Thursday, 4 July 2013

Britpop before Britpop

1991 was a golden year for dance-based chart pop - the KLF, SexKylie, N-Joi's Anthem - but less so for guitar-based bands. Manchester and baggy were past their best, shoegazing was an intriguing but niche noise, and self-absorbed but extremely loud American acts like Mudhoney were beginning to dominate indie discos. This isn't too surprising when you consider the UK alternatives, which were mostly grimy, colourless, and entirely unambitious: Ned's Atomic Dustbin, the Wonderstuff, Mega City Four, the great unwashed. The Family Cat had a single out called Colour Me Grey and that set the tone. It was dire and, with Saint Etienne just finding their feet after two singles in 1990, gave us a target to take out.

There were exceptions. 5.30 had prescient mod leanings but wrote songs with titles like Cuddly Drug, Catcher In The Rye and Junk Male ("I'm just a junk male, I'm just a junkie"). The equally angular but far better Manic Street Preachers were eminently quotable, despised the "toilet circuit" and wanted, rather charmingly, to go "straight to the medium-sized venues".

Then there were a few groups who Simon Reynolds tagged 'retro futurist' and in my eyes they were true modernists - taking the best bits of the past to create something new. World Of Twist had emerged from the Madchester scene but would quote northern soul motifs rather than Funky Drummer loops, and put on a stage show that blended Peter Gabriel-era Genesis with working men's club satin and tat. At a party at Gordon King's Whalley Range flat, he put on Slade Alive, a move even I'd have been scared to make. Then there was Denim, whose singer and leader Lawrence had a penchant for Stephanie de Sykes, Lynsey de Paul, and Rings Of Saturn by Underground Resistance project X-102. "It's a new kind of music" Lawrence would say, excitedly, and often.

Lawrence seemed like an obvious pop star to me, as did Pulp's Jarvis Cocker. Saint Etienne and Pulp toured together in early '93, by which time their set included future classics like Babies, OU, She's A Lady and My Legendary Girlfriend. Jarvis was on such a roll that he had handed over Babies as a single for my 'boutique' Caff record label - we got as far as cutting an acetate before he realised its potential and changed his mind.

At a forgotten venue called the Gass Club off Leicester Square, Carrie and Jacqui Shampoo, Lawrence Denim, myself and Pete Wiggs were in attendance when Jarvis played Lio's Le Banana Split, Love Sculpture's Sabre Dance, and Lieutenant Pigeon's Mouldy Old Dough in succession, the most barking mad DJ selection I've ever heard. Kindred spirits, we all bumped into each other at gigs, all nighters, greasy spoons and ephemera fairs.

I remember seeing Bernard Butler at the Camden Underworld one night in 1993, having a quiet drink with his girlfriend. I strode up to him and started haranguing him about how we had the future of pop in our grasp, how we really could shape what happened next: Suede, Saint Etienne, Pulp, Denim - I mean, hadn't he seen that Select cover? People expected us to show them the way! 'You're quite drunk', said his girlfriend. 'I think you should go now.' And yet, Suede's next move was the epic Stay Together which, if it wasn't quite as skyscraping as it could have been, at least indicated grand designs. Released in February '94 it reached no.3 but somehow felt slightly out of sync. Something was changing at ground level.

Right now, in 2013, Oasis are at their lowest critical ebb, and it is fashionable to point to their bludgeoning noise and Beatle piracy as indicators that things were about to go awry. Their ascent from Creation's seven-inch-singles-in-a-plastic-bag act in '94 to biggest band of the nineties exacerbated their basic problems of self-regard and conservatism: Oasis have come to represent and emphasise Britpop’s limitations and its folly.

