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Best tunes of 1993: #22 Slowdive “Alison”

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My friend Tim was always a bigger fan of Slowdive than I was, and I suspect that his appreciation of the group was influenced greatly by his crush on one of the principal vocalists of the group, Rachel Goswell. He tried to get me into them and I did my best to give them a shot. I tape-recorded a copy of the “Souvlaki” CD he loaned me. Unfortunately, I would never get very far with it, rarely more than a few songs past the opening track (but more on that in a bit).

Much like the rest of the music world, critics and writers who never appreciated Slowdive until they were gone, I didn’t get into the Reading-based five-piece until much later. I’ve already documented* on these pages that it was long after they had lost a couple members, changed musical directions, and rebranded that I caught up with them again, just after they had released their third album as Mojave 3. When I listen to “Souvlaki” now, though, I can’t help but wonder: “What were we all thinking?”

The album is lush and ambient, the sadness and hurt palpable in every wash and echo. More deliberate and difficult than its predecessor, it is a sophomore album multiplied by a hundred, informed equally by the knowledge that anything they produced would be panned and by the internal strife in the band created by the romantic split of Neil Halstead and the aforementioned Goswell. If it weren’t for the rise of Grunge and Britpop, it may have been just as hailed at the time as it is now. Hands down, it was one of the greatest shoegaze albums ever recorded.

“Alison” is the one track that I can honestly say that I’ve always loved from the album. As an opener, it was a hard one to move past and I rarely did. The guitars jangle and waver, a shimmering of light highlighting millions of tiny specks of dust, lifted and disrupted ever so gently by a passing breeze, the same that caused flutters in the gossamer curtains of sound. Drums are far off in the distance and deep down in the mix, like a harrowing memory. The reverb is like a third person in the room, pushing together the lilting voices of Halstead and Goswell, even as it as ripping them apart. “Alison” could be anyone who’s ever broken your heart, a smoker’s cough and an ashtray overflowing with butts, a hangover and a dozen empty merlot bottles.

“Alison, I’m lost
Alison, I’ll drink your wine
And wear your clothes when we’re both high
Alison, I said we’re sinking
But she laughs and tells me it’s just fine
I guess she’s out there somewhere”

Sigh.

*And likely will do so again…

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

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Best tunes of 1993: #23 The Cranberries “Dreams”

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As I mentioned in the preamble to this list, I started working at our small town’s 7-Eleven store in the spring of 1993 and due to this job and some of the people I met working there, I often consider the summer of that year one of my most memorable ever. Specifically, in terms of this post, there was a trio of young ladies that were hired at the same time and shortly after my own start date at the store. I worked many overnight shifts with either Tori, Michelle, or Heather and got to know them over late night and early morning conversations. They were all only in my life for a short while and though I don’t even remember any of their last names and couldn’t tell you what any of them are doing now, they all left their mark.

Heather, for instance, was hilarious, had a big smile, and was always jokingly threatening to poke my eyes out. But most importantly for this post, she and I shared similar tastes in music. She was the one that loaned me a cassette copy of the album that to this day is my favourite of 1991: Lowest of the Low’s “Shakespeare my butt”. That summer, though, she was obsessed with this new band out of Ireland called The Cranberries. She described them as jangly, like early R.E.M., but with tinges of celtic mysticism, and with a female front woman that smacked softly of Sinéad O’Connor.

Heather offered to lend me a copy of the band’s debut CD, “Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?”, but for various reasons, this never came to pass. However, after we both headed off to our separate universities in the fall, the name stuck with me, especially after I started hearing the song “Linger” and seeing its video all over the place. I ended up ordering a copy of that debut CD as one of my 10 for a penny BMG introductory offer orders and it was here that I first heard our song for today.

“Dreams” was actually issued as an advance single to the debut album in late 1992 but then, was reissued again in 1994 to lap up all the popularity garnered them by “Linger”. It did manage a bit more sales the second go-around but nowhere near that of the lofty second single, which I consider tragic, given that it is a far more superior track. It is a crashing, flailing, and driving number. It embodies the flutter rush of new and young love, all full of hope and happiness.

“I know I felt like this before
But now I’m feeling it even more
Because it came from you”

It is the one song on the album that I could listen to all day long. It begs loud volumes and full attention. And though I never knew this song at the time, it always manages to transport me back to that summer and brings a smile.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

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Best tunes of 1993: #24 Suede “The drowners”

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Suede is one of the great british rock bands of the 1990s. They formed in 1989 and quickly grew to prominence around the friendship and combined talents of Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler. Their self-titled debut had the British press fawning all over them and their sleek and sexy glam rock. The band would later be seen as one of the big three or four groups that spearheaded Britpop, a renaissance era in British rock and culture, and a scene I completely bought into, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, over here in Canada.

However… however, I didn’t get into them right away. I know. Even now, I don’t have a good reason why not.

I was aware of them from the get-go and a lot of my friends were falling all over themselves for Suede. I remember a bunch of people I know wearing T-shirts with the debut cover art on the front, the androgynous figures kissing was definitely an attention grabber in my small hometown. I had a bit of a fling with “We are the pigs”, a single off their sophomore record, but the full on love didn’t come until the Britpop extravagance of their third record, “Coming up”.

Alas, the love for “Suede”, the mighty debut, would come much later for me and yeah, today’s song, even a bit after that. But now, it’s easily my favourite on the record and one of my favourite all-time Suede songs. “The drowners” was originally released in 1992 as a single* but I made the executive decision for it to appear here as the lone representative on this list of 1993 tunes from such an auspicious debut.

“The drowners” is a swanky, four-minute seduction. It’s introduced by machine gun fire drums and rip raunchy guitars. From there it slithers down your spine, like a slick stripteasing dancer, greased up and swinging around on the pole. Brett Anderson teases us snidely, vaguely hinting at drugs or sex or both, a wanton pleasure that can’t be helped, and that might just be fatal. And yet, our protagonist gives in to it. We all give in to it eventually.

“So slow down
Slow down
You’re taking me over
And so we drown”

*Incidentally, one of the b-sides off “The drowners”, an amazing ballad called “My insatiable one” appeared at number ten on my Best Tunes of 1992 list.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.