The ambassadors for this year’s UK National Album Day have been announced. And with the big event this year celebrating albums of the 90s, organisers have selected a group who can provide a unique insight into that time, with three being popular during that decade and one being born as it all unfolded. They are Gabrielle, Tricky, Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt and Declan McKenna.
Gabrielle had hits with songs like ‘Dreams’ back in the early 90s, while Tricky was at the forefront of the then emerging trip hop scene alongside the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead. Bettencourt, meanwhile, sits in two camps, having had a massively successful career with Extreme and now performing as part of Rihanna’s live band. And Declan McKenna was born in 1998, but is aware that there was music in the 90s, despite being too young to remember any of it.
"I am THRILLED to be an ambassador for National Album Day”, says Gabrielle. “I released my album ‘Rise’ in the 90s and it is the one I am most proud of. I've recently started collecting albums on vinyl myself and really enjoy that they encourage you to listen to a body of work in its entirety”.
Yeah, vinyl’s nice, and it’s also nice to be so comfortable with the feeling that you never bettered the very first thing you did.
Bettencourt is a bit more consistent in his view of his work with Extreme, saying: "I never wanted to put any music out for the sake of putting music out. When you listen to an Extreme album, you're getting something that we're really proud of”.
“Albums are a labour of love”, he continues. “They are a snapshot of a time in the artist's life. A story needing to be told. When I think of my favourite artists, I think of the records that I wore out. The experience of getting lost in the music and taking a journey with the band”.
“I'm excited to be an official ambassador for National Album Day because that is what rock is about”, he then says. Rock is about being an official ambassador for National Album Day? No, silly. It’s about “the body of work. The connection with the listener. Experimenting and taking chances. Expressing yourself and connecting with the listener”.
“So”, he concludes, “put on your favourite record, or put on something new, and take that journey with the artist. The way it was meant to be”.
Yes, do that, but do make sure you wait until National Album Day to do it. Or at least until we’ve got through all these quotes, because all four ambassadors have something to say about the album format and we’re all going to sit here until they’ve all had their turn.
"I'm very happy to be an ambassador for National Album Day as the album holds such an important place in an artist's career”, says Tricky.
“In today's world where so much is designed around short-form or bite-size content the album format is an important antidote. It provides the artist with the opportunity to work without compromise and create something truly enduring”.
Of course, these artists are all looking back with misty-eyed nostalgia about a time when the album ruled and everyone was swimming in money.
Times have changed now. It’s all playlists and micro-payments these days. We need a fresh perspective. And I guess that’s why McKenna is here, to give the view of someone who was born in 1998 and missed the album’s heyday.
So, here we go, get ready for some truth bombs about the album’s archaic and redundant place in today's culture. Strap the fuck in.
"Albums are still the best way for fans to connect with the true intention of art, and to enjoy and understand the vision of an artist”, he says. “They create true artists and in turn create true fans”.
Oh, for fuck’s sake McKenna. Tell you what, why don’t you just give us a potted history of the creative process in the 90s and how it influenced the course of music up to the present day?
“The 90s was a time of huge change in the world of music”, he proclaims. “The recording process was evolving to something closer to the accessibility that exists today, and so it has a legacy containing many records that are completely timeless, and many others that feel at the least somewhat stuck in their time”.
“This is what happens”, he reckons, “when artists push things forward and why the 90s has so many niches that belong to it. It's a beautifully varied era of music”.
Yeah, sure. Actually, that was a very good summary of the decade. But I’m old, so I have to pretend that all young people are idiots. Shut up, McKenna. Get a real job.
Anyway, all this talk of albums and the 90s has probably got you excited to find out what it’s all about for yourselves. Well, don’t all rush off just yet, you’ll have to wait a little bit longer. This year’s National Album Day is set for 13 Sep. On that day you’ll be able to listen to as many 90s albums as you like, so just hold on until then.