1997 wasn’t just about OK Computer and Urban Hymns – it proved to be a fertile year for talent with a plethora of quality albums released. Here are five longplayers worth adding to your collection, if they’re not there already.
Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
Spiritualized were formed from the ashes of ’80s psychedelia outfit, Spacemen 3. This was the band’s third album and their best to date. Written in the shadow of a relationship breakdown between chief songwriter Jason Pierce and keyboard player Kate Radley (Radley left Pierce for The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft), it’s safe to assume that Pierce was leaning on some powerful chemical assistance during the recording process. Combining psychedelia, jazz, gospel and bombastic rock ‘n’ roll, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is a towering wall of anguish and regret, and one of the best albums to come out of the ‘90s.
The Charlatans, Tellin’ Stories
Like throwing darts when you’re drunk, you never quite know what you’re going to get with The Charlatans. However, with fifth studio album Tellin’ Stories, and the last to feature keyboardist Rob Collins who tragically died in a car accident shortly before completing the recording, the band produced their best record to date. The dance-inspired rhythms are still present, but Tellin’ Stories is, at its heart, a true rock and roll album with stonkers like North Country Boy and One to Another still part of their live repertoire today. If you only buy one Charlatans album in your life, dig no deeper than this.
Stereolab, Dots and Loops
Emperor Tomato Ketchup, released in 1996, was Stereolab’s first commercial flirtation. Its follow-up, Dots and Loops – the sixth LP since the band formed in 1991 – proved to be their most accessible. Tim Gane traded his experimental quests for a slew of catchy hooks and melodies with Laeticia Saddler adding beguiling vocals, sung in both English and French. Listen to it 20 years later and it remains an undiminished masterpiece. Dots and Loops is the zenith of the band’s career.
Teenage Fanclub, Songs From Northern Britain
Scottish band Teenage Fanclub remain largely enigmatic outside of indie circles despite being among the best songwriters that Britain has produced in 50 years. Here the anthemic, crunching guitars synonymous with their previous work are replaced with a softer, acoustic folk direction. This is a confident Teenage Fanclub brimming with optimism, and unreservedly content with where they are on the journey. The 12 beautifully crafted songs are the perfect accompaniment to any given Sunday.
Mogwai, Young Team
The debut from post-rock Glaswegian band Mogwai is a mesmerising voyage through a flood of cinematic soundscapes, which blew a hole into the final death rattle of Britpop after the cocaine-infused movement had lost its bite. Young Team is the sound of a nascent band, experimenting deeply with music that is largely instrumental. The tracks lurch from composed (RU Still In It) to explosive, as in the monumental 16-minute closer Mogwai Fear Satan. Back in 1997 it was fresh, nonconformist and decidedly potent; two decades on, nothing has changed.