The Best UK Top 10 Of The 90s Chart Poll – Groups 71 – 82

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Group 71

DJ Quicksilver – Bellisima: I know the artist name, but I couldn’t have named one of their tracks. I instantly recognise this one – it was all over the charts and blasting from cars back in the day – it even made regular appearances in the clubs into the next decade once I started getting dragged to those. It follows the precise formula of dance music – short, simple melody played over and over and over with occasional differences in the beat and one or two drops and/or underwater moment where the melody gets muffled before storming back. This one isn’t as cheap or weak as most.

The Beloved – Sweet Harmony: I can’t recall what this is. The video seems to have a lot of nudity. It’s only a couple of seconds into the song before I remember it. And I remember not liking it at the time. Lets see if my opinion has changed. There’s definitely something annoying about it, but I can’t say for sure what it is. The vocals aren’t my thing and it’s longer than it should be and I assume the nudity was a significant part of the song’s success. It’s fine, nothing against it.

Metallica – Enter Sandman: An easy group winner.

Incognito Ft Jocelyn Brown -Always There: The early 90s was picked with these dance/jazz/new jack hybrids with a big gospel vocal. Can’t say they ever did anything for me. I know I’m supposed to be impressed by the vocals, but they’re so on the nose, they’re screaming ‘look what I can do with my voice’ rather than ‘look how my voice compliments this song’. The song is actually fine too, but the whole early 90s dance vibe and production rubs me in criminal ways so it’s not something I’d ever vote for.

Group 72

The Tamperer Feat Maya – Feel It: Another song sampling Michael Jackson. And the song was notable back in the day for asking the important questions – ‘what’s she gonna look like with a chimney on her’. Being a Northern Ireland lad and a fan of absurdity, this was amusing for various reasons. It’s that silliness which stops the song from getting on my tits and I did have a soft spot for it back then, even if I’d entirely forgotten it till now.

Mariah – Dream Lover: One of the bigger hits of Mariah’s early days in the UK, this one mixes gospel and pop with her trademark vocals – it’s just sad what she became when she made sweet little pop songs like this. My group winner.

Black Grape – In The Name of The Father: Black Grape was one of those periphery groups for me – there was always one friend in the group who was a fan and the rest of us knew a few songs by association. That same person was much more into Happy Mondays, but Black Grape is basically the same thing. I did have one of their albums, but can’t remember what it was. Like most of the more rock oriented Madchester songs this one sounds good the first time you listen, but you quickly realise it sounds identical to all the others.

The Urban Cookie Collective – The Key The Secret: A decent one hit wonder.

Group 73

TLC  – No Scrubs: We all know it. It’s fine. My Group winner.

Technohead – I Wanne Be A Hippy: We all know it. Arguably one of the most embarrassing pieces of music ever shat out.

Shamen – Ebanezzer Goode: We all know it. One of my most hated songs. lOoK hE sayS Es ArE goOd!

The Smurfs – Your Christmas Wish: I had no idea this existed, but on principle of the previous two songs being two of the worst songs of all time, I’ll be voting for this over them.

Group 74

Sybil – When I’m Good & Ready: Another new one as far as I’m concerned. Vocals are decent, the video has entirely too much smiling, the beepy boopy sound is somewhat annoying. Actually, the chorus has elements that I may have heard before. I don’t have too much negative to say about it, it’s fine. My group winner.

Hale & Pace & The Stonkers: The Stonk: I remember Hale & Pace. They were a duo that were a ‘bit too blue’ in my parents’ words for pre-teen me to watch, which of course made me want to watch more. They were always on late though and I never got to see a lot. Like many comedy duos, they had the odd musical skit or flirtation. I don’t remember this at all, but it’s expectedly bad. The lyrics are funny – it seems to have been a charity song for Comic Relief – and the video is interesting as it features a load of old comedians and celebs, but the music is bad.

Ace Of Base – Don’t Turn Around: We all know The Sign and the one about wanting another baby, but do we know this? Of course we don’t. It’s quite similar to the two biggies.

Baby D – I Need Your Loving: Another example of one of those slow ballad songs with an inappropriately fast beat shoved into the song for some reason, without the pace of the song actually changing. The main melody is actually decent, the beat makes a mockery of it, and then some random Jamaican shite joins in the middle and completely spoils any good feeling I had for the song.

Group 75

Eagle Eye Cherry – Save Tonight: I have a feeling this person or group had other hits and that they were bigger outside of the UK, but it feels safe to call this a One Hit Wonder. Good song though. My group winner.

Chicane Ft Moya Brennan: I didn’t realise this was so long so I must have heard a radio edit. I liked this one – had a bit of emotion behind it which is one of the main reasons I can’t enjoy most dance music.

Puff Daddy Ft Jimmy Page – Come With Me: A pretty big song for a big movie – the movie was a bit of a flop but it momentarily brought Led Zep back into the limelight.

The Orb – Toxygene: Bit of a long an unnecessary intro for a single, unless there was an edit. Nothing happens of note until the second minute mark and the song actually starts. And yet, the opening two minutes are better than the final three.

Group 76

House Of Pain – Top O The Morning To Ya: Well, at least it not fucking Jump Around. That same friend who loved Black Grape would inevitably also love House Of Pain. I could never take their Irish Wannabee shtick seriously. This song is less annoying than Jump Around, but not as bombastic.

Lionel Ritchie – My Destiny: I’m still not sure why or how the whole Lionel Ritchie being a success in the 90s thing happened, but this is maybe his best song, out of those I’ve heard. My group winner.

Bellini – Samba De Janiro: I mentioned in an earlier post how dance music with a Latin tilt will be more enjoyable to me than that with a Jamaican lilt. This is one of those examples, but it’s a low tier example because it’s so repetitive. It gets points by being under three minutes long but it could have been under 1 minute and no-one would have noticed.

Smashing Pumpkins – The End Is The Beginning Is The End: Arguably the one 90s band I should have been into at the time but I never bother listening to them. They always seemed like a poor man’s American version of the Manics, without the politics. Plus, Billy Corgan’s nasal mewling annoyed me to a similar extent to Michael Stipe’s. At least they could still make a bit of noise, but this is by the number alt rock middle of the road nothingness.

Group 77

EMF – Unbelievable: They’ve done other stuff, right? But this is the hit. Fuck it – one hit wonder. It was so big then that it’s still used today in movies and such. It’s most famous now for being lazy Ad Execs go to song to accompany some ‘shocking’ sales event. Make of that what you will.

Bombalurina Ft Timmy Mallet – Itsy Bitsy: Christ, what a terrible collection of songs this group is.

Madonna – The Power Of Goodbye: One of her best. Excellent. An easy group winner.

All Saints – Lady Marmalade: One of the most overrated and irritating songs of all time, in any of its versions.

Group 78

Madonna – Justify My Love: Not my favourite Madonna song, but it’s still Madonna.

Right Said Fred – Stick It Out: They had a few songs which weren’t I’m Too Sexy. This is one of those. It’s about as bad as the others.

Duran Duran – Ordinary World: Duran Duran’s crowning achievement. My group winner.

The Beatles – Baby It’s You: No idea why this is here.

Group 79

Steps – Tragedy: It’s a cover. It’s one of their most popular songs. It’s entirely unnecessary, but sure.

R Kelly – If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time: It’s another R Kelly song which isn’t I Believe I Can Fly. I don’t know any of his other songs. At least this one has an ironic title.

Sleeper – Sale Of The Century: One of the many female fronted Indie bands of the Britpop era, I quite liked them and this song, even if the accents pissed me off. My group winner.

Robbie Williams – Let Me Entertain You: Probably his biggest song outside of Angels. Also one of the few which is tolerable. It’s catchy but it’s so overplayed that you can’t get any enjoyment out of it anymore.

Group 80

RATM – Bulls On Parade: It’s RATM, so you know exactly what you’re getting. As much as I respect them, they’re one of the most predictable and repetitive rock bands in the world. If this was the only song you heard by them, you’d be right to love it. But then you hear another one, and it’s the same. It’s good too. But then you hear another one and it’s the same too. After the fourth song things begin to run a little thin. Still, my group winner.

East Side Beat – Ride Like The Wind: Another name I don’t recognise. Another early 90s dance track, but this one is actually good. I know, I’m more surprised than anyone. It’s not as cheap or repetitive as most, and crucially it has solid vocals and good melodies.

George Michael – You Have Been Loved: Say what you will about George, but he sure knew who to make dreary old rainy day sounding shite which resounded with people. It doesn’t do anything for me, but at least there’s a sense of melody, emotion, and melancholy which is so often absent from modern pop.

MN8 – Happy: Another boyband from the sounds of it and another one which those unfortunate enough to have heard it have almost certainly forgotten. I had not heard it before and have already forgotten it.

Group 81

Madonna – Nothing Really Matters: One of her best. Excellent. An easy Group winner.

A1 – Be The First To Believe: Another boy band. Everyone has forgotten they existed, including the band members.

Snap – Snap Megamix: A Megamix is what – a recorded jumble of hits mixed together to make a new thing? A compilation as a single track? These were all the rage in the early 90s for Dance acts, seems like an easy way to cash in. This of course features the couple of Snap songs I know. It is what it is.

Primal Scream – Funky Jam: I don’t know if I ever heard this – I probably have as plenty of my mates would play Primal Scream full albums and bits at house parties, but it’s not stirring anything in my memory banks. It is a funky jam, a mixture of funk, rock, jazz, dance, other stuff.

Group 82

Louise – Naked: The only song anyone remembers by Louise, post Eternal. It’s good though.

Backstreet Boys – Larger Than Life: It has that sound which marks them out from other Boy Bands. Doesn’t mean it’s any good – it just sticks to the Backstreet Boys formula and sound. The verses are junk, the chorus is fine but several steps down from their best.

Robyn S – Show Me Love: Ah ok, I know this. I thought it was going to be another new one for me, but this was a smash and is still heard frequently on TV over here. It’s okay, not something I’d go out of my way to listen to it but I can bop my head when it’s on. My group winner.

Salt N Peppa – Lets Talk About Sex: A meme when I was in primary school and didn’t really know anything about it. Didn’t stop the boys singing it at the girls though.

Which songs do you love/hate/know etc?

The Best UK Top 10 Of The 90s Chart Poll – Groups 59 – 70

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Group 59

The Presidents Of The USA – Peaches: I don’t know if they had other songs, but over here it’s clear this is the only one. The one hit wonder. It’s an odd song to ever become a hit, but most one hit wonders are; they rely on a quirk which is amusing or interesting for a while, people jump on the bandwagon, suck it dry, then move on to the next thing. This is a prime example. Move in to the country and eat me a lot of peaches. That’s the quirk. That’s the meme. An okay song. My group winner.

Steps – After The Love Has Gone: It Steps, so you know what you’re going to get – bouncy, light pop designed to be (choreograph) danced to, and with overly shrieking vocals.

Spacedust – Gym & Tonic: I thought I knew this from the name, but I can safely say I had not heard this in my life. Sadly I now have heard it, and my life is worse because of it. Another complete shambles.

The Source Ft Candi Staton – You Got The Love: An okay dance track which has been done to death and suffers from overplayed classic rock syndrome – you can’t listen to it anymore. There have been so many versions, covers, and remixes of this that you don’t know which is the original.

Group 60

Bon Jovi – This Ain’t A Love Song: I know it’s cool to hate on Bon Jovi, and they have done a lot of crap. But they’ve also written any number of wonderful hits. This is one of them. Though many will also call this crap, and that’s cool. My group winner.

Alanah Miles – Black Velvet: I used to think this was interesting when it first dropped. I quickly wised up. It’s not. It’s annoying.

Luther & Mariah – Endless Love: Again, I unironically enjoy this. I love basically anything Mariah did before she went Diva.

Mr Ozio – Flat Beat: Is that it? A few electronic throbs repeated ad nauseum with little to no variation or addition? Again, I just don’t understand it or how people like this or spend their money on it. There’s just… nothing here. Absolutely nothing.

Group 61

Another Level – Freak Me: Was this yet another boy band? I think so. The ‘get freaky with you’ bit I remember, but everything else I don’t. This is the point at which they seemed to run out of attractive young men who could kind of sing, and started pulling random unattractive young men and sticking them in front of a camera and mic. I’m no looker, but one of the first rules of creating a boy/girl band is ‘pick people who other people want to fuck’. I would fail that, and surely these blokes do too. The song’s crap too.

Boyzone – Father And Son: This thing. A Cat Stevens cover. I never liked the original or this. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something inherently off-putting about it. It’s perfectly bland boyband fodder, but that’s not why I don’t like it. There’s something else. Don’t know.

Chaka Demus & Pliers – Twist And Shout: I’ve talked about the ‘Jamaican’ thing before. Actually, I don’t mind it here – giving the Beatles song a twist (sorry). It makes the song worse, but at least it’s different.

B*witched – Hold On: I remember reading something about B*Witched once holding some sort of record – like most number 1 singles in a row or some bollocks like that. And yet, I and everyone else only remembers C’est La Vie. I haven’t heard this before and it sounds nothing like those twee Irish girls we do remember. This sounds like it could be any girl band from the 90s. Standard manufactured nothingness.

Group 62

Blur – The Universal: Have we had Blur in another post? Probably. I’d either forgotten or didn’t know this was Blur. It’s a decent song. See, even when I don’t particularly enjoy a band I can still appreciate individual songs.

Chemical Bros – Setting Sun: You can always rely on Chemical Bros to show how to do dance music well. A banger.

Group 63

Curtis Stigers – You’re All That Matters To Me: It’s cheesy as a decaying foot, but I like it. My group winner.

Basement Jaxx – Rendez-vu: I never liked these guys in the same way I liked Chemical Bros. I think it’s because these guys are crap. But I always liked this tune.

Savage Garden – I Knew You Loved Me: I mentioned having a soft spot for Savage Garden, but I don’t remember this one. It may as well be a boy band song though – it’s almost identical to the bland crap 90s boy bands were putting out, right down to the production.

Madonna – Another Suitcase In Another Hall: I believe I covered this one in my Evita post. It’s not up to her best, but it’s decent. Certainly better than the bulk of the Evita soundtrack.

Group 64

Jon Bon Jovi – Queen Of New Orleans: Not the best solo effort from Jon. Given everything else here though, it’s my group winner.

R Kelly – Gotham City: Oh dear. It’s R Kelly.

Duece – I Need You: No clue what this is. Dreadful.

Boyzone – All That I Need: Another song which I probably have heard as it sounds familiar, but could equally be because it sounds like a hundred other songs. A very poor group.

Group 65

Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box: I always considered this to be the weakest song on In Utero. But it’s still Nirvana, and it’s still Heart Shaped Box. An easy group winner.

George Michael – I Can’t Make You Love Me: No, you can’t. If you had made good music you may have made me appreciate you a little more. Still, we’ll always have Last Christmas, a legit banger. This is a cover. It’s as dull as a dentist’s waiting room.

Perez Prado – Guaguline: Beer Adverts. You could guarantee that if there was a beer in the 90s which wanted to advertise, it would slap a jaunty tune on the ad. That tune would then become a hit, no matter if was new or 50 years old. This is one of those.

