The US Postal Service issue an Elvis Presley stamp. Public Enemy are not amused by this. Basically, for the whole of the past 12 weeks since the last Now! album, Whitney Houston has been at number one with a the best cover she could manage between hits of crack, of Dolly Parton’s I WIll Always Love You.
9 years old, and I think this is the year I started falling in love with music. I know I own at least two singles that came out this year, one of which is on this very album. 2 Unlimited, well done on creating a veritable masterpiece with such limited vocabulary. By the end of the year, I have a complilation called The Best of Dance ’93, which has left me a little biased in favour of a lot of the songs on this album. Especially some of the particularly dire reggae. I’m looking at you, Snow from Toronto!
If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were to go the way the Big Breakfast house did, in a ball of smoke and flames, that track would be… No Limit, by 2 Unlimited. There’s no way of measuring this, but would I even be writing these articles, were it not for my parents buying be this on 7″ vinyl? And then resisting the urge to bludgeon me to death with the record player for listening to it on repeat? I’m not sure.
Track by Track Breakdown
The Bluebells – “Young at Heart”
This song wants me to hate it, from its hoedown fiddles to its saccharine lyrics. You failed song! You never fail to cheer me up! I have no idea why! I think it breaks so hard through the naff barrier that I can only conclude you’re actually that sincere that you could only be made this way. Yee, and indeed, haw.
Yes, another repeat review, but again, another track that’s been on here before, on the brilliant Now 3.
Take That – “Could It Be Magic”
Their first, but not their last, bona fide classic. And would you believe it’s a Barry Manilow cover! Transcends the source material by some way.
Sub Sub featuring Melanie Williams – “Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)”
Brilliant post disco fun. Revivalism but without losing its vitality. Fans of millennial critic friendly indie may know that they end up becoming the band Doves later on!
Snap – “Exterminate!”
There’s like a solid minute of horrid melismatic oohing at the start. But the jittery synths, staccato vocal and relentless break when it kicks in make up for it. They could lose the new age panpipes though.
Sister Sledge – “We Are Family”
Didn’t need a piss poor dance remix. But even looped, Nike Rogers funky guitar triplets are a joy. Never too noodly. Always just right.
Snow – “Informer”
Until Iggy Azalea, I’m not sure there had been a more embarrassing attempt at the appropriation of black culture. You’re Canadian Snow, why the bejiggers are you speaking patois? Regardless of slight racial discomfort, this is a brilliant song though. Guaranteed retro party starter.
Shabba Ranks with Chevelle Franklin – “Mr. Loverman”
SHABBA! An acceptable suffix to any sentence. I have nothing but fond memories of this terrible song. R&B meets ragga in a beautiful car crash.
Shaggy – “Oh Carolina”
Old school sounding reggae filth. For his pop sins, this track is dynamite. In the 100% Dynamite compilation sense. I loved it when it came out, and it still gets the job done today.
East 17 – “Deep”
The part of me that loved East 17 as an 8 year old wants me to give this a pass, but it’s dull, the rapping is awful and the sexual references may have been written by a giggling 12 year old.
Stereo MCs – “Step It Up”
Their best song. By a mile. Probably their only one where the nasal vocal delivery isn’t really irritating. Stupider than most voters, but plain good fun.
Arrested Development – “Tennessee”
Less immediate than People Everyday but still a great chunk of conscious hip hop. I’d kill for a bit of A Tribe Called Quest at this point though.
Robin S – “Show Me Love”
One of the only house cuts from this era that still stands up today. I hated it back then. Now I can see the quality, the deeper tonal variety. Classic.
Lulu – “Independence”
It’s not Shout, Ergo, it’s a crappy Lulu song. Bless her for trying.
West End featuring Sybil – “The Love I Lost”
Would have been a good soul song on it’s own. The dance beat is wholly unnecessary and ruins the whole endeavour.
2 Unlimited – “No Limit”
This was my favourite song for the first half of 1993. The second one is coming shortly, and remains undated and brilliant. This has aged somewhat. Lyrically limited. 90% of the lyrics consist of the word no or the word techno. But, irrespective of this it is bloody moronic genius.
Cappella – “U Got 2 Know”
Uber dramatic synth opening. Followed by terrible pitch shifted vocal samples. But fun, tacky dance in the final reckoning.
