June 07, 2004


As if to confirm Dave's observations : coincidentally came upon Chris Roberts' hilarious demolition of the Britpop album Live Forever (and what a pathetically ironic title that is) from Uncut last year (opening line, 'If you can rememeber the '90s, you had mediocre taste in music'), which concludes: 'The woeful Oasis and the meat-and-spuds Manics are only topped for triteness by the risible Robbie Williams. The cheeky chappy gang's all here - perhaps someone else whose feebleness will be chuckled at within two years, like Hirst or Emin, could be given a hundred grand of our taxes to enbalm them. They moved nothing or no-one. We've moved on.'

Posted by mark at June 7, 2004 02:16 PM | TrackBack

i dunno, i was thinking the other that by and large the Nineties was a great decade for music.

Posted by: simon r at June 7, 2004 05:06 PM

i dunno, i was thinking the other day that by and large the Nineties was a great decade for music.

Posted by: simon r at June 7, 2004 05:07 PM

but it's a bloke in UNCUT innit.

no offence all...

Posted by: scott at June 7, 2004 05:09 PM

But not for (chart)pop especially? Fabulous for rock auto-immolation (Nirvana) and mostly of course for jungle, garage, 2-step and peak period Timbaland (which are more than enough for anydecade, but pop was pretty thin on the ground wasn't it?

Posted by: mark k-p at June 7, 2004 05:10 PM

The 90s was a shit time for British music. I know this quite intensely, what with being a bit younger than you lot - going to the local Comp in 1990 meant that my adolescence spent a lot of its time listening to awful programmes like 'the Evening Session', presented by two people sharing the same personality bypass.

I never had any time for the likes of Blur, Oasis and MSP (MOR for goths, anyone?). So dull, blokey, unambitious, retroactive....(did any of you ever read 'Retroactive Baggage' btw? Cov and Leam based music zine, was actually alright for the most part.)

The American stuff was infinitely superior (or even the Scottish stuff that sounded American): Smog, Palace, Tortoise, Fugazi, Sleater-Kinney....The Delgados, Arab Strap, Urusei Yatsura, &c. None of it very cheery of course, but mix it up with a bit of Aphex Twin and Sonic Youth and it's not a bad decade. Just not an obviously 'pop' one.

Posted by: infinite thought at June 7, 2004 05:37 PM

MOR for goths - makes it sound far too interesting --- almost like Stevie Nicks (of which more later)...

Posted by: mark k-p at June 7, 2004 05:53 PM

That "scene" feels like a thousand years ago. But in a way there's something quite fascinating about how dull and sludgelike Britpop was, how such a complete lack of tunes, charisma, hooks, aspiration and spirit could be achieved so consistently. Try to recall a song by Shed Seven, Cast, Echobelly or Ocean Colour Scene -- you probably can't even remember their titles let alone how they went. What was Britpop's appeal and selling point supposed to be, anyway?

Posted by: amblongus at June 7, 2004 09:33 PM

Yeah, I agree with S. R. on that point - the 90's were OK musicwise. The whole electronic cross-over that happened then - when people who were "indie" started really listening to Autechre, Aphex, Orbital, when Brian Eno was having his moment in the sun (i.e. when Bowie was understood as being interesting because he had worked with Eno). The 90's were much more interesting for everyone than the 80's, during which every previous avant-gardlites backsilded heavily - Bowie and Lou - and those interminable arguements about whether music made by "machines" (synths) was inferior to music made by electric guitars (machines.)

Posted by: tom kohut at June 8, 2004 05:32 AM

The 90s were a GREAT decade for music, just not the sort endorsed by Q/The Guardian/NME etc. All the interesting music came from hip-hop/R&B/hardcore/techno (in its broadest sense). The thing i have issues with is that Cool Britannia was exactly that, "cool"/maybe even lukewarm, where other things not seen to be part of this music/visual art/lit convergence were really on the boil, where it was really going on.

Posted by: Dave S at June 8, 2004 10:23 AM

I know the 90s were a great decade for music for all the reasons Dave S says but it's still the mediocre stuff that springs to mind first, either because it lingers or because someone's put XFM on in my office, probably the latter.

