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Sep 14

THE OFFSPRING – “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)”

Popular57 comments • 5,626 views

#813, 30th January 1999

offspring Whatever else boybands call to mind, they rarely make me think of being a boy. Mostly, they are a man’s idea of a girl’s idea of boys, and sometimes – by design, or an accident of casting – some of the pungency of boydom makes it through that filter. The music young boys like and relate to is something else entirely. This song, for instance, in its yelping, jumping clatter, in its broad swings at soft targets, feels very much like being a boy felt. And in something else, too: its meanness.

One of the hundreds of lies people tell about gender is the one about how boys fight and girls scheme. Boys are aggressive to other boys, girls are cruel to other girls. As well as subtly building up the cultural idea that girls are untrustworthy (and boys simple-hearted creatures of physical impulse) this overlooks the immense capacity for cruelty of the teenage boy, the unspoken, ever-shifting hierarchies of authenticity and acceptability that boys so viciously and joyfully police. Boyish cruelty isn’t even ignored – it’s normalised, even praised, enshrined not as bitchiness but “banter”, harmless jockeying for status.

Am I suggesting that “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)”, that jolly pop-punk novelty, is some kind of bullies’ anthem? Not a bit of it. I’m just saying that it reminds me of being a boy, and part of being a boy was meanness, inflicted and weathered. And it is a mean song. Funny-mean, not horrible-mean, but mean even so. Who it’s being mean to, in the British context, is another matter.

After all, when I say “boy”, I don’t really mean some universal masculine experience. I mean “suburban white brat”, a much narrower category. If the goofball snottiness of “Pretty Fly”, and of pop-punk in general, reminds me of being 13, then it also reminds me of the boys I was scared of then – a whole year older – who loved the Beastie Boys, a band that lived by a code of terrifying, sneering cool I imagined I could never unlock. And above them – across the Van Allen belt of obnoxiousness, too distant to even be frightening – were the skaters who hung around the shopping centre and car park in town, practicing tricks and watching others practice with studied impassivity.

By the time I reached their age, Morrissey had got hold of me and the slim chance I would ever be ‘streetwise’ had vanished. I have zero natural feeling for pop-punk, and I never felt too alone in that: it found a fanbase in the UK but Green Day or Blink-182, never mind the Offspring, were never quite the generational phenomenon they were in the US. Though maybe that depended where you stood. If that music had a ‘moment’, it was here – the post-Britpop years, when the remaining music weeklies fell into a baffled slump and the old metal weekly Kerrang! mopped up the audience they’d ceased to serve, the skaters and rock kids of the Midlands, Wales, the South, East Anglia.. anywhere outside the major cities.

It was all a question of context, much like the song itself. “Pretty Fly” is a record about a white dude who acts like he’s into hip-hop, but is basically clueless about it. Not an unfamiliar type, at the time – ripe for mockery. But mockery that could come from different angles. Does the “wannabe” deserve to be laughed at for appropriating hip-hop – for his klutzy presumption of expertise – or for engaging with it in the first place?

The Offspring are fairly clear about that – it’s the former. In Southern California, in 1998, hip-hop is the lingua franca of youth culture: everyone is engaged with it on some level, it’s just that some people respect it and others are chumps about it. The meanness of the song in its native context is teasing those who overreach themselves, who grab onto something without doing the work to understand it. Even though “Pretty Fly” is 100% a pop move, this is a concern that has deep roots in the American punk and alternative mindset – a mildly puritan attitude that style should reflect substance, that self-expression be backed up with knowledge and labour. Nothing worse than a poser.

But we aren’t in South California now. “Pretty Fly” is number one in Britain, and the British context is rather different: the lines between hip-hop and other music a lot harder. We are a year or so out from Melody Maker’s disastrous final reinvention, which it announced with a notorious cover featuring a black guy (meant to be Craig David, Britain’s most successful black pop star) sitting on the toilet with a cover line suggesting the magazine would flush UK Garage away. A few months later the magazine folded. It was a shoddy end for a paper that had done its best to cover and celebrate a wide range of music, but the interesting thing is who they imagined this unpleasantly dismissive attitude to black music might appeal to. The Craig-on-the-loo fiasco occurred as the paper was pivoting hard to appeal to Kerrang! readers – the metal, hard-rock, alternative and pop-punk fanbase.

