The 10 best BAGGY albums
17 April 2022, 15:00
The finest albums from the early 90s that can fill an indie club dancefloor, from Happy Mondays to The Charlatans.
Baggy - it was a state of mind. Baggy - it was all about the beats, the groove, the vibe. Baggy - it was about the size of your trousers. For a brief period between 1988 and 1991, the charts were alive with the sound of Funky Drummer samples and blissed-out vocals.
Acid House had calmed down the clubs and indie was the next stop. The number of bands that mixed guitar riffing with dancefloor beats flourished - and while the album wasn't the ideal format for the genre (it's best suited to an extended 12" remix), some acts produced some fine works. Here are ten of the best.
Happy Mondays - Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches
The Mondays had basically invented the whole baggy genre with their 1988 album Bummed, which punctuated their abrasive guitar ditties with some sly beats, but the 1990 follow-up was their commercial peak. It kicks off with Kinky Afro, includes the witchy Loose Fit and the single was the peerless Step On. DJ Paul Oakenfold produced, so you can dance to it for sure.
Inspiral Carpets - Life
Over the course of several EPs, Clint Boon's Inspiral Carpets forged their own peculiar sound: Boon's retro-sounding Farfisa organ, singer Tom Hingley's dramatic vocals and some solid rhythms. Their live show was legendary - all psychedelic lights and projections - and their debut album mixes kitchen sink drama with killer tunes. It may miss off some of their finer early moments such as Joe and Find Out Why, but includes the memorable This Is How It Feels.
The Charlatans - Some Friendly
Tim Burgess and his bandmates have been through so many styles and reinventions, it's charming to think back to when they were essentially The Stone Roses' little brother band. Their 1990 debut made the mistake of leaving off the hit The Only One I Know initially (it was soon added on later editions), but includes the ponderous Then and live favourite Sproston Green.
Northside - Chicken Rhythms
Released at the tail end of Factory Records' reign over Manchester, Northside paled in comparison with the mighty Happy Mondays, but their ramshackle indie is uniquely baggy. Shall We Take A Trip could only have been recorded in the 90s, while Moody Places and My Rising Star have a mystique of their own.
The Farm - Spartacus
Liverpool's Farm joined the baggy wave with their single Stepping Stone, but it was their single Groovy Train that made them household heroes. Debut album Spartacus included the perennial favourite All Together Now, but the follow-up, Love See No Colour, failed to chart. They're still touring, though!
Blur - Leisure
Yes, really! Before they reinvented British music with Parklife, the band formerly known as Seymour brought up the baggy shuffle and embraced some early Pink Floydisms on this decent collection of songs. She's So High is dreamy psych, There's No Other Way was a Funky Drummer-powered classic and Sing is just perfect. But baggy didn't suit Blur and they soon parted ways, leaving this oddity behind.
James - Gold Mother
It may seem a bit unfair to lump James into the baggy bracket, seeing as they've had a long and varied career, but Gold Mother is one of the key works in the genre - and do you remember the t-shirts? Kicking off with the indie club favourite Come Home, the album also includes the classic How Was It For You and the rousing title track. Later editions included the baggy classic Sit Down.
World Of Twist - Quality Street
Not so well remembered as other acts on this list, but their tune The Storm was a banger and was backed with an excellent baggy cover of The Rolling Stones' She's A Rainbow, produced by Martin Hannett of Joy Division and Happy Mondays fame. According to legend, Oasis were nearly called Sons Of The Stage after one of their songs and Saint Etienne namechecked them on their debut album: "To the sound of the World of Twist/You leant over and gave me a kiss."
Flowered Up - A Life With Brian
London's answer to Madchester, Camden's Flowered Up had their own "Bez" in the shape of Barry Mooncult, a dancer who paraded the stage with a massive fake flower on his head. Featuring the hedonistic anthem It's On and the hit Phobia, the band's momentum quickly stalled, but this is a good document of the baggy era. Includes a song called Doris... Is A Little Bit Partial.
The Mock Turtles - Turtle Soup
For a time, Martin Coogan was more famous than his impressionist comedian brother Steve, thanks to their hit Can You Dig It? The baggy shuffle was rather gratuitously grafted onto their finely-hones tunes, but their debut album is worth a listen.