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Mar 14

OLIVE – “You’re Not Alone”

Popular83 comments • 4,487 views

#767, 17th May 1997

Olive “You’re Not Alone” walks a line between the mind-expanding and the tediously polite, a nexus point for a handful of mid-90s trends and ideas. There’s trip-hop in the mildly skippy beats, or at least what was left of trip-hop after all the scuzzy, stoned, party-friendly elements had been siphoned off elsewhere. There’s the well-groomed soul of the Lighthouse Family in the songwriting – particularly the drab verses: when I started my business career, the Lighthouse Family had already become the conference call and lobby music of choice, and they were more than fit for purpose. And there’s Everything But The Girl’s “Missing”, too, a dance track whose yearning, thoughtful tone had earned it plenty of post-club usage. As the rave generation settled into their mid-20s and beyond, the music of the chill out room found its way out of the club and into the home.

Olive – whose main songwriter Tim Kellett had even worked for the Lighthouse Family – feel part of this rather tepid moment, but there’s a little more happening here. Mood music shares DNA with new age, and as such it’s easy for a group to take a step or two towards the mystical. Olive’s shifting, echoed chords and promise to “stay till the end of time” are as spooky as they are soothing, and the multi-tracked keening at the end is an eerie moment, making the title a warning as much as a reassurance. But the song, in the end, is too slight to make much of its haunting elements: its sense of the uncanny proves a wisp, something easily forgotten in the cold light of, well, whatever you listen to next.

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  1. 51
    23 Daves on 3 Mar 2014 #

    Oddly, I thought that this was an incredibly bland and uninteresting piece of coffee table music first time around, but having listened to it again just now I actually quite enjoyed it. Snobbishness may have played a part in my dismissal of it in ’97, since it was widely name checked by the kind of people who name dropped Morcheeba to appear faintly ‘out there’ (I’m older and less irksome these days).

    I’ll agree with the observations that the minimal verses of this song drag it down and stop it from being a great record (rather than merely a quite good one) but the chorus, and most especially the eerie, psychedelic mixing of the keyboards, is far better and more effective than I remember. I’m not sure if someone’s said this already or Tom has eluded to it, but there’s the faintest wisp of “Johnny Remember Me” to this – and certainly the use of echo and bizarre keyboard effects make me feel as if it’s a low-budget record where a lot of the cheap but well-used studio gimmickry is at least half of what hooks the listener in.

    I’m in a quandry about how to mark this now. I came in pretty sure I was going to give it a 4, but it may be a 6 or nearer a 7… I’m actually half-tempted to download it, but I’m not really sure there’s enough to it to keep me interested for long.

    Also just listened to the follow-up “Outlaw”. Now that really IS nothing special.

  2. 52
    Garry on 3 Mar 2014 #

    To touch on Everything But The Girl – the cover of Walking Wounded haunted me – it is perhaps the record cover which most places me into the middle 90s.

    The title track is majestic, but I would say that as I am a huge fan of Spring Heel Jack. By contrast the remix by Omni Trio – the brightest, happiest drum n bass act ever – didn’t feel right.

  3. 53
    Nixon on 4 Mar 2014 #

    OLIVE STORY THAT GOES NOWHERE ALERT

    I remember, when I arrived at uni that autumn, a few months after this hit #1, the union was absolutely covered in Olive posters, some sort of poster campaign competition tie-in with some product or other (possibly a soft drink or something… my mind wants to say Drench, maybe? This is going well, isn’t it?), and the text made it sound like they were superstars rather than one hit wonders.

    I can’t remember what one had to do in the competition, but there were prizes galore to be had (“loads of Olive stuff – and if you win the top prize, Olive will come and play at your uni!”) Even then, just a few months later, I found it difficult to believe anyone was going to be excited by this prospect.

    /STORY

  4. 54
    Nixon on 4 Mar 2014 #

    #19 The much-missed Trish Keenan was the lead singer of Broadcast, if that’s what was going through your mind, Tom?