Melody Maker’s desperate gambit failed, of course, and besides UK garage and hip-hop were quite different things – but it suggests, and my own memories of the time agree, that the non-metropolitan British rock audience and the UK audience for black music were strongly distinct, and occasionally hostile. In the world “Pretty Fly” was written for and about, hip-hop and pop-punk co-existed in suburban culture – the question wasn’t whether you were into rap, but how. In the UK, whether was still a big issue.

All this is why I’ve never quite felt comfortable with this song – for all its winning energy, its prominence here made it seem more reactionary than it actually is: not remotely the Offspring’s fault, that. After the flaccidity of 911 there’s a bracing sharpness to the sound – and a bug-eyed delight in the “Uh huh uh huh!” hook – that’s easy to enjoy. Nothing of “Pretty Fly”‘s qualities was lost in translation – but I can’t shake the idea that something nasty was gained.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    punctum on 9 Sep 2014 #

    You can’t say that Popular doesn’t give you variety! A neutered Essex boy band one day, the first Orange County skate punk number one the next! I note that the Offspring are among those sampled on Japanese pop duo Puffy AmiYumi’s unheralded but brilliant 2006 album Splurge, as indeed are Def Leppard, whose faux-Deutsch intro to “Rock Of Ages” is itself sampled for the intro to “Pretty Fly.” It all bodes well.

    Though “Come Out And Play” was not a hit here, its parent album Smash ended up one of 1995’s best sellers by word of mouth and stealth, so the Offspring’s British following had been growing for some time. 1999’s Americana was an even bigger hit, its systematic but good-humoured examination of contemporary American youth mores acting as a sort of junior reader preface to American Idiot, and “Pretty Fly”’s Pixies-meet-B52s knowing catchiness has to date apparently provoked some 34.5 million downloads, mainly I suspect from the sort of earnestly flip youth the song satirises.

    While it would have been great if, say, Rocket From The Crypt or Hot Snakes or Love As Laughter had made the top, they never quite grappled with a hook as unstoppable as the “Give it to me baby” plus cowbell plus Dexter’s lowing, Paul Lynde-ish “and all the girls say.” Possibly taking some of its lead from the Television Personalities’ “Part Time Punks” – “He needs some cool tunes, not just any will suffice/But they didn’t have Ice Cube so he bought Vanilla Ice!” – “Pretty Fly” nails the Ali G mindset in advance; the old story of wanting to be cool and totally missing the point of the culture he’s trying to emulate, though in a strange, dissolute way he remains happy (“So if you don’t rate, just overcompensate/At least you’ll know you can always go on Ricki Lake!” Holland sings with nudge-nudge relish). Even the nudge-nudge in the Spice direction (“The world loves wannabes!/Let’s get some more wannabes!”) is chiding rather than sarcastic; one of the cheerleading guys in the background is John Mayer. Another fine pop single which made me smile at a time when I needed enormous quantities of cheer. Uno-dos-tres-cuatro-cinco-cinco-seis-sette-OTTO!

  2. 2
    Garry on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Triple J is Australia’s National Youth broadcaster – a BBC Radio for the younger set (though as the audience ages but keeps on listening, the definition of what youth has meant has always been disputed). Each year since 1989 they have run the Hottest 100, orinally …of all Time, and then in 1993 of the songs of that year. The revelation of the song at Number 1 – revealed each year on the Australia Day Public holiday – has become one of those yearly conversations/debates which spring up around BBQs and parties which accompany listening to the day’s worth of countdown.

    Welcomingly enough a lot of Australian bands have topped the polls over the years: Powderfinger, Spiderbait, Goyte, but the International #1s have been patchy: Oasis’ with Wonderwall one year versus Kings of Leon’s Sex is on Fire another. But there has only been one winner Triple J has been proactively embarrassed about: The Offspring wiht Pretty Fly.

    It’s been an ongoing trait in recent years to mention the fact The Offspring topped the 1998 poll, normally accompanied with statements disendorsing the result, or laughing about the collective mindlessness of both the station and the voters. It was a novelty song over here, where local hip hop was still years away from being mainstream, but laughing at American stereotypes all the rage.

    It was not the first novelty song to top the poll but Denis Leary’s Asshole which also reinforced a collective opinion of America, or, more expecially Americans, or at least those stereotypes of Americans. But Leary was self-deprecating, or at least that was what it felt like.

    The Offspring felt throwaway but also felt late. Austrlaian band TISM had already attacked try-hard homeboys, much more directly, three years earlier in their song All Homeboys are Dickheads. Maybe it took that long for the sentiment to make the charts.

