Today, I’ll go back 10 years, to 2003, and see what was rocking my ears. To make this more authentic, I’ll only look at albums I knew I owned then, as opposed to picking up later. One of the things that immediately comes to mind was that I listened to all of these albums on CD – either on the player in my room, or the Discman (!) I took with me on my walk to and from school. I could fit that Discman in one blazer pocket, and a couple of CDs in the other. It was a time when I would listen to albums, as there wasn’t a shuffle function, there were no Genius playlists, and I didn’t have a month’s worth of music in a box about the size of a cigar packet in my pocket. A less technologically advanced time, but one where I really listened. Let’s look at the albums:
British indie-pop had a particularly good album that year in the rather underrated Athlete’s Vehicles & Animals. I even saw them perform an in store a couple of years later, for the second album’s first single, ‘Wires’. A chilled out, slightly more sonically interesting Coldplay, or Keane with better chops and denser instrumentation, it’s a shame they never made it as big as I think they ought to have.
Talking of Coldplay, I went straight out and bought Live 2003 – the version with the DVD, too, because I’m a massive Coldplay geek. Being 16, I was an impressionable yoof, and thus thought Chris Martin was the height of pop poetry – ‘Shiver’ still makes me, well, shiver, and ‘The Scientist’ never fails to jerk a tear – but the hidden gems here are worth the listen. A live performance of ‘Everything’s Not Lost’, non-album cuts like ‘See You Soon’ and ‘Moses’, and the sheer fun of watching the documentary and seeing the band do ‘Trouble’, instrumentally, at punk speed, in the soundcheck; the beautiful film of the show in Sydney; and the presage of the joy I would experience at Glastonbury in 2011.
Linkin Park’s Meteora was the rap-metal album du jour at my school – having been an early adopter of Hybrid Theory I couldn’t not get hold of the follow-up. It’s a bit more polished and a little better on the rapping, but looking back now, I shudder at how I took it all at face value. ‘Faint’ still forces a Pavlovian head-bang, but otherwise, it’s an interesting but ultimately shallow piece of over-emoting and too-distorted guitars.
On the other hand, Lomax were a revelation. I went to see them perform before an Immortal Lee County Killers gig at the 100 Club, and they blew me away. I didn’t pick the album up immediately, but got hold of the single ‘Reiterator’ and ‘A Song For Jeff’ – A Symbol Of Modern Living would have to wait until university. Who were Lomax? If you’ve listened to Bloc Party, Florence + The Machine, or Adele, you’ve heard the work of one man, Paul Epworth (hell, if you’ve given Maximo Park, Rihanna, Foster the People or Primal Scream a spin, amongst many) – the singer, guitarist, hellraiser and political animal who made jerky, Gang of Four-inspired punk rock from the London Underground. It was an eye-opening, brain-expanding experience – this was real punk. If you can find it second-hand somewhere (the record label, 93 Records, has gone under, sadly), please buy A Symbol Of Modern Living. You won’t regret it.
Muse were another band who I was, unsurprisingly, dead keen on. Having heard them first on Top of the Pops playing ‘Unintented’, picked up Origin of Symmetry and listened to nothing else for about two months solid, Absolution was most definitely going to happen. I was disappointed, but then, nothing they’ve done has really come up to OoS’s sheer power. Many would disagree, but give me ‘Citizen Erased’ and I’m a happy bunny.
My friend Jenny played me Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief when she got it – I thought it was dull. How silly I was then, and how I atone now for doubting Yorke, Greenwood and co. The other major album of the year, although one I think I didn’t own until a while after, was Elephant by the White Stripes. From the all-conquering single ‘Seven Nation Army’ through Kate Moss pole- and table-dancing in the video for ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’, to the blues crawl of ‘Ball and Biscuit’, it’s a great album; whether I owned it then is another matter, but it’ll make this list regardless. I do know that when I was 16, a friend got me White Blood Cells – but we’ll have to look at 2001 another time.