Can it really be true that 20 years ago we were introduced to Radiohead‘s weird, sci-fi-inspired OK Computer? Or that two bands introduced to the future of electronic dance music Daft Punk‘s Homework and The Prodigy‘s Fat of the Land? Unbelievably, yes. It is. But that’s no reason not to celebrate some fantastic albums that were released in 1997. Over at Audio Addict, our writers have been reminiscing…
Notorious B.I.G – Life After Death
Released – 25th March 1997
The only way to follow up a successful debut as well received as Ready to Die, The Notorious B.I.G. released a double album. Life After Death captures Biggie’s power, skill and flow in 24 tracks picking up where the debut left off. With the most recognisable songs within the first three tracks ‘Somebody’s Gotta Die’ ‘Kick in the Door’ and ‘Hypnotize’ it’s no wonder that this album captured the minds of so many critics. Being released after Biggie’s unfortunate death this could be the greatest eulogy that has ultimately set the east coast rap scene in stone.
Words by Matt Smith
Radiohead – OK Computer
Released – 21st May 1997
Look – chances are, you already know why this record is great. The mothership of late 90s paranoia and introspection fuelled by the rise of digital technology and New Labour, the essence of Orwell brought to life by one of the greatest rock bands of all time – this is the only album where frequent comparisons to The Dark Side of the Moon feel they’re underselling it. But to really understand why it’s great, you only need to hear the riff from ‘Airbag’, the chorus of ‘Karma Police’, ‘Climbing up the Walls’… start to finish, this is one of the most essential, engrossing, feverishly brilliant pieces of music ever recorded. The best rock album of 1997? It’s probably still the best big rock album since 1975.
Words by Joe Gilbertson
Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
Released – 18th November 1997
A far cry away from posh British Oxford kids, 1997’s other indie great is a guided tour through a grey and desolate world of mega-malls and trailer parks: Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West.
Through its 15 unbelievable, vicious, beautiful jams, singer Isaac Brock’s youthful angst sounds like it’s burning him up – a last-ditch attempt for him to understand the world he grew up in as he watches it morph into something else. This isn’t their most philosophical record, but it’s their most affectingly vulnerable, as Brock finds the best answer he can in the closing line, “God takes care of himself / God takes care of himself, and you of you”.
Words by Joe Gilbertson
Bjork – Homogenic
Released – 22nd September 1997
“I’m no fucking Buddhist, but this is enlightenment” sings Bjork, and it sounds like she’s right, for her at least. On her third album, she exudes pure confidence and power, delivering some of her strongest lyrics and vocals over an icy yet luscious series of soundscapes.
The production remains impressive today, 20 years later: every sound and beat is beautiful, let alone adventurous and sometimes quite abstract. The songs build and shift slowly, with layers floating in and out, each bringing new textures and tones. Bjork remains the LP’s beating heart throughout, another fantastic melody always just around the corner.
Words by Joe Gilbertson
Shania Twain – Come on Over
Released – 4th November 1997
If you say that you don’t like Shania Twain then you’re either: a) lying to yourself and everyone around you or b) no fun at all. Twenty years ago we were blessed with some of the greatest songs to date, and you know exactly which ones, too. ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman!’ and ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ just ooze the type of confidence every woman (and man) should have. Forget what’s expected of you, do what the hell you like and don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve— these are the messages kids these days should be hearing instead of y’know, singing about walking side to side because you got dicked too hard (here’s looking at you, Ariana Grande). Twain is a role model and the queen of cheese and frankly, they just don’t make classics like this anymore. #TwainforPresident2020.
Words by Harriet Stanley
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F# A#
Released – 14th August 1997
“The car is on fire and there’s no driver at the wheel.” These ominous words open up seminal post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s timeless debut album. F♯ A♯ ∞ captured the imagination of seemingly everyone who had the pleasure of listening to it, and the record’s distinguishably apocalyptic tone perfectly complemented the elusive and enigmatic characters cut by the band’s members. Employing a number of breathtaking classically-inspired crescendos, eerie field recordings and downright terrifying ambient passages, the album may not have invented post-rock, but was certainly the catalyst for its boom in the late 90s and early 00s. It’s hard to think of a debut album in history that makes more of a statement than this one.
