Jun 13

Friday Poll Special – The Great Britpop Sorting Hat!

FT215 comments • 9,522 views

We are now firmly into the BRITPOP YEARS on Popular, oh yes, so it’s time to consider its musical legacy in the only language we truly understand, viz. a ticky-box poll.

We have selected 32 bands who someone, somewhere, might possibly have once described as Britpop. Tick all the ones you like and by science we will be able to finally, once and for all, define terms like “Britpop D-List” and “second divison Britpop”. Isn’t that a noble endeavour? I thought so.

Which of these Britpop bands were Any Good At All?

  • Pulp 70%
  • Blur 64%
  • Kenickie 53%
  • Suede 52%
  • Supergrass 48%
  • Elastica 47%
  • Super Furry Animals 44%
  • Ash 43%
  • The Divine Comedy 39%
  • Oasis 35%
  • Boo Radleys 30%
  • Lush 30%
  • Bluetones 28%
  • Catatonia 25%
  • Mansun 24%
  • Sleeper 24%
  • Black Grape 23%
  • Lightning Seeds 21%
  • Gene 21%
  • Longpigs 19%
  • Echobelly 18%
  • Shed Seven 16%
  • Space 14%
  • Ocean Colour Scene 14%
  • WELLER 14%
  • Kula Shaker 13%
  • Cast 11%
  • Menswear 11%
  • My Life Story 11%
  • Marion 8%
  • Seahorses 8%
  • Northern Uproar 3%

Total Voters: 1,496

Poll closes: No Expiry

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  1. 121
    Izzy on 30 Jun 2013 #


  2. 122
    enitharmon on 30 Jun 2013 #

    Ed @ 111 — What else were people listening to at the time? Tricky? Goldie? Pearl Jam?

    Define what you mean by “people”.

    I, for example if I am “people”, was listening to K-Passa, the Sweet Soul Sisters or Blind Lemon Beefcake live in various Bristol pubs; Annie Lennox, Donald Fagen, Bruce Springsteen or Cream in the car; Sibelius or Scarlatti, Puccini or Wagner, Miles Davis or John Coltrane in contemplative moments at home.

    I don’t think any of those were ever described as ‘Britpop’. But I don’t think that was the answer you were looking for, was it? Perhaps I’m not really a person.

  3. 123
    Tom on 30 Jun 2013 #

    First half of the year – main memory is A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology. Second half – Different Class.

  4. 124
    Rory on 30 Jun 2013 #

    #115 Re “comfort music” – alongside all the bands in the poll I was listening to plenty of that “bright sonic world” – lots of the bands you and others have mentioned as some kind of counterpoint; the Chemical Brothers and Ben Folds pretty much defined the 2000s for me. Why on earth does it have to be either/or? And condemning all of the bands in the poll as “foursquare guitar pop/rock” is just… looking for a rise out of someone, so I’ll stop there.

  5. 125
    enitharmon on 30 Jun 2013 #

    Following up my post @122

    There’s probably no period in my life when I was less concerned with what new popular music was coming out than the mid-90s. I don’t think that’s about age; influenced by my daughter and other younger people in the 2000s I discovered a lot of new and original music that I like a lot. There is a simple, practical reason though – quite a lot of my music was still on vinyl, much of it transferred to cassette for use in the car, and the equipment for playing/copying was reaching the end of its useful life and not readily replaceable. Much of my spending on CDs, therefore, was devoted to replacing all that old vinyl and there wasn’t much to spare for exploring the new stuff.

    Of course, some of that old vinyl never found its way onto CD at the time and that was a shame, which is only now being rectified in ways that I won’t dwell on here. Others, annoyingly, got messed about by the distributors with substituted tracks and a mess of “alternative mixes” and “bonus tracks” which spoilt the effect as it wasn’t all that easy on my kit to play a CD selectively (a close friend of mine wanted an expurgated version of Carole King’s Tapestry album (without Smackwater Jack) and I could do this by fiddling about each time but couldn’t store the programme for it).

  6. 126
    Ed on 30 Jun 2013 #

    Enitharmon @122

    No: that was exactly the answer I was looking for. I was just interested in seeing how Britpop fit into people’s wider listening.

