Wednesday, October 5, 2016

1999 - 13

Face it, in the year before Emo, rock music was in a sorry state (and pop even worse – all those terrible girls). Thank God for Slim Shady and Rage, I guess. 1999 is the only year in rock history not to have an AM10. There were ambient masterpieces such as David Sylvian’s Dead Bees on a Cake and the prog rock brilliance of Porcupine Tree’s Stupid Dreams, but I'd happily skip 1999 in general. And so, based on its contribution to folk and it's inspiration for bands like Bright Eyes and Brand New, not to mention "Coffee and TV," a fab alt. single and one of the all time great videos (who doesn't love Milky-man?), 1999's nod goes to Blur's 13 by default. (Now don't go running off the handle over NIN and Ágætis byrjun. No doubt these are what save the day - and I'm still contemplating crossing all this out and going with post rock Icelanders Sigur Ros, yet despite its brilliance, was Ágætis byrjun the least bit influential?)

Much in the same vein as Bruce Springsteen's "Tunnel Of Love" (written during a painful divorce), 13 is a barely concealed fuck-off from Damon Albarn to Justine Frischmann, his ex (from Brit-pop band, Elastica). From the beautiful "Tender" in which Albarn extols the pitfalls and power of love, to the accusatory "1992,"13 chronicles the singer's emotional state during an obviously painful period, a reasonably universal exposé of a breakup. Nonetheless, there's an underlying maturity about the LP and a world weary though positive depiction of Millennials, who at 30 realize that while their time as "kids" is over, there's a hell of a lot more to life. 

After the experimental and moody atmosphere of Blur, I was expecting something more upbeat, more vibrant. What I got instead was a challenging, intriguing album that made me sit back and re-appraise my opinion of the band. 13 is a feast of ingenuity. "Coffee & TV" is a delicate offering with Graham Coxon on lead vocals, perhaps challenging Damon for the band's vocal crown. "Swamp Song" is a searing, Bowie-esque adventure. "Trailerpark," notorious for its Southpark connections, is wonderfully dark and different. 'Trimm Trabb' is probably one of the album's most recognizably familiar sounds - simple yet effective, with Blur stamped all over it.

Nonetheless, 1999 reeks of what we're experiencing this year in the presidential race, a choice of mediocrity; this is indeed the best there is to offer? Ho-hum. I'm done. I'm going to listen to Ágætis byrjun now.