More excavations from the Freaky Trigger archives. If you find the commentary too self-indulgent you can simply enjoy the pieces by clicking on the link at the top right of this page!

My list of the “Top 100 Singles Of The 90s” started as an attempt – largely successful – to shake myself out of a bad patch: the commitment to regular writing would impose a bit of structure on my day. Given our patchy track record with series ever since I’m amazed I got it all done, especially since I was hand-coding all the HTML.

During the course of the series I started getting a bit more feedback from readers, and realised the site was growing more popular – I remember going into work during September delighted because FT had achieved its thousandth hit. Not “daily hit” or “hits on a single article” – the thousandth hit full stop. Everyone at work found this very impressive and it helped cement my reputation as ‘the web guy’.

September 1999: FLOWERED UP – “Weekender”: One thing I notice looking back at the Top 100 Singles was that it really did help me get better at writing about music. At the start of the list I notice a lot of music critic flaws: the phrase that doesn’t make sense in the argument but I’m too pleased with to cut; reviews where I’ve steamrollered over the record in order to hang a big concept on it; write-ups where I’m too obviously trying to be another writer. Gradually the discipline of writing starts to smooth these out and I can read most of the reviews without wincing too much – this Flowered Up review is still a bit high-concept but I think it also captures how the record feels to me.

October 1999: JX – “There’s Nothing I Won’t Do”: If I’d written this a few years later it might have fitted nicely into some of the intra-blogosphere squabbles of the time – thanks to them it perhaps reads more snarky than I intended at the time! Even if my assumed role of patrician defender of handbag house sits rather awkwardly, here you have a bunch of ‘poptimist’ tropes in microcosm. A wish to give the popular stuff its due; a self-awareness of the problems of that kind of projective populism; and a running into difficulty when it comes to actually describing what makes this music good!

November 1999: MANIC STREET PREACHERS – “Motorcycle Emptiness”: For all that the opening paragraph is a little on the patronising side, I think this is the best in the “Top 100 Singles” list. Maybe it’s just that I don’t remember writing it!

A lot of FT’s most regular readers came to it via the Top 100 list – or via Ned Raggett’s even more titanic Top 136 Albums, which isn’t currently up on the site (there will be more of Ned in future instalments, though!). For a while I chafed at this, partly because I was a bit ashamed of some of my choices. Reading it back now it seems to me like a data dump – me getting a decade of wanting to be a music writer, and listening to things with a “music writer’s ears”, out of my system, and in the process turning Freaky Trigger into a zine I was proud of.