Musically, I seem to be trapped in the 1990s.
I like to kid myself that I’m very musically adventurous, that I’m a musical sophisticate, listening one day to an obscure 60s soundtrack, the next to Steve Reich and the day after some Congolese flute songs. But somehow, when faced with a long bus journey or an evening in, I always end up listening to crappy guitar bands from the 90s. It’s not that I think this is the best music, it’s just that those bands got to me when I was at my most receptive: those precious years between 15 and 25 when I was genuinely excited and amazed by music. If I listened to the Manic Street Preachers for the first time now I’d think they were a joke – but they got me when I was young so I will always think that they are amazing.
These days, I probably listen to a much broader range of music that when I was in my twenties (I am actually listening to the soundtrack to Chinatown as I type this), but I struggle to listen to new things: I simply don’t have the patience or appetite. Every year I try to listen to a few new bands, just to keep my hand in, but it’s a struggle to find things that really excite me. I’m already full of music and any new things I listen to just spill out on the floor. In the last year the only “new” music that has really made me swoon has been Jens Lekman, and he arrived on the scene about 8 years ago, although I only discovered him recently.
Anyway, enough waffle. This is supposed to be an introduction to my randomly chosen 10 great lost indie singles of the 90s. This is a purely subjective choice, although I did have some ground rules: No britpop, no songs that might have appeared on a compilation entitled “Indie Disco” or “The Best Album EVER!” I wanted to include the kinds of bands that featured in the lower reaches of John Peel’s Festive Fifty, or as filler on a free CD given away with Select Magazine. There were a few songs I wanted to include that I couldn’t find on YouTube. Rats. I also broke a few of the rules. The Tindersticks are hardly obscure, and apparently no one has forgotten Fade into You by Mazzy Star as it was featured in an action sequence in Starship Troopers. I didn’t know that.
Here they are, in no order:
1) Sebadoh – Flame
Sebadoh are one of those bands where I’ve convinced myself that I really like them, whereas in fact I actually only like about 3 songs per album. Maybe that’s enough. Flame was their breakthrough single, and ridiculously, they played it on Top of the Pops.
2) Ooberman – Shorley Wall
I know very little about Ooberman and have no particular desire to learn about them, but I love this song and the spoken word bit makes me a bit teary.
3) My Drug Hell – Girl at the Bus Stop
Again, I know very little about the band. I vaguely remember them being “ones to watch” in the mid-90s.
4) Thieves – Unworthy
Thieves split up almost before they started. The singer is David McAlmont, who is one of the best people on Twitter. He’s best known for his collaborations with Bernard Butler, but he is in fact a human being in his own right.
5) Drop Nineteens – Winona
One of those college rock bands like Magnapop or Wheat that all seemed to look the same and all produced at least one great guitar anthem.
6) Cousteau – The Last Good Day of the Year
A classic one-hit-wonder. I remember them playing on Jools Holland. It sounds a lot like Walk On By but that’s no bad thing.
7) Half Man Half Biscuit – Dickie Davies Eyes
I like the idea of Half Man Half Biscuit much more than I actually like their songs, but this is fantastic.
8) Mazzy Star – Fade Into You
Everyone loves this song. In fact, I think during the 90s every single indie male fancied the pants off Hope Sandoval. Even the fact that she had sex with one of the Jesus and Mary Chain couldn’t take the sheen off her.
9) Adorable – Sunshine Smile
I remember hearing a 3 second clip of this on the Indie Chart in the Chart Show and thinking it sounded like crap. Some years later I heard the full version and realised it was great. It’s a fairly generic indie-by-numbers anthem, but is still great. When I first posted this list on Twitter, a man tweeted me to tell me he used to be the drummer in Adorable.
10) Tindersticks – Travelling Light
Again, I want to like the Tindersticks more than I actually do. I love the idea of them: morose, chain-smoking doom-mongerers inhabited by the spirit of Lee Hazelwood and Scott Walker. As it is, I often find them a bit boring. However, I do love this song. I remember the video by discussed on some panel show. It may have been The Beat or Naked City or Raw Soup. They were terrible days.
BREAKING NEWS: It has been correctly pointed out that Dickie Davis Eyes by Half Man Half Biscuit came out in 1986, which as many of you will know, is not in the 90s. This is a disaster. However, I cannot be bothered to update this list.