Released- 24th March 1997
The Spice Girls rule the world, with a US number one single, 4 consecutive UK number ones, and an appearance at the Brit Awards alongside a Union Jack dress. In other news, Notorious BIG follows 2Pac to an early grave (although both end up putting out more albums posthumously than they ever did while above ground), and balancing the death life cycle, two robots from France spring into existence. Bonjour Daft Punk
I am a teenager. With long greasy hair, as clichés are awesome. I believe I am generally in trouble at school at this point, not out of any massively disruptive behaviour, but due to an inability to muster the willpower to complete even the most trivial piece of homework, being a lazy shit. I believe at one point I manage to obtain the record for most detentions in my year, and I do more lines than the entire banking and fashion industries…
If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were to miss yet another lunchtime to the aforementioned detentions, that track would be… Your Woman by White Town, though even as I write this, I want to give it to the Divine Comedy as much. White Town had the poppiest song, so will still get it, but I have also included the greatest Eurovision single that never was as a concession, composed by the Divine Comedy for an episode of the sitcom Father Ted. It’s called My Lovely Horse, and will forever score douze points in my heart.
Track by Track Breakdown
Spice Girls – “Mama”
Their first weak single. Worst of all, they missed the sublime 2 Become 1 to include this. Bad move compilation compiler!
Texas – “Say What You Want”
Very well constructed ballad. But a little bit too safe and unexciting for my tastes.
Bee Gees – “Alone”
Whenever I hear a bad late era Bee Gees song, I just blame it on the nasty looking one who is still alive.
The Beautiful South – “Don’t Marry Her”
An argument for the jilted mistress, with a fantastically nasty sense of humour. I seem to remember a Radio 1 DJ accidentally played the version which replaces ‘Don’t marry her, have me‘ with the more blunt ‘Fuck me‘ instead. Which is amusing.
No Doubt – “Don’t Speak”
So, Tragic Kingdom is a fantastic album. Go and buy it if you don’t have it. It’s probably a quid or so in your local charity shop. This ballad is the least representative track, but clearly did the job of shifting millions of copies of it, for good reason.
White Town – “Your Woman”
Once every few years, something comes out of the left field, sounds like nothing else and blows everyone away. And this is that, an Atari funk, non gender normative thing of genius. It also introduced me to the word shibboleth in the sleeve to his Abort, Retry, Fail EP.
The Blueboy – “Remember Me”
Between the fantastic Marlena Shaw sample, and the relentless bassline march, a true classic. Simple, but so very effective. Moby will make millions using this formula in but a few years.
Jamiroquai – “Virtual Insanity”
Even a stopped clock. Not hugely different from their other efforts, but this one is charming and fun, especially with its video. Even if he is still wearing a stupid hat.
Robert Miles featuring Maria Nayler – “One and One”
Much better than expected. Quite sweet. It would make a nice ballad if it were stripped back. But it works as it is. One of those that shows that if you have a good song, genre is irrelevant.
George Michael – “Spinning the Wheel” (Forthright Edit)
The original version of this was probably George Michael’s best effort of the 90’s. Sadly, the compilers have gone with one of those deeply lazy dance edits from the b side. The follies of man…
Mark Morrison – “Horny”
No matter how bad the current state of R&B, this will likely be it’s lowest possible ebb.
Peter Andre – “Natural”
Oh fuck off back to shilling for Iceland you pointless arse.
Damage – “Love Guaranteed”
All the parts work functionally. But it’s never more than functional.
Eternal – “Don’t You Love Me”
Winning Bach a few points this time around for bringing some drama and angst this time. Along with harpsichord. Underrated instrument.
Gabrielle – “Walk On By”
Faithful enough to the original. Well performed. But I already have the original and the fantastic Stranglers version, so largely redundant.
Kavana – “I Can Make You Feel Good”
Catchy, but horribly performed. The musical equivalent of sitting on a wet bench.
