Sunday, October 02, 2011

1997 in Music Review

Hey everyone, welcome to the third edition in a series of reviews of a year in music. So far I have covered all the 2000s together as the Noughtie series, and so far monthly, the year 1999 and then last month, 1998.

Just in case you’re not familiar with it, here’s the format. It will be done in five parts. I'll do a brief history of what happened in that year, followed by my five favourite albums of the year, then what I think the five best videos are. I'll then do a Top 10 most impactful (still refraining from using the word important) songs from that year. To wrap it up, I'll do my favourite songs in a mixtape format. So now that you know where I'm going with this, let's get to it!

Brief History of the Year 1997 in Music

  • Radiohead's "OK Computer" was released, and despite only selling 4.5 million copies, is considered one of the best albums of all time.
  • The Notorious B.I.G. is shot dead in a passenger seat. Gang feuds were to blame.
  • Oasis release "Be Here Now" which at the time was the fasting selling album, with nearly 700,000 copies in the first week.
  • Paul McCartney of The Beatles is knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
  • White Zombie disband. One year later the lead singer Rob Zombie finds further success as a solo artist.
  • Coldplay formed. They weren't to release a full album for another three years however.
My Top 5 Albums of 1997

#5 - "Nimrod” by Green Day
Released: 14/10/97
Rating: ***1/2 stars

Stand-out tracks: "Hitchin’ a Ride”, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”, “King for a Day”

Nimrod is a decent little album by Green Day, and it was at a time were they were starting to add a bit of diversity to their music. Don’t get me wrong, you have some typical, rushed modern punk tracks like “Platypus (I Hate You)” and “Haushinka”, but you have those tracks that were slightly different. The great “Hitchin’ a Ride” is definitely the best example, which sounds like a modern Stray Cats. And “Good Riddance” is a modern rock ballad that will never be forgotten. “Nimrod” doesn’t really come to my mind in terms of great albums, but it does represent a time where Green Day were definitely starting to experiment, and a time that’s often underrated in their chronology of music.

#4 - "The Colour and Shape” by the Foo Fighters
Released: 20/5/97
Rating: ***3/4 stars
Stand-out tracks: "Monkey Wrench”, “Everlong”, “My Hero”

The problem with me doing the “Stand-out tracks” is that sometimes it’s common sense, and the singles stand out the most. So another great song that was not a single off this album that deserves recognition is “Enough Space”, which is one of the Foo Fighter’s hardest tracks, Dave Grohl screams the song title through the chorus and the riff is fricking awesome too.

Onto the album, “The Colour and Shape” is considered one of the best Foo Fighters albums yet that statement is something I disagree with. It’s one of the inferior albums in my books, that’s not to say it’s crap, it’s not, as I’ve said the Foo Fighters have always made great sounding albums without ever doing any proper ‘classics’. This album has great singles, hence the stand-out tracks all being songs that were released as such, and the rest of the album fails to match the quality of those singles for long periods of time. “Enough Space” is an example where it does, but for the most part they don’t. They’re good tracks, but not great. And that for me is why “The Colour and Shape” is this far down this list, and has the rating it has. It’s a decent effort by Dave Grohl and co, but they got better, and even their debut is more favourable in my eyes. Still, get it if you like the Foo Fighters as it’s not a disappointment, it’s just not as good as others.

#3 - "Sehnsucht” by Rammstein
Released: 25/8/97
Rating: ***3/4 stars
Stand-out tracks: "Du Hast”, “Eifersucht”, “Buck dich”

Rammstein’s second effort was very good, but things were definitely going to get better for the German Industrial Metal band. “Sehnsucht” shows the bands sound before they exploded into the mainstream in the UK with “Mutter” (one of the best metal albums of all time in my eyes), and if you compare the two albums side by side musically you can definitely see the evolution. Despite that, Rammstein were more than capable of creating that fantastic industrial metal sound and the German vocals are as emphatic as ever. “Sehnsucht” is a decent album to listen to if you like that genre of music, and sounds as good as anything else out there. There are better Rammstein albums, but it’s still a very good effort and I’d recommend it to you if this is your thang.

