Britpop: a cultural abomination?

I’m seeing so many articles in the media about Britpop to mark the 20th anniversary of Oasis’ first album than I’m coming to the conclusion that an awful lot of music writers are in the throes of mid-life crises. Which is why Michael Hann’s conterblast declaring Britpop “a cultural abomination that set music back” is a welcome corrective.

If C86 had defined indie as music made by white guitar bands, then Britpop finally robbed it of any connection to its original derivation: music produced and distributed independently. Indie had ceased to be an alternative. And if it was no longer an alternative, but a hegemonic force of its own, then what was the point of it?

There were a few decent bands who got themselves lumped in with Britpop; for example, I still listen to Suede’s “Dog Man Star” regularly. But Britpop’s legacy was still a stifling musical conservatism, with a narrow vision of what a guitar band could or should be.

Whatever the merits of Suede or Pulp, nothing good came from the hordes of lumpen Oasis-a-likes that followed in the wake of Oasis and Blur’s chart success. It was all backward-looking and parochial, endless recycling of all the least interesting parts of late-60s guitar pop, exactly the sort of music 70s progressive rock was a reaction against.

Still, some good things came out of it. It was at the height of Britpop that Bryan Josh decided to form Mostly Autumn. But that’s another story entirely.

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