Gary Clail On You Soundsystem – Human Nature: Another 80s tune masquerading as a 90s baby. At least it has some vocals. They’re not very good. Solid message though, I suppose. Pity the music is a bit balls.

Group 66

Steps – Better Best Forgotten: Indeed.

Shaggy Ft Rayvon – In The Summertime: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Shaggy has never made anything worth hearing, either on his own or as a guest.

Simple Minds – She’s A River: A band I never got into – I knew a couple of their songs from compilations, and liked them, but not enough for me to look for any other tracks. I kind of know this song but didn’t know it was by them. It’s good. Not great, but good. My group winner.

Five – When The Lights Go Out: Another boyband, this one leaned more into the US oriented R’n’B sound. The video is funny because the lads look no older than 15 years old. I’m sure they weren’t far off. Same crappy 90s production as all the other bands, the verses are tripe, the chorus is decent.

Group 67

The Family Stand – Ghetto Heaven: It’s funky and all – doubt I’ve heard it but it has the same percussive and rhythmic sounds as much of the music of this genre and era. But it has a sombre vibe which is nice and not typically found in the chart stuff. My group winner.

Boyzone – Shooting Star: Uck, it’s pure musical theatre cheese. I never liked the guy’s voice, but he really doubles down on the theatricality in this one, making it several degrees worse. The song is dreary ballad fare.

S Club 7 – You’re My Number 1: It has a Motown vibe, wiped clean of any emotion. But you can’t deny it’s fun and it’s designed to put a smile on faces. It’s funny how the chorus has no resemblance to the verse, it’s like the writers had two different songs and couldn’t do anything with them so decide to just slap the best bits together to make a new thing. The new thing isn’t great.

Texas Ft Wu Tang Clan – Say What You Want: I never enjoyed the original, this is certainly different. I don’t think anyone saw this collab coming. Unfortunately, like the track above the two parts here do not go together in the slightest. Not all songs can be smashed together.

Group 68

John Lennon – Imagine: Not sure what this is doing here. In fact, there are at least three songs which shouldn’t be here. Well, one of them is a cover at least.

Ash – Oh Yeah: Well, this was easy. One of my favourite Ash songs, one which reminds me of early Secondary school times, talking about your favourite bands with your mates. My group winner.

Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive: Not sure what this is doing here.

Nikki French – Total Eclipse Of My Heart: If you’re going to do a cover, in the words of every Reality Show Judge, ‘make it your own’. This is not that. Until the second verse this is a carbon copy of the original. Then they chuck in some lame dance beat for the second half, but it makes it sound like the music played in a speed round of a kids game show. And the vocal diction from this point on is hilarious. Hilariously bad. Like an early Text To Speech program.

Group 69

Shaggy Ft Marsha – Piece Of My Heart: See above.

Mansun – Closed For Business: I liked Mansun when they first dropped, but it was at the time I didn’t have much of my own money to spend on music and what music I did have was being spent elsewhere. So beyond the handful of songs I heard on the radio I didn’t chase the band down until years later. This song has the elements of creepiness and melody which drew me to them in the first place, but it’s a weaker copy of Wide Open Space.

Bon Jovi – Some Day I’ll Be Saturday Night: Another Bon Jovi I have a lot of fondness. My group winner.

Shola Ama – You Might Need Somebody: A decent song even if the vocals are too wobbly for anyone’s tastes. At least the vocals are somewhat unique.

Group 70

EMF/Reeves & Mortimer – I’m A Believer: Vic & Bob are two of my favourite comedians/humans. As musicians… lets say I prefer their original compositions. EMF I have no idea. Still, this is silly fun, but pretty disposable. I don’t remember them having so many songs in the 90s.

Wet Wet Wet – Julia Says: I remember the chorus, but it’s too lightweight and drifty for me. There’s a touch of The Beatles in there, the song opens in a promisingly dramatic fashion but quickly loses its steam with a drab verse. It pulls things back, but that opening verse drags the whole thing down.

Hepburn – I Quit: Ah Hepburn. Whatever happened to them. I loved this song when it came out – it was one I recorded off the radio and continued to enjoy for about a year before forgetting it. I always found it amusing that they looked almost identical to B*Witched. Plus there is a slight Buffy connection, but I already liked the song by that point. Buffy would also do the same thing with my beloved My Vitriol.

Dave Stewart – Lily Was Here: Oh man, I’d forgotten this existed and could have sworn it was an 80s song. I don’t think I ever knew who played it or what it was called, but I used to play it on my guitar. It goes on a bit, and I wasn’t aware it was entirely an instrumental, leading me to believe I never actually heard the whole thing – only bits.

Let us know your memories and favourites in the comments!

The Best UK Top 10 Of The 90s Chart Poll – Groups 47 – 58

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What do we have in store today? Lets have a gander.

Group 47

Gabrielle – Dreams: I can’t say I ever enjoyed Gabrielle’s music. Too nasal, too bland. Not that I had any illogical hate towards here like I do for UB40 and Erasure and various shitty Dance acts – I just couldn’t understand why she was a thing, why she got the spotlight over many more deserving artists. This is probably her biggest hit.

Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, Sting – All For Love: Bryan Adams was your go to guy for a big hit song for a big hit movie. At some point in the 90s, duets and triplets became the thing if you wanted a hit movie or charity song. I think they could have picked any other three voices – these three near enough middle aged, middle of the road white boy rockers, two with a rasp and one with a shrill, don’t complement each other at all. The song is average, the movie is average, but in all honesty I don’t think it would have been improved even with there were different vocalists.

Cyndi Lauper: Hey Now Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: Lauper’s trademark song, revamped with added ‘hey now hey nows’ for the 90s. It’s a little slower, a little sexier, but a little less fun. Still, probably my favourite of the group. My group winner.

911 – The Day We Find Love: Have we covered 911 yet? Probably, though there were so many 1-2 album boy bands in the 90s that it’s easy to mix up their bland sameness. This song could have been performed by any of the other boy bands (or girl bands) and you wouldn’t notice much difference. That would be fine if the song was good, but it’s just a whisper in a class of screaming kids. I’ll give the chorus melody some credit for having some moments, but crap verse, shocking production, poor vocals.

Group 48

Lolly – Big Boys Don’t Cry: I mentioned some base familiarity with Lolly which I could nail down last time her name came around. Maybe this is the one. This doesn’t help matters. It’s actually very sweet. The melody is incredibly predictable though – it’s one of those songs you can sing the next series of notes on your first listen – before those notes come. Still, it’s sweet.

Tin Tin Out Ft Emma Bunton – What I Am: A sexy enough cover of Edie’s 80s banger. I’m not sure which I prefer – the original is the original, but Tin Tin Out add some nice twists and Bunton gives it a solid go on the mic.

Green Day – Basket Case: I mean… it’s Basket Case. The best thing Green Day ever did. The peak of pop punk or power punk or whatever you want to call it. It’s just a perfect blend of melody and offbeat fun and speed. How can you not love this? My group winner.

En Vogue – Hold On: Band name sounds kind of familiar. It opens with a riff on You Really Got A Hold On Me, which MJ perfected decades earlier. Seems to be a girl group. I don’t know if this intro was part of the single as it takes up over a minute of the run time, which is ridiculous. We then descend into fairly standard 90s chart R’n’B pop. Probably the worst song of this fairly strong group.

Group 49

Shanks & Bigfoot – Sweet Like Chocolate: One of the more annoying songs of the 90s.

Jordan Knight – Give It To You: Another name which sounds familiar, but I couldn’t tell you anything about them. Or if it’s a bloke or a woman. Or something in between. It’s a bloke. It has one of the worst introductions I’ve ever heard. Then it becomes some faux Craig David thing. Horrible lyrics – but that’s to be expected. It’s not bad – get rid of that intro and it might be tolerable.

Bone Thugs & Harmony: The Crossroads: That’s a hilarious name. BONE THUGS. I’m imagining some terrible leather and loin-clad 80s metal band, but you already know it’s going to be some shitty gangsta wannabe. At least the badly sung intro subverts my expectations, with some Gospel moaning. Then it hilariously turns into an even more badly sung verse and on to some high pitched high paced rap. There’s almost no musical accompaniment at points. It’s incredibly weak. What the hell is this? Who wrote this and thought it was good? Who put these people near a microphone and thought it was a good idea? Who recorded this and thought ‘nailed it! We definitely don’t need another take, but this time have the people sing in tune’? One of the most inept Top Ten songs I’ve ever heard.

Spice Girls – Stop: Well, by virtue of every other song here being either bad or horrendous, this is the clear winner. It’s one of their most bouncy and fun songs too, so it had a chance of being the best in the group even if the other songs weren’t curling cat turds. My group winner.

Group 50

Steven Houghton – Wind Beneath My Wings: Is this really necessary?  Get some bloke no-one’s ever heard of and make him sing one of the most famous songs of all time – and do a crap job? Win win. Look, I get it. He has a nice voice. So do millions of other people. Does it sufficiently update or improve upon the original? No. Should it have been a B-side or album track – sure. Do I care? Not particularly.

Gina G – Fresh: Gina G was a thing in the 90s, thanks to Eurovision. Hey boy – do you wanna get fresh? Is that an overly forwards/presumptuous way of asking if I need a shower. Or a breath mint? Yes, I know it means ‘lets fuck’. But pop stars didn’t have the balls to sing that in the 90s – most of them anyway. Anyhoo, I don’t remember this and it’s very very poor in all respects.

Britney Spears – Crazy: I never understood Britney. The music wasn’t very good, her image was unfortunate, and she couldn’t really sing. Then weird shit started happening. I don’t really understand the rabid hatred or support she gets now too. I understand the support, but not the frothing. She’s a woman who has seemingly been abused by everyone for much of her life, and I’d wager that many of her early fans were complicit in that abuse. With all that in mind, this song has a different ring to it than it did upon release. It’s a carbon copy of Hit Me Baby and has the same fun dance vibe. Like that song… it’s fine. Never more than a 3 out of 5 song.

Michael Jackson – Heal The World: MJ has been doing very badly in the polls so far, which I can only assume is down to the sexual allegations and not the music. There’s no getting away from the fact that this is easily the best song in the group. It’s gorgeous. Sure it’s twee, but it’s honest and sung with heart. My group winner.

Group 51

The Course – Ain’t Nobody: A cover which somehow adds a tonne more beats and content than the original but comes off sounding much weaker, musically and physically.

Will Smith – Gettin Jiggy With It: Probably missed a couple in this group, but out of these two songs this is the one I prefer. I don’t have any special memories of it or any real connection to Will Smith’s music. I loved Fresh Prince at the time and it’s still one of my favourite shows – his music is okay.

Group 52

K Ci & Jo Jo – All My Life: Another one which I would have told you I didn’t recognise from the name but which I do remember upon hearing the opening notes. It’s another song which is fairly badly performed – put a genuinely good singer against this or at the very least remove the garbage filters from the vocals, and there’s a perfectly good song here.

M People – One Night In Heaven: It’s M People again. I don’t like them. The song sounds like burps.

Eternal – I Am Blessed: Like almost every Eternal song, I have no memory of this. Seems like a sweet ballad. But also seems like it’s about religion, which is a shame. This is a crap group so far, so based on music alone (which isn’t great) this could be my group winner.

2 Unlimited – The Real Thing: Say what you will about 2 Unlimited, at least they put a bit of fire and energy into their music. This isn’t one I remember and it’s not the best thing I’ve ever heard, but it’s a damn sight better than most of the 90s dance tripe I do remember. My group winner.

Group 53

Oasis – Wonderwall: You know it. I know it. One of the hugest songs of the decade. I wasn’t the biggest fan. My group winner.

DJ Kool – Let Me Clear My Throat: It has an interesting name, I’ll give it that. Once it hits the ‘everybody jump’ part I remember it. There isn’t much to it, but it’s fine.

Pulp – Mis Shapes: I never liked Pulp. I never liked the music, the vocals or the fact that they all looked like tramps. Their lyrics were usually okay. This is the first time I’ve heard this song and musically it’s almost identical to every other Pulp song I’ve heard – incredibly dull.

Vanessa Williams – Save The Best For Last: I’m secure enough in my self and my tastes that I don’t mind saying this is a perfectly beautiful little ballad.

Group 54

Jamiroquai – Cosmic Girl: I’ve often said that if the guy didn’t have those hats, the band would not have been a success. That’s my number one top for hitting the big time in music, kids; wear a hat or have some other silly gimmick. The song is solid though – very funky, as was their way. I suppose my view on them has softened over the years, partly because I didn’t like or dislike them strongly at the time, and partly because their brand of music has not really been improved over the years. If anything, it has been diluted by everyone who has followed.

Bryan Adams – The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me: Not my favourite BA song, but it’s fine. My group winner.

Boyzone – Key To Life: Well, I’d forgotten this was a thing. Not surprising like, it’s less memorable than throwing out another holey sock.

Vanessa Paradis – Be My Baby: This doesn’t ring a bell, but it’s drenched in Motown nostalgia. Not much else to say.

Group 55

Prince & The New Power Generation – Gett Off: Is this the first Price song? I never understood the hype around Prince. His music just waft by me with zero effect. I do know this song, but I honestly didn’t know it was Prince. The lyrics are quite amusing in how openly sexual and brazen they are. I’m happy for that as most pop songs skirt around the obvious subject matter. Good tune.

Child Liners – The Gift Of Christmas: Apparently a charity song which somehow avoided my ears. I’m trying to identify the different voices, but as far as I can tell there aren’t any big hitters – it’s mostly boy/girl band types. Make no mistake, it’s an absolutely terrible song which sounds like it was produced by me, at age 7, in my bedroom in 1990. It’s about as generic a pop song as you’re likely to hear.

Baddiel & Skinner & The Lightning Seeds – 3 Lions: It’s the winner, right? Great song in any of its incarnations. My group winner.

The Outthere Brothers – Boom Boom Boom: One of the first and biggest songs which pissed me off when it came to dance music – not because it was bad, but because it was fine yet everyone else praised it like the second coming of Lennon. The fact that everyone loved this song annoyed me more than the song itself. It’s catchy and a bit naughty, but it’s just another song.

Group 56

Damage – Wonderful Tonight: We’ve had a song by these boys already, right? See, I’ve forgotten already and I only started this thing a few days ago. I never liked the original song much, and this is a quaint, smooth take on it which makes it more appealing for the modern (90s) yummy mummy wondering what the fuck went wrong with her life.

Vengaboys – We Like To Party: I’m sure you do, and that’s one of the many reasons I hate you. This song is another.

The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work: One of the best songs of the decade. It’s a shame I don’t like The Verve more. My group winner.

Guru Josh – Infinity: I’m going to assume this is some one hit wonder dance muck. <presses play>. Yes. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take it seriously. The main instrumental melody is fine, but everything else is bad with a capital SHIT. The absolute state of the video too.