    The Offspring beat out seven Australian bands, Korn and Hole’s Celebrity Skin in the top 10. Blink 182 at number 14 were beaten out by U2’s The Sweetest Thing at 11. They Might Be Giants sat in between at 13.

  3. 3
    JLucas on 9 Sep 2014 #

    I was faintly surprised that this went to number one – not because it wasn’t a very popular record, but precisely because ‘songs for boys’ so rarely hit the top.

    That sounds like a very sweeping statement and perhaps it is, but look at the other number one hits from 1999 – it’s almost entirely composed of overtly ‘pop’ records by boybands, girl groups, ex-members of boybands and girl groups, mixed-sex pop groups and dance records. The common factor – aside from the club songs which probably played to a different audience – is that even if teenage boys were buying those songs, they probably wouldn’t be too quick to admit to it.

    That’s not to say that songs for boys weren’t a presence in the charts – it’s just that they seldom went all the way to the top. Particularly in an era in which single sales tended to be very front loaded at the top end, the boys just didn’t seem to be as motivated as the girls, the gays and the club kids.

    You could write books on why this is – no doubt somebody has – but it’s telling that this song did sneak its week at number one during the traditionally quiet January period. This isn’t the first time we’ll see records of this ilk grabbing chart-topper status during this month, and it won’t be the last.

    I liked the song. It wasn’t really something that excited 13 year-old me in the way that the prospect of, say, Geri Halliwell’s post-Spice fortunes did (of more later), but it was broadly funny and I could already recognise the personality type that was being satirised.

    For a punk group, Offspring were surprisingly inoffensive and nonthreatening. It strikes me now that they might have had more in common with fun-loving, knowingly cartoonish bands like the B-52s than Green Day or even Blink 182. Fans who know their material better than their handful of big hits from this era may vehemently disagree on this. In any event they had their moment, floated around for a few years without ever threatening to match this (save for the followup single which was very similar and inevitably went to #2), and seemed to vanish around 2004-2005 with nary a trace of the influence or pretensions to classic rock immortality that Green Day and Blink seemed to reach for with varying degrees of success. Are they still going? I have no idea. I imagine they’d be a popular festival act, but the kind that would provoke a stampede for the bar when they wheeled out the inevitable new material.

    A likeable but ultimately inconsequential 6.

  4. 4
    Andrew Farrell on 9 Sep 2014 #

    In what conceivable world are boys, gays, and club kids exclusive categories?

  5. 5
    JLucas on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Oh they’re not, I was speaking very broadly.

    In terms of the people who bought this record, I was referring specifically to pre-teen and early teen straight boys who were probably too young to be especially engaged with club music. Purely anecdotally, the majority of my schoolmates seemed to go through a punk/nu metal phase around puberty before evolving either to indie, classic rock or club music as they got older, depending on their inclinations.

    These days I doubt many of them take it any more seriously than the girls I grew up with now take Westlife, or I take the hits of Halliwell that I apologetically snuck to the counter at HMV when I was sure nobody I knew was in the store.

  6. 6
    flahr on 9 Sep 2014 #

    #5: referring specifically to “suburban white brats”, perhaps? ;)

    The reference to “Ricki Lake” in the chorus has always irritated me a little, on the grounds that (for me at least) it brings the song to an embarrassed halt as I completely fail to get a reasonably impenetrable American cultural reference. I see it was apparently popular on Channel 4 at the time, so perhaps this is a distance-in-time rather than distance-in-distance thing*. There is a distantly future number one where a similarly US-exclusive cultural trend appearing at #1 will similarly annoy me, although in the service of a much worse song.

    Anyway, you can jump up and down to this one, so I think that’s a [7].

    *you may recall that light years don’t measure the former, they measure the latter

  7. 7
    Matt DC on 9 Sep 2014 #

    The irony here is that this song hit #1 in the same week as Eminem released ‘My Name Is’, which surely bridged the gap between these two markets – Slim Shady would be turning up on the same Reading festival bills as Slipknot and Blink 182 and Green Day within a year or so. It even made pointing and laughing at white rappers unfashionable for a while. This song has always felt to me like it’s embracing what it’s mocking at the same time as its audience does, without ever quite feeling self-aware.

    There’s another, much clumsier record that hits #1 with a similar trick but we’ll leave that for a while. I remember being very surprised to see this in the top spot at the time, but the Kerrang! kids would find themselves in the ascendant over the NME bands for a good couple of years to come.

