Archive for England

Kiss Them for Me – Siouxsie & The Banshees

  • First Appearance: July 6, 1991
  • Weeks on the Chart: 5
  • Album: Superstition
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No?
  • Have I actually heard this song before? Yes.

I’d heard of Siouxsie & The Banshees before, but I’d no idea that’s how Siouxsie was spelled.

I got all the way to the chorus of this song before I recognized it. It was quite the journey. The song starts out sounding VERY 80s, but sheds some of that sound during the first verse. The song still feels very much of its time, or maybe a year or two before its time, but it’s certainly still an enjoyable listen.

The rest of the album is really cool. It veers into dark and almost gothic territory. It’s clear that Siouxsie had a strong influence on a lot of performers who came after her, and you can hear hints of that here.

Get the Message – Electronic

  • First Appearance: June 22, 1991
  • Weeks on the Chart: 2
  • Album: Electronic
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No?
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

This band has very bad SEO.

When I wrote that, before I listened to the album, a small part of me hoped that I wouldn’t have anything else to say about the album. That is not the case. The band was formed by former members of New Order and The Smiths, and was active from the late-80s to late-90s.

If you had told me that this band was a cutting edge band from the late 70s I would have believed you. If you’d told me the rode in with new-wave and synth in the mid 80s, I’d have believed you. If you told me this band came out of the early 2010s along with the likes of VHS vs. Beta, I’d have believed you.

Despite being very stylized, maybe even because of it, their music seems like it could have been written nearly any time in the last 40 years.

Getting Away With It may be the more familiar song to you on this album, but it’s certainly worth a listen, assuming you can find it.

The Other Side of Summer – Elvis Costello

  • First Appearance: May 25, 1991
  • Weeks on the Chart: 5
  • Album: Mighty Like a Rose
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No?
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

The Other Side of Summer is pretty classic-sounding Elvis Costello. Complete with 1960s sensibilities, catchy hooks, and a multi-layer production. I’m almost surprised I hadn’t heard it before, but it also isn’t quite as memorable as the songs of his with which you are more familiar.

The rest of the album ranges a little further than what you’d identify as classic Elvis Costello with some distinctly weird and experimental moments, but all very listenable-to. It’s an enjoyable and interesting album, and not one I can claim to have really heard anything off of before.

Right Here, Right Now – Jesus Jones

  • First Appearance: February 9, 1991
  • Weeks on the Chart: 5
  • Album: Doubt
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? Yes.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? Yes.

Jesus Jones is an English band. I did not know this.

Their first track on Doubt is almost punk or thrash. It’s very loud and very fast, and really does not match the rest of the album in any meaningful way.

The next few tracks, leading up to Right Here Right Now better set the tone for what was one of the most ubiquitous songs of 1991. Some twenty-seven years later and that track is still catchy, and the band very much deserved all the money they made from licensing it every chance they got. I’m, in fact, a little surprised that it’s not still used as a “this song is to establish that this movie or TV scene is happening in the early 90s”-song.

After that the album gets a little weird: loud and distorted. It never really feels like a cohesive album, and it’s not a shock that I couldn’t have named another song off of this album if my life depended on it.

All This Time – Sting

  • First Appearance: January 26, 1991
  • Weeks on the Chart: 2
  • Album: The Soul Cages
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

Sting exists outside of spacetime. If you’d told me this was a Sting album from ’87, right after the Police broke up, I’d believe you. If you told me that Sting released this album last year, I would believe you. If you’d told me that Sting brought a synth back to 1823 and recorded this album on that modern synth, and period instruments, I would also believe you.

All of which is a long way of saying that this album does not feel 90s. It feels Sting. It’s competent and good, but being Sting it does not evoke particularly strong feelings or insights.

