In the 90’s, over on this side of the pond, Britpop took me over with the same all-compassing intensity that the 80’s New Wave/New Romantic “British invasion” had. So many of my friends were still wrapped up in Pacific Northwest flannel and grunge, or veering into the riot grrrl and hip hop scene of the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, I danced around in those other genres, as well, ever an equal opportunity music obsessive, I am. But, it was Britpop that grabbed a hard hold of me in the 90’s (especially mid-to-late 90’s), gifting my ears with a combination of the 60’s sensibilities I grew up with via my mother, and the club scene music I’d come into my late teens/early twenties to, all mixed up with some of that New Wave/New Romantic music that was part of my firsts (first albums, first concerts, first music discovered on my own).
Though I am no expert on the scene, I know what I love from the 90’s Britpop catalogs, and I know what I devoured (and still indulge on) as a Los Angeles girl who lived an ocean away from the actual scene. So, with those limitations in mind, I’ve put together my quintessential list of Top 10 Britpop Bands of the 90’s, with an accompanying playlist to take away with you.
Putting aside the battles of the bands from back then – Oasis vs. Blur vs. Pulp vs. everyone else -here is my take on Britpop of the 90’s.
Top 10 Britpop Bands of the 90’s
Britpop Playlist – Listen here on Spotify
High energy, punk infused, and taking inspiration from Madness, Buzzcocks, and The Jam, Supergrass’ album, I Should Coco, held a well-played spot in my CD rotation, especially in my car, in late 1995. I almost didn’t include them in this list because I relate Supergrass usually to post-punk music versus Britpop. That said, the band tends to be included when 90’s Britpop is discussed, and since they are a favorite band of mine from that decade, I had to give them a spot on the list. Songs like “Late in the Day”, and for the most part, the entire album In It for the Money fits in more with the Britpop designation, too. So…here they are, in the #10 slot, getting us started.
Supergrass were formed in Oxford by brothers Gaz and Rob Coombes, along with Mick Quinn and Danny Goffey. The band was signed to Parlophone records, in 1994, and produced I Should Coco, which was the biggest selling debut album for the label since The Beatles’ Please Please Me.
In mid-199, Supergrass issued their debut single, “Caught by the Fuzz” through the small independent label, Backbeat Records. The song chronicled Gaz’s experience being arrested for possession of cannabis. When Parlophone signed the band they re-released “Caught by the Fuzz” and re-released it as a single.
Supergrass had three albums in the 90’s, debut album I Should Coco, In It for the Money and 1999’s self-titled. In the 2000’s, the band had three other albums released: Life on Other Planets, in 2002, Road to Rouen, in 2005 and i, in 2008.
“Late in the Day”
At the tail end of the 90’s, and with only two albums to their name, the Longpigs still managed to make a Britpop impression on me. I first heard their song “Far”on a mix tape a friend mailed to me while she was away at University. It was bookended between Blur and The La’s, but stood out on well its own, enough so that I went looking for more of their music near immediately.
I feel like this is one Britpop band that few people I know, or run across, have heard of. Its too bad, really, as they deserve a place (hey, look here, a place in the #9 slot) on any comprehensive 90’s Britpop list.
There are qualities in their music that transcend the “Britpop” framework, too, that remind me of some of the music that came out of the UK in the early aughts. Perhaps this is due to the Longpigs’ albums coming around at the tail end of the 90’s, helping them to create part of a musical bridge into the next century.
Longpigs came to be on the fringe of 90’s Britpop, right towards the end of the big bang of “Madchester” and “Britpop” 90’s madness. From Sheffield, the band included Crispin Hunt, Richard Hawley, Simon Stafford and former Cabaret Voltaire member, Dee Boyle (replaced round the 2nd album by Andy Cook).
The band had 2 releases in the 90’s: The Sun is Often Out, their debut in 1996, and Mobile Home, their 2nd and final album, released in 1999. Shortly after the release of the 2nd (and last) album Dee Boyle left the band, Mother Records, their label, folded, and the rest of the band split. Guitarist Richard Hawley went on to tour with Pulp, and then started a solo career.
8. Inspiral Carpets
“This Is How It Feels”
Early 90’s, early Britpop listens, that is what Inspiral Carpets is to me. They came into my life around the tail end of the Stone Roses, their album Life given to me on a bus ride down to Newport Beach. “Here, if you like the Roses and The Chameleons, you’ll get this,” was given as introduction.
I dug the hints at 60’s psychedelia within their songs, reminiscent of the music that played in my house as I was growing up. I also loved the organ weaved in-and-out of the songs, coming in just under the jangly, often distorted guitars. Some of it fit so well with the music I was devouring in underground clubs at that time. The Best Inside is my favorite of their 90’s albums, especially the songs “Sleep Well Tonight” and “Mermaid”.
