Track 32. If…, The Bluetones

Return to the Last Chance Saloon, 1998

Take a moment. Imagine that the Beatles wrote ‘If…’.

It’s not a huge leap to make. The song has a laid-back, shuffling bassline not a hundred miles from ‘Come Together’, and the singalong finale is positively Hey Judian. The lyrics are also Fab Four-esque, eschewing the usual boy-loves-other stuff to explore … well, I’m not 100% sure. A discussion of prison release dates, maybe?

But think what could have happened if it had come out thirty years earlier, perhaps replacing ‘Good Day Sunshine’ on Revolver or doing us all a favour and booting ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ into touch. Today, it would be an unofficial national anthem. Kids would sing it during school assemblies; football crowds would use it to abuse referees; we would hear it regularly via the hinterland music that soundtracks our lives.

Yet I almost never hear it. Outside of dedicated Britpop shows, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it on the radio. No one I know ever hums it, no cover bands take it on. And this is an injustice, because it is the fifth-best song of the 1990s (the others being, in ascending order, ‘A Little Soul’, ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’, ‘On And On’ and ‘Spice Up Your Life’*).

Bluetones 1995So good a song is it that it can heal damaged-if-not-fully-broken hearts. I listened to the Bluetones a lot at university; partly because they were great, but there were a lot of great bands around back then. But the Bluetones were the only Britpop band that my sort-of student girlfriend deemed tolerable (sort-of my girlfriend, not sort-of a student). As a result, Return To The Last Chance Saloon got many, many repeated plays back in ’98, as I leapt to the CD player to avoid the awful alternative of it being replaced by something from the (mercifully short-lived) drum’n’bass  genre.

The relationship didn’t end that well – for me, anyway, she seemed to survive easily enough – and by association, that album should have been condemned to a lifetime at the back of the drawer, never to be played lest it tugged at still-raw wounds. But even now, even though it still carries that painful whiff of rejection, I still love it. And I love ‘If…’ most of all, because it’s soaringly, achingly brilliant.

It’s curious, then, to discover that so few people share this view. It never makes listicles for the best Britpop tracks – not this one or this one or this one. And if the combined readership of NME honestly think that ‘Kandy Pop’ by bIS is a better tune, then I have little hope left for Britain.

Incredibly, ‘If…’ doesn’t even make lists of the top ten Bluetones tracks. And the official Bluetones 1998video on YouTube has a mere 55,000 views. Respectable enough, but still only 0.003% of the total garnered for ‘Baby Shark‘. Seriously, what is wrong with people?

One thing this demonstrates is just how much competition there was back then. At times, I struggled with writing my Britpop-themed book – it’s never easy trying to pen a grubby sex scene that you know your dad is going to read – but writing about the music never caused a problem. There were so many bands, songs, gigs to choose from, so many joyful musical memories to include, that it wasn’t possible to fit them all in.

I made sure the Bluetones were included though; no question about that. (They get a live gig and the title of the final chapter, if you’ve not already read it. And if not, why not?)

This is my last chapter-based blog post and, over the course of 33 songs, I have at times wondered whether Britpop is quite as important as we Nineties aficionados think it is. Did it really, hand on heart, have a greater impact than any other musical era? I have seen thousands of people – all of them roughly 10 years older than me – pack out a field in Guildford to watch a line-up of Sinitta, Kajagoogoo and one-quarter of UB40. Trust me, they were just as excited about it as any Britpop audience I have seen. Poor fuckers.

I don’t think there is anyone out there who would credibly claim that Bros were better than Blur, or that Five Star can hold a candle to Pulp. The point is, every generation likes to think that they produced the best music.

Only mine, though – the Britpop generation – is right.

Top three Bluetones tracks (other than ‘If…’):

Bluetones 1996

* This is a joke. Number 1 is of course ‘Flying Without Wings’.

 

Track 31. Come Back To What You Know, Embrace

The Good Will Out, 1998

I’m nearly there. Nearly at the end.

Thirty-one tracks written, and just one more to go after this. The finishing line is in sight.

