go that was a key one for shaping my musical listening for a while thereafter. Radiohead’s Creep was on there, and PWEI’s Everything’s Cool – still two of my favourite songs. The whole album is solid, telling tales of a dystopian nature. It deserves to be heard. Until I learned Spanish some 10 years later, I thought the name meant “We’re Dead My Friends”.
The Wonder Stuff: Hup! – Around the same time as Dos Dedos, I was heavily into The Wonder Stuff. Someone gave me a copy of this on tape (such was the way back then), highlighted a few of his favourite tracks, and left me to fall in love with it. A greatest hits compilation, this has songs from across their career and highlights everything that was right with them. From crowd pleasers such as Dizzy (with Vic Reeves), to darker songs like On The Ropes, and my favourite, Unbearable, this works better as a full album than many singles collections. Every time I listen to this it takes me right back to playing Stunt Race FX (again on Super Nintendo) for which this was my chosen soundtrack.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin: 0.522 – When I stumbled upon this album in Strawberry Fields, the record shop on Rickmansworth High Street, it had a Strawberry Fields price label of £15.99 (CDs were really expensive in the first half of the 1990s). Next to it was a publishers label “Pay no more than £5.22 for this CD”. A minor argument ensued. I won. I went home with this great collection of songs. The band got their break by supporting The Wonder Stuff (who were from the same town) on tour, and this here is a compilation of B-Sides and rarities, including the rather excellent killyourremix, a remix of their most famous song Kill Your Television. Not their best album, but the one I’m most glad I picked up at the time. They also have two bassists, which is mental.
Supergrass: I Should Coco – I haven’t heard this in years. I never really liked the direction the band took after this album, but as a debut this is superb. 70s stylings (my mum once said they reminded her of Supertramp, but that may have just been the name) in both their look and their sound, there’s a rawness in the recording that many bands in the 90s were erasing with shimmery production. Great songs help make this a classic.
Suede: Coming Up – I was never a massive Suede fan, but I always enjoyed their songs when I heard them. I had a very close friend when I was 16, and I remember calling her once and we’d both picked up this album. We were both listening to it. We’d pressed play at the exact same time… I’ve always believed we’re all intrinsically linked, and this event served as proof enough. The song still pricks the hairs on the back of my neck. The band had made their name by this point, and the confidence that comes with that is apparent in the songs on offer here.
Ash: 1977 – This is a strange one, in a way. I kind of don’t like it much. But I love it. I can’t explain exactly what I mean by that. There are some fantastic songs on here, especially the singles, but really I bought it primarily because the band shares my name..! I still have my leaver’s book from school, where a couple of the girls signed it to “Ash, The Boy From Mars”. These are the memories that make us. I have plenty of other bittersweet memories tied to this album, because everyone associated it with me.
Feeder: Polythene – When I was 16 fell into my first serious relationship. Her dad was the minister of the local Baptist church and, perhaps inevitably, got called away for work. The family moved to Bristol and we were, at the time, in deep enough to give the long distance thing a go. It didn’t work out, but for a time I’d get the National Express bus from London Victoria on a Friday after School/work and head to Bristol – a two-and-a-half hour journey (plus the hour or to to get to Victoria in the first place). I spent a chunk of my earnings from my after-school job (that I’d inherited from her!) on a Sony CD Walkman. It didn’t even have any skip protection, and the batteries lasted roughly one way there, but it didn’t matter. I had a wallet of my favourite albums, and this was one that was always there. Even now I listen to it, and I remember that crazy guy that sat next to me on one trip, talking to me the whole way there while I had my earphones in listening to this album on repeat. 22 years ago.
Stereophonics: Word Gets Around – I was torn between this album (their first) and its follow-up, Performance and Cocktails. Both are perfect albums, but this one wins on timing. I saw Stereophonics play in 1997, supporting Skunk Anansie, around the time this was released, and they were fantastic. I knew a couple of their songs from Kerrang! cover CDs, and between that and the gig it was enough to sell me on the band.
I’m going to stop there. I could go on, almost literally, forever writing about my favourite albums. It’s criminal that in recent years my main listening time has been spent in the car. While I wrote this I took the time to listen to a bit of each album, loud and on headphones, like I used to. That’s about as close as seems possible these days to revisit those carefree days when I could lie back on my bed with my latest album purchase and just be alone with the music. And therein lies the magic of an album. A song can bring together a large group of people to a shared emotional experience, but so few people listen to albums that they can become your own, with your own, private, associations.
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