The year of the big squelch: The Independent year

Pop

MOMENTS OF the year? There were, to be brutally honest, few notable moments at all in a British pop year dredging the depths of a post-Britpop slump, seemingly bereft of creative momentum at all save for one or two embers of inspiration.

On the performing front, the highlight was probably Corporal Robbie Williams' rallying of the troops in that First World War theme-park known as the Glastonbury Festival of Love, Peace and Mud.

As usual, the best British records came from the crowded intersection of rock and dance, with Fatboy Slim leading the assault with his remixes of Cornershop's "Brimful Of Asha" and Wildchild's "Renegade Master", followed by the knockout punch of "The Rockafella Skank", surely the single of the year.

In another damning indictment of British pop's backward nature, there was more decent French pop than British in 1998, thanks to the likes of Stardust, Bob Sinclar, Lo'Jo and Air. One glimmer of hope was provided by Gomez's winning of the Mercury Music Prize, a reflection of the band's imaginative, eclectic approach and a promising indication of a shift back towards American influences after years of Britpop navel-gazing.

This shift was entirely appropriate, given that 1998 was the year American pop finally dragged itself out of its own protracted slump, by rediscovering the power of its old roots music. American artists from Beck to the Beastie Boys, Lambchop to Sparklehorse, all issued records imbued with a restless pioneer spirit, while Mercury Rev produced the album of the year in Deserter's Songs, a haunting, uplifting work that contained a good half- dozen or so of the year's great pop moments.

Apart from that, 1998 was notable mainly for the scum-line of flakiness and criminality settling around much of the music industry. George Michael was arrested in Beverly Hills, while back home Ian Brown and Mark Morrison - surely the stupidest men in pop - both found themselves languishing at Her Majesty's pleasure for ego-related obnoxiousness.

Still, at least they managed to get themselves arrested, something few other British acts managed in the sorriest year for pop since Waterman first met Stock and Aitken.

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