Badly Drawn Boy- Hour of the Bewilderbeast
This will always be featured in any list I compile of albums I love/favourite albums/best albums ever. It’s amazing from start to finish.
I think I first heard it when I was about 17 (so this would have been about 2003) and I helped out on Saturdays in my friend’s boyfriend’s record shop. It was a little independent shop, and he was very knowledgeable about music. We got a lot of ‘muso’ types in and to be honest, I very rarely knew anything about the bands they were talking about. It was all Squarepusher and Mars Volta and stuff I didn’t like. But every morning before the shop would open and we were setting up, he would put this album on. I had never heard of Badly Drawn Boy before, but I just fell in love with the album. If the shop was quiet, I would ask to put it on again but mostly the owner would say no as he didn’t want people thinking we didn’t listen to anything else!
I didn’t get paid with money when I was helping out because the shop was finding its feet so often I would just get lunch but eventually he would pay me by giving me a CD. The first time I was paid in music was when I was given this album. It hadn’t occurred to me to actually buy it as we only had one copy and then we wouldn’t be able to listen to it in the shop. I was overwhelmed to get my own copy and still brought it in every Saturday so we could listen to it. I also had a Walkman and used to take this CD everywhere so I could listen to it, but I’d have to make sure the Walkman stayed completely flat or the whole thing would skip.
Normally, I don’t really click with albums that have too much of an eclectic sound within one album- where all the songs sound so different to each other- it can sound disjointed. Not this album though- there is a common feeling that runs through the album even though the sounds are so different so there’s a sense that it all comes together. It’s mournful in places and then quite upbeat and funky in others. The opening track- The Shining- is so beautiful, I still feel like crying when I hear it. And of course, Badly Drawn Boy has had loads of songs like that (that make me cry) - A Minor Incident, Silent Sigh, I’ll Keep The Things You Throw Away.
Polaris- Music from The Adventures of Pete and Pete
Polaris were a short-lived project involving some members of one of my other favourite bands - Miracle Legion. They were commissioned to write the music for a Nickelodeon show in the 1990s called The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
I was a total ‘Nick Kid’ growing up- I was glued to all the stuff on there. From Rugrats and Rocko’s Modern Life to Sabrina and Are You Afraid of the Dark. This was the peak of kids TV as far as I’m concerned! One of my favourite shows was The Adventures of Pete and Pete- it was quite surreal, but I loved it (it had a cameo from Iggy Pop!). Polaris were the ‘house band’ and turned up in an episode or their music would generally be playing in the background. I always loved the music in the show, but I didn’t think you could actually buy it.
When I was about 16/17, a friend of mine bought me the soundtrack with all the Polaris tracks on it. I had tried to get it before, but this was before sites like Amazon, etc had taken off and I had looked for it on EBay and had no luck. I had been into numerous record shops enquiring about getting the album, but no one had heard of it, and I got nowhere. My friend actually sent emails to some friends in the US who did some digging and managed to buy directly from the record label (if memory serves) and then shipped it over to the UK where it was handed to me. I was absolutely over the moon- I was 100% certain I was the only person in Portsmouth, possibly Hampshire (maybe even the UK) with that CD. I think I have played it at least once a week ever since - nearly 20 years. I have never, ever gotten sick of it. It’s indie, surf-rocky, melodic heaven. Tracks like She is Staggering and Waiting for October are some of the best pop songs ever written.
It also led me to look into Miracle Legion and Mark Mulcahy’s (the lead singer of both bands) solo stuff which I also love. He is now one of my most beloved musicians and it all started with me watching that TV show.
Spice Girls - Spiceworld
The Spice Girls were the first band I became completely consumed by. I was totally caught up in the hype - they were all over TV, in every magazine, you couldn’t escape them. I think I was just the right age - if they had started just a few years later, I would have already been well into punk and wouldn’t have given them the time of day. But, as I was into them before I discovered The Dead Kennedys, The Clash and Bikini Kill et al, I was able to just be totally unbothered by what was cool and alternative and unashamedly love them. I had Spice Girls posters, bought the crisps, drank the Pepsi - anything they had their name to I wanted. Me and a friend would dress up as them and ‘perform’ their music. Who was my favourite Spice Girl was my biggest dilemma, although it was pretty much always Geri.
I did like their first album but the difference between their debut and their second album Spiceworld is stark. The second album seems so much more polished and I much prefer it. It’s a really joyous and poptastic album- I like every song on it but something about Spice Up Your Life just gets me into some sort of frenzy - it’s so dramatic, it gets me really hyped up!
