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The Spotify Playlist

Britpop Spotify: The Case Against, And The Case Against
Luke Turner , June 19th, 2009 11:10

This Friday, The Quietus travels back to the mid-nineties for a Britpop Spotify special

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As Universal Records release their Britpop compilation (reviewed by Ben Myers here), Quietus Editors Luke Turner and John Doran remember their encounters with the movement, and present two opposing Spotify playlists.

Luke Turner shakes his bits to the hits:

There's currently a group knocking around on Facebook called 'Britpop Saved My Life'. The title might make 30-year-old me cringe somewhat, but perhaps that's in self-awareness at the foibles of a younger self. I was 16 in 1995, and the movement, for better or worse, took over my teenage years. It was perfect music for my unsophisticated, romantic teenage brain, especially one bored by the tedious violence of Daily Mail-reading satellite town life, as I naively perceived it. I'd always been into music, and like everyone else had been a fan of Nirvana, but they struck me as being rather predictably 'hate the parents' hormonal, too scruffy, and tediously American. I don't recall being terribly fussed when Kurt Cobain blew his noggin off, other than thinking it a rather indulgent gesture.

It was finding groups like Suede and Pulp that made music an obsession for me, something to help define a personal aesthetic in that usual teenage way of creating an identity against the bullying attentions of rugger buggers at school, and Ben Sherman shirts in town of a Saturday night. I remember, to slight embarrassment now, being greatly cheered by the Pulp sleevenotes that read: "there is a war in progress: don't be a casual(ty). Stay alive in '95". And no matter how daft Brett Anderson's assertions of being "a bisexual man who's never had a homosexual experience" might sound now, at the time they provided succour to the slightly confused. Even if, unlike Bert, I quickly discovered that homosexual experiences are not terribly difficult things to acquire.

There's a mistaken belief that all those who were into this music were a conservative bunch. That might be so, but in my experience, I was also listening to rave, mainstream dance stuff like The Prodigy, and later, jungle and drum & bass. This was especially so as Britpop made its fast, and very steep, descent into the Chris Evans, Cool Britannia, Loaded laddish farce it eventually became. I remember going to see The Bluetones in London, an excursion for which I am still ashamed. The jangly foursome were giving the Super Furry Animals an early support slot, and the visitors from down the M4 duly blew the headliners away. That the Bluetones, Shed 7 and Ocean Colour Scene still have successful careers is undeniable evidence of how Britpop crossed over to a conservative mainstream that still hangs on to their teenage years, just as children of the 80s pack out Here & Now tours.

So Britpop was it its worst when it was waving Union Flags, indulging in Blur's shape shifting class tourism and hovering chisel in the bogs of the Groucho Club. It was at its best when, like the Auteurs' entire catalogue or Pulp tracks like 'I Spy', archly and intelligently depicted the seedy undercurrents to Englishness, or, however superficially, helped out sexually confused youth. It also had some killer pop songs. It's hard to praise Britpop when it ended up so mediocre that many now have an instinctive gut reaction against all music from this country, leading to the current domination of scruffy American indie rock. The victory of Oasis and lad rock has also meant that we've suffered the straightest, least flamboyant, music scene in pop history ever since. Musically, it's arguable that Pulp and Suede were the only big league Britpop groups to ever record truly brilliant albums, most of their peers stuffed their records with lamentable filler - and that includes Blur.

So this Spotify mix is a personal trawl through the songs that I remember, and loved, from those days. If I'd been a few years older at the time of Britpop, no doubt I'd have sneeringly wondered what all the fuss was about, just as I did when the Libertines and Strokes et al emerged at the start of this decade. Part of growing up is losing the defensive conservatism of youth and broadening the mind, which is exactly what happened to me in the decade and a half since I was a card-carrying member of the Suede fan club, sporting a ladies' blouse, brown corduroys and a black leather jacket. It was an entry level intoxicant that led to deeper infatuation with the likes of The Fall, Wire, Bowie, Roxy Music, and from then on, to obsessions with sounds a million miles away from three chord riffs and songs about chips. Britpop didn't save my life, but for all its flaws, I can't deny it changed it.

