20 YEARS AGO: The Best Of November 1998 PLAYLIST + ROUND-UP

Listen to a selection of the best tracks from November 1998.

Every month I revisit the music that we were listening to 20 years ago, and compile them into a YouTube playlist for your viewing and listening pleasure. Ideal for nostalgic journeys and reliving your youth, or maybe you're discovering these tracks for the first time.

You can stream the playlist in full below, and read about each individual track further down the page. If you enjoy any of the songs featured here, we encourage you to support the artists by purchasing their music from your local record shop, or through online retailers.

The November 1998 edition features music from Lo Fidelity Allstars, Astrid, Paul Weller, The Clint Boon Experience, Air, Mercury Rev, Beastie Boys, Bis, Freestylers, Stereophonics, Puressence, The Divine Comedy, Astral, Super Furry Animals, Manic Street Preachers, Ash, Eels, Sonique, Elliot Smith, Beck, The Offspring, Faithless, Thievery Corporation, BT, and Glamma Kid.

Paul Weller - Brand New Start
This wonderful single by Paul Weller was released on 2 November 1998, reaching number 16 in the UK single charts. A gorgeous acoustic number that charms with its introspection yet uplifts with its melody and Weller's magnificent vocal. The song was recorded for the 1998 Greatest hits collection 'Modern Classics', and received criticism from members of the press who at that point regularly dismissed the songwriting legend's music as "dadrock". Dadrock or not, it's a stunning track.

In case you didn't know, Weller recently released his excellent new 'True Meanings' album, which reached number 2 in the UK charts. A highly recommended record.

Mercury Rev - Goddess On A Hiway
Released in November 1998, reaching number 51 in the UK single charts. One of the glowing highlights from their hugely acclaimed 'Deserter's Songs' album, the astounding 'Goddess On A Hiway' was Mercury Rev at the very height of their songwriting powers, a striking magical beauty. It was re-released the following year, reaching number 26.

Glamma Kid - Fashion '98
This David Bowie-sampling slice of ragga hip hop reached number 49 in the UK single charts. Some would call this sacrilege, but as a Bowie fan I think this is a rather fun little novelty, although its production is weak and totally lacking the raw clout of the original. Far from being precious over his past, Bowie always had faith in the possibilities of taking bits of old stuff and constructing them into something new, which is probably why he allowed London-born Glamma Kid to repurpose his 1980 classic. Four other tracks from his album 'Kidology' were Top 20 hits the following year in 1999. To date, it is still his only official studio album, but he has released a number of singles since, including this year's 'Weight Lift'.

Beck - Tropicalia/Black Balloon
20 years ago this week, the monolithic Beck released his third studio album Mutations. From it came this excellent track, which delivers some strange, infectious Samba stoner crossover. This and the other tracks from Mutations represent a significant departure from the hip hop, lo-fi sounds of it's predecessor 'Odelay'. Read more about the album and listen to it in full HERE.

"I've always loved a lot of different exotic music," Beck commented. "I've been listening to Brazilian music since I was a kid, but I haven't really felt it was something that would come naturally until the last few years. I think for something like 'Tropicalia' I needed to go to places where that music existed in order to get to the point where I could do it myself. I wrote it in the back of the bus on tour, and then later I put lyrics to it. A lot of times I write the melody and the chords of the songs sometimes years before I ever get around it writing lyrics, so it just sits there incubating."

The song was released as a single the following month on 8 December 1998, reaching number 39 in the UK single charts. The CD contains the interesting analogue lo fi flavours of B side 'Black Balloon', which was exclusive to this single release.

This instrumental oddity comes from the B side of the 'Tropicalia' CD single.

Bis - Eurodisco
Released 20 years ago, reaching number 37 in the UK single charts. A supercharged helping of fun indie techno pop. The song was the first track to be released from the second Bis LP 'Social Dancing'. After three albums, the Scottish band broke up in 2003, but re-formed briefly for some gigs in 2007. In 2009 they re-formed again this time with a bass player and a drummer, and released a new album in 2014. Recent news was that they are currently working on their fifth album which was due for release in 2018.