Words by Lewis Edwards
Stereophonics – Word Gets Around
Released – 25th August 1997
For all of the grandiose experimentation blossoming in rock in 1997, there were also a number of bands bringing rock back to its simple, melodic roots. Enter Stereophonics; the then three-piece emphasised infectious riffing and amusing anecdotes from their Welsh hometown of Cwmaman as lyrical themes to produce debut album Word Gets Around. Its varying emotional depth and Britpop-tinged nostalgia, coupled with frontman Kelly Jones’ superb storytelling skills, saw the band transform into one of the UK’s most commercially successful rock bands, and even in 2017, Word Gets Around stands head and shoulders above anything else the band has written.
Words by Lewis Edwards
Blink-182 – Dude Ranch
Released – 17th June 1997
As pop-punk heavyweights Blink-182’s third full-length album, Dude Ranch is an endearingly juvenile hook-filled masterpiece. The album formed an initial stepping stone into the band’s success, with lead single ‘Dammit’ becoming their first chart hit. As their final independent label released album, it provides the perfect combination of fast-tempo tracks, light-hearted potty humour and dual vocalist trade-offs.
Dude Ranch has truly stood the test of time, whilst not often renowned as one of the California band’s greatest releases, it came at a time when punk was in dire need of a reinvention. Blink-182 provided a refreshing new outlook to their scene, putting the humour back into punk in a manner they continue to do to this day.
Words by Maddy Howell
The Prodigy – The Fat of the Land
Released – 30th June 1997
The Fat of The Land is EDM staples, The Prodigy’s 3rd album and 2 decades down the line since its release is still one of their most iconic releases.
This album takes the best elements from the 90’s acid house era and combines it with euphoric trance and heavy drum and bass alongside a sharp, edgy aesthetic to create an album that appeals to fans of all genres, from metal heads to ravers, young and old. With anthems such as, ‘Firestarter’ which to this day people still listen to and love, The Prodigy created a timeless classic for generations to enjoy across the decades.
Words by Sam Taylor
Spice Girls – Spiceworld
Released – 1st November 1997
20 years ago the Spice Girls dropped their 2nd album Spiceworld. This album is the embodiment of girl power. With a film and all kinds of exciting merchandise to accompany it (remember the lollipops?).
Spiceworld put the Spice Girls on a pedestal for pop girl groups to aspire to decades down the line. With the hits such as ‘Spice Up Your Life’ still being a staple of your local nightclub’s cheese room playlist, this album is still just as spectacular now as it was 20 years ago.
Words by Sam Taylor
Oasis – Be Here Now
Released – 21st August 1997
Oasis‘ third studio album ‘Be Here Now’ turns 20 this year. The band are still as huge in the indie-rock scene as they were in the 90s, with new and upcoming bands taking influence from this album as well as their others. With songs that everyone can sing along to with their arms in the air, such as ‘All Around The World’ and ‘D’You Know What I Mean’; the album’s definitely still as good – if not better, than its release in 1997.
Words by Elisha Cloughton
Deftones – Around the Fur
Released – 27th October 1997
Whilst being one of the more underlooked albums by Deftones, Around the Fur is much more than just a release by the Metal band. Around the Fur signalled the change Deftones made from being a typically angry nu-metal band to the more eclectic, experimental act we know today. Rather than the overtly over the top angst from other peers from in their genre, Deftones displayed how self-aware they were in their own genre and how they’d started to deviate away from the typical conventions. Without Around the Fur, Deftones would never have been in the position to create such highly regarded albums such as Koi No Yokan and White Pony. Around the Fur was just the stepping stone, Deftones and metal needed to progress.
Words by Charlie Hill