Then and Now: 1994
This is the first in maybe a series of articles which will show (ironically) how the music you listened to back in the years can still be around now. They say that in music everything goes in full circle, and you know what? It's true, it does. Allow me to pick five albums that for me were essential listening back then, and as you'll see, what became of the music I listened to.
Hips and Makers - Kristin Hersh (4AD)
Then: Kristin's first solo acoustic album, and one that had the press really praising it. The opening track and single, "Your Ghost" features no less than Michael Stipe of REM on guest vocal duties, and throughout the album is an intense experience of emotions, acoustic guitars, violins, piano and a real change from her Throwing Muses rocking out stuff. Indeed, during "Close Your Eyes" you can feel the emotion in her voice as it almost gives out three quarters of the way through the song, along with the beautiful two-parter "A Loon" where at first it's an angry Kristin on acoustic, and then it mellows out later on. Strange maybe, but it works. I adore this album, and one review said that when it comes out you should ring the date in orange to remind yourself to buy it. Incidentally, the CD also came in a limited edition package with postcards (which I have, and the postcards are signed by Kristin herself, how nice is that?)
Now: Kristin's still going strong musically, and still releasing solo albums, her most recent being 2003's "The Grotto" (read my review). Nowadays she has a new band project, 50 Foot Wave, who've released a mini-album and completed a UK tour (which I went to). The mini-album is well worth purchasing if you can locate it.
Stone Roses - Second Coming (Geffen)
Then: One album that really divided people, unlike their self-titled debut. Some hated it, although with time the album, for me at least, proved to be a real grower. The Led Zeppelin-esque "Love Spreads" definitely was a pastiche but so well done, and the beautiful "Ten Storey Love Song" never saw Ian Brown in better voice, frankly. While some tracks may seem like progressive rock in overload, others are simple yet melodic and it's an intresting release because of that. I didn't think too much of it at first but given time it actually was more ambitious than you'd think - check for example the eleven minute opener "Breaking Into Heaven" which after the opening Pink Floyd-esque workout of instruments and odd noise, comes in with a great groove and hookline, and eleven minutes long. Must also mention "Daybreak" as it mentions Longsight where I used to live.
Now: The Stone Roses split up in 1996, however singer Ian Brown is still going strong. Just recently he's released his fourth solo album "Solarized" and will soon be touring in Autumn 2004 to promote it. There was also a documentary on BBC3 recently about the band, their legal battles, and their git of a manager..
Senser - Stacked Up (Ultimate)
Then: A full on onslaught into the mind, body and soul, the sixty odd minutes of shouty rock, rap and 110mph pace really was one of the albums to own at the time. Mixing a variety of styles and nationalities, their no compromising lyrics and live shows gained them a following that to this day still enjoys this album. Tracks like the anthemic "Eject", "The Key" and "Age of Panic" demonstrated their approach excellently. Eject went at full thrust and I'm yet to know of anyone apart from the band who can actually recite all the lyrics correctly, there's so many of them. It's an assault but one that's well worth it for its rocking nature and the fact that they tackled difficult subjects - like racism (see "No Comply").
Now: The band got back together with its original line up in 2001, and this year have released their third album "Schematic", well worth checking out.
Morrissey - Vauxhall and I (Parlophone)
Then: Morrissey was still doing pretty well in his solo career, boosted by the success of previous release "Your Arsenal". Vauxhall and I sees him in a more reflective mood, although he could still cut down the critics with enough barb and bite, not least in the closing track "Speedway" which was an answer to all those who'd slagged him off in the press at that time. The single "The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get" is still one of my favourite Morrissey singles, it just has a great melody, hookline and some really thoughtful lyrics., as does "I Am Hated For Loving". It's a very reflective album but also one that's more personal, and for that reason alone it was one I was not only proud to own, but queue up seven hours outside HMV and have the CD signed by the man himself (cheers Moz!)
Now: 2004 saw his first album in seven years, "You Are The Quarry" (read my review) and many tours, not least possibly the Morrissey gig at Manchester Evening News Arena in May. The album's been highly praised critically and there's not been a better single all year than "First of the Gang To Die".
Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible (Epic)
Then: For many people this album represented the Manics at their finest, at their most intense. Lyrically they were never better with passion in their words, and also this was the last album with Richey James present. The attitude that they still had in abundance was summed up perfectly by the anrachaic "Of Walking Abortion" and contrasted perfectly by the slow burner "This Is Yesterday" which is still a live favourite and a very reflective song indeed. Then you've got the singles, "Faster" and "Revol" which were full on assaults and really gave power to their angst. But one track maybe above all else sums up the mood more than any, the epic "The Intense Humming of Evil" which had Industrial overtones in its introduction but gave way to a really desparate feel of brutality. Not one to listen to if you're really down.
Now: After a few years since "Know Your Enemy" the Manics are due to release a new album "Lifeblood" and arena tour in Autumn 2004. Hopefully after their average live shows on the "Know Your Enemy" tour they're back with a vengeance.