NME Poll Winners – The 1990s

For the first half of the 1990s, the NME Poll continued as a quiet annual newspaper poll, focusing very strongly now on indie rock, and ignoring pretty much everything else that was going on in the world of music. But then, in 1994, it suddenly went public, relaunching an annual awards ceremony, The NME Brat Awards. More on that later, so for now, here are the last three years of poll results:

NME Readers’ Poll 1990

  • Best Single: The Charlatans, for The Only One I Know
  • Best LP: Happy Mondays, for Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches
  • Best New Band/Artist: The Charlatans
  • Best Band: Happy Mondays
  • Event of the Year: Margaret Thatcher‘s Resignation
  • Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Radio Show: John Peel
  • TV Show: Vic Reeves‘ Big Night Out
  • Film of the Year: Wild at Heart
  • Club or Venue: Town and Country Club
  • Hype of the Year: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Fashion Item of the Year: DM Boots
  • Bastard of the Year: Saddam Hussein
  • Object of Desire: Betty Boo
  • Word/Phrase: ‘You wouldn’t let it lie!”

NME Readers’ Poll 1991

  • Best Band: R.E.M.
  • Best LP: Primal Scream, for Screamadelica
  • Best Single: Nirvana, for Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • Best New Band: Kingmaker
  • Best Venue: Town and Country Club
  • Best Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Bastard of the Year: Saddam Hussein
  • Film of the Year: The Silence of the Lambs
  • Radio Show of the Year: John Peel
  • Fashion Item: DM Boots
  • Event of the Year: The release of the hostages
  • Object of Desire: Toni Halliday
  • TV Show: Vic Reeves‘ Big Night Out
  • Worst Record: Bryan Adams, for (Everything I Do) I Do It for You
  • Word/Phrase: “You fat bastard”

NME Readers’ Poll 1992

  • Best Band: R.E.M.
  • Best Album: R.E.M., for Automatic for the People
  • Solo Artist: Morrissey
  • Venue: Town and Country Club
  • Single: Suede, for The Drowners
  • Worst Record: The Shamen, for Ebeneezer Goode
  • New Band: Suede
  • Event: Bill Clinton winning the US election
  • Fashion Item: Dr. Martens
  • Bastard of the Year: John Major
  • Hype of the Year: Madonna, for Sex
  • TV Show of the Year: Have I Got News for You
  • Word/Phrase of the Year: “Not!”
  • Film of the Year: Wayne’s World
  • Radio Show of the Year: John Peel
  • Object of Desire: Toni Halliday

See also

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The Shamen – Boss Drum

In 1992, The Shamen were truly in control of their careers. The five years that came before had been turbulent, as they journeyed from indie to pop-dance

Fifth album Boss Drum opens with the self-produced version of the title track, later released, in reworked form, as the third single from the album. Most of the singles were remixed at the hands of The Beatmasters, and frankly those that weren’t do suffer noticeably. So the album version of Boss Drum is a bit dull and noisy, particularly when compared to the single.

For L.S.I.: Love Sex IntelligenceThe Beatmasters were at the helm as producers, and this is consequently brilliant. Mr. C‘s rap is typically awkward, but hey, these were the early 1990s – pretty much nobody in the UK was an expert at rapping back then. This was released as the first single in June 1992, and immediately hit number four.

With seven singles from a ten-track album, there’s little room for anything else here, but Space Time is one of the few album-only tracks. It did appear on The Face EP in remixed form, and with some acid chirps it’s a bit deeper than some of the other tracks on here, but ultimately it isn’t really anything special.

Librae Solidi Denari literally means “pounds, shillings, and pence” in Latin, but you have to wonder from the initials and some of the other tracks on here whether it took its inspiration from another source. It’s a pretty dull tribal instrumental that also made it onto The Face EP and the subsequent remix album Different Drum.

Then comes the number one hit Ebeneezer Goode, released just a couple of weeks before the album appeared. In a curious step, listeners of the LP version get The Shamen‘s own (vastly inferior) version, whereas on the cassette and CD you get an extended version of The Beatmasters‘ single version. It’s a great track, very much of its time, and yes kids, it is about drugs. Don’t do them.

The second half of the album kicks off with the final single, Comin’ On. If there was ever a track that needed to be reworked by The Beatmasters, this is definitely it. On the album, it’s a dreadfully misguided attempt to sound Indian (or possibly West Indian? It’s difficult to tell at times – or perhaps that’s the joke?) full of silly voices and sitar samples and descriptions of people as “yellow” (was that really ever acceptable?) It would be hard to believe that this seemed funny to anyone, even shrouded by illicit substances as they probably were when it was recorded.

