Having made my choice for 1992's Tracks of my Years playlist, I was hit by a flood of thoughts of what might have been. This was the year that my music collection truly started to begin the burgeon: my purchasing power still lagged behind my curiosity, but as both grew, so did my library. I was flying in all directions, chasing down new sounds, both "new new" and "new old". From the latter category came the likes of Nick Drake, Van Morrison and Big Star. Some of the very best of the newness is contained within this here list of ten great albums released in 1992 (as well as one that wasn't):
Ride - Going Blank Again
Somewhere between the fuzzy haze of Nowhere and the glistening groove of Carnival of Light was Ride's second album, Going Blank Again. Instrument-heavy and lyric-light (the entire lyric of "Not Fazed" is essentially "I won't be a monkey in anyone's zoo, and I won't get fazed whatever you do. Hit him again he's crazy" with a few ah-ahhhs thrown in, but it stretches out for nearly four and a half minutes) it's prog-shoegazing, but at the same time not actually like either of those things. Which is good if, like me, you're not all that sure about prog.
The main thing to note about Going Blank Again is that it is consistently very, very cool. For most of the 50+ minute running time it's a succession of descending or ascending chord sequences and drum fills, with not much of a nod to old fashioned notions such as the verse or the chorus. There are lyrics here and there, and a couple of radio-friendly moments ("Twisterella" and "Making Judy Smile") but for the most part it's all about the long and floppy-haired groove. On and on it goes, like a never-ending, but very satisfying dream.
The Jesus and Mary Chain - Honey's Dead
Simon Reynolds described The Jesus and Mary Chain as "record collection rock", meaning not so much music steeped in its own past as music that demanded you were steeped in its past. Or at the very least, schooled in its influences. That way, like the music bore who knows and owns everything, yet feels nothing, you could "enjoy" the songs all the more.
In 1992 I didn't even know that much about The Jesus and Mary Chain's earlier albums, let alone possess a record collection stuffed full of the influences they were so happy to lift from, but even I could feel the attitude dripping from the case of Honey's Dead every time I went to listen to it. Listen closely enough and you can almost hear them respond to that classic line "what are you rebelling against?" with a terse "hey, do you mind? I'm trying to get some perfectly placed feedback going on here. Jeez".
Reynolds also observed that as alternative and anti-pop, they shunned synths and dancefloors "to the extreme with their music's utter lack of rhythmic thrust". That's not entirely true of Honey's Dead - tracks like "Far Gone and Out", "I Can't Get Enough" and "Tumbledown" do have a certain impetus, even if the sheer effort of it all seems to have left them listlessly swaying in slo-mo for the rest of the album.
Except for "Reverence", that is. Banned by BBC Radio 1, and Top of the Pops because of its lyric (all that dying, JFK, Jesus Christ stuff apparently not suitable tea-time content in Auntie's eyes), it trips along on a perky, programmed-sounding beat and more or less constant feedback. The kids on Top of the Pops would have loved it.
R.E.M. - Automatic For The People
What can I say? R.E.M. were the first band I became obsessed by. They were my first, and probably still deepest musical love. Between the release of Out of Time and Automatic for the People I went out and bought everything I could find, including the Chronic Town EP on cassette - purchased along with a Fables tour t-shirt while on a trip to California.
I was worried that it would all fall apart, that Automatic would be a dud, that I'd be left disappointed with my stock.
I needn't have worried. It was more accomplished, more confident, more rounded than Out of Time, which quickly started to look like a tentative warm-up for the main act.
Moose - XYZ
I had been led to believe that Moose were a shoegazing outfit. That's just what I was told (not only that, but their on-stage antics, or lack of, had possibly inspired the term in the first place). Imagine my surprise, then, when I first listened to ...XYZ. As "Slip and Slide" started I didn't have long to register my confusion: coming and going as it did in 74 seconds, albeit at the rough pace of a man pulling an anvil against his will.
Imagine, too, my embarrassment that this was taking place near the till of Revolution records, the only independent record store I knew at the time. Bloke probably thinks I'm some sort of weirdo, I figured, and is it hot in here, or is it just me. Where did all these other people come from? Why are they pretending to browse the singles rack while secretly laughing at my this album I've innocently asked to have a quick listen to?
But then "Little Bird" came on, and even though it still wasn't the sound of understated cool I'd hoped for, it was bloody good. Purchase made - shop exited sharply.
Once home, safe, I could savour the country-tinged tracks like their cover of "Everybody's Talkin'", the rollicking Soon is Never Soon Enough and The Whistling Song, and relax and float downstream with "This River is Nearly Dry". If there are hints of shoegazing to be found, then look to the dense layers of "Screaming" (or seek out their earlier EPs, where the label is much more accurate).
The Cure - Wish
Albums by The Cure that I definitely own:
- Greatest Hits (the 2CD version with all the acoustic versions)
Yep. Not exactly a connoisseur, am I? I'm the guy next to you at the Cure gig checking my watch wondering if they're going to be finishing up soon, or if my knackered old legs can stand for another hour of back catalogue trawling.
I might also have a copy of Wild Mood Swings, but I'm really not sure. I know that I nearly bought Standing on a Beach a hundred times, but you know that thing was really pricey at a time when I couldn't afford the luxury, so it always ended up back on the shelf. Don't blame me, blame the big stores for their weird pricing strategy.
Wish, though, will always have a special place in my heart, whether it's for "Friday I'm In Love", which I am happy to enjoy even though I'm apparently not supposed to because it's their "Shiny Happy People", or the unadulterated fun of "Doing the Unstuck", or the meandering grooves like "Cut" and From the "Edge of the Deep Green Sea". I like it so much that I don't even mind that it's over an hour long, which is pretty lengthy for a 12-tracker
It's a perfect day for letting go,
for setting fire to bridges, boats and other dreary worlds you know
Let's get happy!