Top Ten Post-Britpop Flops
veryone knows that Britpop died in 1997 after Be Here Now. The genre was no longer able to cope with the weight of its cocaine-fuelled pomposity, with only Blur and Oasis big enough to survive to the present day with a degree of their former popularity still intact. Few bands just gave up after Be Here Now’s release, though. So while it died pretty quickly as a scene in the popular consciousness, the individual careers of all the mid-table acts—who thanks to Britpop had ended up with status way above their due (take note, Kasabian and Razorlight)—tended to die slowly and painfully.
Here's where I come in: I actually discovered most of these bands via their derided later albums. And perhaps through having never previously been interested enough to be aware of the laddism and jingoism, and, well, Be Here Now, I really rather like some of them.
Before we begin, I should mention: The problem with trying to come up with a list like this is in defining Britpop, since it only takes a look at the big three bands to see that this was at least as arbitrarily divided and contradictory as any other scene. Added to this is the fact that, by 2000, everyone was desperately denying having anything to do with it. But I make no claims to this being exhaustive or definitive. Instead, this is just a look at where it all went wrong for ten formerly popular bands, ordered in terms of actually being any good at all.
10. Shed Seven – Truth Be Told
(Charted outside the top 40, May 2001)
We’ll start with the reason why people were completely fed up with the whole thing. This begins with a song called “If The Music Don't Move Yer” which epitomises the worthless attitude, bluster, and absolute musical conservatism that infuses the entire album. “Cry for Help” is good though. Or at least I’m sure I must have had some reason to buy it at the time…
09. Ocean Colour Scene - One from the Modern
(#4 in September 1999)
There's actually a lot less of some of the things which made Ocean Colour Scene so hated here; it’s more subdued and features far less wanky guitar and lazy blues pastiches. That takes away a lot of the things that made them noticeable at all though, and One from the Modern doesn't often rise above mediocre rehashes of the past, hampered when they come up with a good song by stodgy production. It also begins with horrific, monumentally ham-fisted anti-war song "Profit in Peace" (the first single!) which is probably their absolute nadir.
08. Suede - A New Morning
(#24 in October 2002)
Suede managed to survive the initial cull of the late nineties (Head Music was a #1 album), but fell harder afterwards with a record closer to self-parody than anything else on this list. Lyrics that are clearly trying too hard and music that is nearly right out of new ideas, it sounds like the shell of a once-great band. The recent Here Comes The Tears proves that not even Bernard Butler could’ve helped. Has one of the worst covers ever, too.
07. Gene - Revelations
(#25 in March 1999)
Other bands here stopped being successful when they resorted to just rehashing their signature sound or lazily copying their idols. Gene, on the other hand, failed when they stopped trying to be The Smiths (sans humor and pace), and injected a bit of anger and immediacy to their music. Libertine saw them return to overblown drama and seven-minute epics, but it was too late.
06. Mansun - Little Kix
(#12 in August 2000)
After the dark outsider dramatics of their debut and the completely unhinged, preposterous triumph/disaster of Six, Mansun decided that the best follow-up would be an album of sleazy, synthetic pop. Well, it worked for Suede. But Little Kix is no Coming Up, and despite a couple of excellent numbers (“We Are the Boys” and “I Can Only Disappoint U”), Paul Draper’s better-than-ever Bowie impersonation, and a pleasing head-scratcher of a sudden ending, it’s overly syrupy and largely sounds like a band flailing around in search of a new direction.
05. Supergrass – Life on Other Planets
(#9 in October 2002)
Like Suede, Supergrass remained successful until a surprisingly late stage—even this album had a medium sized hit (the fantastically bouncy “Grace”). It’s enough fun that it probably deserved more. Instead, the rest of the record ditched the complexities of their self-titled third album for a return to the sound of their first two albums.
04. Catatonia - Paper Scissors Stone
(#6 in August 2001)
A slightly dubious inclusion, I know, but Way Beyond Blue was surely Britpop—even if they only hit the big time afterwards—and Paper Scissors Stone fits this list perfectly. An attempt to claw back the ground lost by the vastly overreaching Equally Cursed and Blessed, it certainly doesn’t deserve any of the hatred it received in the press at the time. It has a fire to match their debut and a much wider musical scope, taking in the string-laden melodrama of “Godspeed” (which certainly suits Cerys Matthews’ bellowing vocals) and flirtations with dance on “What It Is,” as well as rock blasts like “Immediate Circle.”
03. Elastica - The Menace
(#24 in April 2000)
If The Menace had been equally as dense, less focused, and had more hooks than their spiky punk debut—but was released within a couple of years of that record—it might have been given a bit more of a chance. Instead, they took over five years, and the moment had passed—though there's still a lot to admire in its turn towards the arty. Also features cover art by Maya Arulpragasam aka M.I.A., believe it or not.
02. The Bluetones - Science and Nature
(#7 in May 2000)
Science and Nature actually charted a little higher than its predecessor, but sank without a trace and failed to produce a memorable hit like "If..." It's also comfortably the most underrated album on this list (by which of course I mean that I really, really like it and no one else does). Science and Nature abandons the sound they stuck to rigidly elsewhere (a wimpier Stone Roses), and while being successfully aware of their limitations throws everything they can think of (country, jazz, folk, prog) at melodic pop, it still works! Well, apart from the “comic” girl/car metaphor of “Autophilia.” Science and Nature is inventive and gently surprising, with “Keep the Home Fires Burning” right up there with “Slight Return” for their best single ever.
01. Pulp – We Love Life
(#6 in November 2001)
It’s with some degree of inevitability that we come to the conclusion that the best post-Britpop album was made by a band that were best at the genre’s peak. We Love Life is a really fine album though, rich and organic (helped by Scott Walker’s production) and showing that maturity and happiness doesn’t always have to mean boring. There’s nothing as cutting as something you’d find on This Is Hardcore or as era-defining as “Common People,” but it has some of Jarvis Cocker’s absolute finest moments, especially the spectacularly detailed and emotive storytelling of “Wickerman” and the beautiful closer “Sunrise.”
By: Iain Forrester
Published on: 2006-06-09