The past ten years or so have seen astronomical changes take place in the society and culture of Great Britain and for those of us that don't believe in the astrology of these changes; that just because Jupiter moved into Neptune's Uranus all this occurred, we look for our answers elsewhere... And where are they better documented than in those statements produced by the very people who have seen it all from the street-level perspective? Here therefore is the definitive list of the five albums that haven't shaped our times, but documented them so perfectly that you needn't go to a government report or the newspaper to find out what it's all about, look no further than these...

5. Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)

1997 was a year of change. Politically there was a landslide shift the likes of which this country had never seen before, the stale Conservative government was cut down and New Labour moved in with its promises of a bright and brilliant future. Things were moving about dramatically and Radiohead were witness to it all.

Always hailed as the defining album of this tumultuous year, 'OK Computer' is what is remembered as the musical chronicle of '97. But it's as much removed from the events of the year as it is involved in them. It was written about the phenomenon of missing what is streaming passed your eyes outside of car-windows, being oblivious and indifferent to it all and coming to this realisation when something serious hits you in the face, such as having an airbag save your life.

But, whilst being quite passive, many of the lyrics found on this album are immensely relatable to that year of life as the end of the millennium approached. Take 'Paranoid Android' for example; 'ambition makes you look very ugly, kicking squealing Gucci little piggy,' sums up all those people that were going for the IT/numbers career lifestyle popular with 'the yuppies networking' at the time. 'Electioneering' is a brilliant example of the desperate vote-collecting going on around the election campaign and it portended to the future of the party that would come to power and their New slant on left-wing politics, 'when I go forwards you go backwards somewhere we will meet.'
But it was in the strange and discordant, electronically orated 'Fitter Happier' that the life and times of 1997 were truly and definitively summed up: 'regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week)/ getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries' and 'an empowered and informed member of society (pragmatism not idealism)/tyres that grip in the wet (shot of baby strapped in back seat)' say it all really, don't they?

4. Pulp – Different Class (1996)

Let's all meet up in the year 2000 and discuss the year 1996 and the one album that stood out from the crowd and said 'this is what it's all about.' Jarvis Cocker has always had a way with words, transforming the most trivial and commonplace of modern doings into a celestial and comically genius poetry.

How many people were left stranded and addled at a rave or free party at their height, thinking of the phone call home: "Mother, I can never come home again cos I seem to have left an important part of my brain somewhere, somewhere in a field in Hampshire."? But that's okay cos we're all sorted out for E's and wizz. And Cocker and Pulp were one of the first acts in the 90s to transform the ineloquence and prosaic of real-life into a functioning and poetic song that wasn't merely derogatory tripe, a gap that hadn't really been filled (with the exception of Blur) since The Smiths dissimulated at the end of the 80s.

There is one song on the seminal album that boosts its rating exponentially and you're already well aware of what it is, aren't you? Yep, 'Common People,' beat that magnum opus for a song that tells it like it is I ask of you... 'Rent a flat above a shop, cut your hair and get a job. Smoke some fags and play some pool, pretend you never went to school.' – And that's the way people act and it was certainly the most apparent in and around the year of which the song and album were released. There was a desire to just be one of the common people, there'd been a social shift right through all aspects of culture and we were now at a point where to excel was embarrassing and to be an average Joe was much more credible. From kids at school calling each other 'beaners' if they were studious, to people in pubs downplaying their social statuses, it was the dawning of an era of 'Common People' and Pulp hit on the head right at the right moment.

3. The Streets – Original Pirate Material (2002)

Through the words of Ulysses James Joyce portrayed a map of Dublin circa 1904, through the words of Original Pirate Material Mike Skinner gives us London circa 2002; 'As London Bridge burns down, Brixton's burning up/My underground train runs from Mile End to Ealing, from Brixton to Boundsgreen, my spitting's dirty, my beats are clean...'

This album revolutionised the way in which songs are written in so many ways, the whole thing, from artwork to the feel of the piano loops emanates a sense of a city, it encompasses the bright lights of city nights and evokes their image in your mind with every listen. The lyrics tell a complete story of modern life in a modern London, it's all there. It was some highbrow publication such as The Telegraph that likened Mike Skinner to Dostoyevsky in the way in which he has transmitted the drab realities of the streets onto the page in a most invigorating and grabbing eloquence.

He is the street-level bard, the songs found on this seminal debut album come at you in a rush of words and sounds that produce a complete collage of lifestyles lived by so many in the new millennial city. 'Same Old Thing' brilliantly demonstrates the repetitive circles of a life spent in the haze of the night and hanging daze of the day, round and round. 'Geezers Need Excitement' provides a clear ontology of the reasons behind the binge and fight culture of nights on the tiles, 'Geezers need excitement, if their lives don't provide them this they incite violence, common sense, simple common sense' and 'Too Much Brandy' is an awesome comical commentary on how you got to where you can't remember you got to the night before, 'Calvin, Schmalvin, I'm well within my limit, oh hang on a minute, these mushrooms just kicked in, think I might be finished.'

