Self-indulgent domestic update: Well I have a new home at long last even if the computer is set up amongst a sea of rubbish and this room doesn't have any connectivity yet. [This is a pain the younger generation will never know, moving home and having to wait weeks to resume internet connectivity. I think this piece was saved onto a floppy disc and emailed from a Tottenham internet cafe]. This is at last the last week I have to make excuses for any omissions or lack of depth. Normality returns at long last.
1 BEAUTIFUL DAY (U2)
OK so where would you go from here if you were U2? Your 1990s experimental phase reached its zenith in 1997 with the album Pop which although it played host to five Top 20 hits and a Number One single to boot in the shape of Discotheque, commercially it was a slight underachiever and its sales did not even approach the glories of past masterpieces such as The Joshua Tree. Well as it turns out Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry are no mugs and for their first brand new material for over three years have turned the clock back to the mid-80s, back to the style of music that gave them their greatest success... a sweet, slightly melancholy rock song that allows Bono's voice to soar to the heavens in just the right places. Melodically it is actually a much better record than some of their more recent efforts but at the same time runs the risk of sounding a little dull next to the innovation and experimentation of The Fly or Discotheque. At the end of the day it is still a brand new U2 record and as such was assured of a chart sensation. Indeed it storms into the listings, outselling a superstar duet to debut at the top of the chart, giving the group their fourth UK Number One single in their 20th year of chart activity. With this single they also join Madonna, Kylie and Queen on the (for now) short list of acts to have had Number One hits in the 80s, 90s and 2000s.
2 KIDS (Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue)
Should we be shocked that the much-heralded superstar pairing of Robbie and Kylie was denied a place at the top? Perhaps not so much given that Kids rather unusually features on the current albums of each of the two acts and hence has been available to two groups of fans (Robbie's and Kylie's) for several weeks. That was bound to hurt the impact the single made, but even so it has at least charged into the Top 3 and was denied a place at the top by a single that was, arguably, even bigger. For Robbie this is the second single from Sing When You're Winning and is the followup to August's chart-topping Rock DJ. It is now his seventh Top 3 hit since he exited the ranks of Take That. As far as Kylie is concerned this is a somewhat rapid followup to On A Night Like This which was only released five weeks ago and indeed still commands a place in the Top 40 this week. This is the fourth time she has charted as one half of a duet and you cannot help but marvel at the huge variety of artists she has appeared in tandem with. First came her TV co-star Jason Donovan in 1988 on Especially For You (a Number One). Three years later she teamed up with little-known soul singer Steve Washington for If You Were With Me Now (Number 4) whilst her most sublime moment to date came in 1995 when she appeared alongside Nick Cave on Where The Wild Roses Grow - a Number 11 hit.
8 DOOMS NIGHT (Azzido Da Bass)
For those of you that have not yet heard this single, I would invite you to imagine Mr Oizo's Flat Beat after it had rolled around in the mud for a few hours and followed that up with a pleasant stroll through the local swamp. Can a piece of music be "dirty"? Well if it can this fits the bill perfectly, a dark sounding techno track that burps and squelches for four minutes in a way that really shouldn't be musical but somehow is. The single has actually been floating around clubland for most of this year and has in fact charted twice before. Back in March it popped up at Number 58 before peaking at Number 46 in June. The single has found a new lease of life thanks to some deft remix work by Timo Maas, finally propelling the track into the Top 10 to the horror of speaker manufacturers everywhere.
10 WHO THE HELL ARE YOU (Madison Avenue)
Needless to say this is Madison Avenue's followup to Don't Call Me Baby, the re-released track that shot to the top of the chart in May. This new single is effectively Baby.. Part II but is no less impressive for it and if anything Cheyne Coates manages to inject the song with an even larger dose of attitude. They could have been forgiven for expecting a slightly larger hit on the back of their summertime smash, but for now this second successive Top 10 single will do nicely thanks.