  8. 8
    AMZ1981 on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Fifteen years on the long string of one week wonders in early 1999 provides quite an interesting snapshot of the times; Praise You, A Little Bit More and Pretty Fly could hardly have been selling to the same audience and there’s more genre hopping to come before we get to the year’s first two week runner.

    It’s worth noting that, aside from the two 1998 holdovers, Pretty Fly was actually the biggest seller of the one week wonder string which suggests it might have broken through in the marketing climate of the late 80s/ early 90s. It’s interesting that Toms piece ties it in with a puerile insult made against black music by Melody Maker when Pretty Fly is actually close to a defence of black music being an attack of white boy rappers (and interestingly the arrival of the most famous white rapper of them all wasn’t that far off at this point although he doesn’t trouble Popular for a while).

    The Offspring would narrowly miss out on a second number one later this year and it’s a shame we don’t get a chance to discuss Why Don’t You Get A Job (and it’s even better although less commercially successful follow up The Kids Aren’t Alright) as they have both aged far better than Pretty Fly has.

  9. 9
    Auntie Beryl on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Ever since the overground success of Green Day’s “Dookie” five years earlier (and doubtless long before – I first ducked behind the counter in 1994) there had been support for US pop-punk in the shop I worked in. Alongside the Offspring album “Smash” Punctum mentions, we could and would regularly sell back catalogue by the likes of Less Than Jake, NOFX, Reel Big Fish, and Pennywise; bands whose UK distribution at the time was sporadic at best.

    As the end of the decade approached, this scene appeared to gather momentum, despite notional figureheads Green Day drifting towards apparent irrelevance with successive diminishing-returns albums (their nadir would come in 2000 with “Warning”, which sounded like The Levellers in places). Major labels picked up on the opportunity: Blink-182 would break through in 1999, as would Lit the same year. The cavalry came over the horizon for the next couple of years and Bloodhound Gang, Alien Ant Farm, Papa Roach, Wheatus and others would place singles high in the chart without troubling Popular – but as #7 mentions, there’s another band from this broad area approaching…

    All thanks to “Pretty Fly”? Possibly not. But as a signifier of a scene going overground it’s rather compelling. You wonder if bunnied boybands from both first Britain and, more recently, Australia were paying close attention.

  10. 10
    James BC on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Up to this point I had always assumed the Offspring would be too heavy for the likes of me, based on T-shirts of theirs I saw occasionally. But I grew to love this. Why Don’t You Get A Job is even more infectiously gleeful, the blatant steal from Obladi Obladah being a masterstroke.

  11. 11
    Tom on 9 Sep 2014 #

    #7 Yes, Eminem changes what I’m talking about a lot, though without wanting to give too much away about what I’m going to say about him, he’s enough of a unique cultural figure to not necessarily be much of a gateway into the rest of hip-hop for his audience.

    #8 Pretty Fly isn’t an attack on white rappers, is it? There’s no evidence the white guy ever actually tries rapping. I think Full Time Punctum has it right that it’s along the lines of Part Time Punks – it’s subculture authenticity policing (and like the TVPs with one eye on the downside of subcultural belonging, too), which happens to be about hip-hop because that was the subculture most closely imitated. The racial dimension is more or less a red herring to its US audience, but the mention of the Melody Maker joke is just to indicate that British cultural/musical divides were working on rather different lines.

  12. 12
    Kat but logged out innit on 9 Sep 2014 #

    #1: splitting hairs obv, but technically No Doubt were an Orange County skate-punk band that got to number one, albeit with a non-punk song. (I was *so* pleased to discover that zero of their other songs sounded like ‘Don’t Speak’.)
    #3: ‘inoffensive and non-threatening’ – c.1999 my parents had a garden party/glorified BBQ which I was allowed to invite a few chums along to; Mum was Extremely Unimpressed when my mate Dan turned up in an Offspring t-shirt with ‘Stupid Dumbshit Goddamn Motherfucker’ written on the back. I doubt she would have batted an eyelid at e.g. Marilyn Manson.

    I liked ‘Smash’ a great deal, esp ‘Come Out And Play’ but was never really keen on this song after the original version (presumably heard on Xfm or similar) got replaced with an almost indistinguishable (possibly re-recorded?) radio edit. It had extra ‘hey hey’s in it and it just felt all wrong.

    ANYWAY my Offspring top 5 singles:
    1. Come Out And Play
    2. Self-Esteem
    3. Kids Aren’t Alright
    4. All I Want
    5. Original Prankster (hmm this is less good on a re-listen just now, maybe PFFAWG would slot in here actually)
    999. Why Don’t You Get A Job?