Another band from Manchester, Inspiral Carpets formed in 1983, in Oldham, Manchester. Though the lineup of the band went through some changes, the most successful featured Tom Hingley, Craig Gill, Graham Lambert, Martyn Walsh and Clint Boon. The band both preceded and was a part of the late 80s and early 90s “Madchester” movement.
Inspiral Carpets had 4 albums released in the early 90’s: Life, The Beast Inside, Revenge of the Goldfish, and Devil Hopping. They had one release post-90’s, in 2014, with a self-titled release.
“Here Comes the Flood”
Tower Records backroom, a very early morning hour, my body full of stimulants (liquid, and otherwise) when “Line Up” began to play. I had to know who it was immediately. I had to listen to the entire album. Twice. And, then I had to take a copy of said album home for myself.
I not only loved their debut, self-titled album, from first track to last, but singer, Justine Frischmann, became a style inspiration to me, too, in those middle 90’s. Elastica borrowed from punk and new wave to make their Britpop sounds unique, infusing the album with short burst songs with whipsmart lyrics that often laid a punch (i.e. “Stutter”, about at-the-time boyfriend Damon Albarn bedroom “performance” issues).
Elastica left me wanting more, though. One album in the 90’s was not near enough.
Elastica was formed by ex-Suede band members, Justine Frischmann and Justin Welch, in 1992. Later that year, Annie Holland and Donna Matthews joined the band. The band released two UK Top 20 singles (“Line Up” and “Connection”). Justine made tabloid headlines for awhile, too, due to her relationship with Blur’s Damon Albarn. The band also made headlines over a plagiarism controversy. Post-punk band Wire (who Elastica name checked as a main influence to their music) claimed that many of the band’s melodies were taken from Wire compositions, as well as by The Stranglers. All disputes were resolved outside of the courts.
Elastica’s debut album (self-titled) was released in 1995, and entered the UK Albums Chart at #1. It became the fastest-selling debut album since Oasis’ Definitely Maybe. Self-titled was their only 90’s release. They had one other album come out, in 2000 – The Menace.
My first listen to Sleeper felt like Debbie Harry was taking her shot at Britpop. Louise Wener’s vocals immediately reminded me of the Blondie 45’s that I played non-stop as a coming-of-age, young girl.
Smart used to be my get out of bed album. I would blast “Bedhead”, “Swallow” and “Inbetweener” through my apartment while the coffee did its thing.
I always wished for more music from Sleeper, wondering what and where they would go next. Years later I found out what Louise’s “where they would go” took her to – a successful writing career. To date, she’s published four novels, as well as an autobiography called Different for Girls: My True-life Adventures in Pop (a.k.a Just For One Day: Adventures in Britpop).
Sleeper was formed in London, and was fronted by Louise Wener. They had eight UK Top 40 hits, and three UK Top 10 albums during the 90’s. They also had music featured on the soundtrack to the film, Trainspotting.
The band was composed of Louise, Jon Stewart, Andy Maclure and Diid Osman. Louise and Jon met at Uni in Manchester, while both studying politics. Certain parts of the music video for “Inbetweener” (see above) parodied the grocery store set from the game show Supermarket Sweep. The band had three albums in the 90’s: Smart, The It Girl and Pleased to Meet You.
“Nice Guy Eddie”
5. The Charlatans
“The Only One I Know”
Reminiscent of Stone Roses and The Ocean Blue, two favorite bands of mine from the very late 80’s, The Charlatans caught my attention when I heard “The Only One I Know” play on a college radio station.
They were another “Madchester” band, which also got my attention.
So, I went out and bought myself a copy of Some Friendly the next day at Music Market, and proceeded in wearing it out.
Up to Our Hips was another Charlatans album that wound up on my heavy rotation, and songs like “Autograph” and “Jesus Hairdo”, and “Weirdo” from 1998’s Melting Pot were a mainstay on many a road trip mix CD.
The Charlatans formed in the West Midlands with Martin Blunt, Rob Collins, Jon Brookes, Jon Day and Baz Ketley. Baz would later leave the band and be replaced by Tim Burgess. Although the band was associated with the “Madchester” scene, their early demos were recorded in Birmingham. Their music fuses 60’s soul, R&B and garage rock, taking their influences to make their own unique Britpop sound.
They had six albums come out in the 90’s: Some Friendly, Between 10th and 11th, Up to Our Hips, self-titled, Tellin’ Stories and Us and Us Only. They have had six other albums come out since, including Wonderland, Up at the Lake, Simpatico, You Cross My Path, Who We Touch, and 2015’s Modern Nature.
“Here Comes a Soul Saver”
Suede came into my life while working at Tower Records, as well. I was the singles’ buyer at the time, and my coworker/assistant/friend raved about Suede’s album Dog Man Star, as well as Suede’s self-titled, constantly to me. Songs like “Metal Mickey”, “Trash” and “The Wild Ones” were brilliant and hard to ignore, so soon enough I’d gotten myself a new band to sonically fixate on.