Group 57

Cast From Casualty – Everlasting Love: I watched Casualty when it first came out. It was one of the few chances I had of seeing of blood and guts on TV without my parents telling me to leave the room. Sadly, those moments were few and far between and the waffling between Ash, Duffy, and the other one didn’t really appeal to me. Here they are, inexplicably, covering one of the greatest songs of all time. Watching the video, they do their best to ruin the song but even their lack of talent is able to finish the job. Also; I don’t remember fake Liza Minelli being in Casualty. She does her best, bless her, but as the song progresses her voice begins to collapse and she duffs or chickens out of a number of notes. Sadly, we don’t get a good look at the hot one in the white shirt.

DJ Sakin – Protect Your Mind: I didn’t know it was called Protect Your Mind. The Braveheart music is of course gorgeous. This doesn’t ruin it – it comes close – though lets be honest, it’s not that difficult to add a batch of cheap-ass beats to an already wonderful piece of music.

Take That – Love Ain’t Here Anymore: Yet another of the countless Take That ballads of the 90s, this one more turgid and forgettable than most. I’m sure it had a video with lots of hairless open-shirted boys to compensate for the lack of musical interest.

Mark Snow – The X Files: It’s The X Files theme tune, with added bits. My group winner. 

Group 58

Primal Scream – Rocks: A solid tune.

The Outthere Brothers – If You Wanna Party: It’s not Boom Boom Boom and therefore no-one cares.

Ultra Nate – Found A Cure: It’s not Sonique. I didn’t know what this was until the pre-chorus. I have wiped the verses and chorus from my mind, but the pre-chorus remains. It’s not very good, is it?

Tori Amos – Professional Widow: An easy group winner, a song with more power than almost anything else on this list and barely a guitar in sight. One of the best endings to any song, ever. I bet the remix is on the list too. My group winner. 

Share your memories and favourites in the comments!

The Best UK Top 10 Of The 90s Chart Poll – Groups – 41 – 46

File:Totp logo 1998.svg - Wikimedia Commons

More! Either there’s some typos going on or some other mishap, but some of the groups seem to be missing songs.

Group 41

Depeche Mode – In Your Room: When I think of Depeche Mode I think of dark synth beats, and that’s exactly how this song starts. I’ve never listened to much by them and this is new to me. I like it. I’m generally not a fan of this vocal style and that has been part of the reason I haven’t been interested in Depeche Mode before. Even though the song isn’t high on melodies, there’s something enchanting about it.

Erasure – Run To The Sun: If I haven’t said it already, Erasure rank alongside UB40 as one of my most hated bands. I always classed them as an 80s band, but they’re all over this chart. I haven’t heard this before but it has all the stuff I don’t like about the band – synth overboard, the guy’s vocals… that’s about it. The song’s not bad, solid chorus. Just not my thing.

Group 42

Halo James – Could Have Told You So: What the hell is this doing in the 80s? It sounds like early 80s Waterman shite, and they’ve clearly ripped off The Way You Make Me Feel and Leave Me Alone. Get back in the bin.

Ocean Colour Scene – The Circle: Song name doesn’t ring a bell, let’s see…ah right, this one. Yes, I quite liked this one but I remember the riff being faster. Good tune. My group winner.

Backstreet Boys – As Long As You Love Me: About as good as boy band songs get.

Sonia – Only Fools Never Fall In Love: Everyone’s favourite Scouse ginger, we all had a crush on her for a while back then, don’t deny it. I don’t remember this, but it’s fun. It’s clearly a Motown inspired song but the cheesy production spoils it.

Group 43

Ten Sharp – You: I couldn’t have told you what this was before listening, but the piano intro reminds me what it is, and the verse confirms it. It’s another song I’d forgotten about. It’s very 80s. But I like the melodies and the vocals.

Mariah Carey – Honey: A hefty slice of pop R’nB and one of Mariah’s most famous songs. I got quite a lot of enjoyment out of the video. Fin. My group winner.

Busta Rhymes & Janet Jackson – What’s It Gonna Be: It’s pretty funky and I remember the chorus. I don’t remember it making much of an impact on anyone though.

Offshore – I Can’t Take The Power: About as generic an example of early Dance music as you could get – heavy on the drum and bass, highly repetitive, cheap production, not very good.

Group 44

Olive – You’re Not Alone: I was about to type that I had never heard this, and then the chorus dropped. I know the chorus, which means I didn’t pay much attention to the song when I did hear it. Chorus is fine at best, everything else is bland and forgettable.

FPI Project – Getting Back To Me Roots: What the balls is this? I recognise the ‘woo – yeah’ screeches, but don’t those come up in a hundred different songs? On the whole an incredibly poor piece of music bereft of… anything.

Group 45

Pras Ft ODB & Mya – Ghetto Superstar: One of my favourite songs of the decade. I… don’t have much to add. A lot of nostalgia around it, sure, but it still remains a great song, somehow merging Knight Rider and Dolly Parton into something awesome.

Pras – Blue Angels: Even as much as I loved the last song, it didn’t spur me on to get into Pras. As such, I don’t know what this is. It’s cool though, and due to the references to other music I do know, it sounds familiar too.

Group 46

White Town – Your Woman: One of the last singles I bought on Cassette, I would frequently blast this in my bedroom and annoy people with it in school thanks to my Walkman. The song has had something of a renaissance in recent years too.

Mariah – Without You: I’ll say it; this is the definitive version of the song. I love this version.

Share your memories and favourites in the comments!

 

The Best UK Top 10 Of The 90s Chart Poll – Groups 29 – 36

File:Totp logo 1998.svg - Wikimedia Commons

More groups and more songs today!

Group 29

Geri Halliwell – Lift Me Up: When Geri left the Spice Girls, it signalled the end. Each girl went their own way, with Mel C clearly having the best songs but with Geri getting the most attention. She was never much of a singer but this is such a simplistic song that anyone could make it sound okay. I was going to say that I didn’t remember this until the chorus dropped – I do remember the chorus. It’s a sweet little pop song, nothing more.

Suede – Lazy: I’ve always liked Suede without ever really getting into them fully. This one doesn’t seem familiar to me but there were so many Britpop songs around at the time. It’s fine, far from the best I’ve heard from them.

Belinda Carlisle – Always Breaking My Heart: There should be more singers like Belinda Carlisle; there aren’t enough unique vocal tones and styles in pop music these days. Say what you like about her songs, but her voice has always stood out. It’s not clear what this is supposed to be – it’s nowhere near heavy enough to be considered even soft rock, but it’s somewhat more edgy than your regular pop. The chorus is all over the place and doesn’t stick the landing. Good middle 8, but doesn’t go anywhere.

Boyzone – Everyday I Love You: Every week a new Boy/girl band hit would hit the charts, either from one of the established success stories or one of the newbs. We’re not going to get away from these throughout this poll. I have zero memory of this song but honestly, as a ballad, it’s better than most of what they released.

Group 30

Pearl Jam – Spin The Black Circle: Outside of their debut, Pearl Jam didn’t make a lasting impact on me and those subsequent albums are the ones I’ve returned to least out of the big Grunge Four. I probably should revisit them. This is cool, fast, and a nice break from the other rubbish here.

Ian Brown – My Star: I’ve never been much of a fan of Ian Brown. Too waif-like in his vocals. There’s decent music in here, the melodies are too drifty, he’s really trying to make some sort of point in his lyrics, but fails. Not the worst thing he’s ever done.

Cartoons – Witch Doctor: It’s terrible, but it’s also incredibly, nauseatingly catchy, and that’s more than enough for me.

Deep Blue Something – Breakfast At Tiffany’s: Another significant one hit wonder – significant because it’s actually good. That the curious thing about One Hit Wonders – how does a band come along and write something, not only good enough to hit the charts, but to stay in the charts and remain popular for years, but never have anything else? How can that happen? Surely if you’re good enough to write one great song, you can write other good songs. This has decreased in its potency over time, but it’s still a good song. My group winner.

Group 31

Peter Andre – Mysterious Girl: Following on from my previous comment, sometimes a One Hit Wonder artist will carve a niche for themselves and sustain as something else. I’m sure Pete had other songs, but this is the only one anyone knows. Somehow, against the odds, he is still a significant British media presence today, appearing in reality shows and in TV presenting jobs – all because he did this song and then married a woman with big tits.

Gary Barlow – Love Won’t Wait: The Take That solo careers were never as successful as those of their Spice Girl counterparts, at least to my knowledge. Gary is the only one who made a lasting impact, and in truth he’s grown into a decent songwriter over the years. This though has all the hallmarks of bad mass market manufactured pop junk – tepid, weak, soulless. It has a bit of a Motown melodic bop in the verses, but the chorus is entirely forgettable.

Let Loose – Make It With You: Let Loose… why do I know that name. It sounds like a band I once talked about but have since completely forgotten. The verse is familiar, but makes me think of other songs and artists, particularly Seal for some reason. It’s not too different from Barlow’s drivel, but a step or two above.

MC Sar & The Real McCoy – Another Night: I couldn’t have told you that I knew what this is, but within seconds of the opening note I knew what this was. Standard 90s dance stuff – one of those which features a woman for the chorus and a bloke pseudo rapping in a fake deep voice for the verses. The decade had a lot of these. Again, it doesn’t have enough of a beat, it’s not powerful enough. If I’m listen to dance music I want the beat to blast my heart out through my ears. Decent melody I suppose.

Group 32

George Michael – Too Funky: I never cared for George Michael – vastly overrated in his solo output. This is a subpar attempt at cashing in on what Michael Jackson perfected over ten years earlier. Where’s the chorus? Aimless noise.

Lisa Loeb – Stay I Missed You: I always liked this one. Had a bit of a crush on Lisa thanks to the video, even with the hyper American accent in the vocals. It’s strange though because it’s not really that good of a song. A bit pop, a bit country, a bit blues. This hit big at the time, but it’s not that great these days. My group winner.

Love City Groove – Love City Groove: No memory of this whatsoever, the song or the group. It’s fine.

Whigfield – Another Day: Turns out Whigfield did have another hit. This starts out almost identical to Saturday Night. Once the vocals drop… I think I remember this but it also sounds like any number of other songs. That’s this song’s biggest curse – it’s basically a near-exact retread of Saturday Night to the extent that this sounds like a demo for the bigger song, like they refined it and came up with Saturday Night later but thought ‘fuck it, lets just release the demo too, with different lyrics’.

Group 33

Camisra – Let Me Show You: Who? Presumably another one hit wonder of the dance variety. More wafer thin beats. See, if Dance music had taken some influence from Metal and actually put some venom into its beats, I might have had a 5% greater appreciation. It just keeps going too, with almost zero variety. You’d get the same result handing a toddler a couple of twigs and a plastic plate. It eventually drops and we get a two note beat. I recognise this part. But two notes. Seriously. I know we shouldn’t say that there’s not a lot of talent involved in stuff like this, but from any musical or melodic standpoint this is pre-nursery level fare. Pill heads were impressed by anything.

The Doors – Light My Fire: No idea what this is doing here, but sure. My group winner.

Divinyls – I Touch Myself: A silly, filthy song. Plus it’s referenced in Buffy.

Run DMC vs Jason Nevins – It’s Like That: A banger which was all over the radio and TV, and for a while had even the most whitest, least gangsta Irish fuckwits pointing at each other across the school halls, grabbing their testicles, and busting out some truly tragic dance moves. Not me though, I just watched on filled with shame.

Group 34

Dario G – Sunchyme: Another tune that was everywhere back in the day. I never liked it, but at least it has more than two notes. It’s still repetitive, as is Dance music’s way, but there’s some feeling and effort behind it. You couldn’t listen to all 8 minutes of it like – this should be no longer than 3.

Cher, Chrissie Hynde, Nenah Cherry, Eric Clapton – Love Can Build A Bridge: Hmm, I’d forgotten this existed. These collabs were all the rage in the 90s. Few of them were any good. It’s a cover and it was a charity single, but what a bizarre choice of singers. Who decided these three would be a good group? I can only assume they offered a bunch of people a load of money, and these were the three who said yes and were available. The voices don’t fail to work together, but the song is good enough that it would work with anyone. It doesn’t show off the voices in any great way – only Cher has a voice you could show off anyway – but just weird all around.

Def Leppard – Lets Get Rocked: One of the few Def Leppard songs I actually like, this is still cheesy as hell.

Spin Doctors – Two Princes: Is this the group my Da liked? Or was that Saw Doctors? Or both? All crap either way. Look, this is a decent song even with all the yabba dabba do stuff in the middle. Another one hit wonder, over here anyway. My group winner.

Group 35

Savage Garden – To The Moon And Back: Maybe you’ll be surprised, but I did like Savage Garden back in the 90s. And it wasn’t just a name to drop to show girls you had a sensitive side before they’d let you grab a boob – I did genuinely like them. They were a logical step between a boy band and a soft rock band and more often than not their melodies landed with a fair fill of emotion. I like this. My group winner.

Rosie Gaynes – Closer Than Close: Another one hit wonder dance hit. I kind of remember this one. I remember the weird vocals more than the janky melody.

Eternal – Good Thing: Eternal is a weird one, slotting in the girl band category but with maybe more credibility. They were pre-Spice Girls too, so deserve some credit. But lets face it, I only liked them for Louise and wasn’t interested after she left. At no point was the music that exiting. This is suitably tuneless.

Billie Ray Martin – Your Loving Arms: There’s an Achy Breaky joke in here somewhere… but I… can’t… quite… yeah, I don’t know what this is either. Turns out this is actually a woman and it’s another one hit wonder dance thing. It’s not very good but I remember the chorus. It’s a fairly bland song in all respects, except they put these atmospheric dance beats and synths underneath which makes it listenable.

Group 36

Catatonia – Mulder & Scully: The 90s were a weird time for a music, and TV. Sometimes paths would cross and something which shouldn’t possibly make sense, did. This is a prime example. Good song, but completely bizarre.

Madonna – You’ll See: One of my favourite Madonna songs – you’ll read about it once I get to my Madonna Rarities post. My group winner.

Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy Hey Girl: Another banger by Chemical Bros, maybe my favourite song from them.

Tatyana Ali – Day Dreaming: I always felt she should have had a bigger career, but it never quite went the way it should. This isn’t great, but it’s okay.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!

The Best UK Top 10 Of The 90s Chart Poll – Groups 19 – 28

File:Totp logo 1998.svg - Wikimedia Commons

I know, it’s already been one day and I’ve already missed a post. But my intention was never to post daily on this – it’s just that the groups disappear after every 24 hours and therefore I have to wait for weeks for them to come around again for me to be able to post about them. Therefore, I’m adding the Groups to the post title so that I can easily check which groups I’ve missed.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about – check this link for my first post in the series. Lets see what today has in store.

Group 19

The Verve – Lucky Man: I’ve tried to like this over the years, due to liking other songs by the band, but it’s significantly bland. I don’t dislike it, but it’s meh.

Arnee And The Terminators – I’ll Be Back: Should I know what this is, given the first two Terminator movies are my favourite movies ever? Lets give it a blast on Youtube and see if I remember. No, I can safely say wiped this from my memory banks if I ever heard it at all. It’s a mess of shouty talking in a terrible accent with a throbbing synth, gunshots, laser sirens, and some guy shouting ‘Uzi 9mm’ every few seconds. Horrendous.

