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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

Decades - 1993

When I look back, 1993 was probably one of my happiest ever years.

It was my last year at university, an experience I truly loved. I had made friends who will be part of my life until I leave this mortal coil. I somehow, despite my very casual attendance at lectures, got a degree (yay!) and I won an election to be General Secretary of my student Union. Thus, I extended my student career by a year, but with the luxury of cash on the hip. And in that role, I got to lower the price of lager for our student bars to £1 a pint - an absolute guaranteed shortcut to popularity (at least for a couple of weeks!).

I was in a relationship with a beautiful woman, who I adored and at that point in our time together, we were very happy. It was not to be sadly, but that year was certainly a high point. This was despite her truly terrible taste in music (in 1993 she was making me endure Diva by Annie Lennox – I have confusing Pavlovian associations when I hear Annie still…).

UK politics were not great - John Major's Conservatives had won a fourth term in 1992, which I had not expected. But the Labour Party were finally getting themselves into an electable state (the excellent John Smith was leader since the previous year - what a great Prime Minister he would have been). To be fair, hindsight is a strange thing, and compared to the complete disasters we have in government now, John Major looks pretty decent. And is by all accounts, a very honourable chap.

My life was in a pretty great place, but beyond education, work, lovelife and politics, music still came first. Fortunately, music was also in a pretty fine place too. Some of the bands I loved at the time were making the best music of their careers. New bands and artists were coming into my horizon and have never left. Some artists bypassed me at the time but have since become hugely important to me.

A few big albums are not included in this list. I was never a Cypress Hill fan or Wu-Tang Clan fan, though I really must give them both another go. Radiohead’s Pablo Honey has a few moments, but it’s not their finest hour. There are one or two great moments on Bowie’s Black Tie, White Noise (Jump They Say and his cover of Morrissey’s I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday), but the album is pretty hit and miss otherwise.

New Order’s Republic start brilliantly (Regret is one of their finest moments, a stone cold classic). The rest of the album of VERY hit and miss (I feel like a traitor slagging my beloved band off…but the truth hurts and it’s a very poor album).

I didn’t get PJ Harvey then, even seeing her in 1993, supporting U2 didn’t convince me. It would be To Bring You My Love that caught me hook, line and sinker. Similarly, I never really got Nirvana – I like a few singles, but Nevermind or In Utero just didn’t mean anything to me.

Albums that nearly made this list, but just missed include Counting Crows’ debut, August and Everything After, which I listened to a lot at the time, but hasn’t aged well for me (save the ever brilliant Mr Jones). And The Lemonheads’ Come On, Feel The Lemonheads is OK, but it’s not as good as It’s A Shame About Ray.

And bubbling away in the background, waiting to hit us in the face like a hammer in ‘94, were Oasis. By May ’93, the band forced their way on to the bill at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow – unwittingly, this put them front and centre before Creation’s Alan McGee and the rest is history, McGee offering the band a recording contract on the spot (read more here: Definitely Maybe Certainly).

Anyway, here is my top 20 from ‘93.

20. Mercury – American Music Club

I'd picked up 1991's Everclear and was blown away. Christ it was miserable at times, but there were some big, huge songs like Rise, Ex-Girlfriend and Crabwalk, plus there was Jesus' Hands, one of my favourite songs. It's follow-up in 1993 at times made Everclear look like a bundle of laughs.

It was their 6th album, their first for Virgin, but if the record label were expecting a cheery, hit-strewn indie album, they must have been disappointed. I’ve Been A Mess imagines Lazarus as a lost, alienated, heartbroken loner, realising the Jesus stole his eternal rest from's backed by the most mournful country ballad.

It also features snappily titled tunes like What Godzilla Said to God When His Name Wasn't Found in the Book of Life. We still had gurning, cheesy DJs presenting Top Of The Pops back then...what would Dave Lee Travis have said, trying to introduce that mouthful, if AMC had ever managed to get a hit? He would have undoubtedly dressed in an hilarious gorilla outfit...maybe it's ok they never got hit...

Elsewhere, it's squalling guitars, more songs about death and loss (Dallas Airports Bodybags, The Hopes And Dreams Of Heaven's 10,000 Whores...). But, but,'s all strangely beautiful and affecting...Mark Eitzel, their songwriter and frontman, is never less than in war, emotive, beautiful voice. Keep Me Around is catchy and cool, and Johnny Mathis' Feet is the most wondrous song you could ever imagine. I saw him sing it, backed by The Divine Comedy, later in the 1990s. Neil Hannon, The Divine Comedy's singer, was almost embarrassed that Eitzel was supporting him, and watch in awe as Eitzel sang this.

