Revisiting The Britpop Explosion (For Those Who Miss Or Missed It)

Growing up, a part of me wanted to be British.

England had an early influence in my life through my love of “Doctor Who.”

By the time I discovered things like “Monty Python,” “Are You Being Served?,” “Fawlty Towers,” “The Young Ones,” “Waiting for God” and “Red Dwarf,” I could hardly stomach American “comedy” any more, such was my belief in the eliteness of English humor.

My musical tastes took a similar skip across the pond.

While I certainly was into grunge and many American bands during the 1990s, my life was probably more shaped by what was going on in English music.

I did my best to get my hands on British magazines, or American magazines that kept a tab on England. Additionally, some music video shows I watched devoted some time to the British music scene.

By the time I was in junior high, Depeche Mode and The Cure had become my favorite bands.

Blur, Suede, Oasis, Pulp, Radiohead, Placebo and the Boo Radleys were among the many acts that followed and found a way into my heart. This last batch of bands was associated with what became known as Britpop, which was essentially an explosion of melodic guitar pop in the mid-1990s. Often, these songs had lyrics that spoke to the lives of young Britons, and thus made it sometimes difficult to export them to other markets such as the United States.

This past week marked the 20th anniversary of one of the seminal Britpop albums, Blur’s “Parklife.” It’s an album that had a big impact on me, and I’ve enjoyed the contextualizing of it in recent days.

Stereogum has had a great series of articles on Britpop during the last week.

In his look at “Parklife,” Ryan Leas wrote:

That’s part of the fun of this whole Britpop Week and of looking back at a record like Parklife — there’s an evangelism streak to it, an urge to geek out about artists that are only, still, tangentially known Stateside. That makes the process of revisiting this stuff invigorating, and Parklife still stands as one of a handful of pinnacles in the whole narrative. It’s a rare thing to come around to a landmark album’s twentieth birthday and still feel the need to climb onto something, demand people’s attention, and let them know there is a brilliant song called “This Is A Low” on a brilliant album called Parklife, and that they are missing out. Intellectually, you know it’s not true, but it doesn’t matter: two decades on, Parklife still has the sound of something that’s just starting.

It’s a feeling with which I can certainly empathize. Twenty years on, many people in the United States are still only vaguely familiar with the Britpop phenomenon and many of the great songs it produced.

Due to my own rekindled interest in revisiting this time period, I’ve created a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite Britpop songs. It’s definitely dominated by several bands and is not meant to be representative of the entire loosely-defined genre. This playlist is personal. Take a listen if you like.

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