madfox on Britpop
AN ACCIDENTAL CONVERGENCE OF NOSTALGIA
How Suede, Blur, Oasis and Pulp came to define the UK’s
youth-driven commercial music scene in the 1990s
“Britpop” is a term commonly used to group together up to a dozen musical acts which emerged in the UK in the early years of the 1990s and which would reach their creative and commercial peaks later that decade.
It’s tempting to regard these bands – chief among them Suede, Blur, Oasis and Pulp – as being part of some coherent movement. But this was not really the case: on closer inspection, there are significant differences in the musical and lyrical styles of each band, and in the social backgrounds, political interests and cultural fashions attached to them. Indeed, the key players could be seen to represent several of British popular music’s favourite genres from the past – 1960s beat, 1970s glam and pub rock, 1980s art-school pop – while a number of the also-rans dipped their toes in surf, folk rock and punk.
Britpop is a collection of divergent bands who just happened to become active or achieve recognition around the same time – when the extreme poles of grunge and rave music were occupying youth tastes – and who, spurred in part by personal rivalries, successfully pushed their own individual takes on the indie pop song into the mainstream. Their parade of well-crafted tunes – in the main punchy, hook-filled, urgent in character, and often anthemic – became the soundtrack to a slowly changing political and social mood in the country: the painful death of long-standing Conservative rule and the stealthy emergence of a reconstructed Labour Party which appeared intent on providing fresh hope to a disillusioned younger generation.
As the desire for a different Britain – a better Britain, a “cooler” Britain? – grew, some of the country’s best-loved pop music styles were reignited by a range of nostalgia-minded bands who came to be grouped into a genre that was really nothing of the sort. And some of them would be courted by the political left’s new leaders, ultimately to little positive effect.
 How Brett and Damon seized an opportunity
The Eighties are drawing to a close. Acid house, with its throbbing all-night raves, holds sway among young Britons looking for a thrill in the so-called Second Summer of Love. Manchester’s “baggy” scene promotes a similar, if rockier, dance vibe. For the less groove-oriented, there is the slowburn punk growl of grunge, which has crossed from Seattle in the US Pacific Northwest and gained traction in the UK. But these options can’t fulfil all ambitions…
The Stone Roses, the top British rock act of the late 1980s, had stalled after the massive success of their first album – a future fixture on the “best of” lists which would proliferate around the turn of the new century – and a top-10 hit single, “Fool’s Gold”. Big gigs at the Empress Ballroom, in Blackpool, and Alexandra Palace, in north London, had confirmed them as a major live attraction; even these dates were surpassed by their Spike Island concert in Cheshire in spring of 1990, which had an audience of 27,000 or more. Surely, nothing could stop them. But something did. The unwanted intermission in their career was caused by a legal battle with their record label, Silvertone. The band, unhappy with the treatment they were getting, sought a release from their contract. Silvertone’s owner, Zomba Records, fought the case and lost, but then lodged an appeal. It would be late 1994 before the follow-up to their debut would see the light of day.
Acid house – a sub-genre of dance music developed by DJs from Chicago around the mid-1980s – was, by the start of the following decade, rife in the UK where it had spread out of the drug-fuelled rave scene into the mainstream, having some influence on pop styles in the process. Grunge, too, had worked its way over from America, its distorted guitar framework inspired by punk and heavy metal, but presenting an altogether slacker, more low-key aesthetic. The likes of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana had gained popularity among British youngsters of the more heads-down persuasion. In a melange of grunge and Eighties indie style, some UK bands were propagating a more amorphous guitar-heavy style labelled “shoegazing”.
Suede founder Brett Anderson, reflecting on the genesis of his band from the vantage point of 1996, said: “…[W]hen we started, we were trying to play songs about twisted English lives to rooms full of people obsessed with Pearl Jam … I wouldn’t say we started Britpop, because The Beatles, Bowie and The Kinks did that. But I think we were crucial in opening people’s ears to British music again…”
Anderson’s outfit, formed with his girlfriend Justine Frischmann and childhood pal Mat Osman in 1989, played Bowie and Smiths songs before trying out their own material. Brett was the wordsmith, with Justine on guitar and Mat on bass; a drum-machine, which eventually proved unreliable, completed the line-up. Suede fitted the pattern which, it would later become apparent, was the broad template for Britpop – a guitar-led sound, a classic song structure [involving intro, verse, chorus and bridge elements] emanating, in its most recent incarnation, from 1980s indie. This espousal of such core rock/pop values was in part “a reaction against grunge on one side and EDM [electronic dance music] on the other,” according to Derek B Scott in Britpop And The English Music Tradition.
