1996 was another great year for music. It was the year where Britpop was still just about king but a whole host of new and exciting acts who prefers keyboards to guitars were having massive hits. It was the year when even bands like Oasis invited acts like the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy to support them. Events like Brighton’s much missed Essential Festival saw line ups deliberately designed to appeal to an increasingly less fussy crowd. It was a summer where indie, dance, hip hop and on occasion rock all sat comfortably together and right then music was interesting, varied and regularly exciting.
Yet despite all that it was the return of a band who many people thought would simply fade away given that one of their members disappeared without a trace, never to be seen again. However, this was the Manic Street Preachers and they, as usual, did things their way and when they returned, at what was absolutely the right time, clean shaven, reflective and with a songbook full of incredible songs it was like we had a new band to celebrate, which in some ways we did. They rather predictably topped my end of year top ten with song about libraries giving us power.
A Design for Life – Manic Street Preachers (1996, Sony Records, Taken from ‘Everything Must Go’)
At number two in my Top Ten was a remix of a song about being an alcoholic that originally started life as a B-Side (to the original unremixed, instrumental version) and then had its chorus of “Lager, Lager, Lager” catapulted into everyday speech thanks to its appearance in ‘Trainspotting’. A chorus apparently dreamed up by Karl Hyde when he got frustrated at continuously losing his place in the queue at a bar.
Born Slippy Nuxx – Underworld (1996, Junior Boys Own Records, Taken from ‘Trainspotting OST’)
And for once I think I got the top two spot on.
It wasn’t all Britpop and amyl house round my way though. I still loved a slacker anthem or two and one of my most listened to albums of 1996 was Beck’s supreme (and spoiler, coming to a Nearly Perfect Album Series near you pretty soon) ‘Odelay’. Something that was recognised by the fact that ‘Where’s It At?’ placed at Number 3 in my Top Ten.
Where’s It At? – Beck (1996, Geffen Records, Taken from ‘Odelay’)
The rest of the Top Ten would make a decent hour of music if you played them back to back, the Prodigy sat at four with ‘Firestarter’, the Super Furry Animals completed the Top Five with their brilliant swearing anthem ‘The Man Don’t Give a Fuck’. Number six was ‘Trash’ by the newly exciting and pumped up Suede, and at seven was this splendid hip hop blunt from the Fugees who by the end of the year would be one of the biggest acts on the planet.
Ready Or Not – Fugees (1996, Sony Records, Taken from ‘The Score’)
At number eight were a band who should have been the biggest band on the planet by the end of 1996 but weren’t. A band whose unique selling points were that they had two keyboardists, really bad haircuts and liked wearing jumpers that had been made by their nans. Sadly the indie record buying public disagreed with the critics and instead of filling their collections with excellent songs about puppets, roses and hiding in woods, they all went and bought some guff by The Lemonheads and the Fun Lovin’ Criminals instead of the tremendous ‘Race’ by Tiger.
Race – Tiger (1996, Island Records, Taken from ‘We Are Puppets’)
I bought Race (and the album it subsequently appeared on). It was, and still is, a fantastic single.
Before I read this, I was thinking to myself if 1996 had been a decent year for music. I had a job at this time that demanded a lot of me in terms of time and energy, and I didn’t get to many gigs that year, or indeed for the next couple of years either. But reading over your Top 10 brought a few things back.
Never took to Fugees.