by Herbert Wright
photos: Karena Bernard
Herb: center, with friends

ock'n'roll has been a renewable resource for over 40 years but let's face it in 98 it began to look like a fossil fuel. The audience has just gone elsewhere eg to a Sony Playstation, a Dreamworks film or an e-dealer. Bands who stick with the old formulas are not where it's at. There's bugger all new rock'n'roll in the UK charts, which are an open secret big fix for whatever teen phenomenon or movie theme we're being marketed. There's not an indie club left that hasn't succumbed to Big Beat.

Hang about; what about (Mercury-prize-winning) Gomez or (name-to-drop) The Beta Band? Lovely stuff but being laid back and recycling some stoned vibe is not being original.

Okay, the rock'n'roll band has been officially pronounced dead before. In the 80s house-garage won the war for the world's ear, but guitars bass and drums returned for a decade's reprise of "indie" and grunge and Britpop etc. Now we're approaching Y2K the traditional 'band' again faces tough competition in the media overload.

Bands who stick with the old formulas are not where it's at. There's bugger all new rock'n'roll in the UK charts, which are an open secret big fix for whatever teen phenomenon or movie theme we're being marketed. There's not an indie club left that hasn't succumbed to Big Beat.

The good news is that pop and rock'n'roll aren't the same thing and there's bags of good pop around, and who cares if it's rock'n'roll? Here's my personal top 10 for 98, not all bands, and bearing in mind club reaction.

1. Fatboy Slim-Praise You
Actually this single didn't get released till 4 January 99, but it's been on the album You've Come A Long Way, Baby and it stormed the clubs at Xmas like Hurricane Mitch. Fatboy Slim aka Norman Cook, ex of the Housemartins, Beats International and in the late 90s reincarnated as the Mix/Remixmeister, Big Beat Boss and General Cool Legend. His biggest single this year Rockerfeller Skank probably best represents his manic mixing, knicking of urban street culture etc but I prefer this frankly amazing rollicking piano-banger of an anthem.

2. Ash- Jesus Says
orthern Ireland's Ash have grown up and aquired a cool female guitarist called Charlotte. From possibly the only consistantly great UK rock'n'roll album of the year Nu Clear Sounds, which has a range from punk-thrash to soul-stretching acoustic beauty, this killer cut is at the hard and fast end.

3. Ian Brown- Can't See Me
Ex-Roses voiceman Brown looks like an arsehole after his antics allegedly attacking an airline stewardess, and the media backlash here has already extended to his music. But that can't stop 97's album
Unfinished Monkey Business being a weird and beautiful groove, and this 98 floor-filling single it's epitomy.

4. Garbage- Special
Uncontested techno-goth crossover dancefloor queen, Shirley Manson fronts Butch Vig's band who've had an album-load of hits from Version 2.0. This salute to Chrissie Hynde is as good as it gets, which is unfeasibly good.

5. Natalie Imbruglia- Torn
Ever since John & Paul, you gotta write your own stuff to be cred. That rule's been buggered this year by people like Robbie Williams, who has loads of indie cred. Natalie Imbroogliewooglie, as the press call her, is gorgeous, so is her voice and this storming song. Okay it does sound like a sessionmen studio job, it's all rather smooth, but hell our ears deserve a bit of soft pampering now and then.

P.S. Whoops...due to a defective brain I'd forgotton that Natalie Imbruglia is
Australian and this is a list of UK stuff. Sorry Natalie! Sorry Oz! Sorry everyone!

6. John Spencer Blues Explosion- Magical Colors
There's a lot of blues and Beastie sounds to this cult 3-piece band but this track is a winner that's more jazzy than anything, slinky and groovy, and a bit of a mesmeric drug on the dancefloor.

7. Spiritualized- Come Together
This band have been the darlings of the highbrow reviewers for their album Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, which unlike almost all the proggy experimental bollocks foisted on us this year, was actually rather good. This single off it- recorded at Abbey Road, funny that- is heavy and bluesey and anthemic in a dark sort of way.

8. Sing-Sing- Feels Like Summer
This is Emma of Lush's new band, their debut release on Fierce Panda. It's gorgeous, a touch of seductive chic with a disarmingly charming female vocal, and it feels like summer.

9. Manics- If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
The big single off these Welsh veterans Tell Me Your Truth I'll Tell You Mine. They've sort of ascended into a mystical state of grace in the 'indie' firmament, and this grand and heartswelling epic indeed sounds like it's from an altogether higher plane.

Early Manics with Richie Edwards

10. Finlay Quaye- Your Love Gets Sweeter
This is an acoustic reggae number from one of the big new names of the year, hailed as the "new Taj Mahal". A tune to put a spring in your step and make you smile!

Since the mid 90s we've not been so xenophobic about what's considered cool, so worth mentioning that non-UK names like madcap Cornelius, powerful Dandy Warhols, inventive Mercury Rev, the erstwhile Beck and the Cardigans, as well as Elliot Smith and others have been personal ball-exploding faves last year as well.

Here's a few new names to drop for big pre-mellenial hopes. JD&Bob is an intense acoustic folky chantreuse backed with a powerful band using drum loops and exotic percussion- breathtaking. Sublime female-fronted punk-thrashers-with-depth Cay have created a storm and are getting the magic Music Biz carpet ride already. So are Gay Dad, some ex-journos going all glitterpop. A Touch Of Class are a couple of peroxide rock chicks who write songs that come from Heaven. Ooberman allegedly have the magic pop tune touch of the 60s and I can't wait to hear more.

I've only heard one tune from brainscramblers Shinri & The Mediator and God Is Gay has sitars ushering in one of the most tribal, compulsive ranting grooves I've heard.

I'll bet at least two of these names are big by the time we reach the Ooze (that's the
decade where the years begin with 2 followed by 2 zeros by the way).

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