Sunscreem – “Pressure Us”
You remember back in 1993 when your dad said he didn’t get dance music, because it’s repetitive and one note. on this evidence he was so right.
Monie Love – “Born 2 B.R.E.E.D.”
Despite the title, a great empowerment anthem, from one of the less well remembered members of the conscious hip hop collective Native Tongues. Also produced by the Purple One himself, Prince. So nothing not to like.
Hue and Cry – “Labour of Love”
All this faux soul is one of the reasons the 80’s were such a musical dissapointment to so many. Blah blah blah.
And indeed a further blah for having this song back after it disappointed me on 1987’s Now 10. What’s the deal here?
Duran Duran – “Ordinary World”
Probably their last great song. But what a great way to kiss off your relevance as pop says goodbye to you. A proper lighters out set closer.
Annie Lennox – “Love Song for a Vampire”
Maybe it’s the association with the Twilight of it’s day, crap goth vampire film, Interview with a Vampire, but I just can’t bring myself to enjoy this quirky nonsense.
World Party – “Is It Like Today?”
In hindsight, years ahead of its time. It wasn’t until about 2003 this sort of Zach Braff in Garden State sensitive but knowing Americana became fashionable. The Shins et al approve.
k.d. lang – “Constant Craving”
Much like Billy Bragg, I am a huge fan of the idea of k.d lang, but the reality of the songs is a little dissapointing and dull.
Tasmin Archer – “In Your Care”
Passionate rejection ballad, seemingly paving the way for the ridiculous success of Alanis Morissette coming worldwide very soon. To my mind this is a good thing. Not as immediate as Sleeping Satellite but still rather good.
PM Dawn – “Looking Through Patient Eyes”
Basically Deep by East 17, but with bad sixth form poetry. Terrible.
The Beloved – “Sweet Harmony”
Mellow, atmospheric and catchy as hell. I seem to remember the video looking like an aryan version of the front cover of Electric Ladyland.
Dina Carroll – “This Time”
YAWN. I walked past a petrol generator as I listened to this. It won the battle for my interest over this meandering ballad.
Simply Red – “Lady Godiva’s Room”
A loss of the pop edge here, and it’s tough not to see this as an album track, released as a single to make up the numbers.
Genesis – “Invisible Touch” (Live)
A long way from a classic Genesis song, but a good enough pop song. The guitars jangle, the chorus loiters in your head, there are occasional flashes of inspiration.
Clearly though, no flashes of inspiration from the sequencer of this album, with the third track repeated from a previous volume, this time 1986’s Now 7.
Lenny Kravitz – “Are You Gonna Go My Way”
That’s right youth of today- Cinna from The Hunger Games was a musician before he gave it all up for post apocalyptic, flame retardant fashion design! This was his good song. It’s a proper rock stomper, with a great solo, straight out of the 70’s. Given that this song is 23 years old, he’s aged really well!
Depeche Mode – “I Feel You”
Depeche Mode finally get on a Now album, and it’s a really weak song by their standards. Meandering moodiness abounds.
Peter Gabriel – “Steam”
Than P.Gabz is one funky mother. More moody, danceable fun from a man who seems to have more consistent longevity than UHT milk.
Ugly Kid Joe – “Cats in the Cradle”
Lyrically terrible, but by jove it’s a catchy song. Listening back to this, I’m quite enthused by their recent attempt to fund a comeback album on Kickstarter.
Faith No More – “Easy”
Yes, as in like Sunday morning. Apparently only recorded and released to get out of their contract, yet it’s a solid and faithful cover, and ironically, their biggest hit. Hoisted by their own petard.
Bryan Ferry – “I Put a Spell on You”
If Brian Eno and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins were to take this poison dwarf somewhere quiet and knock his teeth out for this, there is not a court in the land that would convict them. Shamefully empty cover of one of the greatest songs of all time.
Ultravox – “Vienna”
It should have been on Now 2, but wasn’t. I’ll take justice for it now, and frankly, this is the most epic chorus of the 80’s. All of the types of brilliance.
Paul McCartney – “Hope of Deliverance”
It’s nice. Sad that nice is the best he can muster. If, instead of going forwards, these albums ran backwards from 1983, Macca would absolutely kill it.
22 out of 37. At 59%, an improvement on the last couple of volumes at last. Snow is leading the charge back to great pop!
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.