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POP MUSIC | POP EYE

January 11, 1998|Dave Jennings, from London

RULE BRITANNIA: The year-end album polls of Britain's leading music publications had a very home-team tone, with Radiohead, the Verve and Spiritualized the overwhelming winners--and American artists decidedly out of favor.

The Verve's "Urban Hymns" was No. 1 in weekly Melody Maker's survey of its writers, while Spiritualized's "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" took the top slot in rival New Musical Express. The two weeklies are generally considered the leading voices in new music journalism, but monthlies Vox (covering the general pop world) and Mojo (aimed largely at the older end of the rock demographic) also accorded those two albums among their top five for the year.

Radiohead's "OK Computer" comes out as the overall winner, though, finishing first in both Vox and Mojo and second in both Melody Maker and NME.

Meanwhile, Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind," the consensus winner in most U.S. critics polls so far, was the only American release to make any significant impression on British music writers, taking second in Mojo and 17th in Vox.

Outside of Mojo, which also included Fountains of Wayne's debut at No. 8 and albums by Steve Earle, the Jayhawks and Ron Sexsmith in its top 20, the U.S. presence was limited to the Wu-Tang Clan's "Wu-Tang Forever" (No. 18 in NME and Vox) and NME's Nos. 19 and 20 nods to Yo La Tengo and Gravediggaz, respectively.

The biggest surprises may be the lukewarm applause for the two most-hyped British acts of recent years, with Melody Maker placing Oasis' "Be Here Now" at No. 8 and NME banishing it to No. 25. Prodigy's "The Fat of the Land" failed to make the top 10 of either weekly, with accompanying analysis generally suggesting that it might have done better but for what Mojo called "the unfortunate 'Smack My Bitch Up.' "

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