And I’m tired. Very, very tired.*

The idea behind this blog was to write regularly about music, to demonstrate to book publishers that I work constantly at my craft, hone away, engage with my audience and that they should offer me a contract.

Didn’t work.

Instead, it became a way to promote my self-published Britpop book to fans of the bands therein. And it’s worked to that end; sales are ticking along nicely (thanks, everyone).

But there’s only so many ways to approach an article about 20-plus-year-old songs, only so many angles to take. Eventually you’ll hit a wall.

This track is my wall.

EmbraceI like ‘Come Back To What You Know’ but only because it has a nice tune. I have nothing deeper to share; no clever intuition about what the lyrics mean, no insights about how it shaped the musical landscape.

The band? Let’s try the band themselves. Well, they came quite late to the Britpop party of course, arriving on the scene just as­– no no, I did that one with Travis a couple of weeks ago.

I like Embrace. Everyone likes Embrace (but we did that with Saint Etienne last week). The problem is, I have nothing to say about Embrace. I never listen to Embrace.

Let me think …

My ex-housemate Gordon was a fan, and played The Good Will Out more often than was strictly necessary when it came out. But I’ve already dragged him in for Ether and the Super Furries. It’s not fair to whore him out once more. Besides, does anyone care what my ex-housemate listened to two decades ago? Does anyone care what I listened to back then? Or now?

Maybe, just maybe, there’s only so much to be said about Britpop.

This next statement may be considered blasphemous in certain quarters, but … was it all that special? Do the many naysayers have a point when they say that it was all hype and little substance, that those of us who look back through Union Jack-tinted spectacles are fooling ourselves about its ongoing relevance?

Take Oasis, for example. Great tunes, shite lyrics. Go on, try reading the words to ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. Read them, don’t listen to them, the melody distracts you.

It’s gibberish. A soup of unrelated nouns, verbs and adjectives. Even when they’re not spouting incoherent nonsense, they’re singing rubbish. So they’re free to do whatever they choose, are they? They can sing the blues if they want?

Great. So can anyone. There are no laws against it, and it hardly demonstrates cutting-edge rebellion. But Liam, here’s the thing: you’re not singing the blues, you’re singing rock and roll. So you’re not even exercising your proclaimed free will.

Next.

Oh, Elastica. Seriously, what’s all the fuss about? They only squeezed out two albums, the Wire smash-and-grab raid and the other one that no one remembers. Robson and Jerome managed two albums in far less time, and both of theirs went to number one.

And then there’s Pulp.

Everyone loves Pulp, right? Of course they do, with all those clever word plays and knowing lyrics about the working classes and seedy council estate sex and being northern. But it’s not as it they were the first to get excited about that. Different Class was basically ‘Coronation Street: The Musical’.

Let’s be clear: Britpop was largely great because we, the fans, were young back then. To anyone born between 1973 and 1978, it formed the soundtrack to the years when we could drink without fear of the hangover, a time when every night out held the vague possibility of sex. We might think it’s special, that it crosses generational divides with its enduring brilliance but, to this day, I have yet to meet anyone more than five years younger than me who likes, cares about or ever thinks of Britpop.

I still love it, though, despite its flaws. It was still the greatest music the UK has ever produced.

Except maybe the Sixties.

But it takes me back to my youth. And I like that. After all, what’s wrong with a little nostalgia?

Top three Embrace tracks (not straying very far from the curve here, admittedly):

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* This may also have something to do with two under-threes in the house. Definitely more than twice the work of one.

Track 24: Junk Shop Clothes, The Auteurs

New Wave, 1993

Luke Haines doesn’t like Britpop; that much is widely known. His repulsion wasn’t enough for him not to include it in the subtitle of his book, but it doesn’t require many pages to be turned before the vitriol flows. I wonder how he feels* about his book indirectly led to (yet) another book on the subject being written: mine.