It is in the indelible 'The Irony Of It All' that the mix and collision of street culture is summed up so truthfully. A conceptual lyrical disagreement between two fictional characters, Terry representing the lager louts and Tim the student stoners; in their discourse both arguments can be quite understood, and in not resolving their differences the reasons for these realities so apparent on the streets today is clearly presented. 'My name's Tim and I'm a criminal, in the eyes of society I need to be in jail for the choice of herbs I inhale, this ain't no wholesale operation, just a few eighths and some Playstation's my vocation' vs. 'Going on like a right geez, he's a twat, shouldn't have looked at me like that, anyway I'm an upstanding citizen, if a war came along I'd be on the front line with em, can't stand crime either, them hooligans on heroin.' Well, it's all there, isn't it?

2. Blur – The Great Escape (1995)

Parklife brought Blur to new heights and it established the band as an exponent of modern life recitation; their teasing out what's going on in culture and presenting it to the public in a form of musical representation, with the likes of cockney geezer Phil Daniels helping out. On The Great Escape they went one step further and really summed up 95/96 in style. The go-getter greedy lifestyles and yuppie, middle-class attitudes of that mid-decade era are represented quite fantastically in the poetics of the music and lyrical mastery of Albarn's words.

The singles just kept flowing and its success was absolutely unmatched for a while, it was in fact a huge part of the cultural phenomenon taking place at the time, the great war between said band and their counterparts Oasis, no apparent rivalry had been quite so broadcast since the days of The Beatles and The Stones, it was even making headline news. But the difference between the indelibly essential Oasis and Blur was the fact that Blur's 'Great Escape' provided the ultimate critique of everything going on at that time, even that very battle between the two giants of Britpop, a witty reference is made to it in the ubiquitous 'Country House,' 'He's got morning glory, life's a different story, everything going jackanory, in touch with his own mortality.'

From the opening line of 'Stereotypes' you know you're on to a winning catalogue of stanzas and diatribes directed at exactly what it is that creates the very stereotypes being sung about. In the age of the lottery winner and a smart night out provided by Burtons, Blur were there running behind it all and pointing out exactly what was going on. 'It Could Be You' makes an example of the lottery-crazed nation of that year, 'Be the man on the beach with the world at his feet, yes, it could be you.' 'Topman' perfectly creates quips of the brand-name phenomenon that had hit the country, 'He's never cheap and cheerful, he's Hugo and he's Boss, riding through the desert on a Camel Light.' 'Ernold Same' featuring Ken Livingstone, alike to the aforementioned 'Same Old Thing,' brilliantly describes the ever-decreasing circles of a modern lifestyle, 'Ernold Same caught the same train at the same station, sat in the same seat with the same nasty stain.' There's a whole plethora of great definitive lines in fact on this album, 'They stumbled into their lives, in a vague way became man and wife,' 'Dan went to his local burger bar, I want a McNormal and chips or I'll blow you to bits... But it's not his fault, Dan watches TV.' Yes, the definitely definitive 'Great Escape' is just brimming with witty and reliable remarks about the mid-90s, there's your history lesson!

1. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006)

Where are we? I'll tell you, in a year called 2006, welcome... What's it like? I'll tell you, let me just slip the Arctic Monkey's debut album Whatever people Say I Am, That's What I'm Not into the CD player and press play, Ok... listening?

Well, they're huge already; you can't really escape this fine young Sheffield band, and why have they had the biggest selling debut album of all time and all the rest of it? Because The Strokes asked 'is this it?' and the Arctics answered 'no, this is!' And from the artwork to 'The View From The Afternoon' to 'A Certain Romance,' Great Britain '06 can be found here, right here, right now.

'I want to see all of the things that we've already seen, I want to see you take the jackpot out the fruit machine , and put it all back in, you've got to understand that you can never beat the bandit no,' how many times have we all seen that dans a pub? Loads... 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' – a marvellous number 1 that so eloquently conveys what the kids of today are thinking in this pub-then-club-then-day-then-pub-then-club culture... It carries on, 'And yeah, I'd love to tell you all my problem, you're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham, so get off the bandwagon, and put down the handbook' Alex Turner sings in 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco,' summarising the indie fascination with the übercool from across the sea. Oh, there's great coinages in them all, 'Dancing Shoes' has some humdingers, as do the rest of them from thereon in.

'I'm struggling, I can't see through your fake tan,' the phrasing and delivery of these lyrics are so masterfully crafted and timed, it's quite unparalleled. The classic pieces-de-resistance include the whole of 'Riot Van,' 'Have you been drinking son, you don't look old enough to me? I'm sorry officer, is there a certain age you're supposed to be?' The incredible 'Mardy Bum', really expounding on those relationships we all know of pretty well, dictated by strops and menial trivialities, 'it was up, up and away, but it's right hard to remember that on a day like today when you're all argumentative and you've got the face on,' and it's all brought back home with 'A Certain Romance' finishing it off, 'they might wear classic Reeboks , or knackered Converse , or tracky bottoms tucked in socks , but all of that's what the point is not, the point's that there ain't no romance around there.' How true, how true. This album's full to the top with gems of modern eloquence that really hit the spot...
Open your curtains and look outside when those 41 minutes of playing time are up, and say that you don't see it with a straight face, I dare ya...

So, there you have it, if you're thinking of writing the domestic history book of Great Britain from 1995 to 2006 it is highly recommended that you hit these five albums for cross-referencing. A big thank you needs to be said to those pioneering bands who deign to mix the beauty of artistic triumph with the wit of journalistic observation and combine the two to create a chronicle of our time...

by Daniel Bristow