BBC 6Music have just selected their 15 albums that they felt defined 1997. I have five of them so looking at my collection I decided to do my own take on this with the 15 albums that were my favourites that year.
This was my top 15 from 1997.
- Radiohead – Ok Computer
The album recently topped the poll in the #7albums90s on Twitter last week and deservedly so. After The Bends, this my favourite Radiohead album. I still get goosebumps listening to it. When I bought this album back in 1997, I got to see the band live for the first time when they played Dublin.
The first taster of the album came on the Warchild album Help, which Radiohead donated their song Lucky to. I loved the song and was so looking forward to the album. Paranoid Android which was the lead single and it set the standard for the rest of the album. This album is all killer and no filler. There is not one dud on it. Still to this day it is considered a masterpiece and who would disagree?
2. Foo Fighters – The Colour and The Shape
The second Foo Fighters album was the first as a full band. Dave Grohl played all the instruments on the debut album. This time he was joined by Pat Smear and Nate Mendel (who are still part of the band today). William Goldsmith was on drums but left after the recordings and was replaced by Taylor Hawkins.
The album produced some great singles – Monkey Wrench, My Hero and Everlong which are all still part and parcel of a Foo Fighters gig today.
3. Faith No More – Album of the Year
This was the last ever Faith No More album before they went off on an eleven-year hiatus from 1998 to 2009. The album title showed the bands humour. They had been away for a while after King for a Day..Fool for a Lifetime from 1995 so they thought it would be a funny title for a record.
The album produced three singles – Ashes to Ashes, Last Cup of Sorrow and Stripsearch.
4. Blur – Blur
Up until then I was into Oasis more than Blur. While Blur won the battle of the singles – Roll with It vs Country House which they got to no.1 with, it was the album battle that Oasis came out on top with (What’s The Story) Morning Glory. Blur’s The Great Escape didn’t do much for me at the time but suddenly something changed.
The self-titled fifth Blur album saw the band go for a much rawer approach as they embraced the lo-fi of Pavement. The release of Song 2 won the band acclaim in the States with its quirky, poppy re-imaging of grunge and for me that was the song that opened the way to me appreciating the band a bit better. Still one of my favourite Blur albums to this day.
5. Veruca Salt – Eight Arms To Hold You
Number One Blind was the first single I bought by the band. Never got around to getting American Thighs but eventually got a copy of it on vinyl. The second album was produced by Bob Rock and it was a great album.
Volcano Girls was a big hit from this album, and it was also the opening theme song for the teen comedy Jawbreaker. This album would be the last of the original line up until they got back together for Ghost Notes in 2015.
6. Green Day – Nimrod
Two years previously the band released Insomniac which did not perform well commercially as their breakthrough major label debut Dookie.
Nimrod is an album that has a little bit of everything – hardcore punk, pop punk, surf rock and ska. I would say this is my favourite Green Day album. Highlight from the album for me is Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). It is just a great song towards the end of the album.
7. The Prodigy – The Fat of the Land
I was never a fan of rap or indeed dance music. During the 1990s that changed with the cross-over appeal of metal and rap which I really liked. Now it was the turn of dance music. I never liked The Prodigy previously as I really couldn’t get into rave culture.
The singles from the album, Firestarter and Breathe both hit no.1 in 1996 saw the band successfully bring dance, rock, and hip hop into this hybrid and it works. When I first saw them live, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was suspicious when I saw lots of people in the crowd with dayglo sticks.
Thinking this will probably be a rave and I won’t like it; I left the King’s Hall in Belfast afterwards totally converted and have enjoyed going to see them live since then. This record doesn’t disappoint and the L7 cover at the end, Fuel My Fire is just amazing.
8. Feeder – Polythene
Feeder’s debut album came out around the time that Britpop was the main scene. Instead of being part of that scene, they were lumped into the not often mention Britrock. The band were influenced by grunge which lead to comparisons with other bands.
They ended up being compared with the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies and Talk Talk. Breakthrough single High came from this album. A really satisfying debut album and I have been a fan since.
9. Primal Scream – Vanishing Point
Every Primal Scream album is so different and Vanishing Point draws influence from a lot of genres dub, ambient, dance music and krautrock. Mani from the Stone Roses features on bass on this record. Bobby Gillespie describes the album as a road-movie record. It does have this feel of being a cool soundtrack for an underground film.
Four great singles were released from this album – Kowalski, Star, Burning Wheel and If They Move, Kill ‘Em.
10. Teenage Fanclub – Songs from Northern Britain
After Grand Prix, this album is one of my favourites from Teenage Fanclub. Musically it is very influenced by The Byrds with songs like I Don’t Want Control of You and Ain’t That Enough.
The band described the album title as “a joking reference to Britpop, and everybody who thought they were part of that scene”. Norman Blake expanded on the title in 2016, commenting, “We just thought it sounded funny. No one calls Scotland “Northern Britain,” although technically it is.” They may not have been part of the Britpop scene but a great band.
11. Sleater-Kinney– Dig Me Out
I was late getting into Sleater-Kinney. Didn’t discover the band until 2000’s All Hands on the Bad One which I loved. Having managed to get their entire back catalogue, Dig Me Out which was their third album is good and rockier than the first couple of albums.
12. Super Furry Animals – Radiator
Super Furry Animals embarked on the NME Brats Tour and completed work on a speedy follow-up to Fuzzy Logic. Two singles Hermann ♥’s Pauline in May and The International Language of Screaming in July, hitting No. 26 and No. 24 respectively.
The band shared the same label with Oasis. Creation released it just four days after the long-awaited new effort from Oasis, Be Here Now. Probably a case of band timing but it still did well. Two further singles, Play It Cool (released September 1997) and Demons (November 1997) both hit No. 27 in the charts. The band established themselves as favourites in the music press, a cut above many of their Britpop peers. I got to see the band play both Fuzzy Logic and Radiator in the entirety which was a great show.
13. James – Whiplash
I got into James when they released Laid in 1993 which is a great album. Whiplash was an album that the band attempted to mix their older sound with newer elements. Two of my favourite James songs are on this album – Tomorrow and She’s a Star.
14. Pavement – Brighten the Corners
I got into Pavement in 1994 when they released the single Cut Your Hair. One of the most influential American underground bands from the 1990s they remained signed to an independent label rather than signing with a major like most of their peers did.
The album contained two of the band’s best-known singles Stereo and Shady Lane.
15. Helmet – Aftertaste
This fourth album by Helmet was to be the last with its original members John Stanier (drums) and Henry Bogdan (bass). After that Page Hamilton would carry the band forward.
Aftertaste goes back to Helmet’s earlier sound compared to the experimental jazz of Betty. It is a decent album but doesn’t quite have the same impact as Meantime and Betty did, both being my favourite Helmet albums.