  5. 55
    Baztech. on 4 Mar 2014 #

    My god. Listened to this and similar songs because of this forum and when chorus hit on Grace “Not Over Yet” I was reminded of delirious times dancing in Liquid Rooms in wonderful Edinburgh during my student days.

    This was due to Klaxons making a “rock/indie” version of it in 2007. Was not aware it was a pilfered sound (OK not quite “step on” levels, but I am still shocked I didn’t know). Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4yxoHwNzEE

    Apologies for the rather esoteric post.

  6. 56
    Ed on 4 Mar 2014 #

    Gorecki is lovely, but I always get Lamb mixed up with this lot, who I like even more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lpTkSs009A

  7. 57
    Ed on 4 Mar 2014 #

    And I can’t believe no-one’s mentioned this lot yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WZgpvFL5f0

    Surely the album that defined the rave -> coffee table continuum?

  8. 58
    wichitalineman on 4 Mar 2014 #

    Only if you think Higher Than The Sun is coffee table.

  9. 59
    23 Daves on 4 Mar 2014 #

    I may have mentioned this on “Popular” before, but a year or so ago I was in a branch of HMV and they were playing the latest old-school mid-nineties “Greatest 90s Club Hits In The World Ever!” CD over their sound system. I didn’t hear this one, but I did find myself strangely enjoying all kinds of unlikely candidates, stuff I’d have cocked a snook at during the period. It could be that my taste has changed in the intervening years, but a more likely explanation is that a lot of these records were heavily played in the kind of small provincial clubs I went to – cheap places where people often went to carry on drinking past midnight rather than specifically to dance. Therefore, they soundtracked a lot of pleasant moments for me.

    So with stuff like Olive, which was really heavily played at the time, it’s hard to say whether I’m enjoying the single itself now or enjoying the sense of time and place it evokes. This may continue to be a problem until we get to about mid ’98 or so, after which my life took a much more broke, less socially active turn.

  10. 60
    swanstep on 4 Mar 2014 #

    New to me as of a few days ago, “You’re Not Alone” is proving to be quite a grower. Still, it’s not obviously better than a whole bunch of things from around the same time that never got anywhere near the top of the charts. I’m thinking of things EBTG’s ‘Before Today’ , Lush’s ‘Last Night’, but even things like St Et’s album opener ‘Wood Cabin’ are in the ballpark (and all in fact rule my heart in a way that ‘You’re not Alone’ never will). For another example, I really dug Bows’ album in 1999, e.g., King Deluxe, but as far as I know they never had any chart action whatsoever. So it seems to me strange and wholly capricious that Olive got all this attention. That said, I think I now prefer YNA to Sneaker Pimps’ ’6 Underground’ which was the lone trip-hop-light track that I remember getting any push in the US on MTV in 1997/8. For that surprise sharp chord in the chorus pattern:
    6 or 7 (mood-dependent)

  11. 61
    Steve Mannion on 4 Mar 2014 #

    There really were a LOT of ‘two blokes and a lady singer’ type bands like this at the time. In addition to the aformentioned – Ruby, Hooverphonic, Archive, Alpha and Snooze would all be on any self-compiled primer (‘sometimes just one bloke not two’ disclaimer applies).

  12. 62
    Tom on 4 Mar 2014 #

    #61 Steve you can’t be telling me there was a coffee table trip-hop band actually called SNOOZE

  13. 63
    Chelovek na lune on 4 Mar 2014 #

    Up until now I always presumed that “Olive” was a solo singer (and Black)…. it is really is news to me that *they* were a group, never mind the Simply Red connection. Had only heard the song (oft from car speakers in Romford), never seen any visual indication of the performers at all….

  14. 64
    Steve Mannion on 4 Mar 2014 #

    #61 Yes – I only heard their first album properly last year but I like it – a bit of everything you’d expect (dub samples, DnB dabbles, Cinematic Orchestral “maybe I can get a soundtrack gig out of this” vibes…no wait come back/wake up etc.). French bloke hence the possible lack of awareness in the nom de plume.