Fatboy Slim – Rockerfeller Skank: I mentioned not liking Fatboy Slim before. This is one of the reasons why. Can’t. Stand. This. Montrosity.

Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe: An absolute banger. It’s bad, obviously, but it’s also so good. Arguably the best of the dance oriented one hit wonders of the decade. My group winner.

Group 20

Ginuwine – When Doves Cry: I don’t know who or what this is. Is it a Prince cover? I can’t really remember the Prince song, but I’m guessing this is a cover. In any case, this is mostly poor. Solid beat, but nothing.

Fresh Price & Jazzy Jeff – Summertime: Not a huge fan of this one, but it’s cool. My group winner.

Michelle Gayle – Do You Know: Do you know I’m old enough to remember Michelle Gayle from Eastenders. She had a few big hits in the 90s, but I have no memory of this. Pretty boring.

Damage – Love Guarantee: Never heard of this artist or song. Seems to be another boy band, but they must not have been very big. Sounds like the sort of nonsense they would have as a special guest on Sister Sister. Complete by the numbers Boy Band junk.

Group 21

Kim Syms – Too Blind To See It: Jesus. This is clearly an 80s song dressed up in 90s sheen. Except it’s not even dressed up, the video and the fashion, the editing, everything screams Stock Aitken Waterman badness. Garish. Awful. The girl can sing, but the song is terrible.

Meatloaf – Bat Out Of Hell: What is this doing here? The album was re-released in the 90s, right. Looks like the single was too. My group winner.

Sinead O Connor – Nothing Compares 2U: Wasn’t this an 80s song? Or was it re-released. In any case, I’ve always despised this song. I hate it so much. Never understood the overwhelming praise it gets.

Bee Gees – For Whom The Bell Tolls: It’s not Metallica, but it’s not bad.

Group 22

N Trance Ft Rod Stewart – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy. The original was bad enough. Give it to some dance act and watch it become much worse. Listening again now, it’s actually not that bad.

Sash – La Primavera – I liked a few Sash tracks. They seemed to be one of the few dance acts who knew the value of melody and could actually make a decent tune. This was never one of my favourites and is quite tame, but it does have a nostalgia factor coupled with the Spanish element which I also enjoy. The horns are laughably cheap and sound like an early 90s MIDI videogame celebration jingle. That thing where I hate Jamaican accents in music, especially when it’s done by an English white guy? It’s the opposite when we’re talking about Spain – I like Spanish elements and vocals in my songs.

Cher – One By One: This doesn’t ring a bell, in name or in sound. Oh, hold on. Ah yes, I do remember this now the vocals have started. Yeah, I quite like this but had forgotten it ever existed, probably because it doesn’t have many peaks or anything interesting going on.

Leann Rimes – How Do I Live: There was no escaping this song in the 90s, and it still gets regular rotation these days. It’s a big powerful ballad, well sung. My group winner. 

Group 23

Bryan Adams – Please Forgive Me: Did I cover this in my Bryan Adams posts? Can’t remember. I’ve always liked this one. My group winner.

S Club 7 – Two In A Million: S Club 7, that boy/girl band hybrid featuring a horrible racist and some other people you can’t remember. They were the next big thing after Spice Girls – battling against Steps for supremacy in the charts. I don’t remember ever hearing this and it’s almost identical to that Damage song up above.

PF Project Ft Ewan McGregor – Choose Life: Look, I love Trainspotting. One of the best movies of the 90s. But the soundtrack has also has been terrible. This song was absolutely everywhere in the 90s – the club clubs, the Indie clubs, and I couldn’t deal with it. Listening now, it’s better than most of the dance hits of the 90s, slightly manic given the McGregor quotes, but it’s repetitive as fuck.

Lolly – Viva La Radio: Now this one could be interesting. I have the slightest gnawing recollection about this, but if you asked me right now to hum a piece of it I couldn’t. I suspect when I listen it’ll come flooding back. I can picture it rather than hear it. Lets see… wait. Did she have another song? This sound somewhat familiar, in the chorus at least, but it’s not what I was expecting. In other news though – how did this get made? Who listened to this person sing and thought ‘there’s a voice the world needs to hear’? It’s very bad, but it’s funny in how shamelessly confidently bad it is is. There’s a lot going on in the song too. What a weird mess.

Group 24

SWV – Right Here: I don’t know what SWV is, or means. Stevie Weigh Vaughn? Ah right, I remember this. I hated this at the time because it does that thing where they take one of the most annoying pieces from a Michael Jackson song and playing it over and over and over and over. Someone did that recently with ABC, right? The rest of the song is pretty badly performed too, going out of tune in many places.

Whigfield – Saturday Night: Another contender for best Dance based One Hit Wonder of the 90s. It’s a bit of a banger, and all us pre-pubescent boys had a thing for her. My group winner.

Garbage – Stupid Girl: This was their biggest hit, right? I like it enough, but I was never wowed by it or them like other people were.

Utah Saints – Believe In Me: The group name is familiar, but I couldn’t tell you what they did. It’s another cheap dance song. I get that the technology was new and basic and that explains how cheap and dated it sounds, but as with much of this ilk it’s all so repetitive that you can listen to any 30 seconds and get the same effect and value as listening to either any other 30 seconds or the entire track. There’s a piano bit in the middle which gives us a break for a few seconds. Great if it was influential like, but lets not pretend it’s any good.

Group 25

Elton & Pavarotti – Live Like Horses: I don’t remember this pair ever being a thing. Listening to it now. Was it for a movie? Was it an original? It sounds like it’s ripped from a bad musical – but then this is Elton John we’re talking about. Pavarotti gives it a different flavour. The song’s somewhat emotive and atmospheric and I’m surprised I’ve never heard it before. I’m no Elton John fan, but this is more enjoyable than most of the stuff I know by him.

Eminem – My Name Is: It took me a while to get on board with Eminem when he first arrived, but by the time this came around I was a minor fan. Then I heard his other stuff and got the Marshall Mathers LP and saw it for the masterpiece it obviously is. This is a fun, silly song, not one of my favourites, but still better than most of what was in the charts back then. My group winner.

Mark Morrison – Horny: I couldn’t have told you another Mark Morrison outside of Return Of The Mack. Listening to this now, I have heard it before, but everything about it is low tier badness. Why does he sing like that? Why do the women in the chorus sing like that? Why do the drums sound so flat and weak, and why have they not improved in music since the 90s? It’s another forgettable song about sex marketed at pre teens. Nice.

2 Unlimited – Tribal Dance: I knew they’d done another song outside of No Limit. This must be it, lets see. Does anyone else want to shout MORTAL KOMBAT after the intro? I do remember this. It doesn’t have the impact of No Limit, but it’s the same sort of thing. The chorus isn’t strong enough, but it’s fine as far as 90s dance music goes.

Group 26

Temptations – My Girl: What’s this doing here? Because of the My Girl movie I assume. I always preferred the Michael Jackson version, but there’s no doubting this is a classic. My Group Winner.

Mariah Carey – Open Arms: Back before Carey was a bin lid she used to make decent songs. This isn’t one of her best, but it’s still good.

Tori Amos – Cornflake Girl: Tori had less impactful hits for me after Little Earthquakes, but this was one of her biggest. I can’t say I was ever the biggest fan of this particular song, especially when the album contains Baker Baker and Past The Mission. But it’s good, and it’s Tori, so it’s win win.

Ali Campbell – That Look In Your Eye: UB40 are maybe the band I hate most. They’ve never made a single song I could tolerate for more than ten seconds, let alone enjoy, and they just would not get off the TV in the 90s. It seems the main guy had a solo career too. I have blotted this from my memory, but I have heard it. There’s a woman in the mix here too. It’s a very weak ballad which is instantly forgettable – it doesn’t highlight the worst of UB40s shtick, but it still has Campbell atrocious vocals. Whoever the woman is – very poor too, with many notes being fumbled, mumbled, and flat. Noticeably poor production too.

Group 27

Boyzone – Coming Home Now: Boyzone were the Irish Take That. Equally bad, yet also worse. Notable for Ronan Keating’s unique warbling, there was also a duck-billed platybus looking dude who sang like a drunk sheep, a guy with tatoos, a guy with a beard, an possibly another guy. Naturally, they’ve sold billions. I don’t remember this one. Listening now – you already now; standard, bland boy band shite, slow, cheap, cookie cutter. Unbelievably bad.

Blur – Boys And Girls: One of their biggest early hits, this was of course a hallmark of Britpop. I wasn’t a huge supporter, but it’s fine. My group winner.

Take That Ft Lulu – Relight My Fire: As much as Take That brought great musical evils into this world, they’ve also had a few decent, maybe even good songs too – which is more than we can say for almost every other boy and girl band. This is one of the better ones. It’s a cover, but they give it a bit of oomph, or what passes for oomph where boy bands are concerned, and Lulu throws her back into it.

Kim Appleby – Don’t Worry: Name doesn’t ring any bells so I’m going to say it’s another one hit wonder. It’s the worst of 80s pop re-packaged as a 90s song. A complete nothing.

Group 28

2Pac Ft Dre – California Love: Just listen to the difference in quality in production of this and, well, every other song on this list. But particularly the British pop stuff. There’s no comparison. This sounds like a song released today. The other stuff sounds like it was recorded by children with a V-tech microphone. This is as good as it ever was, and it was always pretty damn good.

Whitney Houston – It’s Not Right: I could have sworn this was a Noughties song, but there you go. I never liked it and came at the time when Whitney had already jumped the shark. Whitney is undoubtedly one of the greatest singers of all time, but most of her songs were beneath her – this is nowhere near potent enough. Good production but also very weak. This should have been an anthem, so where’s the power? Where’s the RAGE. It’s a song I should fell, but I just don’t.

Blondie – Maria: This was a big thing when it was released – Blondie’s back everyone! It lasted for a few months and Blondie was quickly no more again, but for a brief while suddenly everyone was a Blondie fan. It was weird. It’s a good song – it hasn’t aged too well and sounds less energetic and interesting now than it did then, but still good.

DJ Jean – The Launch: This is dreadful by any measure. I don’t think I’ve heard it before. It’s little more than the same descending double four notes played over and over, with a change in the beat every so often. This is a thing. This exists. Someone thought it was good. Enough people spent money on it that it became a UK top ten hit. Think about that.

Not the greatest batch of songs today, but a few drunken singalongs to be sure. That’s probably going to be the case most days. No standout songs for me today though.

The Best UK Top 10 Of The 90s Chart Poll – Part 1

File:Totp logo 1998.svg - Wikimedia Commons

Greetings, Glancers! You may have picked up that I’m a Manic Street Preachers fan, and one of the only reasons I’m still on Facebook is to chuck my vote at one of the Manics fan group polls which does the rounds. It’s always pointless because Faster always wins, but at least I can see how the other fans think about certain songs.

Recently (due to low voting) the group owner, Terry ‘Sensai’ Lawrence, has scrapped the next Manics poll and decided to make a Best Songs Of The 90s poll. Specifically, the song entrants have to have made it into the Top 10 in the UK Singles charts at some point during the 1990s. The Manics will be represented, but Faster will not. Naturally I’ll be using this as a chance to catch up on some songs I either missed or have forgotten, and to vote and talk about it too. Here’s a link to the group if anyone is interested in joining.

Why make a blog post about it? I’ll write about any old shite and may as well use the daily poll format to talk about the songs and the groups. It’s a traditional football knock-out format – groups of four songs will ‘play’ each other in a mini league, with the top two songs from each group going into a cup format, progressing until there is a winner. If you’re curious about the songs, I’m going to list every single one, with my thoughts on each. If you want to play along, you can Spotify the tracks or join the group to vote. It looks like he’s posting 16 matches every day, so I’ll try to post along for as long as possible or until I get bored. I won’t post the specific matches – you’ll get the idea that each song in a group plays every other and can pick your winner yourself – but I’ll post the groups. According to the page, there are over 1600 songs to cover over 407 groups. That’s…. a lot. We start with the first eight:

Group 1

The New Radicals – You Get What You Give: This is one of those songs which immediately takes me back to a time and place. I think it was 1999 and hit big around Spring, so just as I was entering exam time when I was 16. I recorded it off the radio so it was in regular rotation for me for a brief period of time. It’s not that great a song, but it has a chill vibe which always makes me nostalgic.

M People Angel Street: I had to Youtube this one to remind myself. M People are one of my most hated groups. That’s going too far, but they’ve always been an instant ‘turn that crap off’ for me, seemingly remaining popular because the lead singer has a unique voice. Unique doesn’t mean good. They’re also annoyingly jazzy. I must admit I don’t remember this song – the chorus maybe sounds familiar, but that could be because it’s generic. It’s fine, not as grating as most of the songs I’ve heard by M People.

Michael Jackson – Earth Song: Here’s my winner for this group. Obviously I’m a big MJ fan, but this was one of his last, best songs. I don’t expect the song to do very well in what started out as a Manics group.

Stereophonics – Pick A Part That’s New: I was never a huge fan of Stereophonics, but I’ll admit to liking a few of their hits. This one has the same sense of nostalgia I get from You Get What You Give. It came at that tail end peak of Brit pop. I still can’t get on with Kelly’s vocals, but it’s a decent song.

Group 2

Dee Lite – What Is Love: There’s going to be a tonne of songs I can’t stand in this whole enterprise. Dee Lite will have made at least one of those songs, but I admit to not remembering what this was. There was an unbelievable amount of shite, what I class as Dance/Rave music in the 90s. It likely was influential and I still find it hilarious that the US is only now catching on to the awfully labelled EDM now when the UK has been blasting crap for decades with great success. This is typical of 90s Dance – cheap, repetitive, sounds like it was played and recorded on a Gameboy. It’s pretty horrible.

Echobeatz – Mas Que Nada: I didn’t know what this was until I played it. This was a bit of a football related hit for a while. It’s not bad, catchy, but it’s also very cheap. There will be many, many one hit wonders such as this on this poll. This will be one of the least annoying. It also does that thing of having a scantily clad video, which was huge for dance tracks in the 90s and beyond, so if you like boobs – enjoy!

Madonna – Beautiful Stranger: I haven’t got around to finishing my Madonna rarities posts, but this will be on there. I like it, good song. My group winner.

D Mob Ft Nuff Juice – Put Your Hands Together: No clue what this is. Presumably a one hit wonder, but feel free to tell me I’m wrong. I’ve never heard this, but listening now… sure. Dance based Rap. Nothing very exciting, decent pace, trash lyrics.

Group 3

Happy Mondays – Step On: I begrudge voting for Happy Mondays because they’re outrageously overrated, but look at the state of the rest of this group. This is one of their better songs, and by ‘better’, I mean 6 out of 10.

Bitty McClean – Dedicated To The One I Love: I often remember that Bitty McClean was a thing, and laugh my ass off. The UK has this weird fondness for shite reggae – obviously there’s a culture heritage thing going on, which is great. But the music, at least that which made it to the charts, is uniformly terrible. Bitty McClean seemingly made a career out of covers. His covers are frequently the worst versions. This is perfectly pleasant and unnecessary.

Clubhouse Ft Carl – Light My Fire: I’ve no idea who or what Carl, or Clubhouse is. But this is another one hit wonder of the dance variety, and as you would expect it’s repetitive, cheap junk. A shambles.

