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Tori Amos
The Beach Boys
Beastie Boys
The Beatles
The B52's
Elvin Bishop
Frank Black
The Black Crowes
Bloodhound Gang
Bow Wow Wow
David Bowie
The Brainchilds
James Brown
Kate Bush
The Buzzcocks
David Byrne
Eliza Carthy
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
The Chemical Brothers
The Clash
Deborah Conway
Elvis Costello
Graham Coxon
The Cranberries
Julee Cruise
The Cure
The Dandy Warhols
Miles Davies
Nick Drake
Duran Duran
Brian Eno
The Factory
Fine Young Cannibals
Neil Finn
The Flaming Lips
Neil Finn
The Front Lawn
Fur Patrol
Nelly Furtado
Macy Gray
Groove Armada
P.J. Harvey
Headless Chickens
Helicopter Girl
Billie Holiday
The Jam
Jane's Addiction
Janis Joplin
Elton John
Kaiser Chiefs
The Kinks
Chris Knox
k.d. lang
Led Zeppelin
The Lightning Seeds
The Manic Street Preachers
Massive Attack
Alanis Morissette
No Doubt
Sinead O'Connor
Pet Shop Boys
Pink Floyd
The Pogues
The Police
Iggy Pop
Elvis Presley
The Prodigy
Otis Redding
The Rolling Stones
Roxy Music
Bic Runga
The Rutles
Secret Machines
The Selecter
Skunk Anansie
Paul Simon
Six Volts
Smashing Pumpkins
The Smiths
Sonic Youth
The Stone Roses
Talking Heads
Tall Dwarfs
The Velvet Underground
The Verve
The Vines
Tom Waits
The Wannadies
The Willowz
Frank Zappa
The Zutons

Top of list


Run –Air
A Björkish track (well, it’s got a music box, on it, doesn’t it?) from 2004’s ‘Talkie Walkie’. Something terrible and cute has been done with computers to the lead singer that thankfully doesn’t detract from the warm wash of the ‘I Found A Reason’-era VU backing vocals.

Tear In Your Hand –Tori Amos
Ah, the mighty Tori. It’s amazing how many people love Tori and hate Kate, but where would Amos be without Bush? This is the song from 1992’s ‘Little Earthquakes’ (still her best –anyone want to argue?) with the bizarre Neil Gaiman references (see the Death character in ‘The Sandman’) and a fantastic middle eight: ‘Maybe / I ain’t used to maybes / Smashing in a cold room”. I’ve listened to ‘Scarlet’s Walk’ a couple of times without understanding it, but unlike ‘Think Tank’, I think I’ll persevere.

The following of Tori Amos is varied and devoted, from teenage girls who draw on their binders and have just bought their first bottle of black nail-polish to computer programmers in their forties who fondly remember Kate Bush. Despite a low current profile -even though she's just released a new album, I know- Tori Amos is a perfectly poised modern celebrity. Although she is famous and successful she is not too famous, which means she can get on with recording quality songs with a large degree of personal control. Her work is too sophisticated for the Top 10 (the surprise remix hit Professional Widow was more Armand van Helden’s than hers) but she has the kind of dedicated and loyal fanbase that you sense someone like Britney could really really use now. She was also lucky enough to rise to prominence just as Kate Bush stopped making albums. I realise this is heresy to the majority of her fans (and I have actually made a Tori fan clash his teeth in frustration at the mention of Kate Bush), but the fact remains that despite her apparent originality and amazing career, once the new Kate Bush album is released this year and people under thirty start discovering her back catalogue, Tori is going to have some serious explaining to do. There is not really such a thing as a typical Tori Amos song, but most involve a mighty Bösendorfor piano underpinning her keening lyrics, which are dafter than a trouser-wearing giraffe. The title track of her 1992 debut album Little Earthquakes (ignoring ‘Y Can’t Tori Read’) is a slow-burning widescreen piece with solemn ‘When the Levee Breaks’ drums. What is it about? I could not say. 1994’s excellent sequel ‘Under the Pink brought us Space Dog, glorious sophisticated piano-driven nonsense that mixes poignant childhood memories with sci-fi and lemon pie and even namechecks Neil Gaiman. 1996’s ‘Boys For Pele’ is still her most sparse and challenging album, and includes the prickly harpsichord tinklings of Blood Roses, cherished for the line “I shaved every place where you been”. A thousand bedroom cults started here. 1998’s ‘From The Choirgirl Hotel’ is a more accessible album, but still contains the loopiness of Hotel, which is strangely reminiscent of Babylon Zoo. “Lollipop Gestapo"? “King Solomon’s mines”? “Where are the velvets?”? There are websites devoted to unravelling the meaning of this stuff. Bachelorette is a fine B-side from the same time that struts like a German cabaret number and explodes into giggles at the end. 1999’s ‘To Venus And Back’ came too soon after ‘Choirgirl’, although the live album has some terrific versions of her older songs on it, and 2001’s ‘Strange Little Girls’ cover album was more mystifying than essential. However Tori rebounded in 2002 with her thoughtful late-spring-tinctured ‘Scarlet’s Walk’, which includes Carbon, a complicated piece which begins like a soundtrack instrumental and develops an odd choral chorus –and just when you think it’s finished, it starts up again.

