It was 1999, or really early 2000, and I was 8. I remember because I left the mainland for the first time in that year and went as far as the exotic and far flung Isle of Wight. I was incredibly excited, I was going to a foreign land, it didn’t matter to me that they spoke the same language, had the same language, the same parliament, currency and queen and were the same country as us. For all intents and purposes, looking back, I was more or less going to a British resort town but I was 8 and I didn’t care.
The ferry ride there left at 5am, and in order to get to Southampton in time we needed to wake up at 2am. This, again, was the source of quite some excitement for me; I had never been up that early, or that late, whichever you prefer. The car ride there passed without much incident and most of it has passed from my memory, but at around about 4:30am after two hours of not being able to sleep a song came on that cemented that moment in my memory for ever. It was Porcelain by Moby. Listening to it now immediately calls to mind that three minute period in 1999, when I was sitting in the back of my dad’s car as we pulled into Southampton in the dead of night. The view from the window was something I had never seen before, perfect and serene silence. Nothing was moving aside from us, no one was on the streets and the only lights were the orange ones lining the streets. We could have been the only people alive in the city and I remember thinking, even then at that young age, that the song fitted in perfectly with the situation. If ever there was a song to soundtrack driving through a strange city at night, it’s Porcelain. I mean its so alien, even now when I listen to it I can’t help but marvel at its bizarre, glacial beauty.
That other singles from that album were the soundtrack to that holiday, Natural Blues and Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad in particular. I had heard them before the holiday, but they implanted themselves in my memory during it and they each have specific memories tied up with them. Natural Blues evokes the road we drove down to get to the beach we went to on the second day, when the waves were massive, powerful enough to snap the cord of my dinghy, and the sun beat down with enough intensity to make the sand uncomfortably hot. The second song reminds me of just generally being in a car on that holiday, of driving around looking for a town we wanted to visit but never found.
I revisited the album after a few years and found that it wasn’t just youthful nostalgia that had made me fond of its songs, they are generally great and I actually knew more of them than I had previously thought (notably Bodyrock, Machete and Find My Baby). This, however, is only part of the album’s appeal to me. It generally reminds me of being young, that is to say younger, and of summer holidays with the family, of the whole of the millennial period. Listening to them makes me happy, which isn’t to say I was overly happy back then, but isn’t that what nostalgia is all about?