5. Saint Etienne– Foxbase Alpha
This is Saint Etienne’s first full-length, and yet there’s a clear sense of identity on this album. It’s sort of ’60s retro, but still very modern for the time. That aesthetic, which extends beyond music and into Saint Etienne’s overall art direction, has remained unchanged throughout the years. They found a way to balance the past, present and future. That’s commendable.
Foxbase Alpha is also packed with jams. There’s the song that just about everyone knows, a cover of “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” plus fan favorites like “Nothing Can Stop Us,” “Kiss and Make Up,” “People Get Real” and “Spring.” It’s a really beautiful album, something you need to pick up if you’ve never heard it.
4. The Legendary Pink Dots– The Maria Dimension
Way back in the early 1980s, The Legendary Pink Dots started out making minimal synth music, not terribly different from early Mute Records artists like The Normal and Fad Gadget. Now, The Legendary Pink Dots are a full-on psychedelic powerhouse. I always say that LPD is the closest thing to a jam band that I could ever love and I mean it. I would probably sit through Phish, and enjoy it, if these guys were on the same bill.
LPD’s transition took place gradually over the course of several albums in the early 1990s. One of those albums is The Maria Dimension, which features the 8 minute, WTF-is-going-on-in-the-studio epic, “The Grain Kings,” and the sweet ballad “Bella Donna.” This album doesn’t quite match my personal favorite, Crushed Velvet Apocalypse, which came out a year prior, but it’s pretty damn amazing.
3. My Bloody Valentine– Loveless
I was thinking that maybe this album shouldn’t be so high up on the list, but then I gave it one more listen. It only took that first blast of noise from “Only Shallow” to erase any doubt from my mind.
Loveless is one of very few albums that’s cited by just about everybody as a work of genius and actually is one. Embrace the noise, but maybe you should get some earplugs before cranking it. Watch “Only Shallow” on YouTube. Embedding was “disabled by request.”
2. Primal Scream– Screamadelica
When Primal Scream released Screamadelica, it was a revelation. I know, the Stone Roses had already released their one freakin’ awesome dance-rock hybrid record and Happy Mondays were already big, but Primal Scream hit in a different way. It was like The Rolling Stones (c. Their Satanic Majesties Request) were playing a rave. It also set the stage for what would happen to the band. As the years passed, Primal Scream went back and forth between rock and dance music with such fluidity that there’s no real need to label them as one or the other.
I still contend that, out of all of the bands to emerge from the late-’80s, early-’90s U.K. dance whatever scene, Primal Scream is the best.
1. Teenage Fanclub– Bandwagonesque
Back in 1991, this was my favorite album. And it’s still my favorite album from that year. In fact, it’s probably one of the five best albums I’ve heard in my life. It’s perfect.
I was a real dork about Teenage Fanclub in 1991. So much so that I called in when they turned up on KROQ to field listener questions. I sat on hold, not expecting to get through, because I never did when it involved talking to bands or winning concert tickets. Then, all of a sudden, I was on the air. I was so shocked, so nervous that dozens of questions floating through my mind disappeared and I asked, “How did you get your name?”
Were I to interview the band now, I think I could get through it without fumbling through laughable questions. That could happen, after all, Teenage Fanclub is still together and still releases some quality material.
If you want to know what new stuff I was listening to this year, the list includes the latest albums from the following: White Lies, M83, Cold Cave, Tearist, Bei Ru, The Horrors, Ladytron, Junior Boys, Mirrors and The Good Natured. Also, I’ve been listening to a lot of dubstep. I may or may not be kidding about that last bit.