Don’t Worry Baby –The Beach Boys
One of those achingly sad Brian Wilson songs, similar in tone to ‘Pet Sounds’ but from 1964 when most of their songs were still centred around cars and surfing. The chorus was namechecked by Garbage in ‘Push It’ and the entire song crassly covered by Kiwi band Zed, who seem to have missed the point entirely.

Professor Booty –Beastie Boys
“Professor, what’s another word for pirate treasure?” Rude, compelling, playful…from when Eminem was still living with his mother. From 1992’s funk rudiments restatement ‘Check Your Head’. When’s the next album coming out?

For No One –The Beatles
One of Paul McCartney’s dry little filmic songs and only two minutes long, from 1966’s excellent but tediously overlauded ‘Revolver’ (the smartarse’s favourite Beatles album –see below)

Too many books, too many articles, Paul McCartney is too damned nice, but when it comes down to it, The Beatles are still The Best Pop Music Can Do. Once the baby-boomers are dead we’ll be able to gain some perspective, but until then it’ll be It Was Forty Years Ago Today until we scream. Unfortunately at the moment the Beatles are in the midst of one of the most clever and cynical marketing campaigns in recording history. It began in 1994 with the massive Anthology project, and ever since then a series of immaculately-timed releases and re-releases have kept their profile high. I imagine the next stage for EMI will be to take their cue from the Rolling Stones reissues and re-release the original albums as full-price 5.1 mixes aimed at recent retirees seeking to update their 1987 versions. The main justification for 2000’s ‘1’ album seems to have been to demonstrate how great it all sounds remastered. Although Every Little Thing from 1964’s ‘Beatles For Sale’ is a standard relationship song like any from their previous two albums, the timpani combines with their standard beat-combo sound to make it unusually dramatic. A throwaway song from 1965’s ‘Help!’ (from the side not featured in the film), It’s Only Love features sardonic Lennon vocals –you can tell he’s trying not to sneer. Just as cloying but far more sincere is McCartney’s Here, There And Everywhere from 1966’s mighty ‘Revolver’, with close-harmony singing which makes it sound like a ‘typical’ Beatles song, and is also reminiscent of a melancholy Beach Boys number. Your Mother Should Know is a corny but irresistible song from 1967’s ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, rendered magnificent by the appearance in the film of all four Beatles descending a staircase in matching white tuxes. I’m So Tired is a short and languid Lennon number from 1968’s ‘The Beatles’ which characterises the typical claustrophobic atmosphere of that album –sounding much more ‘interior’ than ‘Sgt Pepper’, with the windows opened by their previous albums tightly sealed. Dig A Pony is from the live rooftop performance which ended 1970’s ‘Let It Be’, the sound that of a band who have travelled a million miles in just seven years, and are struggling to remember the skills and attitude which made them good in the first of page

End Of the Day –Beck
From the mournful 2002 album ‘Sea Change’ –worth persevering with, though. It’s one of those albums (like Smashing Pumpkins’s ‘Adore’) which doesn’t yield anything much for a while but is actually quite beautiful.