Freestylers - Warning (ft. Navigator)
Released 20 years ago in November 1998, reaching number 68 in the UK single charts, breakbeat and dancehall vibes race through this fired up offering from the Freestylers. The outfit are based around DJs and producers Matt Cantor and Aston Harvey who have been making music together since 1993. Since the release of their fifth album 'The Coming Storm' in 2013, the group have now been releasing their new material on Instant Vibes label, partially owned by Krafty Kuts. 

Taken from their 1998 debut 'We Rock Hard', this track samples Constant Deviants's 'Competition Catch Speed Knots', the 1974 track 'Nautilus' by Bob James, and Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five's 'Flash It to the Beat'.

Air - All I Need
Released as a single 20 years ago in November 1998, reaching number 29 in the UK charts. This blissful downbeat beauty was taken from French duo Air's highly acclaimed 1998 album 'Moon Safari'. The track was written by Air (Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel) along with the American singer Beth Hirsch, who provided the wondrous vocals as well as the lyrics. Their most recent album was 2014's soundtrack for 'Music for Museum'.

Stereophonics - The Bartender And The Thief
This indie guitar hit by Welsh rockers Stereophonics, was released on 9 November 1998. It was the first single taken from their second album Performance and Cocktails, which came out in 1999. The song reached number three on the UK Singles Chart.

BT - Godspeed
Reaching number 54 in the UK singles chart. Godspeed was taken from BT's third album, Movement In Still Life. The American DJ and producer (real name Brian Transeau) has so far released a total of nine albums, with an extensive catalogue of singles, the most recent one being this year's 'The Noetic'.

Puressence - All I Want
Released in November 1998, reaching number 39 in the UK singles chart. Powerful, epic emotional indie rock was something that renowned Manchester combo Puressence did very well. Along with their previous singles, the stunning 'This Feeling' and the glorious 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore', this track was taken from their second album 'Only Forever'. They formed in the early 90s after the band met each other on a bus travelling to The Stone Roses' Spike Island gig. After six LPs, they broke up in 2013. 

The Divine Comedy - The Certainty Of Chance
Released 20 years ago, reaching number 49 in the UK singles charts. Led by Neil Hannon, Irish band The Divine Comedy have released some stunning tracks. This may be the best of them all, although there are many other contenders for that position. A beautiful, stately treasure of a song that demonstrates Hannon's very admirable songwriting skills, 'The Certainty Of Chance' can be found on their sixth album Fin de Siècle. All songs on the record were arranged and conducted by Joby Talbot.

Lo Fidelity Allstars - Battleflag
This hard punching single from the Lo Fidelity Allstars reached number 36 in the UK singles charts. Signed to Skint Records, the group were a lot more than just 'big beat'. They were hotly tipped for big things in 1998, and excitement was brewing around their dark, eclectic brew of disco-punk. 

That year, they released their superb and underrated debut album 'How To Operate With A Blown Mind', a genre-fusing masterpiece that has become a cult classic. With a sound that fused hip hop, soul, alt-rock, techno, funk and house music, their sample-heavy electronic constructions were dubbed "skunk rock" by the members of the band, originally formed in Leeds before relocating to London and then moving to big beat capital Brighton. 

'Battleflag' began life as a remix of a song by American outfit Pigeonhed, which turned out so well that it developed into one of the key tracks on '...Blown Mind'. A chunky slab of hip hop funk with fierce, foul-mouthed rap lines, superb use of analogue synths and hard crushing beats, the track is another fine example of the Lo Fidelity Allstars knack for invigorating, raw edged grooves. The Albino Priest (aka Matt Ward) explained "The Pigeonhed remix was the first remix we ever did and we wanted to make it a good one. When we started we tried to keep some of the original music but none of it apart from the vocals fitted with the ideas we had... We only found out recently that there was a Prince lyric included in the Pigeonhed vocals and we got fucked over and delayed by legal red tape. We ended up deciding to re-record the whole track without the offending lyric.”

