Old Skool nostalgia

Why buy a compilation of 1990s dance tracks? If you liked the music, you'd have it already.

Fran O'Leary

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Topics Politics

We expect to be blessed with offerings like Destiny’s Child’s Eight Days of Christmas and Mr Hanky’s Christmas Classics at this time of year, and we’re used to artists like Barbara Streisand releasing albums of Christmas Memories.

But this Christmas, a few too many stockings will be stuffed with albums that reawaken a different kind of memory.

2001 is the year that early 1990s dance music came back to life in the shape of compilation albums like Back to the Old Skool, Hardcore…U Know the Score, Old Skool Euphoria – perfect presents for that twenty- or thirtysomething friend who’s settled down but still thinks about the ‘old days’.

The first time I got to listen to one of these albums was in a taxi at 3am, where we drunkenly flicked between tracks and swapped stories about our teenage years. The taxi driver thought the album was great, but ‘couldn’t bear to listen to one of those songs all the way through’. And this, I’m convinced, will be experience of most people who end up owning one of these compilations.

Tracks like ‘Move any Mountain’ by the Shamen, the ‘Theme’ from S Express and Moby’s unashamedly ecstatic piano mix of ‘Feeling So Real’ were truly painful back in the early 1990s, theme tunes to bad nights out at bland provincial night clubs – and they haven’t improved with age.

‘Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)’ by Rozalla and Papua New Guinea’s ‘Future Sound of London’ were in a different league, earning a massive following and keeping people dancing till dawn.

But even though some of the tunes on these albums are passable I doubt people buy them because they rate the music. After all, if you loved ‘Set Ya Free’ by N-Trance you would have rushed to Our Price as soon as it was released. And if you liked your tracks a little bit more underground you would have recorded a dodgy rave tape called ‘Original Hardcore’ from one of your mates.

These new compilations really appeal to people who never passionately loved the music at the time, but who quite like being reminded of the wild wasted nights of their youth. Like the taxi driver, they will flick from track to track for a bit, savour some memories, and then get bored.

But why not spend your £15 on something more worthwhile – like going clubbing again? Dance music and the club scene have come on leaps and bounds since the early 1990s. You no longer have to queue to get into a warehouse or wander around a field to hear underground music – and a few semi-plush clubs like the Cross and the Scala in London champion newer music.

The sheer number of clubs to go to means there’s almost no excuse – and wasting your money on an album full of music that you don’t really like is no excuse at all.

Read on:

Why I don’t Love the 1980s, by Brendan O’Neill
Acquaintances rediscovered, by Neil Davenport

Dancing your worries away?, by Brendan O’Neill

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