Popular has spent 2015 exploring the number ones of 2000, which is starting to tread on musical ground first covered at this very site; but a lot can change in fifteen years. Here are some of my initial comments on the year’s UK number ones, edited and adapted.

Manic Street Preachers, “The Masses Against the Classes”, 22 January 2000

It’s amazing to realise how little the Manics meant to the Australian charts. This is My Truth, Tell Me Yours spent four weeks in the album chart, peaking at number 14; Know Your Enemy spent a single week at number 20. Only two of their singles made the top 50, for a week apiece (“A Design for Life” at number 50 and “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” at number 49). I wasn’t even aware of “The Masses Against the Classes” until years later—possibly when checking the list of 2000s number ones at Popular itself—even though I was a fan of their albums from Everything Must Go onwards. It must be because I bought Lipstick Traces rather than Forever Delayed.

Apart from one or two previous listens, this was my first repeated exposure to the song, and there’s a lot to like in its blast of punk rawness. (Do I detect a hat-tip to the 1990s’ reinventors of punk at 1:10, when the guitars drop for a few seconds? Smells Like Nirvana.) Maybe it’s Manics by numbers, or maybe it’s just the Manics doing one of the things they do best. Either way, 7.

One of the other things the Manics do best, for this late-Manics fan, is all the stuff that others seemed to be bagging in the Popular thread about this song. I loved This is My Truth, and “The Everlasting”, and Know Your Enemy and its singles, and their near misses for the top spot in 2004, and Lifeblood—man, did I love Lifeblood—and then I stopped paying attention for a bit; but then came Postcards for a Young Man, and that was great, and Futurology is pretty good too. I don’t suppose they’ll ever bother the top of the singles chart again, but I’m glad they haven’t packed it in yet, and doubly glad they didn’t follow through with quitting after Generation Terrorists.

Britney Spears, “Born to Make You Happy”, 29 January 2000

When I binged on Britney’s albums last time she appeared on Popular, I agreed with Tom Ewing’s assessment that they got steadily better up to Blackout, which also meant that working your way back they got steadily worse. ...Baby One More Time didn’t hold much interest for me past the title track. This song did stand out, though, from its surrounding album tracks—the other singles mentioned previously—with a less saccharine production than “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart”, in particular. It still has some surface features that would have put me off at the time, but I don’t mind them so much now, and the melody and performance are memorable.

I can’t help comparing and contrasting the implications of the title with a male-sung parallel. The rest of the lyrics are standard “I’m sorry you’re gone, wish you were back” fare. There’s a hopeful note in the second verse, though: “I know I’ve been a fool since you’ve been gone / I’d better give it up and carry on / ... / living in a dream of you and me / Is not the way my life should be”. She’ll get over it. 6.

Oasis, “Go Let It Out”, 19 February 2000

Be Here Now had broken any compulsion I’d felt to treat a new Oasis album as an event, so I was slow to pick up Standing on the Shoulder of Giants—I bought it second-hand, a year after it was released. I haven’t listened to it in years, but thought of it as an album that started well but tailed off, much as others have said. Even that may have been generous, though. Listening to “Go Let It Out” again now, it has the same problems as the singles from Be Here Now: it’s too long, there’s too much in the mix, and I’m finding Liam’s flat delivery increasingly hard to take. The mellotron is a saving grace, and I like the “hurgh!”s, but they’re not enough. With a livelier vocal and a minute shaved off the running time, this could have been a 6 or 7, but I don’t think I can stretch past 5.

It’s worth mentioning the implications of the misquotation in the album title. The references I’ve seen online suggest it was because Noel Gallagher was drunk when he copied it down in the pub, and woke up to realise he’d left off the plural, ha ha, let’s leave it that way. It’s a pun, innit. But did he really want to imply that the band were standing on the shoulder of—next to, in the shadow of—giants, rather than on their shoulders, reaching even higher than those giants had? His previous form suggests he was aiming for the latter, but if so, he ended up with the biggest Freudian slip of an album title ever. He seemed to get a bit more perspective on it over time.

All Saints, “Pure Shores”, 26 February 2000

I talked in earlier Popular threads about Madagascar, but it wasn’t the only far-flung country I wound up in that year. Having racked up three long-haul flights from 1997 to 2000, J. and I had accrued so many frequent flier points that we were able, with the aid of a frequent-flyer points “sale” at KLM, to convert them into two free flights from Australia to southeast Asia. We’d never been to Thailand, so we went there, starting our trip with a week in the south, where beach-side hotels were offering knock-down deals in the wake of the post-1997 crash of the baht. Tropical beaches, gilded temples, red and green curries, a decent line in pop: what’s not to like?

It was there that I first saw the movie this song soundtracked, The Beach, in a beach bar near Ko Phi Phi, where it was filmed. In November 2000 it was playing everywhere there. The movie did a good job of capturing the mood and feel of the place, and of that odd sensation of being a young Westerner in an idyllic location so new to you, so culturally different from home, yet which only existed to cater to foreigners like you. I mean here the tourist towns on the coast, rather than the towns you encountered only a few miles inland; the bars and hotels along the Ao Nang beachfront were only there because of us, like the ones on Phi Phi itself. My memory of the movie is of its darkness, and of DiCaprio’s character’s disorientation, rather than the lush tropical landscapes.

Our time in Ao Nang was relaxing and enjoyable, all banana pancakes, rides on elephants and longboats out to Phi Phi, and with less interest and incident than the second half of the trip, when we made our way by train to the north and Bangkok. Those memories are also now intertwined with TV images of what happened in the area four years later, when Ko Phi Phi and Ao Nang were both hit by the Boxing Day tsunami. I can’t be sure whether some of the video footage that played endlessly on the news at the time was recorded at Ao Nang itself, but it plays that way in my head. The hotel we stayed in wouldn’t have survived, but I imagine was quickly rebuilt.

All of which makes “Pure Shores” an odd, discomfiting listen now. Its Orbit underpinnings evoke the warm, relaxing feeling of a beach-side tourist playground; but visiting the rest of Thailand that year wiped away any thought of the country as a beach-side tourist playground, and the playground itself was wiped out in 2004. “Pure Shores” sounds in 2015 like a once-loved household object, a souvenir on a shelf, dragged out of its original context by the waves, battered by the ocean, and washed up on another shore. I can still see the comforting details of the object itself, but can’t ignore what happened to it. 7.

5 May 2015 · Music