There’s been some discussion on the latest Popular post about 1993 being a particular musical doldrum. I was 20 at the time – so enormously biased of course – but I don’t remember it like that, so I’m republishing an old post I wrote on my Tumblr about it.
1993 in Britain was the apex of scene-a-week genremaking by the UK music press: history focuses now on the proto-Britpop stuff (because it ‘won’ and because it was pretty good) but at the time that wasn’t such a sure thing at all and there was a forest of other stuff going on.* Such as!
New wave of new wave – reputationally poor punkiness, aggressive and political (SMASH, These Animal Men) – all the bands involved released second records which were apparently a lot better than their first ones but by that time Britpop had come along and their fate was oblivion.
Collision pop – sample-heavy ravey rock, hip-hop influences, aggressive and political though also danceable – Senser, Back To The Planet, Chumbawamba, Credit To The Nation, Hustlers HC
Any excuse for a Back To The Planet picture.
Riot Grrrl (UK edition) – ziney, DIY, political (esp. sexual politics) but also with a bit of dayglo POP rhetoric which survived through Britpop and ended up at Bis I guess.
A sort of vaguely “world pop” thing which was basically an attempt to categorise Transglobal Underground: Dance genres were their own hive of activity but definitely there was indie crossover going on via TGU, the weed-heavy spliff-end of ambient (The Orb were still big with students), Leftfield (“Open Up” was enormous), and so on.
“Lost Generation”: Butterfly Child, Disco Inferno, Papa Sprain, Seefeel, Laika, Pram – this is a Simon Reynolds coining for the arty wing of UK indie. Because of the support of Simon R and to a lesser extent of Pitchfork it “survives” in reputation better than most of this stuff
Proto-Britpop: Suede were a bona fide Big Thing but there was no great sense the ideas Blur were kicking around would work; Pulp hadn’t made their breakthrough; Denim and Cud, the Auteurs… all that lot.
Boho sceneless mavericks: Like PJ Harvey, Tindersticks, Bjork – serious acts who got quite big quite quickly and were definite presences on the indie scene but nothing really coalesced around them. There were attempts with Tindersticks – throughout Britpop there was a little wing of groups like Jack in London doing similar nicotine-stained atmospherica.
Random guitar bands we remember because of what they did later: Post-shoegaze noiseniks like Verve; one-hit local wonders like Radiohead. None of any significance at this point, or so it felt. You might as well have bet on Adorable or Thousand Yard Stare.
Adding to the confusion loads of these micro-scenes would happily cross over with one another – it was a time of genuine flux, a vacuum because the big bands of the previous few years had either imploded (Happy Mondays), vanished (Stone Roses), or were deep in the studio changing their sound (Primal Scream). A lot of fun to be part of.
*and of course the best music from then isn’t mentioned here at all – jungle, American indie rock, hip-hop… – this is just trying to dissect the fractured British indie scene of the time…