  13. 13
    mapman132 on 9 Sep 2014 #

    I was surprised to see this appear atop the UK chart, as not only was it a few months late compared to the US, it seemed like the type of record/group that was unlikely to appeal overseas. Perhaps I underestimated the international appeal of Americans making fun of other (esp. suburban) Americans. I hadn’t listened to it in years and it was much harder-edged, and yes, somewhat meaner, than I remember. I liked it at the time but I don’t think it’s something I’d want to revisit much today. Offspring has better songs than this: unlike the previous poster I actually like “Why Don’t You Get A Job”. “Self Esteem” and “Kids Aren’t Alright” are pretty good. And in 2009 there was the unexpectedly serious-minded “Kristy Are You Doing Okay?”

    Chart note: Despite their popularity on US rock radio and the album charts, Offspring didn’t do much on the Hot 100: PFFAWG was their biggest hit….at #53. Another sign of the splintering of the US singles/radio market.

  14. 14
    weej on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Starting university in 1998 there were indie kids, townies and assorted others – finishing in 2001 the entire place seemed to be filled with skaters listening to ska-punk. It was never for me, perhaps if I’d been born a couple of years later I could have developed some sort of taste for it.

    As it is, this song only works as a reminder of a difficult trip to visit friends in Leeds, a long-standing couple who proceeded to break up during my visit. PFFAWG* was playing in every bar in the city, and it seemed to signify that a time I knew had passed and a new time that seemed crude and mean had arrived.

    On UK Garage: The alternative / indie types I knew seemed fairly open to it, at least compared to other pop music – it was the dance purists that seemed to be infuriated by it for some reason. The NME were very keen on turning “Moshers vs Townies” into the mods & the rockers a few years later, it was all a bit silly TBH.

    Does anyone else remember Damon Albarn holding up the success of The Offspring as an example of America’s bad taste in music, around 1996 or 1997 I think it was. Oops!

    *and Tequila by Terrorvision, not sure how I feel about that one, but I group them together as “other people’s party music from the winter of 99”

  15. 15
    Steve Mannion on 9 Sep 2014 #

    #14 I’d have been with Damon on the basis of PFFAWG – hated it and the singer’s voice. I’d take a whole bunch of early nu-metal and rap-rock over this tho. Ice Cube/Vanilla Ice was a cheap gag but in 1999 make the song sound like it was written years before.

  16. 16
    thefatgit on 9 Sep 2014 #

    I quite like The Offspring, although their brand of pop punk, as noted by others, is a little vanilla compared to Blink-182 or Green Day and far away from Rancid or Agent Orange, but all of these owe a debt of thanks to Buzzcocks and The Undertones for clearing the ground in the first place. Looking at this thread, I’m reminded that there was an emerging, or re-emerging Rock vs R&B schism around this time, which in itself is a pale imitation of, or perhaps more accurately a smoothing of the ripples from the tribal divisions I grew up with or importantly, my parents grew up with. Those of us who are old enough can look upon that schism and think: “Oh, you precious little moppets.”

    PFFAWG is fun rather than mean in my view. Nothing wrong with white suburban kids adopting Hip Hop, of course, but chasing the ambulance because everyone else seems to be, is always ripe for a bit of parody and gentle mocking, no? Anyway (7).

    Fave Offspring song? “The Kids Aren’t Alright”

  17. 17
    lonepilgrim on 9 Sep 2014 #

    I remember enjoying their gleeful performance of this on Top of the Pops and this still has an appealing energy and bite – although it’s a tad too long IMO

  18. 18
    23 Daves on 9 Sep 2014 #

    #2 – Is this the first mention of TISM on Popular?! Though for anyone curious about checking them out, “All Homeboys Are Dickheads” isn’t necessarily their, um, finest work.

    I think we’re now into the era when I first began to feel like an old fart at certain gigs I was sent to review. I would have been nearly 26 years old – the precise age Danny Baker highlights as being the moment you start to feel “something is wrong with music”, though I don’t know if I agree with that – and I can remember one particularly peculiar 1999 gig in Aldershot where various festival punk bands like Inter thrashed away onstage while lots of young teens skateboarded excitedly around the venue to their noise (and whatever happened to them? And The Crocketts? And A?). It was a packed enough night to indicate that the bands on the bill I’d previously barely paid any attention to had a devoted following, but to me it all seemed too similar to a lot of the rather grebo-styled indie-pop I liked as a young teen, and had long since abandoned. And the fashion and the accessories were outside any spheres of reference I was usually familiar with. It all seemed to arrive very suddenly out of nowhere and it made me feel a bit sad that I was clearly witnessing the opening of a generation gap.

