[1] The Flaming Lips, ‘Race For The Prize’

The Flaming Lips

Oh yeah, there was one insanely thrilling song left.

It teeters on the edge of total musical breakdown, seems to have Animal from The Muppets on drums, comes on like unfiltered aural joy and sounds as heroic as its lyric – ladies and gentlemen, it’s the best single of 1999.

Wayne Coyne sings with the usual high-note-grasping wide-eyed wonder, but this time he really is awestruck. He marvels at those gallant scientists racing each other to find the cure for his father’s cancer, the cure for all cancer. The head-spinning madness of the arrangement only makes it more touching. Am I over-selling it? Junior even laughed at the first few bars, so delirious are its delights.

On reflection, it’s a stupid record. But it doesn’t care.

[2] New Radicals, ‘You Get What You Give’

New Radicals

So here was Gregg (stupid spelling, owns a chain of high street bakers) Alexander to lift the gloom of last night’s footballing INJUSTICE. Junior and I sat on the rug, still fretting over Thierry’s future, and nodded along to this power pop marvel, relieved that we couldn’t see the sunhatted twerp of a singer.

I suppose you either love this or hate it. Or everyone hates it but me. As infectious as the germs Junior brings home from nursery each day, it’s a beefy, hooky monster and it offers out Beck, Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson at the end. What’s not to love?

[3] Lemon Jelly, ‘The Yellow EP’

Lemon Jelly

We’re not supposed to know much about Lemon Jelly, no photos are meant to exist, just the occasional cartoon image. But seriously, who cares? Their brand of largely instrumental studio boffinry doesn’t need a face, and certainly not the face of some sallow overgrown computer whizzkid. As a band, they walk the tightrope of euphoric pop beauty between the chasms of dinner party techno-jazz and downright zanery. They often fall, but sometimes they stay put. On ‘The Yellow EP’ they kept their balance.

‘His Majesty King Raam’ is a pretty piece of fairytale, and ‘Homage To Patagonia’ is a bossa nova work-out that veers dangerously close to Groove Armada territory, but it’s ‘The Staunton Lick’ that makes the EP. The soundtrack to any advert that promises a brighter tomorrow, it builds slowly adding layer upon layer until your spine can tingle no more.

There’s a new playpen in our living room. Junior had expressed an interest in re-enacting channel Five’s Prison Break, having tattooed the blueprints on her torso with Hipp Organic spaghetti bolognese, so we’ve built the set. She eyed it suspiciously for most of the EP, before allowing a bit of nappy shaking, and then making a dive for the pretty lights on the mixer.

No bars will ever hold her back.

The Staunton Lick:

[4] Whitney Houston, ‘It’s Not Right But It’s Okay’

Whitney Houston

I’d bought one Whitney Houston single before – ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ – but I don’t even remember liking it. I must have bought it to impress some fresh-faced girl co-starring with me in the local amateur dramatics show. Dear me, too many confessions.

Anyway, after that ‘I Will Always Love You’ musical crime, I certainly didn’t expect to hurtle out to the shops for more Whitney goods. But this redeemed her mortal soul. A razor-sharp, calm look at infidelity, set to an unusually syncopated r&b rhythm, it found a new cutting edge beyond the cutting edge. La Houston was vital again. She cleared a little space for ‘Get Ur Freak On’.

Ignoring Dad’s suggestion that the title sounded like Roy Walker letting a Catchphrase contestant down easily, Junior did some appreciative shoulder shakes and crawled around the room like a ninja arachnid. She gives Whitney a clean slate.

[5] Moloko, ‘Sing It Back’


Moloko were mad annoying for at least an album. Horribly mannered, stop-start trip-hop stuff with the quirks carefully left in and the tunes beaten until they slunk out. Hmm. ‘Sing It Back’ isn’t all that different, but it was remixed to within an inch of its pretension and found some space and sex and flow. And with the oddly delightful Roisin Murphy done up as a human glitterball in the video, the icing was on the disco cake.

Junior and her mum showed their dance chops and whipped up a storm on the fluffy rug. I could only watch in shock and awe. The Boris Dlugosch mix is over nine minutes of shimmering Latino guitar strobe-lit four-to-the-floor heaven, and it passed in a moment.

