1997 was the year I first got a modem and discovered the Internet, a move that ended up providing me with a career but started with a £10/month Demon account and a 19.2kbps (it was supposed to be 28.8kbps but I think it was a bit fucked and it never once connected at that speed) modem.

Mike Judge's King of the Hill started, there were some strange lights in the sky, a load of idiots killed themselves, the first burials at space took place, Tony Blair, WinNuke, Harry Potter, Steve Jobs returned to Apple, South Park premiered, there was a car crash in Paris, Cassini-Huygens was launched and Kyoto was signed.

The final toll was paid by (among, as always, etc etc) Biggie, Terry Nation, Allen Ginsberg, Jeff Buckley, Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Gianni Versace, William S. Burroughs, Jeanne Calment (the oldest person who ever lived), Princess Diana, Georg Solti, Mother Teresa, The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Roy Lichtenstein, John Denver, Stephane Grappelli and Big Daddy.

Musically it was… really not great. Not great at all.


Not really.


Still… there were a couple of shiny-ish flecks in the swathes of aural dung…

Honourable mentions

Ben Folds Five - Whatever and Ever Amen

I only got into Ben Folds Five through a friend, and only then into a few choice tracks. Turns out most of them are on this album, and on listening back to it again, it's cracking. Top track: "The Battle of Who Could Care Less"

Mansun - Attack of the Grey Lantern

Can't remember where I heard of Mansun, but once I did I grabbed this album (their debut) and really dug it. Weird UK alt-rock with a really immersive feel. Top track: "Wide Open Space"

Primus - The Brown Album

Primus. If you don't know, then I really can't tell you. I wouldn't recommend this as your first Primus album either, if you're a virgin. But if you know them and love them then you should get this. Mind you, you probably already have it. I'll stop now. Top track: "Shake Hands With Beef"

The Prodigy - Fat of the Land

As has been intimated previously, I've never been much of a dance head. But throughout the late 90s The Prodge were ubiquitous and the very block-rockingest of their beats are all right here (and yes, I'm fully aware that's a Chemical Brothers, not Prodigy reference, thanks). Still bitch-up-smackingly good, if I may. Top track: "Breathe"

Radiohead - OK Computer

Yeeeeeah. So. About that. Post The Bends, I fell out of love with Radiohead. In truth, I'm still in two minds about this album. One thing you can't deny is its impact on the music of the time - if The Prodigy were everywhere in the late 90s, then Radiohead were even everywherer. I will say I've gradually warmed to it over the last 18 years. Top track: "Paranoid Android"

And the winner is…

Dream Theater - Falling Into Infinity

Dream Theater - Falling Into Infinity

Yep, I'm the one who likes it.

I gather that the DT faithful see this as the album where they sold out and tried to sound more commercial.

Well, fuck 'em.

Faithful Dream Theater fans are the kind of people who think Jordan Rudess was a good thing to happen to the band, so they can fuck off. I lamented the departure of Kevin Moore like anyone else, but I thought Derek Sherinian was a splendid replacement, bringing a bluesier edge to the band's sound and dare I say it, some soul - something the more clinical musicians in the band (i.e. the rest of them) are often sorely lacking.

I'm fully willing to go on the record saying that this is the last DT album that I properly enjoyed. Since then (and don't fucking start with any of that Scenes From a Memory bullshit, either) every single one of their albums has been around 70 mins of miscellaneous prog beige. You could start it at any point in the record, play it for a while, then turn it off. It just depends how much you want.

"How much Dream Theater do you want today, Gladys?"

"Oh, just cut us about 40 minutes off the end will you Alf, I'm not that hungry today."

I mean yes, it's all incredibly executed and very clever, but I just find it all just so so soulless.

Not so, Falling Into Infinity. I can actually sing you lines from several of the songs without having to look at the lyrics! I can recall more than four of the song titles without looking at the CD cover! This was truly the last time I could claim that, and I really tried with the later bollocks, I honestly did.

This all sounds awfully apologetic - it shouldn't. FII is a really good album - and remember it's only the third full-length album they released (in the LaBrie era, let's pretend the Dominici stuff didn't happen, it's best for everyone), and it felt to me like a proper natural progression from Awake and the intervening (but patchily produced) EP A Change of Seasons.

It's great. Bung it on and stop being a gimp. Or don't. The choice is almost literally yours.

Top tracks: "Lines in the Sand", "New Millennium", "Trial of Tears"

Turkey of the Year

Mötley Crüe - Generation Swine

Oh good lord, no. If you read the wiki page for this album it's easy to see why it's so bad… but that doesn't make it any better. Gah.