And now, the end is near.
We face the final curtain of the fifty albums that Pitchfork determined were the best of the Britpop era.
So far there have been several wonderful albums…with many of them too in the wrong place as well as several albums that, no matter how you want to define it, were not Britpop albums.
At its best this list has been a lovely stroll down memory lane…something I am always keen on…but, at it’s worst, this has been an infuriating journey through the misconceptions that surround the scene and a series of glaring omissions.
We have seen the inclusion of Placebo, Edwyn Collins, Black Box Recorder, Morrissey (twice), Hefner and The La’s but no place for The Bluetones, Salad, Dodgy, Geneva, Thurman, Mantaray or any number of other great Britpop bands who released wonderful pop albums during the era.
Still, the top ten looms so maybe things will come good?
Urban Hymns, 1997 – The Verve
No real arguments here.
“Urban Hymns” put The Verve into the Premier League of British rock ‘n’ roll acts and sat them, briefly, at the top table alongside Oasis and Blur in terms of record sales and their ability to play to massive crowds.
To my mind it lacks the fire, the creativity and the emotional punch of “A Northern Soul” but any album that includes a single as good as “Bittersweet Symphony” deserves to be remembered with nothing less than fondness.
Here is what I had to say about it in my piece on The Verve last year;
June 1997 brought a brand new single from The Verve and, once again, a subtle change in the style, feel and sound of the music. From the psychedelic rock of “A Storm in Heaven” to the alternative rock of “A Northern Soul” they had modified, moderated and moulded their sound and now, again, they were doing things slightly differently…yet still recognisably them.
The single was “Bitter Sweet Symphony” and is, arguably, the song by The Verve that elevated them from a band on the fringes of mainstream success and mass adoration to a band who were destined to fill stadiums and take their place alongside Oasis as one of the great rock ‘n’ roll acts of the 20th century…and possibly beyond. Built around a sample of the Andrew Loog Oldham orchestral version of The Rolling Drones “The Last Time” the song is a perfect moment in rock and pop history.
As strings begin to swell with that now impossible not to recognise coda, electronic tweets join in, drums begin to gently beat and then the voice and the words. Once again Ashcroft returns to the theme of isolation and heartache…”I need to hear some sounds that recognise the pain in me”, “I’m a million different people from one day to the next”, “I can’t change, I can’t change, I can’t change”, “I can’t change my mold…no, no, no” and “It’s just sex and violence, melody and silence” proved, again, that Ashcroft was more than the “Mad Richard” of the press with his claims of flight and his pseudo-spiritual musings. He was, and lets just be honest, a genius.
Definitely Maybe, 1994 – Oasis
I know that all lists are arbitrary and that you have to try and cram a lot of stuff in but…NUMBER NINE?
One of the most important debut albums of all time, an album that along with three others defined an entire era, an album that introduced the greatest rock and roll band since…take your pick.
Where would I have put it?
Today and every day.
I’m not a huge Oasis fan either but when you think about British music in the nineties it is impossible to understate how big a deal they were and how important this album was.
Blur, 1997 – Blur
Higher than “Modern Life is Rubbish”.
I don’t want to sound like a stuck record but let’s all be very clear on this…without “Modern Life is Rubbish” there would have been no Britpop. You can be a dreadful bore at this point and say “Good” if you like but for people like me that moment, that movement, that time defined us.
“Blur” is a fine album…it could be the best Blur album, depending on who you ask; Hell, it might even be my favourite Blur album if you ask me tomorrow but that doesn’t change the fact that it is “Modern Life is Rubbish” that best captures the spirit of the scene. That it isn’t even in the top ten is a crime.
A crime I tells ya.
This is Hardcore, 1998 – Pulp
The album that, for many people, signals the death of the party, the end of an era…the awful comedown from the delicious highs of the previous six years. The darkness of the cover art is a warning of what lies within the grooves of the album itself…this is, often, bleak and harrowing stuff from a band who, three years earlier, were thrilling Glastonbury with a rendition of “Common People” that seemed to unite an entire country.
No, I don’t think that’s an exaggeration at all.
I don’t think it deserves a place in the top ten…that should have gone to “His ‘n’ Hers” but I love Pulp so I’m delighted to see them in the list twice!
Elastica, 1995 – Elastica
A glorious collection of songs from a glorious collection of humans.
Elastica were a sugar rush of a band…all punk and pop dizzyness, sex and sexuality and shifty looking chic.
This is a genuine must have album for anyone with even a passing interest in what was going on in British music in the nineties.
I am now almost sick with nerves because there are only five albums left to look at and, so far, Thurman haven’t had a look in. I have this awful feeling they might not make it into the top five and, at that point, I am going to weep. Real, raw, tears of sadness and frustration.
I actually can’t bring myself to look…
I need to look…
Hold on and I’ll take a look…