Two years ago, I needed a fortieth birthday present for a music-loving friend. I wanted something Britpoppy, given we were both big fans back then, and there were plenty to choose from. But they were all from the perspective of those who found fame at the time – Louise Wener, Alex James and of course Luke Haines (the book I plumped for in the end) – or the journalists who described it all with increasing bewilderment and disdain.

That’s all fine and proper; they undoubtedly have many stories to tell. But without the fans, music would be little more than 3-6 people playing instruments in a large room. By themselves. Surely our side of the story can be heard occasionally?**

Fast forward a few weeks. I am, for reasons too convoluted to explain here (alright, work) a short way into an exceptionally long car journey across rural Guinea. My_MG_3141 translator fell asleep 10 minutes in, and shows little sign of waking up again today. The driver’s English is on a par with my French. The scenery’s stunning, but there’s only so often I can point at it and say ‘Vert, très beau’.

He only has one tape for the entire journey, but it’s good. Through our few shared words, he explains this was a band he liked as a teenager and he used to watch them play in Conakry. I ponder trying to tell him about the music of my own adolescence, but ‘Connaissez-vous l’Oasis ou le Blur?’ fails to elicit so much as a nod. Plus, we’ve been together for six days, and there’s been no mention of Longpigs, no casual whistling of Shed Seven album tracks. I conclude it’ll be a bit of a stretch to try and convey the full wonder and intricacies of Britpop to him, so settle back to enjoy a bit of Guinpop instead. But if I could explain it, what would I say?

Fourteen wordless hours later, as we crawl through the capital’s traffic-choked suburbs, I have the outline of a novel sketched out. Plus most of the jokes, both musical and rude, that I plan to scatter liberally within. While tempted to taste Conakry’s famous nightlife, a week of rural water means my stomach forbids me to stray more than single-digit metres from a toilet. I start typing that evening.

Two years later, it’s published. Reviews so far have been very positive. The proof of its qualities will be when I get one from someone who I don’t know/am not related to, but hopefully they’ll enjoy it, or at least be kind. If not … well, that’s fine too. I had a lot of fun writing it, not least as it pushed me to dig out some long-forgotten CDs from twenty years ago and listen to them repeatedly. It’s all about the music, after all.

Apologies if you were hoping to read something about the Auteurs, rather than a shameless and lengthy plug for my book. So, here goes. If you missed the Auteurs at the time – which according to their cranky frontman, far too many of us did – then delve in. The first two albums, New Wave and Now I’m A Cowboy have most of the best-known tracks – ‘Show Girl’, ‘Lenny Valentino’, ‘New French Girlfriend’ – but it’s the third, After Murder Park where things get really interesting, with singalong crowd-pleasers such as ‘Light Aircraft On Fire’ and the bubbly floor-filler ‘Unsolved Child Murder’, very much their ‘Ob-la-di Ob-la-da’ moment.

His book is even more worthy of your time, though. ‘Bad Vibes’ bursts the Britpop bubble with a sharpened halberd, bringing a hefty number of his unworthy peers down a peg or twenty. I don’t agree with all of what he says – I loved it as a fan – but the important thing is, he was brave/angry enough to say it at the time, regularly venting spleen, pancreas and duodenum in interviews with the music press. There have been several Britpop hatchet jobs in recent times (like this one and this one) but they don’t run the risk of defying the zeitgeist. By contrast, Mr Haines didn’t so much swim against the tide as stand on the beach pissing into it.

And, in his determination to bolt down Britpop’s coffin for good, he caused another book on the subject to be written.

Never poke a sleeping dragon, Luke.

Top three Auteurs songs:

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* It’s not impossible that he is totally, utterly indifferent to the fact.

** This was before Caitlin Moran had written hers, or I’d come across ‘She’s Electric’ which is an(other) excellent Britpop-themed novel. More serious than mine, but there’s plenty of room for all sorts.

