[14] Neneh Cherry, ‘Spit Three Times’

neneh-cherry-2014

Junior 3 says we should’ve played this at Christmas. She then sings ‘Jingle Bells’ in a vaguely similar tempo, which is odd because there’s nothing festive or jolly about ‘Spit Three Times’, a song that explicitly references the “black dog in the corner”, the manifestation of Neneh Cherry’s depression after the death of her mother. Maybe it’s just that we remember lost ones at this time of year.

Cherry seemed like a lost one for so long. This year’s fantastic Blank Project is her first pure solo album in 17 years – she’s edged in here and there, notably going jazz freakout with The Thing in 2012 – but even a little bruised it was a strong, confident record, helped along by Kieran Hebden and RocketNumberNine. One of my stellar moments of 2014 was interviewing Cherry in a pub in Kensal Rise, where she’d taken time out from a friend’s wake to talk about the new album. That’s a punishing schedule that says a lot about the demands of trying to muscle back into the public eye, but she really wanted to talk about this – something that meant a great deal to her –and even understandably distracted, she was generous and lovely company.

Junior thinks this is “good, in a slooow motion way,” which is how we all described trip-hop in the early 90s. Cherry’s woven into the fabric of all that, as Massive Attack’s babymother in the late-80s, and into the Bristol sound in all its variety as a Rip, Rig & Panic pioneer even earlier. Gareth Sager of RR&P even barged into the interview halfway through, asking to sit on my lap. Old habits die hard.

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[4] Tricky, ‘Aftermath’

Yes, it was released next year, the following year, that is, 1995, but Maxinquaye was a fantastic album, wasn’t it? Weed-killed, paranoid Tricky and Poltergeist girl-a-like Martina weaving hydroponic magic out of a punk-bred hip-hop, yet still managing to sound pop – and resolutely NOT trip-hop. Way too aggressive for that sort of chilled-out entertainment.

‘Aftermath’ was the initial signal after Tricky had fled the increasingly banal Massive Attack, and it’s a dark delight filled with punchy beats and half-inched Japan lyrics. Plays havoc with the PA, too, if you’re confrontational with the bass.

Not in the best frame of mind to welcome the Brizzle apocalypse, Junior sat sulkily in the naughty seat, having shook the muslin rather too pointedly in her little sister’s direction. By the time we reached the false endings of the track, she was up in her room.

[20] Squeeze, ‘Cool For Cats’

Ah, 1979. I started paying attention to Top Of The Pops, Arsenal, all life’s sweetest joys. Moved to Hertfordshire in January and stayed there for 17 years (minus a dozen terms in Bristol). Pop baffled me, but that may have been down to assuming that everything Terry Wogan played was current. In that world, the Supremes were going strong and Cliff Richard was still a chart-topper. Hmmm.

Marrying new wave and pub rock, Squeeze had a boisterous appeal that worked well in the playground; to seven-year-olds a band to file alongside The Specials, The Jam and the rising Madness – stuff it was ok to like and bowl along to as if you were something else, something a stretch more streetwise than a kid with a fringe and grey shorts. If it was cool for cats, we wanted a bit of it. In essence, the single isn’t typical Squeeze, more a part within a part for Chris Difford to play, but he sounds smart and the band bounce in broad-shouldered style. The drifting middle eight’s useless though.

For all I know, Junior’s already at the age when she wants to impress her peers, and she’s got all the moves to do so. A jerky dance matched the sproinging bass and she gave an airing to this week’s trick – humming along to the tune. At the end she asked whether Junior 2 (Juniest? Minima?) liked the song now there’s scope for a blog within a blog – and then requested the next track on the Best Of. Give it a week or so, missy.

[1] The Stone Roses, ‘Fools Gold 9.53’

The Stone Roses

The last couple of minutes of ‘I Am The Resurrection’ gave us a clue, ‘Fools Gold’ rammed it home with wah-wah to spare. British rock had found the funk, and we tripped over our unfeasible trousers to show that we’d had it all along. The beat is still aggressive enough to startle Junior into involuntary bouncing, and she’s right into it in seconds. A bit of rock, a bit of groove, mix them together and it’s a nine-month-old’s nirvana.

Heaven knows what Ian Brown’s on about, mind. Something about his mate shopping at Mr Pyrite. Soz. It didn’t matter, it was all about the Funky Drummer and John Squire putting his guitar to good, economical use – possibly for the last time. Everyone was waiting for this single – me, I bought it on the day it came out, in Replay in Bristol. I was there on a university open day, clearly more concerned about red hot new tunes than whether the Classics department was the place for me.

1990 went rock-dance crossover crazy, but nothing had this record’s brass balls, and Northside never blew The Late Show’s sound system. Fookin’ amateurs. The Stone Roses, of course, hoovered up Colombia’s gross national product and went on to release records that actually sounded like expanding paunches.

‘Fools Gold’ is still lithe.

[4] Primal Scream, ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’

Don't Fight It, Feel It

We’d already had single-of-the-90s ‘Loaded’, the astonishing eight- and ten-minute versions of ‘Come Together’ and the dubby psychedelia of ‘Higher Than The Sun’. Now there was the acid techno of ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’. Should be quite an album, we thought.

A chorus of tuned-up cicadas kept this loopy floorfiller crashing along. Must be a first for popular music, that. Hooked up to the more conventional, soulful testifying from Denise Johnson and the bluesy piano, it made for a sweaty classic. I might just be thinking of the uniquely moist walls of Bristol’s Tube club, mind you.

Still a bangin’ choon (hey!), it had Junior wriggling over the edges of the inflatable, rocking to the pumping beat.

It wasn’t to everyone’s taste at the time, though, I admit. Steve Wright played it on his afternoon show while I was painting my parents’ window frames, and said that everyone was raving about it but he couldn’t understand why. A man sporting that moustache and those sub-Lennon specs was never going to be down with us hepcats.

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