Edition: December 14, 2011
Rock-n-Roll Exhibition: DAVID BURDEN
Best British Songs of the Nineties, Noughties and Beyond
:: Playlist, intro, song descriptions, and photos, handpicked and written by David himself ::
As you may have guessed by the title of this list, I’m English. I like tea. I don’t take myself very seriously. I lived in a place called Aberystwyth at university. I used to be an English teacher. I’m terrible at learning other languages. I like bodyboarding. I always wanted to be an angry young man but I’m too happy-go-lucky. I take photographs for a living. I spend too long thinking about things. Tragically, I have at least five different ways of getting on the Internet at my house. I’m a morning person. I like dark comedy. I think music has more power than most people realize. I hate it when auto correct changes realise to realize.
If you think this playlist may seem just a teeny weeny bit nationalistic, you’re probably right (I do love music from all over the world though, honest. I was just struggling to find a theme here). What I think this playlist demonstrates best is that once all the hype has died down and people are off chasing the next big thing, songs can actually be properly appreciated. I think the problem with most music that gets released is an overkill of hype—especially in the UK. Now more than ever the next cool band replaces the last too fast thanks to today’s throwaway culture. A few years down the line and it has become a lot clearer (to me anyway) exactly which ones were five minute fads and which ones I’ll take along with me for the rest of my life.
I thought about putting them into some kind of chronological sequence but that was far too fiddly, so in no particular order, I hope you enjoy my standout tracks from the good old UK from the last 20 years. Let’s hope the next 20 years are equally as fertile. RULE BRITANNIA!
Big shout out to Mr. Dethu and the TBD crew. Cheers!
01. Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor – Arctic Monkeys
Pre-pubescent spotty northerners re-invent catchy punk pop with a little help from MySpace. Hats off to these guys, this album is fantastically written without a dud song on it—an instant classic that championed the minutiae of modern British life for your average teenager. Nights out on the town, trying to pull birds, trying to get served at the bar… Alex Turner & co. have yet to top this.
Whatever You Say I am, That’s What I’m Not/2006
02. Banquet – Bloc Party
All angular guitars and soaring vocals, this coming of age song (“turning into the light/becoming adult/turning into myself”) from frontman Kele Okerere is easily the best track from the art punk kings of London’s debut album. Excellent disco remix helped cement the crossover appeal of Bloc Party to the electronica scene.
03. The Cedar Room – Doves
Literally formed out of the ashes of electronic outfit Sub Sub (their studio burnt down), Doves changed direction and began crafting more guitar driven songs, much to the benefit of the late 90s indie scene. This one sounds best loud in the headphones fanging up the bypass on the bike. The absolute definition of anthemic, the pounding drums and ethereal guitars are simply sublime.
04. Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors – Editors
Channeling the spirit of Joy Division and the visuals of Kraftwerk, Editors have taken their rightful place among the cream of the late 00s new wave bands (you know, the ones that are so cool they don’t even need a ‘The’). The distinctive voice of Tom Smith belies his young age, and a knack for knocking out resounding northern hymns like this one means that Editors really should have a whole lot more of their songs on this list. “Someone turned us round/can we start this again?” Incredible chorus line—no one has done uplifting melancholy this well since Ian Curtis.
An End Has a Start/2007
05. I Wanna Be Adored – Stone Roses
What can I say about the Stone Roses that hasn’t been said already? This just takes me right back to the golden era of Britpop when no-one had even heard of the Gallaghers. Ian Brown actually came to Bali last year and opened with this track—I nearly weed myself with excitement. Stunning stuff that will never get old.
06. Let it Live – Haven
Stadium rock from obscure Cornish four-piece. Sounds great in the car. I came across this one on a UK surf movie soundtrack. However, I actually know almost nothing about this band.
Between The Senses/2002
07. This is a Low – Blur
More so than ‘End of a Century” (from the same album), this sums up the state of the Empire at the end of last century, drawing on everything from shipping zones to the weather before rambling on about the Queen jumping off a cliff. Everything that’s great and not so great about Great Britain. “Around the Bay of Biscay/back home for tea”… Another Anthem.