The re-recorded version of the track and its B sides turned out to be last recordings to feature vocalist and punk poet The Wrekked Train (aka Dave Randall), who quit the band due to alleged disagreements over musical direction. Keyboardist Sheriff Jon Stone (real name Matt Harvey) also departed from the group, who would revert to a tidier, somewhat less edgy sound for their future releases. 

'Battleflag' didn't do as well in the charts as it deserved to here in the UK, but it was a major hit on American alternative rock radio, reaching number 6 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. In 1999 they were the best-selling British band in America, shifting over 400,000 albums.

They returned in 2000 with the 'Ghostmutt' EP, followed by the more commercial-sounding 2002 album 'Don't Be Afraid Of Love'. After a change of record label, they were back in 2009, releasing their third LP 'Northern Stomp'. There hasn't been any new material since 2015's 'Fire Reigns' single and the 2016 track 'Darkness Rolling'. Nothing much has been heard of The Wrekked Train, apart from an appearance on 'The Snow Falls' from The Baldwin Brothers' 2006 album 'The Return of the Golden Rhodes', and a vocal contribution to 'Rest Easy' from Half's 2016 debut 'Here Lies'. Founder member Phil Ward also releases music as Lord Warddd, as well as occasionally playing DJ sets under the Lo Fidelity Allstars name. The group's drummer Johnny Machin sadly passed away earlier this year.

Astrid - Distance
This lively, infectious, bittersweet indie pop gem was released exactly 20 years ago on 16 November 1998. Taken from Scottish combo Astrid's 'Hi Fi Lo Fi' EP, the song became a favourite of mine after it was played a few times on legendary Radio 1 show The Evening Session. Two decades on and it still remains one of my favourite singles of the era, and is a track that I have been pushing an recommending to people ever since. 

With a sound recalling the jangly guitar pop of Teenage Fanclub, the 60's flavours of The Byrds, and the melodic alt rock sounds of bands like Sugar, the brilliant Astrid were formed in Glasgow during the mid 90s. Willie CampbellCharlie Clark and bassist Gareth Russell had all moved there from the Isle Of Lewis. They met drummer Gary Thom in 1997 and were soon discovered by Scottish indie heroes Belle And Sebastian, who invited them on tour as support act. They signed to the independent label Fantastic Plastic Records before releasing their debut EP 'No Reason' in early 1998. I spoke to Charlie Clark, who remembers the band's early days. "We recorded 'No Reason' with Duncan Cameron at Riverside studios in Glasgow. It did really well on radio and got some national play, which ended up making the gigs a little bit bigger. There was an EP that Duncan had recorded by Teenage Fanclub called 'Teenage Fanclub Have Lost It', which was a favourite of ours. So it was a big deal to us to record our first single with Duncan." Their building success coincided with alternative music legend Edwyn Collins entering the Astrid story. Charlie explains "The manager of our label was on some London radio show where he met Edwyn. He had sent Edwyn the demos and that's pretty much the whole thing came about with that one. We went straight into record 'Distance'. For me those were the best memories of Astrid."

One night in 1998 I was listening to The Evening Session, when my ears were alerted to a perfect slice of indie pop entitled 'Distance'. Using only a handful of very basic chords and a lot of heart, they had somehow crafted a beautifully simplistic mini masterpiece that was impossible not to fall in love with.

It was the lead track on the 'Hi Fi Lo Fi' EP, which was followed by 1999's 'It's True' and the debut album 'Strange Weather Lately', which were also recorded with Collins as producer. The former Orange Juice frontman also played Hammond organ on 'Distance'. The album received positive reviews and sold well in the UK and in Europe. But the group never really broke through to the next level. They came close with the 2000 single 'Modes Of Transport', which ended up on Radio 1's daytime playlist, with Simon Mayo making it his single of the week. The second album 'Play Dead' would follow in 2001, with Thom now replaced by Neil Payne. Around the same time, with Astrid now one of the brightest stars of the Scottish indie, all four of the band were "absorbed" into supergroup The Reindeer Section, who also included members of Snow Patrol, Belle And Sebastian, Arab Strap, Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub and others. After two Reindeer Section albums, Astrid recorded their third LP 'One In Four', released in 2004 at a time when the focus of both mainstream and independent music had shifted elsewhere. It was a darker, more diverse record which was funded by the money made from The Reindeer Section. Although, Clark referred to 'One In Four' as his favourite Astrid LP in 2013, he also admitted that by the mid 2000's, interest in the group had waned. "I honestly think by that time nobody cared about the band anymore," says Charlie "and I can only speak for myself, but I was fucking mental with drink and drugs back then. Doing way too much of everything!"

