These were the top ten albums of the year, according to besteveralbums. Graded according to me.
- R.E.M. – Automatic for the People – B
- Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine – A+
- Pavement – Slanted & Enchanted – A
- Alice in Chains – Dirt – C
- Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes – B+
- Dr. Dre – The Chronic – A
- Faith No More – Angel Dust – B-
- Sublime – 40 Oz. To Freedom – D
- Sonic Youth – Dirty – C-
- Beastie Boys – Check Your Head – A
I’m at an age where I’m just about getting into music. I distinctly remember being at my local leisure center swimming with my friends and being excited because the terrible Nintendo dance mixes were being played… I also remember people having Take That pencil cases. In much the same manner as there appear to be a lot of 1D ones in this day and age.
If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were given the kiss of death that is recognition by the Brit Awards, that track would be… People Everyday by Arrested Development. While it fails to tell the story of the Bluth family, and how their son kept them together, it’s still a cracking song.
Track by Track Breakdown
Tasmin Archer – “Sleeping Satellite”
Brilliant song. Part of a wave of brilliant female led songs around this time (see also Tori Amos, Bikini Kill, Sheryl Crow, the whole Riot Grrl scene) and a cracking song itself, by turns moody, catchy and a bit mad. Sadly, thanks to Harry Hill, I still think her name is Tasmin Archer Badger.
Jon Secada – “Just Another Day”
Somewhere beneath the inanely polished platitudes and production, are some hints of a potentially interesting song. You’d have to sift through a lot of crap to find it though.
Charles & Eddie – “Would I Lie To You?”
It’s nice, unthreatening and has an earworm of a chorus. Do I love it? No. Am I singing along? Course I am.
Was (Not Was) – “Shake Your Head”
Quirky synth noises and a fun vocal save this from dance pop mediocrity. Punches above its musical weight.
Bob Marley & The Wailers – “Iron Lion Zion”
I think, about 12 years ago, there was an article about the most overrated artists of all time. The argument for Bob Marley being overrated was that his lyrics were so shit it’s only because he lacked the intelligence that this song neglected to mention his friend Brian, who has a tie on. The charge sticks.
Go West – “Faithful”
Turgid faux soul terribleness. A lounge singer and over production. Like reeating warm sick.
George Michael – “Too Funky”
George Michael overestimated this one by a degree. Mildly funky. May contain traces of groove. Not a bad song, but I was sold on more by the title.
Arrested Development – “People Everyday”
From the use of the gorgeous Sly and the Family Stone chorus, to the melodic and self effacing rap, there is nothing to dislike about this song.
Simply Red – “For Your Babies”
Simply Red have done far better from these reviews than I ever anticipated. Sadly, this is more what I had expected, an insipid and dull ballad undeserving of further attention.
Erma Franklin – “(Take a Little) Piece of My Heart”
Sometimes corporate advertising does something great in spite of itself, like introducing this song to a new generation. Is Janis Joplin’s version better. I have fought this over in my mind for years. Joplin’s has raw anguish, this has a subtler charm. Still cannot decide.
Brian May – “Too Much Love Will Kill You”
Before I get harsh, I’d like to say that this is a beautiful song, and Brian May is a cracking singer. But a song with this title, less than a year after Freddie Mercury died of a terrifying sexually transmitted disease? Kind of a dick move.
Simple Minds – “Alive and Kicking”
Builds anticipation brilliantly, which is then deflated by a chorus that falls flat. Another 10 minutes in the oven and they’d have had a great song…
John Lee Hooker – “Boom Boom”
Classic blues stomper from one of the most hard touring musicians ever. Prefer the more soulful and grubby original, but any version is a joy.
Billy Ray Cyrus – “Achy Breaky Heart”
Bill Hicks can fill in for me here.
Little Angels – “Too Much Too Young”
So clichéd you worry that they were trying to make Spinal Tap 2- The Tappening. Except without jokes.
Richard Marx – “Take This Heart”
We’re two years out of the 80’s now. Like a piece of 80’s camenbert that has been left out since the decade changed over, this stinks. At list Richard Marx is consistent in his banal rubbishness!
Genesis – “Jesus He Knows Me”
The song itself is dated, even by 1992 standards, and not the best thing Genesis ever did. But the subject matter, of corrupt televangelists, saves it from being completely ignorable. And it has Phil Collins in a deliberately bad wig in the video, for the lulz.