    Mind you, The Offspring have far sharper wit here on “Pretty Fly” than The Wonder Stuff ever did on the pointless “Astley in The Noose” or “Who Wants To Be The Disco King?” so in a sense things had clearly moved on. I recognised the character referred to here, and found the song funny for four or five listens, but never engaged with it much beyond that. One of those number ones I was neither completely behind or against.

    Old fart though I was, this single was still popular among people I knew. I regret to say that a friend of mine shared a house at this time with a younger white man who was someone who misunderstood/ misappropriated hip-hop culture, and this single was actually used to annoy him during household disputes. At one point, they overheard him saying on the phone: “I’m sick of living in this house! They keep dissing me, Mum!” This inevitably led to loud peals of laughter from everyone else as he stormed off to his room. The poor sod. I bet he really hated this getting to number one.

  19. 19
    bohs_oliver on 9 Sep 2014 #

    It’s a comedy song. Novelty song almost. But better to be remembered for that than have the artistic heights of a Coldplay. You might reach the level of My Perfect Cousin, Lily the Pink or Jilted John. At worst Where’s Me Jumper. Half Man Half Biscuit do comedy songs, and the cynicism and bitterness come free. Eminem lost it when we were told to take him serious. Were we supposed to jump up from our seats cheering at 8 Mile?
    Too early for him I know…

  20. 20
    Carsmilesteve on 9 Sep 2014 #

    By ’99 Cheltenham was *teeming* with skatepunks. I’m not sure what was in the Gloucestershire water… It started with [spunge] from Tewkesbury (yes, the square brackets were part of their name), then we had 4ft Fingers in Cheltenham, then *every* 18 year old in town was wearing very baggy trousers and had spiky pink hair.

    This meant pretty much every Fat Wreck Chords act and most of their imitators passed through town over an 18 month period, as us miserable mid-20s indie blokes propped up the bar and patronised them…

  21. 21
    Mark G on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Man, I got here late..

    Has anyone remarked on the similarities (in fact, similarity) to “Part Time Punks” the Television Personalities?

    It’s impossible these guys hadn’t heard it.

  22. 22
    Chelovek na lune on 9 Sep 2014 #

    This is fun, basically, and good, too. Spiky aggry (but too middle-class to be really aggry) teenage boy fun. Where “Stutter Rap” meets “Teenage Dirtbag” by way of Carter USM. A minor study of gangly social awkwardness all round, too.

    I admit that I don’t know any of the Offspring’s other songs at all: possibly overall they might possibly be as irritating and ultimately self-obsessed as the likes of Green Day or (possibly worse) Blink 182 seem to be on very much less than an intimate acquaintance.

    But, while this is obviously a “January no 1” that wouldn’t have come close in other months, I have to approve. Give it to me baby. 7.

  23. 23
    daveworkman on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Yeah, weirdly, in my head I’ve never linked this in with the likes of Papa Roach/ Blink 182/ Bunnied other group and their ilk, precisely because I actually enjoyed this, and still raise a smile when I hear it (and dare I risk mentioning ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic’s ‘Pretty Fly for a Rabbi?).

    I was thirteen at the time, and was totally turned off by the rise of nu-metal/ pop punk in the subsequent couple of years, which said nothing to me as a teenager at the time: unfortunately, most of my friends loved it, so I was sent diving into second-hand vinyl for most of my teenage years.

  24. 24
    Duro on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Whew, having now read from 1970 up until this entry I feel I’ve earned the right to comment (listening to each of them remains a work in progress).

    I was on the wrong side of history with UK Garage, which in my sixth form common room was waaay more popular than whatever I was listening to on rotation at that time (’13’, ‘Nu-clear Sounds’, ‘Leisurenoise’, I’d warrant), and, given that there was a sometimes direct hostility towards indie kids, my distaste for the Artful Dodger et al had a performative element to it that probably mirrored that of Melody Maker. Was the compilation CD on that issue called ‘Born to Poo it’? I found the whole thing amusing at the time, now I would gladly have the whole incident wiped from the toilet bowl of history.

