Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

Live Forever

This Village Voice article about the demise of BritPop ten years ago did two things for me: One, made me feel really old. Two, made me realize that while I’ve mentioned my falling out with BritPop before in passing, I’ve never really gotten into specifics. I guess now’s as good a time as any.

Using the timeline in the Wikipedia, it seems I actually missed out on practically the whole first half of the movement when things were actually fresh and exciting, instead only getting on board for the bloat and decline of it all. The first time I heard Oasis was in first year university and I recall being thoroughly underwhelmed and disappointed by “Supersonic”. Everything I’d heard about this Oasis band made me hope that they’d alter my reality… Not so much. I hated Blur, too, because the guy who lived next door to me in residence developed a real hard-on for “Girls & Boys” and insisted on playing it almost 24/7, really really loudly. The walls there were thick, but not thick enough to stop the sound of Damon pogoing like a jackass. But despite this distaste for the alpha and omega of the movement, I bought into it hook line and sinker anyway.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can admit that I probably wanted to buy into the culture of it all as as much as anything. For someone looking for some sort of musical identity to get through university with, it seemed a natural fit. It was a haven for someone of the skinny, geeky persuasion and anyway the girls were cute (emo hadn’t been invented yet – god, if I were five years younger… shudder). Toronto in particular was/is especially conducive as a city to Anglophilia – Britpop nights at dance clubs were and still are commonplace and if nothing else, they offered something to do on Thursday and Saturday nights. While I didn’t necessarily look the part (I had no interest in the fashion aspect of it and my hair wouldn’t do that mod cut thing anyway), I ate up everything from a musical perspective. Even if I didn’t particularly like it, I would probably buy it anyway, either to hopefully grow into it or at the very least, maintain appearances of being completely in the know.

The thing is, after a while I realized I wasn’t really enjoying it all that much. More and more of the acts the British press was trying to convince me would be the next saviours of music turned out to be, well, more than a little bit crap – you can only recycle the same influences so many times before it all gets excessively generic and creatively stagnant. Which isn’t so much a problem if you just want something that sounds like the last thing you liked, but if you wanted something more, it was sadly deficient. By this point, my CD collection was overflowing with the latest “next big things” as decreed by Select, NME, Q, etc – Shed Seven, Sleeper, Echobelly, Kenickie, Embrace, Ocean Colour Scene, The Bluetones… Not inherently bad, some of it quite passable, but not really stuff that stood up especially well outside the Britpop bubble. Instead of renewing my passion for the genre, it only reinforced how disillusioned I was with it all. Combine this epiphany with my discovery of far more interesting and adventurous music from what would soon be known as indie rock originating from this side of the Atlantic and you were looking at a complete sea change in my musical tastes. And it turns out those cute girls were only interested in tall skinny dudes with lame-o Anglo affectations. Bitter? Me? Nah.

Once again referring back to the Wikipedia timeline, by the time BritPop was officially declared dead, coincidentally the same year I graduated university, I was completely over it. Granted, it took a few years to clear out the corpses to the local used CD shops, but when I did, it actually felt good. I didn’t need to keep these reminders of my more musically gullible days around… I think there’s still probably a few stragglers that I’m hanging onto for whatever reason – Charlatans, I’m looking in your direction, but the culls are mostly complete. It took me a while but I was eventually cleansed.

These days, most of the stuff I listen to tends to be the forebears of the Britpop movement (The Chameleons, House Of Love, Echo & The Bunnymen, etc), those who never quite fit in (hello shoegazers) or the bands that were good enough to transcend the “scene” (Pulp, early Suede, Manic Street Preachers and I even got past my Blur aversion). I dont indulge in much nostalgia for the mid-90s. My college years aren’t necessarily ones I wish to relive – they weren’t especially traumatic or anything, just excruciatingly dull. Things are much more interesting now. Live in the past, die in the present, dontcha know.

Furthermore, I’ve only recently gotten over my intense suspicion and cynicism about anything the British press fetes. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. I’d like to think that I’m more resistant to the persuasive powers of hype and am able to make more judicious decisions on what is and isn’t good. Less gullible, older and wiser, etc. I am again starting to discover there are still good acts from across the pond with substance beyond all the hype and hyperbole that makes it so easy to dismiss them as more effective soap opera stars than musicians. I rather like that though there are more UK acts finding success in North America now than there have been in years, they’re doing it on their individual merits rather than riding the coattails of any media-constructed movement. But I still absolutely refuse to listen to a note of The Libertines or Babyshambles on principle alone. And you know what? Over all those years, I still never warmed to Oasis. What can I say.

I would, however, still love to have a Gibson ES-335. Someday, my pretty. Someday.

Just this for today. Back to regular scattershot posting tomorrow.

np – Okkervil River / Black Sheep Boy

By : Frank Yang at 8:10 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. claire says:

    dude, you lucked out. i only wish my dorm-neighbors had played blur on repeat. instead it was "like a prayer" to the right of me, that crap carlos santana comeback song across the hall…back and forth, forever.

