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It was 20 years ago today…

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Perhaps it’s too obvious a statement to start with, but for the next year, it’ll be 20 years since 1997. Twenty years since the ascendence of Tony Blair and New Labour; twenty years since the death of Princess Diana prompted extraordinary national hysteria; and, most pertinently for this project, twenty years since Oasis’ Be Here Now provided an aptly bombastic funeral for Britpop, the last movement in UK music to have genuinely mainstream, headline-grabbing appeal before the pop charts were hijacked by reality TV.

In 1997, Blair was the country’s saviour, the reaction to the death of a princess was seen as appropriate, and Be Here Now was considered the apotheosis of three years of triumphant British songcraft. Two decades offers perspective, though, and so over the next year, I’m aiming to revisit as many significant albums from 1997 as possible, each on the 20th anniversary of its release, both as a form of nostalgia and to see what’s weathered well.

And viewed with twenty years’ distance, 1997 is a rather pleasing splat of variety: quite aside from Oasis’ third-best album, 1997 also saw career highs, exploratory debuts and overwrought messes. There were albums released that remain strangely popular today, others that remain equally strangely ignored, ones that are unfairly mocked now and ones that, on reflection, were rather prescient.

There’s no attempt for this project to be an exhaustive survey – the records covered will be, broadly, within the gamut of anything that readers of Select and listeners to the Evening Session would have reached for as the tribalism of Britpop began to wane and listening habits re-broadened. Nor will it be balanced either – plenty of albums about which I’m rather sentimental will be heard with more sympathy than they perhaps objectively deserve.

Those caveats notwithstanding, though, I hope it will be a welcome opportunity to re-encounter some forgotten favourites, and maybe make some new ones, too. Tomorrow will mark the 20th anniversary of Daft Punk’s debut album, Homework, so I’ll start in earnest then.

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