Back in time: 20 years of Britpop

On this day, 20 years ago, Blur released their third album, Parklife, to commercial and critical acclaim. Thus, Britpop was born; a period of music that was the soundtrack to the derision, bitterness, hedonism and angst of the people who created it while trying to balance stardom and privacy and the fights borne out of the relentless hand of the media that served to raise up and tear down.

britpop

Girls and Boys

Blur, with their angelic faces that belied utter mischief and a cock-of-the-walk attitude, always had what it took to be a truly successful band; critically and commercially. From the start, Damon Albarn was a bloody-minded man on a mission and in Graham Coxon and Alex James, he had found his lyrical and musical counterparts. Even listening to Blur’s music from the 90s, one can hear the talent in Coxon’s playing that was  in sync with Albarn’s lyrics; allusions to the British way of life; council flats, messy relationships and excessive partying.

I asked Damon for a Blur poster, and he was really rude – ‘Fucking buy it, then.’ And I remember him coming down and lecturing us, saying, ‘We’ve got the biggest dressing room and you’ve got the little one, but you have to pay your dues.’ Just being a real arsehole.
Justine Frischmann on her first meeting with Damon when Suede were supporting Blur at Brighton’s Zap Club in 1990.

britpop

“For me, Parklife is like a loosely linked concept album involving all these different stories. It’s the travels of the mystical lager-eater, seeing what’s going on in the world and commenting on it.”

– Damon Albarn, NME 1994.

By the time Parklife was released, the shoegaze and new wave era were over and there was an impressively large wave of new bands to make their mark on the face of music, the likes of which hadn’t been since the British Invasion of the 60s. America had grunge and Britain had “Britpop.”

When I think of Britpop, I remember how exciting it was to see friends breaking through in such a short time. At first the media’s attempts to pigeonhole us all together seemed forced. But the concept of ‘Britpop’ soon gained momentum and it became clear that it had become an entity in its own right. That redefinition of English music and identity felt important at a time when so much of the popular culture seemed to be coming from America. There was a desire to make work that celebrated where we were living, using our own imagery, vernacular and humour. There was also a softening of boundaries during that era – in a way, Damon working with Phil Daniels had some parallels with Tony Blair representing the Labour party… a reappropriation of traditionally working-class iconography by middle-class intelligentsia.
Justine Frischmann on Britpop

britpop

Out of the furore, came the idea that Britain and being British was cool again. NME was most integral in promoting the likes of Blur, Oasis and Elastica as the faces of a new kind of England; one dominated by snarls, cheap beer, Adidas trackie pants and brashness. Albarn had always been a show-boater, even though on occasion, he would display a vulnerability belying the insecurity beneath; but Oasis really brought out the competitor in him. This was not helped by the fact that media pitted the Gallaghers against Blur in a modern day battle of which band really was the face of British music. One only has to peruse back issues of NME and The Guardian to find a plethora of insults from both sides, of which nothing was sacred, not even Albarn’s girlfriend, Elastica’s Justine Frischmann.

britpop

Damon, who’s stretched out exhausted on a sofa clutching a big ‘I Love You’ sign that he’d bought for Justine at a truck stop, has been through six pairs of shoes on this tour, torn from him when he dives into the adoring crowd. More than once he has asked the crowd to return them, cheekily claiming he’s not Jesus and he can’t go barefoot. But the crowd never believe him. “J-e-s-u-s”, they chant back at him and, he admits with a grin, it’s as close as he’s ever felt to immortality.
Damon Albarn | NME 1994
I was double rude to Justine the other night, going, ‘Go and get your tits out’. It’s her boyfriend, innit, ‘cos I love getting at him ‘cos he’s a dick. If anyone said that to my bird I’d chin the cunt. But I fancy her big time! I’m having her, man. In the next six months it’ll be all over the press – I’ll have been with her. Don’t say that though, ‘cos I’m mad for her and that’d fuck it right up…
Liam Gallagher on Justine FrischmannNME 1995

britpop

britpop

In light of this, it would not be imprudent to say the media frenzy and obsession with the Blur/Oasis feud, served to crush the band’s creative spirit and even their likeability. Here were these talented musicians embroiled in a bitter battle to prove themselves yet imploding from the sheer exhaustion of it all; neglecting their music. After the release of Parklife, Blur was propelled to worldwide stardom and each band member used this passport to enter the intoxicating life of excess.

