There were, broadly speaking, three stages of Britpop; a beginning, a middle and an end. The start was little more than a lot of decent British bands arriving at roughly the same time and them being grouped into a scene/genre (whether grouping them together made sense or not) by journalists (who were just doing their job btw – you try finding something new to say about The Stone Roses every week when they aren’t doing anything). The middle is best summed up as the period when the word Britpop moved from being a descriptor to a brand. It became a gold rush, with dozens of bands who were either not ready, or not good enough, being given record deals (especially if they sounded a bit like the scenes biggest-sellers, Oasis). The end was the inevitable consequence of the middle: cost cutting. Record companies dropped bands because their latest album only made the top ten of the album charts instead of number one.
All of these stages have contributed to Britpop being looked back on with something just short of contempt by most of us. Because (unlike say shoegaze, house, speed garage, jungle etc) there was nothing really tying the ‘Britpop’ bands together musically, it is easy for bands to dissociate themselves from the scene. Bands like Pulp, Suede and Radiohead, are now seen as being as not really Britpop bands. Consequently we increasingly think of ‘Britpop’ as being defined by those bands that were over-promoted in the ‘middle’ part of the scene and then dropped before having a chance to produce anything worth remembering.
The more bands you remove from the edges of a scene, the more the centre defines it. The more the centre defines it, the more edges you remove,
It’s a shame, because the 90s was actually a good time for British pop music. And if, instead of constantly narrowing the meaning of Britpop we expanded it to include artists who were their contemporaries, who shared space on the same festival line-ups and magazine pages, whose records got played at the same ‘indie’ club nights, who (as far as most contemporary listeners were concerned) were part of one big sprawling scene, then we might have a different feeling about it all. If you define Britpop as being Oasis, Blur, Dodgy, Smaller, Northern Uproar, Kula Shaker and Ocean Colour Scene then sure, a few great moments aside, we aren’t going to look back on it with much fondness. But the British pop music of the time was actually Oasis, Blur, Elastica, Pulp, Suede, Sidi Bou Said, Radiohead, The Prodigy, Lush, Belle and Sebastian, Portishead, Saint Etienne, Fatboy Slim, Stereolab, Cornershop, The Boo Radleys, Kenickie, Tricky, etc, etc, which is a different story all together. Some good, some bad, some great. Clearly they aren’t all one genre but arguably they were all part of the same scene. If you bought an album by one of the bands listed above, you probably bought albums by at least a dozen of them. Which is why, when I introduced this category last week, I kept the definition of Britpop as vague as possible. hoping people might nominate Breathe, or Call It What You Want, or Ping Pong, or Hell is Round the Corner.
None of those songs were suggested. You did manage to find some good stuff though, even within your own self-imposed tighter definition of what ‘Britpop’ means.
Some of you picked stuff that didn’t make the countdown though, and those songs/people are as follows…
- Ash – Girl From Mars – recommended by Graham Watt – Ash were a good band but I’ve always hated the ‘Henri Wintermans cigars’ line in Girl From Mars, and for that reason, I’m out.
- Cast – no song specified – recommended by Martin W – Martin recommended Walkaway or I’m So Lonely. I asked him to pick his favourite of the two but he didn’t get back to me. He’ll never know now how many points he might have got. Such is life.
- The Charlatans – One to Another – recommended by Neal – One of the worst things about Britpop was its ability to make quite interesting bands less interesting. The Charlatans morphed from being a Madchester-adjacent band to a band that sounded like The Rolling Stones. They were very good at it, but it didn’t float my boat. This song is no Indian Rope or Then, is it?
- Half Man Half Biscuit – Thy Damnation Slumbereth Not – recommended by John – At the risk of upsetting a fanbase only slightly less passionate that K-pop fans, I don’t really ‘get’ Half Man Half Biscuit. It’s me, I think, not them, but that doesn’t really help you today. Soz.
- The Lightning Seeds – Three Lions – recommended by Tom Mason – No, Tom. No. Not even in jest. No. Just no. I didn’t even bother listening to it. Because no.
- Marion – Sleep – recommended by To Here Knows Yen – Two words: that harmonica bit. What were they thinking?
