“I disassociated myself from that very early on, as soon as I saw what I saw as becoming this kind of laddish, jingoistic, cartoon happening, which became Britpop, I very quickly distanced Suede from that…I saw what was happening with Britpop and, for me, it felt quite distasteful. It felt nationalistic, it felt like there was, sort of, quite a strong thread of misogyny and I didn’t think Suede should be part of that.”
(Brett Anderson, 2019)
And so it came to pass that there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Largely from people who don’t really understand what Britpop is, or was, and who haven’t really read what Brett Anderson had to say about it.
It is dangerous to conflate Britpop with Cool Britannia, the two very different things. One was a lazy, catch all, “scene” created by music journalists and the other was a term created, and weaponised, by political figures to achieve power and set an agenda.
“Cool Britannia” was a branding exercise, an attempt to shift attitudes and to drag Britain from a place of self-loathing and near fecklessness thanks to the economic strife of the eighties and the worst aspects of Thatcherism…it was, in many ways, Harry Enfield’s “Loadsamoney” come to life. That wasn’t the intention of course, the intention was to foster creative energy, entrepreneurial capitalism and national pride in order to re-energise the country and put Britain centre stage globally.
The problem was that part of Cool Britannia was the rise of lad culture (for men and women), a blizzard of cocaine which, if we are all being honest, isn’t a drug that makes people more pleasant and which also created a space where national pride could, all too easily, slip into jingoism.
When Brett Anderson describes his discomfort with laddism, jingoism and blatant misogyny he is speaking for me.
Things become slightly less clear because Brett sees those things as being directly linked to Britpop…and I don’t.
Britpop was never a genre.
There isn’t a Britpop sound.
One would struggle to describe the “look” of a Britpop band.
Bands didn’t even have to be British to be Britpop.
Britpop was, really, indie gone mainstream.
It is difficult to see it as being jingoistic when it includes the likes of Eels (American), The Wannadies (Sweden), The Cardigans (Sweden), Ash (Irish) or when it has key voices who were black and Asian. Tricky too to see it as being misogynistic when some of the most successful, and revered, writers/musicians of the era were women like Justine Frischmann, Louise Wener and Sonya Madan. Challenging to see it as laddish when characters like Jaime Harding, Mark Morriss, Patrick Duff, and others were stars, each of them writing openly, honestly and passionately about affairs of the heart, domestic violence, heartache and more.
Yes many of the bands who fall under the Britpop umbrella flirted with classic, iconic, British imagery…or more accurately Mod iconography…but none of them were flirting with fascism or waving the Union Jack as means of making a political comment. This was all style and very little substance.
It isn’t my place to even consider “correcting” someone like Brett Anderson who is, let us be honest, my superior in almost every way that one could imagine but I do think that it is inaccurate, possibly disingenuous, to see Britpop in such negative terms or as being wholly unpleasant.
Britpop is, for me, a moment and a dizzying period of creativity. It is a magnesium flash of pop wonder that, arguably, may never be seen again. It is a little oasis (ahem) of nostalgia tinted memory that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when I think about it. It is the freaks and weirdos, like Brett, coming to dominate the pop landscape in ways that their predecessors could never have imagined. It is a celebration of some of the best aspects of British culture.
Brett is, of course, right to seek to disassociate himself, and the band, from any label or genre that he sees as being out of step with his ethos, his philosophy, his politics and I am delighted that he has shown, again, that he is a thoughtful, considered and articulate figure.