The perennially youthful Beck has been cranking out albums for more than ten years now, and although he will never recapture the commercial heights of 1996’s ‘Odelay’, it can also be presumed he will never make a boring album.
First appearing on pop culture’s radar in 1994 with a certain slacker novelty song, the accompanying album ‘Mellow Gold’ was a rough and rude collection of lo-fi country which also included the song Soul Suckin’ Jerk, a fuzz-loaded statement of defiance. The big album ‘Odelay’ is still brilliant, even the minor songs like Lord Only Knows shining with laconic confidence. His awkward major-minor label deal lead to 1998’s ‘Mutations’ being dismissed as a mere side project while he worked on the ‘real’ followup to ‘Odelay’ Personally I’ve never understood how someone decides whether or not an album is ‘real’ or not, especially if all the songs are new. PJ Harvey’s ‘Dance Hall At Louse Point’ comes under the same category. When an album’s been recorded quickly and lo-fi to accompany a dance piece or something like that, it just means it’s uncommercial, not that it sucks. Anyway, ‘Mutations’ was low-key and sometimes difficult to listen to, but contains the lovely Nick Drake-meets-sitar Nobody’s Fault But My Own. He produced many fine B-side and soundtrack songs from this period as well, especially Halo Of Gold, which is glam-country with obscure Bowie and Johnny Cash references. The supposed ‘real’ followup turned out to be the perplexing and uneven Prince tribute ‘Midnite Vultures’, and after the disappointment from that one settled (well, I liked it) he came up with 2002’s ‘Sea Change’, which sounded like ‘Mutations’ plus, even more Nick Drakeish with some sterling songs, like the majestically resigned Guess I’m Doing Fine. His latest album, ‘Guero’, is his most accessible for years, and certainly sounds like a followup to ‘Odelay’. The range of songs is wider than his previous three albums, with a blues and Depression-era folk influence. Broken Drum sounds like ‘Adore’-era Smashing Pumpkins (another incredibly difficult album which I quite like).

Roam -The B52's
Hard to think of them now as inspiring R.E.M., but they both came from Athens, Georgia, and it was the B52’s success on the New Wave scene which showed Michael Stipe just what could be achieved by singing the words properly.The refreshing kind of sound that makes uplifts the hearts of most citizens and makes ad executives stroke their chins thoughtfully. From 1989’s ‘Cosmic Thing’.

Fooled Around And Fell In Love -Elvin Bishop
A genuine Glorious Pop Song from immediately before all was laid waste by Johnny Rotten. Technically this is ‘blues rock’. From 1976’s ‘Struttin’ My Stuff’.

There was no guarantee Björk would have any kind of career after The Sugarcubes, the eccentric Icelandic ‘art terrorist band’ who had an unfortunate habit of dividing singing duties between her and ‘rapper’ Einar Örn… let alone the extraordinary progression from pixie to hit machine to experimental adult artist of the last ten years. She moved to London, developed a fractured Cockney accent and delivered ‘Debut’, a 1993 album with some of her most conventional yet beautiful songs, including Come To Me, arranged for strings, voice and electronics. Produced by Nellee Hooper, this classy album quickly created a rather patronising popular conception of her as a kind of mad pixie. The potential of her range was demonstrated by 1995’s eclectic ‘Post’, helped by equally innovative and bonkers music videos, the graphic design of Me Company, and numerous carefully executed remixes. Enjoy is a menacing track co-written with then-boyfriend Tricky and sounds rather like an evil train –late in the song a horn blast sterilises all before it. Instead of doing the easy and lucrative thing and delivering ‘Post II’, Björk retreated into the soundscapes of 1997’s ‘Homogenic’. Apparently influenced more by the Icelandic landscape than what was being played in the clubs at the time, this may be her finest album. Alarm Call is one of the warmest songs, and like the rest of the album, sounds like nothing else on earth. After a poor-value soundtrack for ‘Dancer In The Dark’, 2001’s ‘Vespertine’ was yet another transformation, as she experimented with music boxes and unusual stringed instruments. This was a beautiful if not powerful album, accompanied by some eye-poppingly adult videos. Unison is the last track, and is a typical love song. Amphibian is a B-side from this period, and combines the strings of ‘Vespertine’ with the experimental mouth-sounds she first tried on ‘Post’s Headphones. Her latest album, 2004’s ‘Medúlla’, is mostly a capella, and includes Triumph Of A Heart, possibly her daftest single yet (see the Spike Jonze video on her website). The question is, what does she try now?