I could hear bits of the Goth/Deathrock music I’d spun around to in the late 80’s, as well as a dash and dab of the Glam Rock I’d grown up loving during my 70’s childhood. There was an edge to Suede that some of the other Britpop bands I loved didn’t seem to possess. Brett Anderson sounded considerably different vocally, as well, cutting a high-pitched knife where other singers of the Britpop ilk delivered it all with a more melodic tone and style.
Suede formed in London, in 1989, and was composed of Brett Anderson, Richard Oakes, Mat Osman, Bernard Butler, Simon Gilbert and Neil Codling. In 1992, Melody Maker dubbed the “The Best New Band in Britain”. Despite some Britpop resistance that Suede had, the band would be considered one of the Britpop “big four”, along with Pulp, Oasis and Blur.
Four albums were released from Suede in the 90’s, their self-titled debut, Dog Man Star, Coming Up and Head Music. The band has had three other albums released since – A New Morning and Bloodsports, as well as Night Thoughts, released last year.
I still remember the day a friend of mine brought me a copy of Different Class, introducing me to “Uncle” Jarvis, and Pulp. I couldn’t stop playing Different Class, falling hard for the lyrical wit and intelligence weaved into catchy songs like “Mis-Shapes”, “Common People”, “Sorted for E’s & Wizz”, and “Disco 2000” (above). I really couldn’t get enough.
This is Hardcore came on strong for me, too, with songs like the title cut, “The Fear” and “Like a Friend” finding their way onto many a mix CD, as well as “Babies” and “Lipgloss” off the album His ‘N’ Hers.
Jarvis, himself, always seemed to emit a Bryan Ferry meets Lou Reed persona filtered through a literature professor’s vocabulary, with a generous dose of sexual innuendo and cleverness.
Pulp was formed in Sheffield, in 1978. Their 90’s line-up consisted of Jarvis, Candida Doyle, Russell Senior, Mark Webber, Steve Mackey and Nick Banks. The band has been described as disco influenced pop-rock meets “kitchen sink drama” lyrics. Jarvis and band were reluctant figures in the Britpop movement, keeping out of the Oasis/Blur level drama, despite being considered part of the Britpop “big four”.
Pulp had four albums in the 90’s, Separations, His ‘N’ Hers, Different Class and This is Hardcore. They had two earlier albums, in the eighties, It and Freaks, and We Love Life, which came out in 2001.
“Like a Friend”
Only in the #2 spot by a breath, or two, Oasis was a bit rough to deal with for awhile due to the feuding, the arrogance, and the dynamics between the Gallagher’s. There was also that association with a not-so-great ex who couldn’t get enough of their music for awhile; break-ups can ruin music for awhile.
But, I got over it, and past all that, realizing how much of their music I gravitated towards in the 90’s, and how much their music has impacted me now.
Also, despite the twat-arrogance, especially in the 90’s, it is impossible to deny the songwriting talent of Noel Gallagher.
Oasis was formed in 1991, in Manchester. An early incarnation called The Rain originally consisted of Liam, Paul Arthurs, Paul McGuigan and Tony McCarroll. Brother Noel later came on as a fifth member, in 1995. Liam brought with him the band’s name, inspired by an Inspiral Carpets tour poster that hung in the Gallagher brothers’ bedroom, with a venue listed called Oasis Leisure Centre.
The band released three albums in the 90’s, Definitely Maybe, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and Be Here Now. They also released four more in the 2000’s, Standing On the Shoulder of Giants, Heathen Chemistry, Don’t Believe the Truth and Dig Out Your Soul.
“Cigarettes & Alcohol”
“Girls and Boys”
Blur vs. Oasis.
I may not have been “over there” during the 90’s, but I consumed my fair share of music magazines, and read all the stories of the war between the bands that was going on; Damon and Graham, Liam and Noel, throwing poison daggers at each other in the “Battle of Britpop”.
I tried not to let it infiltrate my ears, and album choices.
For years, though, my leanings were with Blur as my go-to Britpop band. I played the life out of Parklife, Modern Life is Rubbish was always in my car, and Leisure, 13 and their self-titled album I would lend out to friends to try to get them addicted like me (first high’s free!).
Though #2 came in almost at a tie, Blur had to take the #1 spot for me, especially with the 90’s are the mark of consideration.
Blur was formed in 1988, and consists of four members – Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree. They have incorporated shoegaze, “Madchester”, 60’s guitar rock, electronica and gospel in their style and songwriting.
The band had six albums in the 90’s: Leisure, Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife, The Great Escape, self-titled and 13. They also had two other releases, Think Tank in 2003, and the band reunited creation in 2015, The Magic Whip.
“She’s So High”