First up we have Athlete. Although they’re now much-derided purveyors of epic stadium indie rock, a la Coldplay and Snow Patrol, it wasn’t always so. Back at the very start of 2002, a single appeared which was a bit of a hit on John Kennedy’s Xposure radio show, by a young band from Deptford (south east London). And it was pretty good, with its crackly lo-fi start, explosion into sparkly indie-pop and wry lyrics about wanting to be part of the rock scene (which brings me back to notions of ‘cool’ again). It boded well for things to come, and I eagerly bought a copy of the EP that the song was on. But alas, the early promise didn’t really lead anywhere and it’s the only thing by the band I own. A shame really, but at least we have this.
Download: Athlete – Westside
Next we go even more pop. In common with most machine-tooled chart pop acts, All Saints have got some great songs, but there’s never any point buying their albums. This is one of these songs, from back in 2000, just before the band fizzled out in mutual acrimony, egos and ill-advised solo projects. They actually returned, reformed and (apparently) reconciled last year, and had a hit. But by the time the next single and album came round, no-one was really bothered. My point exactly.
Download: All Saints – Black Coffee
Now it’s Tori Amos. This one comes to me courtesy of Mrs Growl (who’s a Tori fan) and our marital pooling of music collections. Now I do have time for Tori Amos, particularly when she’s on more of an oddball streak, which happily is more often than not, and no more so than on the b-side of her 1996 single Caught a Lite Sneeze, where she covers two songs by Cockney knees-up merchants Chas & Dave. Honestly. Here’s one of them. It defies further description.
Download: Tori Amos – London Girls
Finally, we have another Mrs Growl CD. It’s Aztec Camera’s single Birds from 1993. I’m a big fan of this band, but latter-period 'Camera, including this song, is far from their finest hour. It’s not very good, but thankfully, the b-sides hark back to better days. Maybe WEA didn’t have much confidence in the quality of Roddy Frame’s output at the time, because it’s surely an odd choice to go back almost 10 years for a b-side. But it was worth including the title track from the 1984 album Knife, just to make this release more bearable. Aztec Camera was always pretty much just Roddy Frame, and thankfully after discarding the band name after 1995 in favour of recording under his own name, a much better run of form was discovered. Most notably the brilliant acoustic album Surf from 2002 – easily as good as anything from Aztec Camera’s glory days.
Download: Aztec Camera – Knife
* for overseas readers, BBC Radio 2 is the most popular radio station in the UK. Its programming is generally, popular middle-of the road music. It’s lazy categorising I know, but I needed a title to cover all these tracks, and I’m fairly sure all these artists would fit comfortably on the R2 playlist today.