Noel Gallagher revealed the narrow parameters of his classicism in a Mojo interview; he recalled how a fan had given him a cd of sixties baroque pop group the Left Banke, and that – to his surprise – he loved it. Would it be an influence on the next Oasis album, asked the journalist? "Nah. The idea of Bonehead dressed in a cravat and a frilly shirt playing a harpsichord doesn’t do it for me." Nobody expected Oasis to collaborate with Metalheadz, but you wouldn't have thought the Left Banke was a massive stretch.

This startling lack of adventurousness was mirrored by Paul Weller's mid-nineties retreat into classic Britrock, the deification of the La's, and Ocean Colour Scene's switch from baggy voyagers to nu-generation Merton Parkas. A less obvious turning point in Britpop's swing from Caught By The Fuzz fizz to Drugs Don't Work dirge was the arrival of Elastica.

Elastica appeared at Britpop's peak. Drummer Justin Welch's belched percussion throughout Line Up on their Top of the Pops debut in February ’94 predicted the art-school sniggering of the late-nineties Hoxton scene, and took Blur’s sneering superiority to a colder level. They looked to the past to create a future but in a rather more blunt way than Pulp or Denim - all of their songs seemed heavily indebted to the late seventies, and debut single Line Up was so close to Wire’s I Am the Fly that they were forced to settle out of court.

Their arrival on the scene had a similar effect to Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers' impact on the London punk scene. Like the Heartbreakers, Elastica brought heroin to the party: they were cool, ergo heroin was cool. Pulp and Denim quit their wood-chipped interiors to party at Elastica's Kings Cross pad, a stones throw from where the new St Martin's would open two decades later. What had been speedy and boozy became a smacky scene. Ultimately, the art school strand was just as responsible for Britpop's decline into reductivism as Oasis's shortsightedness.

Early '94 gave us Elastica's steely-eyed magpie pop, Oasis's first two single and, most depressingly, Primal Scream's ultra-conservative Give Out But Don't Give Up. Screamadelica had been a launchpad for future pop just three years earlier - they followed it with a lame collection of rockist cliches, wrapped in a Confederate flag sleeve, which couldn't have been further removed. 'Yanks go home!' had been Select's cheeky rallying cry a year earlier. But were the Americans impressed when they heard Jailbird and Cry Myself Blind? No, they were laughing at us.

It seems rather naive in retrospect that I thought combining modern house and techno beats with forgotten corners of the past - whether it was Joe Meek's (only just released in '93) I Hear A New World, Giorgio Moroder's The Chase or ESG's You're No Good - was about to lead us into a dazzlingly fresh pop nineties. Once the box marked 'the past' was open, other people were bound to cherry pick rather less recherche inspirations - why bother drawing on forgotten Lynsey de Paul album tracks when you had the Beatles, the Stones, the Jam? With the first wave of Britpop we unwittingly set everyone up for Union Jack sweaters and endless re-runs of Quadrophenia. Sorry about that.

46 comments:

  1. Bob can't you just write a book? I've always enjoyed reading what you write, and remembering everything above myself I couldn't help but nod my head through the whole piece. You could be the 90s version of Miles (Barry not Davis). Is that a bad thing? I don't think so.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Spot on article Bob. Wonder whether Stereolab have a place in the 'retro-futurist' bag?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great piece Bob. I saw World of Twist in '91 at Glasgow Uni and it was such fun - like Mickie Most working out of Camberwick Green. Lest we forget, Paris Angels, Cath Carroll and interstella to name a few who gave us a pre-Brettpop glimpse of electro pop possibility before the feedback kicked back in.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fuck my cunt life u mug. U think ur so cool dont ya

    ReplyDelete
  5. Meet me outside west croydon station if u want some u middle class prick

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi this post is very nice.finally i got all those information what i really wanted to know. thankyou for sharing this usefull information.here i want to share the information about mcafee security. as we all have been digitalied and we do multiple works together so if you face any problem or need any assist about MCAFEE so pleae visit over this site-Mcafee Antivirus technische ondersteuning