- Molly Half Head – Just – recommended by Fat Roland – It sounds like somebody put a load of cats on a wool cycle. Just ghastly. Soz Fats. I dreamt about you last night if that helps any. We were doing some colouring in and talking about grief. It was quite heavy, to be honest. But nice too, if you know what I mean. Peaceful and that.
- Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught The Train – recommended by Em – I’m not sure I could ever forgive the bit where he starts doing a John-Lennon-singing-I-Am-the-Walrus voice.
- Reef – Place Your Hands – recommended by Michael Conley – It has always bugged me that the song is called Place Your Hands but he sings Put Your Hands. Also, the song is shit.
- Rod Stewart – Downtown Train – recommended by Adan Farrer (who, in fairness, has doomed himself to pick something associated with Tom Waits every week) – but fuck this is an awful version of the song. Easily the worst song picked this week. I should dock you points just for the way Stewart says “Full of all them Brooklyn girls,” but I won’t, because I am a gentleman.
- The Seahorses – Love Is the Law – recommended by Graeme – Hindsight has shown us that one of The Stone Roses’ biggest selling points was that, choruses aside, their lyrics were mostly indecipherable. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with The Seahorses. Their vocalist, Chris Helme, enunciated lines like “Strap on Sally chased us down the alley / We feared for our behinds” clearly and evenly and now I’ll never unhear them. Cheers yeah, Chris.
- The Stereophonics – Sunny Afternoon – recommended by Henriette Pleiger – If you had recommended the original, that would have got yourself some points, possibly a lot of points. But thiiiiiiiiis verrrrrrrrssssssion? Not for me.
- The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony – recommended by Sherri Turner – This song just reminds me of watching England play football, an experience that all too often brings me little more than ennui. Nobody’s fault, but there we are.
- David Wrench – Superhorny – recommended by Plashing Vole – This song sounds like a drunken Luke Haines doing a piss take of a Pulp song. I think it is supposed to. I think that’s the point. I think that might be something I might even like on some levels. However, it is eight minutes long, which is more than enough time for it to outstay its welcome. David Wrench is, I think, a musical genius (the list of bands he has worked with is incredible) but I certainly wouldn’t use this song to demonstrate that.
Look. I am going to have to be honest with you. I didn’t like most of the music this week. I have, obviously, only got myself to blame here. I set the categories. Thinking we could rescue the reputation of a scene that probably doesn’t deserve it was hubris on my part. Terrible terrible hubris. Consider me humbled. Anyway, a top forty is out of the question.
Here are some more songs that won’t be scoring points this week
- Echobelly – Great Things – recommended by William Mallin and Rebecca H – It’s fine.
- Echobelly – King of the Kerb – recommended by Daniel Carpenter – Again, fine.
- Longpigs – She Said – recommended by Paul Graham Raven – I had no strong opinions about it then. I have no strong opinions about it now.
- Shampoo – Bouffant Headbutt – recommended by Desmond – It’s not as good as Trouble, is it? Why didn’t you just recommend Trouble?
- Shampoo – Girl Power – recommended by David C0ates – At the risk of repeating myself… It’s not as good as Trouble, is it? Why didn’t you just recommend Trouble?
- Warm Jets – Hurricane – recommended by Mike – For a second while reading your tweet I thought you had picked something by Hurricane #1 but, to your credit, you hadn’t.
Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you aren’t going to make any new friends? I have. I am having one of those days today. Sorry I am being so mean about your songs, guys. I am going to give the following songs, the almost-made-its, two points each.
- Ballboy – You Can’t Spend Your Whole Life Hanging Round With Arseholes – recommended by Sam Whyte
- Elbow – Mirrorball – recommended by Sam Bail
- Gene – We Could Be Kings – recommended by Mat Pringle
- Mansun – I Can Only Disappoint You – recommended by Pavel Kondov
- Mansun – Wide Open Space – recommended by Tom.
- Moose – Little Bird (Are You Happy In Your Cage) – recommended by David N Atkinson
- Take That – Never Forget – recommended by Steven Moss – Steven claimed that Take That were the ‘kings of Britpop’, a title that obviously belonged to Salad, or maybe Grass Show. More seriously, while you could argue that Robbie Williams was a human Britpop, he left Take That on the seventeenth of July, 1995, seven days before Never Forget (which features a Howard Donald lead vocal) was released. Therefore, Never Forget represents Take That at the very moment that they became unbritpopped and is thus ineligible for competition. I’m still giving it two points though.