When Snow Patrol's fortunes changed with 'Final Straw''s commercial success, Astrid were invited along as a support act. But the band had no money, and were travelling to gigs in a Ford Focus. Charlie remembers it as a bleak period: "It was unsaid, but I think we realized that we were flogging a dead horse, and our friendships were pretty fractured. It was actually really depressing". They toured Spain and Japan to support the album but after Campbell quit, the remainder of the band soon decided to call it a day.

While Neil Payne joined Texas, and Gareth Russell went on to be a member of Idlewild, Campbell continued with the bands Our Small Capital and The Open Day Rotation, before launching a solo career. As well as forming Broken Arrow with vocalist Brandi Emma, Clark released his own solo material, which includes the wonderful 'Feel Something' EP from 2013. Fittingly it was released on AED Records, which is of course run by Edwyn Collins.  

Clark and Cambell still kept in touch over the years. "Willie Campbell and I have been joined at the hip since we were 10 years old, so we're in touch all the time. I was Willie's best man at his wedding too. It was weird for a while after Astrid broke up, but then it was back to normal life. I feel like we talked it all out over the years... I had such a blast playing with all the guys in Astrid, even through times when we all wanted to kill each other. But they are all such talented people, I would never rule out playing with any of them again. Willie and I talk about doing something together every two years or so but it is yet to happen but as I've learned through all of this, no need to rush it!"

Five years after that previous interview quote, and Astrid are back. After Willie and Charlie reunited to write new songs together, they decided to put together a new Astrid line-up in 2016 for a series of gigs. Having received a warm welcome back, the band began recording 'Fall, Stand, Dance', the first new Astrid album in 14 years. Coming full circle, 20 years after 'Distance', and Astrid are teaming up with Edwyn Collins again to release 'Fall, Stand, Dance' on his AED label. The album was recorded in Los Angeles, California where Clark now resides, produced by Eric McCann and mixed by long time Astrid collaborator Tony Doogan.

"Willie and I both feel that there was a gap after Play Dead and One In Four." says Charlie.  "In many ways 'Fall Stand Dance' feels more like an Astrid album and more in line with 'Strange Weather Lately'. It's just been amazing to get to play together again and the live shows have been brilliant. We've put a great band together. We're going to be touring the UK in February and March to promote the single Poison Reaction, and the album will drop anytime in April/May after that."

Until then, Astrid will be playing a Christmas show at An Lanntair in Stornoway on Dec 22nd with guests Edwyn Collins and Paul Wilson from Snow Patrol. 

Faithless - Take the Long Way Home
This track from dance music legends Faithless was released as a single 20 years ago in November 1998. The song reached number 15 in the UK charts and was taken from the group's second album Sunday 8PM. 

Thievery Corporation - Lebanese Blonde
Released as a single in November 1998, reaching number 96 in the UK charts. A blissful chill-out classic which takes it's name from a type of hashish, 'Lebanese Blonde' was released in the USA the previous year in 1997, and ended up featuring on the American duo's 2000 album 'The Mirror Conspiracy'. Thievery Corporation's most recent LP 'Treasures From The Temple' was released earlier this year in 2018.

Super Furry Animals - Changed The Way You Kissed Me (Out Spaced hidden track)
This strange instrumental from Welsh sound scientists Super Furry Animals was featured as a hidden track in the pre-gap of their 1998 compilation 'Out Spaced'. The album collected together various B sides and non-album tracks, and was released 20 years ago in November 1998. For years, the song was known simply as "Out Spaced" or "Spaced Out" by most fans, until a recent YouTube upload of the song lists it as "Changed The Way You Kiss Me".

