Released- 6th April 1998
The first mp3 player is launched at a trade fair in Germany. But we all have a Discman already guys, it’ll never catch on. Also, George Michael gets arrested for lewd conduct in a public restroom. We’ve all moved on a long way since then, especially George, who is far more likely to plow his car into a public restroom these days.
I’m 13, a full blown teenager. I am hopelessly lazy at school, muddling by with the least effort possible, and getting a shed load of detentions. I would slap me if I met me now. However, the 500 word essay of the title, Describe the inside of a ping pong ball was at least amusing.
If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were to kept inside at lunchtime for all eternity, that track would be… Never Ever, after a long and fractious argument with my credibility. Honourable mentions aplenty, Cornershop, Run-D.M.C, Wildchild, Pulp, Radiohead, Steps.
Track by Track Breakdown
All Saints – “Never Ever”
Just beautifully constructed, and somehow earnest and painful. The spoken word intro should be painfully embarrassing, but they pull it off. Best opening track for a good while.
Lighthouse Family – “High”
Same same. But different. They actually appear to have put together a whole song! It’s not great, but I don’t want to take a pencil to my temple. Big win by their standards!
Janet Jackson – “Together Again”
Pleasant and summery, but sounds far more dated than its 18 years, with its basic house unoriginality.
Spice Girls – “Stop”
Given that 18 years on, I still
know the dance routine for the chorus, I’m not sure I have any right to criticise.
Natalie Imbruglia – “Torn”
This track was hideously ubiquitous at the time. It’s likeable enough pop rock from a former Neighbours star, but it doesn’t survive the billionth listen.
Billie Myers – “Kiss the Rain”
Am I get soft in my old age, or is this actually rather touching and sad. I hope it’s the former…
Robbie Williams – “Angels”
It’s the most popular song at funerals y’know. It would be very easy to just slate it, but to have written a song this mathematically effective takes a cynical sort of genius, and I respect that.
Various Artists – “Perfect Day”
It’s a beautiful song, and it’s left pretty much untouched, as it should be. The calibre of stars involved is much higher than the new God Only Knows advert. I blame the Daily Mail for this, with its slightly creepy McCarthyist obsession with the beloved institution. Also, everything is improved by adding The Pogues’ Shane McGowan and David Bowie.
Boyzone – “Baby Can I Hold You”
Maybe there should be licences for covering songs. Boyzone get 6 minors and 2 major faults here.
Tin Tin Out featuring Shelley Nelson – “Here’s Where the Story Ends”
I love it when break up songs just sound resigned, rather than heartbroken. So much more real and true. So this one’s a winner.
Space & Cerys Matthews – “The Ballad of Tom Jones”
Space rediscover their humour, Catatonia’s front woman, and the redemptive power of the Voice from the Valleys. It’s hard not to smile while listening.
Texas – “Insane”
The last single was a good quality blip on an otherwise direct journey into the mire.
Hanson – “Weird”
Ballads require life experience to really work. Sadly, Hanson had barely experienced puberty at this point.
LeAnn Rimes – “How Do I Live”
Mawkish, underwhelming country and western. Dolly she is not.
Shania Twain – “You’re Still the One”
This is her best song. Which is a warning, not a compliment.
Sheryl Crow – “Tomorrow Never Dies”
The namesh bland. Jamesh Bland. It’s about 10 years until the next great Bond film, and 15 to the next great Bond theme.
Radiohead – “No Surprises”
The Verve – “Lucky Man”
One of the weaker tracks from Urban Hymns. Still, pretty lovely, an elegiac sunset of a song.
Pulp – “This Is Hardcore”
Pulp attempt career suicide with this seedy, cinematic, pornography as metaphor for the music industry ditty. I love it.
Robbie Williams – “Let Me Entertain You”
It’s like a small and narcissistic child’s idea of what rock should be. Which I suppose is exactly what it is.