Unbritpopped is a word, right? Doesn’t matter. I am giving the next two songs five points each. For while they didn’t quite make the top thirty, they stood out from the pack for being American and I found that a bit interesting.
- Ben Folds Five – Regrets – recommended by Benjo
- Brian Jonestown Massacre – Straight Up and Down (Long Version) – recommended by Sleepy – These songs don’t have a lot in common but the recommendations share the understanding that Britpop was, before anything else, kind of a vibe. So five points.
Finally, before we get to the top thirty, I want to give this last group of songs ten points each. Not because they are good, most of them aren’t, but because they are very, very Britpop. Britpop boiled down to its very essence. Britpop Glace de Viande, if you will.
- Alfie – People – recommended by Ben Thomas
- Bennet – Mum’s Gone To Iceland – recommended by Weeman
- Black Grape – Reverend Black Grape – recommended by Tom Glennie
- The Boo Radley’s – Wake Up! – recommended by Ben Andrew
- Cast – Finetime – recommended by Donna Morris
- Catch – Bingo – recommended by Skerret
- David Devant and his Spirit Wife – Ginger – recommended by Nick Garrard
- Delicatessen – Buy a Chance to Breathe – recommended by Kim Z Baker
OK. Enough. Let’s get the top thirty done and then never speak of this again. Remember, the highest charting song recommended by somebody who entered but didn’t chart last week will win thirty bonus points.
- =30 – THE SENSIBLE CHOICES – I have grouped everybody who picked Supergrass, Pulp or Suede (with the exception of three people, who we will get to in a minute) as equal thirtieth. These choices, while arguably a little bit too safe, aren’t wrong, and so will all be getting eleven points. They are, Mark Rose (Suede, Saturday Night) Paul Kay (Suede, Still Life) Andy C (Suede, By The Sea) David Hartley (Supergrass, Grace) James Beck (Supergrass, Pumping On Your Stereo) Leighton (Supergrass, Sun Hits The Sky) James Battisson (Pulp, Common People) Pimini Pon Paulash (Pulp, Do You Remember The First Time) and John Power Jr (Pulp, Common People).
- =29 – THE SLEEPEIVERS – It would never have occurred to me to recommend Sleeper but, for some reason, it warms my heart that some of you did, so I’m going to chuck twelve points at Dan Williams (Lie Detector) Stephen May (Statuesque) Bruno Di Gradi (Sale of the Century) and Pieyedder (Inbetweener).
- 28 – Lush – Ladykillers – recommended by Graham Cox – I don’t think I am being too controversial when I say that Lush were a better band before Britpop than during it, but even at their most chart-friendly they’re alright innit. – Thirteen points
- 27 – Geneva – Into the Blue – recommended by Julie – I was never a big Geneva fan but my wife was, and noticed this song playing in the kitchen this week, greeting it with a “tune”. That’s good enough for me. – Fourteen points
- 26 – Catatonia – I am the Mob recommended by Al Kennedy and Mulder & Scully recommended by Lil’ Vanni Byniaeth – Looking back, Britpop seems parochial and laddish but the enthusiasm of the time for anything British arguably presented the greatest opportunity for Welsh bands to connect with a wider audience they had ever had (and certainly without compromising their sound) which was nice, for them and for us, so maybe Britpop wasn’t all bad. Maybe? I dunno. Anyway, I am the Mob has a great first line, doesn’t it? – Fifteen points
- 25 – The Spice Girls – Wannabe – recommended by Penny – Sure, it’s their worst song (and sorry, but it is) but it is still worth a million and one Roll With Its – Sixteen points
- 24 – The Auteurs – Unsolved Child Murder – recommended by Justin Chisnall – Luke Haines would shudder at the thought of being labelled Britpop but he kind of was. He kind of still is. That doesn’t mean he isn’t good though. I think I covered all this in the introduction. – Seventeen points
- 23 – Terrorvision – Oblivion – recommended by Chris Bissette – Were Terrorvision Britpop? I can’t think of many songs more Britpop than that Tequila one they did. God, that song was awful wasn’t it? Oblivion wasn’t though. I liked Oblivion. – Eighteen points
- 22 – The Divine Comedy – Songs of Love – recommended by Mark P – AKA the Father Ted theme tune. Do you remember being able to just like Father Ted. When you could watch it without having to think about, you know, that guy. Life before the internet was ubiquitous, eh? Good times. Good times. More pertinently, Songs of Love is a really good tune and if I could award bonus points for allowing me to say The Divine Comedy were often brilliant, after labelling that booklovers song the worst thing I had ever heard a few weeks ago, I would. Oh wait. I can. – Nineteen points plus five bonus points equals twenty four points