So, if you are feeling down, give this bad boy a miss, but when you are feeling more up, give it a go. It's touching, it's beautiful and if nothing else, it's the most honest sounding album you'll hear.

19. Gold Against The Soul – Manic Street Preachers

I love the Manics, but Gold Against The Soul is not a favourite for me. But it has three GREAT songs – Sleepflower, From Despair To Where and La Tristesse Durera. Whilst it’s not their best album by some margin, I did play it to death when it came out and it makes me think of that year whenever I hear "I write this alone on my bed...".

Great singles, great cover and a band working out who they were after their ragged, brilliant, yet very flawed, debut.

18 The Infotainment Scan – The Fall

The Fall - the gnarliest, wordiest and most difficult band I ever loved. I am a fair-weather Fall fan, I loved their poppiest period (86-94) and this album is very much from those years, probably the high point. It has some of my favourite songs by the - Steve Hanley's bass paying on opener Ladybird is truly a thing of wonder. Their cover of Lost In Music is superb. And Glam-Racket tears into the up and coming Britpoppers like Suede - "You are bequeathed in suede....You're one of the best songs I've ever heard by Stephen King".

Brilliant stuff. Acerbic and twisted still now, as it was then. I booked The Fall to play our student union a year later and they were magnificent, though we lost a fortune. Totally worth it! (You can read more about my exploits with members of The Fall here - We're Gonna Make You A Star...Filming the video for "Damned For Eternity" by Brix & The Extricated).

17. Souvlaki – Slowdive

I dismissed Slowdive as airy-fairy, shoegaze nonsense at the time. Much as I loved shoegaze bands and Cocteau Twins. they seemed a step too far. Plus Britpop was coming - I wanted brash, loud, pop guitars, less effects pedals and floaty-vocals.

But over the years, I have realised I made a massive mistake and this album is great. When the Sun Hits is huge, opener Alison is all swirly-pop My Bloody Valentine. Elsewhere it's sparse, hazy - Dagger, its closing track, points towards Mojave 3, a band formed by three members of Slowdive - less effects, less pedals, just a gentle acoustic ballad. It's beautiful.

I am finally seeing them in February next year and I can't wait!

16. Zooropa – U2

I loved U2 in the 8os, but by the end they were overblown, pompous, dull....Rattle & Hum is a tragedy, an embarrassment. I recall Irish band The Power Of Dreams wrote to them with a copy of Pixies' Doolittle telling them they needed to change, they were lost. Not sure if this is true, but I like to think so. U2 listened and came back with Achtung Baby - an amazing, inventive, stunning record. A masterclass in reinvention.

Zooropa felt like the leftovers, the songs that didn't quite make it, but the unwanted scraps from Achtung Baby are better than most. The title track opener is great, Numb is the least U2 song ever (in a good way), Lemon is dance music (as far removed from Rattle & Hum as is possible to imagine, and The Wanderer, featuring a towering vocal by Johnny Cash, is remarkable.

It's not perfect, but it was great that they didn't slip back to mullets, Americana and overblown nonsense....

15. Star - Belly

The next three on this list are all related. Belly was the new vehicle for Tanya Donnelly, formerly of Throwing Muses and more recently The Breeders. It's sensual, surreal, slinky, it's jangly and dreamy, macabre folk pop.

At the core of Star are three great songs - Slow Dog, Low Red Moon, and Feed The Tree. As perfect a run of songs as you will find on any album. They are really underrated, in the shadow of Tanya's other bands, but I love them.

14. Last Splash – The Breeders

Speaking of overshadowed, Pixies' Kim Deal was never allowed to fly with her songwriting whilst a member of that band. Black Francis aka Frank Black would not cut her enough space to include her songs, with one or two exceptions. She needed her own outlet, and with her twin sister and others, The Breeders gave her that space.

Their first album, Pod, featured Belly's Tanya, as I said, but she'd departed to focus on her own band by the time their sophomore album came out. And whilst we knew Deal was talented, nothing prepared me for Cannonball - a stone cold indie classic like we'd never hear. It's fun, playful, it's "awooga" opening vocal is hilarious. But Last Splash is not just a one-trick pony - No Aloha's slide guitar, the soaring vocals on Do You Love Me Now? and Drivin' On 9 is just lovely, a gentle country strum.