#2 - "OK Computer” by Radiohead
Released: 16/6/97
Rating: **** stars
Stand-out tracks: "Paranoid Android”, “Exit Music (For a Film)”, 
I think my mother would have murdered me if I never included this on the list of best albums of 1997! She’s a huge Radiohead fan, as I’ve said before on this site. In honesty, it’s not my favourite album by the band, I prefer “The Bends” and “Hail to the Thief” personally, but that doesn’t matter, “OK Computer” is a solid effort that’s more than justified. I don’t really no what to say about this album that’s probably not been said before; it’s just a classic in the eyes of both hardcore Radiohead fans and general indie fans as well. It’s a piece of art that will always be considered one of the biggest and best albums of all time. You’ll find it on many many lists of ‘best albums of all time’, however not on my personal list. Still, it’s a great album from start to finish and chances are you’ve heard it before in some capacity already.

#1 - "Radiator” by the Super Furry Animals
Released: 25/8/97
Rating: ****1/4 stars
Stand-out tracks: "Hermann ♥'s Pauline”, “She's Got Spies”, “Mountain People”
This may be considered a surprise entry by some as I’ve not really mentioned the Furry Animals before on this site. In fact, until I started looking back on the year 1997 for this article I’ve not listened too much from the band in many a year. Even more, I hadn’t heard “Radiator” for a good ten years before I listened to it a few weeks ago. This wasn’t going to be my #1 album; “OK Computer” above was going to be. But I did love this album when I was younger, but completely forgot until recently how fucking good it was.

If you were to ask me who my favourite Brit Pop band was, chances are it’d be the Super Furry Animals. If you were to ask me who my favourite Welsh band was, it’s most certainly the Super Furry Animals. They just seem like such a genuinely normal Welsh band who write music for fun and are also quite good at it. That’s what this album feels like. It brings me to a happy place as it brings me back to my youth but more than that, it’s just a great album to put on if you want to listen to some great nineties rock. The fact that they’re Welsh is a bonus naturally; I did spend thirteen years there and am very proud of my influences from Welsh culture. “Radiator” has a low score for a #1 album of the year, but simply, album releases weren’t that great this year. Music singles on the other hand were pretty solid, and you’ll see that below. But regardless, “Radiator” is not an album to be dismissed easily, if you like British rock from the nineties give this album a listen. It’s just fantastic.

My Top 5 Music Videos of 1997

#5 - "Sexy Boy” by Air
Air isn’t a band that interests me much and this song was decent, but the video was just excellent. It’s just directed really well. The band Air see a cuddly toy monkey with a t-shirt that says “I love moon” on it and they enter this bizarre fantasy world where the toy monkey is the size of Godzilla and starts walking across New York to the amazement of everyone. Speech bubbles come out of citizens on the street pointing at the monkey exclaiming “Look! It’s Sexy Boy!”. Eventually the toy monkey goes to the moon and we’re cut back to the band playing with the toy. The video is mainly in black and white and it’s just a classic video. Chances are you’ve seen this video, but forgot about it as interest in the song and video died down quite quickly.

#4 - "The Perfect Drug” by Nine Inch Nails
This video is possibly one of, if not the most expensive videos Nine Inch Nails have done. It cost nearly $1 million and was directed by the excellent Mark Romanek, who also directed “Closer” as well as excellent videos like “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and “Hurt” by Johnny Cash. The video, as well as the song, is one of Trent’s most diverse, most uncharacteristic, and just odd. Trent pulls off a weird yet awesome looking moustache and goatee in the video and has his long hair, and he’s seen in costumes from other periods of time and is wielding swords. It’s just odd seeing Trent in this state when he’s usually stoic and closed in nature. Yet it’s really good, really well designed and the design of the video is excellent.