I think a handful of the big early Britpop singles were really good pop (and there was loads of other good pop in the 90s charts, most of it sourced in clubland) but they bottled it - people got lazy or the coke took over or they got snobbish.

Posted by: Tom at June 8, 2004 10:30 AM

Hip hop pretty much nonstop. R&B pretty much nonstop (timbaland got going in 96, TLC 'waterfalls' was 95 i think, and there was good stuff before that). Pop rave invading the charts. ARDKORE in the top 10!!!! Grunge had its moments-- nirvana, soundgarden's 'outshined' and 'rusty cage'. Pulp and Elastica redeem Britpop. And 'girls and boys' and 'champagne supernova' and 'we are young' were alright, right. Saint Etienne: a trail of only slightly broken glory. Lest we not forget: lo-fi, half a good idea for half a moment (Pavement, a few others). Janes Addiction. There's some say it was a good era for metal (i wouldn't know shit about that). World of Twist and the tail end of baggy. Dancehall pretty much nonstop. Jungle gabba drum'n'bass house renaissance BIG BEAT etc. Techno and, yes, even trance. Not forgetting speed garage and 2step. Aphex, ambient house, electronic listening music, the Orb on top of the pops! Tricky, Massive, DJ Shadow: trip hop before it was a bad idea. Postrock before it was a bad idea, ie Lost Generation. Beck before it was a bad idea. Riot grrl/huggy bear--something to talk about anyway. THE PRODIGY!!!!!!!! Europop, hip-house, Technotronic, Snap, etc etc. A brief period in the early nineties when it was fun to turn on MTV, even if only to laugh at Red Hot Chilli Peppers videos. In retrospect even things like Nine inch nails seem better than they felt at the time, compared especially with the current shite numetal.

i dunno, chris roberts verily talketh out of his arse here, as well he might being such a relentless blondie/patti smith/bowie epigone.


and i'm sure i've forgottne about ten things

(and yes my thumb's better...)

Posted by: simon r at June 8, 2004 02:30 PM

Well yeah, the 90s stuff that wasn't Britpop was fine and dandy whether it was chart-topping R'n'B or the most obscurist electronica... and even Oasis and Blur had their moment (not "champaign supernova", please -- that was the lighters-in-the-air, lennon's-not-dead end of Oasis' brief spell of snotty brilliance) ... but Mark's specifically talking about Britpop here, which deliberately avoided -- and was pretty much a reaction against, as I recall -- much of what Simon rightly lists as the decade's goodies (recalling the sheer dross of Britpop made me forget most of those, not to mention Stereolab, Portishead, PJ Harvey, Tindersticks, Drugstore, etc).

Britpop is still a sore point for me as I remain pissed at a bunch of people who dragged me to Brighton Beach in the mid-90s. This was supposed to be the pinnacle of Britpop and I have never had such a miserable night in my life. Joyless, sub-Wellerian plod, nothing but guys with puddingbowl haircuts and mod target t-shirts milling around and only using the dancefloor as a shortcut to the bar and toilets.... Three hours of my life I'll never get back.

Posted by: amblongus at June 8, 2004 03:16 PM

pj harvey, that was one of the ten things coldn't remember

also Suede were exciting for half a minute

Elastica were cool

yeah we all agree Britpop was mostly shite although compared with Britrock in the OO's it seems less obnoxious

still i wasn't living in the UK at the time so probably don't have the full sense memory of being swamped by the stuff

britpop also seems more understandable/forgivealbe in retrospect when you compare it with its immediate uk indie predecessor -- all that awful washed-out shoegazing stuff, which really has aged poorly. ride really were the most dismal brit band of the 90s, even more than the Manics

Posted by: simon r at June 8, 2004 04:02 PM

Reynolds 50 Roberts 0

But 'Champagne Supernova'? Christ, if I had to pick an Oasis song - and I would only do so on pain of death - it sure as hell wouldn't be that sorry example of deflated bombast.

Blur were never good and the moments that I was half-tempted to like at the time have dated very badly.

Elastica = smug bourgie shit

Suede, surely half-a-minute is way too long to stay excited abt this dreary-as-an-NCP-carpark bunch of Croydon pantomime horses?

