It's interesting that something as inauspicious as the twentieth anniversary has led to this, as despite 6music having a special week, it's not exactly apparent what's sparked the grumbling beyond a twentieth anniversary of Blur's Parklife that hasn't officially been marked in any way (in fact weirdly I was looking at the vinyl section on Blur's online shop and guess what the only record was that they didn't have in stock IT WAS PARKLIFE).
I can't help but think distance has led to a sort of mass misremembering of things as worse then they were (there's probably some sort of brilliant name for this sort of thing), because grumbles about Britpop being an abomination that set music back don't really gel with my memory of growing up through the time. Here are some things I remember about Britpop.
- Nobody ever called it Britpop. I know it was called it in the press, but I genuinely don't remember anybody at school (I was at school) ever saying they were into 'Britpop'. In fact I distinctly remember we called it 'indie'. because I remember being confused by the term given than none of the bands seemed to be on independent labels and I'd only really just found out what a record label was and now I was all confused.
- The bands didn't seem very similar. At the most crashingly obvious level this manifested itself as the Blur-Oasis dichotomy, but really there were a pretty diverse array of bands. The mythical Britpop whipping boy act is a sort of monstrous chimera of Blur's attitude, Cast's music and Oasis's fans, but those acts had very little do with each other on any level - if they'd really had anything in common surely everybody would have been into all of them.
- Indie music was just popular, is all. I saw Pulp, Blur, the Manics and Radiohead play gigs at the NEC within the space of about a year... clearly people were more into 'that sort' of music at that time than five years earlier, but what was 'that sort' of music? Ironically I'm sure grunge had probably done a huge amount to help, insofar as both mainstream media and public were primed to be receptive to rock acts.
- It wasn't THAT popular. If you look at the Sixties charts, 'guitar music' was almost infinity times more popular than it was in the '90s. I mean, in the really, truly breakthrough sense, how many Britpop songs had the success of your average big pop smash? Wonderwall... maybe Don't Look Back In Anger... Country House... maybe Girl & Boys.... Common People... that's kind of it, really, period associated stuff like A Design for Life and Firestarter... 'proper' pop acts still dominated the charts.
- Other people were fine. People talk about the time as if it was all beery dickhead lads, and maybe I was too young to see the full horror, but to suggest there was some sort of meaningful link between lairy laddishness and Britpop is absurd. More idiots liked indie then than like indie now because indie then was more popular than indie now.
- Chris Evans would have happened anyway. I've seen it suggested time and time again that Britpop was somehow reponsible for TFI Friday and the like, but the fact is that radio and telly will just tailor itself to whatever's popular at the time, if nose flute music had been the biggest thing in 1996 then the gibbering Radio 1 idiots would have been into nose fluting.
- It was just s silly buzzword. Britpop was just a douchebag word the press used to describe indie music for a bit, then got bored. People talk about Oasis's Be Here Now ending Britpop, but what does that even mean? Nothing really changed about their music, and bands like the Stereophonics had mass success afterwards, and if they're not Britpop I don't know what is. Blur's self-titled album came out almost half a year before Be Here Now, and isn't regarded as a Britpop record, but their new sound was no more or less similar to the majority of their peers than The Great Escape had been.
In conclusion, it was fine, people talking about it like hellfire was raining from the sky should probably have a good rummage through their memories.