    Did you manage to avoid it altogether, then?

    “Perhaps I’m not really a person.” Sounds like you are one to me. Pending the full Voight-Kampff results, of course. ;-)


  7. 127
    Ed on 30 Jun 2013 #

    @125 Comments overlapped.

    That’s an interesting point about the switch to CDs. A great example of how people (including you!) were shifting away from buying new music and towards buying new technology.

  8. 128
    Izzy on 30 Jun 2013 #

    I was devouring pretty much everything I could get at the time, including a ton of britpop and a ton of the alternative fare Sam describes at 115. I imagine most heads were doing the same.

    Beyond that I had an outstanding lending library nearby that led me to allsorts – new romantic era was a favourite, iirc Marc Almond and Duran Duran making comebacks about that time was thing for me (and nobody else I knew). I tried and failed to get bossa nova too.

    And Melody Maker’s Unknown Pleasures dates from the period too – Chic, Fleetwood Mac and Zep, and later Abba and Curtis Mayfield, made their way onto my personal heavy rotation in the period.

    One idea I never got was that success for Elastica or Teenage Fanclub meant seeking out Wire or Big Star or whoever, and listening to them. I mean even if it was really true that Big Star were the motherlode, you’ve got the idea anyway; so why seek out a slightly better version of what you’ve already heard, when there’s another universe out there?

    Find out who your idols love then go for the opposite, I say.

  9. 129
    23 Daves on 30 Jun 2013 #

    #115 I agree with you on many of those choices (while also adding Leftfield to your list). By no means was I sitting in my bedroom listening solely to Britpop, there were a lot of other things going on besides.

    I was music editor of the student newspaper at the time, and while that meant very little in the grand scheme of things, it did mean that I got sent a huge array of albums from PR companies. I’ve often wondered since whether the mid-nineties felt like a diverse and exciting time for music because it was, or just because I was young and impressionable and so much material got shoved under my nose without me having to make as much effort to go out and find it. Everyone thinks their teens and early twenties were musically where it was at, and I do consciously try not to sound as if I’m falling into that trap.

  10. 130
    Kinitawowi on 30 Jun 2013 #

    #109… what?!

    James’ story around 1995-6 is very peculiar indeed, but it features no albums; 1994 was the year of Wah Wah, and while I’d compare that to a lot of things (Zooropa is the most usual attempt at a reference), Shed Seven is not one of them. Then there was Whiplash in ’97 – unless that’s your Shed Seven reference, which… no. 95-96 was the Black Thursday / Booth And The Bad Angel period.

    I’m struggling badly with the poll thanks to a reluctance to name many of the bands “Britpop”, at least around this period (there’s a lot of words I’d use to describe Casanova-era The Divine Comedy but I don’t think Britpop would ever be one of them).

  11. 131
    Patrick Mexico on 1 Jul 2013 #

    “She likes the black one / He likes the posh one / Cute ones are usually gay” – James, Destiny Calling (1998)

    I think we all know which group THAT refers to.

  12. 132
    Sam C on 1 Jul 2013 #

    #124, #129

    I wasn’t looking for a rise, honest, and I didn’t mean to suggest it was an either/or – in fact, I think a hell of a lot of my antipathy stems from being baffled at the time that so many people I knew (who also dug the good stuff) were wasting time on things that seemed utterly pedestrian to me. It wasn’t simply a difference of taste, it was that in my milieu it was really hard to escape this shit. And I was very pissed off that the coverage of the forward-looking stuff I loved was edged out by this wave of grot. So OK, bit of an adolescent rant, but seeing that list brought it all back!

    I stand by ‘foursquare guitar pop/rock’ for a large chunk of the poll list though (I think I clarified that I didn’t mean all of them, if that wasn’t clear then mea culpa). Suddenly it seemed that beauty and invention were of no importance, all that mattered was that indie records were in the charts. Great pop very often comes from the tension between art and commerce, but I hear very little art in Britpop. All very cokey and boozy.

