Recently, it was the twentieth anniversary of the Blur vs Oasis battle for number one at the grotesque height of Britpop. It was a defining moment in a divisive period of British music which is as maligned as it is celebrated.
Largely born as a reaction to Nirvana sweeping all the plates off the dinner table with one deft movement, the somewhat ridiculously dubbed Britpop movement was characterized by a necessity for British rock/pop/indie to take back a bit of cultural identity (including the flag from the fascists) and sing about British things to British people. It was actually something of a watershed in the music industry, forcing Indie as a genre to cheer up, take a shower and usurp the mainstream. Indie pop has gone on to become a dominant force in the UK music industry, allowing the likes of Coldplay and Mumford and Sons to become global megastars (oh.), but also providing a platform for bands like Arctic Monkeys and the Foals etc (phew). Ok, so much of what went on in Britpop was forgettable and actually quite embarrassing; but there were a few occasions when it really was something special….
Suede at the Brits
The Brit awards, the British Music industry’s annual pat on the back, were nothing short of awful at the turn of the nineties so it was quite a shock to all and sundry when Suede were invited to play – the disquiet amongst the audience is palpable, but the teenagers around the country glued to their TV sets hoping to be drip fed something they could get hold of were finally rewarded. Killer.
This is a Low
Blur’s Parklife album was the real game changer, they’d built on the confidence gained on Modern Life Is Rubbish and had crashed into the top five with the trashy Girls and Boys, but outside of the big hits there was what some consider to be Blur’s most accomplished track – the gorgeous ‘This is a Low”, inspired by a handkerchief showing the shipping lanes around the UK given to him by Alex James, Damon and co. crafted a quite beautiful, extremely British, slice of melancholy. Superb.
While Nirvana were singing about hating themselves and wanting to die, Oasis were uniting the masses in mutual dissatisfaction and lovin it.
No description necessary; genuine classic that helped make Jarvis a national treasure. Still awesome.
Hardly the most original song of the period but the wonderfully angular riff is instantly recognisable and still widely used in TV soundtracks. It stands up as a wonderful pop song and Justine Frischmann’s finest moment, without whom none of this would ever have happened.
Once upon a time Noel Gallagher was the most prolific songwriter in Britain, although he was never shy in recycling an idea or two, he was actually overflowing with top drawer tracks and chucking them out on b-sides when he coulda/shoulda saved them for the third LP. Still, pretty much sums up the times – livin it large like it would never end – money and tunes to burn.
One of the endearing qualities of the Britpop era was the number of strong females involved; while the Spice Girls “Girl Power” brand was running concurrently, Britpop had its own version with Justine, Shirley Manson’s Garbage, Lauren Laverne and Kenickie, Louise Wener’s Sleeper and the Cerys Matthews fronted Catatonia. Cerys’ voice was nothing short of fantastic and her band were responsible for two of the finest pop tunes of the era; the X-files inspired Mulder and Scully and the hook filled ‘Road Rage’.
This is just a glimpse of the occasions when Britpop nailed it; Blur had many a good tune, Oasis’ first album was nothing short of superb and many other bands such as Supergrass, The Bluetones and The Verve had their moments; check out a comprehensive playlist here http://www.deezer.com/playlist/1350918077?utm_source=deezer&utm_content=playlist-1350918077&utm_term=140164493_1440430600&utm_medium=web