13. Frank Black – Frank Black

Pixies were gone, but Black Francis was back, Back, BACK! Rebranded, with a new sideman (Eric Drew Feldman, who'd worked with Pete Ubu and Captain Beefheart) and a brace of more melodic tracks, but still with a Pixies feel. Los Angeles, its opener, is its strongest song, but I love the Beach Boys cover, Hang On To Your Ego.

Joey Santiago, Pixies' guitarist, appears on several of the Frank Black tracks, giving some continuity, and in many ways it's Diet Pixies. But a less calorific Pixies is pretty bloody wonderful.

12. Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? – The Cranberries

Limerick's Cranberries made one of the loveliest albums of that year, sadly lumbered with a truly terrible, clunky album title. The album is disarming, jangling, raw, angelic, lovely. I saw them touring the second album, and Dolores had become a rock star, but that first album, there was something gentler, more beautiful.

Linger was immaculate, Dreams was Sinead O'Connor fronting The Smiths. The songs were as personal as anything I had ever heard. The album is still great 30 years on, charming, wide-eyed, mystified, raging.

11. New Wave – The Auteurs

Some time in 1992, me and my friend Mark saw The Auteurs, supported by Strangelove and A House, at the Marquee Club. Except I can find no evidence of that gig ANYWHERE on the internet. I reckon I could find out the colour of Nadine Dorries' knickers on the internet if I really wanted to (I have absolutely no interest btw), but not something I actually want to know. And I'd love to know more about the gig. All I remember was A House's "list" song, Endless Art made me run out and buy the album the next day. I remember being blown away by Strangelove - opener Sixer and Sand were great and some moshing was involved.

By the time The Auteurs came on, we were nearly spent, but we dug deep, and they were fabulous. It was a while until the album came out, but it was stately, cool, an early example of the up and coming Britpop we kept hearing about. And most importantly, it was not Nirvana or Pearl Jam - I was bored shitless by both of those bands and their ilk by then.

Even if you don't like the album, make sure you check out Bad Vibes: Britpop And My Part In Its Downfall, his acerbic, hilarious memoir. It's a masterclass in how not to win friends and influence people. The book is great, but him reading it for the audio book (available on Spotify) is well worth a listen.

10. Together Alone – Crowded House

1991's Woodface had been a regular feature on my cassette Walkman. A splendid album and beautiful harmonies by the brothers Finn. But soon into that tour, sibling rivalry put paid to Tim's short stint in his little brother's band.

So fourth album Together Alone was very much helmed by Neil. I didn't think they could top Woodface (Fall At Your Feet, Four Seasons In One Day, Weather With You - it's pretty brilliant).

But Together Alone manages to better it. It's their most consistent album, chockerful of classics - it's their most satisfying album. A change of producer - Mitchell Froom ditched for Youth, who's style was was looser, more experimental) led to songs overlaid with more atmospheric sounds - Māori log drums, brass band and choirs, lap steel guitars, loops...this was far less traditional than previous efforts.

Alongside the more experimental sound, the pop sensibilities are still very much present - Distant Sun is the perfect Crowded House song, Black And White Boy and Locked Out are their rockers (but it's still very much them).

It's a great, great pop record. And it might have topped this list back in the day, but as I said, 1993 was a great year...

9. Debut – Bjork

The Sugarcubes' debut single, Birthday, was like nothing I had ever heard. Woozy, alien, it wasn't music as I knew it in 1987. I loved Cocteau Twins who were pretty out there, but this was something new.

The Sugarcubes progressed and became more accessible and pop-tastic (though let's be honest, Einar, Bjork's co-singer in the band was dreadful). But by December 1992, The Sugarcubes disbanded. It was Bjork's time to shine without some irritating twat shouting nonsense and ruining her songs.

Debut was released 8 months after the split and it was an eclectic variety of styles, including electronic pop, house music, jazz and trip hop. It came out as the latter style, trip hop, was at its height and music was more mixed up than I had ever known it. Indie kids loved Massive Attack and dance music, it was a wonderful hotchpotch.

Barbara, my then girlfriend, bought this for me, in a rare moment when something I liked music wise was something she didn't hate (trust me, this was rare, the relationship was doomed). It's a wild ride, playful, fun and it crossed over fans of all music.

