Various Artists – The Beach

Another soundtrack which I own to a film that I’ve never seen is The Beach, which picks a mixture of electronic and dark beats to accompany the Leonardo di Caprio film of the same name.

It opens with Snakeblood, an exclusive track from Leftfield, which like all of their work is good, and is definitely interesting, but it’s not really their best. If I’m not mistaken, it samples Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark for an interesting soundclash, but not an entirely inspiring one.

Less inspirational, but also enjoyable, is All SaintsPure Shores, another of William Orbit‘s many productions from the turn of the millennium. Far from being just yet another pop act, they turn out to be pretty good vocalists, and Orbit’s backing does bring out the best of them.

Moby‘s brilliantly relaxing Porcelain is next, slowing the pace in time for Dario G‘s Voices, which I never entirely got the hang of when it was originally released, but I now find myself really enjoying it, with its gentle ukulele strumming and soft vocals. Underworld turn up next with 8 Ball, which is far from the contrast you might have been expecting from them. As with so many tracks on this album, it’s good, but it’s just not all that great.

Things become more unremarkable still, with a trio of dull inclusions from Sugar Ray, Asian Dub Foundation, and Blur. There’s nothing particularly wrong with any of them, but there’s nothing particularly right with them either. It’s left to Hardfloor to pick things up with their iconic remix of Mory Kante‘s Yeke Yeke, which is always a real treat to hear.

Returning to the theme of amazing artists recording relatively uninteresting tracks, Faithless turn up with a submission entitled Woozy, which is dark, dreamy, hypnotic, and not really anywhere near as good as We Come 1 or Insomnia. Barry Adamson follows with the dramatic, military sound of Richard, It’s Business as Usual, and then there’s another exclusive, this time from New Order, who if I remember correctly were on one of their many hiatuses at the time.

Brutal is probably the best of the exclusive tracks too. It’s a lot livelier than anything else, and while it’s pretty much New Order at their most rock-sounding, it’s actually a pretty good song. Remember, as they have said themselves, a lot of what they put on their albums isn’t entirely up to standard.

I’ve never been entirely convinced by what I’ve heard from Unkle, and while Lonely Soul is certainly interesting, and Richard Ashcroft‘s vocal is characteristically strong, it doesn’t seem the most captivating track in the world until right at the end when you find yourself fighting the urge to listen again as you realise that actually you quite enjoyed it.

Finally Orbital and Angelo Badalamenti turn up, collaborating on the truly exceptional Beached. You could probably dispense with the slightly vacuous voice-over by di Caprio, but otherwise it’s a great piece of music – another example of Orbital at their best, and while I’m not sure exactly what Badalamenti is up to on the track, somehow it all seems to come together perfectly.

The Beach has a patchy soundtrack, then – when it’s good, it’s exceptional, but it has its fair share of filler too. But if you don’t already have those tracks from Mory Kante or Orbital with Angelo Badalamenti then it’s highly recommended.

You can still find The Beach – Motion Picture Soundtrack at all major retailers, such as here at Amazon.

Mercury Music Prize 1992-1994

The Mercury Music Prize launched in 1992, and has always stuck to its guns – in September, a list of the finest albums of the year will be nominated, and then in October a winner is announced. Simple as that. Despite some speculation in recent years that it may have lost its way somewhat, it’s still a good guide to what might be going on in the world of “real” music. Here’s a guide to what happened over its first three years…

Mercury Music Prize 1992

According to The Guardian, the award was devised by Jon Webster, the Managing Director at Virgin Records, who hoped it might become “the Booker Prize of the music industry”, independent of the music industry but with its endorsement. The panel is led by Professor Simon Frith, and chosen by the event’s organiser David Wilkinson.

The prize name, by the way, is purely from the event’s sponsor, the now largely defunct telecoms company Mercury. The first awards took place at The Savoy Hotel, 8th September 1992.

Nominees:

  • Barry Adamson – Soul Murder
  • Jah Wobble – Rising Above Bedlam
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain – Honey’s Dead
  • Bheki Mseleku – Celebration
  • Primal Scream – Screamadelica
  • Saint Etienne – Foxbase Alpha
  • Simply Red – Stars
  • John Tavener and Steven Isserlis – The Protecting Veil
  • U2 – Achtung Baby
  • Young Disciples – Road to Freedom

Winner: Primal Scream

Mercury Music Prize 1993

Nominees:

  • Apache Indian – No Reservations
  • The Auteurs – New Wave
  • Gavin Bryars – Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet
  • Dina Carroll – So Close
  • PJ Harvey – Rid of Me
  • New Order – Republic
  • Stereo MCs – Connected
  • Sting – Ten Summoner’s Tales
  • Suede – Suede
  • Stan Tracey – Portraits Plus

Winner: Suede

Mercury Music Prize 1994

The 1994 awards were controversial, as nobody actually seemed to like the winners very much. The Independent even suggested that they might have won due to positive discrimination. Took place on 13th September 1994.

Nominees:

  • Blur – Parklife
  • M People – Elegant Slumming
  • Ian McNabb – Head Like a Rock
  • Shara Nelson – What Silence Knows
  • Michael Nyman – The Piano Concerto / MGV
  • The Prodigy – Music for the Jilted Generation
  • Pulp – His ‘n’ Hers
  • Take That – Everything Changes
  • Therapy? – Troublegum
  • Paul Weller – Wild Wood

Winner: M People, although Paul Weller thought he should have won

Further information