With culture's ever-reliable 20-year cycle meaning that all things 90s are very much back in vogue, now seems as good a time as any to take a look back at the original artists that did it first. Whether you're staring into the nihilistic, grunge abyss, indulging in some giddy Britpop escapism or charging up your riot grrl power, these are the tracks that started it all. Words: Priya Elan, Matthew Horton, Ben Hewitt

40‘If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You’

An early snapshot of the weird and wonderful world of Wales’ finest purveyors of eclectic pop, ‘If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You’ is Gruff Rhys and co at their dreamiest best. The grazing electric guitars provide a pillow-soft melody as Rhys coos, “And when the animals gather around you/ Do you ask them for the time, or do you run away and whine?” Off-kilter but pitch-perfect.


A wonderful fusion of mad sounds mish-mashed together into one glorious whole, that cemented The Boo Radleys’ place as ground-breaking sonic pioneers. In a just world, ‘Lazarus’ would be a chart-topping behemoth; sadly, it failed to even dent the Top 40, but its seamless blend of dub lines, honking horns and slinky harmonies was all evidence of a band at the peak of their powers.


Angelo Badalamenti wrote the music (the instrumental was the theme song for Twin Peaks) and David Lynch penned the lyrics. The result was an eerie 50s-flecked ballad. But this being a Lynch production meant hints of something darker beneath the surface. Although singer Julee Cruise appeared in the show, the rumour mill reckoned this the words of murder victim Laura Palmer put into song.

37‘Around The World’

The duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter managed to create a dance track that was almost krautrock in its determination not to deviate from the framework of repeated bass line and vocodered hook. Michel Gondry’s promo built on this concept with robots, synchronised swimmers and skeletons repeating the same mechanical movements to the tune. The effect was hypnotic.

36‘Fade Into You’

This beautiful witchy waltz suggested Hope Sandoval and David Roback had been watching a lot of David Lynch films and listening to loads of old country songs. Released in 1994, it seemed beamed in from another time and place, transcending the musical waves of the time. Sandoval, whose vocal was filled with a unique, sumptuous sadness, said of the song, “It’s about faith, losing faith.”

35‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’

Inspired by the old folk song ‘The Willow Garden’, Nick Cave sent a “sinister demo” version of this track to Kylie Minogue’s management (with Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld singing the female parts – creepy). Her “people” went ballistic but Kylie, a long time admirer of Cave, agreed. Beauty meets the Beast as Cave’s vengeful vocal sits against Kylie’s honeyed tones to create something unforgettable.

34‘Glory Box’

Portishead’s Beth Gibbons donned a variety of men’s outfits in the cross-dressing video for ‘Glory Box’, but she didn’t need to dress in drag to turn heads here. A sexy and seductive tale of a woman at the end of her tether with love, her breathless and sultry vocal steals the show, providing the emotional heft for the woozy, trippy instrumentation that envelops her voice like velvet.

33‘No Good (Start The Dance)’

Legend has it that Liam Howlett ummed-and-ahhed over his decision to release ‘No Good (Start The Dance’), fretting over whether the sample – a hyper, sped-up version of Kelly Charles’ vocal from her 80s hit ‘You’re No Good For Me’ – was too much like pop-froth. Thank heavens he went through with it, then, and birthed one of The Prodigy’s finest singles with its scuzzy euphoria and thumping bass.


A last-minute addition to the already seriously overstretched ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness’, ‘1979’ was the one true classic of the finished record. It revolves around some very Peter Hook bass and looped “ooh”s from Billy Corgan, drifting through hazy nostalgia and, in its stripped back sense of restraint, pointed the way to a future Pumpkins.

31’Unfinished Sympathy’

Trip hop progenitor ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ is really a slick piece of hip-hop soul blessed with Shara Nelson’s broken bawl and some muted beats and cowbells from 3-D, Mushroom and Daddy G. It came out under the more politically sensitive band name of Massive during the first Gulf War and ensured the collective remained the urban sophisticate’s artist of choice for the next decade.

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