The spirit of ’95

Mar 08, 2015 No Comments by

The recent announcement of the new Blur album made me nostalgic for 1995. I moved to New York in June of that year and spent most of the summer and fall—and the following winter—listening to the work of musicians based 3,000 miles away, including Blur. What a moment that was for British pop. Not a boundary-pushing moment by any means, but a moment of vigorous, celebratory creativity that makes me smile to recall it even now.

The July 1996 issue of Musician (senior editor: yours truly), featuring Blur, Oasis, Pulp, the Boo Radleys, and other Britpop notables

The July ’96 issue of Musician (senior editor: me), featuring Blur, Oasis, Pulp, and other notables

Nearly a year later, my Musician colleagues and I tried to sum it all up in an issue devoted to what had been going on across the Atlantic. Despite some last-minute corporate interference that made it less of a statement than it should have been, that July ’96 issue was one of the most enjoyable projects I worked on during my tenure at the magazine.

Coincidentally, 1995 was also the year Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity was published. And so in an off moment this weekend, with a loving nod to Hornby and his music trivia-obsessed main character Rob Fleming, I thought it might be amusing to come up with a personal top-10 list of albums that were released two decades ago. Not necessarily the best ones, but the ones that have spent the most time in my head, both in that year and in the years since. The 10 titles came to me almost instantly as soon as I had the idea. No scientific method—no method of any sort—was employed. It’s impossible to calculate how much actual time I’ve spent listening to each of these; I just gave it my best guess.

Disclaimers done, here are my most heavily rotated albums from 20 years ago, in reverse order:

10. The Boo Radleys: Wake Up!
9. Swervedriver: Ejector Seat Reservation
8. Supergrass: I Should Coco
7. Paul Weller: Stanley Road
6. Elastica: Elastica
5. Pulp: Different Class
4. Oasis: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
3. Blur: The Great Escape
2. PJ Harvey: To Bring You My Love
1. Radiohead: The Bends

Such was the embarrassment of riches pouring out of the U.K. at this time that I could probably put together another list of 10 before getting to a single non-British act.

To anyone who knows me, of course, that number-one pick is no great surprise. Looking back now, I can see that The Bends came along at just the right moment in my life, establishing my personal and professional course for years to come. And if you only love that album half as much as I do, you’ll still probably be interested in reading this recent, insightful piece by Wyndham Wallace in The Quietus commemorating its 20th anniversary. Although Wallace’s personal connection to Radiohead was closer than mine and started earlier, his overall conclusions resonate deeply with me. Yes, there does come a time when you know you’re not going to speak with the band anymore. And yes, you do continue to feel a strange and almost wholly unwarranted pride in their achievements nevertheless.

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