But amazingly, there was a good song hiding in there. The 1993 single version strips out all the silly and racist bits and turns it into something quite brilliant. The Beatmasters, it seems, are indeed capable of magic.

They also had their hands on the single version of Phorever People, released just in time for Christmas in 1992, but in this instance the album version holds the song together well. It’s followed by the dreadful album-only track Fatman.

Things do improve towards the end though, with the pleasant instrumental Scientas, which could have only been improved if it had been a bit more melodic, and finally the eight-minute single Re:evolution, featuring the drug-inspired ramblings of neophilosopher Terence McKenna.

I like the track – actually I like it a lot, particularly some of the remixes on the single from The Future Sound of London and others, but bluntly, he is talking total nonsense. Even the first sentence, “If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed,” doesn’t really make sense if you stop and think about it. I’ve really tried – I’ve been listening to this song for at least two decades now, and ultimately I’ve had to just conclude that the whole thing is gibberish. But close your eyes, try not to listen to the actual words too carefully, and maybe imagine you’ve injected a lot of cannabis pills, and you can enjoy it as an intriguing, experimental piece of music. Which is reasonably true for the album as a whole actually, on balance.

But in the end, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The CD version of the album gets you a couple of additional dub versions of Boss Drum and Phorever People, but honestly it isn’t worth the bother. Save yourself the money and just get the singles album The Shamen Collection instead.

If you do fancy a copy of Boss Drum, it is still available here. It’s worth taking a few minutes to enjoy the reviews first.

Artist of the Week – The Shamen

In the penultimate artist of the week slot back in 2005, we covered The Shamen. As always, apologies for any unintended inaccuracies, plagiarism, or hyperbole.

The story of The Shamen goes back to the early 1980s, when Colin AngusPeter StephensonKeith McKenzie and Derek McKenzie formed the group Alone Again Or. In 1986, they metamorphosed into The Shamen, and released the debut album Drop, a groundbreaking and decidedly early Madchester-style fusion of guitar riffs and dance rhythms, shortly after the release of which they were joined by Will Sinnott.

Two members down, the second album In Gorbachev We Trust saw them move more into dance territory, but only a year after its release, Will Sinnott drowned off the Canary Islands. Angus, now calling himself Mr. C, reformed the group, and they moved truly into the mainstream with 1991’s En-Tact album, heralded by such huge hits as Move Any Mountain and Make it Mine.

In 1993 their Boss Drum album saw them turn almost entirely pop, releasing drug-inspired hit after drug-inspired hit, but it also saw their long-term fans deserting them in droves, so their return in 1995, Axis Mutatis, was a much more sombre affair. Fusing new age idealism with deep dance rhythms, it truly is a much  overlooked mid-90s masterpiece.

The follow-up Hempton Manor came out the following year, and saw them dramatically split with their record company after no singles were released. The follow-up best of album The Shamen Collection was a minor hit, but is essentially made up of tracks off the Boss Drum album.

Their last album UV followed in 1998, and was a very deep and dark house-filled affair, with dark beats and the occasional lighter moment. Following very little interest for this project, the group disappeared into cyberspace, leaving very little trace behind except a legacy of late 80s and early 90s dance hits. These days Mr. C continues to DJ and release solo material.

Bizarre search engine terms – 2017 edition

I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to the statistics for this blog, to be honest, but roughly once a year, I like to take a peek through and see what crazy search engine terms people have used to get to the site. Here’s a selection…

jnrinxs

I love the idea of a junior version of INXS. Perhaps you’re thinking of Michael Hutchence‘s daughter, whom UK tabloid The Daily Racist seem to have been obsessed with for some time, disturbingly describing her as “remarkably beautiful” when she was just fifteen.

Thanks, by the way – I just lost comfortably half an hour Wikisurfing about the sad tales of Paula Yates and her family.

robin hood trevor horns

You might be thinking of Batman, who’s a similar sort of historical character I believe. Trevor Horns produced Seal‘s Kiss from a Rose in 1994.

have madness rever won a brit award

Astonishingly, they rever haven’t – they have three nominations to their name, but that’s it. Check out my list of BRIT Award Losers here.

royksopp the understanding rubbish

Definitely not. Royksopp the understanding quite exceptional.

fascinating facts about the brit awards

That’s a subjective term, but I found these pretty fascinating. And these. And also these.

alison moyet cat deeley forum

This sounds like a great event, which all of us should thing about attending. The closest I can find is that time someone pretended to be Alison Moyet on Stars in Their Eyes.

1990 brit awards who returned awards

That would be Fine Young Cannibals that you’re thinking of. Because nobody really liked Margaret Thatcher.

smashie and nicey shamen

No idea about this one. I’m assuming it’s a clip which may or may not exist, but if you do manage to find anything, please share it with the rest of the class.

trevor pinnock songs of the auvergne

In an extreme moment of self-doubt, I actually searched this blog to find out what that takes you to. The answer lies in the 1984 BRIT Awards!