The young UCL architecture student from the commuter belt in West Sussex was seemingly not the only one suffering from a pang of musical nostalgia and hankering after the sounds of a previous era. Young musicians aspiring to something more artful than thrash or beats-per-minute pulled apart their pet genres, dusted them off and put them back together, rebooting the styles for a new decade. The hedonism of the so-called Second Summer Of Love and the social alienation of the Seattle sound were wearing thin with the likes of Anderson – who by now had recruited a human drummer in Simon Gilbert and a second guitar player, the talented Bernard Butler – and Damon Albarn.
Albarn was a sparky Essex lad who around the time Anderson was putting Suede together had formed Blur with two of his fellow art students at Goldsmiths College – Alex James, from Bournemouth, on bass and guitarist Graham Coxon, who like Damon and the band’s fourth member, drummer Dave Rowntree, grew up in Colchester. In 1991, the year of Blur’s first recording venture, here’s what Albarn told Select magazine about his catalyst for making music:
“You know what made me want to be in a band? It was seeing a South Bank Show on The Smiths and hearing [former Smiths singer] Morrissey say that pop music was dead and that The Smiths had been the last group of any importance. I was round at Graham’s house. And I remember thinking, ‘No one’s going to tell me that pop music is finished’.” Two years later, as the band experimented with a new sound on their second album, he would respond to NME writer John Harris’ question on whether Albarn considered Blur anti-grunge: “If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I’m getting rid of grunge.”
 How Suede and Blur laid the foundations
As these bright new bands were emerging, Margaret Thatcher – the UK’s much-loved and much-hated prime minister since 1979 – was about to bow out, her divisive governance to be replaced by the dull consensus of John Major, who in his 1992 appearance on the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs would include “The Happening”, a 1967 hit by Diana Ross & The Supremes, alongside Elgar’s “Pomp And Circumstance March No.1” in his selection of favourite music.
The Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, was seen as no more likely to bridge the gap between Westminster and pop culture following the party’s disastrous rally in Sheffield, where he had appeared on stage surrounded by musicians and actors. This “gig” was considered by many to be arrogantly triumphalist. Thus, Labour threw away the 1992 election and Kinnock stepped down. Under its new figurehead John Smith, the party would not make this mistake again, says Harris in his detailed exposition of the period, The Last Party: Britpop, Blair And The Demise Of English Rock, published in 2003. “Glitz, spectacle and trendiness were thought to be ballot-box poison [and] it would be a while before anyone suggested a revival of Labour’s bonds with British musicians.”
So Major, who had succeeded Thatcher in November 1990, was back in 10 Downing Street. He was living on borrowed time as the political climate continued to change and Labour learned the lessons of its missed opportunity suffered under Kinnock. But it was a slow process and the Britpop scene would be almost out of steam by the time of the next election and Major’s exit. If he was labelled by the tabloid press as “grey”, both personally and politically, there was nothing foggy or wishy-washy about Suede or Blur as Britpop got its kickstart, though.
After a debut album [Leisure, 1991] which caught the end of the Madchester and shoegaze trends, and provided a top-10 hit with the post-baggy shuffle of “There’s No Other Way”, Albarn’s Blur launched a collection of far spikier pop songs on Modern Life Is Rubbish  before the Britpop peaks of Parklife  – with its era-defining title track featuring spoken verses delivered by the actor Phil Daniels in his London drawl – and The Great Escape , home to the no.1 single “Country House”, of which more later.
In these latter releases, the influence of such quintessentially English songwriters as The Kinks [Ray Davies] and Small Faces [Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane] was plain to see in the chirpiness and cynicism of both the music and the lyrics. A debt to the Camden tales of ska funsters Madness is also apparent, if rarely acknowledged. At the helm for most of this work was Stephen Street, who’d made his name as engineer on The Smiths’ seminal albums Meat Is Murder and The Queen Is Dead before taking the role of producer for their final LP, Strangeways Here We Come.
