First with the breaking news as ever The Guardian have today informed their, ever dwindling, readership that “Britpop is back!” in an article written by Alexis Petridis. Unlike many of the other Guardian pieces on Britpop this one is written by someone who actually likes music, knows about music and understands why music matters to people…Petridis is good writer and, I reckon, would be a thoroughly decent person to discuss the relative merits of Menswe@r with over a half pint of Coke in the cosy confines of The Good Mixer.
Of course the news that Britpop is back isn’t actually news to any of the thousands of people who have been filling out Star Shaped club nights in London, Paris and goodness knows where else or who have bought tickets for the upcoming festival dates in Glasgow, Manchester and London. Nor is it a revelation to any of the thousands who have flocked to see Sleeper, Echobelly, Shed Seven, The Bluetones play live over the past twelve months.
The truth is that the resurgence of interest in the Britpop era has been bubbling away for over two years now…the likes of Mark Morriss, Chris Helme and Nigel Clark all play regularly as solo artists up and down the UK, Soda have issued, at long last, their album, there has been interest in lesser known acts like Lick and Elcka, Marion will be playing live later this year, Echobelly, Shed Seven and Salad have all released new music, Suede have a new album looming, James Cook (The Flamingoes) has published a fabulous memoir of his own musical journey, Twitter is awash with Britpop related accounts…Britpop Memories, Brits and Pieces, Oasis Podcast, the aforementioned Star Shaped and the Britpop Revival Show…Liam and Noel Gallagher have released albums too.
Unlike “revivals” which tend to be built around new acts doing pale imitations of bands they only know about because of their mums and dads (see the ghastly Mod revival of the early eighties for evidence) what is happening with Britpop is something very different. While the audience may be the same cool cats, art school hipsters and weirdo outsiders that cluttered up the scene between 1992-1997 the bands are not playing solely on nostalgia…they are producing new music and not just music that sounds a bit like the old stuff; don’t believe me then take a listen to “Instant Pleasures” by Shed Seven and then tell me it isn’t a career high, or take a listen to “Good Love, Bad Love” by Salad and tell me it isn’t the best music they’ve ever released.
In his article Petridis suggests that the interest in Britpop may stem from a desire to retreat from the horrors of the modern world, to retreat to a time before Trump, Brexit, 9/11 and the rest of it. I think there may be some merit in that suggestion but I have to say that for me it isn’t about reliving the “glory days” or escaping from the harsh realities of a modern life that is rubbish…it’s about one thing and one thing only; the music. Those bands are still thrilling live and on record. When I went to see The Bluetones a few months ago I wasn’t bathing in the sunlit glow of nostalgia, I hadn’t dug out an old Strangelove t-shirt and a pair of Adidas trainers for the occasion…I went to see a band I love, not love-d, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Like a young Kevin Rowland watching Geno Washington I could say of these bands that they “fed me” they “bred me” and I still remember their names. Sure, some of the songs haven’t aged particularly well (hello “Parklife”, how do you do “Wake Up Boo”) but “Modern Life is Rubbish” is still stunning, “Dog Man Star” defies description, “Definitely Maybe” rocks and rolls right now, “Different Class” remains exactly that and the curiosities like “Lux” by Thurman or the peculiar, dark, oddities of Strangelove soothe my aching heart on dark nights.
It wouldn’t be a Guardian article on Britpop without the obligatory, compulsory, accusations of racism and sexism of course and Petridis doesn’t disappoint;
“Unfashionable as Britpop may seem in 2018 – with it’s propensity for flag-waving parochialism (which feels discomfiting in the age of Brexit) and it laddish atmosphere…”
Well, here is the thing though Alex, waving a flag isn’t evidence of parochialism…unless the people waving the flag are parochial. The Union Flag wasn’t being waved around at Supergrass concerts by hordes of Fred Perry clad British nationalists, it was just a cool looking image that, very occasionally, was used by bands (Noel Gallagher’s guitar or Ginger Spices dress!) but I really didn’t see it anywhere except on the covers of magazines…of the sort that music writers like you wrote for. It is also possible to love your country and not be a nationalist…not everyone who hangs a St George’s cross outside of their house is a bigot, just ask Emily Thornberry.
The lad thing is another media invention. It was entirely the product of the fevered, puerile, imaginings of James Brown and the chaps at Loaded who used it as an excuse to place scantily clad women inside the pages of the magazine. The scene itself was awash with “female fronted bands” and the gigs were a merry mix of boys and girls. For any Guardian readers who may be looking in I should point out that I understand that this view is driven by my privilege as a male and that the lived experience of others may contradict my own.
I’m being snarky but only because it is irritating to constantly be told that a period in time that for you was all about records, buying the N.M.E, wearing badges of your favourite bands and making mix-tapes for Thomasina Morgan from your sociology lectures was, in fact, laced with vile nationalism and was populated by hideous sexist beasts.
When I find myself at Star Shaped in Glasgow next weekend I don’t expect to be greeted by Union Flag waving lads chanting for the women in the audience, or on the stage, to show their breasts…instead I reckons I am going to find a venue filled with people dancing, singing, chatting, smiling and thrilling at the glories of the bands assembled by the organisers.
We just wanna have a good time.
We just wanna be free.
Alexis Petridis is right, Britpop is, indeed, BACK but what he doesn’t understand is that he is late to the party. Come along to Glasgow…or Manchester…or London and have a good time with us Alexis. You’d love a bit of it.
You can read the article from the brilliant Mr Petridis here.