INXS – “Baby Don’t Cry”
Everyone blames drugs and his lifestyle for Michael Hutchence’s suicide, but frankly I reckon he listened back to some of the turgid crap they released and thought ‘I’ll take the way of the dishonoured samurai… while gratifying my baser urges’
Crowded House – “It’s Only Natural”
Lovely summery 60’s pop, this time with a good chorus! If you really wanted to complain, you could suggest it has been over covered by hideous sensitive boys with acoustic guitars at open mic nights across the land.
Erasure – “Who Needs Love Like That” (Hamburg Mix)
Erasure. So good that a bad Atari ST backing track can’t do them over. Na’am se’en?
The Shamen – “Ebeneezer Goode”
It truly is refined, it’s sublime, it makes you feel fine, it’s very much maligned and misunderstood. Got any dance classics about MDMA? Laaahvley!
Rage – “Run to You”
Anyone up for a house version of Bryan Adams?
That’s what I thought.
Bizarre Inc featuring Angie Brown – “I’m Gonna Get You”
They threw everything into this track, but it comes out a hodgepodge of okay ideas, and little more than that.
Heaven 17 – “Temptation”
Thankfully, the urge to denies is fairly restrained in this remix, and while inferior, it’s leaves enough of the original it’s still a pleasure.
East 17 – “House of Love”
Two 17 bands in a row? Well done compilation sequencers! Named after the postcode for Walthamstow, before it was fashionable. Actually a great slice of pumping pop rap, about climate change! Years ahead of their time!
The Farm – “Don’t You Want Me”
It’s a very inferior cover. But the Human League’s original is so good it still comes up smelling of roses. The Farm really need to hire a singer who can sing notes and stuff though.
Undercover – “Never Let Her Slip Away”
Trite and cloying. Almost pulls it off with a strong hook, but never quite gets there.
Doctor Spin – “Tetris”
You didn’t realise you needed a pounding dance version of the music from the most addictive game ever until you did. Possibly the most earwormy tune ever.
Ambassadors of Funk and MC Mario – “Supermarioland”
Another good themed double tracker- more remixed Nintendo music! The rap is deeply unnecessary with Koji Kondo’s brilliant score for the games carrying the load. There’s an argument, to my mind, that Kondo is one of the greatest composers of the modern age- like Shostakovic or Cage, creating amazing music while working in tight constraints, in this case 8-bit chipset music.
Roxette – “How Do You Do!”
Yucky and ever so slightly creepy. Actually really quite horrible.
ABBA – “Dancing Queen”
Is it really necessary to review this? You’ve been to a wedding before, right? It is ABBA, it is a perfectly constructed pop song, you know this already. If you’ve never seen the film Muriel’s Wedding, it uses this song, and the music of ABBA in general brilliantly, and is an Aussie classic.
Björn Again – “A Little Respect”
Double ABBA whammy? This sequencer is on fire! Three entertaining double bills on one album! Covering Erasure in the style of ABBA should be a no brainer. Sticking it immediately after ABBA just shows it up though. You can’t emulate that level of brilliance.
Vanessa Paradis – “Be My Baby”
Lovely slice of remarkably faithful late 60’s faux Motown. The bells are an especially nice touch. Enjoyed, despite my cynicism.
Betty Boo – “Let Me Take You There”
Summery and pleasant, and proof that a good amount of enthusiasm cam paper over a defect of talent. A scrappy joy.
Sophie B. Hawkins – “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”
It’s a great title. Really. But I remembered the title, but forgot the song. Some great lyrics, let down by pretty boring music. But again. Brilliant title.
Peter Gabriel – “Digging in the Dirt”
I feel like half of Peter Gabriel’s singles exist as a means of saying, that’s how it’s done Phil Collins. I am better than you. Great bit of low end sleaze funk.
Enya – “Book of Days”
It’s Enya. It sounds the same as the other Enya ones. Background music for people who hate music.
Roy Orbison & k.d. lang – “Crying”
Lacks the emotional gut punch of Mr Orbison original, but an amazing song remains an amazing song. Has k.d. lang always had her name written all lowercase like e.e.cummings? I’ve only just noticed this.
Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé – “Barcelona”
Not even close to the best song he was involved in, but the fact that he can hold his own against an opera singer shows you the sheer power of his voice. The contrast with Monserrat Caballe actually lends Freddie’s normally brash, powerful voice a degree of vulnerability that isn’t normally there.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because this track was already on Now 10, and frankly with around 3,500 songs to work through, I’ll be buggered if I can be bothered to write anything new!
22 out of 39, or 56%. A run of average Now albums of late, not filling me with hope for this decade…
This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.