Suede, too, had found someone to whom they could entrust the realisation of their songs: Ed Buller, who would fulfil the production duties on all their “Britpop” releases. Having been proclaimed on the front cover of Melody Maker as “The Best New Band In Britain” in 1992, they unleashed two albums of stunning revamped glam which brought inevitable comparisons with Bowie in all his Ziggy Stardust pomp.
The self-titled first LP , source of four thrilling singles including the monster-riffers “Animal Nitrate” and “The Drowners”, carried off the Mercury Prize, then in its second year. Dog Man Star  maintained the momentum, while at the same time boasting a clutch of beautiful Anderson/Butler ballads – although these would be the pair’s last work together. Butler’s desire for artistic control caused clashes with his bandmates and the production team. His contributions got due credit on the album; but by the time of its release, he was no longer a member of Suede.
So Blur and Suede were in the vanguard of Britpop. During this early period, both band leaders had found inspiration in the actions of Justine Frischmann, who had left Anderson for Albarn – spurring the Suede singer on to prove himself artistically, which provoked the Blur front man into upping his game accordingly. Justine, who would go on to form her own Britpop outfit, the punk-inspired Elastica, has said of the two: “They were incredibly competitive with each other … Boys will be boys.” She left Anderson’s band before they made a record, linking up with his Blur rival. Later, at the peak of Britpop, Albarn would have a similarly overheated rivalry with the Gallagher brothers of Oasis, though this time without the sexual complications.
While the new scene was blossoming around the hip London district of Camden Town – a focus for the Goth movement during the 1980s, now revitalised by Britpop and arguably its birthplace – some 200 miles to the north in Manchester, a city which only a few years earlier had spawned the groove-based acid rock of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, a future phenomenon was crawling from the wreckage of a band called The Rain.
 How the North joined the Britpop bandwagon
The Rain had a cocksure frontman in the form of Liam Gallagher. But it would need his elder brother Noel to quit as a roadie for Oldham outfit Inspiral Carpets and throw his lot in with “our kid” before the new set-up had a strong enough engine to power what would become the juggernaut called Oasis.
John Harris says in The Last Party that Noel’s musical approach relied on the simplicity of barred guitar chords, root bass notes and basic drum rhythms; and with the amplifiers cranked up to the point of distortion, “the resulting din was positively monolithic: a sound so devoid of finesse and complexity that it came out sounding pretty much unstoppable”. This provided Paul Arthurs, Paul McGuigan and Tony McCarroll with the platform they needed to make the best of their limitations [McCarroll would be replaced by Alan White for the band’s second album].
The arrival of Oasis was announced by Definitely Maybe , whose face-first power chords on tracks such as “Roll’n’Roll Star” and “Cigarettes And Alcohol” belied a difficult gestation involving several studios and a salvage job by Owen Morris, the producer to whom the band turned in desperation. The record shifted the axis of Britpop to a more rock-oriented style. Liam’s so-what? stance at the microphone outdid both Anderson and Albarn for sheer presence, while the guitar work was straight-ahead and coruscating. But the original recording sessions had been misjudged and a second try produced barely more satisfactory results. However, Morris’ patience and experience saved the day. And he was thrilled with the outcome. As he remarks on a website dedicated to the intricate details of the Oasis recordings:
“I loved the album. I listened to it constantly. I had no idea it would become recognised by other people as something very special. It was an amazing buzz reading the NME review and then it going to number one. Because my work on it had been so honest and uncompromising, and it felt like the band and the people around them … were also doing the same, for a while it felt like the good guys were winning. Brilliant, beautiful times. Thanks to Noel Gallagher’s songs, his brother’s singing, the band … it was everything I’d dreamt about.”
Bob Stanley says in the Britpop chapter of his panoramic 2013 work Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story Of Modern Pop that, “like Marc Bolan before him, [Noel] had the knack of rewriting his favourite riffs and creating something new and irresistible”. He took the rootsier vibes of glam [Bolan’s “Get It On”, Bowie’s “The Jean Genie”, Slade’s “Cum On Feel The Noize”] and turned them to his own purpose.
He would repeat the trick with more subtlety on (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? . This album contained “Wonderwall” – a post-modern torch song that became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic and a future staple of many bedsit strummers – and “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, the band’s most broadly radio-friendly single so far and their second UK no.1. In addition, “Champagne Supernova” had an epigrammatic Noel Gallagher line in “Where were you when we were getting high?” [Also worth noting is the LP’s front cover photo: a Soho street scene which transplans Oasis from their Manchester roots to the heart of London – capital of “Cool Britannia” and now almost as swinging as it had been during the Sixties].
