Welcome to Britpop week here at Counterforce!
Originally I approached Lollipop about doing a joint Counterforce After Dark post on our love for 90’s British music, but it turned out we loved Britpop quite a bit. That combined with our (my) ability to talk way too much… Well, it’s a lethal and sexy combination, to be sure…
Britpop (“the scene that celebrates itself“), as it’s commonly known, is simple little genre, referencing the 60s and early 70s British guitar pop and reacting against the growing music trends of the late 80s and early 90s, in particular the American invasion of grunge. The emphasis, refreshingly, was on fun, with a tendency towards catchy hooks and lyrics relevant to the working-class British youth of the time period, much like it’s non-psychedelic 60s ancestors. Something way too easily parodied.
Spewed out of the same homegrown talent factories such as the Swinging London acts and the Madchester scene that manufactured Britpop also came a lot of sub-genres and criticisms, such as rockism (even though it had been around since the early 80s), but you also had a larger culture movement across the pond: Cool Britannia.
Cool Britannia (besides being a Ben & Jerry’s flavor), put simply, was cultural movement, much like an update of the swinging 60’s London, and combining the britpop at the time with a fashion sense and even a lifestyle sense. And of course crystallized by a fresh new feeling of change that was erupting with the rise of Blair’s New Labor party.
Well, that’s enough of a primer to Britpop for now, especially with the whole week ahead of us, don’t you think? Let’s look at some videos and talk about some actual music…
“I Wanna Be Adored” by The Stone Roses.
The Stone Roses, along with the Happy Mondays, were at the forefront of the Madchester scene that preceded and informed the Britpop era and it should also be noted that they were motherfucking awesome. Don’t believe me? I’ll administer them instant hipster cred by sending you to this video of Death Cab For Cutie covering this song back in 2000. Not enough hipster cred for you? Lead singer Ian Brown of the now very defunct band loves Jay-Z! Here’s the official video, which I’d love to show you if it weren’t for it’s embedding being disabled.
“Alright” by Supergrass.
Supergrass hailed from Oxford and this song was released in 1995, two years after their formation, and was used in several TV shows and movies, including Clueless. While I don’t hate this song, I do have a kind of so so relationship with the Supergrass catalogue as a whole, though you could easily call this song the anthem of young ridiculous Britpop at it’s height. So much so that the band retired it from their live perfromances in 1999, because it just no longer applied to their lives at that point, joking that if they did perform it again, they should change it to a minor king and change all the lyrics to the past tense.
“End Of A Century” by Blur.
I really should talk about Oasis vs. Blur here, shouldn’t I? Well, I would (it was musical Ragnarock!), but I’d also much rather pass that off to Lollipop to enjoy (but for good measure, I will link you to a clip of Liam Gallagher calling George Harrison a nipple, a nip-ple). Instead I’ll say that this single, by a band that started as a indie dance answer to the Madchester scene and slowly morphed into retro-modtastic Britpop at it’s finest, is one I enjoy very much even though I enjoy a good number of Blur’s singles (having shared a few before), comes off their 1994 Parklife album. I mention this because I really should’ve used something off their previous album, Modern Life Is Rubbish, but I’m less enamored with it than I with with Parklife and everything after, so… there you go, yeah? A shame though since I feel like Modern Life Is Rubbish is so iconically britpop, but then again, so is there fued with Oasis. Lollipop? :)
For the next band I want to talk about, I think I’ll first just share with you a line from their first major single: “I laughed when Lennon got shot.”
The band is the Manic Street Preachers and it’s become something of a cliche to talk about them. But Marco Sparks eats cliches from breakfast and he’s a fan so suck on it. As with a lot of britpop of this time, and especially the Manics (who, in a response to Cool Britannia were supposed to, along with the Stereophonics, sound the call of Cool Cymru), as they had also been known, it became a question of authenticity. What was real and what was bullshit. The question of rockism again. The Manics thought they were real. They wanted to be loud, nasty punk and still be anthemic and reach everybody. They wanted to put out one album and have it sell 16 million records and then disappear in a fiery explosion. And they got their wish, minus the 16 million records and the explosive send off.
You can’t talk about the Manics without talking about their co-lyricist and rhythm guitarist, Richey James Edwards, who preferred to be called Richey James, or even Richey Manic. Richey had talent as a lyricist and poet, but seemingly none on the guitar, frequently miming the art of playing guitar in concert. In 1991 Richey Manic got into an argument with NME (a publication that must truly love the taste of Damon Albarn’s penis) journalist Steve Lamacq about The Manics’ lack of authenticity and anything passing for real values. So Richey decided that if realness was what he was lacking, then realness is what he could give the world and he proceeded to carve the phrase “4 REAL” into his arm with a razorblade that he just happened to have on him at a gig.
Richey Manic disappeared on February 1, 1995, the day that he and James Dean Bradfield, the band’s lead singer, were supposed to fly to the U.S. for a tour. Richey’s car was found 13 days later, the battery dead and evidence that the car had been lived in, parked in close proximity to the Severn Bridge, just north of Bristol. The Severn was apparently widley known as a nice place to kill yourself in the past so given Richey’s very depressive state at the time (a bit of status quo for him), it was widely believed that he had jumped off the bridge there, though his body was never found. As with all makings of history, the police investigation into his disappearance was shoddy as hell. In the weeks leading up to Richey’s disappearance, he had taken out quite a bit of money from his bank accounts, as if stockpiling it, and had made visits to the local passport office. Since his disappearance there’s been numerous “sightings” – a hippie market in India, on the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote – but nothing conclusive, nothing definite, nothing proved “real.”
“If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next” by the Manic Street Preachers.
From their fifth album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. Here’s the actual video, which again, Youtube just doesn’t want to let me share with you here.
And our last video for tonight, but certainly not least…
“Stutter” by Elastica.
Formed in 1992 by the two Justines (Frischmann, ex-Suede guitarist and ex-girlfriend of Damon Albarn and Justin Welch, ha ha, ex-Spitfire and Suede drummer), this song is from their first album, which will always be there best. Of course, you know them for their song “Connection” which got played to death in America (imagine how bad it was in England) because of it’s use in that movie Hackers, starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller. Other than his marriage to Jolie, Johnny Lee Miller only went on to play Sick Boy in Trainspotting and be in Eli Stone, which is somehow still on the air and seems to be obsessed with the ouevre of George Michael.
Well, that’s it for tonight’s journey through the time machine back to the britpop era. Come back tomorrow night when Lollipop lays some more sweet tunes upon thee.