- 21 – Me Me Me – Hanging Around – recommended by Dan – most. britpop song. ever. – Twenty points
- 20 – Skunk Anansie – Weak – recommended by Nick – I saw Skunk Anansie live at a festival (I mean, I saw 90% of these bands live at a festival at some point. Didn’t we all?) and they played all their singles first. It was hit, hit, hit, hit, hit, then new stuff all the way. They didn’t hold anything back to the end of the gig. I still occasionally think about how sassy that was. Top stuff. – Twenty-one points
- 19 – Blur – No Distance Left To Run – recommended by Dan Edmonds – I was glad that somebody recommended Blur. Not everything they did has aged brilliantly but some of the slow ones are still flipping lovely. This is a Low, Blue Jeans, The Universal (and of course, No Distance Left To Run)… yes please and thank you, amirite? – Twenty two points
- 18 – Suede – Animal Nitrate – recommended by Rob Cutforth – I have given this Suede choice more points than the other Suede choices because it was the only one selected from their debut album, which is so much better than all their other albums that, errrr, look, I’m just saying, yeah? – Twenty-three points
- 17 – McAlmont & Butler – Yes – recommended by General Zod – Did anyone else not buy this album because all but one of the tracks on it had already been released as b-sides on the double-cd-single releases of Yes and You Do? I’m not paying nine quid for one song, am I? Fucksake, lads. – Twenty-four points
- 16 – Cornershop – Brimful of Asha recommended by Georgia Boon and Slugger, Sleep On The Left Side recommended by Scout Tzofiya – I don’t think anyone who bought one of Cornershop’s first couple of EPs would have suspected they would have been part of the mainstream just a few years later. They were though, at least partly because of the whole Britpop thing. Makes you think, eh? – Twenty-five points
- 15 – The Bluetones – Slight Return – recommended by Sal Page – I saw The Bluetones live a few times, most memorably outside Rochdale town hall, years after they had last had a hit. They were great, simultaneously aware that they were never going to be huge again and that they had actually written some bloody good songs, thank you very much. At one point, Mark Morriss invited two women who had briefly invaded the stage to join him again. After about ten seconds, two security guards turned up and bundled them off the stage. Morriss argued with the security guards that it was his fault, that he had invited them onto the stage, but the guards were having none of it and they threw the two women out of the event. It was a miscarriage of justice, albeit quite a small one. “We’ll never play this fucking car park ever again!” Morriss shouted at the security guards before turning to the crowd and saying with a wink, “See you next year.” It really made me laugh, that did. – Twenty-six points
- 14 – The La’s – There She Goes – recommended by GLP – an argument could be made that by 1992 The La’s and The Stairs had pretty much covered everything that the Britpop bands obsessed with the 1960s would achieve over the next six years or so. You didn’t need Britpop as long as you owned The La’s album and Mexican R’n’B. The argument is moot, what with Britpop existing and everything, but there you go. I just thought I’d mention it – Twenty-seven points
- 13 – Denim – Summer Smash – recommended by Nick Portnell – The fact that Lawrence knew this song was rubbish, and says as much during it, makes it brilliant, I think, in a way. But also rubbish. But also brilliant. It’s probably not worth thinking about too much – Twenty-eight points
- 12 – MIA – Galang – recommended by Tom A. – co-written by Justine Frischmann and Steve Mackey and thus chock-a-block with Britpop eligibility but also, unlike so much of Britpop, actually good, this was a really smart recommendation – Twenty-nine points
- 11 – Supergrass – Caught By The Fuzz – recommended by Chris *Wear Your Dang Mask* – I bought this song on cassette and played it over and over and over on the bus journey from Walsall town centre to Joseph Leckie School (where I was, until I realised I didn’t need to, retaking A-Level Chemistry). It’s an academy now, of course. Proper old, I am. Depressing really. – Thirty points