 “As Parklife gathered more and more momentum I slipped anchor and blew adrift on the shallow sea of a permanent backstage party. There was always one more place to go and I leaped into London’s deep and dark night.”


– Alex James, A Bit of A Blur.

britpop 20 years

Battle Royale

In August 1995, things came to a head when Blur’s label released the single, Country House, off their new album The Great Escape, on the same day as Oasis’s Roll With It. British media pounced on the story and called it the “Battle of Britpop.” Blur won the battle, with Country House taking the top spot, yet lost the war when Oasis’s album, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, sold more copies.


britpop

Aftermath

Talking to the people and the fans, things weren’t the same again for Oasis. The Gallaghers flat out could not work together anymore. Naysayers believe Oasis to be nothing more than Beatles rip-offs while others will see that they achieved what they could, despite their inner conflict; a miracle when you remember Liam and Noel haven’t really spoken in five years. After Albarn’s descent into heroin and subsequent split with Frischmann, Blur turned into an introspective and humbled avenue with what is known as the “break-up” album, 13. It’s a great record and shows how Albarn can turn any experience into something expressive. Coffee and TV alone proved that Blur could take on the 2000s. And who knows, we might have a Noel/Damon collaboration soon.

Interviewer : Would you collaborate with him [Noel Gallagher] in the future?
Damon Albarn : I’d love to work with him. But I don’t know… That’s the exciting thing about being a musician and collaborating with people, you don’t know what it’s gonna be like when you turn up. It could be shit. Or it could be fucking… marvellous.
Damon Albarn interview after the NME Awards (2014)

britpop

Celebration

What makes Britpop special, even though it was a star that burned too bright and faded out just as quickly, are the cultural landmarks the songs and albums have become. They are moments captured in time and hold intensely special places in many peoples’ hearts. While I have focussed on Blur and Oasis, there was a flurry of bands that were all members of the Britpop party. It is worthy to note that Britpop may have started with boyish abandon but many of the bands that came out of it were made up of women.

Pulp

A band who were more than happy to stay the bemused spectator amidst the ego-fuelled spats.

Elastica

Their self-titled debut LP was released in March 1995 and entered the UK Albums Chart at number 1. It became the fastest selling debut album since Oasis’s Definitely Maybe and held the position for 10 years. The band were poised for worldwide success but internal conflict and heroin addiction all but disintegrated it.

Suede

While not strictly a Britpop band because they started in 1989 and have lasted through the years, Suede distanced themselves from the loutish attitudes of their peers with darker and more glamorous alternative rock. Definitely the “weird kid” of all the Britpop bands, lead singer and songwriter, Brett Anderson, started Suede with then-girlfriend, Justine Frischmann, who later left him for Albarn. This “love triangle” was the springboard for most of the media’s attention and before Oasis, the media stoked the fire of Albarn and Anderson’s obvious dislike for each other. Animal Lover was written by Anderson after Frischmann arrived home with scratch marks on her back from a night with Albarn. For an awesome article on this period and relationship read Love and Poison by John Harris.


Echobelly

A Morissey-influenced band that would have been unremarkable if not for Sonya Madan’s hypnotic voice and lyrical ability.

 

Images:

http://www.tumblr.com/

www.theguardian.com

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Go F**k Yourself, Cape Town

Truly accurately hilarious! Let’s put the CT whiners in their place.

Jade Mitchell, writing

I actually like Cape Town.

I mean, what’s not to like? The mountains, the beaches, the gardens, the lovely little shoplings in the lovely little towns. Adam and I once spent a month working freelance while house-sitting for a friend in Vredehoek and we loved it, really loved it, to the point that we have actively looked at moving down to Slaap Stad many times.

