[20] Portishead, ‘Sour Times’

1994 looks dark. Maybe it was dropping out of my Masters and taking coy steps into the record industry in forbidding London. Maybe it was the dawn of clog-footed Britpop. Maybe it was four months of Wet Wet Wet.

Or maybe it was the magnificently maudlin Portishead, introducing a refined and bleak take on the Massive Attack template, woefully misplaced on the coffee table yet a mainstay there all the same. It may boast gnomic lyrics, but ‘Sour Times’ is so steeped in woe-is-me and chilly zithers that it seems pretty clear where Beth Gibbons’ head’s at. Still, while the desperate “Nobody loves me” might come on like a tiresome whinge, it’s immediately undercut by “… not like you do”. Relief! She does have someone after all! Not that it sounds like a bed of roses. “After time, the bitter taste… Scattered seed, buried lives…”

Dummy’s a beast of an album, as I told Junior. She mulled it over, mesmerised by the sleeve. “Is it a beast? Is it scary?” Well, yes, it is a bit; it’s not one for the fragile listener. I wondered whether she liked the song and she murmured, “I don’t know.”

[7] Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, ‘Umbrella’

Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, ‘Umbrella’

All this “featuring” lark really messes up your mp3 tags, don’t you think? On to more pressing concerns – here’s 2007’s big single, notwithstanding the Leona Lewis chicanery. A note: Leona’s single is quite good, if you can stomach that sort of thing. It’s not a patch on ‘Umbrella’, though, which picks up simple tools, fashions something vaguely unarresting but somehow ends up splendid. I was startled at the universal adoration poured its way, at least at first, but ended up shivering under Rihanna’s um-ber-rella-ella-ella-ay-ay-ay like everyone else.
Junior wasn’t particularly interested in yesterday’s gala play of this single, although she has been known to sing along with the simple title repeat – which has to be one of its chief strengths. Then there are the power chords, which give rock ballad muscle to an ostensibly r’n’b crooner. It’s a record with depth and everyman appeal, and somehow didn’t pall even into its third month at the top.
Only Wet Wet Wet have pulled off that trick before. Right, kids?
Right. Right, eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed we’re attempting two a day here. Expect the trend to continue, and the No.1 to be unveiled with breathless fanfare after a few festive beers on Friday afternoon.

[20=] Wet Wet Wet, ‘Sweet Little Mystery’

I was 15, remember. But what mighty wordplay is to be found here: “My love has taken a tumble, but I’m still standing”. The speakers are shining with the medium-transcending glare of Marti’s grin. The boy had fangs, didn’t he, before they were eroded away by substance abuse. If you see him now, he has the smile of a hippopotamus.

This is equal 20 on our 1987 chart. Not through any exact science, I’m guessing. A betting man, I’d say that when I got to the nominal No.11 I found that I still had five minutes left on the first side of the C90, so something came in with a bullet and the rest got shunted back.

Say what you like, Wet Wet Wet appeal to the kids. Junior is beaming (not Pellow-style), and slapping her hands on her thighs. I have harrowing memories of singing along to this in my bedroom, to the unfettered delight of my sister and her friend in the room below. Apparently, I wasn’t yet fit to go before Simon Cowell.

Cloth-eared know-nowts.