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Brit Pop
Britpop was a somewhat ill-defined scene in British Alternative Rock in the mid-90s. When in 1991 Nirvana released "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Grunge quickly took over the British music conciousness: suddenly everyone had long hair and scrappy clothes again. A loose rabble of musicians in Britain took exception to this, and in 1992 Britpop was born - music that was somehow 'British' rather than the American stuff. blur's Popscene is often cited as the first Britpop song, with Suede's The Downers following shortly.

Despite the eager tagging of bands, what exactly Britpop was is difficult to define. Among the earliest adapters were The Stone Roses in 1989 (who themselves were part of "Madchester" a sort of halfway point between New Wave and Britpop), but they never lived up to the promise of their first album. Then there were The La's, who were either twenty years ahead of their time or twenty behind. Manic Street Preachers, a Welsh group that was influenced equally by Glam Rock, Punk Rock and American hard rock, were another early innovator of the Britpop sound (and actually wound up lasting longer than most of the bands that were directly influenced by them).

The groups that followed these bands' lead and, in turn, became the leading Britpop bands include:

  • Suede, glam rockers taking cues from David Bowie who camped it up around Camden Town and got their picture on the cover of Melody Maker before they even had a record out.
  • blur, a former shoegazing/Madchester act that, after touring America in 1992 and finding the experience dreadful, became one of Britpop's leading lights, hearkening back to British pop music of The Sixties such as The Kinks.
  • Elastica, a mostly-female group who drew their sound from punk acts like Wire or The Stranglers
  • Pulp, a band that was formed by a few teenage friends in 1978 which had finally found commercial success with their 1994 album His n' Hers
  • Primal Scream, one of the weirdest bands of the genre due to their influence from house music and trippy psychedelic beats, but Screamadelica is considered a key Britpop album.
  • Ash, a Northern Irish band influenced by punk and grunge music.
  • Sleeper
  • Echobelly
  • Lush, which pulled an abrupt Genre Shift from Shoegazing to Britpop in 1996
  • The Bluetones
  • Ocean Colour Scene
  • Kula Shaker, a band influenced not only by early 90's rock, but also by late 60's psychedelia and Indian music. Notable for being led by Crispian Mills, son of Former Child Star Hayley Mills.
  • Space, a Genre-Busting group from Liverpool who never really fitted in with the ilk, but found great commercial success during this period.
  • Super Furry Animals, a Welsh psychedelic band who like Space actually had nothing to do with Britpop, but because they played rock music and formed around the same time, they were often grouped with the scene.
  • Supergrass, formed by teenagers in the early 1990's
  • And last, but certainly not least, there was Oasis, big Mancunian fans of The Beatles and simple, big, stadium-filling rock 'n' roll. They were by far the most successful act to come out of the Britpop years, and the only ones who really made any impact in America.

Additionally, there were several, smaller groups of varying popularity (and quality) that rode the Britpop wave to a handful of chart singles. Among them are Cast, Dodgy, Menswear, Smaller, The Divine Comedy, Mansun, Mega City Four, The Lightning Seeds, My Life Story, Rialto, 60 Ft. Dolls, These Animal Men, Gene, Hurricane #1, Shed Seven, Northern Uproar and Gay Dad. Many of these groups were considered to be Follow the Leader acts to the big names, and many never even managed a blip on the radar outside of the UK, but they all have their own devoted followings to this day.

Britpop came to a head in the summer of '95 (when Blur and Oasis fought the Battle of Britpop, a fight to get to Number One when they released singles - "Country House" and "Roll With It" - on the same day. Blur won that battle, but Oasis ultimately was the more popular band at the end of the 90's) and in early '96.

In the end, heaving under the weight of drugs, artist disillusionment, and the continued failure by any band not named Oasis to break America, it collapsed in 1997: Oasis's long awaited third album Be Here Now was (and still is) the fastest selling album in British history, but it was equally quickly sold on to charity shops by disheartened fans and went down in history as an overhyped, dismal flop. Oasis chugged along, releasing well selling albums that got alright reviews until the band ended in an yet another squabble between the Gallagher brothers in 2009. blur turned away from the Britpop sound with their fifth album Blur, paved the way for the Garage Rock Revival of the 2000s, and unlike Oasis quit while they were ahead and still at the top of their game in 2003. Pulp continued to release critically adored albums for a few years before completely disappearing. Supergrass somehow managed to outlive most of their second-tier Britpop competition, became a major player in the British alternative scene and existed until April 2010. Radiohead and The Verve, formerly 'the ones who did Creep' and 'that shoegaze act', released OK Computer and Urban Hymns, successful albums that moved the music scene onward.

Today, the genre survives in the form of Post-Britpop, an even less well-defined category occupied by groups like Stereophonics, Elbow and Coldplay.