Listen to Luke's Britpop's Slim Pickings Playlist

Earl Brutus - 'The SAS And The Glam That Goes With It', Pulp - 'Razzmatazz', The Auteurs - 'Unsolved Child Murder', Elastica - 'Image Change', Menswear - 'Daydreamer', Teenage Fanclub - 'Sparky's Dream', Blur - 'For Tomorrow', Sleeper - 'What Do I Do Now', Marion - 'Miyako Hideaway', Ballroom - 'Take It', Suede - 'To The Birds', White Town - 'Your Woman', Saint Etienne - 'You're In A Bad Way', Black Box Recorder - 'Ideal Home', Strangelove - 'The Sea Of Black',

'Kiss my hoop, Britpop', says John Doran

I remember going over to Hoxton Square in 1996 to go to the Blue Note. In one sense, it was the best night out I ever had. There were all sorts of DJs on like Tim Goldsworthy, Coldcut, possibly Jon Carter and certainly pre-Endtroducing DJ Shadow. The pills we had were amazing. Never had anything like them before or since. When I heard the JBs, it was like God kissing the surface of my brain. I could hear bells ringing in heaven. Then we went on to a warehouse party in a closed down NCP – or a car park party I guess it would be called if you wanted to be pedantic. I couldn’t tell you what they were playing but I’m pretty sure it was drum and bass and hardcore. I couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of me.

I lived in Welwyn Garden City at the time where I was working nights in a factory. When they closed the party down at 8am I went straight for the train at Kings Cross but fell asleep only waking up in Stevenage. We got the train back again and were joined by a load of people who’d been in Knebworth watching Oasis the night before. They were all wearing parkas and walking like they'd just shat bowling balls. One of them was saying 'Oy! Oy! Saveloy!' Like, actually saying it out loud, like he thought it was a good thing to say. He had a Union Jack T-shirt on.

‘Why are you laughing at me?’ he asked.

Listen to John Doran's Pre-Millennial Tension playlist

Renegade Soundwave - 'Renegade Soundwave' (Leftfield Mix), The Prodigy - 'Break And Enter', Orbital - 'Impact', PJ Harvey - 'Down By The Water', Morrissey - 'Speedway', Manic Street Preachers - 'Faster', Radiohead - 'Planet Telex', Stereolab - 'French Disko', Barry Adamson (ft Jarvis Cocker) - 'Set Controls For Heart Of The Pelvis', Underworld - 'Cowgirl', The Chemical Brothers - 'Private Psychedelic Reel', Mogwai - 'Like Herod', Spiritualized - 'If I Were With Her Now', Coldcut - 'More Beats And Pieces', Ragga Twins - 'Hooligan 69', The Fall - 'High Tension Line'

Chris Etches
Jun 19, 2009 4:07pm

The Man Doran gets my vote.

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Luke Turner
Jun 19, 2009 4:08pm

That's because you're a crusty.

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Luke Turner
Jun 19, 2009 4:44pm

'Daydreamer' has aged remarkably well.

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pisces x
Jun 19, 2009 6:03pm

Daydreamer really has aged well. Same as Around You Again off that first album. Who'd have thought?

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mark e
Jun 19, 2009 7:43pm

bugger.
tough call.
lukes got the mighty earl brutus (the best band of the era no question), whereas john includes some fine beats-n-noise, and yes, the dubbed up version of daydreamer was rather marvelous.

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Luke Turner
Jun 19, 2009 11:19pm

There was some dispute over who would get the mighty Brutus, it must be said. Actually, John and I will be united in playing them tomorrow night at the Lexington. That was the original Daydreamer, Mark, not sure where in your noggin you got the dub from?

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alison wise
Jun 20, 2009 1:19pm

Hey it's Alison. I started the 'Britpop Saved My Life!' group. And I guess you could say that it did.
I wouldn't have moved away from my friends and family in California to London. I wouldn't have DJed for Bloc Party and at the Camden Crawl. I wouldn't have been a door bitch at Trash. I wouldn't have ended up with two Bachelors degrees and realized I want to work in the Film/T.V. industry. I wouldn't have met all of my amazing, talented, awesome friends!
I would probably be working in retail (okay, I'm doing that now) somewhere in either California, Arizona or Seattle, Washington. I would have probably ended up living with my parents a lot longer then anticipated.
As an American I have a different point of view about Britpop. To me and my friends it was exotic and glamorous, an exciting change to the boring, dirty, flannel wearing Grunge bands. The boys were cuter than the shaggy haired boys from the Pacific Northwest...and they had cuter accents. They had style and didn't look like they slept in their clothes. The girls were strong without being scary like Riot Girls. Both flirted with an androgyny that we first fell in love with in David Bowie. American music was grumpy, Britpop was happy. Grunge on one side, Ska on the other, it felt like a permanent Frat party and we weren't invited...not that we wanted to be. We saw that it was ok to have 'learnt too much in school', we felt like we fit in and belonged...finally!

