Rewind20: 1997

Rewind20: 1997

Where to start. The Lion King made its debut on broadway; Microsoft became the world's most valuable company; Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear; J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published in the UK; We lost Diana; We lost Biggie, Dinosaur Jr., Soundgarden; But we gained Destiny's Child and Kasabian... and Tony Blair as Prime Minister.

It was a year of twists and turns but, despite the 20 year gap that now divides us from the abundance of activity that took place during that era, it does however feel too recent a time to fall into a historical bracket for music, as there were too many amazing releases during that period to have it not surpass the 'yesteryear' bracket.

Here are TAO's top 20 albums celebrating their 20th birthday this year:

20. Life Thru a Lens - Robbie Williams

Straight outta Take That, Life Thru A Lens was Robbie's debut project as a solo artist, and in his attempt to put his own twist on the rugged brit-pop foundations laid by Oasis and Blur, he excelled. The album is prided on its irresistible flavours of pop-rock - "Let Me Entertain You" - and alternative-rock - "Old Before I Die" - , but also for the more tender moments, like on the enormously successful "Angels". This record has all the thrills and spills of a brit-pop classic, but with enough goof and tongue-and-cheek moments to avoid it being taken at face value.


19. Three Dollar Bill, Y'All - Limp Bizkit

Forget Beastie Boys; forget Faith No More; this is where the heavy metal/hip-hop crossover really comes to the fore. Backed by singles "Counterfeit" and a potent rendition of George Michael's "Faith", the redneck fuckers from Jacksonville carved their niche into rap metal and, within just a few years, had managed to overshadow the entire nu-metal scene.


18. Downward Is Heavenward - HUM

Though this probably won't be the first name on anybody's list, Downward Is Heavenward is one of those records that you can play back to back without any sort of itching temptation to turn off or skip through certain songs. This record channels distorted tones, trippy soundscapes and effortless cleans, all the while in-keeping with the melancholy of the alternative scene: they're the best 90's band you've never heard of.


17. Dig Your Own Hole - The Chemical Brothers

Dig Your Own Hole is arguably The Chemical Brothers' most technically seductive record, and, despite being only their second studio album, showcased a superior knack for funky beats and psychedelic melodies unalike any other during that decade.


16. S.C.I.E.N.C.E. - Incubus

Though they were seemingly overshadowed by nu-metal's frontrunners Korn and Limp Bizkit, Incubus were cooking up funky beats and hard-hitting riffs under the radar, and the end result became a timeless classic for both the band and 90's metal respectively. 


15. The Lonesome Crowded West - Modest Mouse

This record will no doubt tick all the boxes for fans of sulky indie-rock. Modest Mouse cycle through the irony of happiness on opener "Teeth Like God's Shoeshine", glum melodies on "Heart Cooks Brain", and upbeat, nihilistic narratives on "Jesus Christ Was an Only Child". This records distances itself from any sort of pretentiousness and focuses bluntly on the hard truths of life.


14. Dude Ranch - Blink 182

Arguably showcasing the band at their rawest, catchiest, and most adorable selves, this old school record is packed full of gimmicky punk rock belters and as a result distances itself from their more commercial releases that came in its wake. They never once took themselves seriously on this record and I think that was their biggest selling point. But they could still write stupidly brilliant songs. Just listen to "Dammit" and "Apple Shampoo" and you'll know what I mean.


13. Homework - Daft Punk

Not only is this one of the best house records of the decade, but it's also Daft Punk's best work. "Around The World" only repeats three words throughout, but it's a dance-floor anthem; "Da Funk" is a house classic; "Revolution 909" is an incredibly catchy disco tune. Though Discovery (2001) was a way more accessible record than this, late 90's doesn't come better than this; French techno had fully secured a place among popular culture. 


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12. Nimrod - Green Day

In what was their last release of the decade, Green Day closed their strong spell in the 90's with a collection of punk-rock belters. "Nice Guys Finish Last" and "Platypus (I Hate You)" continue the punk thrash that adorned the famous Dookie (1994); "Hitchin' a Ride" plods in a cocksure fashion of rock & roll arrogance; "Last Ride In" is a beautiful instrumentation that offers a release from the record's heavier textures; and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" brings the album to a head with an acoustic ballad. It's not their best but it has certainly stood the test of time.


11. Life After Death - Notorious B.I.G.

Life After Death was a trend-setter upon release, what with its enticement towards the material resources and sexual allure that embodied (and continues to embody) the riches of the rap game. But under the surface of the multi-million dollar face of rap, was the quick wit and compelling honesty that brought him to fame in the first place. It's also one of only a handful of hip-hop records to ever reach diamond certification.


10. Wu-Tang Forever - Wu-Tang Clan

Following on from their influential debut record Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993), Wu-Tang had been thrust into the limelight and released Wu-Tang Forever complete with a bigger budget, better studio equipment and of course, slick new production. Though the record received mixed critical response, the lyrical prowess was by no means dampened and they continued their form despite the ever-changing climate that rap was undergoing.


