A Britpop Revival

Published on 6 August 2023 at 15:41

By Paul Laird

Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"


The Emperor’s Old Clothes 

Same as it ever was. 

Same as it ever was. 

The music that matters is the music that matters to you. 

If you dig, you dig. 

If you don’t, you don’t. 

Or won’t. 

Much discussion can be found about the Britpop revival. 

“Britpop caused Brexit” screams this one over there. 

“Britpop is the bestest fing ever” bleats that one over there. 


What none of these people are discussing, or acknowledging, is the fact that the Britpop revival  doesn’t exist. 


It is a figment of the fevered imaginations of men of a certain age. 


When Stephen Hill wrote an article for Louder titled, “10 Terrible Britpop Albums with One Classic  Song” the reaction from some quarters was blind fury. 


It was curious to watch the reaction to Hill’s reaction from the sidelines and see how defensive  people became over Kula Shaker and Dodgy. It suggested that the people who were most furious  must have lived so untroubled by trauma and pain that they could expend huge amounts of  emotion and energy on something utterly meaningless. Or perhaps it suggested that their lives  were so blighted by trauma and pain that they had to distract themselves from it by taking to  social media to go to bat for Ocean Colour Scene. 


Funny old game, Saint. 


I was recently called an expert on Britpop during an appearance on national radio, which came on  the back of the fact that I am the author of a fairly successful book on Britpop that has been  called the “definitive” book on the period. 


I am not an expert on Britpop. 

I am not an expert on anything. 


But I know as much about Britpop as anyone else, and more than most…and unlike some of the  people who want to position themselves as “experts”, I have put in the hard yards. The first draft  of my book was over 200,000 words long. And that was after I had self-edited.  


Ain’t nobody gonna tell me I don’t know what I am talking about. 


A few years back a group of promoters hit upon the brilliant idea of tapping into the nostalgia  market by pulling together a Britpop festival. It went well and confirmed their suspicions that  middle-aged people with enough disposable income to pay for a babysitter, and not enough  

imagination or energy to be up to date with new music, would pay good money to see the bands  they loved thirty years ago. 




For the most part this was no different to those tours with Paul Young, Toyah, a couple of blokes 

from Spandau Ballet and Go West. Although those tours often play bigger venues and to more  people. 


Play the hits. 


A notable exception to the idea that this was nothing more than a way for some faded pop stars  to make a bit of pocket money are Sleeper…who played one of these tours and then started  releasing career best new music. 


God bless ‘em. 


I have attended a lot of those tours, and I have loved every single second. I cannot explain the thrill of seeing Salad or Geneva up on stage again. 


The people responsible for the gigs are responsible for giving me some of the happiest nights of  my life over the last decade. None happier than an incredible night in London’s Brixton Academy  when I saw Ocean Colour Scene (who I really don’t like), Black Grape, Echobelly and others over  the course of ten hours or so. It was incredible. I met people who loved the era like I did… Nick from the Britpop Revival Show, James from the Britpop Memories account on X.  


Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to London. 

Part of the joy of that day lay in the fact that I was in a room full of people revelling in a shared  experience, and crucially in a set of shared memories.  

Fings ain’t wot they used to be. 


Since that point (2018) there has been new music from other bands from the era, including the  likes of Shed Seven and My Life Story, there have been full album tours from several acts, radio/ television documentaries, and flashes of the fashion of the period on the high street…but only  flashes. 


This year we have seen Blur release a career best album (The Ballad of Darren), play two sold out  nights at Wembley, Pulp have returned for some glorious live shows, Suede have also released a  new album (last years “Autofiction”) and continue to be an incredible live experience. 




Not really. 


A revival suggests not just that people who were there the first time have decided to spend their  disposable income on a night of nostalgia, it suggests that the thing being revived can be seen/ heard in new forms. 


That isn’t happening with Britpop. 

Oh, there are DOZENS of badly dressed bloke rocker acts…you can hardly move for them. But Britpop isn’t the same thing as dad rock. 

Britpop was, as I describe it in my book, a magnesium flash. 

If you blinked you would have missed it. 

Cool Britannia is not Britpop. 

Britpop was over before it really began.

The common position is that Britpop runs until Pulp’s “This is Hardcore” is released. No. 

It was over before “Definitely Maybe” sold 100 copies. 

I could write another book explaining why that is true. 

I won’t. 


What we are seeing is a resurgence of interest in something that dominated popular culture for the  largest part of a decade. Britpop, Cool Britannia, New Labour, Y.B.A, and the rest of it are ripe for  a renewed level of curiosity, in just the same way as kids like me in the nineties were curious  about the sixties. 


A revival would require us to be able to see the influence of the thing on new things…things that  are making an impact on the popular culture of the day. Crucially you would need to see new  people involved. That isn’t happening. This is nostalgia…and that’s fine and dandy, but it isn’t  what people are saying it is. 


I understand why some people want to label this as a revival…they want to feel like the thing they  love is important, they want to trade on their status as someone who was there the first time  around. Remember that kid in the common room who would dump a band the moment they became popular? “Oh, I liked them before…”. Boring. That’s the vibe from the people  shouting loudest about a revival, they want to be there first.  


“See, I told you I was cool.” 

It doesn’t really matter of course. 

But if everyone else is having their say, I don’t see why I can’t have my say as well.