#3 - "Everlong” by the Foo Fighters
I said it last month with “My Hero” and I’ll say it again. The Foo Fighters are the best band at producing videos in all times. Seriously. Their videos are consistently great and this is no exception. “Everlong” to my knowledge is the first video by the band to feature dress crossing, as at the time new drummer Taylor Hawkins is dressed up as Dave Grohl’s girlfriend/wife (and does a fantastic job of it too). The video is of this ‘couples’ dreams and how they’re attacked by two men in the dream and Grohl’s hand increases to a huge size and he attacks them back with it, in theory, killing them and they disintegrate into ground and end up in the real world. Dave Grohl’s character however ends up trapped in Mrs Hawkins’ dream (yes that’s the name I’m giving Taylor). Mr Grohl tries to communicate with the missus via telephone to warn her that the two men are in the real world but she’s fast asleep. She manages to use the phone to communicate with the hubby. This somehow gets Dave Grohl back into the real world we see my favourite bit. Dave Grohl gets a log nunchaku and starts wielding it around like a total pro. He then drops it and his hand starts increasing to the huge size again. He defeats the two attackers yet again. The video ends with the band then coming out of their characters and start playing hteir instruments. It’s an excellent video, one that is better to watch than describe. It’s one of my favourite Foo Fighters videos that’s for sure.

#2 - "Man That You Fear” by Marilyn Manson
Anyone that knows me personally knew that I absolutely adored this song when I was younger. It was my username for most of my website logins and what not. It was the video that made me love the song. I have odd feelings for both the track and the video now, as I’ve grown up and I associate the song and video with a lot of my past, a lot of it is tainted with events that occurred in my personal life.

But I give credit where it’s deserved and “Man That You Fear” is a great video.It’s still possibly my favourite Manson video. It’s just directed very well and the story is excellent. The song itself is about Manson’s frank views on his life up until that point, from when he was a boy to the feared “Antichrist Superstar” he became in the mid-nineties. The video kind of reflects this, where a blind-folded girl is chosen to randomly choose someone who needs to be stoned to death. It turns out Manson is the person chosen, and the events in the videos document the last moments in this man’s life. He spends a good amount of time with his girlfriend/wife, who is distraught and upset as she knows the man in her life is about to die a horrific death. It’s just a great video, one you should really look at if you’ve not seen it before, regardless if you’re a Manson fan or not. If people think Manson isn’t a very good music artist and is all flash and no substance, check this out, he’ll prove you wrong.

#1 - "I’m Afraid of Americans (V1) by David Bowie featuring Trent Reznor
Man I love this video. The title of the song speaks for itself, where David Bowie claims he is afraid of Americans and the video follows this theme of fear as he is in the streets of a busy American city, only to be stalked by Trent Reznor (who still has the goatee but not the moustache from “The Perfect Drug” video above) around the city. As the song goes on David Bowie sees what seems like visions of crimes occurring before his eyes. One example is a young man pointing his fingers in a gun motion at a policeman’s head. David Bowie heads into a taxi but it turns out the taxi driver is in fact Trent Reznor, his stalker. Trent gets out of the car and starts firing a pretend machine gun at the taxi itself, before a cult of people appear. Bowie is completely terrified by everything happening around him. Trent leads this cult while the song ends with the lyrics “God is an American” said over and over again. It’s just an excellent video and is a good song that demonstrates the odd fear factor parts of the world has on America sometimes.

The Top 10 Most Impactful Songs of 1997

As I said, I'm NOT calling it the 'important' list, although it's more than just popularity as well. Anyway, here are the 10 songs of the year. It's an unbiased list.

#10 - "Monkey Wrench” by the Foo Fighters

In at 10 is not “Everlong”, but “Monkey Wrench”, as I consider the song to have made a bigger impact. “Monkey Wrench” in terms of singles, is one of the Foo Fighters’ heaviest tracks, with the excellent screaming section in the middle. The video was a clever one too, yet “Everlong” beats this track in terms of videos in my opinion. “Monkey Wrench” almost hit the Top 10, getting to #12 in our charts despite it being a hard rock track. It was the debut single off the second album, and definitely shows a harder edge to Dave Grohl, something that was arguably missing in the first album. It was a great track and was very well received, and it still more than relevant today.