Well that was fun, wasn’t it? See also: the 20162015, 2014, and 2013 editions.

The Shamen – Hempton Manor

After many different incarnations, The Shamen‘s penultimate contribution to the world of music was with the entirely instrumental, fundamentally doped out Hempton Manor, released this week two decades ago.

Opening the album is Freya, built around a small warbly synth sequence, and clocking in at almost six minutes. It’s strange to think that this followed so soon after they were last seen chasing the charts with Axis Mutatis, and it’s not difficult to understand why their label One Little Indian found it difficult to promote this release – a fact which ultimately led to The Shamen going off to a small indie label, disappearing into obscurity, and never really being seen again.

Apparently all the titles of tracks on here are inspired by weed in some way, and so Urpflanze (“ancient plant”) is perhaps no surprise. Musically, it’s much more chilled out than its predecessor, although still driven by frenetic beats. Roughly halfway through, you do get a few reminders of some of the duo’s previous work as the countermelodies come together, but it’s still something of a departure.

In many ways, the lack of vocals helps, actually. I’m not sure lyric writing was necessarily ever The Shamen‘s strong point, but by the mid-1990s they had definitely lapsed into semi-mystic (possibly drug-addled?) drivel about crossing the Rubicon, and fun though that is, it does have its limits.

Trying to describe some of these tracks will inevitably make me look stupid. Cannabeo is a sweet drum and bass track full of electronic warblings and churning bass. On they come – after a while, Khat seems to blend into Bememe and already you’re halfway through the album.

Wikipedia, despite not containing any references, does reveal another fascinating fact about the titles on the album – it turns out they’re an acrostic, spelling out “Fuck Birket”, as a reference to their record label boss Derek Birket. The suggestion that the whole thing was intended to release them from their responsibilities therefore seems particularly likely.

Consequently, there was no single from this album – the closest they came was with the beautifully catchy Indica, which appears on their subsequent singles album The Shamen Collection and also led their promo Hemp EP, accompanied by a number of tracks which I’d assume are reworkings. It should have been a huge hit, but that was clearly never going to happen.

But if this whole release was intended as a bit of a joke at their record label’s expense, it’s still far from a waste of time as a listener – proof, were it needed, that The Shamen had a lot going for them in their day. Rausch is another chilled out piece, and Kava is certainly the closest this group had come to an acoustic track since the 1980s (possibly ever). There’s really nothing bad here.

El-Fin is, contrary to the name, the penultimate track on the album, and plods along very nicely, leading us through to the actual closing track, The Monoriff. By the end, you’re left wondering quite what went wrong for The Shamen – Axis Mutatis is great, Hempton Manor is too, UV is… questionable at best, and that was it for their career under that moniker. Or alternatively, you could just enjoy sixty minutes of great instrumental music, and not worry too much about it.

You can still find Hempton Manor through all major retailers.

Peel Sessions – The Shamen, 12 February 1991

The Shamen‘s fourth and final John Peel session was recorded in February 1991 and broadcast several times that same year. The Shamen had long been featured on Peel’s radio shows, and he seems to have even stuck with them once they transitioned from psychedelic eighties “alternative rock” to the rave-pop-dance that they were so fond of in the early 1990s.

The session opens with a pretty good version of En-Tact‘s Hyperreal, already available in the shops for a year or so at this stage. It seems to have gained some slightly daft sound effects which weren’t there on the quite brilliant original version, and it’s notably lacking the input from William Orbit that made the US album and subsequent versions so good, but it’s still pretty strong.

Make it Mine had already been a single in 1990, and this version seems to have undergone a slightly ill-advised reworking, with a pointless middle section and a length rap from Mr. C. It’s interesting to see them exploring some slightly different directions, but they really don’t seem to know what they’re doing. The input of The Beatmasters that would characterise the next album seems long overdue.

Possible Worlds is a nice inclusion – definitely one of the best tracks from En-Tact, it offers them a chance for some musical exploration without going completely off the rails. There’s a bit more freestyle rapping (including rhyming “brain pattern” with “Saturn”), which is definitely unnecessary, but in general it’s pretty good. Just not quite as good as the original version.

Then comes In the Bag, which I think I’m saying was never released anywhere else. It’s a pretty nice ambient piece which is entirely lacking in melody, but it’s a strong inclusion nonetheless. In a way it’s pieces like this rather than the better known singles and album tracks that make it worth hearing these sessions.

You can read more about The Shamen‘s relationship with the John Peel show here. This session is available on The Shamen‘s 1993 compilation On Air, which is still widely available.