Happy Thursday! And welcome to the second installment of my Throwback Thursday (#tbt) best albums of the year series. For this one, we time travel back twenty years to 1997. Back to a time where I was one year removed from graduating with BA Honours from York University on a five year (yes, I took it slow) program. I was working part time at a tool rental store, spending plenty of quality time talking pretentious in the pubs, and I had just started into a relationship with Victoria, whom I’m still with and I’ve since married. So happy times indeed.
It also happens to be another great year for music and can easily be argued to be the best year ever for British Alternative Rock. Just think about it for a moment and you’ll realize I’m right, probably guess which are my top three albums, but perhaps not in the correct order. Britpop mania had reached its apex the year before and was already on the wane, more artists were trying to disassociate themselves with the term rather than buy in. So yeah, in 1997, it was more rock and less pop. However, North America’s (and likely the rest of the world’s) ears were still tuned in to Cool Britannia so British rock was all the rage on the radio and music video stations. I was in music heaven with all the great albums being released and as you’ll soon see, the majority of my faves were from – you guessed it – the British Isles.
So without further ado, below are the first five albums from my top ten and if you don’t know the trick by now, I will be featuring the top five, an album each Thursday, over the next five weeks. Enjoy the nostalgia ride with me.
#10 Cornershop “When I was born for the 7th time”
Third time was a charm for Tjinder Singh and his Cornershop. The band’s blend of Indian traditional, British rock, funk, and psychedelia hit home with the Britpop crowds at the time and has since influenced more than a few bands that I can think of (Hello, Elephant Stone). Then, Norman Cook remixed the song below and they exploded, the song in question waxing ubiquitous in the summer of 1997. As for the album, it’s quite eclectic and fun. You can certainly tell they were smoking quite a bit of something funny during its recording.
Gateway tune: “Brimful of asha”
#9 The Dandy Warhols “The Dandy Warhols come down”
I saw The Dandy Warhols open for The Charlatans in the fall of 1997 but I didn’t appreciate this, the album they were flogging at the time, until much, much later. Still, their live show was so good that I immediately picked up their next album, 2000’s “Thirteen tales of urban bohemia”, on release, which I loved and pushed me to continue to follow them and to re-examine their back catalogue. If you’ve seen the film “Dig”, you know that the band had its troubles at the time and despite the below song’s modicum of success, it would be their only flirtation with the mainstream. “Come down” is a noisy beast and a rollicking ride.
Gateway tune: “Not if you were the last junkie on earth”
#8 Teenage Fanclub “Songs from Northern Britain”
For years, I’ve called Teenage Fanclub the “Scottish Sloan” or likened Sloan to “the Canadian Teenage Fanclub”, depending on my audience. Both bands have multiple songwriters who sing their own songs but maintain a consistent sound, and that is a classic sounding guitar rock style with plenty of harmonies that somehow manages to sound completely original. The Fanclub’s sixth album was their most commercially successful, its name a joke around the idea that many people at the time considered them part of the Britpop scene. The album itself though was anything but a joke.
Gateway tune: “Take the long way around”
#7 The Mighty Mighty Bosstones “Let’s face it”
Boston’s own flirted with the mainstream and certainly achieved commercial success with their fifth studio album, “Let’s face it”, the band’s only certified platinum selling album. The eight-piece ‘skacore’ band toned down the ‘core and sweetened the ska and punk sound and found themselves a whole a new swarm of fans. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t deny that this album cemented their place at the forefront of the 90s wave of ska punk. It’s brash and energetic and a hell of a lot of fun on the dance floor.
Gateway tune: “The impression that I get”
#6 Ocean Colour Scene “Marchin’ already”
Ocean Colour Scene followed up their breakthrough sophomore album with music cut very much from the same cloth. Often the tunes were those written well before recording but refreshed and brightened with slick studio production. They were rewarded by the buying public with their first number one, famously supplanting Oasis’s bloated third record, “Be here now”, an album that (*spoiler alert*) won’t be on this list. I really like the straightforward and honest trad rock of this and “Moseley shoals”, perhaps preferring “Marchin’ already” slightly over the former. Unfortunately, things steadily went south from here.
Gateway tune: “Hundred mile high city”
Check back next Thursday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.