MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2015
WEEK 46: BRITPOP
When Select magazine published its infamous Brit-centric ‘Yanks Go Home’ issue in March 1993, it was the first volley in what would become the UK’s one sided war with Seattle grunge and the return of American sludge rock. Featuring a suitably effete Brett Anderson in front of a then off limits Union Jack, and championing a laundry list of London based groups ‘truly, madly, deeply in love with the communicative force of brilliant pop’, it was the first national inkling of any new British guitar scene. Initially considered xenophobic even racist, in its luddite dismissal of electronic dance music, by the time Kurt Cobain blew his brains out a year later, the flag waving and chest beating had become a mission statement.
What united the Select groups was a quirky representation of Britishness that hadn’t been heard since the sixties and the more leftfield elements of punk, post punk, two tone and The Smiths. Council flats, bad drugs, awkward sex, greasy spoon cafes, Doc Martins, street markets, darkened arterial roads and the subtle beauty of the shipping forecast; in their artful way Saint Etienne, Suede, Denim, Pulp, The Auteurs, even early Blur, were outsiders tying together an ironic engagement with the surface detail of Britishness and a feeling that British pop should be as important and bold as it had once been.
If all this suggests an exclusive London party being played out in Camden Town, The Good Mixer pub and micro clubs like Blow Up and Smashing then you’d be right, certainly until Oasis became the unruly gatecrashers; the gobshites from Manchester intent on avenging the capitals dominance and arty farty ways. In one foul swoop the Gallagher brothers purged British guitar music of any lingering problem with mega stardom just as a tide of laddism, sparked by new magazine Loaded and egomaniacs like Chris Evans, found a ready soundtrack for its booze, birds and footie aesthetic in Oasis’s celebration all things knuckle dragging.
As far as the media and a transfixed generation of kids were concerned, Britpop’s imperial phase stretched from Blur's Parklife in April 1994 until Oasis's Be Here Now in August 1997. Of course by then the ideological differences between northern, working class, oaf-ism and southern, middle class, nice boy-ism had already precipitated it’s descent into a joyless, drug addled abomination catering to the lowest common denominator. As early as 1995, ruthless ambition was the order of the day as scores of unrelentingly pedestrian groups announced their determination to conquer the world while formers oddball’s like Merseyside psychedelicists The Boo Radleys realigned their sound and idealism to ruthlessly target the charts.
In August 1995 Blur and Oasis went at it in a head to head chart battle that is always remembered as Britpop’s most celebrated episode. As they fought out their ridiculous class war Jarvis Cocker, being both smarter and wiser, chose to say it all on ‘Common People’ with absolutely no room for misinterpretation. It was Britpop’s greatest four minutes by a mile yet within a year Oasis were Britpop, the need for innovation and iconoclasm superseded by a moronic kind of revivalism with Noel Gallagher at its head.
In the wake of Labour’s 1997 election victory it was clear that Britpop’s days were numbered, Be Here Now crystallising a key moment in the progress of British pop. Whereas the most notable British music had long been countercultural, late period Britpop drew all of its energy from being a part of the mainstream, celebrated in the tabloids and drinkies with the government. The result, which still stands two decades on, was that British guitar music lost its excitement, artful defiance and experimentalism, in essence the otherness, that had always characterised its greatest moments.
01 SAINT ETIENNE ‘London Belongs To Me’ (Foxbase Alpha LP October 1991)
02 SUEDE ‘Metal Mickey’ (A Side September 1992)
03 DENIM ‘Middle Of The Road’ (Back In Denim LP November 1992)
04 THE BOO RADLEYS ‘Lazarus’ (Giant Steps LP July 1993)
05 ELASTICA ‘Stutter’ (A Side October 1993)
06 THE AUTEURS ‘Lenny Valentino’ (A Side November 1993)
07 GENE ‘For The Dead’ (A Side April 1994)
08 BLUR ‘This Is A Low’ (Parklife LP April 1994)
09 CATATONIA ‘Hooked’ (A Side June 1994)
10 DODGY ‘Grassman’ (Homegrown LP October 1994)
11 SUPERGRASS ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ (A Side October 1994)
12 SLEEPER ‘Inbetweener’ (A Side January 1995)
13 PULP ‘Common People’ (A Side May 1995)
14 STEPHEN DUFFY ‘Needle Mythology’ (Duffy LP August 1995)
15 ASH ‘Punkboy’ (B Side September 1995)
16 OASIS ‘Champagne Supernova’ ((What’s The Story) Morning Glory LP October 1995)
17 THE BLUETONES ‘Slight Return’ (A Side January 1996)
18 ECHOBELLY ‘Dark Therapy’ (A Side February 1996)
19 THE DIVINE COMEDY ‘Something For The Weekend’ (Casanova LP April 1996)
20 SUPER FURRY ANIMALS ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ (A Side December 1996)
21 BABYBIRD ‘Candy Girl’ (A Side January 1997)
22 THE VERVE ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ (A Side June 1997)