#9 - "Karma Police” by Radiohead

“Paranoid Android” was released as the first single off OK Computer but you can make a claim that this song was the bigger of the two. “Karma Police”, despite getting to #8 (“Paranoid Android” got to #3) has since become a huge festival hit for the band, due to it’s toned down and easy to chant chorus of “this is what you get”, but the song itself was quite popular at the time too, but its strength has grown over the years. The video concept ironically was given to a certain Marilyn Manson before he rejected it, and offered it to Radiohead instead. It’s just a nice soft song that’s about an in-joke between the band members where if they do something wrong, they threaten to call “the karma police” on eachother. Good stuff.

#8 - "Nancy Boy” by Placebo

This was Placebo’s fourth single and its still considered one of their best. Getting to #4 in the UK charts they’ve never bettered the song as a hit. It was their breakthrough track, although “Teenage Angst” before it was still a commendable effort. With the odd video, and the mixture of brit-pop and gothic indie, Placebo’s songs since are an extension from of this track, as Brian Molko’s vocals were are distinctive and important to the band’s sound. “Nancy Boy” is another of those songs that won’t go away; they’ll be remembered as one of the alternative brip-pop great tracks, and one that Placebo fans will never forget.

#7 - "My Own Summer” by the Deftones

Now if you’re not a metal fan chances are you’ve not heard of this song. But if you are a metal fan and you haven’t… then you really need to hear it. I don’t claim to be the biggest Deftones fan, most of their songs don’t interest me, but this song is a metal classic. If you go out to metal bars and clubs, chances are you’ll hear this song. It’s a metal classic now, in a discreet way. It’s not an ‘in your face’ metal song in the respect that it gets played all the time, it doesn’t, but in the metal club scene, it’s just huge. You have to have this song on your playlist if you want to play some hard metal. The constant screaming of “shove it shove it” in the chorus is pretty damn popular. And it charted well for a metal song, getting to #29, and after “Minerva” is their biggest hit. That being said, this song is thought of much more than “Minerva” by both Deftones and general metal fans. Give it a listen if you haven’t heard it before, if you love a bit of metal.

#6 - "Song 2” by Blur

From Wikipedia:

“"Song 2" was the second track on the album, was the second single from the album to be released, is exactly two minutes and two seconds long, and is also the second track on their compilation Blur: The Best of. It reached #2 in the UK Singles Chart and also placed #2 on Triple J's Hottest 100 for 1997 in Australia. The song is also the second song on the second disc on the album Bustin' + Dronin'. It has two choruses, two verses and two bridges.”

That’s a lot of twos!

Otherwise known as the “WAA-HOO!” song, this song is a classic as well. It’s almost un-Blur like, in the respect that it’s possibly their heaviest track, with the fantastic guitars and the constant “waa-hoo” in the chorus. Apparently the song is a parody of grunge music. Blur were known for their slower, more lyrical orientated tracks where Damon Albarn spoke a bit clearer. This song however you can barely hear his vocals for most of the track. It was kick ass though, almost punk in a way, and has stuck as one of Blur’s finest moments.

#5 - "Around the World" by Daft Punk

Getting to #5 in the UK charts, only “One More Time” is a bigger chart success in this country for Daft Punk. That being said, this song fared much better, ahem, “around the world”, than it did in Britain. It got to #1 in Italy, and the US Dance charts, while getting to #5 in France and #4 in Belgium. With its simple chorus which is basically the title of the song said 144 times and its soft electronic beat, the song was just huge. It appealed to many audiences, not just in dance, but in rock, in indie and in pop. It’s not as played as often as it used to, but it’s still considered one of Daft Punk’s greatest efforts and is thought of very fondly.

#4 - "Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba

“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down!” Yes that song. It’s often criticised as being one of the most annoying songs of all time yet you can’t knock it for its success back in the year 1997 and even since. It got to #2 here in the UK, but it got to #1 in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US Modern Rock Tracks chart. It’s appeared in many forms of media, possibly most famously in the FIFA World Cup 98 game, and Weird Al put it on one of his Polka Medleys. The song hasn’t gone away, despite it being 14 years old, which like it or not, is a credit to the song’s longevity. Yes it has its haters, but people must love it to still play it even today.

