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Feb 14

Popular ’96

Popular47 comments • 4,462 views

I give every record on Popular a mark out of 10. This poll is a chance for you to say which Number Ones in a year you’d have given 6 or more out of 10 to.

In terms of my marks, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Four 9s – “Jesus To A Child”, “Firestarter”, “Wannabe” and “Setting Sun”. But a 1 out of 10 – the hapless Barlow – and three 2s (Robson And Jerome and a brace of Boyzones). Use the comments to talk about the year in general, post other lists, reminisce, etc etc.

Which Number Ones Of 1996 Would You Give 6 Or More To?

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  1. 31
    swanstep on 3 Feb 2014 #

    Ah yes, but did anyone here, even Mark or Marcello, get Beck’s 2012 album Song Reader, the one that was issued only as sheet music (i.e., to explore whether there was anything to be gained by temporarily, locally re-inhabiting the pre-recorded music era)?

  2. 32
    Cumbrian on 3 Feb 2014 #

    #32: Rory – educate me please? What’s so good about Sea Change? When I think of “boring Beck”, I think primarily of that and Mutations, neither of which I get. Sea Change in particular – my iTunes tells me, I have listened to that album 9 times over my lifetime with that program, so it’s not for want of trying. I just don’t hear it.

  3. 33
    Mark M on 3 Feb 2014 #

    Re 27: As I hinted, I don’t think John’s personal views on Oasis came into it.
    On the subject of which, this is an interesting piece by Roy Wilkinson, who wrote the infamous Select five-star review of Be Here Now (I found it via either Tom or Wichita on Twitter, but I don’t think anyone’s linked to it here):
    http://thequietus.com/articles/04434-pop-will-eat-itself-oasis-time-flies-as-a-catering-line

  4. 34
    Ed on 3 Feb 2014 #

    @33 That’s a very good piece. Although again with the backstage logistics!… Deeply interesting to a professional music journalist, I am sure – you have to take your free food and booze where you find them – but not remotely so to anyone else.

  5. 35
    Ed on 3 Feb 2014 #

    @28 It *is* a sweeping statement, and I can’t really make a strong case for it. It was just my perception as a moderately engaged consumer at the time. As with the music itself, I am sure there was a lot of great writing I missed.

    I should also confess that I am writing here as someone who discovered this really interesting new thing called The Internet in about 1998.

  6. 36
    Rory on 3 Feb 2014 #

    #32: Now you’ve put me on the spot – it’s one of those albums that I listened to so intently that I’ve let it lie fallow for a few years, and now have to give it another listen to be able to talk about specifics. But it wasn’t really about the specifics for me, it was the mood and the timing. Sea Change feels to me like the definitive post-9/11 album – I know it’s about breaking up with his girlfriend, but it captured (for me) some complex feelings about America at that moment, a waking-up-from-a-dream, the dream being the optimistic late ’90s Web-gold-rush years (which Midnite Vultures in its own way represented). If the new one is Morning Phase, this was his mourning phase, and a year after September 11 that was still all too relevant to all too many of us.

    It feels trite to talk about my personal response to 9/11 to explain why I admire a break-up album, but I’m playing it in the background now (thanks, YouTube uploader), and was just floored by the transition from “Lonesome Tears” to “Lost Cause”, a masterpiece of sequencing – and I’m poring through the lyrics to try to justify the connection, and hardly have to go past “Golden Age”: These days I barely get by / I don’t even try. I spent far too much time in the few years after 9/11 consumed by online commentary on it all, trying to make sense of what had happened, what we’d lost, and what was being done its name, and remember being absolutely wrenched by it every anniversary for years – the worst precursor to a northern winter imaginable, to someone still getting used to northern winters. I’d moved to the other side of the world in 2001 in a spirit of optimism and possibility, and almost immediately it became a struggle to maintain that spirit. I don’t think I really got over that until years later. And it’s possible that I haven’t listened to Sea Change since then, until right now.

    Jesus, “Round the Bend” – it isn’t just Beck, it’s Nigel Godrich, whose production on the album is staggering – the strings with their echoes of Samuel Barber, the discordant piano flourishes he’d developed with Radiohead. And here a couple of tracks later is “Sunday Sun” – There’s no other ending / Sunday sun / Yesterdays are ending / Sunday sun – collapsing into wreckage in its final seconds. And then “Little One” kicks in, again perfectly sequenced: Go to sleep / We’re so tired now / All together in a snake pit of souls…

    I can understand why it isn’t everybody’s music. It isn’t even everyday music. But for me it was one of the albums of the decade, most definitely. More so than other albums I rated more highly at the time.

  7. 37
    punctum on 3 Feb 2014 #

    #31: I was able to read it. Bad Chick Corea would be a charitable description. Sc**nt*l*gy – don’t, don’t do it.

