The Britpop years between 1993-97 brought wave after wave of great music. From the well documented – Oasis, Blur, Suede and Pulp – to those lesser talked about years later – Gene, Marion, Menswear – each act brought their own slant to classic retro styles, often centering around guitar driven pop-rock.
Among the big players were Sleeper. Sleeper were special. With a musical grounding that mixed the pop hooks of Blondie and the proto punk-pop of The Undertones with lyrical narratives that were often interesting, their first two albums (‘Smart’, 1995 and ‘The It Girl’, 1996) have really stood the test of time.
In just two short years, Zwan demoed and recorded a huge amount of material. Whether in their electric format (The True Poets of Zwan) or stripped back and more acoustic driven (Djali Zwan), the Billy Corgan-fronted project showed a great depth and inventiveness.
Always a prolific writer, with Zwan, Corgan occasionally showed off his power pop influences (‘Lyric’, ‘Yeah’) alongside expansive prog rock indulgences (‘Jesus I/Mary Star of the Sea’). While not always championed by everyone, this varied approach to material ensured Zwan’s only studio album remains a thrilling listening experience years after the event.
Over the years, there have been some great live performances by Prince captured on tape and video. Over the years, the mighty purple one’s lawyers have dutifully gone about their business removing things from the internet, keeping them from fans’ eyes and ears.
There have been some great shows issued officially, of course. The VHS of the near three hour show from the ‘Purple Rain’ tour is legendary (and overdue a DVD reissue) and – even with overdubs – the ‘Sign ‘O’ The Times’ concert movie is beloved by fans.
In their short lifespan of just under eight years, like The Beatles of post-punk, The Police took on the world. The bulk of their studio output retains a near timeless appeal, but it was in the live setting that the power of this trio of talented musicians became really obvious.
It’s a shame that the only widely available live show from the band’s original existence is from the Synchronicity tour. Although a great show, the shine and bombast doesn’t quite capture the spirit of the earlier years. The BBC’s ‘Rock Goes To College’ show sits gathering dust in an archive and other bits and pieces – although pro-shot and circulating among fans – are unlikely to get a DVD release any time soon.
In 2013, Billy Bragg’s debut release ‘Life’s a Riot With Spy vs. Spy’ celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Due to the lo-fi nature of the recording – one man, an electric guitar, no overdubs – it could have been recorded at any point during that time. With the younger Bragg possessing an angry voice, a barrage of social commentary and a knack for a lyric, there was always a feeling that he represented every one of us with a left leaning political voice, just one of many reasons why its seven tracks continue to endure.