#3 - "Smack My Bitch Up” by The Prodigy

Wow this song was controversial. Not only the song title, but the video too, if you haven’t seen it before, was very controversial. The video depicts someone from a first person perspective going out for a night out, getting drug, taking drugs, abusing women, picking up a stripper, doing a hit and run, and having sex at the end. The plot twist in the end of the video is that it’s actually a woman committing these acts, which riled up a lot of feminists. All the controversy surrounding the song furthered interest in it, and in the end the track got to #8 in the UK charts, but charted all over the world with decent success. It goes without saying really that this song made a huge impact.

It’s odd to think that this song initially was a raw B-side for the single for “Brain Stew” in 1994, not the huge selling, internationally recognised, acoustic classic it now is. There are many differences between the original B-side, and the remade version that is now a global smash hit that has sold nearly 2 million copies. But this ballad gets misinterpreted many times by casual fans, who believe that it’s a nice song wishing someone “the time of their life”, when it’s actually about lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong breaking up with his girlfriend who is moving to Ecuador, and his upset feelings towards it are felt in the lyrics rather than the tone of voice. The song at the time wasn’t a huge hit, but it did have some success in Australia, getting to #2. It got to #11 here in the UK. But the longevity of the track, the fact that it’s played so often today, the fact that it’s seen as one of the best acoustic singles of all time, has easily cemented it as one of the most important modern rock tracks in history. Good riddance.

#1 - "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve

I was torn whether to put “Good Riddance” down as #1 but I’ve gone with this instead. Regardless, there were definitely two tracks in 1997 that just trounced everything else in terms of popularity and long term appeal. I’ve given it to The Verve instead. I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a more important song, Rolling Stone have put it at #382 in their list of most important songs of all time. It’s hard to put into words what makes “Bitter Sweet” so iconic. The composition truly does add to its greatness, although it’s a sample from an orchestra recording of a Rolling Stone’s track called “The Last Time”. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the samples as both the Andrew Oldham Orchestra and The Stones wanted credits and a share. But regardless of all that jazz, the song is now a truly iconic track, a pure classic, that the video also contributes to. It’s easily The Verve’s biggest hit and the album “Urban Hymns” would definitely be incomplete without it. The song was a big hit too, getting to #2 here in the UK while getting to #1 in Canada, #3 in Ireland #6 in Finland, #9 in Norway and #10 in Sweden. “Bitter Sweet Symphony” is brit-pop at its pure best.

The Year 1997 Mixtape

Just in case you didn't know by now...

"A Mixtape is a playlist of a certain genre, band or era. The list is generally 80 minutes long, the same length of a blank CD, with further recommendations if some of the songs aren’t to your taste. Remember kids, downloading is wrong!"

So here we go! My favourite songs from the year 1997. Yes, this is a biased list.

  1. Into My Arms - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  2. Your Woman - White Town
  3. The New Pollution – Beck
  4. Nancy Boy – Placebo
  5. Hermann Love Pauline - Super Furry Animals
  6. Song 2 – Blur
  7. Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
  8. The Drugs Don't Work - The Verve
  9. Paranoid Android – Radiohead
  10. Debaser - The Pixies
  11. Monkey Wrench - Foo Fighters
  12. Hitchin' a Ride - Green Day
  13. Kiss Me Where It Smells Funny - Bloodhound Gang
  14. The Perfect Drug - Nine Inch Nails
  15. Du Hast – Rammstein
  16. A.D.I.D.A.S. – KoRn
  17. Long Hard Road Out of Hell - Marilyn Manson
  18. The Biggest and the Best - Clawfinger
  19. My Own Summer – Deftones
  20. I'm Afraid of Americans (V1) - David Bowie and Trent Reznor
And here are the five alternative songs if you don't like some of the above...
  1. D'You Know What I Mean? – Oasis
  2. Down - Gravity Kills
  3. Smack My Bitch Up - The Prodigy
  4. Novocaine for the Soul – Eels
  5. King Nothing – Metallica
And there we go! The year 1997 in review! I hope you've enjoyed this. So that’s three years covered from the nineties, next month naturally I’ll be covering 1996. What we your favourite songs and albums from 1997? Any other comments or queries? Raise them below. Thanks for your time.

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