20 Greatest Britpop Bands of All Time

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Ian Witlen

I was only 7 when the Smiths split, was still in diapers (or nappies, as we call them in England) when the Two-Tone Ska revival was in full flow, and was but a twinkle in my father's eye when punk first came around. By the early 1990s, the British charts were dominated by disposable Eurodance (2 Unlimited, anyone?), the angst-ridden drone of patently American grunge, and Phil Collins. Scenes that had threatened the mainstream from the margins, Madchester and Shoegaze, were fizzling out fast.

Madchester leaders the Stone Roses seemed liked false messiahs, stubbornly refusing to come back to their disciples as the follow-up to their 1989 seminal eponymous debut took a biblical age to arrive (when it did, in 1994, it could only be a letdown). As a distinctly awkward teen in the early '90s, there was a sense that popular music didn't really care much about what I was doing, and try as I might, I didn't understand what they were doing. Then came Britpop.

Roughly between 1994 and 1997, a slew of British guitar bands emerged that appeared to counter the trends that had immediately preceded them. And, moreover, they were having Top 10 hits. They sang about life in Britain, whether that be grim portrayals of post-Thatcherite decay or going out with your mates and wanting to take on the world (being "mad 'fer it!" as Oasis would later proclaim).

Sure, most of it was derivative from past greats. It was more of a marketing construct than those of us who were teens at the time understood, and most of these bands were, in retrospect, crap. However, for those few years, it did feel like you were part of something. No longer would my terrible dancing be an anomaly at discos, would I be trying to decipher lyrics from someone who has never heard of Lancashire, England, or be convincing myself that getting excited over a new album release was something people didn't do anymore.
This month marks a 20th anniversary of some key moments in Britpop: the release of Blur's Parklife album and its archrival Oasis' first single, "Supersonic."

To celebrate the anniversary of these events, here's a list of 20 Britpop bands you might want to check out. Most of these bands wouldn't "crack" America, and for the most part, Britpop would remain a purely British phenomenon (please note, though initially they were sometimes referred to as a Britpop band, Radiohead's penchant for pioneering means it is not included here).


20. Longpigs
They had a lead singer called Crispin, and their name is apparently derived from 19th-century South Pacific cannibals' term for human meat. Don't let that put you off. Their debut, The Sun Is Often Out, is a mid-'90s Britpop gem, and Crispin could howl a chorus with the best of them. Longpigs could sound both delicate and ballsy in one scream.


19. Dubstar
Britpop was often accused of merely ripping off the 1960s. However, the nearly forgotten Dubstar ignored its contemporaries' tendency for unremarkable guitar pop belted out in an exaggerated regional accent. Its indie dream pop has aged remarkably well, and rumors abound that a new album is in the works.


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3 comments
salad
salad

How in the world did you leave the Stone Roses and the Smiths off this list???? You should be ashamed.

Kim Kurczaba
Kim Kurczaba

I'm very happy with that list Steve Brennan: )

brennan.stephen
brennan.stephen

@salad  In Britain, Britpop usually refers to bands that emerged between '94 ish and '97(see intro). The Smiths had split by 1987, and though the Roses did belatedly come back with Second Coming in '94, they had peaked five years earlier in '89 with their debut, and are thus more closely associated with the Madchester / Baggy scene that preceded Britpop.

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