Pitchfork Britpop 50 – 30-21

 

suedescifi

Sci-Fi Lullabies, 1997 – Suede

A compilation of b-sides.

That is normally the sort of thing that makes sensible people run for the hills.

If the songs on the b-side were any good they would be on the a-side?

If they were not quite good enough for the a-side but were still pretty good then surely they would have made it onto the album?

Nobody wants to listen to b-sides.

Britpop was the musical movement that disproved that notion.

Blur saved all sorts of weird and wonderful curiosities for their b-sides including things like the magnificent “Young and Lovely”.  Oasis had so many classic songs tucked away on the flip side of their singles that you began to believe that the whole thing was a perverse joke and that the singles themselves were the b-sides and the band had simply released them because they knew they were still better than anything anyone else was releasing.  Sleeper too had all sorts of wonders on the reverse of the big hits.  I could go on.  You get the general idea.

Nobody did b-sides quite like Suede though.

Nobody.

“Sci-fi Lullabies” gathered together most, but not all, of the b-sides from “The Drowners” through to “Filmstar” and proved, beyond any doubt, that Suede were a band so soaked in brilliance that they were without any real rivals.  “My Insatiable One”, “Killing of a Flashboy”, “Every Monday Morning Comes” and, well, just about every other song here was the match of anything any of their contemporaries were doing on the a-side.

The best Suede album?

Maybe.

charlatanstellinstories

Tellin’ Stories, 1997 – The Charlatans

A great album.

A great band.

One of the finest bands Britain has ever produced.

Consistently bringing new sounds that sound familiar.

A band worthy of your love…deserving of your obsession.

But Britpop?

Like James, The Stone Roses and another act who will appear a little later in this piece, The Charlatans were here before Britpop and they would have continued to sell records and do that thing they do without the aid of a “scene”.  They exist outside of the parameters of labels and so I am calling “Not Britpop”.

That said if I don’t hear “North Country Boy” at the next Star Shaped event I attend I will be upset.

mozzervauxhall

Vauxhall and I, 1994 – Morrissey

Speaking of people who exist outside of scenes.

“Vauxhall and I” is the best record of Morrissey’s career.

Not just as a solo artist either.

From start to finish it never drops below the level of perfection.

Littered with pop culture references and relatively free from the bile and spite that has dominated so much of his work since this it is also the last album he produced where delicacy and fragility, both musically and lyrically, were the order of the day.

But, simply put, this is not a Britpop record.

No matter what definition you wish to employ.

sfafuzzylogic

Fuzzy Logic, 1996 – Super Furry Animals

Furious.

Funny.

Frenetic.

Full of flair.

From the opening track “God! Show me Magic” it was very obvious that we were about to embark on a trip into the wonderful and the weird.  Super Furry Animals were no Oasis or Blur mimics, they were utterly unique and defiantly demented.  Shunning anything even approaching a category or a scene they just got on with making music that shook your soul and battered your senses.

Nothing has changed over the course of 23 years.

verveanorthernsoul

A Northern Soul, 1995 – The Verve

I am heading for Dundee.

I’ve taken the train from Paisley Gilmour Street to Glasgow Central straight after my last lecture of the week and before I head for Buchanan Street bus station to catch the bus to spend the weekend with my girlfriend I stop off in Tower Records and pick up a copy of this record on the strength of having heard the lead off single “This is Music”.

I actually buy it twice.

One of the great benefits of being sober, in every regard, is that you often have money for indulgences like an album on tape and CD.

Once on the bus I pop “A Northern Soul” into my Walkman and listen.

“A New Decade” hits me hard.

Woozy, fuzzy, discordant, poetic, romantic, soulful, plaintive.

I hit the rewind button and listen.

Again.

It’s not the only track that makes me do that on the journey to the city of jam and jute.

By the time I get to my girlfriend’s flat I have listened to the album, in it’s entirety, at least twice through.  I don’t even take my coat off before I head to her CD player and pull the album from my bag and force it into the machine.  I hit play and we both listen.

I’d be lying if I told you that it had the same impact on her.

She liked it.

Of course she liked it.

She could hear.

Later that weekend we are at some student disco and the DJ plays “This is Music”.

I don’t dance.

I listen.

Again.

I get talking to a very beautiful but dangerous girl who has been named after an Italian city…she is flirting with me (honestly) and I don’t try to stop her, I have already had my weekly argument with the girlfriend and she is off somewhere with someone dancing, drinking, deliberating the worth of being in a relationship with a boy like me.

I start to pontificate about how great The Verve are with the beautiful girl with the exotic name.  I start talking about honesty and passion and purity.

She listens.

Then she says; “I just want to have some fun.” before heading off to find exactly that.

Story of my life.

hefnerbreaking

Breaking God’s Heart, 1998 – Hefner

Darren Hayman is a genius.

No doubt.

No argument.

A brilliant lyricist…closer to a poet.

Outside of Hefner you should listen to his “Thankful Villages” work…a genius.

But…not Britpop.

Lot’s of people keep making this mistake.

Britpop isn’t British pop.

It isn’t even British guitar pop.

It is something more than and less than that.

Hefner are not Britpop.

supergrassinitforthemoney

In it for the Money, 1996 – Supergrass

After the delirious pop giddiness of “I Should Coco” and the enormous success of “Alright”, the ‘Grass needed to ensure that they followed up with something…different, better, more?

The problem, if it is a problem, of a monster single like “Alright” is that it can, very easily, define a band, trap them in one moment, one three minute burst and that is all anyone ever remembers.  Lots of bands never escape “that” song.

“In it for the Money” was broader, bolder and more ballsy than “Coco”…everything was turned up and turned on to ensure that the listener knew that these were no one hit wonders.

kenickie

At the Club, 1997 – Kenickie

I dare you to listen to this and not feel better about…everything.

Off you go.

I can wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Told you.

This is the sound of youth.

Funnier than you.

Smarter than you.

Sharper than you.

Braver than you.

Kenickie were all of the things you wanted to be, that you still want to be, but just couldn’t ever manage.

Don’t worry.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Very few get to be Kenickie.

saintetiennesotough

So Tough, 1993 – Saint Etienne

This is really simple.

This album starts with a reading from a Dirk Bogarde poem called “Steel Cathedral’s” and also features samples from “Peeping Tom”, “Billy Liar”, “That’ll be the Day” and all sorts of other British movie loveliness.  Well, given the content of “Peeping Tom” maybe “loveliness” isn’t quite the right word.

Whatever.

The point is that “So Tough” was the album that captured the sound and spirit of London in the nineties better than any other…by capturing the essence of sixties London and bending it to suit the needs of the new generation.

Pop perfection from start to finish.

olympian

Olympian, 1995 – Gene

I can’t really say too much about this because a full article on this album is currently in the works!

Shall we just agree that it is brilliant and leave it at that?

Good.

I like it when we all get along.

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