[6] TLC, ‘No Scrubs’


As if ‘scrubs’ wasn’t a bewildering enough term over here, this was one of those rare records that inspire an ‘answer song’ – in this case, ‘No Pigeons’. What? TLC’s take is straightforward enough with the “hangin’ out your best friend’s ride, tryin’ to holler at me”; we know all this. Come on, we’ve all been there. Sifting through the lyrics to ‘No Pigeons’, it seems to be about golddiggaz and doesn’t have an ounce of the girls’ wit. Home win.

There was a school of thought at the turn of the century that the only area of pop music really looking ahead was female r&b. This is space age soul, crystal clear, buffed-up and sassy.

Junior connects with its electronic, cool, cyber-futurism by sticking her hand in the video.

[7] Basement Jaxx, ‘Red Alert’

Basement Jaxx

This has a summery feel, but a muggy, oppressive summery feel. Our living room conspired with it yesterday, the sun flooding through all the windows, cooking the vinyl as it span round on the deck. It was hot when I lifted it off afterwards – a steaming platter, pop pickers.

Basement Jaxx hit their peak early, breaking the Top Five here. They’ve disappointed since, with a knack of writing tunes that sound brilliant on first listen, peeling away layers of emptiness later. ‘Red Alert’ still sounds special, at least, and Junior danced to it enthusiastically with her old dad.

We played it again this morning and she snubbed the “Don’t panic!” line with an audacious attempt to pull the iron off the board. Pan’s People couldn’t have weighed in with a more literal interpretation.

[8] Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring Kelis, ‘Got Your Money’


It’s a sensitive treatise on Child Support. It’s a generous offer to appear in a pop video. It’s a flipped-out, garbled, screaming funk monster with a Kelis on top. Once again, there’s a thin line between inspiration and eyeballs-on-stalks insanity, and ODB (RIP) just pogos from one side to the other.

The Neptunes produced this, sneaking their protégée in on chorus duties, and it’s an early sign of the bounce and originality they’d go on to sprinkle over piles and piles of records – before deciding a couple of years ago that N*E*R*D were flippin’ Supertramp or something, and messing everything up. Kelis does a perfunctory job, saving her best stuff for the greatest female r&b album ever (honest, look it up somewhere).

There’s a school of thought that this record’s a bit rude for a 10-month-old’s ears. Ah, come on, she can’t understand. Can she? While storing up a cache of colourful language, Junior gets into the groove from the first beat. She looks delighted that I’ve even put it on. The cool kids at nursery have probably been talking about it.

[9] Britney Spears, ‘…Baby One More Time’

Britney Spears

Odd to think that this is the first time Junior’s heard this, when the rest of us could probably sing it in our sleep. That’s almost the case for her too – I have to wake her up, and we grab our jukebox moment in the five minutes before we need to scoot off to nursery. Junior greets the song with a blend of crying, laughing, dancing and squawking. She’s obviously been watching Britters’ recent videos.

With this record, teeny pop took a swerve for the better, beefing up its sound and realising that the kids wanted something more than saccharine ballads. Which was hardly rocket science. The 8-12 year olds used to buy Blondie, Duran Duran, Frankie, A-ha, all of whom had a bit of muscle behind the velvet. Surely the 90s kids could cope? OK, I suppose some of this record’s success was down to the school uniform – no accounting for dubious taste – but it’s still top-drawer power pop.

Of course, Britney’s second single was ‘Sometimes’, a sugarsweet ballad.

[10] Lauryn Hill, ‘Ex-Factor’

Lauryn Hill

Loved by the fashionista and common punter alike, Lauryn Hill’s patchwork soul was lapped up at the end of the 90s, until she disappeared in a puff of, hmm, eccentricity. Since ’99 there’s only been one flabby Unplugged album and the occasional idiosyncratic live performance. It’s a fine line between genius and flinging your marbles all over the show.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was talked up a bit. A cold-eared editor would have cut out a pile of songs and promoted the two excellent ‘hidden’ tracks (hidden tracks aren’t very well-disguised when you have the vinyl, are they?). Whatever, ‘Ex-Factor’ is still beautiful with its ‘Loving You’ tweets and ‘Little Wing’ solos, and it makes you miss her. I don’t think Wyclef Jean was the Fugee we wanted to keep.

After a fragile, under-par weekend, Junior is all perky this morning. Whether it’s Hill’s cooing that’s given her the spark, it doesn’t really matter.