9. Album of the Year - Faith No More

The last record before their split in the same year, Album of the Year proved to be Faith No More's most concentrated effort yet. Combining heavier textures ("Collision", "Naked in Front of the Computer") with more angelic arrangements ("She Loves Me Not", "Mouth to Mouth"), they signed off their tenure brilliantly.


8. Blur - Blur

When you've got a rare bird like Damon Albarn as your frontman, you're never likely to rest on your morals; Modern Life is Rubbish (1993) and The Great Escape (1995) had apparently manifested Blur as brit-pop and brit-pop only, but Albarn sought to change that drastically. The aforementioned records had him kept bound like a caged lion, but he was finally set free on their self-titled release and his ingenious knack for sound and betterment and innovation is evident from start to finish: "Beetlebum" is a woozy, heroin-induced lullaby; "Song 2" is a distorted take on American grunge; "Death of a Party" is a bummed out departure from old tendencies; "Chinese Bombs" is a stylistic piss-take. What's not to love?

 

7. The Fat of the Land - Prodigy

If you never saw Keith Flint full of pep and class A's, bouncing in an abandoned London tube tunnel in the video for "Firestarter", then you won't be fully aware of The Prodigy at their most peerless, unapologetic, and erratic selves. They topped the US Billboard charts at number 1 and had Grammy nominations under their belt - so there was some method to their madness; they had to be, you know, good. Despite the controversy surrounding the heavily criticised "Smack My Bitch Up", they had the British public under their wing and quickly entered the Guinness Book of Records with the fast-selling UK dance album. 


6. The Boatman's Call - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Previously manifesting a knack for explosive guitar ballads, Nick Cave shifted the attention away from the punk development and befriended the keys for a sobering alternative in songwriting for the band on his tenth studio album. He settles for heartbreak on the opening piano-ballad and lead single "Into My Arms", and unearths his own personal demons on "People Ain't No Good"; it's no surprise that this remains Nick Cave's most critically acclaimed release to date.


5. The Colour and the Shape - Foo Fighters

Though this is the second record under the Foo Fighters discography, it's actually the first as a band; the eponymous debut Foo Fighters (1995) was written and recorded by frontman Dave Grohl. The record ended up charting at no.3 here in the UK, thanks to tracks like "Monkey Wrench" and "Everlong"; little known fact, "Everlong" was written by Grohl in less than an hour following the divorce from photographer Jennifer Youngblood. Is there anything this man can't do? 


4. Urban Hymns - The Verve

Another little known fact: the album's lead single "Bittersweet Symphony" wasn't actually the product of genius songwriting from Richard Ashcroft. In fact, the famous string motif you hear throughout the track was taken from Andrew Loog Oldham's orchestral rendition of The Rolling Stones' "The Last Time". Nevertheless, for what it's worth, a lot of people wouldn't have heard this had it not been for The Verve making it as popular as they did. And, though, yes, it did propel them to fame almost instantly upon release, tracks like "Sonnet" and "The Drugs Don't Work" helped steer them towards two Brit Awards the following year, and a cover shoot for Rolling Stone magazine in 1999. Not too shabby.


3. Homogenic - Bjork

Where Debut (1993) manifested Bjork as Iceland's precious little trinket, four years later Homogenic dropped - and so did her pretty-girl get-up. Her third album ran amok with complex rhythms and beats, and beautifully haunting string arrangements that culminated her most sonically impulsive record in her discography. 


2. Around the Fur - Deftones

After the release of their debut record Adrenaline (1995) - also their major-label debut under Maverick Recordings - Deftones had made a serious impact on Sacramento's post-hardcore scene. With expectations high for their next release, Deftones released Around The Fur two years later and it was soon met with high critical and commercial praise, thrusting the band into the nu-metal/alternative metal limelight. Tracks like "My Own Summer (Shove It)" showcased a louder and heavier production whereas "Mascara" and "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" were led by melody and more emotional subject matter. And in developing the loud/quiet dynamic in their song writing, they ended up producing one of the most attractive records of that decade.


1. OK Computer - Radiohead

Radiohead's third studio album offered up an entirely new palette of ambient textures and syncopated beats, which, subsequently, paved the way for a new synth-led direction for the band - one that they've managed to follow ever since. Though it had a much more stripped-back and sophisticated production, there were still elements of their rock & roll tendencies that embellished their last records The Bends (1995) and Pablo Honey (1993) on tracks like "Paranoid Android" and  "Electioneering". What's more, a near-perfect balance was struck between Thom Yorke's eloquent melodies and the record's stunning soundscape on the gentle ballad "No Surprises" and "Climbing Up The Walls": this is beyond doubt the band's most complete and unflawed work to date.


Wannabe: A six-panel music blog by Chris Prunckle

Wannabe: A six-panel music blog by Chris Prunckle

Daft Punk LA pop up shop announced

Daft Punk LA pop up shop announced