[11] Gomez, ‘Rhythm & Blues Alibi’

Gomez

Does anyone listen to minidiscs anymore? My Sony player is about eight years old now, and the clearest and sharpest-sounding walkman I’ve ever owned, but it’s still been booted into touch by the inferior mp3 player. Now I can carry 40 gig of music around in my metrosexual manbag; who can resist that?

We shared great days, the MZ-R50 and I. There was that time I recorded The Avalanches’ album onto a minidisc, and listened to it. And the time I wrote “Remain In Light” in pretty letters on another disc, and listened to that too. And the time the record function broke, and I tried to replace it with one of those swanky Net MD players. It was rubbish, so I returned to the old faithful. Ah, I’m welling up.

I’m sure there’s a withering insight into our attention-deficit society here – something about one album not being enough for a 35-minute commute nowadays – but I’ll leave that to the style mags.

Oh, Gomez. Bring It On is the only album I bought on minidisc. This single’s from their second album, it’s a beauty and very big with Junior.  In fact it appeals to all girls. No, I can’t back this up with anything so prissy as proof.

[12] Madonna, ‘Beautiful Stranger’

Madonna

Ooh, a William Orbit production without those bap-bap-bap echoey synth noises and heavily treated guitar. Sorry, there’s the heavily treated guitar now. As one of the Austin Powers themes, it’s meant to have a 60s psychedelic feel and, 10 years on from ‘Dear Jessie’, Madge has clocked that this doesn’t have to mean pink elephants, paisley patterns and newspaper taxis. The spiralling tune, flutes and whizzy effects can cover all that without any feeble “Oh man, look at the COLOURS” tosh.

To think I put 11 singles higher than this. It’s a seriously infectious pop hip-swinger, one of the year’s more obvious stand-outs. Junior takes a while to cotton onto this too, starting off vexed because I wiped her nose, but she’s wiggling her padded behind before long. Even she’s beginning to realise that the musclebound old girl’s put in a handy 20-year innings.

Still to come: three American female soloists, an all-girl band, a Strepsils-avoiding pretend British blues band, the Saviours Of Dance Music (for a bit), a bunch of hairy septics, a not-so-hairy septic with a made-up band, a guest spot from Kelis, some faceless lounge noodlers and, er, Moloko.

Don’t go away.

[13] Fatboy Slim, ‘Praise You’

Fatboy Slim

This record is painfully 1999. It would get laughed out of town if it showed its big beaty face these days, wacky Spike Jonze video or not. Norman Cook had a way with a pop tune, admittedly – this, ‘Rockafeller Skank’ and ‘Gangster Trippin’ all grabbed you first time – but they were guaranteed to annoy your teeth out within a few plays.

It’s getting harder to measure Junior’s reactions, now that she’s a baby scud forever homing in on the living room’s most vulnerable points. This was the first time she’d made a beeline towards the stereo, however, desperate paw reaching out for the amplifier. Norm, mate, I think she was trying to put you out of your misery.

I remember reading interviews with The Housemartins back in the day. The others used to take the rise out of Quentin, ribbing him for his love of soul, funk, hip hop and dance when he was in this itchy pop band. You have to say he had the last laugh: the drummer went down for trying to brain some chap with an axe, Stan Cullimore ended up in Basic Instinct 2, obviously, and Paul Heaton was last seen releasing a compilation of his favourite soul, funk, hip hop and dance tunes. Pah.

[14] Mercury Rev, ‘Opus 40’

Mercury Rev

Deserter’s Songs topped most critical lists at the end of ’98, so people actually bought it in ’99. Inside they found a beguiling mix of Disneyesque arrangements, soaring melodies, traditional Americana and fingers-down-a-blackboard violin-mangling, all topped off with a sugary vocal from a man old enough to know better. At least half of it was great, and ‘Opus 40’ was the straight-up pop song.

I’ve lost the album, and my exclusively* autographed copy of the 7” inch single is in one of the crates I haven’t bothered to unpack yet, so I had to find the stupid, special lead to plug the mp3 player into the stereo. Was it worth it? Junior took advantage of her dad’s preoccupation to zoom around the living room pulling items out from under the coffee table and sticking her hand in the video. Almost disastrous, then. She gave the song a quick bouncing acknowledgement before taking another swing at fusing the electrics.

*Four of the fellows have signed it but there were PILES of copies knocking about in HMV, so maybe they’d had their moment in the sun. They must’ve spent a lonely session, watching the punters buying up the Flaming Lips album.

[15] R.E.M., ‘At My Most Beautiful’

R.E.M.

Stipe’s weirdo stalker ballad fails to keep Junior on the rug. She’s halfway to the plug sockets before she can hear what he leaves on his beloved’s answer phone.

