[16] Neneh Cherry, ‘Manchild’

Neneh Cherry

Trip hop invented here. Should Neneh go up against the wall for paving the way for Morcheeba? Or should we thank her and her cohorts for Blue Lines, Dummy and Maxinquaye? Whatever, she co-wrote this with Massive Attack’s 3D and their producer Cameron McVey, and some arrangement duties were taken on by Nellee Hooper, so an early sign of things to come.

Or, as my big sis put it at the time, it’s a nice song until she tears the towel off her head and then you’ve got this banshee rapping in your face. And she’s PREGNANT. Big sis wasn’t wrong, but I like the rap – I can even perform it for Junior, who remains unmoved. She’s used to seeing her dad act the goat, fortunately. Let’s face it: she’ll have to endure years of it.

Can’t stand that trip hop label, and I’ve only gone and perpetuated it. Needs a new name. Slow hop, maybe. Marijuanabore hop. Was-quite-promising-until-it-got-diluted-by-chancers-bereft-of-ideas-and-concepts-of-melody hop. More?

[1] Massive Attack, ‘Unfinished Sympathy (Paul Oakenfold Mix)’

Shara Nelson

“Forced” by public opinion and common decency to drop the ‘Attack’ half from their name for the duration of the first Gulf War, Massive still managed to score their debut hit, almost as if the publicity did them no harm. Cynicism aside, it would’ve been a travesty if this hadn’t troubled the chart scorers. As it is, it only flirted with the edges of the Top 10 when it surely deserved to climb far higher. This is the beefed-up Oakenfold single mix: it kicks off properly rather than ambling in like the album version. Pretty much everything else is the same. Shara Nelson still rules, her abortive solo career just a dull twinkle in the corner of her eye.

Junior has chickenpox and I lost my job last week, so we have plenty of time to sit here and pick over the song and its band. But we took potshots at the post-Blue Lines output in the 1995 rundown; maybe we’ll just enjoy this record. Junior gives it the paradoxically supportive shake of the head and waves around the cow-on-a-stick. This is no faint praise.

Right, we all know the drama and beauty of this track, so let’s concentrate on the trivial. My mate had Blue Lines with the ‘Attack’ intact, mine just said ‘Massive’. He thought his was the better artefact, but history would prove him wrong, no?

While we muse over these matters, and where to go next with this place, we’re playing Bowie’s Hunky Dory. Junior is applauding the Dame.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]

[6] Massive Attack, ‘Protection’

Postscript: all the dance records that get in the charts these days sound like Spagna’s ‘Call Me’. I don’t know if it’s any better in the clubs, because I’m too old and a dad.

Massive Attack redefined a small area of club music. Blue Lines was the pinnacle, and it still holds up today with ease. Its reputation grew over a few years until the expectation surrounding the Protection album was nigh on unbearable; in the end, they couldn’t take the weight. Tricky was reduced to cameos and Mushroom became estranged, some truly awful tracks got past quality control.

This single was a beauty, affecting, hypnotic, metronomic, with the newly fashionable Tracey Thorn to the fore. Junior was spellbound, only breaking free and demo-ing the new cockateel dance towards the end, so it’s a hit with the infant jury.

What happened next? Mezzanine, was a “dark”, “moody” piece beloved of the tastemakers. Yep, dull. A feature length BMW ad soundtrack. Then there was the unlistenable, po-faced tosh of 100th Window. Either excessive marijuana use has muted the muse, or 3-D without his cohorts is a bore. The new single is ok thanks to Terry Callier’s rich voice, but it’s still melodically uninteresting. It’s all been such a disappointment.