Kinky Afro – Happy Mondays

  • First Appearance: January 19, 1991
  • Weeks on the Chart: 1
  • Album: Pill ‘N’ Thrills and Bellyaches
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

First and foremost, the name of the album is stylized in a way that makes my head hurt. Everywhere I could find it, it was Pills ‘N’ [sic] Thrills and Bellyaches. Why it had a capital ‘n’ inside the single quotes, and used both an ‘N’ and “and” are totally beyond me. But then, I suppose there’s no use in being a grammar pedant when talking about music. Especially when one of my favorite bands is Wilco who’s lyrics often make no good grammatical or semantic sense.

The relevant track, Kinky Afro was just a little weird, to be honest. Kind of forgettable, and not interesting in any real way. The rest of the album was interesting. The album still kind of reeks of the 80s with more synths and drum kits than I’d like, but it feels like it’s on the edge of something new. There are hints of later U2 here, and some foreshadowing of the alt rock we’ll see really emerge in the next few years.

The rest of the album is kind of cool. It really spans genres ranging from dancy, to funky, to just alternative/indie.

More – Sisters of Mercy

  • First Appearance: December 15, 1990
  • Weeks on the Chart: 5
  • Album: Vision Thing
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

This is the last album of 1990, the first of 1991, and the weirdest intro track of the year. It’s like if Metallica and Devo had a baby.

They are very much a goth rock band. The song Ribbons is a heavy beat, with the phrases, “Flowers on the razor wire,” “incoming,” and “walk on in” repeated at regular intervals. It is precisely as strange as it sounds.

This is another one of those albums that seems like a parody of the genre now, but was likely a little less absurd when it came out. Songs like Detonation Boulevard, and Ribbons are so over the top that they’re a little hard to take seriously.

In a lot of ways this seems like a fitting album to close out 1990. It’s overly serious, dark, and sounds like a lot of things that came before it. In a lot of ways 1990 was still the 80s for music.

The song that charter, More, is actually a bit more chill and listenable. But it’s fair to say it was a bit of a relief when the album was over and I could move to 1991, which holds the promise of Achtung Baby, Out of Time, and Nevermind, among others.

Never Enough – The Cure

  • First Appearance: September 29, 1990
  • Weeks on the Chart: 2
  • Album: Mixed Up
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? Yes.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? Yes.

This is an album The Cure. It sounds exactly like you’d expect an album by The Cure to sound.

Every Beat Of The Heart – The Railway Children

  • First Appearance: September 8, 1990
  • Weeks on the Chart: 1
  • Album: Native Place
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No.

This song leads off the album on which it appears. It is also probably the most aggressively 80s song we’ve heard so far. Which I guess kind of caps off my observation that 1990s was still the 80s musically.

It features heavy use of simple synth lines, and just feels very 80s. Music Stop, the album’s second song feels like it’s trying to be a dance hit, but is just far too slow.

Wikipedia classifies this band as New Wave, which is fair. And if I’m seeming laconic, it’s because this falls into that area where I’m not wildly excited about this album, nor do I viciously hate it. It just happens to feel like a lot of other British Pop from the 80s.

I’ll Be Your Chauffeur – David J

  • First Appearance: August 18, 1990
  • Weeks on the Chart: 1
  • Album: Songs From Another Season
  • Have I heard this song before (pre-listen)? No.
  • Have I actually heard this song before? No

I’d never heard this song before, but it was a really delightful ditty with clear echoes in current Belle and Sebastian in everything from the sparse instrumentation, to the bright bright guitars.

David J, the artist, was a member of Bauhaus, making him the second artist to pop up on this list with ties to the influential band, after Peter Murphy. All of which is a long way around of saying that I need to go back and listen to Bauhaus.

The album continues on with more quiet and contemplative songs with similarly sparse orchestration. Occasionally using acoustic guitars, along with background harmonicas that feel like they’re miles away to add texture to the songs, rather than to drive them.

I could go on and on. This is a really delightful and sweet album. It feels like you’re in David J’s living room and he’s just playing some songs for you. It’s really beautiful and well with the hour it will take to listen to it.