Bunch Of Fives: Half | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Half (aka Jonny Gray) is a Gateshead-based artist and producer who creates atmospheric music that spans the genres of ambient, shoegaze, electronica and post-rock. His latest single, Fear of Frittering Out, is a hypnotic, yet soothing electro-instrumental track, textured with some occasional percussion and distant synthy wails. Its pleasant sounds, industrial repetition and retro feel had me reminiscing about educational videos that I would watch as a youngster on a school trip to a nuclear power plant or car factory. The Kieran Mahon Remix that accompanies is a more rhythmic affair with a funky, neo-noir vibe and complements the other track really well. 

Here, Half gives us his top five Top Of The Pops performances from 1991, a pretty decent year for music… 

Being a quadragenarian father of three, my Friday nights are light on thrills these days and one of my weekend TV highlights lately has been the reruns of Top Of The Pops on BBC Four. We’ve now reached 1991 and I can pretty much guarantee I would have seen them at the time as Thursday nights was the night we visited my Gran and ripping the performers on TOTP to shreds was a favourite sport of hers. However, I now have little recollection of any of these shows and it feels like I’m watching them for the first time. You see as a moody 10 going on 11-year-old engulfed in a metal phase, if you weren’t one of the big four thrash bands (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax – mostly the latter) there’s a good chance I wasn’t listening.

With the benefit of glorious hindsight, here are my ‘Bunch of Five’ songs from 1991 on Top of the Pops little Half should have been taking notice of.

3AM Eternal – The KLF

I think I liked ‘Justified and Ancient’ at the time though I wouldn’t have openly admitted that. Back then, I assumed The KLF were a bit of a novelty act and the only other time they really crossed my radar was the Extreme Noise Terror collaboration at the Brits. Over the years, I’ve got more into the mythology of The KLF than the music though it’s great to have some of their long-deleted back catalogue being made available digitally at last. They made a few Top of the Pops appearances that year, but let’s go with the number 1 heavyweight jam ‘3AM Eternal’.

‘Go’ – Moby

Moby’s a bit of a marmite character, isn’t he? You either hate or you really fucking hate him. His music tends to be a bit insipid background fare and that recent article where he describes his daily lockdown routine had me vomming into my kale smoothie. Anyway, this undeniable dance classic gets bonus points for sampling ‘Laura Palmer’s Theme’. During lockdown, I re-binged on Twin Peaks. Not just the show and the film, but the books, podcasts, fan theories, the lot. Best TV show ever in my opinion – until I re-watch The Sopranos again anyway.  

Unfamiliar – Ride

I couldn’t do a piece on 1991, without slipping a bit of shoegaze in there (check out the stuff Sonic Cathedral are doing in 1991– The Year Shoegaze Broke). Excuse the pun, but I’m not overly acquainted with this non-album track from the band widely considered as the best shoegazers who aren’t My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive – neither of whom appeared on TOTP that year (or any year).

Walking Down Madison – Kirsty MacColl

‘Walking Down Madison’, written by Johnny Marr with the singer sadly best remembered as the woman on ‘The Fairytale of New York’ sounds to me like the blueprint for Canadian band Stars – which is fully intended as a compliment. There’s not a chance I would have entertained this back in the day though.

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ quickly became ubiquitous and you couldn’t avoid it even if you were a pre-teen curtain-haired wannabe metaller. It got under my skin and was one of the gateways out of a thrash fug and into more indie rock territory – I still had shit hair mind. Here’s Nirvana not playing their instruments but I’d bet my Gameboy and stash of Pogs that Kurt is definitely singing.

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