Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles of the 90s

Writing about the moment that makes “Skinteeth” so transcendent feels like giving away a secret, but then again it’s hardly as if any of you are going to hear it off your own bat. Yes, it’s another hardcore 12″, another brilliant bubbling mess of breakbeats and horns and ragga chants and gibbering overdriven creativity. Noise Factory weren’t a first-division crew from what I’ve heard, putting out reliably hard-partying 12″s but in general lacking the spark that takes this music from excellence into those areas where the listener has to pinch themselves just to believe they’re hearing it. Except here, in the fourth track on one of their many EPs, where Noise Factory seem to have thrown caution and structure to the wind and thrown every damn sample they had left into one mix. “Skinteeth” twists and jacknifes at outrageous speed through a boxful of crazy permutations, dub-reggae-house-techno-rave, and then everything pauses as if for breath, and the moment comes.

The moment: simple enough, really. The piano opening from John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”, pitched up from its familiarly schlocky 70s songwriter pace. The slight change in speed and pitch gives it a fragile, neurotic air, and it becomes desperately beautiful, a tearful slice of bliss cycling unresolved until the beats thunder back in. It’s too sudden and displaced even to seem like the cheap gimmick Noise Factory probably thought it was. The Beatles’ greatest mistake in the 90s wasn’t the repellent “Free As A Bird”, it was their precious guardianship of their music from the sampling that would have recontextualised it more truly than Oasis and Mojo ever could. However played-out their hits may be, their studiology makes the Beatles’ records a potential goldmine of textures and phrases, most of which have the added bonus of being a treasurehouse of mass memories. The sooner hip-hop and dance producers get to pick them apart, the better. Until then, piratical masterpieces like “Skinteeth” nicely draw a line in pop’s sand.