The pinnacle of the Manics' blockbuster phase, 'Australia' sounded grandiose and full of confidence - no wonder it got hammered on the radio for months - but lyrically it was the opposite: full of paranoia and self-doubt. Nicky Wire wrote it about the aftermath of Richey Edwards' disappearance, wanting to escape, get as far away from home as possible. It's a biting evocation of personal collapse ("My cheeks are too yellow, think I'll take another pill"), powered by a toweringly anthemic chorus. A very Manics combination. (LL).
They’re not normally noted for their emotionalism, Crystal Castles, so much as for their shrieking, bleeping, sulking and bottling. Compare, though, the original track on HEALTH’s debut album with Ethan Kath’s reworked version and it's amazing how it subtly smoothes a jagged, brutalist and tortured thing into a melancholy, gently blooping and squelching, 8-bit mooch of some beauty, bringing the soft fear in Jake Duszik’s actually rather lovely voice to the fore. Also, I was rather delighted when I found out he actually was singing “nice breasts” and it wasn’t just my dirty ears playing tricks on me. (EM)
“You-oo… are.” You are what? “And nothing else compares.” Compares to what? Chris Martin’s lyrics might be maddeningly vague, but that’s what makes Coldplay songs so moving to so many people. Since they mean nothing, they can mean everything. And ‘Clocks’ is the sound of the band finding their voice in heroic style. After the tentative, polite sound of ‘Parachutes’, ‘Clocks’ was sleek and propulsive and confident. It was also (little-known fact!) heavily inspired by Muse’s piano-led tracks such as ‘New Born’. The stuff of endless samples and soundtracks, you’ll be hearing that circular piano riff til the day you die - so you might as well enjoy it. (LL)
147First Of The Gang To Die
And so Mozzer’s retro lad fetish reached its apogee with this swinging track from ‘You Are The Quarry’. He may be in love with the glamour of the gunpowder, but he’s also familiar with the rulebook of the street; the shocking non-emotionality of it all. He assesses, gimlet-eyed, the sharp-suited, Brylcreemed situation, as if these gangsters were some latter day Robin Hoods. Alain Whyte gives Morrissey his best hooks since the ‘Vauxhall & I’ days. (PE)
146My Manic And I
A stately waltz that belies the dark shade of the lyrics; a troubled dalliance with a self-obsessed nihilist. Marling’s as subtly cryptic as ever. There are allusions to mental illness and the breakdown of religious faith, as well as drug addiction, but things are left deliciously open ended. There are subtle sonic touches, with the sparse piano chords, the brush of drums and the sole cello that add to the sense of unease. She crafts the musical equivalent of seeing the horror behind the white-picket fence and walking on. Leaving us the cliffhanger image of “birds are singing to came us down,” as the final chords float up into the ether, we’re left in doubt about the status of the couple and in awe of Marling’s talent. (PE)
145If I Had A Heart
Post-'Silent Shout', many wondered out loud as to where The Knife would go next. To conceptual opera, it turned out, but as a solo artist, Karin Andersson went further into the dark, petrol-coloured altitudes hinted at on 'Silent Shout' with Fever Ray. 'If I Had A Heart' sounded ritualistic and unrelenting, with malevolence seeping out of every pore. It called to mind zombies, death cults and the Tin Man from The Wizard Of Oz, but Andersson's brilliance was that she never revealed the full identity of the song's evil. (PE)
Are we human? Are we dancer? We’ll probably never know. At the time, the lyrics confused all of us, yet we still sang along as if we knew what the devil he was on about. Despite the song’s slightly maddening grammatical flaw and B. Flo’s bizarre feather-encrusted jacket that spawned out of this era, this was a tune. In fact, we loved it so much that Mr. Flowers earned a spot in the Top Ten of our annual Cool List that year. (RS)
143The Hindu Times
The first single from 'Heathen Chemistry' combines all the hard rock bluster of early Oasis with the forays into mysticism that marked Oasis 2.0. Forget the lazy video, or those nagging Stereophonics comparisons that have haunted the track over the years (ie that it sounds like 'Same Size Feet'), this is classic Oasis songwriting at its best. Awarded a spot at the top of the charts (their sixth to do so) for a week before getting rudely dislodged by Sugababes, it's yet another reminder of what the Gallagher two could get round to when they put their minds to it.
“Hopefully people won’t want to kill us” - the words of Yannis Philippakis, contrary-bastard-in-chief of Foals, breaking the news that their most beloved early track wouldn't get near their debut album. At the time, it seemed foolish. In hindsight, it was shrewd. While it might sit awkwardly in Foals' cannon (imagine the surly buggers letting one of their tunes be used on Skins now), 'Hummer' is a relentless and joyous reminder that while their output may dally in the realms of serious-face, they're only a glitchy riff away from pop perfection. (MW)
Sneaky, stoned and cracking with an urban-ish nonchalance, the Gorillaz's opening shot grooved with appropriate nursery rhyme/theme tune simplicity, setting the scene of this band of cartoon characters to doodle into development and arch knowingly into the spotlight. This and Del The Funkee Homosapien’s rap suggested a world of brave new possibilities, not least of all for Damon Albarn, who has managed a re-invention much more all-encompassing and successful than even his biggest fans could have ever imagined. (PE)