The Wonderstuff – On The Ropes: I know them from Dizzy. I can’t think of anything else I’ve heard, but playing this it sounds familiar. I know I’ve heard this at some point, but I can’t place it. I mean, I’ve probably heard all of these songs at some point because I watched TOTP every week and listened to the radio most days. Seems like an okay, forgettable song.

Group 4

Phats & Small – Feel Good: One hit wonder. The vocals… there’s something familiar. It doesn’t sound cheap. Fair enough, not my kind of music, but I can feel it.

OMC – How Bizarre: One hit wonder. This was a meme before mems were a thing. Anything strange happened in school? How bizarre. How bizahh how bizzah. It doesn’t quite hit that nostalgic groove as the others mentioned, the video is embarrassing, the vocals are not good, but a chill vibe.

Madonna – I’ll Remember – Madonna is going to be all over this poll. It’s another rarity I’ll cover in that post when I get to it, but it’s a lightweight, average single by the Queen Of Pop.

Spice Girls – Viva Forever: The Spic Girls are going to be all over this poll. One of the better Spice Girls songs. I’ve always had a fondness for it. My group winner.

Group 5

Cast – Walk Away: I had a bit of a love/hate thing going on with Cast back in the day. They seemed to my naive young mind as a cheap Oasis clone, with worse hair and worse songs. But sometimes they had a good song. Listening decades later, this is quite nice but ultimately feels too tame and lacks the emotional impact it seems to give other people.

Janet Jackson – What’ll I Do: As much of a Michael fan as I was, that never extended to the rest of the family. There are very few Janet songs I’ve heard (until now) that I enjoy. This is one of those, though I don’t really remember it. It has a distinct Britpop mixed with Motown vibe, which is cool.

Prodigy – Firestarter: It’s Firestarter. You love it. My group winner.

The Cartoons – Doo Dah: One of those One Hit Wonders which people despise, while loving other objectively or equally worse one hit wonder songs. Many of those are on this list. I have some sort of fondness for this song. It’s no Witch Doctor. It is terrible, but it knows it’s terrible, and therefore is somehow tolerable. You couldn’t listen to it for more than 40 seconds without having a hernia, but still…

Group 6

Embrace – Come Back To What You Know: Embrace was always a Coldplay V0.9, but if pushed I would say I prefer Embrace. They’re not twats about being bland. This was their big hit. It’s fine.

Wet Wet Wet – Don’t Want To Forgive Me Now: The band had a number of hits in the 90s, but on name alone I don’t remember this. They’re generally music for Mummy In Laws, but not usually offensive. Terrible music video. This is cheery, and in the hands of a decent band this could have been turned into something marginally better. There’s a solid core melody, but they cheese the fuck out of it.

The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go: This came out in the 90s? Okay. My group winner.

911 – All I Want Is You: The first boy band entry, of which there are sure to be hundreds. Each group was worse than the one before. This is exactly what you would expect from a boy band – you could write it yourself even if you lacked the power of language and had no concept of music.

Group 7

Fatboy Slim – Right Here Right Now: If there’s one musician I’d happily have removed from the history books, it’s Fatboy Slim. Having said that, I do like this one. Probably the only one I do. My group winner.

Everything But The Girl – Walking Wounded: I never really understood the appeal of Everything But The Girl. This is very weak and I have zero recollection of it.

Garbage – When I Grow Up: I had to check this out because I couldn’t remember the name. I immediately remembered it, of course. I wasn’t the biggest Garbage fan in the world – they passed me by like many of the riot grrrl groups of the 90s. I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying it’s good – not as good as their biggest hits, but it’s fine.

Cliff Richard – Millennium Prayer: Cliff sure loves the baby Jesus. It goes without saying that this is one of the worst musical atrocities of the decade.

Group 8

Chemical Brothers – Let Forever Be: One of the dance acts I had any respect for in the 90s. Good tune.

Candy Flip – Strawberry Fields Forever: One hit wonder. Dance. Cheap. Not repetitive because it’s actually a fairly faithful cover, but given that early 90s glazed eyes pill-popping softness. As bad as that sounds.

Notorious BIG – Mo Money Mo Problems: One of the few B.I.G songs I know. That era passed be by for the most part. Good tune. My group winner.

Blur – Tender: I’m not a big Blur fan. This is one of their more wafting and dull songs.

There you go. There will be many, many more of these posts assuming I keep up with them. What are your group winners? Which songs are completely new to you? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman’s Favourite Films Of The 1990s

I continue my summary of my favourite films by year and by decade with this, my favourite films of the 1990s. Although I spent seven years in the 1980s, it’s really the 90s that most of my ‘growing up’ took place. It’s when I changed schools, became a teen, and all those important things. In terms of my love of film, it’s the decade that I started realizing that films were actually pieces of work that took years of planning and work to create – from the money men to the writers to the director and everyone else involved, while previously I only recognised a film by who starred in it. My tastes continued to be a love of action and horror and as the decade came to a close I was looking further afield for the sort of kicks that Hollywood could no longer provide. Regardless, this list will likely contain mostly American films, though the explosion of indie talent means that even those won’t necessarily be ‘Hollywood’. This could be a long post too, as many of my all time favourites came out in this decade. Essentially everything outside of the top seven can be in any order. Enough balls, lets do this.

21: The Blair Witch Project (1991)

Lets kick things off with a film that received a lot of hate from the horror community. It still divides horror fans with little middle ground – you either love it, or see it as boring, scare-free, and the main reason we have so many terrible shaky cam movies now. If there is any middle ground, it’s those people who say that the film is 95% walking around a forest, and the last 5% of the movie being genuinely terrifying. Obviously I love it, and a large part of that is due to the last 10 minutes or so – what makes the ending so chilling though is everything that comes before it. The three characters here, while they have their moments, are less annoying and more human than most you’ll find in this type of film and make less dubious decisions. The mythology of the film is interesting too, not least because it has basis in historical fact – I’m talking about the whole Witch Trials and Puritan fear-mongering of previous centuries here. Secondly, witches are a type of supernatural creature sorely underrepresented in movies, even in horror fiction as a whole. There are a few standout movies of course.

Obviously not the first found footage movie, The Blair With Project is nevertheless the most influential – it’s still the poster boy for the sub-genre. I remember the hysteria when this was released and I saw it as soon as I could. I watched the related documentary and I bought a related book detailing the history of the township. I love how the movie built up this little universe all of its own. I was mystified though by the people who actually bought into the advertising, believing the film to be real – I’m still not sure how people were fooled by this. The film has such a simple set up – a trio of students are making a documentary about a small town and the mythology surrounding it. They travel to the town, meet a few locals, and head out into the massive woods where evil is meant to lurk. They go missing and a few years later their video footage is found – the film is that footage. In the footage we see them getting stalked by something unseen – the group believe it could be locals having fun but they quickly become disoriented, paranoid, and fight among themselves. They get lost, they see and hear stranger things, and… well, you either know the rest or should watch yourself. I’ve never been scared of camping, or woods, or isolation, or anything like that – in fact I find such things comforting. I’ve no idea why the film creeps me out so much – I can only assume it’s the idea of a witch, some ancient evil lurking which can control time and space apparently, which gets to me but even that sounds stupid. Whatever it is, it works, and I love it.

20: The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Even after other movies from the same era have achieved cult status, this one still flies mainly under the radar and I’ve still no idea why. Look – it has like 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. Idiots. I mean, its treatment of women is dubious at times as I  believe I covered in my review post, but in terms of pure action and entertainment there are few better.

The film opens with some American Football player going for a touchdown or a home run or some sports shit but rather than some last minute glory win like Teenwolf, he whips out a gun and starts shooting the opposition before killing himself. Nice. Elsewhere, we meet a washed up ex Secret Service Agent who is now the disgruntled father of a bratty daughter, husband of a cheating wife, and a boozy PI. He gets a job to bodyguard a stripper, who just happens to be the boyfriend of an ex NFL star. The stripper is promptly killed and the boyfriend and the bodyguard team up to find out who put out the hit, unraveling a plot of corruption in the world of sports and politics. Directed by Tony Scott and starring Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans, this also features Danielle Harris, Halle Berry, Kim Coates, Taylor Negron. The script by Shane Black, which was sold for a record 1.75 million, is superb – filled with great self-aware 90s humour, Scott directs with his usual visual flair, and the cast are all good – Willis especially delivering one of his most sardonic performances. There are some great action set-pieces while remaining grounded, and yet both Scott and Black have stated that the end product was not what the script deserved. If that’s true then I can’t imagine how good the end product should have been.

19: Starship Troopers (1997)

The middle of the Nineties saw Paul Verhoeven moving away from the violent action movies that had earned him worldwide fame a decade earlier. His previous two films were sex-based thrillers – a massive success in Basic Instinct and a massive failure in Showgirls (I like both). Starship Troopers is a glorious return to the likes of Total Recall and Robocop – big, brash, loud mouth action, ultra violence, and more satirical than a liberal talk show host. Adapted from Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel, Verhoeven’s take clearly mocks the celebration of war and its associated propaganda machine although it’s easy to see why many completely miss the fascist satire and take it on face value as movie where guys with guns triumph over some faceless drone enemy.

The film follows Johnny Rico – a student in his final year of a very patriotic, militaristic school – and a small group of friends. Earth is attached by an alien race, kicking off an all out intergalactic war. Rico signs up in the hope of revenge, guts, and glory, and his band of friends all get recruited into different sections of the army – pilots, intelligence, grunts etc. Rico is a grunt and goes off for training to be cannon fodder – the scenes of training taking those of Full Metal Jacket to ridiculous new heights. Once training is complete, Rico heads off to war – that’s pretty much it. The special effects were state of the art for the time, and I still enjoy them now. The action is top rate, futuristic gun battles with ugly arachnid and alien creatures, and a cast featuring Dean Norris, Brenda Strong, Marshall Bell, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, and Casper Van Dien. Like in Robocop, Verhoeven fills this with media interludes – news snippets, adverts, info nuggets, all catered to a bloodthirsty flag-waving audience all to willing to sacrifice body and soul for a worthless cause. The dialogue doesn’t quite reach the heights of Robocop (what does?) but the film reunites the director, screenwriter, and musical composer meaning it’s a close cousin. Balls to the wall violent action movies were on the wane in the late 90s, and this is one of the genre’s finest swansongs.

18: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

I’ve argued before how this is a horror film. I’ve argued how Sheryl Lee deserved and Oscar nomination, if not a win for her performance here. David Lynch has quite a few masterpieces in his resume, but Twin Peaks – the series and the movie – are by far his most beloved work. The movie departs tonally, bravely, from the original series and instead offers a harrowing, terrifying glimpse into the last week of Laura Palmer’s tortured life. There are no characters offering quaint small-town wisdom, there is no offbeat humour, and there is almost no hope or light. This is the darkest quivering heart of The Black Lodge, a place of obsession, madness, and death, and its pulsating ripples envelope and suck in any innocence there may be in the unfortunate surroundings. If you haven’t seen the movie, then I won’t say anymore about it – all I can say is that it certainly helps to know the series before watching the movie, and to not expect the movie to be an extension of the show’s charms. This is your favourite town and everyone in it being burned to the ground, and its horrific and glorious.

17: Tombstone (1993)

True Romance and Heat narrowly missed out on making this best of Nineties list. Those films and Tombstone share the honours of having some of the most amazing casts in single films. There are a few films like this in the Nineties where you look at the cast and already know the film is going to be wonderful – doesn’t matter what the thing is about – it could be a discussion of the correlation between paint drying and algebra, it could be one of those terrible singing talent shows, hell – it could even be a musical and the cast alone would make it unmissable. Luckily Tombstone is none of those shitty things, instead being a stylish version of events from the life of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday with all manner of guns and moustaches.

Look at these names: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, Sam Elliot, Powers Boothe. That’s a strong enough cast to sell any movie, but then you check out the support – Jason Priestly, Thomas Haden Church, Stephen Lang, Dana Delaney, Paula Malcomson. Fine, some decent names there, hardly stars though. Okay, why don’t we throw in Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Billy Bob Thornton? That’s without even mentioning Billy Zane, Michael Rooker, Terry O’Quinn, John Corbett and many others. That’s like a 70s disaster movie epic, or a Cecil B De Mille cast – in some respects literally.

The story is fairly streamlined and straightforward – A gang of outlaws has been shooting up various towns and they descend upon the town of Tombstone. Noted lawman Wyatt Earp and his brothers have decided to settle down there for a quiet life, meeting up with old friend Doc Holliday. The two groups, and assorted others, clash. There’s more to it than that, a lot of character building and inter-relations stuff, but at its core it’s the story of these groups coming together in a bloody conclusion. I’d spoken in another post about not liking many Westerns when I was young, but this is definitely one of the few which appealed to me and has only grown in my estimation over time.

16: Desperado (1995)

Robert Rodriguez burst onto the scene with this 1995 marvel of low budget film-making, essentially remaking his even lower budget El Mariachi. That previous film gained Rodriguez attention from the likes of Quentin Tarantino (who guest stars here) and whose influence no doubt aided in this getting made. The film also brought Salma Hayak and Danny Trejo into the limelight and launched Antonio Banderas into action hero status. Like Tarantino’s films, Desperado is marked by stylish action, quotable cool dialogue, and a variety unique grindhouse type characters.

Following the events of El Mariachi (no need to see that movie first though), the Mariachi with a guitar case full of guns has become something of a legend or folklore hero. El Mariachi is looking for the man called Bucho who killed his girlfriend and blew a hole in his hand. His travels take him to a small Mexican town where he encounters a new lover, a guitar playing boy, Bucho and his goons, and a variety of assassins and scoundrels looking for bounty. Beyond that, it’s guns guns guns. The principle cast are all gorgeous, cool, and the cameos from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Tarantino, Cheech and others are fun. The action set-pieces are fantastic, more in common with John Woo’s antics than the Hollywood blockbuster. For balls to the wall energy and creativity you won’t get many better.

15: Leon (1994)

Luc Besson had been making films for a while before he struck gold with Leon. His previous feature film Nikita had established him as one of the more interesting and diverse directors of action movies, but it’s Leon where he builds upon many of those ideas – isolation, moral ambiguity, control, and does it with a world-renowned cast and the sure touch of a director and writer on a creative roll. The film follows Jean Reno, a deadly assassin who stays away from all human contact and social interaction, who gets embroiled in saving a young girl’s life and trains her to follow in his footsteps. The film also features Natalie Portman’s star-making turn and Gary Oldman being epic, plenty of stylish action and a rather sweet/disturbing relationship depending on how you view it. The action movie moved away from the muscle bound superstars who owned the genre in the 80s and for a few years it struggled to find a new identity – the reluctant or anti-hero would take the place of Arnie and Sly as symbolized by films such as this.

14: Problem Child (1990)

This one was love at first sight and I still remember explaining the film in detail to my friends and a cousin the following week in school. Scene by scene, quote by quote I must have memorized the whole thing and then reenacted it to my class till they knew it by heart without having seen it. I probably contributed a hefty percentage to the amount of money the film made after making sure everyone else went out and saw it. Back when you rented VHS tapes, we generally kept them for a weekend. In most case we probably only watched them once, but I think Problem Child got a few watches and rewinds before getting returned. We probably rented it again before I eventually bought the tape myself.

