Thursday, November 22nd, 2007
Here's Where The Story Ends
I’m a bit surprised at how much discussion the release of Rhino’s Brit Box box set has been stirring up. When it was originally announced, I gave the track list a quick once over, decided that everything I’d likely be interested in hearing from it I mostly already had and was far more interested in the packaging – an old-school English phone box festooned with band stickers and complete with flickering light.
But a number of outlets have used the occasion of the set’s release to do more than just review the collection, but to revisit the era that it aspires to document – namely, the British “indie” scene from 1984 through 1999. AllMusic.com’s blog, in particular, has gone a bit batshit using the set as a jumping-off point for a number of posts – examining the track list, citing notable omissions, remembering American shoegazers, celebrating the glory of Luke Haines, rounding up fancy box set packaging and Bez. That’s a lot of mileage out of a single box.
The Riverfront Times uses the set as an excuse to get in touch with some of the artists who’ve since fallen off the radar of popular music and gets quotes from Lush’s Miki Berenyi (mostly covering the same ground as here) as well as a word from Mark Gardener of Ride about the likelihood of a reunion in that camp (that is sound of me not holding my breath). The Village Voice takes a less rose-coloured look at the era in question and PopMatters weighs in with a fairly massive disc-by-disc review, complete with video clip aids.
For my part, I already did this from my own personal point of view a couple years ago on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Oasis/Blur fued and there’s not really much need to cover that terrain again. But I will say that as time munches on, I find myself looking a bit more fondly upon some of the bands I’d disowned from that era. I guess I’m no longer worried about being judged if someone finds a Sleeper or Echobelly record in my collection. Hey, they had some good tunes. Wonder if there are compilations out there? Still not missing my Shed Seven records, though.
While the box set divvies its contents into four parts – the forebears, the shoegazers, the Britpoppers and the end days – I see three distinctions. The stuff that I discovered after the fact, the stuff I lived through and the stuff that drove me away from the UK (musically speaking) for some years. Just scanning the track listing again brings back all sorts of memories. As pretty much every review has stated, the song selection seems pretty random – some obvious singles, some questionable non-singles, some conspicuous absences, some perplexing inclusions – but if you consider that in its scattershotedness it actually offers a pretty good sample of the content over fifteen years of NME and Select, there may be more of a plan behind it than it may appear at first. Or maybe it is just a dog’s breakfast. Only the Rhino knows. But one thing is for certain – this set should be a boon for aspiring Britpop DJs. Pop all four discs into a carousel, hit shuffle and go hit on some drunk frosh.
And hey, maybe that aspiring Britpop DJ can be you! Courtesy of Rhino and vLES, I’ve got a Brit Box to give away to one lucky Anglophile. To enter, peruse the track listing and tell me in the comments who is missing from the set and should be represented in lieu of, say, Gay Dad. No one’s going to go to bat for Gay Dad. Feel free to nominate a song as well. Acts whose don’t naturally fit in with the Britpop/Brit-indie theme are exempt and I will be the sole arbiter of who falls under that particular brolly. Also try to steer it to overlooked acts rather than those whose absence is so obvious that it’s got to be a case of not being able to secure the rights to a song – hello Radiohead, Polly Jean Harvey. Be sure to include an accurate, if spam-proofed email when leaving the comment as well. Contest open to
residents of North America only, please, everyone everywhere and it will close at midnight November 30.
vLES has been trumpeting a week of Brit Box-related content including interviews with Brett Anderson and streaming concerts but I’ll be damned if I can find any actual content on their site. Maybe you’ll have better luck. I should also note that the artwork that accompanies this post comes from the comic series Phonogram, which I’ve enthused about before and which is quite relevant to this discussion as it deals with Britpop retro-fetishism though I suspect protagonist David Kohl wouldn’t approve of Kula Shaker being given props in any way, shape or form.
Finally, a smattering of videos from some of the bands I’ve been reminded that I like as well as my nomination for most notable omission from the collection – The House Of Love. They deserve the recognition and I vote to kick out both Gay Dad AND Hurricane #1 to make room.
Stream: The Brit Box Disc 1
MP3: The House Of Love – “Shine On”
Video: The Sundays – “Here’s Where The Story Ends” (YouTube)
Video: Chapterhouse – “Pearl” (YouTube)
Video: The Boo Radleys – “Lazarus” (YouTube)
Video: Echobelly – “Insomniac” (YouTube)
Video: Sleeper – “Sale Of The Century” (YouTube)
British Sea Power released their Krankenhaus? EP in physical form this week, though it’s been available digitally since October. In addition to the five tracks, there’s two videos on the CD version of the release, one of which you can watch below via Pitchfork. The band’s next full length, Do You Like Rock Music? is out February 12.