Britpop Spotify: The Case Against, And The Case Against
, June 19th, 2009 11:10
This Friday, The Quietus travels back to the mid-nineties for a Britpop Spotify special
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.
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.
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'