Track 23: Monday Morning 5.19, Rialto

Rialto, 1998

Rialto could never be described as a mainstream act, with just three Top 40 hits (hey, it’s three more than I’ve managed). But they were still a great Nineties band. For this song alone, they deserve their place on any list of great Nineties bands. It’s got it all: a great tune, a story to tell – that all-too familiar anxiety that the girl you love is off with Someone Else, and having more fun than with you – and a steady, determined rhythm. That rhythm is possibly because they had two drummers, for reasons I still haven’t worked out, 20 years on.

Here’s the problem, though. Two drummers is pretty much all I know about Rialto (that Kinky Machine 1995and some of them used to be in Kinky Machine), and even a wordsmith as accomplished as myself would struggle to put that through the mangle enough times to produce an acceptable-length blog post. This week’s musings, then, are about the bands who scuttled about the edges of the Britpop hype.

One-hit wonders would be unfair, and in many cases inaccurate. Describing them as small, or in any way inferior, is likely to invoke the ire of their fans or those who like to pick fights online. So let’s describe them as Britpop’s support cast, the bands who may not have reached the absolute pinnacle, but still contributed significantly to making that decade what it was: the Jellicle Cats to Blur’s Bustopher Jones.

Here are six of the best – OK, five of the best and one of the worst – acts that nobly padded out the  Shine albums and provided your (very) early afternoon entertainment at the Reading festival. Let’s raise a Two Dogs to them all.

If You Really Wanna Know, Ether

Welsh. The singer, a doppelganger for Dawson of Dawson’s Creek fame, had an oddly nasal voice. I don’t remember them having a second single, but this one’s a corker. My friend Gordon swears they were good, but he’s half Welsh and has a tendency to favour all things from that side of the Offa’s Dyke. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, though.

Breathe (A Little Deeper), Blameless

I bought this as a single from Record Collector, and played it on repeat for quite a long time. I was convinced they were going to be huge, and I would have the early single to prove that I’d known of their genius all along. I have never met anyone else who remembers them. Bah. Still, it’s a great song. They should have been huge, dammit. How come Menswe@r were huge and Blameless weren’t? Fame can be a cruel, twisted bastard at times.

Lava, Silver Sun

I saw Silver Sun at the Leadmill. I remember this song in particular, because it is exceptionally catchy, even though it appears to be about worm pies and painting little pigs. Not sure what was going on there. Their brief little spurt of fame didn’t extend much further, although it seems they’re still a going concern. And they made enough of an impression to make it into my novel, and a pivotal scene no less. I’m sure they’re absolutely thrilled/delighted/honoured/humbled etc etc.

Tranquilizer, Geneva

I suspect Geneva might be ill-placed on this list, and were much bigger than I realised. If so, I apologise. This is a truly beautiful song, a compelling vocal performance set against a wonderful opening riff. ‘Into The Blue’ is equally good. How come Menswe@r were huge and Geneva weren’t? Life can be cruel etc etc.

The Flamingoes, Scenester

Confession time: I didn’t know about The Flamingoes until recently. Certainly not in the Nineties. Shame, as they were great. Yet another to file under the ‘How did Menswe@r…’ file. I learnt about them after learning about singer James Cook’s excellent book, Memory Songs, which is more than worth buying. Once you’ve bought my book, obviously.

Bennet, Mum’s Gone To Iceland

This song is diabolical. I’m only including it because my little sister knew someone in the band and she’ll be annoyed if I don’t include them. It’s a dull tune with crap lyrics, and it’s not even very on message. Mum’s Gone To Iceland? Why can’t Dad go to Iceland? Or a non-gender-defined parental guardian? They wouldn’t get away with this sort of caper now. Honestly, the Nineties were so behind the times.

But seriously, this one is shit. Don’t click on the link.

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Track 10: You’ve Gotta Look Up, Dodgy

Free Peace Sweet, 1996

Dodgy. Were they trying to tell us something with that name, a confessional moment of nominative determinism? Maybe it’s a trick that certain bands like to play with the band and album titles they choose. As my friend Stevie said after picking a CD from my collection: “Warning, Green Day. They’re not fucking kidding.”

The general consensus back in the Nineties was that Dodgy were OK, not much more: as their big hit had it, they were good enough.