  8. 38
    anto on 3 Feb 2014 #

    #29 Ash 1977 – Initially retailed at a 1977 price (£3.99). There were three stunning singles one after the other – Angel Interceptor, Goldfinger and Oh Yeah. Whenever Ash found form they were hard to resist. They seemed very close to the audience as well because of their youth. It was as if a schoolmates group had somehow gone all the way.

  9. 39
    Rory on 3 Feb 2014 #

    #31: The Song Reader website is worth a visit, because it (now) has a good selection of listeners’ interpretations of the songs. If you “sort by most loved” you get a reasonable bunch of them.

    Alternatively, YouTube has some live versions by the man himself: Sorry and Heaven’s Ladder, or ten tracks played by Beck and friends live at the Barbican last July.

  10. 40
    Rory on 3 Feb 2014 #

    (Whoops, my link-heavy post triggered the moderation queue…)

  11. 41
    swanstep on 3 Feb 2014 #

    @rory, 39. Thanks for that link, I’ll check it out.
    @punctum, 37. Excellent, I’m impressed. I believe that both Corea and Beck are scientologists, although B’s connection to it seems weaker (apparently it’s something his family did rather than something he’s been won over to). That said, knowing about the Scien. connection, you never hear ‘In the time of chimpanzees, I was a monkey’ the same way again.

  12. 42
    swanstep on 4 Feb 2014 #

    If anyone hasn’t seen Beck cut it up live then this performance of Debra (the track that gave Flight of The Conchords their career) at, of all things, a Fashion Awards show may be mind-opening.

  13. 43
    Cumbrian on 4 Feb 2014 #

    #36: Rory, thanks very much for this post. Very good, very convincing. I, perhaps obviously, don’t hold the same associations with it as you do – for me, it is a straight break up album – though you present a cogent argument for looking at it through a post 9/11 lense, it might be something that I have to have (yet another) listen to and think of it in those terms.

    Up until now, I have regarded it purely as a relationship/break up album and, in that respect, whilst it does a good job of establishing a mood of melancholy, it all feels a bit one note. Compared to stuff like Springsteen’s Tunnel Of Love or Graham Coxon’s Love Travels At Illegal Speeds, there’s just nothing that grabs my ears, with everything just drifting past – like a mumble-core Sundance movie, invoking the right mood, reflecting the right feelings but difficult for me to engage with. Some of this is also, perhaps, my reaction to his persona around Odelay and Midnite Vultures (annoying hipster I said earlier – perhaps more charitable, would be Puckish) with the artifice making it difficult to take this stuff at face value from him. This is doubtless my fault to an extent.

    Maybe I have never been in the right mood for it when I have listened to it and just not got it. My fault too, I guess. Might be an album I need to return to when I am in the mood for watching something like Blue Valentine, as well as giving it a listen in a more considered light.

  14. 44
    Rory on 6 Feb 2014 #

    Thanks, Cumbrian. I hope I will have helped unlock for you some of the fine qualities I hear in it, whenever you do return to it.

    On listening to it a second time yesterday, I couldn’t believe that I failed to mention the lyrics to “Paper Tiger” as Exhibit A in my Case for a 9/11 Interpretation: No more ashes to ashes / No more cinders from the sky… O deserts down below us / And storms up above… We’re just holding on to nothing / To see how long nothing lasts.

  15. 45
    Chelovek na lune on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Scottish/UK chart no 1 differences
    No 1 in Scotland but not UK :
    1) Robert Miles – Children
    2) Mark Snow – The X Files
    3) Robbie Williams – Freedom
    4) Charlatans – One To Another
    5) Robert Miles & Maria Nayler – One & One

    No 1 in UK but not Scotland
    1) Prodigy – Firestarter
    2) Mark Morrison – Return Of The Mack
    3) George Michael – Fastlove
    4) Baddiel, Skinner & Lightning Seeds – 3 Lions
    5) Gary Barlow – Forever Love
    6) Fugees – Ready Or Not
    7) Chemical Brothers – Setting Sun
    8) Peter Andre – I Feel You

    Pleased to see both of the Robert Miles tracks (but especially the latter) get a no 1 place in Scotland (not least as “One & One” kept the execrable “I Feel You” off) . Interesting to see Robbie favoured over Gary in Scotland, too (as will also be the case in 1997), while slightly bemusing to see that Gina G somehow got an eight-week run at the top in Scotland with her Eurovision number.

  16. 46
    Rory on 17 Oct 2017 #

    We don’t have a Popular thread on Beck, so this will do as a place to mention how much I’m enjoying Colors, and suspect many of you would, too. It seems perfectly pitched to alternative rock fans-turned-pop fans, with echoes of Daft Punk, Elliott Smith, circa-1999 Beck, and immaculate production from Greg Kurstin, producer of Lily Allen and Sia (and keyboardist on Beck’s Sea Change tour). The reviews have been wildly mixed, but I love almost every track. It’s great to see that he shows no signs of standing still.

  17. 47
    Mark G on 17 Oct 2017 #

    Our Alice reckons it sounds like Robbie.

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