This is a gorgeous little tune, with sparing use of strings and Beach Boysesque “doo-doo”s. It even made the Top 10, but who remembers it? R.E.M. still have an impressive hardcore of fans, despite no one being excited about them since Automatic For The People, and they can usually clock up a solid hit per album. They just don’t seem to matter much these days. To think, there was a time when half the population was up in arms about ‘Shiny Happy People’.

I’m sure their cash keeps them happy, when they’re not flinging yoghurt around on aeroplanes.

[16] Fiona Apple, ‘Fast As You Can’

Fiona Apple

Poor Blur, shunted down a place because I couldn’t find the Fiona Apple album yesterday morning. I asked Junior’s mum if she’d seen it in the car, and it turns out she’d taken it to work the day before. Two extraordinary things here: a) an album untouched for a good five years is removed the day before it’s needed; b) Junior’s mum doesn’t seem to be scared about nabbing my records without asking. She obviously hasn’t heard what karma rained down on my big sister in 1983.

So, this is 16 going on 17, innocent as a rose.

It seems to have the same fade-in as ‘Northern Lites’ before coming on like incidental music in a Broadway musical. Apple has a fantastic, mad, fruitily passionate voice for such a willowy frame, and the song draws Junior’s attention with its frantic pace. It peaks with the big soul breakdown in the middle, and Dad keeps the baby punter rapt with a piercingly accurate impression.

“I’ll be your giiiiirrrrrl…” No wonder she was dumbstruck.

[17] Blur, ‘Tender’

Albarn

Or Damon’s brave devotional country and western mantra folly. If nothing else, it makes babies rock slowly back and forth, wailing along here and there. Mind you, by the seventh minute, Junior was on her belly pulling herself over to the coffee table to upset all the Sunday papers. Whatever it takes to block out Graham Coxon’s whiny, reedy voice.

I loved this song for a week or two. Albarn’s singing was shocking on Top Of The Pops, but I thought we had a new Kumbaya hippy dippy campfire classic. Yes, of course we needed one. Its appeal waned all too quickly, and by the time everyone saw that cute little milk carton haring about it was completely forgotten. Aw, bless that little milk carton.

‘Tender’ sounds ok today. Moving off-topic, there are FIVE American female soloists to come in the next 16. A special, unspecified, possibly fictional prize to anyone who can guess them.

[18] Super Furry Animals, ‘Northern Lites’

Super Furry Animals copyright Tom Sheehan

I don’t know why I hated the Super Furry Animals. Maybe it was because they had marijuana bore Howard Marks on their album cover. God, where did he pick up his cachet? I had the ill luck to see him live in a Central London bar, where he treated us to 90 minutes of tedious aren’t-drugs-cool? stories, all lapped up by his zany student/70s casualty following.

Anyway, something must have clicked between me and SFA. Years later I owned all their albums and could be found singing an impromptu ‘Golden Retriever’/’Day Tripper’ medley in Inferno, hellish Clapham nightspot. You don’t want to know.

‘Northern Lites’ is a typically directionless tune, perked up by horns and steel drums. It’s a mess, but an endearing one, and it makes you flap your arms up and down until your bouncy chair is a bucking bronco.

[19] Len, ‘Steal My Sunshine’

Len

Junior was in crawling position when I put this on and rocked back and forth as if she was on her starting blocks, raring to go. Or she was trying to get as far away from the stereo as possible. It’s a jaunty, stumbling rhythm, mind, and that’s usually her bag. This crawling position business is still just a dire warning, but we’re ill-prepared. I need to put the Kajagoogoo and later Air LPs on the lower shelves.

Len, then. I thought Jane’s Addiction had taken a brave new direction when I first heard this; he sounds a bit like Perry Farrell, innit. It’s not a record that stands up to repeat plays, so it was lucky to be released late in the year. I was probably fed up with it by the time I recorded number 16. Still, it’s a bit of throwaway pop fun, and they have an unfathomably stupid name. Bonus.

[20] The Chemical Brothers, ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’

The Chemical Brothers

“Dad?” Junior fixed me with one of her quizzical looks. “Didn’t we have this in the 1995 chart?”

If it ain’t broke. The Chemical Brothers picked up ‘Leave Home’, dusted it off, souped it up with bleeps and sirens and punted it back out to an unsuspecting public. They would never have got away with it if “Superstar DJs, here we go!” didn’t sound so exciting in its hoary old way.

Junior really was agog for the first minute or two, no doubt speechless that anyone could show such brazen cheek rejigging their own records. Although, if she wants bare-faced idle chancing, she wants to hear the songs they did with Noel Gallagher.

Better not. Someone would only go and alert the Social.

They’d come round here with their dark wood interiors, beans on toast and flawless jukebox.