Wednesday, July 13th, 2005
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