These 5 iconic albums turn 20 in 2018
Somehow, 20 years ago always seems to feel like yesterday and an eternity ago all at once.
In 1998, Titanic won 11 Oscars, but everyone was quoting The Big Lebowski. Google was founded and Microsoft released Windows 98. Nintendo blew us away with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and everyone was reading the first Harry Potter book or watching Dawson’s Creek.
George Michael was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a Beverly Hills public toilet. Bill Clinton denied he had "sexual relations" with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
We said goodbye to Linda McCartney, Carl Wilson, Tammy Wynette, Frank Sinatra, Sonny Bono and Marc Hunter from Dragon.
In Australia, we had a Prime Minister who didn‘t want to meet the Spice Girls, we won 80 gold medals at the Commonwealth games in Malaysia and Bindi Irwin was born.
As the century’s end drew closer, we got new albums from Beastie Boys, Manic Street Preachers, You Am I, Sparklehorse, Tortoise, Korn, Cat Power, Powderfinger, Offspring, Massive Attack, Beck, Madonna and Tori Amos.
Many of us heard acts like Neutral Milk Hotel, Boards of Canada, Gerling, Gomez, Unkle and Air for the very first time.
And these game-changing five albums that continue to impress the ears off us, 20 years after their release.
Fatboy Slim – You’ve Come a Long Way Baby
You’ve Come a Long Way Baby sounds just as bold, brash and bombastic now as it did 20 years ago. This soundtrack to countless extreme sports montages and sugary drink commercials is full of party-starting Big Beat classics that are rude, noisy, silly and most importantly memorable.
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This is the late 90s at its most ear-wormy, and each of Norman Cook’s bangers – from 'Right Here, Right Now' to 'Acid 8000' – is a sure bet to still get your kitchen dancefloor pumping in 2018. If this don’t make your booty move your booty might actually, literally be dead.
Dirty Three – Ocean Songs
The fourth and most atmospheric album from the filthy antipodean trio is a timeless, meditative work that represents (if you pardon the pun) a high-water mark for the group.
Dirty Three’s exceptional ‘96 release Horse Stories was visceral, tempestuous and ragged, but these languid odes to the might and mystery of the ocean are light and beautiful.
Magnificently captured by Steve Albini in his Chicago studio, the magic that Jim, Warren and Mick create comes less from their chaotic push and pull, and more from a feeling of never ending momentum.
It is cohesive, affecting. enigmatic. And worth revisiting. Time and time again. Forever.
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
In this age of endless lists and list articles (yes, like this one) this record has become almost mythical.
But put aside the narratives that cloud the hugely influential The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and revisit these songs with fresh ears and you’ll find soul music for the heart, hip hop for the head, and bouncy reggae for your hips.
Her songs are spiritual. A fresh take on neo-soul. A fiercely female take about life’s purpose, heartbreak, trust, destiny and faith. This is an album about life lessons, not life goals.
Lauryn Hill’s one and only solo album, released just after she turned 23, is important not because of what it did – on the charts, for the critics or even for the artist herself – but because of what it continues to do. It is an album that nourishes and inspires millions of people right now, especially a new generation of modern musicians, 20 years after its release.
Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
“That’s the one that I’ll never live down” Lucinda Williams told SPIN about her 1998 album. And it’s true.
Hugely influential in the country, roots and Americana scene, the Louisiana native’s fifth album remains her most highly regarded and successful.
From the evocative opening line ‘Not a day goes by I don’t think about you’ we’re transported by her deceptively casual vocals to an intimate world of regret, lust and hard truths.
Nothing feels contrived or misplaced here and the album highlights – ‘Can’t Let Go’, ‘Drunken Angel’, ‘Right In Time’ and the album’s stirring title track – are as good as anything Lucinda Williams has written before or since. Probably better.
The record is a personal favourite of Double J’s Henry Wagons, host of Tower of Song, who says she is one of those rare songwriters able to walk a tightrope, “communicating with a universal wisdom, all knowing and sage-like, but with immediacy and approachability, and also a kind of naivety. I don’t know how she does it!”
The Living End – The Living End
In 1998 we got an Australian debut album that rocked as hard as I’m Stranded or High Voltage.
Blasting out of the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne and the city’s thriving all-ages circuit with a battle-ready, high energy live show and a knack for writing shout-out loud anthems, The Living End made good on the promise of earlier EPs and singles with this melodic, intelligent punk rock album.
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Taking their cues from American Rockabilly and UK punk pioneers, the three-piece delivered a set of high-impact songs brimming with teenage anger and attitude. Tunes that were as explosive in the mosh-pit as they were on the radio.
Listen out for these and plenty more amazing long-players in 2018 as Double J features a different Classic Album each week.
Rediscover a record that changed modern music or changed your life every Monday night from 8pm, and again on Saturday morning from 10am, with Caz Tran.