12 I WISH (R Kelly)
A new look for R Kelly (he has hair!) and new single to boot, his first single since Only The Loot Can Make Me Happy which was a Number 24 hit back in April. This is now his 14th Top 20 single.
16 THE LONELY ONE (Alice Deejay)
If we are to play the chart fortunes of cheesy pop acts on Positiva records off against one another then it appears that for the moment Alice Deejay have the edge. Whilst the Vengaboys bombed somewhat last week with The Computer Song, Alice Deejay keep their end up nicely with this Number 16 hit although this too is something of a comedown, breaking the string of Top 10 hits with which they opened their career. Strangely enough this single carries with it a little more in the way of credibility than their past releases as the producers of the track are none other than Sven Maes and Johan Gielen, better known to the world as Airscape and who also were the men responsible for Des Mitchell's Welcome To The Dance in January this year.
18 ANGEL (Lionel Richie)
The Motown legend was last seen in the UK charts in June 1998 with the Number 26 single Closest Thing To Heaven. I complained on dotmusic at the time that the man who can easily be regarded as a songwriting genius for all the classic works he has produced in his lifetime had turned into a little more than a production line for incredibly tired, dull ballads - pretty much like his last hit. I also pointed out that the last time he had a Top 10 hit in this country was in 1992 with My Destiny, a single which turned him into a club star and wondered if this again was the way forward. Five months later Cher made a pop-dance record in the shape of Believe and hasn't looked back since. Believe it or not there is a connection here as this new single from the veteran star is not only the Lionel-with-a-beat track that was bound to give him a sizeable hit again but in fact comes from the same producers [specifically Brian Rawlings, the man who has been known to work with Xenomania acts without actually being part of Xenomania]. Maybe the single needed a little bit more than the slow-burn method of promotion that was used on it, but it does at least give Lionel Richie his first Top 20 hit single since Don't Wanna Lose You made Number 17 in April 1996 and if one includes his work with The Commodores, it means his hitmaking career now spans an impressive 26 years.
20 FOLLOW ME (Atomic Kitten)
If you ask me nicely sometime I might tell you the story about the time I was face to face with Kerry Katona but was only able to stand open-mouthed as she suggested some obscene uses for the office stapler. For now you will just have to be content with learning that this is the fourth Atomic Kitten single (and finally their long-awaited album comes out next week) but one which is set to become their first to miss the Top 10, Follow Me landing a full 10 places lower than their last single I Want Your Love. Andy McCluskey remains a genius. [But the relative failure of this single was enough to have some at the label wondering if it was time to cut their losses after flinging their debut album out. It was last chance saloon time].
25 MUSCLE MUSEUM (Muse)
Well if Radiohead are doing their best to be awkward and not releasing any singles from Kid A we will have to do with Muse doing their best to sound like Radiohead. This single is actually a re-release of their third single which peaked at Number 42 when first released in December last year. After becoming their third flop single on the trot it now has the honour of becoming their third straight Top 40 hit following on from Sunburn (Number 22 in March) and Unintended which peaked at Number 20 in June.
27 FREEDOM (Erasure)
This is quite a week for comeback singles from veteran chart acts. U2, Lionel Richie and now Erasure, here with their first single release since 1997. Since Vince and Andy first teamed up in 1986 they have carved out an impressive string of hits (15 Top 10 hits including 1 Number One) thanks to their ability to turn out some solidly infectious pop singles, backed up with some incredibly camp and theatrical live performances. Their last album Cowboy only produced two hit singles, In My Arms which made Number 13 and Don't Say Your Love Is Killing Me which peaked at 23 in March 1997, in the process winding up as their smallest hit ever. That last single pretty much summed up their problem, their most recent material seemed to lack a spark, lack that certain magic that made their early work such fun and crucially so enduring. Could it be that a lengthy break to recharge their batteries was what was needed? If it was it didn't work I guess as Freedom performs even more limply, barely scraping a place inside the Top 30 and making you wonder just how many people are left waiting for a brand new Erasure album. That is actually a crying shame, even if the writing had been on the wall for a while.