Big Red –Frank Black
Frank Black has always had an amazing voice, and on this track from 1994’s very long ‘Teenager Of The Year’ that voice emerges from the murk of the verses to wiggle like a dog’s chew toy in the chorus.

Remedy –The Black Crowes
I haven’t really got a lot of time for ‘The Black Crowes’, although their ‘Live At The Greek’ album with Jimmy Page is interesting. This song benefits from sounding like Lenny Kravitz covering ‘Exile’ era Stones. From 1992’s ‘The Southern Harmony And Musical Comparison’.top of page

I Know But I Don’t Know –Blondie
This song starts out wry, swinging and deliberately dumb, and somehow turns into a weird bubbling epic. From their world-eating 1978 album ‘Parallel Lines’. Worth listening to just for Debbie Harry’s Stooges referencing and doggie howl.

Legend In My Spare Time –Bloodhound Gang
Offensive, sick, and funny as hell, like the Beastie Boys locked in a room with Frank Zappa and a sequencer. From 1995’s ‘Use Your Fingers’ …does that mean they’re pushing 30 now?

Sweet Song -Blur
This song is indeed sweet (referencing ‘Jealous Guy’), but 2003’s ‘Think Tank’ for me marks the sad point where Blur’s album tracks become inferior to their old B-sides. Most bands seem to reach this point eventually if they go on long enough –certainly Oasis reached it as long ago as 1998, when ‘The Masterplan’ was received better critically than ‘Be Here Now’. ‘Think Tank’ is not growing on me with repetition. They seemed to have absorbed a lot of dampness and I miss the nimbleness of ‘Parklife’ and even the pretentious narcotic swirly blippery of ‘13’. Even the playfulness of ‘Gorillaz’ wouldn’t come amiss. Their time is past.

Who Can I Be Now? –David Bowie
A outtake from 1975’s ‘Young Americans’, featuring a blond Bowie from Philadelphia, already his seventh incarnation in as many years. The soul sound is a trifle try-hard but his talent for melody is intact –despite the appalling retread of ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ from the same era, which is about as funky as a of page

Chihuahua –Bow Wow Wow
Even more bizarre than the B-52’s dog-orientated ‘Quiche Lorraine’, this 1981 single (available on any of their compilations) is a typically daft song from a band who surfaced in that brief period between Punk and the New Romantics when it was possible be original and incompetent and fun without worrying about all that synthesiser and pastel suit nonsense. They sound like a younger Blondie with a set of Burundi drums. Bands like Bow Wow Wow would never get on the radio now, and I think our sonic landscape is poorer for it.

She Fell 21 Stories –The Brainchilds
What New Zealand band The Six Volts did next (see below). This track from their eponymous 1993 album unfortunately demonstrates how thin their sound was as a four-piece. Funnily enough it covers similar lyrical territory to Björk’s ‘Hyper-Ballad’. The soundtrack business beckoned.

Funky Drummer -James Brown
There is nothing as scary as watching white bands attempting to emulate this particular pioneer. Talking Heads’ ‘Mr Jones’ is my least favourite song by that great, great, but very pale band. Marcella Detroit (formerly of Shakespears Sister) came a cropper with ‘James Brown’ and even Iggy Pop was lowered in mine sight by a particularly awful version of ‘Sex Machine’. The problem is, even James Brown can’t really do songs like James Brown anymore. If you think about it, it’s amazing that you can get a cohesive sound at all out of a room full of improvising musicians. And it’s very, very hard to prevent horns from sounding awful. This particular song from 1970 is famous for a particular drum part which has been sampled by everyone from Sinead O’ Connor to George of page