First editions of the album came in rubber case shaped like a breast. According to Gruff Rhys the band "had to painfully omit some songs to compile Out Spaced as an album in its own right". 

The Offspring - Pay The Man
Exactly 20 years ago this week, The Offspring released their fifth studio album 'Americana' in the UK. Remembered most for its novelty hits 'Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)' and 'Why Don't You Get A Job', the LP also features a number of genuinely brilliant punk rock tracks. 

A personal favourite is the epic hard rocking closer 'Pay The Man'. It's actually a very enjoyable album, with some more fun and diverse tracks to break up the supercharged punk that makes up most of the record. Read more about the album and listen to it HERE.

The band's most recent album was 2012's 'Days Go By'. The Offspring have been busy recording their tenth LP, with guitarist Noodles revealing "We have a whole record or more worth of stuff here, I think we're looking at making two records out of it... coming out with a pretty straightforward punk and rock record that sounds like us, and then maybe saving some of the crazier stuff for another record." After announcing an album will be released in 2019, he also admitted "We don't have a record deal right now and we're trying to work something out. We don't know what we're going to do with that."

Astral - Come And Go
One of the greatest lost indie classics of the late 90s. This elegant, soaring guitar track evokes sunsets and birds in flight over the seas, with its expansive atmosphere and weeping guitar hook. It was Astral's debut single, released on Curveball Records at some point in late 1998, and played by Steve Lamacq on legendary Radio 1 indie show The Evening Session. After hearing it, I was pleased to find a copy of it in HMV and it became one of my favourite tracks of the era. I bought the follow up single 'Future Times', which was equally as blissful, butafter a self-titled mini album, the band disappeared. The song was recorded at Riverside Studios, Glasgow and produced by Duncan Cameron, who also worked with Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits and Astrid. 

The band were made up of vocalist John Neary, guitarists James McNeil and Robert McMahon, bassist Mark Falconer and drummer David Adams. Years passed before I heard anything regarding what happened to them, until a few years ago when I posted an article on this same track and was surprised to recieve a comment from David Adams: "I was the drummer and the band split in around 1999. I am still in touch with the singer, John Neary, who is still performing in a band called The Last National Band. We all met up around Christmas time in 2012 and went in the studio to play some of the old tunes. Happy memories. Dave."

Manic Street Preachers - The Everlasting
This glacial epic by the Manic Street Preachers was released as a single on 30 November 1998, reaching number 11 in the UK charts. It was the second single to be taken from their fifth studio album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours', a much-anticipated record at the time, which went on to become their biggest seller. 'The Everlasting' is one of those incredible opening tracks, a spacious, cinematic epic radiating with the saddest, resigned beauty. 

The album went straight to number 1 in the UK on the week of its release, and went on to sell 5 million copies. It's title is a quote by Welsh Labour politician Aneurin Bevan, and its cover photograph was taken on Black Rock Sands near Porthmadog, Wales.

20 years on, and This Is My Truth stands tall as one of the band's finest works. Read a full review of it HERE. The album is being reissued next month in December as a 3CD deluxe edition, featuring exclusive demos and remastered B sides. The band will be playing the album in full next year in 2019, when they tour various intimate venues throughout the UK.

Ash - Wild Surf
Released in November 1998, reaching number 31 in the UK singles chart. Melodic, summery and lively, yet sad and resigned, the bittersweet 'Wild Surf' was one of the highlights from the second Ash album 'Nu-Clear Sounds'. Frontman Tim Wheeler explained: "I was reading Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road' while we were on the road and it really inspired this song. It's about living life, "burning like roman candles across the night". It means be positive and live your life well. Relax. The sound of it is sort of Nirvana meets The Beach Boys".

The band were reportedly unhappy with their label Infectious Records, whose unwillingness to promote it extensively contributed towards its lower-than-expected chart placing.