  15. 65
    stellaVista on 4 Mar 2014 #

    Exactly 5 years ago (almost to the day) “Friendly Fires” released their single “Skeleton Boy” which “borrows” (steals) the refrain from “You´re not alone” quite prominently.
    I like both songs and wonder if there is a mash-up somewhere.
    see/hear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyA8zfouG4Y

  16. 66
    23 Daves on 4 Mar 2014 #

    #60 I actually thought about mentioning “6 Underground” as an example of a track that is this-sort-of-thing-but-much-better! Crucially though, YNA sounds less dark and threatening, which probably made the world of a difference to its chart fortunes.

  17. 67
    Alan not logged in on 4 Mar 2014 #

    Re Friendly Fires, they’ve said it wasn’t deliberate http://www.clashmusic.com/feature/friendly-fires-interview But what’s odd is the ‘coincidence’ that Tinchy Strider toured with them around this time, and his very definite appropriation of YNA (I mentioned earlier) was also recorded/released at this time

  18. 68
    Steve Mannion on 4 Mar 2014 #

    Never really noticed that ‘Skeleton Boy’ similarity but the more blatant adoption of the hook in 2009 was on Major Lazer’s ‘Keep It Goin’ Louder’.

  19. 69
    Auntie Beryl once more on 4 Mar 2014 #

    The most sycophantic exploitation of the Cafe Del Mar AOR strand was Karen Ramirez, Looking For Love. EBTG cover, polite acoustic backing, no other hits. It worked.

  20. 70
    Ed on 5 Mar 2014 #

    @58 A fair point: “coffee table” is snarkier than I meant, really.

    I love ‘Higher Than The Sun’, and I loved One Dove, too. Played the album to death the year it came out, and it still gives me an overwhelming memory-rush of 1993.

    They score extra points for the fantastic use of ‘Fallen’ in that work of cinematic genius Showgirls, too.

  21. 71
    Garry on 5 Mar 2014 #

    @69 – I have Karen Ramirez’s Looking for Love single. Remixes were by Trouser Enthusiast, Don Carlos and Dave.

    It was in the un-givenaway Giveaway pile which us announcers were allowed to pillage at random intervals. I grabbed it probably because I liked her track on Cafe del Mar 4 (Troubled Girl).

    I missed that it was a cover version, but of course it makes perfect sense now I hear it again. It must be a decade since I last gave it a spin.

  22. 72
    weej on 5 Mar 2014 #

    I really liked that Karen Ramirez single (even bought the LP) and didn’t really think of it as chillout/trip-hop fodder, more like the jazz-soul-dance-pop mixing from a decade before. Giving it a listen again it seems I was only half-right, it still stands up well enough though.

  23. 73
    swanstep on 5 Mar 2014 #

    @66, 23daves. What for me gives YNA the edge over 6 Underground is Ruth-Anne Whatshername’s voice – I just prefer her more rounded vowel sounds (I like the same thing in London Grammar’s Hannah Whatshername’s voice) over the Sneaker Pimps’ more cramped ‘little girl-ish’ voice. Also Olive’s track has ultimately ended up feeling more authentically its own electronic thing to me whereas ’6 Underground’ has always struck me as so derivative that I just want to chuck on some Portishead when I hear it. But no one has to like the voices I do or share my judgments of relatively originality and self-standingness.

  24. 74
    Kinitawowi on 5 Mar 2014 #

    So, all the comparisons with 6 Underground and Not Over Yet have forced me to have a look at this again.

    See, I love 6 Underground. (And most of Becoming X.) And I *really* love Not Over Yet; I mentioned in Popular ’96 that I’d have given that a 10, and 6 Underground is an easy 8, possibly even 9. You’re Not Alone? I can maybe stretch my original mark up to a 4.

    The difference? Robin Taylor-Firth is no Liam Howe, who in turn is no Paul Oakenfold. Not Over Yet, a song ultimately about a dying relationship (it may not be over yet, but it’s pretty clear it soon will be), is pulled in every possible direction; a drum track that never lets up, loops mingling everywhere, the monster synth klaxons (FUCK THE KLAXONS) through the bridge into the emotional wreckage of the chorus, desperation to cling on throughout; this is the song that convinced me that it was possible for dance music to be something more than the row the Chemical Brothers had got to the top spot; it didn’t just have to be something for the clubs that I had no connection to. It could actually have a heart.

