20 years is a long time in music, yet looking back at 1995 it’s easy to spot dozens of albums released two decades ago whose echoes are still reverberating today. Join us as we dive into the NME archive to revisit 25 of the year’s most influential records, and what we said about them at the time.
Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ was a life-changing record for many, and we praised the timelessness of the record back in ’95, asking: “How could they make such fragile tales of disorientation, vulnerability and loss sound so immortal?”
Tricky’s debut album ‘Maxinquaye’ became a cornerstone of Bristol’s trip-hop scene. We called it: “a benchmark album that reveals fresh layers of texture with each listen, that revels in an atmosphere of tension, paranoia and claustrophobia but makes it sound sexy and melting so many disparate musical flavours together it invents a new sound in the process.”
After the demise of the Happy Mondays in what we called a “drug-muso hell”, Shaun Ryder and Bez’s return didn’t seem to promise much. Instead we got Black Grape’s joyous ‘It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah!’, “stealing jungle, raga, hoolie terrace chants and surfing the T-time pill Zeitgeist. An all-embracing tribute to the nation’s cultures at play.”
Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Grand Prix’ was seen as a comeback record after the indifferent response to ‘Thirteen’, but the band pulled it off with aplomb. “They’ve soared out of the creative trough the only way they know how,” we wrote, “with simple, savoury, soul – tickling tunes and sweet melancholic harmonies… If the Beach Boys had been born in Glasgow they might just have sounded this great.”
Supergrass’ ‘I Should Coco’ spawned a couple of massive hits – ‘Alright’ and ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ – that are still indie disco staples, but the whole album remains an underrated masterpiece. Or, as we wrote in ’95: “a monstrous, balls-out groove machine dispensing maximum R&B.”
PJ Harvey’s ‘To Bring You My Love’ saw: “Obsession, voodoo rituals, religious visions, murder, revenge and a kind of spiritual search for love was set to a creaking, flinty modern-day blues that elevated suffering into a righteous state.”
Packed with hits like ‘Country House’, ‘Charmless Man’ and ‘The Universal’, Blur’s ‘The Great Escape’ was, as we wrote in ’95, “the record none of the others are capable of: intelligent, disorientatingly varies and even revealing some vulnerability behind Damon Albarn’s previously impenetrable armour.”
Elastica’s eponymous debut is a record that, “bristles with all the things that make Elastica so irresistible fuelled by a grimy, punk-rock aesthetic, yet oozing glamour and sporting the snappiest pop songs this side of the Old Wave of New Wave, it rocketed Elastica to superstardom and saw Justine Frischmann crowned Queen of Indie. Cheers, as Frischers would remark.”
The Boo Radleys’ ‘Wake Up!’ captured the optimism of Britpop like no other record. As we wrote in ’95: “This year Martin Carr finally shrugged off the last vestiges of indie no-markdom and made the sort of dazzling, pure POP! album that the like of Take That can only begin to dream of… ‘Wake Up!’ was THE sound of the summer, and most of the rest of the year as well.”
After the masterful ‘Slanted and Enchanted’ (1992) and ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ (1994). Pavement returned in ’95 with ‘Wowee Zowee’. We called it “their most rewarding album yet”.
1995 was the year that The Verve split for the first time, yet ‘A Northern Soul’ still managed to be a “highly strung confessional of all [Richard] Ashcroft’s wild-eyed hopes of rock’ n’ roll immortality and fractured lovelife set to a far –flung astro –rock no-one else had thought of attempting.” Two years later, they’d reform and return with ‘Urban Hymns’.
The Charlatans’ fourth album was also their first self-titled, hinting at a rebirth. Two years before the classic ‘Tellin’ Stories’, they’d discovered that, as we wrote: “A rootsy, funky, organic mix of classic rock’ n’ soul was going to be the band’s speciality, but they only just realised it themselves. This record has brought them to a new level of creativity and the recognition they deserved.”
Garbage’s debut record arrived on a wave of hype in 1995, mostly centring around the fact that drummer Butch Vig had produced Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’. Before long, he’d been eclipsed by the sheer charisma of Shirley Manson, who, as we wrote: “slips effortlessly from seduction to psychosis as the band’s unique noise/groove crossover hammers the final nail into grunge’s coffin.”
Featuring guest appearances by Tim Burgess and Beth Orton, The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Exit Planet Dust’ was the moment the duo “completed their transformation from cool remixers to the full-on snarling rock beasts of electronica, laying waste with skyscraper-sized breakbeats and much burbling acid house, rocking out where others chilled.”
GZA’s ‘Liquid Swords’, still regarded as one of the all time great hip hop records. As we wrote in ’95, “Genius has managed to rewrite the rule-book, up the stakes and create an ultraviolent album that masks a deep sadness and a heavy moral tone. Liquid Swords creates street characters and plays chess with their lives against a backdrop of organised crime.”
Sonic Youth’s ninth album ‘Washing Machine’ saw them opening up and embracing some of the longest songs of their career – including the nearly 20 minute burn out of ‘The Diamond Sea’. As we wrote, the band: “plunged back into rock’s afterbirth, rearranging DNA structures and wreaking havoc.”
A greatest hits compilation pulled together for a British audience, The Cardigans’ ‘Life’ bowled us over. “Forget Britpop,” we wrote, “1995 was the year of Swedepop, with The Cardigans making a convincing bid for the title Best Pop Group In The World… Ever.”
Björk’s second album ‘Post’ was filled with pop moments (‘Hyperballad’, ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’) but still retained her glorious air of eccentricity. As we wrote: ‘If Debut was akin to surfing on a reservoir – pleasant but essentially undemanding – the second Björk album saw our heroine tackling the Grand Canyon by bungee and hang-glider.’
The Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness’ was Billy Corgan’s most ambitious and eccentric record of all – and it may just be his finest. Over two hours, the Pumpkins juggle “all manner of dark emotional demons, crackling ideas and casually fine riffs with great aplomb.” Although we weren’t so taken with the name: “Shit title, mind…”
A third great Wu Tang record, served up by Method Man in the shape of ‘Tical’. It packed a ferocious punch, and as we wrote in ’95: “The word according to this smooth-voiced rapper, as he trysts with funky, spooked-out tracks by The RZA, is that life for people left to fester in the ghetto is the real, hard life. The rest of us are just living an illusion.”