You kind of had to be there to appreciate Kate Bush. At her worst her work tends towards the breathless Livejournal end of woman songwriting, at her best she achieves a transcendent daftness equal to Björk. Until 2005, she hadn’t released an album since 1993, but continues to exert an influence over women singer/songwriters as strong as Joni Mitchell in the ‘70s and Alanis Morissette in the ‘90s. Her first album ‘The Kick Inside’ was released in 1978 just before she turned 20. Although the subject matter of the songs comes over as a bit torrid (Wuthering Heights, anyone?) she was already stamping more character on her sound with piano and vocals than most people do in their entire careers. James And The Cold Gun has a backing vocal which I can only transcribe as “J-J-Jame-ah-HE-ya!” The second album she released that year, ‘Lionheart’, is even quirkier. Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake sounds a bit like a good Elton John song and is lightyears from the contemporary punk scene. ‘Never For Ever’ in 1980 was the first number one album in Britain by a female artist. All We Ever Look For is a Japanese-sounding number with a bizarre middle-eight consisting of doors being opened onto various soundscapes. ‘The Dreaming’ is 1982’s infamous ‘mad’ album and certainly Leave It Open is dafter than anything Tori ever came up with, and a demonstration of the crisp Fairlight sound she perfected on 1985’s ‘Hounds Of Love’. My Lagan Love is a beautiful a Capella B-side, a traditional tune with lyrics by her brother. Her only album of the '90s was 1993’s ‘The Red Shoes’, which contains such intense songs as Big Stripey Lie, which would not be out of place on a Morrissey album and has nothing to do with tigers.

Moving Away From The Pulsebeat –The Buzzcocks
One of the poppier English punk bands, the Buzzcocks are most famous for ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?’, one of those tracks which appears on every godforsaken punk compilation. ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’ is unusual because of its length –over 7 minutes- and the fake fadeout before returning as something Kraftwerk could have knocked together. From 1978’s ‘Another Music In A Different Kitchen’.

She’s Mad-David Byrne
Practically every solo release by David Byrne is described by critics as sounding like Talking Heads, “before they lost focus” or “on form”. 1992’s ‘Uh-Oh’ is typical of his early solo releases, graced by Latin horns without that grafted-on feeling Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ suffers from.

David Byrne is a perplexing man. His work is quirky and rich, but never especially intimate. Like Paul Simon during his Graceland period, or Shane McGowan and the Pogues, the lushness and emotion of the music is rarely matched by his dry, strained, precise voice. Although Taking Heads was one of the biggest and most critically successful bands of the ‘80s, Byrne seemed largely forgotten until his cameo on the dance hit Lazy by X-Press 2 in 2002. He has successfully developed a solo career outside the mainstream, unheard on radio and quite hard to get hold of in places like New Zealand. His first solo work (apart from a collaboration with Brian Eno in 1980) was music for the Twyla Tharp ballet ‘The Catherine Wheel’ in 1981. The Red House is fast and furious, sounding a lot like what Talking Heads were doing at the time. Can’t imagine anyone dancing to it. Byrne’s initial solo albums continued the fascination with world music which led to the creation of his label Luaka Bop. Don’t Want To Be A Part Of Your World is from his 1989 Latin music album 'Rei Momo’, and features intricate drumming and horns overlaid with his cool vocals. This was also a feature of his 1992 album ‘Uh-Oh’, although there was more variety in the songs, such as the New Orleans voodoo of A Walk In The Dark. The year before he’d released the extraordinary ‘The Forest’, which was derived from a 1988 stage work by Robert Wilson. This largely instrumental album includes the suite Ava which develops over twelve minutes from chello into a full orchestra and bizarre choir, with Byrne’s strained vocal over the top. After the sparse ‘David Byrne’ album of 1994 he released ‘Feelings’, which featured a collaboration by what remains of Devo, amongst others. This 1997 album includes Finite=Alright, which names reassuringly quantifiable amounts, such as the number of teeth in the human head. After that came the disappointing ‘Look Into The Eyeball’ album, which was a more perfunctory work than usual but includes the rollicking Desconocido Soy (2001) which features NRÜ from Café Tacuba. His latest solo album ‘Grown Backwards’ is quieter but more eclectic, if that makes sense.

