Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Northern Uproar revival starts here

Last night's John Harris Britpop documentary on BBC4 fulfilled all the requirements of a Britpop retrospective - everyone listened to grunge until Suede came along, then Blur reclaimed the flag, Oasis arrived and fought everyone, Pulp were there too, then Be Here Now happened and the result of it all was Thirteen Senses.

Like all chronological summaries, of course, it was badly flawed. Where do Suede, for example, fit into the accepted 1994-96 timeline of Britpop given Bernard Butler was being sacked at the start and all they really did during the period was have a ludicrous argument over headlining the Phoenix festival over Bob Dylan - if they're thrown in as an influence you might as well mention the Smiths, whose critical revival really started around 1992-93 as Morrissey started his time away from the NME and the Best Ofs started. Modern Life Is Rubbish wasn't as critically panned as many would have you believe but didn't sell a lot in album or single form, while Jarvis got a lot of slightly bemused press at this point but not much in the way of public note until, bizarrely, he appeared on Chris Tarrant's BBC1 Pop Quiz revival, which was still 18 months ahead of Common People. There's hope for you yet, Eddie Argos. Oasis of course flew out of the blocks, but not without hype that almost equalled that given to Suede and the Manics (who initially stood aside themselves with the very anti-New Britain The Holy Bible but after Richey disappeared worked slowly back up to Everything Must Go speed) and later Menswear. Who, as the following Britpop Now reminded us, weren't all that bad.

As for lasting effects, which seems to be the crucial issue whenever Britpop is discussed in a way punk is never subjected to even though some of its main players were immediately trying to get away from it at the time, surely there's a lot of Britpop's internal logic around at the moment - a small area of London being a creative hub for a lot of chancers, most of the influences being boiled down to one small period, trace elements of glam and androgyny, even the way it's come out of a US-centric movement which swept the music press in the shape of the so-called New Rock Revolution, even if the current participants are happier to acknowledge the Strokes'n'Stripes. What it might all boil down to in the end is a theory long held by some that the middle of the decade sees a movement emerge for a couple of years that has no real function other than to excite a new generation of kids - Elvis and nascent rock'n'roll, the Beatles/Stones counterculture, punk, the Smiths and birth of indie, Britpop and now The Scene Which Nobody Dare Risk Putting A Name To. Born largely out of frustration with surrounding conditions both social and musical, providing a few albums for the ages (let's not overlook that Radiohead were successful with The Bends as much due to timing as their nationality) as well as a heap of transience, and subject to overanalysis for years to follow.


Ian Snappish said...

"Any Way You Look" is a forgotten classic!

er...*shuffles off in shame*

Was the John Harris doc new? Or just an updated version of that Live Forever film shown a while back?

Simon said...

You forget they were produced by James Dean Bradfield, too.

No, there was a quasi-Britpop Night on BBC4 what with the Country House-Roll With It anniversary this week which started with a new overview documentary followed by Britpop Now, Live Forever and a Pulp tour documentary which I missed.

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