I still listen to the album now - not in an ironic way, but because I actually like the songs. They were the first girl band I ever loved and since then I have come to love so many female vocal groups (Shangri Las, En Vogue etc) but the Spice Girls were my original big sisters.
The Donnas- Spend The Night
Speaking of girls in bands, if there was ever a band I would have chopped off my right arm to be in, it is The Donnas. I have no recollection of when or where I first heard them but I know I had their album Turn 21 when I was at secondary school, so I was a young teen. No one in school had heard of them so I felt extra cool. They were MY band. I think I must have seen the video for their song 40 Boys in 40 Nights on MTV2 and went from there.
I was simultaneously intimidated by how cool they were but wanted to be their friend (or have friends like them). They were American which made them cooler to me as a teen, they sang about boys and going to parties, etc - stuff that I didn’t really get to experience until I went to college. I loved their whole attitude and image and this album was a bit of escapism for me. It’s quintessential US pop punk but was unusual in that it was an all-female group - 90s pop punk was quite male dominated. Tracks like Take It Off and Who Invited You are lairy sass and I love it.
Green Day- Warning
Once I had shaken off my Spice Girls obsession and was fully into alternative music, I was obsessed with Green Day. I had a Green Day hoodie (had the cover of Dookie on the back) that I never took off. I slept in it. I tied it round my waist at school. I bunked off my morning lessons once because Green Day were on The Big Breakfast, and I had to stay and watch them, but it didn’t finish until about 9.30!
When Warning was released in 2000, I was 14 and at the height of my love for them. I (again) bunked off school to go down to the local HMV to buy Warning on release day and thought I would queue outside with all the other excited fans. Turns out, there was not as much of a buzz as I thought as I was the only one there.
When I got home and put the album on I was, like quite a few fans, pretty disappointed. I love Green Day, but Warning was not their strongest album and it was a difficult follow up to 1997’s Nimrod which is my favourite album of theirs.
Nevertheless, as the years have gone on, certain tracks have grown on me a bit with Blood, Sex and Booze, Church on Sunday and Jackass sounding like classic Dookie-era Green Day.
Bloodhound Gang- Hooray For Boobies
I do feel a bit guilty for liking this album as I think it probably is a bit problematic in many ways, but I can’t help it - I love it. Like many teenagers, I was both horrified and awestruck by the smutfest that is the band’s hit song The Bad Touch. Everyone at school was titillated by the lyrics “you and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel”. A magazine wrote an explanation of all the terms in the lyrics to the song and that was basically my sex education.
The rest of the album is just as filthy, but it is also an incredibly entertaining and catchy album, with lead singer Jimmy Pop a formidable wordsmith. There is some great wordplay in loads of the songs - Right Turn Clyde, Heavens No, Hell Yeah and Take The Long Way Home, all have some genius lyrics.
When I bought it, I could tell the person behind the counter didn’t want to sell it to me, but I put on my most ‘I’m mature’ face and managed to get my copy.
Alanis Morissette- Jagged Little Pill
I think I probably bought this album off the back of the success of You Oughta Know. The ‘90s was a great decade for women in music - bands like TLC and Spice Girls, divas like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, hip hop stars like Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim etc. And then there were the singer-songwriter types - Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Jewel. Although I was not really into that sort of thing, I absolutely loved Alanis Morissette.
I love this album for two reasons - Morissette’s voice (which is so powerful it gives me goosebumps) and how she made it legitimate to be sensitive and to feel angry, aggrieved and upset and for that to still be powerful, not a weakness. That’s something that I think all the Lilith Fair crowd achieved - chronicling women’s experiences and instead of saying things like ‘we’ve broken up but I’m over you’ or ‘my heart is so sad, please take me back’ it was just raw emotion. I’m heartbroken and I’m angry and that’s sometimes a bit messy but that’s ok.
You Oughta Know is the greatest break up song ever, along with Don’t Speak by No Doubt.
Blink 182- Enema of the State
This was the first album I bought by Blink 182. Influenced by my love of Green Day, I started exploring US pop punk and as soon as I discovered Blink 182 they were catapulted into my top five favourite bands of all time and have stayed there ever since.
I wish I could say there was a really deep reason why I love this album or some hidden meaning for me behind the songs but there isn’t. I just think it is a perfect example of a great band at the peak of their powers. It is not my favourite album of theirs, but it is the best example of Blink 182 and their appeal and why they got so popular. I did get sick of All The Small Things eventually because it was totally overplayed - the best songs on the album are the album tracks rather than the singles. Going Away to College, Mutt and Don’t Leave Me are my standout tracks and everything about the album - the cover, the CD inlay, the song topics are all iconic.