Released- 17th November 1997
Notorious BIG scores two number ones, both shockingly missed on here (especially I’ll Be Missing You which was ubiquitous at the time) too late to earn royalties. Elton John scores one of the biggest number ones of all time, due to Lady Di’s poor choice in chauffeur. Inspired by the sales power of death, Michael Hutchence decides to try for the big cash in in the sky. And incredibly, given the best you could hope for back then was 56k, Mick Jones of the Clash’s side project, Big Audio Dynamite release one of the earliest download only albums after a dispute with their label. Given that it took me an hour to download a poor quality mp3 of My Name Is by Eminem a couple of years later, it must have taken at least 12 hours dialled in to a premium rate number to get hold of.
I’m not sure… I’m choosing my GCSE’s (poorly… never offer me choice). I think some time around this point I form my first band, Loose Ends, a rock and blues cover band- our ringleader, a Mr Richard Rozze was the only talented musician of the four of us, and he remains so to this day- his album, Learning to Fly is the work of a supremely gifted multi instrumentalist, but most of all, when he even knocks a guitar over, it sings. Genuinely, buy the living shit out of it here!* We were housemates when we moved away from home at 18- this was less successful than our musical endeavours- he is an organised, diligent human being who rises at 6am and I was (and still am to a degree) a scruffy layabout who would struggle to organise my trousers on the right way, who went to bed around 5am. It took years for us to get back towards a decent relationship again!
If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were to be accused of having fictitious WMD’s, that track would be… Freed From Desire by Gala, because sometimes things are so stupidly simple you can’t resist them. And I like Gala apples.
Track by Track Breakdown
Chumbawamba – “Tubthumping”
It’s not satire if nobody gets it guys. Otherwise, Mein Kampf would be hilarious. Still, good fun.
Spice Girls – “Spice Up Your Life”
The Spice Girls have, deservedly, gotten a lot of praise in these reviews. Sadly, this record is a bit of a mess, and possibly with hindsight, the point at which the wheels started coming off (remember Spiceworld: The Movie?… shudder).
Hanson – “Where’s the Love”
MMMBop without the nonsense chorus. So about a third as good.
Boyzone – “Picture of You”
The cultural disruption wrought by the Spice Girls appears to have forced Boyzone to take a more fun approach, with this breezy pop soul number. A refreshing change from the usual, if still a little too polished.
Backstreet Boys – “As Long As You Love Me”
They seem to have a formula to create great, solid pop hits at this point. A little bit irresistible.
Eternal – “Angel of Mine”
A damp paper bag of a song, but it has its place, possibly on a Tom Haverford style hook up playlist, between Ginuine and KC and JoJo.
Lighthouse Family – “Raincloud”
There’s a beat behind it this time, but it’s still the same bloody song. Piss off.
Janet Jackson – “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”
Nice, old school use of the Joni Mitchell sample, but a criminal underuse of Q-Tip on this track, who is largely used as background noise. For 30 seconds it’s like the Tribe y’all (Tribe y’all) are back, with the mellow groove and Tips somnambulistic flow.
The Brand New Heavies – “You’ve Got A Friend”
It was an awful, naff song to begin with. Adding the Brand New Heavies makes it somehow worse.
All Saints – “I Know Where It’s At”
Storming out of the traps like a sleazy British En Vogue. Sad knowing they won’t sustain this, but they have a tune or three to come yet.
Louise – “Arms Around the World”
Starts interestingly like something off The Second Coming by the Stone Roses. Continues promisingly with some funk. Descends into dissapointment from thereon.
Gala – “Freed from Desire”
NANANANANA NAH NAH. NAN NAH NAH. NAN NAH. C’est tout.
Sash! featuring La Trec – “Stay”
More diminishing returns, and I’m fairly sure Toulouse Lautrec was not involved in the making of this record.
Dario G – “Sunchyme”
Winter of 97 had some summery songs going on! This is simple, verging on too simple, but has a slight sadness in it that pulls it through. Even with the use of steel drums.
Tina Moore – “Never Gonna Let You Go”
The garage vibe is getting stronger, and this is a classic with its two step snap and some great vocal gate effects.
Hot Chocolate – “You Sexy Thing”
Marginal update of the classic, owing it’s success to the unexpected success of the British comedy, The Full Monty. Still entertaining enough.
N-Trance featuring Rod Stewart – “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”
Still hasn’t done anything of note since Maggie May. This redo of one of his more repellent numbers does it no favours.