- 10 – Super Furry Animals – Demons recommended by Sex Police, Mountain People recommended by Geisterhaus – For a while these were the best live band around, I reckon. So good. – Thirty-one points
- 9 – Pulp – Underwear – recommended by SJ Bradley – these things are subjective, of course, but this song has always struck me as the perfect Pulp song, hence it getting loads more points than the other Pulp songs. I make no apology. – Thirty-two points
- 8 – Menswear – Daydreamer – recommended by Keezo M – I have to confess, I have never been able to grasp the argument that this song was anything other than near-perfect – Thirty-three points
- 7 – Antoinette – There He Goes (The Boy I Love) – recommended by Subfuscous – released thirty years before Britpop but very much a part of the sound that would go on to inspire many bands in the scene (and also, a brilliant record) so definitely eligible for loads of points. I don’t know why more people didn’t pick stuff from the 60s. It’s bending the rules, sure, but it’s not as if I wanted to listen to Heavy Stereo records all week is it? – Thirty-four points
- 6 – Kinky Machine – Shockaholic – recommended by Marsha Adams – Kinky Machine would later become Rialto, perhaps the most Britpop band of all, but in their earlier guise they were a far more interesting proposal, all snarl and guitar. The riff on Shockaholic still sounds great after all these years. It’s a shame that they have been almost entirely forgotten – Thirty-five points
- 5 – Elastica – Waking Up – recommended by Adrian Slatcher – Weirdly underrated at the time, mostly by boring old white guys who could spot the Wire riffs that Elastica were playing with and felt their ownership of ‘cool’ threatened in some way or another. But it was madness to suggest that Elastica didn’t use their influences in far more interesting ways than, say, oh I don’t know, Oasis. That album is one of the few from the era that still sound great. Thirty-six points
- 4 – Tiger – Race – recommended by Jummo70 – Wikipedia describes Tiger as being more of a reaction to Britpop than a part of it, and it may well be right, but for our purposes it definitely counts because a) I’ve let everything else count, so why not? and b) they were a great band. (This song also has a nice low budget video worth checking out if you are into that sort of thing) – Thirty-seven points
- 3 – Teenage Fan Club – Everything Flows – recommended by Richard Jones – There’s nothing like a bit of early Teenage Fanclub (before all that sounding like The Byrds nonsense) to cheer the soul. Lovely – Thirty-eight points
- 2 – Kenickie – Punka – recommended by Jeanette Greaves – I loved Kenickie, me. Get In is one of the most underrated albums of the 90s, imo. Punka is from At the Club of course, but the point still stands. Thirty-nine points
- 1 – Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Meched Yn Neud Gwallt Ei Gilydd – recommended by David Bruce – How could it have been anyone else? Ah, Gorky’s, you fabulous mad bastards with your glorious pop masterpieces. Find me a better three album run in the 1990s than Tatay, Bwyd Time and Barafundle (actually, don’t, because I am aware that I haven’t put very much thought into this and there probably are some, but you get my point, they were bloody great).And as David was eligible for this week’s bonus points he doesn’t get forty points, he gets SEVENTY POINTS! Oh my. What a load of points, eh? Blimey.
Next week we will be celebrating the almost complete waste of time that is The Oscars. I am looking for a song by somebody who has acted in a movie. To make things more interesting, there will be two charts next week
- The Top Thirty Best Songs by People Who Have Acted in a Movie
- The Top Thirty ‘What on earth were they thinking?’ songs by actors/actresses*
However AND IMPORTANTLY you can only nominate one song AND I DON’T WANT YOU TO SAY WHAT CHART YOU ARE TRYING TO TOP. I’ll decide where the songs belong.
Do you go for the great song by the great artist who happened to be in a film, or the ridiculous vanity project of somebody more famous for acting? That’s up to you.
*and yes, I would normally just use the word actor for a man or a woman who acts, but I was concerned that if I didn’t use the more old-fashioned terminology then I would end up having to explain that yes, Pam St Clement’s death metal album** is eligible.
**Pam St Clement didn’t actually do a death metal album. Sorry.