Up until this point in the Pitchfork list of the 50 best Britpop albums there have been occasional mis-steps and mistakes that we can probably put down to something being lost in translation. For the most part the albums selected which were Britpop albums have been good choices and have been in, or around, the place on the list you might think…
All of that is about to change as we head into the top twenty where we will find a decision on placing that goes beyond baffling and into the realm of rage inducing…
New Wave, 1993 – The Auteurs
Luke Haines won’t like this of course but when you make art of any kind or participate in any sort of creative endeavour you have to accept that your relationship with that thing will, almost inevitably, be different to the relationship forged with it by those who encounter it in the wider world.
So it is with The Auteurs debut album.
All of the usual Haines hallmarks are here; high art masquerading as pop culture and classic English songwriting melding with obtuse but gloriously catchy melodies.
Possibly proto-Britpop and certainly as soon as the term was coined Haines ran a mile from it.
Lovelife, 1996 – Lush
From shoegazers to Britpop stars.
No other band managed to shift from one artificially created pop scene with as much ease as Lush.
One minute it was all scuffed DM’s and staring mournfully into the distance and the next it was giddy pop thrills and day-glo melodies.
What Lush prove is that the labels we all like to think mean something and our attempts to pigeonhole things for our own benefit are, in fact, nonsense. Feel like listening to My Bloody Valentine and Chapterhouse for a bit? Do it. Fancy flirting with the mainstream and being a bona fide pop star now? Do it.
Modern Life is Rubbish, 1993 – Blur
I’ve been really careful not to look any further ahead than one chunk at a time of this list so, genuinely, I don’t know what lies in the top ten but the fact that anyone with even a passing interest in the music scene in nineties Britain could put “Modern Life is Rubbish” outside of the top five is, frankly, enough to make my blood boil.
I’m flippin’ cross.
Let me spell this out for anyone who doesn’t get it…
No “Modern Life is Rubbish” = NO BRITPOP.
Now you can get all revisionist about it like every single journalist who wrote for the NME in the nineties and grew fat on the success of the scene but who now decries it at every turn…but Britpop was vital.
It was the moment.
It was THE moment.
All of that suddenly went from the fringes of the fringes to the beat-beat-beating heart of popular culture because of Britpop.
Britpop was the fringe element who staged a coup and took control of the culture.
It was magnificent.
Forget about whether or not Menswe@r were any good or were just chancers (I don’t care…either one suits me) and just remember that faced with a choice between the sunshine kisses of The Bluetones and their delicate, yet powerful pop charms or the atonal drone of My Bloody Valentine or the guttural growl of grunge there was only really one correct choice.
None of that happens without this album.
So, and indeed, there.
We are Shampoo, 1994 – Shampoo
Should have been number one.
Your Arsenal, 1994 – Morrissey
It may well be one of the finest albums of La Mozzerina’s career but it isn’t Britpop.
When I was Born for the 7th Time, 1997 – Cornershop
From agit-pop, punk provocateurs and arch Morrissey baiters at the start of the decade Cornershop, more than any other band of the era, grew, changed, shape-shifted, experimented and forged new paths that, as the Britpop era drew to a close, led them to release this album.
It is, without any exaggeration, one of the most complete and most fascinating albums of the times spawning the monster hit “Brimful of Asha” but, more importantly, forcing kids in Adidas to listen to country music with the likes of “Good to be on the Road Back Home Again” and experimental post-funk disco with “Funky Days Are Back Again”.
The La’s, 1990 – The La’s
One of the greatest albums in British pop music.
An album worthy of a spot in any best of the nineties list.
Hell, this is an album that could stake a claim to be in a best of the ever list.
It might even be the best album…ever.
It’s close right?
But, tragically, this is not a Britpop album and The La’s were not a Britpop band.
So what the shuddering Hell they are doing on a list of the fifty best Britpop albums I don’t know.
I really don’t.
Suede, 1993 – Suede
I Should Coco, 1995 – Supergrass
I found myself sat at a table outside of the Ally Pally before the “Showtime” Blur concert…the sun was shining, I was young, I was free, my teeth were nice and clean. At the next table were Supergrass. They were younger, free-er and had nicer and cleaner teeth. They looked like a band. You can’t underestimate how important it is that a band look like a band. It’s the most important bit of a band.
Huddled together, laughing, joking and grinning I got the sense that they knew, even at that point, that great things were waiting for them. They were right of course.
This album is a riot of youthful follies and energies.
Living it and having it.
This is the sound of youth.
His ‘n’ Hers, 1994 – Pulp
The Britpop tourists…the Johnny come latelies…the scenesters…the shysters…will all try to tell you that “Different Class” is the peak, the pinnacle of Pulp.
They are wrong.
A wonderful album though it is (and I have a feeling it may be to come in this list) and featuring the song that has come to represent the entire era for so many people…the truth is that it is inferior to “His ‘n’ Hers”.
“His ‘n’ Hers” is the perfect Pulp album.
It is, in fact, the perfect album.
From the cover art to the perfection of “Babies” and the rest it never once dips below astonishing in it’s brilliance.
Like a “Carry On…” film directed by Mike Leigh.