This story starts on a Sunday morning. I had just fired up Spotify for some mellow morning tunes when it scrolled across by sidebar: MusicFile friend Corey Dubrowa was up early in Portland, OR listening to a track from The Bluetones; a 90′s UK band I hadn’t thought about in 15 years. I jumped to The Bluetones page, searching for a song I used to love called “Bluetonic”. Listening with a 2012 mentality, the track sounded like some precursor to all those mildly British, literary Decemberists’ tunes. Could this be where Colin Meloy’s flat, nasal warble first found inspiration?
I immediately messaged Corey, “hey, I’ve got an idea for a story about the hidden gems of the 90′s Brit Pop movement and how they influenced today’s bands. Other than The Bluetones, got any favorite bands/tracks”? Dubrowa fired back like some encyclopedic musical gum ball machine with 18 suggestions. Another 5 came the next morning.
We were off and running.
The British music scene in the late 1980′s and early 90′s was coming down from the post punk heyday of bands like The Smiths and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The bands that started bubbling up around 1990 had more of a pop sensibility but not in the way we Americans tend to define pop. It was edgier and owed more to the 60′s then the 80′s and in some ways, was an opposite reaction to the growing Grunge movement in the States. Now remember, this was before iTunes, Soundcloud and thousands of music blogs streaming tracks globally. Even in the 90′s, music spread internationally but at a slower rate. Many of these Brit Pop bands barely jumped the pond or showed up in the “import” section of your indie record store. The exception to that was of course a little band called Oasis, which most Americans would identify as THE band of the Brit Pop movement if such movement is even on their radar. The other, and in my opinion, far more important and influential band of the Brit Pop movement was Blur who got a global injection of nostalgic appreciation during the Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and closing celebration in Hyde Park.
The playlist below features a combination of these and better known bands like Stone Roses and The Charlatans as well as some of the more obscure members of the movement. Whether you know these tracks or they are completely ‘new to you’, they provide a great snapshot in time of a sound that is still influencing the music of today. Enjoy.
Track by Track followed by full Playlist:
Blur – There’s No Other Way – Single Version : From Blur’s debut album Leisure released in the summer of 1991. A track that pretty much captures the entire Brit pop sound in 3 minutes.
The Bluetones – Bluetonic: From the band’s 1996 debut album Expecting To Fly which debuted at #1 on the UK charts.
The Charlatans – Tremelo Song: From the band’s 1992 2nd album Between 10th and 11th. Though not a break out hit for the band, one that has stood up very well over time.
The Stone Roses – I Am The Resurrection: The last track on the band’s debut album which came out in 1989, technically a precursor to Brit Pop but I couldn’t leave if off!
The La’s – I Am The Key – Key 103 Radio Session: The La’s technically only released one album, in 1990, and most American’s only know their break out hit “There She Goes”. This track is included in a few bonus and rarity editions (Corey Dubrowa was lucky enough to hear Britt Daniel of Spoon cover it. If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed it was a Spoon song).
Primal Scream – Loaded From 1991′s Screamadelica; notable for its inventive use of sampling, looping and spoken word including Peter Fonda’s quote from “The Wild Angels” and Andie MacDowell’s from “Sex, Lies And Videotape”.
The London Suede – She’s In Fashion Suede had to change their name to The London Suede for the American market, due to a conflict. This track, released in 1999, technically falls out of the Brit Pop time period but it’s one of my favorites, from their 5th album Head Music.
Manic Street Preachers – A Design For Life Welsh band The Manics had a long and varied career with many musical shifts, this one coming in 1996, after front-man and lyricist Richey Edwards had disappeared and was presumed to have committed suicide.
Pulp – Common People – Full Length Version / Album Version Another band that existed long before and long after the Brit Pop years but hit their hey day during the period. Nothing else sounds as deliciously British as Jarvis Cocker’s vocals! From 1995′s Different Class which won the Mercury Prize.
Stereophonics – Local Boy In The Photograph From the 1996 debut album, Word Gets Around. A rock anthem for fall and setting back the clocks.
Mansun – The Chad Who Loved Me The first track on Mansun’s 1997 debut album The Attack Of The Grey Lantern, a concept album of sorts with a host of characters (one of which is Chad). The song is notable for it’s blatant borrowing from the title track to the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. So very British and Orchestral, all at once.
Baby Bird – Too Handsome to Be Homeless Oh, this song is just the right amount of ‘off”. It’s charming in an indulgent way that recalls the quirkiest of The Kinks but with a modern twist. From their 2nd album, 1995′s Bad Shave.
Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give a Fuck A great story about this track. It was supposed to be on their debut album, but the song was delayed due to a clearance issue over their sampling of “Showbiz Kids” by Steely Dan. It ended up being released as a single, and reached # 22 in the UK even though it received NO airplay due to the copious dropping of F-bombs. Pretty much sums up this band who still enjoys cult status today.
Supergrass – Sofa Of My Lethargy One of the greatest song titles ever; this is a deep cut from the band’s 1995 debut album I Should Coco which won the Mercury Prize. The song was recorded live in one take.
Lloyd Cole – Like Lovers Do “Living on juice, eating out of tuna cans” became one of those lyrics that just gets stuck in your psyche. The track, from Cole’s 4th solo album-1995′s Love Story- was the one that revived his career. It’s one of my desert island records so if you don’t know it, it belongs in your collection. Is it Brit Pop? It’s a fine line but it’s so of the period, I snuck it in!
Ash – Girl From Mars – 2008 Remastered
Teenage Fanclub – The Concept
The Divine Comedy – Something for the Weekend
The House Of Love – Shine On
The Trash Can Sinatras – Obscurity Knocks
The Charlatans – Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over
Ride – Vapour Trail
Inspiral Carpets – Joe
The Boo Radleys – From The Bench At Belvidere