Back in 2014 WIRED ran an article by Graeme McMillan entitled “12 Tunes You Need to Know to Sound Like a Britpop Expert“. Here is part of the introduction to that piece…
“Worried that you don’t know enough to bluff your way through any kind of discussion of the genre? You’re in luck. We’ve compiled some of the lesser-known highlights (and lowlights) of the genre below to help you out. Plug in your headpones—your quick and easy cheat sheet for all things Britpop starts here.”
I love Britpop and I would really like to be able to bluff my way through any kind of discussion of the genre. This article sounds right up my street. Lots of the people who visit this site also like Britpop so they would probably really like this article too.
I have a fun suggestion.
Why don’t we take a look at it together?
First though it’s worth pointing out that when Graeme talks about being able to bluff your way through a discussion on Britpop he, undoubtedly, means those people who want to sound like they know more than anyone else in the room despite knowing much, much less than anyone else in the room. He wants to arm those charlatans with band names and song titles to make them seem hip to the Britpop beat.
You know the kind of person.
They say things like “Oh yeah, I really liked him/her/them until…” then they throw in some nonsense about their choice of producer but what they really mean is “…until they had a top ten hit and other people started to like them.”, they are joyless, pretentious, dullards. You should avoid them at all costs and never, ever, ever, become one of them.
First up on the WIRED Britpop cheat-sheet is…
“The Beautiful Ones” by Suede. Great song. No doubt. Great band. No argument. Arguably they created the environment from which Britpop was spawned. One of my personal most cherished bands. I love them. I love this song. I have no real argument with it being part of a blaggers guide to Britpop…
I do, however, have a problem with this…
“Two years later, they returned—without guitarist and songwriter Bernard Butler—with Coming Up, which hewed more closely to the Britpop sound with hits like the above “Beautiful Ones.” It was a shallower—but far more successful—album…”
So, Graeme reckons that “Coming Up” was a “shallower” album than “Dog Man Star”. The idea here, of course, is that somehow pop music is less important and less meaningful than the dark heart of certain other forms of music. That, I’m happy to say, is nonsense. “Coming Up” is far from a “shallow” album…Suede just didn’t “do” shallow. What “Coming Up” is, is a masterpiece in how to blend soaring pop melodies with the sort of lyrical depth that few others can master or muster.
Also, if you are going to try and pass yourself off as some sort of Britpop know-it-all based on some carefully selected songs from someone who does understand the scene then you wouldn’t select “Beautiful Ones” as your Suede selection. You would, of course, choose “The Drowners” and testify of its pivotal role in shifting the focus from the awful moans of Seattle to the glorious whines of the UK. Neither track is the “best” Suede song but “The Drowners” is the Suede song for this experiment.
Next up from Graeme is “Yes” by McAlmont and Butler.
Another great song.
It’s a masterpiece to be honest.
The problem is, Graeme, you’ve missed the fact that anyone who really wants to pass themselves off as a Britpop expert wouldn’t include “Yes”…not because it’s not good but because it’s too big a hit. The sort of idiots you’re pitching your article at need to sound like they know more about the scene than the chumps they’re talking to…”Yes” doesn’t achieve that.
Much better to have ignored McAlmont and Butler altogether or, if you had to include them then choose “You Do” just because it wasn’t as successful.
I’d leave ’em out altogether.
Next dear Graeme decides that “A Design for Life” is another Britpop song that will enable you to sound like you know what you’re talking about when embroiled in a discussion of the era.
We can all debate whether or not the Manics are a Britpop band at all (hint…they are not) but the fact of the matter is that this is another missed opportunity for you to give your readers the edge on other folks…selecting enormous hits from bands that everyone has heard of is a waste of time.
I love me a bit of the Manics…but I wouldn’t include them on any “Best of Britpop” list.
Before revealing Graeme’s next selection I have to remind you all that in the introduction to his list he does talk about the “lowlights” of the scene…so he’s not attempting to present this as a list of great music, which leads us to…
“Hanging Around” by Me Me Me.
In a more civilised country Alex James and Damien Hirst would have received the death penalty for this abomination. As it is they have both suffered worse fates with James becoming a caricature of himself and Hirst disappearing deep inside his own anus.
Let’s move on.
The next choice is much more like it and would, in all likelihood, feature on my own Britpop blag list…
Menswe@r “I’ll Manage Somehow” is everything that matters in pop music all bundled up in one package…youth, style over content, the strong whiff of blagging. I’ve written about Menswe@r in much more detail in another post so we will move swiftly on.
Another band I’ve written about in great detail is Sleeper and it is their “Inbetweener” that Graeme has chosen for his guide to Britpop for the uninitiated. It’s another one that is difficult to argue with but, if I was choosing, I think I might have been tempted to go with “Delicious”…not because it’s a “better” song but because, again, it has that place at the early stages of the scene that would make you sound very informed.
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who likes “Wake Up Boo!” by the Boo Radleys.
Of course, when it was released it was the only thing you heard.
It was the sound of the summer in 1995.
I hated it.
I still hate it.