Perfect –Eliza Carthy
A pragmatic love song from the not-quite-folk Eliza Carthy whose more recent albums cover traditional English folk songs. Sophisticated but slightly gauche at the same time, confusingly enough. From her 2000 album ‘Angels & Cigarettes’.

Immediate Circle –Catatonia
Blarey, annoying, soaring, from their excellent last album, ‘Paper Scissor Stone’. Cerys Matthews’ new solo album is very different but well worth seeking of page

Far From Me -Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
“You were my brave-hearted lover / At the first taste of trouble went running back to mother”. Ouch. The best reason not to go out with Nick Cave: he might write an album like 1997’s ‘The Boatman’s Call’ about it. Painfully personal and one of my favourite breakup albums (the others are Pulp’s ‘This Is Hardcore’ and Blur’s ‘13’.). PJ Harvey’s equivalent album was the far cooler ‘Is This Desire’, so you could say she won that competition.

The State We’re In –The Chemical Brothers
The song of a giant sweet-voiced machine shaking dust motes into the air and spilling reels of tape over the floor. Vocals by the inconsistently good Beth Orton from the underrated 2002 album ‘Come With Us’.

Time Is Tight –The Clash
Clash fans are often extremely uptight about issues of ‘authenticity’ and ‘sincerity’ in popular music, and many breathed a sigh of relief after the initial shock of Joe Strummer’s death, because it neatly foiled any potential legend-destroying reunion plans…the sort that nobbled the Sex Pistols’ legacy a few years ago. This is an atypically frivolous but fun cover from 1994’s ‘Black Market Clash’ compilation.

A lot of rubbish has been written about The Clash, and I am not keen to add to it. Were the Sex Pistols a greater band? Who cares anymore? ‘Never Mind The Bollocks' is brilliant, but so is ‘The Clash’ and ‘London Calling’. And yes, The Clash never sullied their legacy by reforming, but they didn’t do themselves any favours by releasing ‘Cut The Crap’ did they? It’s amazing that a revolutionary movement like punk, with its initial focus on honesty and rawness, could so quickly be overcome and hidebound by Stalinist judgements on what was ‘authentic’ or not. A lot of The Clash’s musical exploration was misguided, but at least they weren’t afraid to challenge and expand the incomprehensible self-imposed limits of this ultimately conservative genre. The famous debut ‘The Clash’ in 1977 (Year Zero, of course,) is still a punk template. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais is a 1978 single poking fun at their own Caucasian fascination with reggae. 1978’s ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ is a lot more clearly produced, which was sacrilege at the time, but now mean we can hear blistering anti-tourism songs like Safe European Home more clearly. I’m Not Down is an inspirational song of survival in the same eager style of Train In Vain from the mighty ‘London Calling’ of 1979. Stop The World is the discordant dubby B-Side of 1980’s The Call Up, and sounds like something one of the punkier Britpop bands (early Blur, perhaps?) could come up with 15 years later. Ivan meets G.I. Joe is an inventive Cold War song (using space invader noises) from the triple album ‘Sandinista!’ which is frankly the biggest drag they ever released. It’s said that most double albums have a great single album in them –well, this is a triple album with a great single album in it somewhere, once you’ve waded through endless dub versions and quavery filler novelties to find it. It makes ‘Melon Collie’ look cohesive. Straight To Hell is a beautiful haunting immigration song from their last good album, 1982’s ‘Combat Rock’, with a riff that gets the combination of dub and punk exactly right.

Trouble –Coldplay
I don’t consider Coldplay depressing, but then again, I’ve never paid much attention to their lyrics. Certainly there will always be a need for music which celebrates interiority. Their passionate performance at the MTV video awards (the same show with the Britney/Madonna/Aguilera snog) showed up most of the other acts as the insincere nonentities they really are. From the 2000 album ‘Parachutes’.top of page

World of Love –Deborah Conway
Distantly related to ‘Nothing But Flowers’ by Talking Heads with kettledrums. Deborah Conway is an Australian singer-songwriter who has been releasing solo albums since 1991. From 1993’s ‘Bitch Epic’, with the notorious cover image of her smothered in chocolate spread.