    Anyway, this was all yet to come, as January 1999 was mostly spent playing Ocarina of Time and occasionally humming along to this. I can’t view PFfaWG as the same side of the coin as the Melody Maker debacle because this had significant crossover appeal both at my school and more widely as indicated by the fact that it featured heavily on MTV a while before release (I can’t remember if MTV2 had arrived in the UK by this point). The reason? It’s got to be those hooks, right? In the words of a great Sopranos character, a hit is a hit. But although I was never greatly sold, there were plenty of fellow 16 years olds I knew who bought Americana off the back of this song, and might well have gone on to send a far more comical act to the top of the charts two years later.

    An easy 7.

  25. 25
    Fivelongdays on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Well, this is the sort of entry which – by both content and context – I want/need to write a fair bit about. So I’ll try to keep it succinct…oh, bugger that, I reckon it’s a two-parter.

    The Offspring were always the more straight-ahead partner band to Green Day. They were in their shadow in the mid-90s and, while post-American Idiot Green Day are almost-canon, Offspring have emerged into mild obscurity.

    However, this was the exception. It’s really rather good – the DL sample, the general laughing at someone while also thinking their alright really, the guitars and the general dorkiness of it make it an unlikely smash it that was actually very likely indeed.

    More to the point, lots of other people did – and this was a surprise, because Offspring were seen as being somewhat yesterday’s men. Condemned, it seemed, to end up midway up the bill at festivals, this took them over the edge for a year or so…or at least, until it took what seemed like a lifetime to follow on from Americana. This led to, if not an explosion of interest in vaguely poppy, usually West Coast, American punk, then certainly an awareness of it. Of course, there’s a touch of randomness into what made it, and what didn’t, and who kept going, and who reached some kind of one hit wonder status, but that’s for after the parentheses.

    (By the way, there’s a great time and a great place to discuss NuMetal on here, and this ain’t it. Don’t start with yer Korns, and yer Papa Roaches, and yer Bunnied Floridian Band, because this ain’t the time)

    Yeah, so if anyone cares, here’s a random mini-playlist of American, vaguely poppy (but not always), usually West Coast (but not always) punky revivalish songs.

    “Basket Case” Green Day
    “Radio” Alkaline Trio
    “The Brews” NOFX
    “Dammit” Blink 182
    “Timebomb” Rancid
    “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads” Less Than Jake
    “My Favorite Place” J Church
    “Punkhouse” Screeching Weasel

    …plus loads of other stuff that I can’t bring to mind at this stage, plus some stuff that bleeds over into a discussion we can have about seven or eight Popular years from now.

    Aaaanyway, I always thought there was a snobbery about that sort of thing from cooler-than-thou purists – the sort of person who sneered that they only ‘looked punk’, or bleated on about The Clash, or who just didn’t like American bands, or whatever. Well, fuck ’em, I liked them, and a lot of other people did, too. And this chart position goes to show that.

    (FWIW, I never saw the Craig David On The Loo thing as racist, but that may have been because I was in my nappies when the 1980s culture wars took place. I saw it as being a fuck-you to the trendies, to the buttoned down shirt/aggro/shitty nightclubs crowd. That said, I am probably the only person who misses the last days of Melody Maker. I come from The Provinces. What the fuck would I know? And, Tom, there’s fuck all wrong with being a kid from ‘Midlands, Wales, the South, East Anglia.. anywhere outside the major cities’. That’s where all the best bands come from. Who were London’s last great band? Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine?)

    So to reiterate, and elucidate, I think that I’m gonna go and give it an eight. (Sorry)

    But what was at Number Two? (To be continued)

  26. 26
    Auntie Beryl on 9 Sep 2014 #

    Welcome, Duro. MTV (or Sky music channels) were indeed pretty limited at this point, but if MTV2 had arrived by 1999 I’m sure it played a part in this success and the bubbling up of pop punk. I think it had.

    #18 I used to work with a bloke who claimed to manage Inter. Nothing came of it, and he left the shop professing his unending adoration of Joey Tempest. Odd bloke but there were umbilical chords between turn-of-the-century pop punk and 90s hair metal in my experience. Old gifts rewrapped as new.

    Forgot to mark this tune: an undoubted (6). The definition thereof. (Does Self Esteem sound like reheated Nirvana to anyone else?)

  27. 27
    Fivelongdays on 10 Sep 2014 #

    So, to answer my question – Terrorvision were at number two, with Tequila.

    SERIOUSLY, OFFSPRING ARE AT NUMBER ONE AND TERRORVISION ARE AT NUMBER TWO???????