Across the Pennines in Sheffield, Pulp – an entity with which Jarvis Cocker had struggled to attain recognition in various guises for 15 years, without success – stole in on the blind side and jumped on the Britpop bandwagon. His’n’Hers  set the scene, producing a minor hit in “Do You Remember The First Time?”. But it was Different Class  which secured the critical breakthrough, presenting the soap-opera schmaltz of “Disco 2000” and the tart social comment of “Common People” to an appreciative public.
Stanley remarks in Yeah Yeah Yeah that sex and class were Cocker’s specialities and notes that “Common People” sets its sights on both: “[It] became an anthem for the dispossessed, the outsiders … a poor boy/rich girl yarn [which] sounded strangely reminiscent”, he feels, of the first meeting of Brett Anderson and Justine Frischmann. Stanley says that Pulp, latecomers to Britpop, became its defining act, Cocker its “enduring star”. Their sound is hard to pin down; but there are hints, simultaneously, of Scott Walker’s epic chanson style and Ian Dury’s beer-mat poetry set to a 1973-vintage Roxy Music score.
These landmark works of the “genre” from its four key bands go a long way to illustrating the “nothing of the sort” viewpoint on Britpop. Despite the particular Englishness of virtually all the songs, we are looking at disparate styles, values, fashions, backdrops. This is not a movement, not a genre. Just an extended moment in time. And a central event of the Britpop story – an event which would break two of the players beyond the music mainstream and thrust them into the spotlight of the tabloid front pages and TV’s teatime news bulletins in August 1995 – perhaps proves the argument beyond doubt.
 How the “trendies” won the race for no.1
The battle between “Country House” by Blur and “Roll With It” by Oasis, in a race for the top spot in the UK singles chart, pitted the two biggest proponents of Britpop against each other in a head-to-head. At the time, Britain’s Guardian newspaper characterised the contest as “art-school trendies” versus “working-class heroes”. In his paper published by the University of York in 1997, Martin Cloonan states: “Class here was held to have important implications for the bands’ fanbase[s] and to give an indication of where one’s allegiance should lie in a competition between the two bands. An NME cover of the time characterised it as [the] ‘British Heavyweight Championship’.”
This apparent pressure among a certain demographic group to be in one camp or the other manifested itself in bizarre ways. In his introduction to the NME special issue on Britpop published in 2005, Steve Sutherland recounts the story of one Mandy Vivian-Thomas. “[She] lived in Bristol with her husband Richard, and The Sun, ever on the look-out for an angle on a story that had become pretty ubiquitous over the past few days, gleefully related how the young lovers’ lives were torn apart when, during a row about which band was better, Richard – a Blur fan – microwaved Mandy’s Oasis CDs.” According to the paper, Mandy kicked Richard out and the marriage was over. And this was just one such tale of woe generated – or so the media said – by the Battle of Britpop.
“Country House” was a bouncy rich-man-under-pressure story cut from the same cloth as Ray Davies’ “Sunny Afternoon”, while the accompanying video was a thespian lark directed by modern art’s enfant terrible Damien Hirst. Blur’s record label, Food, changed the launch date to clash with the Oasis release. “Roll With It” was one of the band’s tamer offerings – rather underwhelming on first hearing and sporting an opening riff suggestive of souped-up Status Quo with a pinch of Canned Heat. Its sentiment was down-the-line ‘do what you wanna do’, but there was a distinct hint of ennui in the delivery. The video featured the band “in performance” in a stage setting. It appeared as perfunctory as Blur’s was scatterbrained [Hirst’s effort featured a giant board-game, a skeleton, a milk float, a mad doctor, farmyard animals, a children’s marching band and a bunch of pretty girls]. The songs and their presentation could hardly have been more contrasting. Yet both apparently belonged to the Britpop “genre”.
Blur’s single won the day, though it was close-run thing – about 270,000 to 220,000. Albarn was delighted. “They had just as many records in the shops [as we did], but we sold more,” he told NME on 30 August. Asked whether he’d expected Blur to come out on top, he said: “To be honest, no. I sort of believed all the papers who said that Oasis were going to win.”