Shipbuilding –Elvis Costello
Although written about the Falklands War, it’s possible to imagine this song being sung by Dusty Springfield. This is the sort of heartfelt stuff Costello stuff does well, whether the emotion is anger (‘Watching the Detectives’) or angst (‘I Want You’). From 1983’s ‘Punch the Clock’.

I Wish –Graham Coxon
“I wish I could bring Nick Drake back to life” Shouty Graham has now left Blur, of course, but not before ramming a big fat dose of Pavement into their nice little Kinks surburban cul-de-sac, a shtick which was charming in ‘Parklife’ and wearisome in ‘The Great Escape’. Coxon has issued a series of terse little lo-fi solo albums on which he plays everything and even draws the sleeve. This is one of the best songs from the first, 1998’s ‘The Sky Is Too High’.

When You’re Gone –The Cranberries
Although it’s been nearly ten years since their days of world dominance, the Cranberries are still intact. Reappraising their albums reveals a pattern scarily similar to that of Oasis –a charming but overlooked first album, an excellent zeitgeist-defining second album, and then a third album which blows up in everyone’s faces. As for the fourth and fifth albums…you didn’t hear those? Neither did anyone else. This song is a gorgeous doo-wop pastiche from the mostly appalling 1995 album ‘To The Faithful Departed’.top of page

I Remember –Julee Cruise
Awkward time signatures, mournful saxophone, Julee sounding like the spirit of a recently departed doo-wop singer, it’s all there. Julee Cruise sang on two albums written by David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, who also did the music for Twin Peaks. The results are disturbing and small-town beautiful. Each song sounds like it was recorded inside a cavernous bar after dark. From 1989’s ‘Floating Into The Night’.

A Forest –The Cure
An early fan favourite with a compelling, liquid melody which sounds a awful lot like Joy Division. The trees in the song feel as though they’re being picked out at night by your car headlights as you speed past...on to that all-night place which sells black nail polish, probably. From 1980’s ‘Seventeen Seconds’.

For some music critics, The Cure were their only friends when they were 13, so reviews of their infrequent new releases are often loaded with scorn as the critics attempt to demonstrate how far they’ve put away childish things. Mike Leigh captured this complicated attitude of fondness and derision in his 1997 movie ‘Career Girls’, which soundtracks the heroines’ dank student days in the late ‘80s with Cure hits. Ten years later the sensibly-dressed beige-wearing thirtysomethings are confounded by the lurid primary colours of a poster advertising ‘Wild Mood Swings’. Listening only to their singles makes it hard to understand how such a blistering vaudeville pop group became so identified with Goths –but their album tracks often sound like they come from a different band. They will always be remembered for their morose, draggy soundscapes of the late ‘80s (their most popular period). At least Robert Smith’s voice has remained surprisingly young. Released just before 1982’s ‘Pornography’, Splintered In Her Head sounds like a cross between Joy Division and Bow Wow Wow, stuck with shards of psychedelic harmonica. Gorillaz were paying attention. 1985 B-side New Day comes from their most drug-addled period, and sounds like a long moan of depair. In-Between Days is a dynamic New Orderesque single from 1985’s ‘Head On The Door’, the result of a new, poppier lineup, that was launched into wide popularity a year later with the release of the singles compilation 'Standing On A Beach’. At this point they became Big In America, and released a series of bright singles and mordant albums. One of many songs about Robert Smith’s wife, Just Like Heaven is from the popular and eclectic double album ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ (1987). Accelerating through nearly ten years and many lineups, Gone! is a swinging single from 1996’s ‘Wild Mood Swings’. By this stage The Cure was releasing albums only its fans liked, but what’s wrong with that? 2000’s ‘Bloodflowers’ featured Maybe Someday, which melodically is a close re-write of ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries and ‘San Francisco’ by John Phillips.

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