Oasis bleached their music to make it accessible enough to wrap around cold chips without fear of nutrition
2023 will see the return of Blur and Pulp live. Oasis are still arguing as only family can (see also UB40). Still, that means it’s the return of a sizeable chunk of Britpop.
It’s 1995. While a certain proportion of students and old fuckers in the UK were enjoying hearing the Kinks and Beatles and Hollies re-interpreted and Jarvis Cocker was embarking on his shortbread tin recreation of Warhol’s factory scene, the newly liberated and reunited youth of Germany were digging Scooter, the multi-million selling, born-old band from Hamburg who found the ‘echo’ button on their digital DJ mixer and proceeded to slap it on their sleazy blonde vicar of a front man’s exhortations to ‘say something nice’ at every opportunity.
On balance, I’m with the Germans who, at this point were culturally invading the UK, convincing otherwise sane British men to wear wrap around mirror shades and shiny anoraks without a hint of irony. In fact, the German invasion saw the death of irony in the UK. It’s either that or we became so sophisticated at creating it (seeing it?) that we took it to the ultimate lemming climax twenty plus years later by voting for another blonde man who, this one, probably wore lederhosen as an alternative to an SS uniform for dress up nights with one of his hoodwinked hotties.
As part of the germanification of Great Britain there were created a series of tribute bands, playing a role similar to that of the Silver Beatles in their Hamburg days as they did their best to bring Chuck Berry and Elvis to a night of beer, amphetamine and the clap just along from the harbour. A tradition continued by Saudi’s and Swiss millionaires who often confuse Michael Buble with Elton John. Some of these tribute bands were, apparently, better than the bands to whom they paid tribute, largely because the originals were either mainly or partly dead, or just way too old to get to the notes. Then there were the afore-mentioned chancers from various provinces who had missed the boat with Baggy, the UK’s last real rock innovation and determined to have another gasp at the cherry by ripping off the 60s.
Oh irony. The irony. It will bite you on the ass. The irony of David Balfe and Andy Ross of Food Records, who sprinkled irony on their morning cereal actually managing to do a KLF with ex-floppy/baggy/Smithsy Seymour who became Blur. The irony of Pulp squeezing their decade old, Peel-ish shambles into a modern sound production and Cocker’s stage act of taking the piss out of himself before anyone else could becoming a locked in persona. The irony of a roadie who learnt most of The Beatles chords (look it up - it’s a thing) realising that his younger brother could actually get him on to a stage during the show as well as in the soundcheck whilst he mangled choruses and hooks of the music of his proud northern youth.
Further ironies abound. As drum and bass and Jungle and Triphop exploded sonic expectancies and made the top deck of a London bus a place where scifi insects scritched and scratched through the headphones of teenagers. As boy bands and girl bands were once more wrapped in man made flammables and told to work on their ab’s. As Germany’s charts became a battle between Ossis replacing their Christopher Cross and Eagles tapes with CDs and the Berliners getting hold of enough high grade E to make 2 Unlimited and Das Modul acceptable. Whilst all this monster mash of end of century madness seemed appropriate and normal, the britpoppers stabbed to death Britain’s most important cultural and artistic invention of the 20th century (no, not James Bond). And pushed the least tasty bits into a sausage machine.
Whereas The Beatles themselves were inspired by the most modern sounds of soul and R&B from America, Oasis bleached their music to make it accessible enough to wrap around cold chips without fear of nutrition. Whereas The Kinks took bisexual fop dandyism on to the streets of Hornsey and into the faces of old boy TV producers, Blur frowned about their authenticity whilst quietly taking boxing lessons in case they had to fight northerners, such was the laddish, twattish machismo fostered in on the backs of the revival. Even Suede’s seal-bark Bowie tribute just didn’t seem sexy or even sexual, nor did the Supergrass lips that looked happier wrapped around a straw sucking up alcopops. The ‘groundbreaking’ video of the singer from The Verve, um, walking, was as po-faced as a Spartacist paper seller and the pavements remained unaffected.
The year before, for a moment, it had seemed that the British youth might begin a concerted fight back against the Criminal Justice Act which, effectively, banned both their music and their lifestyles. But as the ravers trickled back from the massive demonstrations that achieved nothing more than a good market for dodgy whistle sellers there could be heard the faint sound of that bit of the 1960s that revolutionary politics didn’t get near to and which smells of Harold Wilsons gabardine mac, if a sound could smell.
Once again I’m getting that whiff. Chiming guitars and chancers doing it one last time for their mortgages and those of their long suffering crews.
Bring on Scooter.