    (Disclaimer: I’ve still yet to work out exactly which edit of Not Over Yet it actually is that I’m in love with. It’s 5:57 long, if that helps anybody work it out.)

    Then there’s 6 Underground. An intro ripped straight out of Goldfinger (Fatboy Slim would later also recognise the value of a good John Barry sample) – specifically from the scene where Jill Masterson is found dead from gold paint-induced skin suffocation – leads into a song that, rather than booming into a chorus, gets more panicky and claustrophobic as it twists in on itself, never truly breaking free from Kelli Dayton’s tale of social anxiety and compression.

    You’re Not Alone seems to lyrically tread the same water as Not Over Yet, a song from the just-about-to-be-dumped, but while Oakenfold’s production keeps Not Over Yet alive with the passionate pleas of somebody trying to hold on, You’re Not Alone is mostly cold and restrained. Again, it fits thematically – the song certainly sounds like it’s somebody trying to hold on to a long-distance relationship that’s going south – but until the final layering of Boyle’s vocals, it feels like the song’s trying to keep me at a distance as well.

    Not Over Yet is the final, punch-in-the-gut ending to a relationship. You’re Not Alone is about one that’s simply petering out. I know which one feels more visceral.

  25. 75
    Tom on 5 Mar 2014 #

    Next entry will be up tomorrow – losing the fight against sleepiness – expect a double bill update with the Pop World Cup…

  26. 76
    Steve Mannion on 6 Mar 2014 #

    Post it at 3am!

  27. 77
    wichitalineman on 6 Mar 2014 #

    Lack of sleepiness has led me to dig out Looking For Love by Karen Ramirez, which I loved at the time and had no idea it was an EBTG cover. It still stands up very nicely, with its repetition and springtime airiness in its favour. Sneaker Pimps’ 6 Underground sounds darker, but more try-hard than claustrophobic to me, more obviously post-Portishead whereas Looking For Love, Missing and YNO* were onto something newer and skippier.

    Speaking of Missing, a friend of mine (not me, for once) misheard the chorus as “…and I guess it’s Mr Ray”, like it was a 2 Unlimited tribute.

    *there’s a great playlist in here if anyone fancies suggesting more stuff in the same vein?

  28. 78
    weej on 6 Mar 2014 #

    Czech playlist contribution: Ecstasy of St. Theresa

  29. 79
    Kinitawowi on 6 Mar 2014 #

    Karen Ramirez’s Looking For Love (pretty good, I think) was on Now! 40, fact fans.

    We’ve still got a way to go bfore we get there, mind. (The Popular clock is currently tracking around number 37; You’re Not Alone somehow missed the cut, seemingly landing in that weird no man’s land gap between two releases. The Now!s actually start struggling around this point, as the rapidly accelerating pace of the charts combined with the promotion and release cycles of singles start to leave it behind, but that’s surely a story for another time…)

  30. 80
    swanstep on 6 Mar 2014 #

    @77, wichita. Although it’s a little later (1999), the Bows track I linked to above is a decent addition, as is Britannica from the same album.

  31. 81
    Garry on 6 Mar 2014 #

    I’ve always liked the Fila Brazilia remix of 6 Underground, which emphasises the dragging, brass band-like chords. That said I love the original.

    I always got Sneaker Pimps and Stereo MCs mixed up in my head because I heard their respective Bloodsport and Deep, Down and Dirty albums around the same time.

  32. 82
    Chelovek na lune on 6 Mar 2014 #

    I might have found the Karen Ramirez record semi-tolerable (it’s a decent song, for one thing), if the EGBT original wasn’t…vastly superior in almost every regard. Ramirez’s version really was a pale carbon copy that added little, and imitated, not overly successful, the style of the original….

  33. 83
    Paulito on 12 Mar 2014 #

    This one stands out from the pack for its unusually soulful and haunting quality, with those phased synth chords providing an unforgettable hook. It’s an 8 bordering on a 9 for me.

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