Released- 2nd August 1993
The Wu Tang Clan and Rage Against the Machine release their debut albums, Enter the 36 Chambers and Rage Against the Machine, which is a pretty big deal to me, as they are two of the greatest albums of all time. In other news, Prince becomes an unpronounceable symbol, and Michael Jackson interferes with children.
I am spending all summer playing football (I’m crap) and 40-40 (I’m pretty good, mostly because I’m sneaky), round the wooden park, 5 minutes from my house. I had a look as an adult- it’s tiny, but it seemed huge at the time.
If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were to be replaced by unpronounceable symbols, that track would be… Well, it’s a Triple Threat match between 4 Non Blondes What’s Up?, REM’s Everybody Hurts and Inner Circle’s Sweat. I’ll go for Inner Circle, purely because it has happy memories of my youth, and of my more recent travels.
Track by Track Breakdown
George Michael & Queen – “Somebody to Love”
All for a good cause, raising money for AIDS, but this live cover sucks all of the operatic silliness from the original, and while George Michael is a great singer, Freddie was a clear mile greater.
4 Non Blondes – “What’s Up?”
Solid gold classic. Why are we producing less individual, brilliant female artists now. Well we are, I suppose (Bey, St Vincent, Tegan and Sarah, Carl Rae Jepsen, Azelia Banks to name a small selection) but I just don’t feel like they dominate like they did at this point. Grumble. Anyway. 4 chords perfection.
Tina Turner – “I Don’t Wanna Fight”
Tina is her best when she ignores cultural trends, and does what she likes. This sounds like a song that’s aware of the trends of 1993, and suffers as a result.
Ace of Base – “All That She Wants”
First things first, clearly the best Swedish band since ABBA. The song is great, but the more I listen to the lyrics (and I’ve had 22 years) the more worrying it becomes. Is it pro or anti feminist? Are the men willing participants? Why do I worry so much about pop music in a world where terrorism and drone strikes are a daily occurrence?
Gabrielle – “Dreams”
Trite as anything, but it does have an unforgettable chorus, which I don’t think Gabrielle ever topped. Also, everybody remembers the whole deal with the eyepatch/fringe. Which is pretty odd.
Lena – “You Come From Earth”
Sung flat, and the worthy subject matter is dealt with all the subtlety of a five year old with a bulldozer. One saving grace? Nice drum sample. That’s about it.
R.E.M. – “Everybody Hurts”
Almost certainly the least fashionable R.E.M song. But even if it’s not their best (that honour goes to Nightswimming, and if you disagree I will fight you) isn’t it wonderful that a song that says ‘I know you’re depressed right now. It happens to everyone at some point. You’re not alone’ could become so huge?
New Order – “Regret”
Okay song, made better by the fact it works very well as backing music to a ‘goals of the season’ highlights reel on Match of the Day. New Order- one classic song, and otherwise less good than Joy Division.
Freddie Mercury – “Living on My Own”
As if to prove that he’s irreplaceable, Freddie’s here with a brilliant posthumous effort. I remember loving this and Queen at the time (I wore out my parent’s cassette of Queen Greatest hits) but never linking the two. I was a cloth eared fool!
Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive”
Nothing can ruin this song. The original remains the platonic ideal, but I’m yet to dislike any version, even when Cake added a needless swearword into it.
Inner Circle – “Sweat (A La La La La Long)”
Loved this song then, love it now. It filled me with joy when, halfway across the world, I saw a band in a bar in Thailand play this song. Clearly, like Manchester United and Mr Bean, this song crosses all cultural boundaries, spreading joy where’er she blows.
Chaka Demus and Pliers – “Tease Me”
Gets the quiet loud thing perfect. Except this is quiet ska instead. Ska is rarely unwanted. Possibly better than loud. Anyway, I love it. The rough/smooth contrast between the vocal and the rap works brilliantly too. Loving the 90’s reggae revival. Hear me now.
Louchie Lou & Michie One – “Shout (It Out)”
Momentarily diverting ragga cover of Lulu’s only real hit. Not a classic, but not without it’s charms.
Shabba Ranks featuring Maxi Priest – “Housecall”
SHABBA. The song is okay. Nothing special. But as I said before, it’s enjoyable to exclaim, as an exhortation to the gods of pop reggae, the word Shabba.