    I want to stick around here – the project is great and the comments fascinating – so I’ll make an effort to wind my neck in in future!

  13. 133
    punctum on 1 Jul 2013 #


  14. 134
    Cumbrian on 1 Jul 2013 #

    I have been away for the weekend so missed all the fun. Too much good stuff already in the thread to talk about/rehash, so I will try not to bother. The one thing I would say is that I am surprised how poorly Black Grape seem to have fared – especially given the low bar of being “any good at all”. Maybe people don’t consider them Britpop?

    I got their debut for £3 in the carcass of an HMV a couple of months ago having never bought it at the time. It was glorious, so much so that it drove me to thinking that the exact high point of Britpop might be Reverend Black Grape with the chorus crashing in and Shaun Ryder hacking out “O Come All Ye Faithful”. Released in October 1995 – the same month as Different Class – it seems to me that the downturn for Britpop started soon there after.

    Low number of votes for Weller too suggests to me that people don’t rate his Britpop output (Stanley Road and Heavy Soul?) because to my ear there is some decent stuff on Wild Wood.

    Finally, Ocean Colour Scene – for a pretty conservative band, they strike me as a bit of an oddity – multi-racial and a gay lead singer, which is a bit from the usual band composition seen elsewhere in Britpop (and yes, I know that there are bands like Sleeper and Lush on there – I am just talking in generalities about the genre overall).

  15. 135
    Rory on 1 Jul 2013 #

    Sam C @132 – I certainly hope you do stick around – the more the merrier! – and I can understand how a list of bands (any list of bands) could trigger a deep-seated aversion rooted in one’s own musical history. I’m not even that bothered that you (or anyone) consider this music shit, or a wave of grot, or even some of it as “foursquare guitar pop/rock” (although… so?). My annoyed response was more to “comfort music for those scared of the bright new sonic world”.

    To me personally, this particular musical moment meant a lot, but it was hardly a brake on my own explorations, as mentioned. But apart from that, I just can’t agree that there was “very little art in Britpop” or in these bands’ wider output. Sure, some produced examples of cokey excess after they made it big – Head Music and Be Here Now most obviously. But they’re hardly the majority of everything these bands released.

    Some of the bands listed, like Ash and Catatonia and the Divine Comedy, I struggle to think of as Britpop; if they are then we might as well rope in Radiohead and James. But taking the list on its own terms lets me vote for superlative moments like this, which is the 1990s’ own “A Day in the Life” as far as I’m concerned. Is it “comfort music”? Well, it’s exhilarating… is exhilaration comforting? Custard is comforting. Hey, speaking of Custard…

  16. 136
    Rory on 1 Jul 2013 #

    While I’m at it… re #129, “Everyone thinks their teens and early twenties were musically where it was at”. That’s one reason I’ve been looking forward to this Popular era. I wasn’t in my teens/early twenties in the mid-1990s; I was moving into my late twenties, and had been through a fair few different musical phases already. But this is the time I think of as “where it was at”, and not just because of Britpop. The era from around 1994 to 2004 takes in a huge amount of music that matters to me, and a disproportionate amount of it was made in the UK.

  17. 137
    Izzy on 1 Jul 2013 #

    And don’t wind your neck in for goodness’ sake! A bit of dissent is good spice round here, where the consensus view is so often plain wrong. But at least the excreable Kenickie are now beginning what I hope is a long slide down this poll. A corresponding rise for Kula Shaker and we’ll be getting somewhere.

  18. 138
    James BC on 1 Jul 2013 #

    Probably the thing with Black Grape is that people can’t believe that they possibly can have been any good. Shaun and Bez without the other Mondays, plus some druggy mates and one of the Ruthless Rap Assassinz? But amazingly it did work. Not really Britpop in my book, though.

  19. 139
    punctum on 1 Jul 2013 #

    #137: not “plain wrong” but “different.” People seem to have difficulty getting past this fundamental obstacle to understanding.

    For instance, one could say that Kula Shaker are several earth crust layers below execrable and that Kenickie were rather good, but that would be a different opinion rather than a diktat being inscribed on a tablet with death as punishment for disobedience.