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi your post is very nice and i am greatful to you for sharing this post with us.here i want to share some information about Norton Antivirus.As we all know how much Norton Antivirus is usefull for our laptops and mobiles.so whenever you have any query regarding Norton or need any assistance how to run or any information that time please visit over this site-Norton Antivirus ondersteuningsnummer

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi your post is very nice and i am greatful to you for sharing this post with us.here i want to share some information about Norton Antivirus.As we all know how much Norton Antivirus is usefull for our laptops and mobiles.so whenever you have any query regarding Norton or need any assistance how to run or any information that time please visit over this site-Norton Antivirus ondersteuningsnummer

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi thankyou for this great helpful information.this information is really useful at today's time.you had easily explained whole information in a short note.now i want to share some information about avast antivirus.So if you are facing any problem regarding Avast so you can simply visit on our site-Avast antivirus belgie contacteren

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi, Thank you for sharing such a good and valuable information,It is very important for me. Gmail is the worldwide used email service but sometimes user faces some problems in it. If you want to get some information about the Gmail then you can visit gmail tuki suomi .

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanx for sharing such a piece of good information, it is very important for me. Lots of Canon devices operating in offices and other working places but sometimes user faces some technical issues in their Canon printers. If you need any kind of help then visit Canon Printer ondersteuning nummer.

    ReplyDelete

  12. hi, your post is very helpful for me. Finally, I found exactly what i want. There are lots of user of Xerox printer which uses printer in office and home but they someyimes face problem in their printers. If you have any queries realted to the printers then you can visit Xerox Printer ondersteuning nummer .



    ReplyDelete

  13. hi, Your post is very helpful for me,finally i got exactly what I want. If you want to know more about antivirus then please visit Bitdefender nummer help.

    ReplyDelete
  14. hi, your post is very helpful for me. Finally, I found exactly what i want. If need information regarding antivirus then you can visit our Kaspersky nummer
    r for help.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This so super post Creative Testing With Statistical Significance.Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article. I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.Thank you for sharing excellent information. Your website is so cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this website. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject.

    For more information visit site :- Roku.com/link
    Cash App Login
    ij.start.cannon
    Computer Repair
    123.hp.com/setup
    192.168.l.l
    paypal sign In
    Roadrunner Email Login

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi! this is nice article you shared with great information. Thanks for giving such a wonderful informative information. I hope you will publish again such type of post. Also, please check out about PayPal Login | PayPal Login.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Instantly play free online games, including solitaire, mahjong, hidden object, word, casino, card, and puzzle games. Play on your computer, tablet, or phone.

    pogo games sign in |
    www.pogo.com games |

    ReplyDelete
  18. It's the official roku.com/link that can activate the Roku Streaming device. Set up the device, get the roku link code, and visit this activation page to initiate the activation process. or roku.com/link create account, without having an access to a Credit card at the moment, he/she can follow these steps to set up an account.

    ReplyDelete
  19. cash app login error can be frustrating when you need to make an urgent payment. You get such errors on your mobile app and these can be fixed by applying the troubleshooting steps.

    ReplyDelete
  20. aol mail login - aol mail sign in is a free web-based email service provided by AOL. AOL webmail enables its users to check and send emails directly on a browser.

    ReplyDelete
  21. To Get to the Amazon account, you should simply to enlist from your gadget and utilize the www.amazon.com/mytv enter code Wii that is of 5 to 6 character and it is arranged in the Amazon video application on the TV or the gadget. In the event that you don't know what is Amazon Prime, it is a paid membership application to www.amazon.com/mytv which will give you admittance to an enormous scope of administrations with free quick conveyance and limitless video web-based features that are only accessible with the arrangements among the others. It in addition permits the clients to get to limitless spilling of movies and TV shows. It is critical to comprehend that the majority of the substance that is accessible on the stage known as Amazon Instant video can be transferred for nothing on the Amazon Prime enrollment.