LL Cool J – “Phenomenon”
It’s more muttered than rapped, and you wouldn’t believe this was the firebrand behind Mama Said Knock You Out. Far from bad, but leagues from greatness.
911 – “Party People…Friday Night”
I can’t hate them. Poor underdogs, they just don’t have it in them to be a huge pop act, always bubbling just under. The pop QPR.
Ricky Martin – “Maria”
A perfect blend of high camp and Hispanic masculinity. Credit where it’s due, that is a hard line to tread, and he treads it well!
Bellini – “Samba De Janeiro”
Everything about it screams terrible club you visited on a package holiday. Not even sure what you’re drinking. Still, not completely without merit…
DJ Quicksilver – “Free”
More dark, ominous house. I can’t help but feel it would kill my buzz.
Wet Wet Wet – “Yesterday”
Covered by everyone and their aunt. Nobody has ever outdone the original. Lesson? Don’t even try it.
George Michael – “You Have Been Loved”
Bleak and sad. Normally my thing, but this was just tiring to listen to.
The Verve – “The Drugs Don’t Work”
Incredibly depressing but beautiful nonetheless. Don’t risk it while drunk and sad.
Oasis – “Stand by Me”
And so we wave goodbye to Oasis, the unstoppable cultural force, and hello to Oasis, manufacturing line for solid, unremarkable lad rock.
Embrace – “All You Good Good People”
Unlike Oasis, Embrace skip the whole ‘release two era defining classics’ step, and go straight in with the turgid, lollopping pub rock crap.
Faithless – “Don’t Leave”
It’s impressive that after the dark, hard Insomnia, their second entry is a fairly traditional and plaintive guitar led ballad. A real breadth of talent here.
Radiohead – “Karma Police”
If it’s off OK Computer, just assume it’s pretty much perfect. This is what you get when you mess with us has to be one of the best choruses ever.
Moby – “James Bond Theme”
John Barry and his Orchestra deserve all the credit here. Moby doesn’t really add much. Indeed this isn’t even the best effort this year. David Arnold’s brilliant Shaken and Stirred album had 12 great versions of Bond themes- seek it out! Also, opening with Pierce Brosnan, a man beaten only by George Lazemby to worst Bond dates the song badly.
PF Project featuring Ewan MacGregor – “Choose Life”
The best monologue Irvine Welsh wrote (save for maybe the short story, Stoke Newington Blues) set to a dance beat. Not much not to like here.
Robbie Williams – “Lazy Days”
Completes a turgid rock trilogy with Oasis and Embrace. Marginally more forgivable for containing the phrase ‘jolly good time’.
Ash – “A Life Less Ordinary”
Some time early the following year, Ash will become the second band I ever see live, and the first I crowd surf at. Therefore this song has too many happy associations for me to judge without bias. It makes me happy.
Texas – “Black Eyed Boy”
Their best song, probably because they shoplifted the chorus from While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Meredith Brooks – “Bitch”
Catchy as fish hooks, if a little bit hackneyed. Good bit of angsty female rock, in the absence of Alanis Morissette.
Jon Bon Jovi – “Janie, Don’t Take Your Love To Town”
Try as I might, and this song makes me want to try, I cannot hate a man who brought me Wanted Dead or Alive.
Ocean Colour Scene – “Better Day”
And before Ash, the first band I ever saw? Moseley’s finest, in October 1997. Supported by the sadly forgotten Audioweb. It was a great gig, and not even UKIP can ruin the great venue that is Margate Winter Gardens for me.
Cast – “I’m So Lonely”
I can find no reaction, beyond dissapointed indifference, to this song.
Conner Reeves – “Earthbound”
I don’t remember the artist or song here. And I doubt I will a month from now. All a kind of nothingness.
Peter André – “Lonely”
What is impressive is that his career becomes more worthless after this non song.
Boyz II Men – “4 Seasons of Loneliness”
A lot of loneliness at the end of this record, but this downbeat R&B number is the best of the bunch, being perfectly acceptable.
19.5 out of 41. 49%, a dismal showing, the worst since 1993’s Now 25. Clearly a volume to avoid.
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.
* This is a completely unsponsored ad for this. I genuinely believe he is an incredibly talented musician, and had he been born into an era where jazz and blues music were still the predominant music, culturally, you’d already know his name. And I say this safe in the knowledge that I will never again have to be woken from my alcohol induced slumber at 7am in the morning by him practising his myxilodian fucking scale!