08. Paranoid Android – Radiohead
They began the decade in 1990 as indie rock misfits, and ended it with the world following their every move. True sonic pioneers, Radiohead continually set the benchmark for experimentation, and never tread the same ground twice. Guaranteed to be found at the top of most people’s ‘best album of all time’ list, OK Computer is undeniably the most important album of the decade for me. Although the band would never admit it, this was the “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the 1990s—ambitious, loud, impossible to play live, and quite probably the best song ever made.
09. Turn The Page – The Streets
Bri’ish hip hop innit? Loved this as an antidote to US bling rap (which I generally like). It shouldn’t work really—the accent is heavy, the subject matter is generally banal (see ‘Fit But You Know It’) but something about this Brummie white boy struck a chord. This opening statement of intent from the debut album feels like storm front advancing over the grey inner city suburbs of Birmingham – “the hazy fog over the Bullring/the lazy way the birds sing”. Urbane urban poetry.
Original Pirate Material/2002
10. Dozen Wicked Words – Longpigs
Potentially the most underrated British band of the 90s, Longpigs managed only two albums before disappearing into obscurity. This debut album is all killer, no filler.
The Sun is Often Out/1995
11. Close to Me – The Cure
Ok ok this is just a tad pre 90s, but it got a lot of airplay all through the decade. I remember seeing the video clip on Saturday morning music program ‘The Chart Show’, and thought the surreal image of Robert Smith falling off a cliff in a wardrobe really intriguing. I used to play this in the surf shop I worked in and watch all the customers start unwittingly bopping away. Sunshiney pop from the goth masters.
Staring at the Sea/1986
12. Mirrorball – Elbow
Stumbled across this one on shuffle one day and I instantly fell in love with it. “We made the moon our mirrorball/the streets an empty stage/the city sirens violins/everything has changed”. Gives me goosebumps at how incredible Guy Garvey’s lyrics are. I dare you not to well up when the piano kicks in. No wonder they won the Mercury Prize with this stuff. Not content with musical stardom, the boys from Bury have just launched their own brand of beer. How cool is that?!
The Seldom Seen Kid/2008
13. History – The Verve
Despite numerous rifts between Richard Ashcroft and guitarist Nick McCabe, not to mention spending more time broken up than together, the people’s band of the 90s managed to find enough time to record a number of decade-defining songs including this heart-wrencher, that draws heavy inspiration in the opening lines from the William Blake poem ‘London’. Commented Gallagher senior; “That Richard Ashcroft’s a genius right? He writes a song called ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ but they do! He must just have a shit dealer”.
A Northern Soul/1995
14. Come Back Brighter – Reef
“Birds whop their tits out at our gigs” once stated lead singer Gary Stringer of a typical Reef concert, although I went to a few back in their heyday and never saw anything of the sort. Luckily the music was equally worth showing up for, with foot stomping bluesy rock the order of the day—demonstrated nicely by this little number off the second album. No gimmicks, no ideas above their station, just a rock solid bread n butter guitar band that was the soundtrack to many a summer holiday.
15. Yellow – Coldplay
Forget all the P-Diddy hobnobbing, Bono-esque charity work and sold out stadium gigs, once upon a time Coldplay were just a promising young band from a sleepy Devon village who wrote great tunes. “Yellow” was undoubtedly the track that catapulted them to international stardom—and with good reason. Sadly it didn’t take long for the backlash to kick in, polarizing public opinion with their brand of earnest shoegazing indie rock.
16. The Words That Maketh Murder – PJ Harvey
Everyone loves Polly Jean. Fact. One of those rare artists that pretty much does whatever she pleases musically without falling in to the trap of ‘experimental for experimental’s sake’. Having ticked off grunge, indie rock and alternative, new album Let England Shake is a collection of folky anti-war protest songs that won her the Mercury prize again, making PJ Harvey the only artist ever to win it twice.
Let England Shake/2011
17. Delicate – Damien Rice
The Irish folky obviously has a gift for lyric writing, not to mention a rather large chip on his shoulder, effortlessly veering between sweetness and spite “so why’d you fill my sorrows/with the words you’ve borrowed/and why’d you sing hallelujah/if it means nothin’ to you”. Unfortunately he seems to have parted company with his former muse (Lisa Hannigan), but O remains an incredible, uplifting, tender work of raw beauty. All things considered, I think this might be my favourite album ever.
18. Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead
A masterclass in poise and grace, the closing song on The Bends leaves me breathless every time. Words simply fail me here. In fact I might have to go off for a little cry right now… (sob). Haha.