Dodgy 96But by God they were reliable. Whichever festival you went to, there they were, second or third up on the billing. At around three in the afternoon, before you were properly pissed, they’d bound onto the stage, careering about like peroxide Labrador pups (plus the drummer) and giving it their all while the crowd paid half-attention, at least until they got round to ‘Staying Out For The Summer’, at which point we all went crazy and chucked cider everywhere.

As motivation/homework for writing my Nineties-set novel, I listened to the bands I hadn’t concentrated on back in the day. When it came round to Dodgy, I almost boycotted them on account of the diabolical name of their signature album, which contains not one but three crowbarred-in puns. But those were heady days; such behaviour can, just about, be excused.

On I ploughed, courtesy of everyone’s favourite Swedish online streaming service.

Less than a minute in, my head was nodding. I’d forgotten about ‘In A Room’. Hearing it again immediately escorted me back to those sun-drenched, lager-soaked, noodle-riddled festival fields, those teenage years when I didn’t have to worry about stuff like mortgages, career progression and why publishers keep rejecting my book. ‘Trust In Time’ is also highly enjoyable.

And ‘You’ve Gotta Look Up’ is another strong tune that I missed the first time around. It’s vibrant, easy on the ear, uplifting: everything that jangly festival pop should be. In fact, the whole album is a highly rewarding assortment of energetic indie bop.

Dodgy, I can only apologise. I misjudged you badly. I was young, too easily swayed by the stardust sprinkled by the bigger names of the Britpop scene. As I sat on the flattened grass of the festival field, flicking through the NME and waiting for Kula Shaker to come on, I should have paid attention. I should have listened. My mistake. My loss.

That title, though. Free Peace Sweet. Jeez.

Top three Dodgy tracks:

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Track 4: She Makes My Nose Bleed, Mansun

Attack Of The Grey Lantern, 1997

Mansun passed me by at the time. There I was, running around the student pubs of Sheffield, telling anyone who would listen why Longpigs were so much better than current flavours-of-the-month Kula Shaker, and before I had even got halfway through my in-depth analysis, everyone was talking about Attack Of The Grey Lantern being the best album of the nineties. And, while I was trying to scrabble together enough money to buy a copy, Radiohead released ‘Paranoid Android’, attention shifted yet again and I could thankfully dredge up my well-honed monologue about how Pablo Honey was loads better than The Bends, actually.

Mansun 1999The net result is that I never got a copy of Mansun’s debut album. Music was expensive back then, with each album purchased (instead of burned or stolen) setting you back the best part of a tenner. With student grants only just stretching beyond Christmas, we had to be selective. The youth of today don’t know how luck they are. Yes, university fees are now nine grand plus a year, there are no jobs available and even fewer houses. But students today can listen to whatever they like, for free. And I don’t remember anyone eating avocado toast back then, either.

Praise the Lord for the gift of Spotify. While writing my Britpop-based book, I knew Mansun would have to be in there. So I listened to their back catalogue to see what I’d missed.

A lot, it seems. I knew the big hits, the ones that made the Shine compilations, like ‘Stripper Vicar’ and ‘Wide Open Space’. But there was so much more to enjoy; ‘An Open Letter To The Lyrical Taxpayer’ is a new favourite.

Is such widespread accessibility to music a good thing? It’s certainly convenient; if I hear a band I like on 6Music, I can simply add them to my playlist, safe in the knowledge that I’ll hear it again at some point in the future. And new bands now find it an easier to promote themselves and build a following, saving themselves (at least partly) from the whims of the record companies.

But do people develop the same obsession with a particular band, or a certain album, as we did back then? I played All Change on repeat for six weeks one summer, not just because I liked it, but because I didn’t have that many CDs back then (and when you’ve saved up your paper round money for weeks to buy a new CD player, listening to music on copied tapes no longer cuts it). As a result, I developed an affection for this album that will never die.

On the flip side, I was able to discover Mansun twenty years too late, without even having to leave my sofa or spend a single cent. Good for me, less so for them (I assume Spotify royalties take a while to tot up). So it’s a mixed bag, I guess.