Verbal jousting between Albarn and the Gallaghers, which had recently been played to maximum effect by the British music press, was ratcheted up several notches in the weeks that followed. In the 2003 documentary film Live Forever: The Rise And Fall Of Britpop, Noel says of the battle for the no.1 spot: “We were quite friendly at the time … Alan McGee [Oasis manager] came down and said, ‘Well, they’ve moved their single back … they had it ready to go two weeks before and they decided to stop it and move it back so it was on the same day as ours … [McGee] … was saying, like, ‘Move yours back again’, and we were saying, ‘No, fuck that’. So, it was … their last chance really to drag themselves up on the coat-tails of my band…” (Dower, 2003)
By September, he was letting Blur have it with both barrels. In an interview with The Observer, he said he hoped Albarn and bassist Alex James would catch Aids and die, “because I fucking hate them two [sic]”. A week later, through NME, he apologised to sufferers of the disease and claimed he was “pissed” when he made his remarks; but he didn’t say sorry to Albarn or James.
The new intensity of the rivalry made one thing clear: these two bands were currently the biggest thing in British rock and the country’s pop music was more vital than it had been for some time. On the political stage meanwhile, the Labour Party was undergoing a metamorphosis of its own. The sudden death of the business-like and principled John Smith had left a gaping hole. This was filled by Tony Blair – at 41, relatively youthful as a political party leader; moreover a canny reformist not averse to wielding an electric guitar for a photo opportunity and making sly references to his days as a vocalist in a student band. At the 1994 Q Awards, Blair had given a speech in which he extolled the virtues of British popular music. Then, in the spring of 1995, his strategy team had idenitified Damon Albarn as someone who might come in handy to them.
 How Oasis ended up on top of the pile
As Blair and his colleagues anticipated the coming to fruition of their plan to gradually shift their party towards the centre of the political spectrum, which would result in a glorious election victory in May 1997, things got messy for Pulp. In February 1996, frontman Jarvis Cocker had his own front-page moment, when he was arrested by police after invading the stage at the Brit Awards as Michael Jackson – given a special honour as ‘The Artist Of A Generation’ – performed his single “Earth Song”. Cocker ran towards the American star and made a gesture with his buttocks in what he would later explain was a protest against the culmination of Jackson’s act, posing as a Christ-like figure surrounded by children. Claims that Cocker’s actions had injured a number of the youngsters proved unfounded; there were no charges. [Eight months down the line, Pulp would win the Mercury Prize for their album released late the previous year, Different Class].
Oasis had a headline-grabbing night at the 1996 Brit Awards too. After walking off with three titles, Noel declared these accolades redundant. “[I don’t] need some corporate fat pig … to tell me how good my fucking group is,” he told the NME. This was one of countless outbursts involving the Gallaghers; their reputation as “gobshites” was outstripped only by their massive popularity. They reached the zenith of their stardom with mega-gigs at Maine Road stadium [home of their beloved Manchester City football club], and Knebworth, the Hertfordshire country park where 250,000 saw them play over two nights; around 2.5 million had applied for Knebworth tickets, to this day the biggest demand for a show in British history.
Meanwhile, Blur and Suede returned with strong sets of songs, each aftergoing through hiatuses. The relationship between Albarn and Coxon suffered strains caused by the pressure of meeting artistic demands amid the whirlwind of commercial success. They would work through these to produce the critically acclaimed Blur , containing the UK no.1 hit “Beetlebum” and the (ironically) grungy “Song 2”, which won them recognition in the United States. The rift between Anderson and Butler, however, proved irreparable and 17-year-old Richard Oakes had replaced the Suede lead guitarist before 1994 was out, while Neil Codling, a multi-instrumentalist, was also on board for Coming Up , the band’s third LP of killer glam. Five top-10 singles ensued, the band’s purplest patch in terms of commercial success. There was also a compilation of B-sides, Sci-Fi Lullabies , which was as strong as any bona fide studio set.
By the time of Pulp’s next foray into the recording studio, New Labour had been in power for almost a year and Britain was indeed a difference place. The adored Princess Diana, queen of the nation’s hearts, was dead – killed in a car smash in a Paris underpass, pursued by paparazzi. The Blairs, a family with three young children, lived at 10 Downing Street. And the Spice Girls had had five UK number ones and helped turn the Union Jack into a fashion accessory.