It’s the story of a boy, Junior, who has been passed from family to family, adopted and sent back, and who ends up in an orphanage for kids no-one wants – hilarious! No-one wants him because he’s, well, a dick. He breaks stuff, steals, swears, plays pranks, and is probably violent. He’s clearly a future serial killer (his hero is in fact a serial killer), but maybe all he needs is the attention of a loving family. Enter John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck – a couple who insides are not compatible. They’re your perfect white American suburban family – all they’re missing is a kid – and they are coerced into adopting Junior. It’s not long before he begins wreaking havoc with his new family, destroying bullies at a baseball game, at a snooty birthday party, and inviting a certain Bow Tie Killer to rescue him.

You wonder what events conspired to ever see a story like this make it to screen. It’s a film you certainly wouldn’t see getting made in today’s more tame climate. The film was touted as a horror – inviting a child in to your home who happens to be violent or have other dark secrets (Orphan), then as a satire of all of the child-centric family hits of the 80s where grown ups overcome their issues thanks to the innocence of a child, eventually settling on this where the morale appears to be that… everyone deserves a chance, but most people are dicks? See, aside from being really funny – for kids and adults – Problem Child is dark as sin. I’ve always appreciated dark humour and I don’t know if that comes from years of violent slapstick cartoons or elsewhere, but I’m sure this film was a part of influencing my tastes. I’m not sure my wife would allow my kids to watch this if she really knew what it was about, but luckily for them I’ve already let them watch it so the joke’s on…. I actually don’t know who.

13: GoldenEye (1995)

I’ve always been a Bond fan. As a red blooded British bloke, of course I am. As with most successful franchises, sooner or later the money men come in and fuck everything up, and that’s exactly what happened with Bond. For years, various owners and companies and twats fought over the rights to the series and in the meantime the world moved on. By the time 1995 rolled around the Cold War was in the past and The West’s old enemies had been defeated or put into hiding. Luckily, evil and greed never dies, so the new world had a bunch of new outlets for ideas. A new Bond, a new M, new writers, directors, a new style, a new world – but still the same old sexy antics of a globe-trotting super spy who can’t resist dipping his PPK in the moist schemes of the world’s Vs (villains). Like most Bond films, the plot is either over-complex or a maguffin – here there’s stuff about Russians and hackers and satellites and financial ruin, but really it’s about a rogue MI6 agent and old friend of 007 getting up to badness, and Bond having to go kill him. On the way he leaps off a Dam, drives a tank, shoots up a train, kills a Boris, and stays Onatopp of his womanizing ways.

I’ll call it out here for full transparency – I love the N64 game and it’s one of my all time favourites. I played the game before I watched the film, but I don’t think this has had a huge impact on my love for the film Sure, being familiar with the game and then watching those scenes and locations on screen was cool and probably gave me some initial lols and hearts. As time went on though the film never fell out of favour with me – it has some of the best performances of any Bond movie, Brosnan is perfect, Bean is a great bad guy, and both Scorupco and Jansenn rank highly in my list of Bond girls. I love how personal and emotional the story becomes – it’s not just a job for Bond – and it has some of the most memorable action and stunts of the series. You’ll see that my favourite Bond films are those which I find the most emotional or have the most interesting story – that’s why the likes of this, For Your Eyes Only, Casino Royale, Live And Let Die rank higher for me over the more obvious Connery stalwarts – Bond as a flawed human or unique stories over your standard spy malarkey. I even like the music in this one – the one thing all critics point to as a major miss.

12: Jurassic Park (1993)

This was always going to be included on my list of favourite 90s movies – I imagine it would be on most people’s top tens/twenties, especially those who grew up with it. I’m annoyed I never caught this at the cinema when it was released. I’m not sure why, given that I saw some other weird ones on the big screen this year – The Nightmare Before Christmas and Super Mario Bros for example. I’ll assume you know the story – rich guy and a bunch of scientists find a way to create dinosaurs, they decide to breed them in a special zoo, but before opening to the public they invite a bunch of experts to inspect. The dinosaurs escape and everyone freaks out.

Like Jaws is to shark movies, Jurassic Park is the daddy of dinosaur movies. I don’t see it ever being topped even though I would happily watch any number of imitators. It’s the perfect film for the kid in us – for those of us who used to look at dinosaur books and be filled with awe and wonder that such things ever walked the earth. There’s no other director in the world at his peak that you’d want working on this film than Spielberg – you just know he shares that awe and wonder. Add to this Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Samuel L Jackson, and non-annoying kids, and a bunch of iconic images, great score, memorable set pieces, and you have an all time classic. All I’d love now is a genuine, genuinely good dinosaur-based horror movie.

11: Hard Boiled (1992)

People forget that John Woo has been involved in movies since the late 1960s. He directed his first film in the early 70s. There has always been something ultra modern about his films – when something like Hard-Boiled or Face-Off came out you’d assume it was made by some alarmingly talented new voice, not someone who had been doing it for three decades already. He had already made your standard Golden Harvest wuxia type film, then movies with Jackie Chan, and didn’t really get to assert his own true vision until Heroes Shed No Tears and (more accurately) the superb A Better Tomorrow. Those films unleashed his personal style and as his films progressed we got more of his traditional ‘heroic bloodshed’ movies – films with a (then) unique look and fell – very stylized, killers in suits and shades, lots of slow motion gun play, slow motion everything really, and uber-cool actors and characters. There was usually a lot of male bonding/conflict. Hard Boiled is his crowning achievement – a film that laughs at how small and tame the action of Die Hard is, and a film which both is the hallmark for Hong Kong action, and revolutionized the genre as a whole. Yet so few people have seen it.

Chow Yun Fat stars as the renegade cop Tequila, a man who plays by his own rules in the typical 80s archetype. After his partner his killed during a raid, Tequila is taken off the case. Elsewhere, an undercover super-cop is trying to infiltrate a ruthless Triad gang. The two team up and play an uneasy game where the violence rapidly escalates until the final stunning shootout in a hospital. The action man…. there was a point in the nineties when action was becoming stale – there were disaster type epics, there were meta movies, but the genre seemed to be moving away from the one man army movies I grew up with. Then I happened upon Hard Boiled and was in love instantly. The action here is ridiculous, set-pieces going on for thirty minutes rather than three. There are crazy shots here that boggle the mind – the amount of preparation which must have gone into them, especially those one-shot scenes, is still mind-blowing and they were done with no digital trickery. The plot does become overblown and there are some sentimental scenes which will seem odd to Western audiences, but in Fat, Leung, Kwok, and Wong we have some good guys and bad guys to rank alongside the Rambos and Hans Grubers of the world. This is one of those films to show people who think foreign movies are boring. Two hours later they’ll be saying Hollywood movies are boring.

10: The Fifth Element (1997)

Milla Jovovich had already appeared in a number of great films, but this was her star-making turn. For my money, she should have received an Oscar nomination here, as the pure and innocent Fifth Element taking human form. If you don’t fall in love with her here, you have no soul. This is a madcap comic book action movie – over the top in all the right ways, and with a unique look thanks to Besson’s vision and Gaultier’s ‘fashions’. Check out the rest of the cast too – Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, with Luke Perry, Brion James, and Lee Evans in smaller roles. It’s the age old story of the destruction of Earth by an unnamed space evil, and the human and alien representatives on the sides of good and evil trying to save/destroy everything. Bruce Willis is back to his wise-cracking, fatigued best as an ex-military, now cabbie who accidentally meets The Fifth Element and must protect her from those who would use her for their wicked purposes. There’s a lot of plot and history here, but in the end it boils down to a simple kill the bad guys synopsis, with ridiculous guns, wacky characters, and some of the best actors in the world having the most fun they’ve ever had. The fun is infectious and the execution of the youthful ideas will keep you guessing and smiling.

9: Bangkok Dangerous (1999)

I’ve talked on the blog before about how I’ve always enjoyed foreign cinema – especially Asian films as they offer their own twists on my favourite genres of action and horror. I can’t recall exactly, but I think this was either the second or third Pang Brothers film I saw – the first being Bangkok Haunted. The first thing I would say about this – and the rule typically applies for any remakes of foreign movies – is see the original first. Nic Cage’s remake is an average thriller which takes some of the loose ideas here, but sucks the emotion out. It also lacks the vibrant style which the Pang Brothers showcases, especially in their early days. The weird thing is – the remake was also directed by the Pang Brothers, so I’m not sure where things went sour. It’s a decent movie, but very straight to DVD, and not a patch on the original.

The film follows Kong, an archetypal sympathetic hitman, bullied as a child for being deaf, but whose disability and bullying makes him a flawless killer. He ends up working for the mob, he is friends with a stripper and her boyfriend, and he falls in love with a pharmacist. That’s… pretty much it. The story is one you’ve seen a million times before – you know that things will go wrong and revenge will be served cold, but it’s done with such flair, and done with such conviction, with emotion, with humour, that it stands tall as one of the finest examples of the sub-genre. Pawalit Mongkolpisit is a great choice as the lead – you can’t help but feel for him and side with him in spite of the terrible work he does, and Premsinee Ratanasopha as Fon is a revelation. It’s a massive pity that these guys haven’t really done any other work – their relationship here feels both cute and honest without being cutesy. I don’t want to say too much else about it – seek it out for yourself, and enjoy one of the finest slices of 90s action you’ll ever see.

8: Things To In Denver When You’re Dead (1995)

In the post Pulp Fiction world, every young director wanted to make their crime masterpiece. We had British efforts from Guy Ritchie and his clones, Eastern attempts, and endless Hollywood versions. I’ve never felt that Things To In Denver When You’re Dead fit this mold – but that’s how it was reviewed and marketed. It’s a shame this never got to stand on its own as it is a unique film, miles apart in tone and style from Tarantino’s work – a much more sombre affair and a film that I would probably choose to watch over Pulp Fiction any day of the week – and I’m a huge fan of Pulp Fiction. 

There are a number of films this decade which have truly unbelievable casts – Tombstone, Heat, Pulp Fiction, Cop Land, True Romance, Glengarry Glen Ross – and this. Lets see – Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, Christopher Walken, Steve Buscemi, Gabrielle Anwar, Treat Williams, Fairuza Balk, Jack Warden, Bill Nunn, Don Cheadle, William Forsythe. I realize that not all of those names may be A-Listers or household names, but film fans will recognize and respect them – and that’s not to mention the host of regognizable faces who also pop up, even if you don’t know the names – Jenny McCarthy, Willie Garson, Tiny Lister, Buddy Guy, Bill Cobbs, Marshall Bell, and others. You’ll spend the movie going ‘where do I know that guy from?’

It’s not merely a who’s who guessing game – the characters they play you will want to hang out and have boat drinks with, and the story they find themselves in is tinged with regret, heroism, futility, fatalism, honour… Garcia stars as ex-gangster Jimmy The Saint. He has been legit for a while, with a bizarre business where people (generally the elderly or those with an incurable illness) record a video for their loved ones to be given once they pass – I’m not sure such a business model would survive today, but it works as a nice plot device. Christopher Walken (should have grabbed an Oscar nomination) is his terrifying ex-boss, and he calls a favour from Jimmy to help get his pedophile son and ex-girlfriend back together. For some reason Jimmy recruits his old pals to run an intimidation job on the ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend (rather than just roughing him up one to one), and it all goes badly wrong. Buckwheats for all, as they say.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I love the film so much – it’s undoubtedly cool, having a style that sticks with me for whatever reason, and it features some of my favourite performers in iconic ways. Balk is terrific, Garcia and Lloyd give some of their best, understated work, and Anwar proves again that she should have been a much bigger star. I love the dialogue, I love Steve Buscemi’s Mr Sssh, and I love the inevitability of Mr Sssh’s pursuit and the overall vibe of death and honour – doing what you can with the time you have. This made around half a million bucks at the box office, which is a crime. You owe it to yourself, and to the film itself, to go watch this now – yes you, reading this list, watch it now and then tell your friends.

7: Beauty And The Beast (1991)

What can I say – I’m a sucker for schmaltz, when it’s done right. My favourite Disney movie ever, my favourite animated movie ever, for me nothing else comes close to its majesty. The tale as old as time has never been told better, in such vibrant colours and with such lovable and dastardly characters.  I talked about the film in more detail in my Top Ten Disney films post – TLDR version – awesome heroine, great songs, wonderful heartfelt story acted out by great characters and cast.

6: Scream (1996)

By the time 1996 rolled around (I probably actually saw this first in 97, but who’s counting) I was already a hardcore horror fan, with the Elm Street series being my favourite. I was also already head over heels in love with Neve Campbell, thanks to Party Of Five. When I first heard about Scream – merging Wes Craven with Campbell in a new slasher movie which just happened to be getting rave reviews from everyone – I knew I would love it. What I didn’t know was just how much. I remember renting the VHS and watching two or three times that day. There was something so callous and wicked and ingenious about that opening sequence – not just the dialogue, or the scenario, or the whole ‘killing off our big name actress’ thing but how the killer kills Casey such footsteps away from her parents, stabbing her as she reached out for their help in the safety of her own front lawn. I’m not sure there have been many more brutal or poignant horror movie deaths than that – certainly not many have affected me so much. Although I always had an inkling, it was that moment which cemented my understanding of Craven’s over-arcing theme – that theme which runs through all of his work – that kids are never safe, and that your parents can’t help you. As would be revealed, and much like Nightmare, Hills, and other Craven hits – the sins of the parents will come back ten-fold upon the children.

The film doesn’t hold back on the blood and guts either, being fairly graphic given the target audience. There are your standard stabbings and slicings, but also gun shots and the odd ceiling decapitation/chokehold. What about that dialogue? Williamson and Craven collaborate wonderfully, bringing that meta mid-90s speak to a peak, the characters smart, aware, cool, but still falling into the same traps that they mock fictional characters for falling into. As iconic horror dialogue goes, ‘What’s your favourite scary movie’ is right up there with the best, but it’s the discussion of movies and of tropes that really won the fans over – this was, finally, a horror movie made by and for horror movie fans – one which understood us and the fiction we love.

What’s it all about though? A small town is being ravaged by a number of brutal killings and the ultimate target appears to be one Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell in her star-making performance). Who is the killer – it could be anyone – an absent parent, a school faculty member, a reporter, a boyfriend, a friend – part of the fun is that the film keeps you guessing right up until its final reveal and twist. It wouldn’t be a slasher movie without a twist. We have this gorgeous young cast fighting for their lives all while trying to get on with the mundane stuff like school and sex and movies and parties, we have a kick ass soundtrack, both instrumental and the songs, and it’s all pulled together with a taut nod and wink by Craven – one of the best, at his best. All that said, and I didn’t even mention Ghostface – how iconic is that mask?