And after that in-depth analysis of the state of the music industry, I’m off to listen to Kleptomania with some smashed avocado on toast and a decaf soya milk flat white.

Top three Mansun tracks (I feel a little unqualified to choose them, but here goes):

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Track 2: Finetime, Cast

All Change, 1995

It was All Change that first made me realise that we might, just might, be on to something special.

A friend in the sixth form – Jeremy, who also introduced me to another legendary bit of Cast 1995nineties culture, Father Ted – asked me if I’d heard of Cast. I hadn’t and so, next day, he duly handed me a tape of the album, which fitted neatly on one side (it wasn’t until I bought it on CD that I discovered it had a hidden track at the end). I took it home, stole something from the fridge, and stuck it on.

Wow.

From the opening chords of ‘Alright’, I knew I was going to love this band. It’s a superb opener, superior to Supergrass’s ‘Alright’ (the lesser-known, secondary Battle of Britpop) and things get better from there onwards. It’s a joyful, vibrant album, full of energy and crammed with melody.

Cast were even better live. Keith O’Neill remains the most energetic drummer I’ve ever seen, and a night in their company always flew by; don’t take my word for it, take Noel’s. That’s what I want in a band; I want them to be deliriously, stupidly happy on stage, utterly incredulous at the fact that they are getting to be rock stars, to do what so many of us dream of doing for a living. (Not me, though; first I wanted to be James Herriot, then I wanted to play for Liverpool. I still haven’t fully given up hope of the latter.) It’s comforting to know that the band are still touring, still playing festivals, still doing what they do best.

If they ever make a film of Love In The Time Of Britpop (a big if, admittedly, but let me dream), this will be the song that opens it. It was, and remains, a definitive nineties anthem and is, for me, Cast’s signature tune. Listen to it, marvel at it, then ponder this: it’s not even the best song on that album. Fourth place at best, after ‘History’, ‘Four Walls’ and ‘Walkaway’. Perhaps even behind ‘Promised Land’. A song this good, struggling to scrape into the top five on a debut album. That’s why Britpop was so fucking awesome.

Top three Cast songs:

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Track 1: Female Of The Species, Space

Spiders, 1996

I was convinced this song reached Number 1. It was everywhere in that glorious summer of ‘96, played constantly at festivals, parties and on the radio. Yet apparently it only climbed as high as number 14 in the charts; it didn’t even make the hallowed Top Ten. More people bought records by Gina G, Louise and Celine Dion that week. Songs that did reach Number 1 that year include one of those contemptible Robson and Jerome covers (the name of which I won’t write here, out of respect for the original) and ‘Forever Love’ by Gary Barlow. Peter Andre had two Number 1s,* as did Boyzone. A sobering reminder that the 1990s had a very dark musical side.

Space were the closest Britpop got to a novelty act (no, I don’t count Mike Flowers Pops). It’s hard to pin down exactly what it was that made them so much fun: the chirpiness of Tommy Scott’s accented singing, perhaps, or maybe the quirkiness of the lyrics – not every band could get away with releasing a song with “Tom Jones, Tom Jones” as its chorus. Whatever it was meant they weren’t treated with the same gravitas as the big bastions of Britpop. But that’s fine; music should be enjoyed and not every band needs to skulk about as if fame, fortune and widespread appreciation were absolutely the last things they were looking for.

This song is their most famous tune and can be found gracing the track listing of any nineties compilation album you care to mention. And it’s an intriguing one, a little outside the indie staples of the period: a spooky piano intro that is distinctively, instantly recognisable, while the lyrics are, frankly, a bit weird. I must have heard it well over 200 times, yet it still sounds fresh today: the mark of true quality. And Tommy Scott’s haircut was textbook Britpop, so they get an extra mark for that as well.

Top three Space tracks:

* ‘Flava’ and ‘I Feel You’, in case you were wondering. No, me neither.