Tropes somehow involved with Britpop:

  • Americans Hate Tingle: The lukewarm British reaction to grunge was what spawned Britpop in the first place. This worked both ways — Britpop was met in America with the same reception that Britain gave grunge.
  • Breakup Breakout: Sophie Ellis Bextor, lead singer for Britpop also-rans Theaudience became a superstar when she went solo in the early 2000's.
  • Fan Dumb: much, especially surrounding the Blur vs. Oasis debate.
  • Follow the Leader: first when the scene started becoming popular with bands like Menswear and Dodgy being thrown together, and then again after 1995 with a large crowd of Oasis-a-likes.
    • Even some of the big names were decried as copycats of Suede and Manic Street Preachers before Britpop exploded.
  • Genre-Killer: the death of Britpop is usually laid at the feet of Oasis's 1997 album Be Here Now, even though it did very well at the time (it was a critical smash in the music press, in part because they'd been rude about (What's the Story) Morning Glory? and then seen it go on to sell millions).
  • Hype Backlash: Played straight with Be Here Now by Oasis (see above). Averted by Suede, who were praised as "the best new British band" before they released any music but still managed to score the fastest selling British debut album at the time.
  • Long Runner. Subverted, many Britpop bands split up when Britpop died or not long after. Two of Britpop's major bands, Blur and Pulp stuck around until 2003 (with Blur reuniting in 2009, and a good chunk of Pulp became members of lead singer Jarvis Cocker's solo band until the band announced a proper reunion in 2011). However, Oasis, Supergrass and The Bluetones stuck around well after Britpop died and only very recently (2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively) split. Currently the only four major Britpop bands that still exist without breaking up and reuniting or going on a long hiatus are the Welsh bands Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals (both of whom were only barely involved in Britpop), the English group Ocean Colour Scene (who actually predate the movement) and the Northern Irish band Ash (which was formed by teenagers in the mid-90's).
  • Loudness War: when albums started being mastered louder as Post-Punk gave way to Britpop, this picked up particularly; Oasis's (What's the Story) Morning Glory? is often mentioned as a watermark in the loudness war.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: common when the happy chiming guitars were combined with disheartened lyrics about Society.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Several third-tier Britpop bands often get this jab in articles, but the band that usually gets it is Gay Dad, because of their ridiculous name.
  • The Nineties: that's when it all happened, with a neat three-year gap each side.
  • Older Than They Think: Pulp formed in 1978. The Boo Radleys formed in 1988. Ocean Colour Scene and Blur were originally dance-rock/shoegazing acts in the early 90's before adapting a more rock-oriented sound.
  • One-Hit Wonder: there were a lot, both because there were a lot of bands with not much talent and because bands didn't tend to last very long. A few of the bigger names managed to become One Hit Wonders in the United States, either on the pop charts (The Verve, with "Bittersweet Symphony") or on the usually Alternative-friendly Modern Rock Charts (Supergrass, who had a minor alternative radio hit with "Cheapskate")
  • One-Book Author: The La's, who basically imploded on themselves after releasing their self-titled album, an important influence on the Britpop bands that came only a few years later.
  • Perishing Alt Rock Voice: A lot.
  • Quietly Performing Sister Show: Well, a Quietly Performing Sister Scene anyway: the "Cool Cymru" movement of Welsh bands that ran alongside Britpop in its last few years. The most famous of these bands, Super Furry Animals, despite never really having a huge hit single like Oasis or blur, released many critically acclaimed albums and managed to outlive most of their Britpop peers. Psychedelic folk band Gorky's Zygotic Mynci also had critical acclaim and were favourites of BBC Radio indie tastemaker John Peel, but they never even managed a Top 40 single despite eight of their singles making the UK Top 75.
    • Also, New Wave of New Wave, Britpop's punkier sibling. Elastica scored a big success with their self-titled debut; Echobelly broke out of that particular ghetto to be accepted as a mainstream Britpop band; The Wildhearts did pretty well; other bands like These Animal Men and S*M*A*S*H (remember them?) never quite made the leap.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Oasis (Red Oni) and Blur (Blue Oni).
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll - extremely prevalent, and one of the reasons everything collapsed.
  • Shout-Out: Now defunct magazine Select fired an early shot in the Britpop wars with a cover feature about Suede, with the headline Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mister Cobain? This was a reference to the theme song of the sitcom Dad's Army:
    Who do you think you are kidding Mister Hitler?
    If you think old England's done
  • Slumming It: The genre was marked by a tendency to idealise and imitate traditional English working class culture, despite the affluent backgrounds of many of the musicians. This attitude was aggressively criticised by one of the biggest hit singles of Britpop, Pulp's "Common People".
  • Those Two Guys: In the Britpop era, the term "Sleeperblokes" (originally referring to the members of Sleeper who weren't Louise Wener, but also used generically) conveyed the same meaning.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: the approach of most of the Oasis-like groups.
  • Trope Codifier: Oasis
  • Trope Maker: "Popscene" by Blur is sometimes considered the first Britpop single.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: only to be expected in such populist music and sometimes invoked deliberately; see "Inbetweener" by Sleeper for a particularly neat example.
  • Younger than They Look: Ash and Supergrass were both formed by teenagers during Britpop's heyday and as mentioned above, managed to outlast most of the older, more popular bands.

Baroque PopAlternative RockDream Pop
Boy BandMusic TropesCantata
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