5: The Crow (1994)

If the 80s was the decade when the most wacky ideas seemed to get a greenlight, then the 90s saw the darker material rising to the top. What Scream is to the horror genre, The Crow is to the comic book genre. The Crow is, without a doubt, the finest comic book movie ever made. I love Batman, Superman, Nolan’s trilogy – but they all pale in comparison to this. Look at how expansive the world Marvel has created – not just as a whole, but in each individual entry – everything is MASSIVE and yet, they’re all so bland. I’ve yet to see a single drop of anything resembling emotion in a single MCU movie – granted I’ve only seen a handful so far, but it’s their generic, stale, lets blow up another city feel which leaves me cold. They’re popcorn movies for sure, but like popcorn which has been lifted off the ground after a double bill of Fifty Shades and Indecent Behaviour. 

Why am I moaning about Marvel? I feel like The Crow doesn’t get it’s due credit. I want as many people to see it, and to honour it, before another inevitable remake comes along – it is a case of the stars at night aligning and making something so perfect that it couldn’t possibly have been made by anyone else at any other time. Before it, very few comic movies were daring, or felt independent, or seemed unique. The Crow takes chances – it’s dark as Witch’s muff, and it casts the untested son of a martial artist as its lead. It’s a film about a man coming back from the dead to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancee and it’s loosely based on the writer’s own, similar, true story. It has a look unlike most other films – rain drenched, always night, always smokey, with crime and debauchery everywhere. Alex Proyas had this and Dark City in the 90s – what a combo – and then he seemed to lose his mind and make fluff. The talent shown in these two movies, the look and tone, is unparalleled.

Brandon Lee stars as Eric Draven – a man brought back for revenge. Over the course of a night he hunts down the men who killed him and his fiancee, all the while hounded by a cop (Ernie Hudson) and a child he once knew (Rochelle Davis) and under the watchful eye of a mysterious crow. That’s all there is to it, but it’s haunted by sadness both real and fictional – writer James O Barr’s real life tragedy all to plain to feel, and Brandon Lee was accidentally killed during filming, ensuring that he would never see the final product. All that takes the darkness on show to higher levels of tragedy but even without the real life stuff, it’s a film oozing with emotion. There is a dizzying visual flare, some of the finest one-line dialogue of the decade, and another brilliant dual soundtrack – instrumental and songs – I bought both shortly after seeing the movie. Lee should have been up for an Oscar here, and the rest of the cast feature standout performances from Michael Wincott, Tony Todd, and David Patrick Kelly. Even though the movie was a hit, even though it spawned a TV series and many sequels, even though Sting based his most popular persona off it, even though I feel like it has its own cult of fans who hold it dearly – it deserves more recognition.

4: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

A number of films just miss out on my Top Ten Of All Time – a few of which are definitely better films than some which are in my Top Ten – Dawn Of The Dead, The Thing, Battle Royale, and this – Edward Scissorhands being some of those. This movie is perfect – there is literally nothing I would change about it, my only problem with it being that it is so short. It cemented Tim Burton as a God in my world, cemented my adoration for Winona Ryder, and made the world take notice of a young fella called Johnny Depp – how he didn’t get an Oscar nomination here is ridiculous. Depp lost a Golden Globe to Depardieu in Green Card – seriously. Danny Elfman didn’t get nominated, Burton was passed over for Best Director, nothing for him or Thompson in the writing categories. 1990 was actually a good year for The Oscars too, but still.

If you’ve seen the film then you already love it for the same reasons I do – as I’ve said, it’s perfect. All I will add is that it has always appealed to the outsider in me, that sad que cera ceraness of it all striking a personal chord.

3: Ringu (Top Ten Of All Time) (1998)

There are a number of horror films which changed my life and which I never shut up about once I saw them – if I knew you at the time, you can be sure I made you, or tried to make you watch them. They had to be films which either came out around that time – not something from decades earlier, or foreign/one I knew most people wouldn’t have seen. Scream was one, Bodysnatchers was another. Maybe I was most vocal about Ringu – it’s one of those films where seeing and feeling people’s reactions was almost as fun as watching the film itself. As those final scenes begin you can feel the oxygen get sucked out of the room, in fact the room itself seems to grow smaller, walls pressing in and the viewer slowly folds their limbs into a crab-like foetal position. This is the pinnacle of the J-Horror movement and of Asian Horror in general, a slow burning masterpiece of dread and outright shivering terror.

You probably know the story by now – there are whispers of an urban legend about a videotape (such things once existed, kids). When you watch the tape, your phone rings and a voice tells you that you have exactly seven days to live. There is only one way to save yourself from the curse, and that is to make it go viral – make a copy and make someone else watch it and the curse is passed on to them. Bodies begin to pile up and it seems there may be some truth or hysteria attached to the legend. Enter journalist Reiko who wants to write a story about the whole thing – her niece apparently a victim of the curse. Upon investigating, Reiko finds what appears to be the videotape of legend. Naturally, she watches it, but oops – so does her ex-husband and son. They have seven days to try to uncover and prevent the curse, looking into the history of the mysterious Sadako Yamamura.

I love this film so much – to the point that I see many many parallels between it and The Terminator series, thematically, stylistically… but I won’t go into those. If you like both series, you’ll see what I mean. Once again, I love the inevitability of it – basically, if you watch the tape you’re fucked, and you can’t really avoid it. Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada are excellent leads and the story merges old world superstition with new age techno-fears. The whole thing is fundamentally routed in Japanese fear and culture, yet it’s intrinsically universal. I bought the sequels, love them too, and I bought the books – very different beasts from the movies, but genuinely brilliant too. Hell, I even bought Rasen – the other sequel which tries to be more like the book, but without the genius of Nakata at the helm it’s not great. Nakata’s best film, his work here made me seek out all of his other stuff with increasingly diminishing returns.

I love me some gore, and I love a good effective jump-scare, but fear works best for me when it creeps upon me and of course, when I actually care about the story and the characters. The story and characters here suit me perfectly – a mystery based on whispered myths and tragedy, bullying, psychic power, intelligent, strong men and women – and while the scares here are actually quite minimal, it’s the way it builds and builds unrelentingly to that climax – you won’t realize that you’ve pulled out your own nails while watching. I had great fun doing prank calls on people after making them watch the movie. We created memes of certain moments before internet memes were a thing. Just one final word – I despise the remake. It is utter shite. Utter, complete shite. Yet most horror fans, most film fans prefer it. It turns this masterpiece of dread into generic, glossy, noisy jump-scare bollocks and even commits the cardinal sin of cutting away during the climax. Stick with the original.

2: Dumb And Dumber (Top Ten Of All Time) (1994)

The only comedy which I have marathoned – watched many times in a short space of days. Probably the comedy I quote the most, and another film where I went out and bought the soundtrack shortly after seeing it, and got annoyed that half the songs were missing. The Farrelly Brothers have never bettered this, and I wish wish wish they had done a sequel in the same decade instead of waiting until the performers were depressingly old and made me too aware of the ravages of time. No matter which version you see, Dumb And Dumber is a perfect comedy, though I am inclined towards the juvenile – again, as long as I actually care about what’s going on.

The film is all about Harry and Lloyd, two loser, less than intelligent friends who scrape by with dead end jobs. During a chance encounter/intervention during a blackmailing deal, the pair end up with a mysterious maguffin (suitcase) and decide to go on a cross country journey to Assssspenn and deliver it to its rightful owner. Along the way they meet a variety of weird and wonderful characters, have a number of adventures, and learn absolutely nothing. It you’re not laughing at least once every thirty seconds while watching this, I don’t want to know you. Naturally, it’s the little things that most people don’t notice that stick with me the most – the things Lloyd buys after being instructed only to purchase the bare essentials, the force with which Lloyd cane-whacks Harry’s legs with… I could go on. It was always my plan to go to my school Formal (for any US readers, it’s our equivalent of Prom) with one of my friends, dressed in the same suits Harry and Lloyd wear to the fundraiser later in the film, but we chickened out and he ended up not going at all. To make up for this, I got drunk and threw pint and shot glasses from one of the hotel rooms into the car park below. Side note – as I checked Wikipedia for box office returns on a number of these films, I keep seeing them being listed in various magazine’s 500 films of all time – I must do some sort of post covering those 500 films and a few words on what I think of each. You’ll love that.

1: Terminator 2 (Top Ten Of All Time) (1991)

Naturally. Like I said in my 80s run down, it’s this or The Terminator which top my all time list. What is there to say about it? It’s groundbreaking in every sense – everyone involved deserves a statue in their honour, and it’s a film which has influenced me deeply. Some films go beyond just being films – fans hold conventions, fans dress up and have regular screenings, fans make life decisions based on their love of these films. I think the film and me were intertwined before I even saw it – it’s almost like it was made just for me, but clearly it was made for millions of others just like me. I don’t even know what I’m talking about any more but as a boy, seeing this for the first time, a little younger than John Connor is in the story, it was about me. I loved Guns N Roses, I loved Public Enemy, I loved Motorbikes – hell, I even had a friend with a ginger mullet. I may not, as far as I’m aware, be the future saviour of the human race, but if such a burden was thrust upon me I’d suck it up, shine that bitch on and snarl an Hasta La Vista, Baby at the enemy. This film is everything I want in a film from top to bottom – story, cast, characters, director, music, dialogue, action, emotion, scares, laughs, tears, the way it looks… I don’t think any other film will ever speak to me the way this one did and has. In a way that’s a thought tinged with sadness, but in another way I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it and be alive when it was released. Thanks to everyone for making it, it means a lot. My only regret is not being in it myself.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of my list and what your favourite films of the 1990s are!

Nightman’s Top 15 Albums Of The 1990s

Greetings, Glancers. Jeepers, it has been an incredibly long time since I posted one of these  – in fact, my Best Albums of 2000-2010 was one of the first non-movie review posts I ever stuck on this site. I think. Have a gander at that post if you’re looking for some fairly recent ear treats, but today we’re going retro. Which seems like a bizarre thing to say. Yes, the 90s are well and truly considered retro now and I think I only truly started to appreciate this when I watch all those Teens React To 90s Music, or Do Teens Know 90s music Youtube videos. I mean, I don’t feel that I look all that different or much older than the teens in those videos, but most of them weren’t even born in the 90s. Damn, in 1999 I was ringing in the new year by getting drunk in my hometown and waking up in some weird street in Belfast the following millennium. I think. Again, it’s apparently so long ago now that myth and memory are colliding and I can’t keep track of what’s what.

Anyway, what I do remember of the 90s is the music. I was actually a DJ in the 90s. And by DJ I mean I helped my dad when we was doing the music for school discos, putting on CDs and hitting play. It’s a weird thing to say – I’ve no idea why or how my dad was doing this given that he doesn’t really like music and only listens to Irish muck. The 90s were strange, you see. There were the last two great musical movements of any significance in grunge and Britpop. Sure a lot has happened since then, but not to the cultural extent of those two, and certainly not from a sheer quality standpoint. I was a grunge and metal and hard rock kid, as I’m sure you’ve heard me say before. I was too young to traditionally ‘get it’, but I had a lot of older friends, and older siblings of friends – people who were teens in ’94 while I was 10/11. Having said that, I was still getting exposed to a lot of pop, a lot of whatever was on the radio and in the charts – I mostly remember the early 90s for being the start of manufactured boy/girl bands and the increase in popularity of rave/dance music, both of which I despised.

As grunge faded, Britpop emerged. I wasn’t a huge fan of any of the main Britpop bands, but a lot of the British bands I did love were lumped into that category, or into indie because they happened to come out around the same time and were essentially alternative to whatever was popular either in pop or rock. All of this nattering means that my favourite albums of the 90s will feature a variety of genres but won’t include many of the albums which regularly top critical lists. In preparing for my list, I went looking through a bunch of those lists and knew that the same culprits would appear over and over – Dummy, OK Computer, Nevermind, Definitely Maybe, Automatic For The People, Loveless, Odelay. Some of those I like, some of those I don’t. Maybe some will even appear in my list. What I’m getting at is that this is my list – read it, comment, make your own,try not to complain that the usual suspects may not be there. These albums each have a special place in my life, tied up with specific memories. Outside of that, I do believe each is a firmly great album and would highly recommend to any true music fan. As before, I’m only choosing one album per artist – otherwise there would be 2-3 by certain bands; there’s going to be a lot of ‘I could have chosen this but instead I went for this’.

The ordering isn’t too important, it never is, but I suspect by number 1 will always be my number 1. If you’re interested in 90s music, or if you are new to it all, you could do a lot worse by starting out with these bad boys.

15. Dangerous

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Jackson entered his third decade of making music on top of the world. If you were alive in the early nineties then you knew all about the Dangerous Tour. You heard every single one of the singles from the album almost every single day. You sat up waiting to watch the world premiere of his new video. Does that happen anymore? Maybe it does, I’ve no idea, but certainly not to this extent. Families crowded around the TV waiting for Black Or White to come on like people wait for the Superbowl. For my list, it was a toss up between including this or HIStory. Both are albums I love, but both are flawed – neither are as good as Bad or Thriller, but then what is? Both albums have their share of fillers, but it’s the sheer strength of the singles and the hidden treats which ensure they have a spot on any Best Album Of The 90s discussion. Dangerous edges it with the better singles and for pure personal nostalgia value.

Black Or White, Heal The World, Give It To Me, Remember The Time are all flawless pop hits. The you also have Who Is It, Will You Be There, and In The Closet. All underrated pop classics. The rest of the album is a mixture of New Jack noise and genre twisting ballads of varying quality – if trimmed a little or if certain songs were switched out for something else this would surely be held in as high esteem as his earlier offerings but I love it regardless.

14. Californication

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I almost didn’t include this, mostly because I always think it came out in 2000. This felt like the dawning of a new are of music, not because the band had come out of their malaise with massive renewed commercial success, but because it felt like a moment in time – both immediate and new and futuristic. The band found their peak at mixing funk, rock, and pop with Californication, and the hits kept coming – the title track, Road Trippin, Otherside, Scar Tissue were all huge hits and when they weren’t being played on radio stations they were being covered by school bands, in bedrooms, and by buskers. Other songs such as Easily and Parallel Universe ensured the hits were not confined to singles while Purple Stain retained their trademark humour and original sound.

This is an album about transcending – sound, music, and mind, and it felt at the time like a new movement was coming. It didn’t, but it was exciting all the same. The album dropped just in time for summertime, at a time when exams, parties, illegal entry into pubs and clubs and getting on top were high on the agenda of me and everyone I knew, and this felt like a unified blast of sunlight in our dreary surroundings and a statement about hope and potential and love which brought us all together – it was such a hit that the sensation carried through to the following summer. The band would unfortunately copy this template for their next releases with diminishing returns.

13. Ray Of Light

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One year before Californication, another 80s icon proved she still had it. In fact, she proved she was more relevant than ever, reinventing herself in the best way possible and unleashing her best work. Madonna’s Ray Of Light was a winter release and one which grew as the year progressed and it was another album which felt like everyone could enjoy it. I almost managed to have friends, or at least not enemies, in every school group – sports people, smart people, nerds, stoners, whatever, and pretty much everyone appreciated this one. Like essentially every album on my list it has a bunch of smash singles or hits and an equal number of strong album tracks – Frozen, The Power Of Goodbye, Skin, Drowned World, Sky Fits Heaven, are among Madonna’s finest songs. Ironically like some other entries here this can be seen as their last great work, but great is the operative word here.

