Greg, I see all your points. Maybe I’m obsessed with national differences (I was once told that my specialist subject, as it were, was “national identity seen from the perspective of a diehard internationalist”, which was spot on) but I think enthusiastic, forward-looking globalists such as ourselves can exaggerate the way expectations for records to sound instantly “of” the country from which they came are declining. Even in the first “internet generation” (for want of a better phrase) there are people with little or no experience of the net, and if you don’t have that experience then the much-vaunted mass popular globalism of this era will be infinitely less likely to form.

Also, if Americans had such a stereotypical view of the British in the 60s compared to now, why did the Rolling Stones achieve so much there? The writers and target audience of the “Violent Britain” scare stories are actually of the generation which embraced them so enthusiastically, which kind of interrupts a linear interpretation of history. National identity is still intertwined with pop music – maybe not for the likes of us, but for a significant enough proporiton of the audience.

But if anything the problem to my argument is that the music in question doesn’t stress aggression or abrasiveness in the way I seem to imply. You’re right about Craig David not suffering at all from those attitude problems – quite the opposite, in fact, there’s something about his presence that could give him star status *anywhere*. Indeed it does remind me of the (at the time) totally unexpected US breakthrough of Soul II Soul – I’m drawing mental comparisons as I write, and part of me can very strongly imagine “Fill Me In” achieving what “Back To Life” did. Having said *that*, though, the US pop charts in 1989 / 90 were still dominated by AOR and pop (it was before the great commercial breakthrough of R&B and hip-hop, along with Nirvana, broke down the 80s consensus for good) – there’s an analogy there to be drawn with the dull, safe nature of the US charts in the year or so before the Beatles exploded there.

But, as you say, ultimately too much of this kind of discussion can remove us from why we’re here – enjoying the music.

Yeah, “attitude problem” is the wrong phrase. I exaggerated. It’s 90% indifference and only 10% contempt, I’d guess.