  20. 140
    Izzy on 1 Jul 2013 #

    Do you really think that needs pointed out?

  21. 141
    Patrick Mexico on 2 Jul 2013 #

    Re 133: Read that as “Sleepflower”; sensational opener to the good Welsh bunnies’ second album, though like Supergrass and Alright, the band are often too embarrassed to play it live; I’m quite tolerant of such tropes, but the bombastic central riff sounds a bit like a cock-rock take on Captain Hollywood Project meets Corona’s Baby Baby!

  22. 142
    weej on 2 Jul 2013 #

    #140 – 640 people vote for a band, you say they are “execrable” and give no further comment, so yes it looks like it needs to be said. There’s a big difference between challenging a consensus and just contradicting it.

  23. 143
    James BC on 2 Jul 2013 #

    How would you divide this list? To me it looks like:

    TOP TIER: Blur, Pulp, Suede,
    NEAR-GREATNESS: Kenickie to Ash
    MIDDLING: Divine Comedy to Lightning Seeds
    PERIPHERAL: Longpigs down to Cast
    BOBBINS: Menswear and below

    (Not that I remotely agree with the overall order, or that anyone else will either.)

  24. 144
    Cumbrian on 2 Jul 2013 #

    Given that 2 votes currently separate Suede and Kenickie, those two votes are doing an awful lot of work on Suede’s behalf. Equally, one vote currently separates Cast and Menswear.

    I know, in this sort of exercise, you’ve got to draw lines somewhere though. Looking purely at the votes I’d say, Suede should go into the second tier or Kenickie should go in the top tier. And the bottom tier should probably be from Kula Shaker or Cast on down.

    Of course, if more votes come in, then things might change. It just seems to me that currently these are where natural gaps have formed.

    Whether Kenickie should be seen as a Top Tier Britpop act or Kula Shaker should be seen as one of the worst of the worst is something I’ll leave to finer minds than mine, I think.

  25. 145
    punctum on 2 Jul 2013 #

    Britpop isn’t the World Cup.

    I know, in this sort of exercise, you’ve got to draw lines somewhere though.

    Why? How do you know?

  26. 146
    James BC on 2 Jul 2013 #

    It’s a fun poll, and we’re drawing lines in order to make it even more fun.

  27. 147
    Cumbrian on 2 Jul 2013 #

    Because, in this sort of exercise, if you wish to sort anything (varieties of baked beans, tennis players, segments of a market, whatever), if you want to impose some sort of order on it, you have to put lines down. I know this is tautological – but the fact is, without the lines, you don’t have different groups to compare. And when you put the lines down, you inevitably wind up looking at people on fringes of groups and think, well, why are they there?

    It’s not the World Cup, you are right. On the other hand, it can be instructive, from the point of view of understanding the tastes of the people who have voted. What common features (if any) do bands in certain groups share? What does this tell us about the general taste of the people who have voted? You know – understanding other people’s points of view. The type of thing that we should all be doing (even if an exercise as laid out in 143 might not be the best way of doing it).

  28. 148
    punctum on 2 Jul 2013 #

    I’m interested in why people think the way they think, and how deeply people actually understand themselves.

    Why, for instance, do both of you persist in referring to yourselves as “we”?

    Furthermore, why do things have to be sorted? Is music a meat packing warehouse? Why do people need to have groups and fringes? Are they that afraid of themselves?

  29. 149
    Izzy on 2 Jul 2013 #

    Yeah Tom, why do things have to be sorted?

  30. 150
    Tom on 2 Jul 2013 #

    You’d probably actually segment stuff by looking at consistent voting patterns though – people who voted for X also voted for Y – and our polling app does not collect such NSA-level data ;)

    Things don’t have to be sorted of course :) Polls are the big mac of content – calorific (commentriffic) but not actually filling. However I’m pleased with how much this one caught on with the Twitter massive.

    One category: bands whose members actually tweeted this poll. Kenickie, Northern Uproar, Shed Seven, Menswe@r (a day after the fuss had died down). It feels like only Kenickie’s get-out-the-vote effort was remotely a success, which in turn says something about their fanbase.

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