So yes in a way...Britpop saved my life!

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John Doran
Jun 20, 2009 2:18pm

Hi Alison,

I've just realised that I know you! It's John the DJ from the Mucky Pup. This is my day job!

I think Luke Turner the co-editor would pretty much agree with all of what you said and I agree with most of it. (Except I like sleeping with boys who look like they've slept in their clothes.)

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mark e
Jun 22, 2009 9:54am

'lo luke : sorry for confusion, i knew you picked the original, was just stating that i rate the dub version but did it in a crappy way.

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Charles Ubaghs
Jun 22, 2009 10:26am

Luke still sports ladies' blouses

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Ric Rawlins
Jun 22, 2009 7:04pm

Re: The Sea of Black by Strangelove

Fantastic tune and nice end to a decent playlist. Having said that I can't listen to Strangelove these days as I find them far too depressing! Poor me.

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Jim Brackpool
Jun 24, 2009 4:15pm

Hello!?!?! Where's Tiger's timeless 'Race'?

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John Doran
Jun 24, 2009 5:03pm

Good point. They were great. Didn't they do a song called 'Nurse'? That was mint.

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hobbes the tiger
Jul 3, 2009 12:22pm

You're ashamed you saw the Bluetones, Luke? Whatever for? They are not and never have been anything at all like the swaggering tools of Oasis et al. With the exception of perhaps one song - Slight Return (which was more of a Stone Roses throwback) the only possible way they could remotely be described as Britpop is because they're british and for about 15 minutes were relatively popular. To suggest that they are in any way responsible for the "I'm wearing a parka and I look like I've crapped meself" scene is lazy at best.
You might not like them, (you may have guess that I do and they're one of the tightest, funnest live acts I've seen) but they're no more Britpop than say, Doves.

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Patrick xx
Jul 6, 2009 12:52pm

My least favourite Quietus article ever.

John Doran - all britpop fans were lager-swilling idiots but hardcore fans who got pilled off their heads in abandoned car parks were having some kind of transcendent musical and spiritual experience?

Please tell me you're being ironic.

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John Doran
Jul 7, 2009 4:09pm

I didn't say that all Britpop fans are lager swilling idiots.

All I did was describe a night out and a train journey.

I'm not an ironic person. I detest irony.

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Ben Coleman
Aug 16, 2010 8:45pm

I'm very late to this party, but I must applaud Luke's eloquence. I too was 16 in 1995, and passionate for These Animal Men, 'Modern Life is Rubbish' era Blur, 'Dogmanstar' Suede and 'His N Hers' Pulp. However, (perhaps due to my passion for Screamadelica and its self-conscious genre-bending) I was also obsessed with Future Sound of London, Orbital, Underworld, Stereolab, the Tindersticks, Goldie's 'Timeless' and all manner of other wonderful stuff: Luke is correct that a lot of the brit-pop kids were omniverous. We were eating our way through ANYTHING in the NME or Melody Maker.
The joy of brit-pop was the post-grunge rediscovery of pop music as a cause célèbre: a rich seam of art to be reclaimed and reinvented... Earl Brutus were fervently pop (pop-art, more accurately) and approached it as post-modern exercise, and even Blur at their 'Popscene' best were making some relatively bold slices with the scalpel. Sadly, and all too soon, everything that was interesting was quickly subsumed by nationalism, commercialism and cliche. Still, to this day, Brit pop doesn't seem so bad to me, at least for the 4 minutes it takes to play 'For Tomorrow'.
And there's no way Gorky's Zygotic Mynci or Super Furry Animals would have gotten the exposure they did had they not caught some of those britpop buzz that was floating around.
I went to trash a fair few times, btw, but the best bit was watching all the scrawny art goth kids sulk whilst Alkan played NWA.
So, I feel you Luke, even if I'd rather listen to John's playlist, by and large.

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