It’s 20 years since the Blur and Oasis feud and I’m seeing a lot of rose-tinted retrospectives about Britpop. They’re all wrong, of course. Britpop was not about Damon Albarn and is most certainly wasn’t about the fucking Gallagher brothers.
I guess if I’d been older, I would’ve written the thing off as derivative and trite – both reasonable accusations. But I was 15 in 1995, slap-bang in the middle of it all. And I fucking loved it.
In these countdowns, ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ often sits at the top; bloated, arrogant and stupid, it’s the Boris Johnson of rock albums. However, what these lists seem to gloss over is that the first track is a limp re-tread a Gary Glitter’s ‘Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again.’ Glitter was set to earn millions from it. But it’s art, yeah? It’s allowed…
I had a little more time for Blur – the guys knew how to write a hook and they weren’t afraid to experiment. There were redeeming factors to most of their early albums. But eventually, as the millennium drew to a close, they all grew into insufferable assholes. Luke Haines (who I’ll write more about later) took a few glorious pot-shots along the way, my favourite being:
“Graham Coxon has just skateboarded past my window. Graham Coxon is 32.”
So as an antidote to all the other lists, I thought I’d share the ten best Britpop albums with you. One a week. How does that sound? You see, I was there. I know. My list, naturally, is the definitive one.
Elastica – Elastica
After school on 13th March 1995, my best friend (let’s call him Pablo) and I fought through torrential rain to get to Eastleigh town centre. Frodo and Samwise had an easier time en route to Mordor. But we made it, and once there, we both bought Elastica’s first album on tape from Our Price (RIP, old friend). Pretty sure I developed pneumonia later that afternoon. Still, it was worth it – the album was the absolute zenith of Britpop. Short, sharp songs full of passion and life.*
Vocal harmonies, the odd suggestive lyric and hardly an acoustic guitar in sight. A seamless album. No filler.
Full of dumb inspiration, Pablo and I later formed a band called ‘Nausea’, which was, essentially, a really crap, all-male version of Elastica. We put on a show at our school and my girlfriend at the time (she’s dead now) filmed it on the drama department’s camcorder. The head (‘principle’ for you lot over the Atlantic) was a little pissed off with our best track, ‘I Want To Fuck The Queen Mother’, and even more so when the kids in the school started singing it to one another in the hallways between class. But at least we weren’t hanging around a park, drinking cider, learning what ‘fingering’ was. We were not normal teenagers.
For some reason (almost certainly Pablo’s idea) we made a bunch of VHS copies of the show and sent them to Elastica with a handwritten note, asking if they would have us as their tour support. We didn’t get a reply. I was never going to marry Donna Matthews. And then Nausea split up.
Later, I attributed Elastica’s lack of response to drugs – there’s a brutal story of Donna Matthews ripping a heroin implant out of her stomach because she was so desperate for a fix. This was when the stars were people, not PR-savvy assembly line robots. The only implant Katy Perry’s ever getting is a cosmetic one.
Eventually, Elastica were sued by both The Stranglers and Wire for plagiarism. Turned out to be pretty useful for me – I bought a bunch of Strangers and Wire records to see what all the fuss was about. Wire’s 154 is one of my absolute favourite albums, right next to Elastica’s eponymous debut.
*I would later discover ‘passion’ and ‘life’ were ‘speed’ and ‘vodka’, respectively.