Duran Duran – “Come Undone”
I warned you that Ordinary World was a very good full stop for the boys from Brum. This is at best a passable attempt to emulate Depeche Mode.
Paul Weller – “Sunflower”
After a glorious break, the Plodfather is back, reinvented as a dadrock borefest fuckwit.
Kingmaker – “Ten Years Asleep”
It’s either simple and great fun, or moronic and pointless. I’ve listened to it six times in the last week, and my opinion changes each time. It’s getting a yes purely for referencing those late night 0898 chat lines they used to have on telly.
2 Unlimited – “Tribal Dance”
As a Smiths, Modest Mouse and Jens Lekman fan, it’s rare that I am against verbosity in music. But 2 Unlimited apparently improve the more limited their vocabulary. Too many words in this one and their primal joy is lost.
Robin S – “Luv 4 Luv”
Dissapointing follow up to the transcendent Show Me Love. I suppose it was too much to expect lightening to land in a bottle twice in a row.
Sybil – “When I’m Good and Ready”
Another track that suffers from being shoehorned into the wrong genre. Would have been much better without the unnecessary danceification.
Dannii Minogue – “This Is It”
Unlike her sister, she has the decency to remain consistent. Where Kylie veers between genius and sheer awfulness, Dannii remains somewhere between mediocre and poor every time.
The Time Frequency – “The Ultimate High”
In contrast to some other tracks on this volume, this is repetitive and stupid in an enjoyable way. Exists purely for dancing to.
Jon Secada – “Do You Really Want Me”
Oh for fricks sake. Even the worst MOR artists have realised that sticking a house beat on their song makes them sound more modern. Still a load of crap, but now a load of crap with a beat.
Kim Wilde – “If I Can’t Have You”
The mid 90’s trend for dance covers of classics has started to reach its nadir, and sadly, is likely to continue until Britpop wheezes it’s last cider stinking breath in a dirty Camden toilet.
East 17 – “West End Girls”
There aren’t a great many covers of Pet Shop Boys songs, probably because Neil Tennant is pretty inimitable. The best one I can think of is Flight of the Conchords pastiche Inner City Pressure. The original is good enough that this isn’t a complete disaster, but it definitely isn’t necessary.
Joey Lawrence – “Nothin’ My Love Can’t Fix”
The parts lifted wholesale from My Name is Prince are great, the remainder average. Luckily, pretty much everything but the vocal falls under the former category.
Efau – “Somewhere”
Hard to describe. Odd. Basically the sound of that loudmouth on the back of the 476 bus self obsessedly talking on their phone over an early 90’s dance beat.
Sade – “No Ordinary Love”
Pleasant background music, I suppose. Even by the standards of the rest of the record, it hasn’t aged well.
Richard Darbyshire – “This I Swear”
I suppose it’s nice that they’ve included space for a nap break on this album.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Dream of Me”
I think there’s a lot of ideas here. Just not that many of them are actually very good. A for effort, D for results.
D:Ream – “U R the Best Thing”
The song is dull, but isn’t their keyboardist a nice chap! I now listen to this for the keyboard line, and think isn’t it a pity that Brian Cox and Sir Patrick Moore didn’t form a keys and xylophone duo and record a concept album about dying stars.
Juliet Roberts – “Caught in the Middle”
In the middle of this song, I removed my headphones to buy a sandwich, and Real Love by Clean Bandit was playing, and I realised nothing at all had changed at this poundstore dance end of the scale. Depressing.
Oui 3 – “Break from the Old Routine”
Bit of Sarf London rap, with warmth and humour. Probably the mellowest use of the Amen break (YouTube it) in musical history.
Utah Saints – “I Want You”
An answer to the question ‘What would happen if the Stone Roses, Metallica and East 17 got drunk in a studio together, with autotune thrown in for shits and giggles?’ It’s a very good answer.
Jesus Jones – “Zeroes and Ones”
The red headed stepchild to the Happy Mondays’ golden child. The parts in between the singing are better than the song itself, but it’s nice to hear William Gibson referenced in a song (not by a dreary metal band who oh so originally chose Steampunk as their style…). I got distracted. Good. Not great. Does the job.
16 out of 35 or 46%, putting it firmly in the dustbin of the worst editions. Bleh. There’s a week of bad music I’ll never get back.
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.