Britpop: Dead or just sleeping?

Joanna Gilbert laments the supposed passing of the once all-conquering phenomenon of Britpop, asking is it really finished?


Browsing through the bargain bucket in a local music store lately (hey, I am a student) I came across a copy of 1995’s What’s The Story (Morning Glory) for €4. Half gobsmacked at the price and half angry that I paid about 3 times that price about 6 years ago, I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to 90’s rock music.

For the vast majority of the student body here in UCC, the soundtrack to our childhoods was framed by the likes of Blur, Oasis, Supergrass, The La’s et al. The 1990s played host to its own musical era, popularly known as ‘Britpop’. Britain was hungry to relive its glory days of setting the world alight with its distinctive punk rock image, and for a fleeting period the familiar razor sharp riffs dressed with the eccentric British edge made a re-appearance. Gazing around the modern music scene, though, this particular genre seems deplorably absent.

I know when I look back at my early days all I can seem to remember musically is some kind of shaggy-haired, you-can-tell-by-looking-at-him-he’s-up-to-no-good hooligan manically gripping the mic stand, with his thick Manchester accent infiltrating even his most eloquent singing voice.

Yes, even from a young age I was brought up with this individual genre, and I even cherish my very own claim to Britpop royalty fame… my dad knows Liam and Noel Gallagher’s first cousin. Impressive, eh? Trust me, that one’s been coined over the years. Living in Yorkshire in the nineties, one has to get by somehow!

Upon first glance, it may seem like Britpop has vanished from our stereos for good. Long gone are the days when Friday evening’s Top of the Pops would present us with an alternative rock feast. However it might be erroneous to dispel it completely from the modern music scene. Blur, who coloured the nineties Britpop scene with their waging battle with Oasis and choppy, working class inspired lyrics, graced us with a brief comeback in 2009.

2001 had seen the collapse of the band, with lead singer Damon Albarn creating the hugely popular animated group the Gorillaz, and since they have made various limp efforts at reuniting. Of course, they hit familiar Britpop territory, i.e. the festival scene, with a bang, headlining Glastonbury and our very own Oxegen. But, instead of engaging in a fully-fledged comeback, they climbed back into their shell, giving us a brief glimpse at what it used to be like then snatching it away from us.

Lingering like a bad smell for the past decade and a half, the arguable kings of Britpop Oasis hung up their crown in 2009 in order to painfully hammer the last nail in the coffin. The most enduring product of the Britpop era and the most commercially successful across the Atlantic, they were, and probably still are, the most disliked band Britain has produced.

Hard to believe the guy that said “We’re not arrogant, we just believe we’re the best band in the world” is also responsible for the delicately vulnerable ‘Wonderwall’ and the grandfatherly ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’. I want to hate them, I really do. It’s just pretty funny to think of ruffian Noel Gallagher sitting down writing a gentle love song to his heart’s desire…

The Gallagher reign is far from over, however, as Liam has put together Beady Eye, his new band minus Noel. Liam was predominantly the voice of Oasis so it is hard to divorce their distinct sound when listening to Beady Eye but there is a definite Britpop sound about it, one that is more preppy and catchy than traditional Oasis.

Also on the radar these days is Pulp, led by Jarvis Cocker and famous for 1995’s ‘Common People’. They will be popular in several of this year’s festivals. Suede, too, has announced they will be releasing re-mastered versions of their most successful albums (and performing these live in Dublin, as well as the UK). They were major participants in the Britpop movement so their presence in the charts shall be a welcome entry.

I think I’ve succeeded in convincing myself (and hopefully you) that Britpop is still well and alive. It might not be as to the forefront as it once was, but its descendants can be seen in modern indie/alternative rock groups such as Kasabian and Elbow. I think it may be the one and only memory of the nineties that we cherish…


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