Class of ’96

In January 1997 Maxim magazine decided to treat their loyal readers with a free compact disc filled with music that had been recorded by all the bands who were toppermost of the poppermost in the 12 months previous…we called that 1996.

Maxim had launched in 1995 and was, I guess, another Loaded but with loftier ambitions…GQ for the lad generation?

Evidence of this approach can be found by casting your peepers over this here front cover;


Do you see the difference between this and Loaded?


Well, it’s quite easy to tell them apart.

Loaded had half-naked women in football shirts on the front cover.

Maxim had half-naked women in lingerie on the front cover.

And people wonder why we have an international women’s day.

Oh…before anyone starts…internaional men’s day is in November.


What delights from the year of 1996 had the folks at Maxim deigned worthy of inclusion on this free compilation?

Let’s take a look.


The Beautiful Ones – Suede

Not a bad start is it?

Taken from the hugely successful “Coming Up”, “The Beautiful Ones” was a smash hit single for the band and proof, and proof was needed, that the departure of Bernard Butler was not, in fact, the end of Suede.

It is, possibly, the most pop single that Suede ever released…despite its lyrical content being as dark as ever.  The music seemed to have been kissed by the sunshine and sparkles that covered everything else in British music at this point in time.

A rush.


Statuesque – Sleeper

Strong start to a compilation this, right?

I’ve already written about Statuesque on my “Beginners Guide to Sleeper” so there isn’t really any need to go over it again but let’s focus instead on this…

Sleeper have a new album out this month.

It is called “The Modern Age” and it promises to be the best album of their career and, quite possibly, the best album of the year.

You can order it here.


Lovechild of the Queen – Space

Appearing at this years Star Shaped Festival, and one of the most criminally underappreciated bands of the Britpop era, Space write music that is wonky, psychedelic, catchy, uplifting, bone shudderingly loud and clever.

“Lovechild of the Queen” is the sort of song that after just one listen has you convinced that it was never off of the radio during a long hot summer in your youth…when, in fact, you have probably never heard it since the last time you played “Spiders” from start to finish.  It has the familiarity that all really good pop songs should have.


One for the Road – Ocean Colour Scene

Soaked in the glorious twin influences of The Small Faces and Northern Soul this is my favourite Ocean Colour Scene song.  A magnificent vocal, a rousing chorus, a beat that has you grabbing for the talc so that you can spin, twist and flip yourself across the dance floor…perfect.

Admittedly the chances of my spinning, twisting and flipping myself across the dance floor are slim…to the point of being non-existent…but just you try and stop me swaying gently from side to side while making a face that, in my head, makes me look like a funk, soul brother but which, in reality, makes me look like a middle-aged man trying to hold in a fart.

Age can be cruel.


Alright – Jamiroquai

He had a hat.


Revival – Blame

This is Conrad Shafie.

He’s one of those house music people.

I don’t really know much about house music but “Revival” seems to be, to these ignorant ears of mine, to be quite good house music.

It’s a bit garage-y and a bit blissed out.

Do you like that kind of thing?

You might like this then.

You don’t like it?

Well, then you should probably just leave this well alone.


The Fun Lovin’ Criminal – The Fun Lovin’ Criminals

I saw that bloke Huey from The Fun Lovin’ Criminals on “Never Mind the Buzzcocks” once.

Those two nice lads from Rizzle Kicks were the hosts that week.

At one point Huey got quite cross and smashed a mug.

I remember thinking then; “I don’t think you seem very nice.”

I get it though, he might just have been having a bad day.

We should always be ready to show a bit of love and understanding.

It’s just that it has always made it difficult for me to listen to their music without thinking about him smashing a mug and getting all hot under the collar with those nice boys.

Silly really when you consider all the awful rock and roll excesses I would forgive for other musicians.

Still, there we have it.


Where it’s At – Beck


So cool.

Cooler, I am sorry to tell you, than you.

Cooler, I am devastated to inform you, than me.

It’s a very difficult thing to define is “cool” but the one thing that all peoples in all lands recognise is that Beck is about as close to the ideal of the concept of cool as anyone else has ever gotten…maybe not quite as close as Jack Nicholson but pretty bloody close.

“Where it’s at” is the usual, unusual, from him.




Mixing up cool grooves and hip-hop beats.

Did I mention how cool this is?


Bullfrog Green – Boo Radleys

After the horrors of “Wake up Boo!” the Boo Radleys returned with “C’mon Kids” which was the polar opposite…which basically means it was good.

“Bullfrog Green” was a noisy, discordant, fusion of pop, punk and, whisper it, some of the shoegazery treats of “Giant Steps”.

It would be good if we could go back in time and just erase “Wake Up Boo!” from history.

Not for their bank balances of course but, you know, for us.


July – Babybird

Stephen Jones has a beautiful voice.

A wonderful blend of the maudlin and the sweet.

He is also a wonderful writer.

“Love was in your pretty head and sex was on my brain” he coos and croons on this song from the “Ugly Beautiful” album and in so doing he perfectly captures the difference between the adolescent me and every girl I ever dated.  That’s not my fault…it’s evolution or something.


Goldfinger – Ash


I know lots of people really love Ash.

They thrill to the youthful energy, the naive charms and the nonsense about girls from Mars and kung-fu.

Not me.

I don’t like ’em.

They always struck me as a sort of Nirvana with less drugs and more sweetness.

I suspect this is not a case that many will find compelling and that’s fine.

We don’t have to agree on everything.

As long as we can all agree on the Shampoo thing then we can still be friends.


Bad Behaviour – Super Furry Animals


The usual demented wonders from the best band to come out of Wales since…goodness only knows.

Chugging and churning along like the greatest glam stomper of a single that Slade or The Sweet never released this is the sort of song that reminds you why you fell in love with music in the first place.

Psychedelic, glam rock, punk-pop, throbbing, shaking, rocking and rolling noise of the very best kind.


Angels of the Silences – Counting Crows



Into the Deep – Kula Shaker


I know.

A lot of people don’t like Kula Shaker.

Those people are…off their rockers.

Taking bits of Mod culture, American West Coast psychedelia, Eastern mysticism and goodness knows what else then chucking it all into a big old pot of pop and churning out the sort of gloriously bonkers pop music that nobody else could manage.

For what it is worth they are also one of the very best live bands I have ever seen.

So there.

So there you have it.

That is how Maxim saw 1996.

It is a flawed collection but it highlights, again, quite how big a deal Britpop had become by this point in time.  Several of the bands here were of the sort who would have featured on free tapes given away with Melody Maker in 1993 and that would have been the pinnacle of their careers…yet, here they were sitting side by side with Jamiroquai and Counting Crows.

Good grief.

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