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Remembering Britpop

The last great musical movement was also one of the most melodic. Welcome to the sounds of Britpop.

Bibek Bhattacharya | Print Edition: March 9, 2008

You will remember those times— when Manchester United was the best team in the world; when Damien Hirst was rewriting the rules of art; when low-budget indie movies like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels gave Hollywood something to worry about. Yes, we’re talking about Cool Britannia in the ’90s. And we’re talking about its soundtrack—Britpop. This year, three of the biggest bands of Britpop are coming out with highly anticipated albums. We take a look at their catalogues and choose the albums that you must hear.

Blur-Parklife

Blur-Parklife
 This is probably the record that started it all. Before Oasis became the critics’ darlings and sold albums by the bucketloads, this quartet had set the ball rolling with the rollicking Parklife. Like All Mod Cons by The Jam in 1978, Parklife, too, captured the spirit of a generation when it came out in 1994. Blur blended its own brand of cheeky, English humour with some fantastic songs. Highlights include the spokenword Parklife—which castigates a generation of lazy morning walkers and the shiny pop beats of Girls and Boys. From a bunch of neglected unknowns to the Top of the Pops, it was a quick, dizzying rise for Blur. Damon Albarn’s ironic Cockney accent rides perfectly over the endlessly innovative and catchy guitar lines from Graham Coxon to give us a succession of stellar songs. Parklife is endlessly self-referential yet absolutely modern. On the strength of this album and The Great Escape (1995), Blur became a huge phenomenon. However, it also came off the Britpop bus much before the movement came to an end.

Download This: End of a Century
Label: Food/SBK

Oasis (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

Oasis (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Arguably the biggest band of the 1990s, Oasis was all about outsized attitude, swagger, foul language and some of the most instantly memorable melodies and none more so than in its sophomore album. When it came out in 1995, it swept the competition with classics like Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back in Anger and Champagne Supernova—songs so good that this album almost sounds like a Greatest Hits package. Guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher’s tunes are alternately brash, introspective and surreal, but always memorable. Add to this Liam Gallagher’s voice—sounding like a cross between John Lennon’s nasal twang and Johnny Rotten’s sneer—and Oasis had a winner on its hands.

Download This: Champagne Supernova
Label: Creation Records

The Verve-Urban Hymns

The Verve-Urban Hymns
The Verve never did anything easy. Around since 1989, it remained largely unknown till 1997. Then came the massive single Bittersweet Symphony, and The Verve was at the top of the charts. Coming out that same year, Urban Hymns turned out to be its breakthrough album. Known for lengthy atmospheric jams, the album updated that sound into something more muscular. Along with its trademark jams, singer Richard Ashcroft penned some unforgettable pop classics that took this album to another level with tunes like Sonnet, The Drugs Don’t Work and Lucky Man. Yet, if anything, The Verve was going against the zeitgeist. In what was to be Britpop’s most celebratory year (Oasis’ Be Here Now; New Labour’s political victory), the songs talked of heartbreak and longing. Sadly, The Verve broke up a year after reaching the top.

Download This: The Drugs Don’t Work
Label: Virgin Music

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