12. Unreleased Susanna Hoffs Album

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Ah ha! You didn’t see this one coming, did ya? Hoffs released her debut in 1991, but as a whole it’s naff. She released a better follow up in 1996, but still it had problems with consistency. In between these though, she recorded a second album with some of the songs appearing on the 1996 release, albeit in slightly different forms. While the debut was a miscalculated, dated mess, the unreleased one showcases Hoffs’ talents – her songwriting, vocals, guitar playing, and mostly her ear for melody. It moves from mellow to doom laden to shimmering pop to energetic rock, but it is held together by an overall sense of, if not death, then fading away. I’ve felt this for such a long time that I actually have an outline for a story based or inspired by the album – the names of each song essentially write the story for you. If this had become a concept album I wouldn’t have been surprised – Catch The Wind, Without You, Go, Sleep, Ghost, Turning Over – the second half of the album in particular evoking that sense of departure and loss. Every song is terrific and it’s a shame that so many will never get to hear it. Even the reworked songs for what became her 1996 album will go unheard by most – do yourself a favour and find both albums now for the sheer majesty of songs like Darling One, Sunshine, and Right By You. 

11. Grace – Jeff Buckley

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Well, you probably saw this coming. I came to the Jeff Buckley party later than most. Plenty of friends had and played me Grace and his live offerings in the late 90s but it wasn’t until probably 2003 roughly that I bought it myself. There was no looking back. Every positive thing you’ve heard about the album is true, from Jeff’s lyrics and voice to the cauldron of genres he blasts through, often in a single song. There is melancholy, there is anger, there are heavenly odes, but mostly there is grace.

10. The Black Album – Metallica

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Spoiler alert – there won’t be a lot of metal on this list. Many people in the know will agree that the 90s wasn’t the best decade for metal, at least from a commercial standpoint. Most of the big bands from the previous decade fell on hard times. A lot of idiots will blame grunge for this but the fact is that Grunge simply raised the bar for heavy music – forcing it to become more intelligent, raw, and visceral. Gone were the stadium pleasing anthems and performances, gone was the cheese. Gone was the need for a Rock God and a twiddly solo. However, a lot of new acts were coming out of the woodwork, particularly in Europe and the best of the rest learned to adapt quickly. Pantera, Megadeth, Emperor, Sepultura and others brought out their best work in the early to middle of the decade, and every one of them was in some way influenced by the changing musical landscape. Metallica’s Black Album is the pinnacle of these, throwing them into the limelight like no other metal band had been before.

The Black Album saw the band streamlining themselves after their opus And Justice For All. The complexity was replaced with hard-edged hits yet none of the ferocity was lost. The production was noticeably better, and the songs noticeably more radio-friendly. If the band lost fans with their previous album due to accusations of selling out, they lost a lot more with this one. Their reply was to sell over thirty million copies of this, not bad as middle fingers go. With singles such as the eternal Enter Sandman, the plaintive Nothing Else Matters, and hidden delights like My Friend Of Misery it’s the perfect album for introducing people to metal. The riffs are still there, the anger, the melody, but it’s a much smarter album with the lyrics tortured and poetic instead of a series of attempts to rhyme ‘death’, ‘war’, and ‘blood’.

9. Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

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I’ve harped on about this album in other posts plenty of times, but it all holds true; it’s as fine a slice of the 90s musical landscape as any – hits like Ironic and One Hand In My Pocket as timeless as another US rock song as far back as Born In The USA or Jailhouse Rock. More than anything this album reminds me of early Secondary School days – not school itself of course, but the friends and the fun times we had. It was one of the first albums which felt ‘ours’ as a collective whole – this was my generation and the songs spoke to our experiences and feelings, even if (again) I was a few years younger than those it was truly for. There was a bit of grunge, a bit of the riot gurl, a bit of optimism, and a shot of realism. Where other artists sought to emulate Alanis, or Nirvana, or whoever, Jagged Little Pill was a pinnacle which few have equaled since in terms of sheer quality and cultural impact.

8. Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos

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Long before Jagged Little Pill, Tori Amos came out swinging with a collection of songs which seemed a world away from the distortion and rage spewing out of Seattle. Little Earthquakes is equally as earth-shattering, but coming from a place of pianos, high-heels, and OMG vaginas. It’s a near perfect album (it does feature Happy Phantom which is just silly and Mother which is too long) with songs like Crucify, Winter, and Precious Things as deserving of the praise and airplay it didn’t receive as a thousand songs from the era which did. The aforementioned, bracketed songs? Switch those out for Sugar and her Smells Like Teen Spirit – then you have a perfect album. Tori would never be as consistent and restrained again.

7. Dirt – Alice In Chains

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We finally land on some authentic grunge, with the appropriately named Dirt. Alice In Chains were always closer to the metal side of things, while Nirvana were decidedly punk (Pearl Jam were blues or traditional US rock and Soundgarden did whatever they pleased in case you were wondering). Dirt is both soulful and ugly, a stripping back of the American, human psyche, and set to a swirling storm of shrieks, distortion, and riffs. Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley are one of the most underrated songwriting duets of all time and on Dirt both are at their peak, not to mention Mike Starr and Sean Kinney. We have some of the finest examples of grunge hits in Would?, Angry Chair, and Down In A Hole, along with the introspective Rain When I Die, epic Rooster, and the opening bombast of Them Bones and Dam That River. Staley’s voice wavers between anguish and ecstasy, the riffs offer sludge, speed, and the lyrics are dark and cynical looks at drug use, the impact of war on families and the individual, religion, life and death, and much more – dirt has never been so appealing and easy to wallow in.

6. UYI 1 and II – G’n’R

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If an unreleased album was a cheat inclusion, then I’ll go the extra mile and include two albums in one. Come on – they’re basically one long album and ask most people to name a song from one and they won’t remember which album is which. Not super fans like me of course. There’s the eternal argument that had the band trimmed away the rough stuff from each album then they could have had a single album with the best from both. While that’s true, you’d also end up cutting some greats. And seriously, while both albums are massive and have a few middling songs, the only thing that should be cut is My World. I think a single album would have ended up too bloated – you’d need November Rain, Estranged, Coma, Civil War – all songs over six minutes long, and then you’d need (one version of) Don’t Cry, You Could Be Mine, Back Off Bitch, Get In The Ring and you’re at around 50 minutes long already, and that’s before you add in Knockin On Heaven’s Door and Live And Let Die. There is already a US only release single album, but it adds in some odd choices which most fans would consider the filler. There’s no point arguing about it – these are two albums which act as two parts of the same whole.

These albums have probably been played by me more than 95% of anything else I’ve owned or heard – I had them at release, or near enough, and I listen to elements of them every week. I remember sitting up to watch the UYI tours on TV, trying to play every song when I got my first guitar, and ever since, and hiding My World on any mixtapes I made for friends. There are few albums I know as inside out as these ones, as anyone who has seen me requesting, then air-guitaring and singing along to Breakdown in The Venue can attest to (pro-tip – The Venue was Northern Ireland’s premier (only) rock and metal club for years and where I spent most Saturday nights from 17 onwards).

5. Hey Stoopid – Alice Cooper

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We’re at that point where the ordering doesn’t really matter anymore. Hey Stoopid I got around the same time as UYI and it subsequently became one of, if not my most favourite Alice Cooper albums. Most of the cheese of the 80s has been abandoned, meaning all that is left is pure unfiltered Alice Cooper goodness, albeit with a new, more metal edge. While Alice appeared on G’n’R’s album, Slash appears on this one along with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Vinnie Moore; it’s a guitar fan’s dream. Ozzy, Nikki Sixx, and Elvira among others also pop up. Ignoring the guest stars we have one of Alice’s biggest hits in Feed My Frankenstein but the genius is in songs like Burning Our Bed, Dangerous Tonight, Die For You, and one of the greatest songs ever in Wind Up Toy. Ballads, blistering rock, Cooper’s madness, ideas, and brilliant lyrics all flow together meaning that even the slight dud Dirty Dreams doesn’t harm the whole. This one needs to be heard by many more people, including the metal and rock fans who should already be familiar with it but likely are not.

4. How To Measure A Planet?

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It could have been Mandylion, but I feel this is still their best. Another album you’re not likely to see on any other critic’s list, yet one which is more deserving of a place than most, How To Measure A Planet? was The Gathering’s first shift away from metal into parts unknown. If there is any album on my list which needs more exposure, it is this one. It’s an epic double album covering space and time and features should-be-classics in Travel, Marooned, Frail, Rescue Me, Great Ocean Road. If you like rock, dance, shoe-gaze, trip-hop, prog, pop, guitars, soundscapes, angelic vocals, ethereal melodies, then you will undoubtedly love this album.

3. In Utero

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It was this or Nevermind. In fact, it was this or Incesticide. Nevermind gets all the credit and acclaim, while Incesticide most reminds me of that time, but In Utero is the best Nirvana album. The best way to follow up the album which defined a generation is to break it all down again in the most brutal, anti-commercial way you can. If Nevermind was an unexpected hit, then this is even moreso – songs with titles and content like Rape Me, Radio-Friendly Unit Shifter, Tourette’s, Heart Shaped Box, Very Ape are not the stuff of radio. And yet they are. They should be. We should listen to music not because it’s popular, or easily packaged, or nice, or sounds like everything else. We should listen to it for our own reasons, to be moved, to be destroyed, to be challenged, to be inspired. In Utero will inspire, move, challenge, and destroy you, Cobain’s lyrics childlike, incisive, insightful, angst-ridden, world-weary, obsessed with the body, corruption, failure, success, and every note he hits powerfully delivered with maximum feeling. Grohl and Novoselic as always are in perfect tune reminding us that the band were the finest cohesive unit since Led Zeppelin, even as Kurt increasingly abandoned structure and played with form. The best grunge album ever isn’t even grunge, but an unholy descent into hell.

2. The Bends

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It’s this or OK Computer. I’d happily argue that Pablo Honey deserves a spot on any 90s list too – that album is highly underrated purely by the fact that the other two came next. But Pablo Honey is to The Bends as Help is to Revolver. While I appreciate what OK Computer was and is and does, The Bends has always been my personal favourite. It tugs at the emotions more, it has more variety, it isn’t so calculated, and it’s obviously the more emotional of the two. You don’t even need me to list the hits do you? Fine – Street Spirit, Just, My Iron Lung, High And Dry, Fake Plastic Trees. Any album which contains a song as good as any of those songs is alright by me, but to have them all and also feature the title track, Nice Dream, Bullet Proof, and my own favourite Black Star means you have an album for the ages and one deserving of being mentioned as one of the best ever. The strange this about it is, I don’t have any specific memories associating the album to the time and to me. It feels like it’s always been there. In fact, it wasn’t until much later that I found people who appreciated the band but by that point Kid A and Amnesiac were being released. If you think Radiohead are overrated, you’re doing it wrong. Doing what? Existing.

Before we get to Number One, lets look at some who could have made it on:

Talk On Corners – The Corrs

Ten- Pearl Jam

Superunknown – Soundgarden

Fear Of A Black Planet – Public Enemy

Suede – Suede

Dummy – Portishead

Rust In Peace – Megadeth

Imaginations From The Other Side – Blind Guardian

Showbiz – Muse

Still Life – Opeth

Oceanborn – Nightwish

Drum rolls please – my number one pick for the Best Album of the 90s is:

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  1. The Holy Bible – Manic Street Preachers

My number 1 spot was always going to be my number 1 spot. Sure you can pick Everything Must Go as a better album, certainly a more palatable option and maybe one more symbolic of the decade, but The Holy Bible is THE ONE. I made some Beatles comparisons above, but what the hell do you compare this to? Sure there were dark albums before and there have been since – the 90s were full of them, but none of them come close to this. This is pain not commercialized, romanticized, or glorified. It’s like unnecessary eye surgery. It’s darker than any metal album, and unquestionably more authentic in its horror. While the 90s were known for certain artists paving new ways with sampling The Holy Bible offered the following soundbite samples:

‘I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit, and then force it too look in the mirror’

‘I knew that someday I was gonna die. And I knew before I died Two things would happen to me – That number one I would regret my entire life. And number two I would want to live my life over again’

‘I wonder who you think you are. You damn well think you’re God or something. God give life, God taketh it away, not you. I think you are the devil itself’ (Mother of one of the victims of Peter Sutcliffe).

‘I eat too much to die and not enough to stay alive. I’m sitting in the middle waiting’ (quote from a documentary about a girl’s struggle with anorexia. She died a few months later).

‘I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt’.

‘The court has come. The court of the Nations. And into the courtroom will come the martyrs of Majdanek and Oswiecim. From the ditch of Kerch the dead will rise. They will arise from the graves, they will arise from flames bringing with them the acrid smoke and the deathly odour of scorched and martyred Europe. And the children, they too will come, stern and merciless. The butchers had no pity on them; now the victims will judge the butchers. Today the tear of the child is the judge. The grief of the mother is the prosecutor’ (transcript from the Nuremberg Trials).

Lets not forget the artwork and the liner note quotations. There has rarely, if ever, been a more assured statement of art in music – the band honing their past experiments with design and quotes to a sharpened bullet tip. That’s all well and good, but in the end it is the band themselves who stand out, draped in military garb and spouting rage and vitriol and anyone and everything – this is the Holy Bible for the twentieth century – a catalogue of atrocities counted off with some of the most gut churning vocals, ferocious guitar, ungodly noise, and potent lyrics you’ll ever experience. The Holocaust, self-hate, Imperialism, anorexia (Richey, the band’s lost guitarist and lyricist was 6 stone at the time of recording), murder on an individual and massive scale, religion, banks, politicians, exploitation – the band uncover every ugly truth of the modern man and let us know precisely who’s responsible.

It is possible to separate the songs from the intent and the peripherals. Listening to songs such as Faster, PCP, This Is Yesterday and others – each a perfect song in its own right, whether it be an end of the century/world punk anthem or a mournful ballad to an idealized and lost youth. It is possible, but not easy. You can come as a virgin to the songs, but you’ll inevitably ask what the lyrics are, or what the song is about. You’ll ask why there is such a creepy, soul-darkening drone and wonder what they hell they are so angry about. You’ll get sucked in, sucked down. The opening bass riff to Archives Of Pain will haunt you for ever more. The death shrieks at the end of Mausoleum will set you on edge as if you are being stalked, while the entirety of The Intense Humming Of Evil may very well disturb you to the point of no return. And yet you’ll want to play it again, because the songs are so good, the melodies so incisive and brutal. You’ll find youself screaming along to songs with titles like Of Walking Abortion and yelling out the names of serial killers and dictators in Revol. It’s still a rock album – solos, riffs, headbanging, yells are all checked in, but it’s rock on another level – the sound of the world setting itself alight and both celebrating and screaming in agony with equal measure.

There you have it – my favourite albums of the 1990s. Rather than waiting around to hear what my favourie albums of the 2090s will be, why not share your own thoughts and albums in the comments below. I’ll get around to the 80s and 70s eventually, don’t worry.