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Track 0: All Hype, Longpigs

The Sun Is Often Out, 1996

I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like Longpigs. I’ve met plenty who have almost certainly never heard of them, but no one who has ever says a bad word, only plaudits. And, in most cases, points out that they are underrated. They are, in this respect, Britpop’s equivalent of Denis Irwin: if everyone says they are underrated, surely, by definition, they are rated?

Their star didn’t sparkle for long, but in that brief time together, they gave us The Sun Is Often Out, perhaps the most perfect album of the nineties. Even the album sleeve was wonderful, with its vivid baby blue daubings offset by faceless businessman.* The second album, Mobile Home, received nothing like as much acclaim (although it’s still worth a listen: ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Free Toy’ are both excellent). But their debut was a stunner.

Alongside anthems such as ‘Far’ and the Chris-Evans-promoted ‘She Said’, and the melancholic ‘On And On’, stood gems such as ‘All Hype’. It’s the shift in style that makes the song. After a tentative, subdued opening, it abruptly changes gear, turning up the volume, cranking up the guitars and kicking over the drum set. In doing so, it exemplifies one of the many things that made the band special: creativity. There was nothing formulaic about their song-writing, from the switching time signatures of ‘Elvis’ to the echoing vocals of ‘The Frank Sonata’.

‘All Hype’ is also a useful should you ever find yourself needing to defend Britpop from its critics (although the band rejected the label; like others, I’m not sure why but hey, it’s their call). Hold the song up as Exhibit A for the defence: this overlooked cracker was merely an album track from one of the smaller bands of the genre. And it’s fucking brilliant. The depth of quality to the music produced in the 1990s is just one of many, many reasons to still love it, even 20-odd years on (and on).

Top three Longpigs tracks:**

* I’m not adding artwork or lyrics or anything, as I’m not too hot on copyright laws and musicians’ lawyers are, by all accounts, fucking evil.

** At the moment, and not including the track under discussion. These things are always changing. That’s the whole point.

21.11.18 The chapter title got changed to ‘Happy Again’ in the final edit. But it was originally ‘All Hype’.

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Book preview: Love In The Time Of Britpop

Why did I write a novel about Britpop? Because I had a child.

The connection might not be immediately obvious. Britpop bands weren’t known for a fixation with parenthood (although Pulp did venture in that direction). But, in short, becoming a father meant that my evenings were no longer free to watch bands; instead, I started to write about them. The end product was a quarter-autobiographical story about growing up in the Cool Britannia years.

The novel is finished, and currently pulling some shapes on the dance floor, bottle of Two Dogs in hand, hoping to catch the eye of a publisher or agent. It’s a slow process, it seems, and shoe-shuffling and head-bobbing hasn’t – yet – attracted a roving eye. In the meantime, I am going to blog. Partly because this is what the many thousands of websites about getting published advise, but mainly because writing to agents and publishers is no fun. By contrast, writing about music is.

Over the months, my writing process became finely tuned. One, open a beer and make sure two more are in the fridge for later. Two, open up my laptop. Three, select a CD from the shelves and listen through, from beginning to end, as the artists intended. No shuffling, no adverts, no interruptions when the Internet re-sets. Usually an album or, if more generalist inspiration was needed, then an Indie collection: I have a solid, albeit sadly incomplete, set of Shine compilations and the first six best…in the world… ever!s (I’m not certain how many they did in the end). There are worse ways to go about stimulating the creative process.

This blog is not an attempt to define or redefine Britpop; that’s been done a thousand times already. Much of it extremely well by active bloggers: I particularly enjoy this one and this one; and of course there are the musings of the commentators of the era, such as John Harris and Stuart Maconie.

Instead, I will be discussing the songs that form the chapter titles in, and to some extent shape, my novel. In total, that’s 33 songs; this blog might end up a bit like 9 Songs, without the rude bits. By the end of that process, I’ll hopefully have a publisher and/or agent secured (and please get in touch if you’re interested). If not, never mind; it feels good to be writing about music again.

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All photos on this blog are from Pixabay unless otherwise stated.