Posted by: mark k-p at June 8, 2004 06:23 PM

i was a schoolkid in the 90's and spare me your gags about Wire biting, the Elastica debut elpee rocked!

Posted by: scott at June 8, 2004 07:29 PM

Simon, I suspect that you really needed to have lived through the Union Jack draped, Chris Evans endorsed, "Hurrah, Britain's cheeky chappies lead the world again!" trumpery that accompanied Britpop to hate it like some of us do. At least those shoegazing ninnies did their thing quietly in a indie club somewhere, they weren't leering at you from every media outlet.

If it had just been the ocassional Supergrass or Pulp track on the radio it would have been okay but it felt like it was suddenly your patriotic duty to get over-excited about whether Blur or Oasis would get to number one with whatever imitation Small Faces B-side they had blessed us with that month....

Posted by: amblongus at June 8, 2004 07:32 PM

Todd Edwards. Wu Tang 93-6, Mobb Deep, Show & AG, Camp Lo, etc etc. Disco Inferno. Livin Joy. And da de da and dum de dum. As for Britpop, 'For Tomorrow' was a lovely smart song, wasn't it?

Posted by: oliver at June 8, 2004 11:44 PM

Can I just say, regarding Manic Street Preachers at the time of 'Generation terrorists', they were pretty marvellous, and entertaining beyond all, AND exciting (well, I was 13, but that's the point, re: them) now I'll shut up, I think.

Posted by: oliver at June 8, 2004 11:51 PM

The Preachers had their moments ('Everything Must Go', errr, can't remember the others)... I'm not gonna relent on Justine Frischman's cronies.

I'm with Amblongus; the fact that Britpop was such a cultural event meant that it was inescapable in a way that previous indie shit wasn't. In fact, it operated as a vindication of all the worst aspects of indie. Its effect on subsequent British pop has been disastrous (I mean, Ride, thank God, left no trace); everything became polarized between manufactured boy/girlband and worthy ladrock, a dichotomy British pop is only now just beginning to find a way out of. Retroism became widely acceptable. And that leering laddism; I think the other thing that needs to be added to Nigel's roster of Britpop-affiliated loathsomeness is Loaded magazine, which perfectly fitted with Oasis' beery boorishness and Blur's mockney masculinity. Britpop brought back trad gender roles; whatever its many aesthetic faults, at least shoegazing didn't do that.

Posted by: mark k-p at June 9, 2004 12:18 PM

i don't even view Pulp as Britpop. They were of a completely different sensibility to the rest of that mob. The sensibility is the most important thing here. The mood that really characterised that period for me was a kind of swaggering, coked-up cocksureness (is that even a word), in music, in art in politics (tho far be it from me to even dare to suggest that politicians every indulge in the white stuff), right the way across society that i found incredibly offputting. the stuff that you're listing, simon, is good, prmarily because it wasn't part of this (and even i'll concede oasis had the odd good song). i'm not taking a massive swipe here, just against against a particular, vapid, post-thatcherite culture of self-interested mediocrity (anyway, i reckon it's 95 percent of why you ran off to the states. you had a tip-off!)

Posted by: Stelfox at June 9, 2004 05:00 PM

it's no coincidence that coke was a near-pervasive recreation pursuit, either. really matched the mood of the times.

Posted by: Stelfox at June 9, 2004 05:11 PM

It's sad that Pulp ever got tarred with the Britpop brush, I agree; though, tragically, I find it well-nigh impossible to disocciate anything they produced in that period from the 'phenomenon' (the early and the later stuff escapes this negative madeleine effect).

I remember seeing Pulp in the Hull Adelphi in 1987, definitely no coke swagger then, I can assure you!

Posted by: mark k-p at June 9, 2004 06:46 PM

cmon, the 90s had britpop & that changed my entire life, the 90s had the best bands, best lyrics , bests albums ,everything, now the music it´s a rubbish copy of america

Posted by: Badhead at October 31, 2004 04:22 AM

SAD BUT TRUE, thanks to bands like keane or travis that make us believe that everything´s not lost. BRITPOP FOREVER!!!!!

Posted by: Badhead at October 31, 2004 04:23 AM