The new PM – whose own selections on Desert Island Discs in 1996 apparently established him as a fan of The Beatles [“In My Life”] and Bruce Springsteen [“Fourth Of July, Asbury Park”] – invited Noel and Damon to a glitzy media bash at No.10 on 30 July 1997. Albarn stayed away. The two had met at a Westminster reception in 1995, when Blair was Opposition leader – the idea of Labour’s spin doctors, as previously noted here, had been to see whether they could tap into Damon’s appeal to make the party more attractive to young voters. He left with a bottle of House of Commons gin, which he polished off the same afternoon with bandmate Alex James. But since then he had allied himself to attempts by left-winger Ken Livingstone – a future Mayor of London – to derail some of Labour’s more centrist policies, particularly on education.
Gallagher, however, did attend the Downing Street junket and was pictured in the newspapers chatting with the country’s new head of government. It was a high water mark for the profile of Oasis in the general public eye. Musically, the band were on the downward curve; subsequent albums would be criticised as dull and derivative, packed with predictable Beatlesque retreads stretched out to unnecessary length. Noel and the boys would make another five long-players, to diminishing critical reception, beginning with Be Here Now which was released less than a month after the No.10 event. In terms of commercial impact, though, they hardly broke their stride. They were now at the height of their powers, in the midst of what would be a remarkable 22-song run of top-10 hits – a record unmatched [not even approached] by any other act of the era.
Oasis, it is worth remarking, for all their perceived ordinariness at an artistic level, were the only one of the Britpop bands to achieve any success in the United States. “Wonderwall” remains their biggest US hit song, reaching no.8 in the Billboard Hot One Hundred in 1995, one of seven singles to chart for them in America. Their top-scoring album in the States was Be Here Now, peaking at no.2.
 How Be Here Now helped finish off Britpop
Oasis enjoyed the longest post-Britpop lifespan, but they suffered the bitterest demise. Jon Savage, a contributor to the Live Forever film, is not the only music journalist to suggest that the relative failure of Be Here Now  was the beginning of the end for Britpop. It should have been the work which consolidated the group’s position as kings of English rock/pop, their place as the people’s band now sealed. More than 350,000 units were shifted in the UK on release day, 21 August; by the end of the first week, sales had hit 696,000 copies – making it the fast-selling album in British history. But much of the music press and many retailers had been alienated by the efforts of the band’s management company, Ignition, to control access to the new material due to fears that US import copies would arrive on British shores in advance of the local launch.
Contemporaneous reviews were, in the words of John Harris, unanimous with “truly amazing praise”. He states in The Last Party: “To find an album that attracted gushing notices in such profusion, one had to go back thirty years, to the release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Q magazine described the album as “cocaine set to music” and most early reviews praised the record’s length, volume and ambition. Notices in the British music press for Oasis’ previous album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? had been negative for the most part. When it went on to become, according to Select editor Alexis Petridis, “this huge kind of zeitgeist-defining record”, the music press were “baffled”. Petridis believes that, realising they’d got it wrong the last time, their initial glowing opinions about this latest offering were a concession to public opinion.
By the end of the year, Be Here Now had sold eight million units worldwide. However, the volume had been gained largely in the first two weeks and once the album was released to UK radio stations the turnover tapered off. Buyers realised it was far from being the equal of its predecessor; by 1999, Melody Maker was reporting it to be the album most frequently sold to second-hand record stores. Savage has suggested that while Be Here Now “isn’t the great disaster everybody says [it is], it was supposed to be the big, big triumphal record” of the period. Q magazine has expressed similar sentiment: “So colossally did [it] fall short of expectations that it killed Britpop and ushered in an era of more ambitious, less overblown music”. The Irish Times journalist Brian Boyd has called the album “bloated and over-heated (much like the band themselves at the time)”.
The Gallagher brothers hold differing opinions on the subject. Even ahead of the album’s official release, Noel was talking it down in the music papers – describing the production as “bland” and calling some of the tracks “fucking shit”. In the Live Forever documentary, he dismisses it and blames its faults on drugs and the indifference of band members during its recording. In contrast, he notes, his brother Liam “thinks it fucking rocks.” In the same film, Liam defends the record, saying: “At that time we thought it was fucking great, and I still think it’s great. It just wasn’t Morning Glory.” In 2006, he said of Noel: “If he didn’t like the record that much, he shouldn’t have put [it] out in the first place … I don’t know what’s up with him but it’s a top record, man, and I’m proud of it – it’s just a little bit long.”