    ReplyDelete
  22. To download epson printer drivers on your Windows 10, Windows 7, or 8, or Mac, you need to go to the Epson Connect Utility page and scroll down. After scrolling down, you will find the two options to download the drivers for different operating systems. Once you find the download option for your OS, click on the Download option present again it, and follow some easy prompts.

    epson connect printer setup utility enables you to enjoy remote printing on the go without the hurdles of connecting your printer with cables and then print.

    Learn the essential steps to epson printer not printing error. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid interruptions in the process to resolve the issue.

    To fix epson error code 0x97, you can reset your printer, clean the print-head, update the printer drivers, or re-install the latest Epson printer drivers.

    ReplyDelete
  23. For Venmo, QuickBooks, and yahoo mail login errors.

    venmo login |
    quickbooks login |
    yahoo mail login |

    ReplyDelete
  24. mcafee activate: Go to mcafee.com/activate. Activate Your Subscription form on the www.mcafee.com/activate page. Type your product key activation code in the Enter your code field.

    ReplyDelete
  25. When will update your site? Im really looking forward for more articles from your site. Keep me posted. Thanks www.amazon.com/code | tubi.tv/activate

    ReplyDelete
  26. I found this post very informative, thanks for sharing. hotmail login | 1337x

    ReplyDelete
  27. Looking for Cricket Helmets? Buy Online Cricket Helmets of All Sizes like Men, Youth, Boys, Kids and Junior Available at affordable price at NZ Cricket Store. We provide branded Cricket Helmets of best quality in New Zealand.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Cash App is the easiest way to send, spend, save, and invest your money. It's the SAFE, FAST, and FREE mobile banking app. First of all, you need to install Cash App on your mobile. Tap on the “Sign In” tab. Fill up your login details.
    Cash app login | Cash App Login

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm glad to be reading this article, I simply want to offer you a huge thumbs up for your great information. Twitch Activate | hbomax.com/tvsignin

    ReplyDelete
  30. I always like to read a quality content having accurate information regarding the subject. Thanks for the post and effort! Please keep sharing more such blogs.

    tv.youtube.com/start
    www.amazon.com/mytv

    ReplyDelete
  31. I really like your post, I always like to read quality content having accurate information regarding the subject. Thanks for sharing. It is such a very amazing post.

    amazon.com/code

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thankyou for this nice post. Watch free TV shows and movies online. Tubi offers all your favorite entertainment totally free online, and on more than 100 devices.
    Tubi.tv/activate | Facebook Login

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thanks for Sharing this information I suggest to keep sharing like this. I also recommend visiting

    www.amazon.com/mytv

    Nba streams reddit

    ReplyDelete
  34. Thanks for the interesting post. Watch showtime wherever and whenever you want - FREE with your showtime subscription through participating TV providers.
    showtimeanytime/activate | netflix login

    ReplyDelete

  35. mcafee.com/activate - Find the McAfee antivirus download, install & activation steps. Enter McAfee activate code and get started at www.mcafee.com/activate.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Great thanks for sharing it had been very informative blog. A useful wording may be a good way to spotlight the many aspects of the subject keep it up. pluto.tv/activate | Netflix Party

    ReplyDelete
  37. For instant charles schwab login, go to the official page of #CharlesSchwab and tap on the “Log In” option. Then, enter your User ID and password for login.

    ReplyDelete
  38. For venmo login with Venmo, Facebook, or PayPal login details, follow these guidelines. If you want to sign in to Venmo Groups, then use the details given here.

    ReplyDelete
  39. quickbooks login makes online accounting easy. Log in to your QuickBooks Online account to keep track of the money you spend and to see how much money you are making.
    quickbooks unrecoverable error |
    quickbooks error 3371 |

    ReplyDelete
  40. For accessing your walmart login account or managing your Credit Card/Money Card, you need to go to #walmartcom, tap on the "Account" tab, and choose "Sign In."
    bank logins:
    bank of america login |
    wells fargo login |

    ReplyDelete

 
Site Meter