Weirdly, its reception was mixed (hard to believe Rolling Stone gave it two stars - outrageous!). The less positive reviews missed the fun, the joyous nature of the record. Out and out dance music like Violently Happy, the dancey pop-tastic fun of Big Time Sensuality, Venus As A Boy's ambient chillout, and Human Behaviour, which once again, was like nothing I had heard. It was a futuristic smorgasbord. Later, the album was reissued with the addition of Play Dead, her collaboration with David Arnold and Jah Wobble for the soundtrack of The Young Americans - this was huge, cinematic, brilliant. It helped pushed the album on to huge success.

These days the album is seen as highly influential, ahead of its time and adventurous. I still love it and it shows you can be your true self and still have huge success.

8. Giant Steps – The Boo Radleys

Another wildly experimental album - the indie White Album, as it was referred to when it came out. Stevey and I had seen them support Pixies at Crystal Palace in 1991 (see Best gigs: 50 - 41). They were bottom of the bill and pretty good, but to be honest they came across as bog-standard indie shoegazers - nothing wildly different from My Bloody Valentine, Ride etc. Nothing special, just more fuzzy feedback.

But their second album, Everything's Alright Forever was pretty interesting and in Lazy Day, they had a perfect 2 minute pop single (though one drenched in loud, boisterous bursts of effects pedals),

But, whilst I knew they were getting more interesting, I did not expect this. Giant Steps has brilliant pop singles (the almost Suede guitar of I Hang Suspended, and the New Order pop of Wish I Was Skinny and Barney (...And Me). Plus there are songs ranging from almost dance like Rodney King (Song For Lenny Bruce) to the quiet / loud / quiet / really loud Leaves And Sand. Recording was as experimental as the songs - singer Sice recording some vocals with his head stuck up a chimney!

Lazarus is its tour de force, dub reggae segueing into Beatles-y trumpet driven pop. Seeing them when they came back in 2021 was fabulous and this song was the show's highlight (The Boo Radleys, The Moth Club, London, 30th October 2021).

They toured the album this year, but due to work commitments, I couldn't go, but I'll make do with playing the whole thing through again this weekend. There is nothing like it from any of their more lauded, indie, shoe gazing peers. Wake Up Boo! is shite though....

7. Modern Life Is Rubbish – Blur

I remember reading an interview with Blur in either NME or Melody Maker - they were down in Essex, wearing DMs, Fred Perrys, espousing The Kinks, The Jam, The Small Faces and the need for a return to Englishness in indie music, after the Nirvana dominance of the previous years. This wasn't some dodgy Morrissey anti-immigrant statement, just a reaction to tatty checked shirts, bad hair and a lack of tunes. Blur had shed all the baggy nonsense - they were interesting, angry, bored, defiant.

Paul Weller was raving about lead single For Tomorrow, a Ray Davies stomper they were forced to write by their label (sometimes labels are right); Chemical World and Sunday Sunday were the other singles and again, they are cheeky, boisterous belters.

For reasons quite beyond me, I wasn't THAT bothered by them still, and even missed them playing Exeter in 1993 (why???). But with its successor, Parklife, I went back and bought this and loved it (and saw them play a storming gig in 1995). Coping and Pressure On Julian had nods to the great Julian Cope. Blue Jeans is languid and chilled, Advert was punky, Starshaped was perfection. The songs covered exhibitionists, peeping toms, and pedestrian walkers - it was great fun.

It's aged well and is now probably my favourite Blur album.

6. Dusk – The The

Johnny Marr had joined The The to play on the previous album, Mind Bomb, but Dusk consolidated his style with Matt Johnson's. It's The The's last great album (and their greatest?). Johnson rails against the inadequacies of the world, while Marr adds joyous, jubilant guitar to support and contrast Matt's fears and paranoias.

Marr's harmonica is all over the album, especially the singles Dogs Of Lust and Slow Emotion Replay - the latter is my favourite The The song (it was the 94th best-selling single in Iceland that year, so I am not alone!). If Moz and Marr hadn't split, what a Smiths song this would have been...

The album is dark, groovy, an implosion of paranoia and it's a great listen. When they reformed to play in 2018, Dusk dominated the set, with seven of its ten songs played.

Mrs JO'B got me the album on vinyl that year for Xmas, which must have been fiendishly expensive, but very kind. It stills sounds fresh today. I am seeing The The again in London in 2024, I hope they finally get round to making a new album, though without Marr, they will never be quite as good as this again.

5. Laid – James

After their rise through baggy, they took the first of many radical detours and went off and recorded an album with Brian Eno and toured playing acoustic songs to support Neil Young. Not exactly what you might have expected - imagine Happy Mondays doing this?