    Yes, it was a completely mental (but not really) chart. Likeable Bradford (not a major city) goons Terrorvision were at number two. And, since I would like to talk about 90s British Rock Music, now’s a good time.

    It wasn’t fashionable, sure, and people forget about it now, but it always felt like there was an explosion of really good Proper Rock from Britain (and Ireland!) in the 90s. Some of it got forgotten, some of it (hello The Manics! How ya doing, Ash! Fancy a pint, Idlewild?) got appropriated by Indie Kids, but it was a special time, I guess.

    You had Terrorvision, the day-glo Northerners, Therapy?, a band who came from a place they called The Province and who managed to combine an almost pop-punk sensibility with a weird-out sense of noise, you had The Manics (I don’t need to say anything more about them), from Newcastle (not a major city) you had the schizophonic (before Geri nicked it off ’em) Wildhearts, you had the artpunk-meets-REM-flight-of-stairs-falling-down-a-flight-of-stairs Idlewild…You had the best of both worlds, really – great tunes and meaty guitars, sometimes humour, sometimes angst. And right now…ah shit, I dunno if I can explain it properly. Maybe I’ll try to say more in one Popular year’s time. I’m not sure anyone here gives a damn, other than to sneer.

    Aaaanyway, here’s ANOTHER mini-playlist of British Rock From The 90s (ish). Please humour me.

    NB These may not be these bands best songs or biggest hits, but they’re the ones that seem to fit best.

    ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ Manic Street Preachers (I’ve spoken about this at length, so let me just say this may well be my favourite song ever)

    ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ The Wildhearts (Again, I’ve written about this, but just listen to that intro. Listen to it!)

    ‘Screamager’/’Nowhere’ Therapy? (Can’t split these two, so I won’t. Undertones meets Husker Du meets Judas Priest in joyous angst explosions)

    ‘Alice What’s The Matter?’ Terrorvision (While Lancashire was full of laddish nobs in anoraks, T’Vision were a dayglo explosion of pop-rock goodness. Almost a dark side to this one…)

    ‘The Answer To Why I Hate You’ Symposium (Oh, they did better songs than this – ‘Farewell To Twilight’ and ‘Killing Position’ spring to mind – but this is teenagers doing teen angst and it working)

    ‘You Just Have To Be Who You Are’ Idlewild (Captain is the greatest mini-album of all time, and this is the best example of Idlewild at their noisiest. God, they were good)

    ‘Sitting At Home’ Honeycrack (This is sugar-rush, power-pop, tasty treats in aural form)

    ‘Weak’ Skunk Anansie (As soulful as it got, and bit of a belter)

    ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ Garbage (Yeah, three-quarters of them were American, but it’s my list, so there).

    And more to numerous to mention.

    So there.

  28. 28
    AMZ1981 on 10 Sep 2014 #

    #11 I approached my comment thinking Pretty Fly was a dig at Vanilla Ice who was trying to reinvent himself as a gangsta rapper at the time, then I remembered that he’s name checked in the song. I’ve always remembered the target as a rapper although fifteen years on I might be mistaken.

    #25 I won’t steal your thunder but the record we would otherwise have been talking about was an awful novelty record by a band who had briefly been one of the bright hopes of British rock before Britpop blew them out of the water. I remember being intrigued at the time that we had a rock top two – the fast moving chart of the late nineties did tend to throw up things like that.

    Thinking about it now the late nineties/ early noughties did throw up a lot of rock songs that are now classics of their genre – I often go to a rock club in Harrogate and watch eighteen year olds pogo to stuff that was in the charts when I was their age (including this) – while the critics of the time were still anticipating the next wave of Britpop releases.

  29. 29
    Tommy Mack on 10 Sep 2014 #

    “my own memories of the time agree, the non-metropolitan British rock audience and the UK audience for black music were strongly distinct, and occasionally hostile”

    In my experience the skate-punk and nu metal crowds always liked a bit of hip-hop and drum&bass (but never gurls’ music like garage or RnB) It was always indie types (both Weller/Oasis and Radiohead/Morrissey tribes) who were all ‘it’s not proper music though, is it?’ about both rock and most black pop.

  30. 30
    flahr on 10 Sep 2014 #

    #26 SURELY “Self-Esteem” is INTENTIONAL reheated Nirvana – a Yank rock band wouldn’t write a riff that similar to “More Than A Fe”ERM I MEAN”Smells Like…” by accident only three years after the fact.

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