East 17 – “Hey Child”
East 17 try to go gospel. It’s as bad as it sounds. It’s almost as if, without Take That as rivals, they can no longer bring good game. A shame.
Boyzone – “A Different Beat”
Probably my favourite Boyzone song. Limited card, that one. It has that slow build to a big chorus thing, and a touch of cultural appropriation. Good fun.
Backstreet Boys – “Anywhere for You”
So very 90’s. Almost covers for a very many musical sins in its retro cheesiness.
911 – “The Day We Find Love”
Massively overproduced ballad. Fairly forgivable in its pre autotune way.
U2 – “Discothèque”
U2 go dance. But don’t worry, it still contains their customary stodginess. Still, a bit of variety never hurts, and this is one of their better post 80’s efforts.
The Prodigy – “Breathe”
They missed the fantastic Firestarter last time round, sadly. But this angry little breakbeat metal track still does the job more than well enough. So good, Americans remembered dance music existed off the back of it.
The Chemical Brothers – “Block Rockin’ Beats”
Simple and very effective. A killer bassline, one good line on repeat and some noodling over the top. It just works.
Placebo – “Nancy Boy”
They never top this. There’s some pretty good follow ups, but they never quite match the raw, sexually filthy agression of this song.
Monaco – “What Do You Want From Me?”
How come they never do songs this hood when they reform New Order? Falling somewhere between New Order and 70’s pop, this is a minor gem.
Sheryl Crow – “Everyday Is a Winding Road”
I think, after 36 Now albums, that this is the first instance of slide guitar! Again, it’s good but let down by some self help section lyricism.
Blur – “Beetlebum”
Blur move away from their popper sound with this more Lo Fi sounding chugger. It’s sense of locomotion and dissapointment is pleasing.
James – “She’s a Star”
The musical equivalent of a warm hug from a close friend. Just a nice thing that makes the day a little more bearable.
Mansun – “Wide Open Space”
Another oft forgotten band when the retrospectives come around, Mansun were intriguingly odd, and have at least bona fide classics in this eerie number and I Can Only Dissapoint U.
Cast – “Free Me”
Cast complete their transition from a good band in their own right to a cheap Scouse Oasis knock off in two moves.
Space – “Dark Clouds”
As they get bigger, Space seem to lose the balance between their humour and heart, doing one of the other to the detriment of the great balance they struck first album around. Still okay, but nothing more than that.
Cathy Dennis – “Waterloo Sunset”
Some songs should not be covered. This is one of them. Nothing wrong with it, save for the fact it’s not Waterloo Sunset.
The Divine Comedy – “Everybody Knows (Except You)”
In a fair world, Neil Hannon would have Bono’s level of success. The Divine Comedy are probably the best band to come out of Ireland full stop. This song combines beautiful earnestness with a Noel Coward humour to near perfect effect.
Alisha’s Attic – “Indestructible”
I quite like their sparse, electropop spurned woman schtick. Prefer Alisha Rules the World though.
Ant and Dec – “Shout”
PJ and Duncan drop their Byker Grove names and try going a bit indie. It’s sweet, but useless.
The Source featuring Candi Staton – “You Got the Love”
I almost feel sorry for The Source, cursed to keep updating the same song every few years, until Florence and the Machine beats them to the punch…
Sash! – “Encore Une Fois”
How very continental. Nice tranche of French house. Passable, but remember this is the scene which will birth Daft Punk and Justice one day! So again one time!
DJ Quicksilver – “Bellissima”
A relentless synth riff that will follow you round all day, at the back of your prefrontal cortex, going plink plink plink, plink plink plink, plink plink plink plink plink, plink plink plink, plink plink.
BBE – “Flash”
Sadly, no sooner does trance get big, mass produced, lite versions follow, boring me to tears.
Amen! UK – “Passion”
Below average, and pretty dated sounding, given some of the quality that precedes it. A dissapointing end.
21.5 out of 40 . 54%, so we’re on a bit of a mediocrity run here, sadly. Still nothing with White Town and the Divine Comedy can be said to be truly bad.
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.