The result was Laid. I remember seeing them play lead single Sometimes on BBC's The Late Show and it was extraordinary. There seemed to be loads of people in the band now and the song, almost spoken word in places just leapt out of the screen, it was transcendent.

Many tracks were slow, chilled, trance-like, subtle - Out To Get You, Dream Thrum, Five-O were low-key, even folky - other tracks were ambient (Skindiving), and anthemic (Laid, Low Low Low). Laid's sex references ("she only cums when she's on top") seemed very brave at the time, these days it seems sweet. Times have changed.

Final single, Say Something, was the album's Where The Streets Have No Name, but without the unnecessary forward 30 years and the album's three singles are the songs I still most want to hear them play. That's pretty cool.

4. Suede – Suede

Androgynous, glam, druggy, sexy, perverted, observant, Smithsy, Bowie, taboo, illicit, genderless, rampant, buzzing, zeitgeist, young, entertaining, inventive, Nude, animal-esque, subversive, broken, dominant, submissive, insatiable, personal, maudlin, fearsome, pantomime, chemistry, spanking, slinky, Britpop, Suede, invincible!

3. Wild Wood – Paul Weller

After The Jam and The Style Council, Weller briefly became The Paul Weller Movement for one single (the mod-soul-tastic Into Tomorrow), before settling on being the solo artist he had always really been. His self-titled debut was inspired by Stevie Winwood and Traffic and it had it's moments, but there was a little too much flute and jazz for me to totally love it.

But Wild Wood came storming out of the traps with Sunflower and we knew there was something different going on - he blasted it out on Jools Holland's Later, along with a great cover of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On.

This album consolidated what he was aiming for on his debut, but dropped the jazziness and allowed his John Martyn, Nick Drake and Neil Young tendencies to thrive.

He was now the Modfather and as Britpop came in, he was revered by Blur and Oasis, and more relevant than he had been in years. He's still kicking against the system, still making albums that experiment, but staying true to his Mod code of valour, still impeccably dressed and still roaring out Sunflower live like his life depended on it.

2. Songs Of Faith And Devotion – Depeche Mode

The making of this album, and its subsequent tour, remain miraculous. Drugs, dealers, psychologists joining them on tour, huge shows, Gahan looking like Jesus on crack, real live drums on the album and on the tour - this was not the Mode we knew and loved.

But it was magnificent. Condemnation's gospel soul hymn of redemption, Walking In My Shoes is stately synths, slow burning, subtle ("you don’t know how it feels to be me") - it's quintessential Mode. I Feel You is epic, huge. Rush is pounding, industrial and probably the most Depeche Mode track on the album. Judas is tinged with atonement.

In Your Room is gripping, Higher Love, slow building and would have been a better opener than closing track.

The whole album is pleading, begging for mercy and understanding, anticipating what was to come. What followed was near death experiences (Gahan nearly died at least twice), breakdowns, departures (Alan Wilder left after the tour), arrests, recovery, getting clean, staying clean and then slowly remerging again. Though they were never quite as big as they were then, they still continue to play huge venues (see Every Gig Counts In Large Amounts - Depeche Mode, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, 21 October 2023).

I am seeing them in January 2024 at the O2. If they came on stage, just played this album and left, that would be a great show...

1. Exile In Guyville – Liz Phair

I did not really get Liz Phair at the time. I was in the grip of emerging Britpop, she just didn't cut through. But over the years, I have fallen in love with this album.

Eighteen tracks long, it's loosely Phair's response to the Stones' Exile On Main Street, It's a startling record, full of the sort of candid, raw songs Courtney Love would have killed for.

Its opening line sets the tone for the record - “I bet you fall in bed too easily”. The album pulls no punches in expressing Liz's sexuality ("I want to fuck you like a dog", "I want to be your blowjob queen"). This was powerful, raw, lo-fi, accessible, challenging, The album hits hard, its lyrics are jaded, bruised, barbed, sympathetic, unsentimental, cataloguing the shit men from small town life who've peppered her world to date. In Help Me Mary, Phair prayed, “weave my disgust into fame.” She got what she asked for. We're still talking about the album 30 years on.

If you've never heard it, give it a spin, it's magnificent, understated, and as debut albums go, it's phenomenal. It's badass.

And that's it, just snuck in before the end of 2023, roll on 2024, and more Decades lists from 1984, 1994, and more. If you enjoyed this, please check out Decades – 1982, Decades: 1983 and Decades – 1992,

Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link at the bottom of the page), x


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