There is a lot of ‘20 Years Since Britpop’ noise happening at the moment, for which I care very little. Britpop was, in general, awful. Leaving aside any jingoistic connotations that were foisted upon it by the media, Britpop was basically lots of arseholes who were far too pleased with themselves for copying something that was so much better than them in the first place. Well done you clever boys and girls. Britpop was the start of the endlessly backwards looking bullshit, the artless imitation, that has been a feature of pop culture ever since, legitimising ‘will this do?’ fodder for the mass market. So much smug satisfaction and so little talent does not make for something to celebrate, as far as I am concerned – Echobelly, Sleeper, Cast, The Seahorses, Hurricane #1, Heavy Stereo, Space, are all as dull as painting your eyes magnolia and listening to every speech Ken Livingstone has ever made.
So, clearly, I won’t be tuning into Jo Whiley and Steve Lamacq on Radio 2 in the coming weeks. Their Radio 1 show was quite good at the time, mainly because it wasn’t all about Britpop, although, naturally, as the big sound of the day, it featured a bit too heavily for my liking. Having a show that exclusively looks back, 20 years hence, on a scene that exclusively looked backwards on ‘classic’ British pop seems a bit pointless to me. I am not saying that all music should be startlingly original or it’s worthless, but when something is so slavishly travelling in reverse and so rammed full of ham-fisted vignettes of every day life that are as humdrum as the soundtracks they accompany, then there is little to eulogise.
Any scene, no matter how bereft of substance, however, will have its exceptions and Britpop, despite its creative inertia, did have at least 10 really incredible songs. Personally, Oasis make me feel unwell but Columbia is quite brilliant. Mansun, a bit like Muse after them, believed they were clever, arty and insightful and they were just as wrong, but Wide Open Space is about as elegant as anyone ever got in the 90s. This Is A Low still stands up as a timeless bit of pop and Babies, well, it’s Pulp and they stood alone in the scene… It’s debatable if Night Vision, Lazarus and This Is Music are really Britpop but I needed to make up the numbers and all three tracks are particularly magnificent.
So, despite my aversion to almost all of Britpop’s stock, here is my own contribution to the noise. Ten tracks that you should listen to If You Have To Do Britpop…
Spotify Playlist If you have to do Britpop…
Mansun – Wide Open Space
Oasis – Columbia
Supergrass – Lose It
Elastic – Stutter
Pulp – Babies
Suede – The Drowners
Super Furry Animals – Night Vision
The Boo Radleys – Lazarus
The Verve – This Is Music
Blur – This is a Low