The Clint Boon Experience - White No Sugar
This groovy, organ-fuelled single by The Clint Boon Experience was released 20 years ago back in November 1998, reaching number 78 in the UK charts. As well as being an effortlessly cool, highly infectious track, it also taught me some clever anagrams. The band was formed by Inspiral Carpets keyboard icon Clint Boon after they originally broke up in the mid 90s. Am I the only one who actually loves this song more than any track by his more famous band?

The group released two albums, both featuring vocals from Alfie Boe, who would go on to become a hugely successful opera star. Another vocalist who would guest on the band's live cover of The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog', was none other than the late, great Mark E. Smith. Since the reformation of the Inspirals, nothing more has been heard from the Clint Boon Experience, and Boon can now be found hosting the drivetime slot on XS Manchester.

Lo Fidelity Allstars - Pony Pressure
A feast of analogue keys, vintage drum machines and strange, hallucinogenic flavours, 'Pony Pressure' was included as an extra track on the 'Battleflag' single. The lead track and this B side turned out to be last recordings to feature vocalist and punk poet The Wrekked Train (aka Dave Randall), who quit the band due to alleged disagreements over musical direction. Keyboardist Sheriff Jon Stone (real name Matt Harvey) also departed from the group, who would revert to a tidier, somewhat less edgy sound for their future releases. 

Sonique - It Feels So Good
This classic dance hit originally reached number 24 in the UK charts, before being re-released a couple of years later and becoming a number 1 single. It went on to become the third-biggest-selling single of 2000 in Britain.

After releasing debut single 'Let Me Hold You' way back in 1985, and contributing vocals to tracks by S'Express in the early 90s, Sonique (real name Sonia Clarke) soon turned to DJ-ing. 'It Feels So Good' was featured on the album 'Hear My Cry'. Following the 2011 album 'Sweet Vibrations', Sonique has continued to play live and release singles. Below is a video of the single, as well as a live rendition of the track performed in Bath a few years ago.

Elliot Smith - Waltz #2 (XO)
This splendid, bittersweet indie classic by Elliot Smith was released 20 years ago in November 1998, reaching number 52 in the UK singles charts. It was the first single from his fourth studio album XO. Smith died tragically at the age of 34. At the time of his death, Smith was working on his sixth studio album, From a Basement on the Hill, which was posthumously completed and released in 2004.

Eels - Cancer For The Cure
Released as a single 20 years ago, reaching number 60 in the UK charts. A belter from the second Eels album, Electro Shock Blues. Mark Everett (aka E) wrote the bleak and brilliant LP following his sister's suicide and his mother's battle with terminal lung cancer. Many of the record's songs deal with his response to their passing and coming to terms with suddenly becoming the only living member of the Everett family (until the birth of his son Archie a few years ago).

The record's many highlights include the laugh out loud black humour of 'Cancer For The Cure' ("grandpa's happy watching video porn, with the closed caption on and father knows best... about suicide and smack"), which matches ominous bass and dusty breakbeats to filthy guitar and scratchy samples to produce one of Everett's dirtiest, catchiest moments.

Manic Street Preachers - Black Holes For The Young
An excellent B side, released 20 years ago today on 30 November 1998. The unsettling, dramatic 'Black Holes For The Young' featured as an extra track on the Cd single of 'The Everlasting'. The Manic Street Preachers and pop glamourpuss Sophie Ellis-Bextor seem like an unlikely combination. Yet it works brilliantly here. “That was fun to do" said Sophie, "Quite a lot of Manic Street Preachers fans were annoyed I was on it but I was happy. They have very loyal, protective fans so they don’t really want to hear other people getting involved with their family. I understand and respect that. I’ve never performed it live, but it was my first ever guest vocal and it was a lovely compliment to be involved with a band like that.” The song was recorded while Bextor was the vocalist in late 90s indie band Theaudience.

With heavy use of organ, and a darkly contagious chorus, the song addresses class issues and urban/rural conflict, as well as the recurring Manics topic of the vacuousness of London culture. 'Black Holes For The Young' will be included with all the other 'This Is My Truth...' era B sides on the deluxe 20th anniversary edition of the album, released next month in December.


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