1991 was a fantastic year for music. In the rock and metal world, AOR and melodic rock were still clinging on; the big haired bands like Skid Row and Warrant were experimenting with a heavier sound; funk metal was at its height, and the thrash metal titans had broken through to the mainstream, eventually becoming million selling acts. It seemed as if the long awaited release of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Use Your Illusion I + II’ would be the year’s hugest event, and then something happened. Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ was a smash hit, and a growing interest in the alternative scene changed everything – in a good way. It brought the Kerrang readers and NME crowd together for a short time, ending an already great year on an unbelievable high.

Much like the avid readers of the metal press, those who purchased NME and Melody Maker week in and week out had already experienced a brilliant and exciting 1991 by the time Kurt Cobain’s heavily Pixies-indebted combo became front page stars. The noises made by shoegaze were dominant; goth – although more commercial – still had a presence, and Manic Street Preachers were showing everyone how it was possible to combine a great chorus with a sharp edged social commentary. Elsewhere, hundreds of jangly bands immersed themselves the retro sounds of the past, and continued to make them sound fresh. Names like Bleach, Bang Bang Machine and World of Twist may now be – for some – names consigned to the yellowing pages of the student-centric music press, but so many of those bands left the world with tunes worthy of more than just a nostalgic thought.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: Saint Etienne – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 9/12/2017

It’s approximately 9pm on a very cold December night. It’s freezing outside and also decidedly chilly inside the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The audience are shuffling around with a casual indifference. We’ve all just been bored to tears by the night’s support act, The Clientele, who appear to have played the same bland dreampop/indie tune ten or eleven times. Judging by the lack of atmosphere on stage and the rambling tunes punctuated by the occasional monosyllabic “thanks…”, the performers seemed just as as bored by their own music. [In retrospect, while they were devastatingly dull, it was easy to see why they were chosen. They weren’t the worst support act ever – that honour will forever be owned by Patrik Fitzgerald – they were just very boring.]

Saint Etienne are about to take the stage, though, so surely things are about to get much better. The minutes pass and a selection of kitschy tunes – almost certainly curated by Saint Et’s own pop historian Bob Stanley – fills time. As it happens, this is all more entertaining than The Clientele. and worthy of an easily accessible Spotify playlist. Saint Etienne founders, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, along with various other musicians, eventually saunter on stage at a rather casual 9:25, followed by vocalist Sarah Cracknell.

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