My parents grew up and met in Cape Town, many of my family members still live there, as well as a lot of very dear friends who have either lived their whole lives there, or chose to move down there. Until recently I used to travel to Cape Town a couple of times a year, for business and pleasure, and I loved every minute.

Cape Town is South Africa’s darling city and rightfully so. I’m not going to try to argue that Johannesburg has the…

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Jonah Takalua: everyone’s favourite degenerate is back.

PUCK YOU, MISS!

After Summer Heights High in 2007, everyone was itching to see what new borderline insane characters Chris Lilley was going to unleash onto the world. His next offering, Angry Boys, called back Dan and Nathan from We Can Be Heroes and introduced us to Gran and the ultimate stage mom, Jen Okazaki.

Last year, fans of SHH freaked out because they got a full season of Ja’mie King, the private school sociopath, in Private School Girl.

Jonah Takalua, the Polynesian miscreant from SHH, will have his own turn with Jonah From Tonga.


May 4 is the date set for Jonah to return, with all six episodes streaming as a set. I think Mr G speaks for all our excitement.

 

Pick your playlist: sites where you can enjoy mixes

I am something of a mixtape junkie.

Some people like to listen to one genre or one artist/band on a playlist in its entirety (which I like too) but my moods are as interchangeable as the colours of a Harajuku Girl’s accessories or the sweets in a lucky packet.

I guess we cannot rightly call them “mixtapes” anymore but I remember making my first one from songs on the Cruel Intentions OST and one of the NOW60-something CDs. Contradictory tastes even at age ten. They were much more of a labour of love back then. You had to be ever so patient and wait for the whole song to be done before pushing down the record button to off. But the end result was a tape you could blast for the next 6 months. What DID we do without music sites? I didn’t even have MTV.

playlist mix tape

Oh, Bittersweet Symphony. You really helped me adjust to Grade Five.

Here are some awesome sites I recommend for playlists you can stream and enjoy besides Soundcloud, Bandcamp or 8tracks. (8tracks is one of my faves though). If you would like to enjoy mixes made by moi, I can be found on 8tracks: http://8tracks.com/kezia-synergize

 

Shake the Dope

I recently discovered this while researching for my Broad City post. These dudes have an entire playlist of all the show’s music AND it’s downloadable.

Cue angel chorus.

Other than that, they have other golden mixes from people with much better music taste than mine. Their January one is on repeat at the moment.

The Symposium >> The Fifties
Casual Sex >> Nothing On Earth
FIDLAR >> Gimmie Something 
Bodies of Water >> Triplets 
Jacco Gardner >> Clear the Air 
Foxygen >> No Destruction 
Wild Honey >> The Echo 
Junip >> Your Life Your Call 
Matthew Dear >> Slowdance
Smith Westerns >> 3AM Spiritual 
Dirty Gold >> Sea Hare 
The Memories >> Dancing In My Dreams 
Girlfriends >> Big Machines 
Theo Verney >> Blood Let 
Kurt Vile >> Never Run Away

Fluffpot

A lovely lady I know has an awesome blog and posts playlists regularly. Not only that, but she conducts interviews with musicians and other interesting people, who then contribute their musical favourites.

 Psychedelic Psyblings

Don’t be put off by the name. It’s more of a homage to the fuzzy, wavy genre of psy rock than anything else because on this site, you get a panoramic tour of genres.

“A curated collection of playlists from a series of contributors, all of which are involved, as musicians, in making music we love.”

I am an avid fan of Splashh and Toto Vivian submitted a cracking playlist so I am all up in that honey. However, there are great gems submitted by musicians cooler than you to expand your musical education.

Psychedelic Psyblings Playlist: Toto Vivian / Splashh by Psychedelic Psyblings on Mixcloud

Psychedelic Psyblings Playlist: Thomas Warmsley / Temples by Psychedelic Psyblings on Mixcloud

 

Images:

thehiddenpaths.com

http://www.tumblr.com/

8-Bit Treatment

If you are privy to the creative side of the internet, you will have noticed all content, from images to videos, is either going backwards or forwards, depending on the creator’s fancy. You could be like Grimes and go for the DIY, futuristic cyborg feel or retreat back into our techno memories, which is where 8-bit comes in.