Blur released a further two albums, 13  and Think Tank . Neither could be considered Britpop, which in any case was now – rather like Labour’s “new dawn” – a thing of the past; but both records fared well critically and commercially. Albarn would go on to prove himself as a true musical polymath, with successful projects across a whole variety of genres including trippy dub/electronica [as Gorillaz, a “virtual band” he co-created with comic-book artist Jamie Hewlett] and African music [with Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté and others]. Further sideshows saw collaborations with veteran bassists Paul Simonon of The Clash [in The Good, The Bad & The Queen] and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers [in Rocket Juice & The Moon], while legendary afrobeat drummer Tony Allen has been involved in both of these supergroups. Albarn also created songs for an opera about Elizabethan scientist John Dee before calling in Brian Eno to produce the highly personal album Everyday Robots , which earned critical acclaim and a nomination for the Mercury Prize.
Suede released two more long-players, Head Music  – on which their sound was already drifting in a fresh direction, as seen in the MOR white-soul vibe of the lead single “She’s In Fashion” – and A New Morning , by which time interest from the public was well and truly waning. Both enjoyed a less favourable critical reception than Blur’s most recent efforts. Meanwhile, Pulp released This Is Hardcore , a tough but rewarding listen which reflected on the approach of middle age and the end of an era. According to Bob Stanley, this was the album with which “the curtain fell on Britpop”. The band’s last offering to date, We Love Life , won moderate praise. Blur, Suede and Pulp have all staged reunions in recent years, with Suede going one step further and entering the studio to make a new album, Bloodsports, in 2013.
Noel and Liam kept on bickering; their love-hate relationship both fascinated and bored the public, dividing opinion in a similar way to Blair and, before him, Thatcher. They kept on making records too. Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants , Heathen Chemistry , Don’t Believe The Truth  and Dig Out Your Soul  came and went, bought by loyal fans in their thousands and dutifully paid attention by the media, though mainly in increasingly indifferent terms. The spats eventually took their toll and Oasis split up. The brothers formed their own bands, Beady Eye [2009, Liam] and High-Flying Birds [2011, Noel] – and stopped talking to one another; in 2014, though, the London Evening Standard reported that they had ended their feud.
And so, the main players of the Britpop “genre” have negotiated the opening decade of the new millennium by doing their own thing and going their own way. But, then, they always did.
The Last Party: Britpop, Blair And The Demise Of English Rock,
by John Harris; Harper Perennial (2003}
Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story Of Modern Pop,
by Bob Stanley; Faber & Faber (2013)
Britpop And The English Music Tradition,
eds Andy Bennett & Jon Stratton [contribs Bennett, Stratton, Ian Collinson, Stan Hawkins, Rupa Huq, Dave Laing, J Mark Percival, Derek B Scott, Sheila Whiteley, Nabil Zuberi]; Ashgate (2010)
Love And Poison,
by David Barnett; Carlton Publishing Group (2003)
Blur: 3862 Days – The Official History,
by Stuart Maconie; Virgin Books (1999)
My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize: The Creation Records Story,
by David Cavanagh; Virgin Books (2000)
Truth & Beauty: The Story Of Pulp,
by Mark Sturdy; Omnibus Press (2003)
by Jon Ewing; Parragon Book Service (1996)
by Lee Henshaw; Parragon Book Service (1996)
SOURCES [ACADEMIC PAPERS]
‘State Of The Nation: “Englishness”, Pop And Politics In The Mid-1990s’,
by Martin Cloonan; Popular Music & Society journal, University of York (1997)
‘The Creative Underclass In The Production Of Place: Example Of Camden Town In London’,
by Galina Gornostaeva & Noel Campbell; Journal Of Urban Affairs, University of Greenwich (2012)
SOURCES [DOCUMENTARY FILM]
Live Forever: The Rise And Fall Of Britpop,
written & directed by John Dower; Passion Pictures (2003)
Melody Maker, various issues; IPC Magazines (1990-98)
Mojo Classics: Britpop, ed Mark Blake; Bauer Consumer Media (2009)
New Musical Express, various issues; IPC Magazines (1990-98)
NME Originals: Britpop, ed Steve Sutherland; IPC Magazines (2005)
Various Wikipedia articles on the bands and recordings