The Boo Radleys I don’t hate.
I quite likes them.
This is another song that people who don’t really “get” Britpop include on these sorts of lists or on “Best of…” compilation albums, but for the likes of us it just isn’t Britpop. It’s less irritating than “Country House”, I’ll give it that, but only just.
Now we are entering dangerous territory.
Graeme has decided to include a bit of the old Weller in his list with “Sunflower” which is as fine a moment as Weller has ever had…and that’s saying something when you consider how many bona fide classic hit records the geezer has written. Bizarrely Graeme has also decided that it isn’t actually Britpop at all but instead is an example of…
“One of the most popular sub-genres of Britpop was DadRock, so named because it was a) predominantly played by male musicians, and b) focused on recreating the sounds of a specific 1960s rock music…”
Oh do shut up Graeme love.
Bloody “dad rock”.
What a load of hoary old rubbish.
Even if “dad rock” were anything other than a non-scene invented by the sorts of pillocks who were writing for the N.M.E at the fag end of Britpop (which it wasn’t) then this song pre-dates the whole thing by about five years.
Instead “Sunflower” is, along with the likes of the first Suede singles and blur’s “For Tomorrow” a sort of Britpop starter gun…it pushed Weller back into the limelight after the relatively cool reception afforded to his Paul Weller Movement and placed a firm emphasis on British musicians.
Ocean Colour Scene are a massively popular band from the era but Graeme has decided to go with “Hundred Mile High City” because he heard it on the soundtrack of a Guy Ritchie film. It’s a fine song but the only songs that should make it onto a list like this come from “Moseley Shoals”. That was the album that put the Mod into modern life is rubbish. They had the look and the sound of a new Mod band without ever really sounding retro. My choice would be “One for the Road”.
There is only one Charlatans song that can be included in a list of songs to highlight your understanding of the Britpop years and that song is not “Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over”, it is (of course) “Can’t Get Out of Bed”. That’s just personal taste though and well done to Graeme for including them on his list…although there is a strong argument to be made for bands like the Charlatans and James (who had huge success during the era) being something “other” than Britpop given their status before the scene started.
Now comes all the proof that we really need to prove that Graeme doesn’t actually know what Britpop is. Here is what he has to say about The Bluetones…
“The Bluetones were one of the acts who offered up music that hinted at the Stone Roses’ original sound, while being a little more guitar-oriented, and a little less danceable. Expecting to Fly, their debut album, appeared towards the end of the Britpop period, but it’s a fun album nonetheless.”
Apparently Graeme thinks that “Expecting to Fly” appeared towards the end of the Britpop period…despite the fact that it appeared in February of 1996. He also seems to think that it’s a more “guitar-oriented” sound than early Stone Roses. He then confirms his ignorance by suggesting it’s a “fun album”.
A fun album.
Like a “Greatest Hits of Black Lace” album…fun.
That’s worse than dismissing something as “nice”.
Listen up Graeme…”Expecting to Fly” is one of the finest albums by a British band, any British band, of the last thirty years. I say that as someone who couldn’t even label themselves as one of the more loyal/obsessed members of the Blue Army. I say it as an objective statement of fact.
He redeems himself by selecting The Bluetones at all and then lets himself down by not selecting “Cut Some Rug”. He chooses “Are you Blue or are you Blind” instead…which is a great Britpop moment but I’m trying to suggest that if you want to pass yourself off as a Britpop aficionado then you choose something other than that.
“Love is the Law” by The Seahorses is the final selection in this list and while, yes, it is a classic of the era the truth is that to select this over any one of a dozen other songs suggests that Graeme was close to the deadline for this article and GOOGLE had thrown up this track when he searched for “Britpop songs”.
Written to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the release of “Parklife” by blur the objective was to give people an insight into a scene that had more to offer than the big hitters of blur, Pulp, Oasis, Elastica and Supergrass (all of whom enjoyed some success in the States where WIRED exists) and offer a reason to investigate further into the era.
You failed Graeme.
Here are the twelve songs you should have written about…
“Insomniac” by Echobelly.
“Girl A, Girl B, Boy C” by My Life Story.
“Disappointed” by The Flamingoes.
“Be My Light, Be My Guide” by Gene.
“Cut Some Rug” by The Bluetones.
“The Drowners” by Suede.
“I’ll Manage Somehow” by Menswe@r.
“Delicious” by Sleeper.
“One for the Road” by Ocean Colour Scene.
“This is Music” by The Verve.
“On a Leash” by Salad.
“Insomniacs Dream” by Mantaray.
Now before everyone starts moaning and griping about the bands I haven’t included or the fact that, like Graeme, I’ve chosen the “wrong” songs let me just say this…I’m trying to help the sort of terrible arseholes who want to appear more knowledgeable than anyone else in the room despite the fact they are terrible arseholes who know less than anyone else in the room. Also…all true Britpoppers will be able to sniff out a phoney as soon as they start quizzing them on the who, the where and the why of any of these selections.
I have no idea why I’ve written over two thousand words in response to an article that was written over four years ago.