8-bit games conjure up fond memories for those who grew up in the 80s and 90s, so much so that modern media is getting the 8-bit treatment. Cinefix’s Youtube channel supplies viewers with 8-bit versions of their favourite movies.

Anchorman

Pulp Fiction

A Clockwork Orange

Studio Ghibli

Everyone’s has their own favirote film from the eccentric and imaginative mind of Hayao Miyazaki, but which Studio Ghibli 8-bit representation do you like best? These are done by digital artist, Richard J Evans.

studio ghibli

Check out more on his Behance page.

Image:

www.thinkgeek.com

fineartamerica.com

5 reasons why Broad City is on my must-watch list

If you haven’t already, please do check out this awesome series created and written by two New York comedians, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. The show was picked up by Comedy Central and has Amy Poehler as exec producer, so you know it’s got the golden-girl-power stamp of approval.

broad city blog

Broad City focusses on semi-fictional characters, Abbi and Ilana, two BFFs who manage their way through life’s mishaps with food, weed, friendship and censor-free emotions. These two are less existential than the girls on Girls, meaning they’re more fun. They have their crises, yet instead of reacting by holing up in a flat by themselves with Bon Iver music or going off the deep end, they skip to eating junk and laughing about their situation or try to fix it, with intended hilarity; this MO makes them a hell of a lot more relatable and less depressing.  Ilana and Abbi are perfectly complemented by the rest of the cast, including disgusting human and room-mate, Bevers (John Gemberling); endearing gay friend,  Jaimé (Arturo Castro); and Ilana’s paramour who just wants to be her boyfriend, Lincoln (the hilarious Hannibal Buress. Where has this guy been hiding? A mine? Because he is gold).

1 Lines like these

2 Cameo by Leslie Knope in full bitch-mode

3 An awesome soundtrack




 

4 A great secondary cast


5 This scene

All you need is their version of Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” to get yourself into FULL addiction mode. Love the shout out to Missy Elliot’s “The Rain (Super Dupa Fly)” music video.

And it has been picked up for season 2. Yay.
Follow them:

@broadcity

@abbijacobson

@ilazer

@hannibalburess

 Images:

http://www.tumblr.com/

 

Lazy Sunday Movie Pick: Almost Famous

What can be said about Almost Famous that hasn’t been said already? It’s a movie that encapsulates the heady, contradictory world of rock ‘n roll without making it seem like all the characters’ spirits are sucked through a cocaine straw or ebb away thanks to the lonely lifestyle of acclaim and excess (it does however, come close). My sister and I broke out this classic because SHE HADN’T SEEN IT YET.

There’s something special about writing a movie or book that is semi-autobiographical. Maybe it’s because Cameron Crowe is basically William Miller, the moralistic, smart yet naive protagonist, that you feel as if the only thing important in the world IS the music; which we all know already. Our parents before us and their parents felt the same way about music William did about Stillwater and, often, it is the only thing that makes sense to us in our shitty periods.

Cameron Crowe is a director who started out as a writer for music magazines in the 60s and 70s such as Creem, Circus and eventually landed the white whale, The Rolling Stone. He was lucky enough to find his purpose through the pure joy of music journalism in one of the most important periods in music history; the ultimate fan’s dream. Other than the age-old journey of self-discovery, this movie is awesome because:

A killer soundtrack



Kate Hudson’s big break

Here you get the chance to see her show off her true acting skill before she went on to make movies where her character is a neurotic career woman called Andie Anderson. Oh, Kate.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs

A character based on the real Bangs, editor of Creem. RIP.

Frances McDormand

Quotes like this

Pure at heart, with a rock ‘n roll soul; it’s good to know this movie is still so watchable after 14 years.

 

Images:

http://www.tumblr.com/