Catatonia – “Mulder and Scully”
As for some happy ending,
I’d rather stay single and thin
How the hell could you not love this song with lines like that? Joyfully, Cerys Matthews now appears to be a Welsh institution, now as a rather good DJ.
Cornershop – “Brimful of Asha” (Norman Cook Remix)
Hello again Norman Cook. Cornershop are another one of those groups who are unfairly remembered for one song. Their album When I Was Born for the 7th Time is a wonderful mix of indie, funk and Bhangra. Having said that, I’m still not bored of this song.
Run-D.M.C. vs. Jason Nevins – “It’s Like That”
I would listen to the original a thousand times before putting this on, but regardless, it’s good to be reminded that Run-D.M.C are the kings of rock… I’ll let you finish. Though don’t object to being called sire.
Wildchild – “Renegade Master ’98”
The same song as before, this time with a loving touch up from Norman Cook, who is soon to transform, Hulk style, into Fatboy Slim. You can hear it coming here.
Bamboo – “Bamboogie”
The part that is lifted directly from Get Down Tonight by KC and the Sunshine Band is brilliant. The rest is passable. I’d just listen to the original.
Ultra Nate – “Found a Cure”
In spite of lifting a string version of Sunshine of Your Love for the chorus, this never really rises above mildly interesting, and rarely comes near that mediocre height.
Sash! – “La Primavera”
I think it was around this time DJs started referring to any bland, summery, major key dance track as an ‘Ibeefer anthem’. This is one such example.
Aqua – “Barbie Girl”
Amazingly, this is only the second stupidest song on this album. It has that wonderful lyricism that only comes from English not being their first language. Luckily it falls on the positive end of the idiocy scale- dumb fun rather than dumb dumb.
Steps – “5,6,7,8”
Good god. It took Steps to redeem country music on this album. Those American artists should be ashamed of themselves. This is gloriously naff hoedown pop. It knows how silly it is, and embraces it with joyful vigour.
Louise – “Let’s Go Round Again”
Disco covers. The last refuge of the terminally wounded pop career. See you on Sunday Brunch Mrs Redknapp.
Chumbawamba – “Amnesia”
Much more on point than Tubthumping, Chumbawamba call out New Labour too early for anyone to listen. Prescient, funny and containing the most blatant lift from the Spice Girls ever.
Camisra – “Let Me Show You”
If you are, as I am, a fan of Spaced, you’ll wonder why this doesn’t segue into a house version of The A Team theme. Fond of it as a result.
DJ Quicksilver – “Planet Love”
Piercing hard house. Demanded more attention from me than I wished to give it.
Rest Assured – “Treat Infamy”
In 1998 this sort of basic purloining of some good music that had happened in the last few months would land you a one hit wonder. These days it’s Calvin Harris’ entire career.
Warren G featuring Sissel – “Prince Igor”
Faintly eerie but otherwise unremarkable G funk from Mr G.
Lutricia McNeal – “Ain’t That Just the Way”
Reasonable R&B. Given it came out in an era of Lauren Hill et al, it’s not a game changer, but it’s alright.
Prince Buster – “Whine and Grine”
While my back was turned, all the reggae has dissapeared from the Now albums! This is a proper old school ska track, horns and Hammond organ heavy. There was no way I would dislike this.
The All Seeing I – “The Beat Goes On”
As facile as sticking a breakbeat and a synth wub over the Sonny and Cher original is, I can’t help myself from enjoying this.
Goldie – “Believe”
Goldie was a lot more bleak and interesting than a generation of grown up bean poppers would have you remember. This is a slightly Gil Scott Heron feeling jazz soul number.
Backstreet Boys – “All I Have to Give”
A rare bland slip in form from the Boys. This is a fairly bland stinkeroo.
Vanilla – “No Way No Way”
I know I have referred to several tracks before now as stupid. But this takes the stupidity cake. A song about crap come ons, featuring Mahna Mahna by The Muppets. Delivered in an Essex screech. It is both terrible and wonderful.
24.5 out of 41.
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.