Afew years ago, Manchester sage Tony Wilson theorised that pop music went in 12-year cycles and pointed to 1977 (punk rock) and 1989 (Manchester) as the last two youth movements of any significance. Even allowing for his ability to spin the story in such a way that would have you believe he single-handedly invented both, some of us in the audience wondered if he had a point. We even held out high hopes for 2001 as a consequence.

Sadly, only the easily deluded and the tone deaf could make any great claims for 2001 as a landmark in the annals of pop music. In 2020, bearded, pensioned-off rock hacks working on Mojo Collections will not be seeking out archive articles on Turin Brakes and Elbow, though the makers of the inevitable I Love 2001 may find great kitsch value in The Strokes, Hear'say, Robbie Williams's karaoke crooning, Nu-metal, and UK Garage. Many of us will sit in our rocking chairs laughing ironically at how we were fooled by any of the aforementioned.

It was a year in which big record companies have spent big money on big bands to try to sell more records in the face of recession and technological advances, which they still find hard to incorporate, let alone embrace. It was the year that started with Popstars and ended with Steps announcing they were splitting. Though Hear'say's Pure and Simple - written by Betty Boo - was pop phenomenon of the year, by comparison Steps and S Club 7 seemed like long-term propositions and it suddenly became okay to admit to liking Kylie.

They were hardly the main offenders - if all of these and the undoubted pop genius of Beyonce Knowles and Destiny's Child have their redeeming features, then it was the procession of dim-witted, low-rent wannabes that followed in their wake that caused most offence. Stand up and leave the room Blue, Atomic Kitten, and anyone that ate from the hands of latter-day svengalis such as Pete Waterman, Simon Cowell, and Louis Walsh.

Away from the glossy world of Saturday morning children's television, it was The Strokes and The White Stripes who made the most impact on the music press and the live circuit. The NME proclaimed the former's

Is This It? the album of the year, yet, to the cynical, the handsome boy

modelling-school looks, the music industry connections, and the catchy, disposable rehashes of Television and the Buzzcocks seemed every bit as manufactured as the Popstars. Though equally backward-looking, Jack and Meg White at least seemed far more in control of the creation and selling of their own image.

It was, perhaps, a measure of the year's lack of classic albums, that all the music magazines chose different year-end favourites. Mojo went for Super Furry Animals' pop-opus Rings Around The World, Uncut for Ryan Adams's Gold, while Daft Punk topped the selections of the esteemed writers on the Rock's Back Pages website. A poll of polls also saw consistently high placings for Spiritualized's Let it Come Down - the year's greatest triumph of packaging over content.

Strangely, and in spite of reviews, which at the time suggested they paled in comparison to their more commercially successful predecessors, both Mercury Rev and Air showed up well for albums that at least showed an inclination not to stand still. In charts dominated by white, guitar-based music, only Missy Elliot's Miss E: So Addictive represented what was, in fact, a relatively good year for r&b and hip-hop acts. Even British hip-hop got in on the act, and it was a pity that Roots Manuva's live shows did not replicate the promise of their Run Come Save Me album.

There was little argument that Missy's Get Ur Freak On was the

single of the year and that Timbaland remained one of the few sonic innovators working in a mainstream arena. It would be a fitting tribute to the late Aaliyah were More Than a Woman to be the first No 1 of 2002.

However, 2001 was also not a good year for established acts - many of them choosing to take time off, release greatest hits albums, or, in the case of Blur's Damon Albarn, successfully reinvent themselves as cartoon characters.

Travis and Stereophonics continued to sell at rates disproportionate to the quality of the work and Radiohead continued to push back boundaries with the apparently desired effect of further decreasing their fanbase. Even so, Amnesiac is a benchmark to which their many clones - most notably Muse and Elbow - should aspire.

Reveal proved that R.E.M. albums are becoming increasingly uneventful, while, in the more wrinkled department, only Dylan and Leonard Cohen came out with credit, though the praise heaped on Love and Theft seemed excessive, given that it failed to reach the heights of 1997's Time Out of Mind.

Nelly Furtado seemed to hit paydirt with her highly accessible mixture of Beck and Alanis, though infectious live show and two great singles apart, it almost made you yearn for the return of Ms Morissette.

Great music was increasingly marginalised or simply neglected. Pulp's Lovelife is their best album, but has sold poorly. Gorky's Zygotic Mynki must wonder what they have to do to sell records after How I Long to Feel That Summer in My Heart also under-performed. Fugazi, Future Pilot AKA, Le Tigre, Lift to Experience, Smog, and His Name is Alive were among those who lacked the marketing budgets to bring due reward for their excellent efforts.

The Avalanches made the best cut-and-paste dance record of the year, while the previously innovative Squarepusher and Aphex Twin seemed to run out of ideas. Royksopp, Zero 7, and Blue States all made excellent albums of laidback beats, which generated little excitement next to the shelves full of Chill Out compilations.

Americana became a new catch-all term/ghetto for some great albums by the likes of Jim White, Lucinda Williams, The Beachwood Sparks, Gillian Welsh, Bonnie Prince Billy, and Red House Painters, but it spoke volumes for the year that many of its best releases were re-issues. Universal's repackaging of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Bob Marley's Exodus deserve special praise, but, while Blondie also came in for the old re-mastering trick, though it sounded like the cds had been cut using an Irn-Bru bottle, the old vinyl versions were immediately called for.

The four-cd set to celebrate 25 years of the Rough Trade Shop was also an essential item, and the likes of Subway Sect, Cabaret Voltaire, Swell Maps, and early Scritti Politti never seemed as relevant as when juxtaposed with Starsailor. Atlantic's Right On series and just about everything on Soul Jazz continued to delight, especially the excellent Philadelphia Roots compilation.

If the past played a big part in 2001, then what of the future? Prepare for Pop Idols replacing Popstars, a barrage of punk-rock nostalgia to go with the golden jubilee and a Manchester revival on the back of the forthcoming 24 Hour Party People movie. A glittering prize awaits anyone with an eye to the future.

top ten albums

1 Mercury Rev - All is Dream (V2)

2 The Strokes - Is This It? (Rough Trade)

3 Spiritualized - Let it Come Down (BMG)

4 Basement Jaxx - Rooty (XL)

5 Elbow - Asleep at the Wheel (V2)

6 Missy 'Misdemeanour' Elliot - Miss E: So Addictive

7 Air - 10000 MHz Legend (Virgin)

8 Bob Dylan - Love and Theft (Columbia)

9 Rufus Wainwright - Poses (Dreamworks)

10 R.E.M. - Reveal (Warner Brothers)

(based on a compilation of charts from NME, Mojo, Q, Uncut & Rock's Back Pages)