Menswear Remembered - Sort Of

By londonist_mark Last edited 163 months ago
Menswear Remembered - Sort Of

It was twenty years ago today...

Except of course it wasn't. It was ten, and it wasn't today, it was yesterday that Blur and Oasis went head to head for chart supremacy and the hearts and souls of the nation's yoof. Of course if the gobby Gallaghers had kept their mouths shut then Britpop would hardly have left the front pages of the music weeklies but as it was the country was woken up by the sounds of cheecky chirpy pop chappies doing their bit for the North / South divide, reigniting the spirit of the Mods vs Rockers and all of them threatening to conquer the world (and get royally pissed in the process).

Rising fretwards from the ashes of the baggy and rave scenes, raised on the spirit of classic British rock and post-punk, suddenly everyone who ever wanted to be in a band was heading down to Camden's The Good Mixer and claiming to represent the spirit of England. Cobain had put the last major US music trend, grunge, into the same grave he put himself, the kids had a scene they could call their own again and all was good. For a while.

Within a couple of years some youngish geezer, who could apparently play guitar, had just become Prime Minister, rock stars were dining out in Downing Street (ironically of course) and the rest of us started losing interest the moment most of the Britpop scene started recording their second or third albums (how many of you own the third Sleeper album???) unable to keep up the momentum or the tunes.

On distant shores, we also proved remarkably unable to break the global market, especially the golden US dollar, a situation that's not changed much since the 60s. Still if you're going to conquer the world it does mean a little more than playing a few nights at Knebworth. To be honest few on the other side of the pond cared about Liam's strops or Damon's faux cockney accent at the time. A few bands, most notably Radiohead (who were never really part of the Britpop scene and pretty much killed it of with OK Computer) took some time building up a strong critical following but it hasn't been until Coldplay that we've finally found a guitar band to take on the US with any notable degree of success (cue screams of anguish the land over).

Of all the Britpop names (good, bad and just plain old country bumpkin ugly) from a decade ago (Suede, Sleeper, Elastica, Supergrass, Menswear, Gene, Dodgy to name but a couple), few have survived the labour years they so gloriously sang in. Blur (whose Country House beat Oasis's Roll With It to the number one singles slot but lost out to them on album sales) mutated into a number of Damon Albarn solo projects and a brief fling with US lo-fi garage rock; and Oasis who stopped wanting to be The Beatles and realised they really wanted to be The Who. But neither can be seen to have as much of the passion and impact they had back then.

One thing that Britpop did change was the popular acceptance of indie guitar bands (for want of a better word). Bands do play live on TOTP nowadays, Festivals are cool, anyone can play guitar (unfortunately quite a few go on to record it), oh, and Nirvana are still being cited as one of the greatest bands of all time by those self same journos who happily saw the converse movement go the way of the Dodo. So The Kaiser Chiefs may be the next Blur, Keane may be the new Oasis and Bloc Party might be the next Pulp. Who knows? Who cares? Maybe it'll start again, maybe not. Great music ultimately transcends movements and labels, but movements and labels can still unite the kids and they certainly still sell papers.

So whether you were a Blur kid an Oasis fan or you still covet your Supernaturals album you can revisit those heady days of optimism with BBC 4's Britpop Night tonight. Do you remember the first time?

Last Updated 16 August 2005