Ten years gone: 1997


24 jul 2007, 22:42

It may have been the year that Britpop started to fizzle out, but 1997 was, for me, the best year for music in my lifetime so far. It was chock full of great albums which have stood the test of time, and it had more than its fair share of stone-cold classics, with three of my favourite bands producing their best albums:

Blur - Blur
At the time, the hype surrounding this album before its release suggested that it would be a self-consciously 'weird' album and a huge shift away from The Great Escape. With the exception of final track Essex Dogs, I don't really think it's either of those - it's still quite an accessible album (certainly more so than 13, where they began to concentrate less on the songs and more on the soundscapes), just stripped down somewhat in its production values. When I first heard Beetlebum on the radio before it was released, I was very underwhelmed, but after repeated listening, it just grew and grew on me until it became one of my favourite songs. And that was the case for the rest of the album too - for me, it's the best and most rewarding album in their catalogue and is tied up with a lot of good memories from the time.

Stand-out tracks: Beetlebum, On Your Own

Charlatans - Tellin' Stories
Full of great songs and loping grooves, this is their most rounded and consistent album. Even now, this and preceding album The Charlatans are two of my favourite summer albums. Finished and released after keyboard player Rob Collins' death, it's has a mix of the upbeat, euphoric songs that they do so well and some sadder moments (e.g. How Can You Leave Us). Without him, the band were arguably never quite the same again.

Stand-out tracks: With No Shoes, Tellin' Stories, One To Another

Radiohead - OK Computer
What can I say about this album that hasn't been said already? Pre-Millenial angst perfectly distilled into 53 minutes 27 seconds of perfection, it was a huge leap forward from the magnificent The Bends. In 1997, there was probably no better band on the planet.

Stand-out tracks: Paranoid Android, Exit Music (for a Film)

There were another three albums that aren't on the level of those mentioned above, but which I still found hugely enjoyable:

Oasis - Be Here Now
OK, it's not a patch on their first two albums, it sounds like the product of too much coke and it's at least fifteen minutes too long. But this really isn't that bad an album - it's a pity that they don't play any songs from it live, or that they didn't put any of the songs from it on their Best Of collection. I was so excited about this album before it came out and I don't think I've ever seen any record hyped as much as this one. Having rushed to HMV on the morning of its release, I still have my certificate of purchase that proclaims 'I was there then'.

Stand-out tracks: The Girl in the Dirty Shirt, It's Gettin' Better (Man!!)

Ocean Colour Scene - Marchin' Already
Released in September 1997, this was their only album to reach number one in the UK album charts, knocking Be Here Now off the top spot. I never shared the critics' disdain for these guys - their first two albums are very, very good indeed and stand up to pretty much anything else released during the era.

Stand-out tracks: Hundred Mile High City, Travellers Tune, It's a Beautiful Thing

Seahorses - Do It Yourself
Along with Jonny Greenwood and Graham Coxon, John Squire is one of my favourite indie guitarists of all time. As a big classic rock fan, I loved his work on the hugely underrated Second Coming. This album doesn't even come close to approaching his former band's heights and I've never liked the production on it. But it is what it is - a fun album of melodic blues-tinged folky rock. They would release one more single (You Can Talk to Me) towards the end of the year before splitting up. The unreleased second album does circulate in trading circles and I will make an effort to try and get hold of a copy one day.

Stand-out tracks: Blinded By The Sun, Love Is The Law

After those albums, there are four more which are certainly not bad albums by any stretch of the imagination - indeed, two of them are widely regarded as classics - but apart from a few outstanding tracks, have never really grabbed me for whatever reason:

The Verve - Urban Hymns
The singles off this album are fine pieces of music, especially The Drugs Don't Work. But I've never got into the rest of the album, or for that matter, the Verve's other material. Still, I'd rather have them than most of the rubbish that passes for indie today.

Primal Scream - Vanishing Point
Coming after my two favourite Primal Scream albums - Screamadelica and Give Out But Don't Give Up - this has a much more mellow, low-key feel than either of those two albums, and probably anything they've done since. I prefer their more rock 'n' roll material and this album isn't something I could ever regard as a classic and listen to repeatedly. But it has its moments, like Star and the keyboard-led instrumental Get Duffy.

Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
This album was pretty heavy going for a 14-year-old, and it's fair to say that I've only begun to appreciate it more as I've got older. It has some revelatory moments of beauty, particularly the title track. Like Urban Hymns though, it's one album that I don't rate as much as many other people seem to.

Supergrass - In It For The Money
I loved I Should Coco - it's a really fun, summery album played mostly at breakneck tempo, and I guess I was hoping for more of the same with this, Supergrass's second album. But it isn't - it's a much darker, world-weary affair that, for me, just didn't sit well with the optimism of the period and for that reason, it was a big disappointment. Tonight and three of the singles - Richard III, Going Out and Sun Hits The Sky - are great. The remaining one (Late In The Day) and It's Not Me are passable. But the rest is pretty dire, especially the final four tracks on the album.

I would guess a lot of people around my age have fond memories of 1997 - it was a year full of great albums, unlike the following year when things seemed to really dry up. Ten years later, it's amazing how The Verve, Kula Shaker, Shed Seven, and (sadly), the Spice Girls have all recently seen fit to reform, so my nostalgic feelings must be shared by someone, somewhere.


  • St0rm

    be here now is just one awesome album

    25 jul 2007, 23:56
  • debbyca

    1997 was truly a wonderful year of music. Born and raised in Taiwan, I was immersed in the local music scene ten years ago. But as I grew up and developed the love for or English music in general, I wish I had experienced the glory that I had criminally overlooked. I have the fake nostalgia, lol. I love OK Computer (who doesn't?) and Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. Loads of other excellent albums were released in 1997, too, such as I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One by Yo La Tengo, Attack Of The Grey Lantern by Mansun, Whiplash by James, Ultra by Depeche Mode, Young Team by Mogwai, to name a few.

    15 aug 2007, 04:17
  • KeepItEvil

    I agree '97 was the last truly great year for music. Too bad was (just) too young/immature to realize it at the time...

    15 aug 2007, 23:20
  • dsims209

    Theres some great selections there, of the albums mentioned there, I own Blur, Be Here Now, Marchin' Already and Urban Hymns. It is true 1997 was great for music and you have made some top choices. Bittersweet Symphony was my first conscious memory of listening to music when I heard it in 1997, havent looked back since.

    23 sep 2007, 19:35
  • nowherelplans

    in it for the money its a great album its a step forward for supergrass

    6 maj 2008, 17:21
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