19. Live Forever – Oasis
The most well known of all the Britpop bands, Oasis must have been doing something right. At the time, I actually wasn’t really interested in any Oasis stuff, I was much more of a Blur fan (you had to be one or the other that was the rules). However, you can’t knock the Gallaghers for pure comedy value and some of the best songwriting since John & Paul. “Liam, me and my buddies are in a band and we wanna know how to be big like you guys” asked an enthusiastic teenager during a phone in on American radio station K-ROQ. “Buy some fuckin’ platform shoes” came the sneered response. Legendary.
20. Clint Eastwood – Gorillaz
What started out as a few cartoon scribbles and a tongue in cheek parody of manufactured drippy pop groups has exploded into the worldwide phenomenon that is Gorillaz. With a ‘career’ already spanning a decade, it’s clear that Damon Albarn’s collaborative side project is more than just a one-off. I remember this coming on the bar TV one day at the union when I was a grubby student and I was hooked, although it was second album ‘Demon Days’ that made me realize that Albarn is actually a musical genius.
21. Teardrop – Massive Attack
Featured on just about every chillout compilation album worth its salt, this oft-covered slice of trip hop electronica featured the vocals of Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser, and a vaguely unsettling video of a singing foetus. It’s one of those songs that feels like its been around forever, part of the musical landscape.
22. Runaground – James
Ever broken up with someone and then regretted it? Listen to this if not, and you’ll get the picture.
23. In the Meantime – Spacehog
Bit of a one-hit-wonder this one, with the band disappearing into obscurity almost as quickly as they appeared. What with the Axl Rose style vocals and distinctively un-British sound, you’d be forgiven for thinking these guys were American (actually Leeds), although they were based in New York, hence the album title I suppose.
24. Empire – Kasabian
Kasabian manage to straddle past and future equally well, with Beatles-esque quirkiness merging seamlessly into throbbing guitar assaults mixed with Chemical Brothers-esque techno. Like most ‘it’ bands these days it took ages for the hype around the ‘Oasis replacements’ to die down, but they seem to have settled into their own groove and are getting pretty good at dishing up albums that are both critically and publicly acclaimed. Taken from the somewhat incohesive second album, this opening track is a call to arms (or rather, a call to put them down) that sees Leicester’s finest jumping on the anti war bandwagon.
25. Talk Tonight – Oasis
Noel shows off his sensitive side with this almost throwaway acoustic number that sounds more like two mates jamming in the studio than your average Oasis offering. This is no bad thing.
The Masterplan / 1998
26. When the Sun Goes Down – Arctic Monkeys
“So who’s that girl there?/I wonder what went wrong/so that she had to roam the streets/she don’t do major credit cards/I doubt she does receipts…” No prizes for guessing the subject matter for this one. Equally comic and tragic thanks largely to Turner’s spot-on lyrics, the penultimate track on the Monkeys’ debut LP is yet another gem off this almost flawless album.
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not/2006
27. The National Anthem – Radiohead
Oh dear I’ve gone and put three Radiohead songs in the list. I tend to play this one very loud whilst jumping around my lounge playing the ‘air bass’. Should this replace “God save the Queen”? Definitely yes is the answer to that.
Dave is a photographer from the South Coast of the UK who’s been living in Bali for the last 6 years teaching, writing and photographing things. He can often be found loitering around social events, stroking his flashlamp and lapping up the free bar.
Check out also www.davidburdenphotography.com
- Dec 21 | Exhibition: Hasief Ardiasyah (Associate Editor Rolling Stone Indonesia)
- Dec 28 | Exhibition: Adi Cumi (vocalist of Fable & Raksasa)
And more exhibitions in 2012 by Anto Arief, Doni Iblis, Tony Tandun, Ricky Surya Virgana, Tony Trax, Josh Howard, Kas, Saleh Husein, and more.
See y’all again next Wednesday!
Boozed, Broozed, and Broken-boned,
*subject to change
The Block Rockin’ Beats
Curator: Rudolf Dethu
Every Wednesday, 8 – 10 PM
The Beat Radio Plus – Bali, 98.5 FM
120 minutes of cock-melting tunes.
Zero horse shit.
Rad-ass rebel without a pause.
Shut up and slamdance!