  2. Ryan says:

    Ha ha! As I read your little tirade on Britpop, I couldn’t help but notice that Digsy’s Diner was playing in the background on the old ipod…

    Also, I received the Doves prize package this morning. It’s been a while since I’ve had a brand new cd single to open and call my own… Thanks Again!

  3. angryrobot says:

    Great post, Frank.

    My own BritPop story is a twisted road. I was listening to Lush, Ride, Slowdive, and Pale Saints, so I was already vulnerable to the hype. I bought a copy of <em>Parklife</em>, but ended up getting rid of it. The I bought Pulp’s <em>His ‘N Hers</em> and didn’t like that either. Then I got the second Oasis CD and liked it for about two weeks before I had to please, please, make it go away. The only thing that stuck was the first Suede album. I did eventually warm to Blur, thanks to a tape a friend made for me. And only this year did I finally realize how great Pulp’s <em>Different Class</em> and <em>This is Hardcore</em> are., especially the latter. I don’t read the NME anymore, but I’m glad to see some UK bands getting traction here again.

  4. Darthmite says:

    FINALLY! Someone of like mind. I could not BELIEVE that Oasis were hailed as the next big anything. Definitely maybe not. I hearken back to the original Brit wave bands for comfort.

  5. Honey says:

    I used to think that Brit-Pop was a cute name for bands that I thought fit that bill. But with bands like The Killers and sometimes even the great Spoon sounding like they could have lovely limey roots, I realize that they just represent the sound of their time. I’m not nearly as in-step as you are with the music scene, but I love music enough to know that I hate Oasis. What I do love, however, is your writing style and your blog in general. Goodluck avoiding the post-Babyshambles resurrection of the Libertines…I’m going to avoid it altogether by taking my Spoon albums into the bomb shelter with me.

  6. cory says:

    Dont look at the charlatans as a britpop band. If you had to put them in a scene (errrr) it would be baggy. They came around and into the spotlight at the time of the roses, happy mondays, etc.

    The charlatans have done alot to keep their music fresh. Thats why they are still here, and the others in your list are long gone (or wont go away).

  7. graig says:

    Are Lush considered Britpop? They’re really my only holdovers from the era (and actually I think the only Britpop outside of Radiohead to ever enter my collection)

    I think I’d write a similar bit on my foray into Trip-hop. But I won’t.

  8. Frank says:

    Cory – I like the Charlatans, but I’ve gone from being a completist with them to having only select albums and slowly narrowing that window as time goes by. Funnily, I used to only have the Melting Pot comp before I sold that and bought all the albums – I may end up with just the comp again.

    I don’t consider Lush as Britpop, at least not up until Lovelife. I file them under the "outsiders" category as they had nothing to do with what would be considered Britpop except that they were British and pop and are thus generally exempt from my scorn.

  9. Tim White says:

    Awesome! You and I were/are in the same musical boat. I never understood how BLur got to be so ‘big’, but Oasis are just so damn catchy sometimes they’re difficult to totally ignore. But the reas of what you said is pure gospel to me.

  10. Matt says:

    I avoided the Libertines for ages because of the NME hype machine, but then the Observer newspaper gave away a free 5 track sampler and they turned out to be really good; the first album in particular.

  11. matzohball77 says:

    Hope you didn’t throw away the Kenickie with the rest of the crap. Listened to Punka on my way to work the other day and was buzzing all morning.

  12. matzohball77 says:

    oh yeah…congrats on the Globe plug this morning.

  13. Greg says:

    The actual Live Forever (story of Britpop) movie was quite lame. Too narrow in focus. The Bluetones were actually pretty strong out of the gates…

  14. mike says:

    You gotta listen to The Libertines. They’re really a decent band and in certain ways musically unfashionable(echoing The Clash rather than the currently trendy post-punk sounds) which makes them all the more appealing to me.

  15. ruben says:

    Dude, i have always have respect for your blog, but your soooo wrong about the libertines. You gotta listen to the Libertines, you don’t have to like them, but listen to them first.

  16. Shaun says:

    Just listen to "Can’t Stand Me Now" by the Libertines, over and over again.

    I’m glad you don’t do the personal posts like this all the time, but dragging them out every once in a while is perfect. It really allows us readers to get to know you, without having to know you, constantly. If that makes sense.

  17. Adam says:

    With all respect, isn’t tuning out bands just because they appear in the NME a little narrow-minded? I’m thoroughly sick of the daily Pete Doherty headlines, but good music is good music – even if more than a small circle of people like it.

  18. Frank says:

    it absolutely is, which is why I said I’m getting over it. I did have a complete knee-jerk reaction to anything British for a few years, I admit, but thanks to stuff like blogs and the internet in general, it’s easier to find stuff without going through the NME/Q hype filter.

    I’m feeling much better now.