Paul Laird’s ‘The Birth and Impact of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters and Insatiable Ones’, offers a beautiful look at the generation that shaped the lives of teenagers throughout the 90s, and beyond. A generation of music that though not limited to Britain, thrived in the United Kingdom for almost a decade.
Making clear in the very first sentence that this; “is not the story of Britpop,” is perhaps a bold way to open any book on the topic. But that sentiment holds true throughout the book. This isn’t some chronological story, simply detailing every event regarding how the movement got from A to B. Instead it plays out like the 22 Short Stories About Springfield episode of The Simpsons, full of lots of short stories, one where each chapter, plays a part in a bigger picture, but can at the same time stand by itself.
When writing his book, Laird somehow manages to achieve the near impossible. He tells his journey in a way that is relatable to all music fans. Whilst the story is that of Britpop, and the bells and whistles may sound eerily similar to your Pulp’s or Suede’s etc, the story is that of a fan. One that every music lover can experience, regardless of genre or topic.
Yes, it’s undeniably Laird’s story but with every other paragraph, there’s a sentence or a tidbit that is intensely relatable. We’ve all been a bit over-the-top in an effort to seem on the pulse, we’ve all ‘borrowed’ (stolen) albums from our parents that were surely too cool for them to have actually listened to, and we’ve all heard that one track that changed the game.
Managing to write about his experience as a fan, without simply idolising those that made his musical path what it was, Laird openly acknowledges flaws in the Britpop scene from very early on in the book, taking the rough with the smooth. He constantly shows a willingness to criticise, question, and disagree with the opinions of his heroes.
It’s undeniable that there is a clear passion behind every word Laird writes, a passion that is not unlike that of the performers, or the very moment whom Laird writes about.
Where that passion comes from is best described by Laird himself. Writing early on in the book, he describes the first time he heard The Stone Roses’ Waterfall.
“I had felt it. Become lost in it. Something beautiful washed over me. Like the first warm day after winter. It unlocked a part of me that I didn’t know existed.”
It is that passion. That unlocking of a feeling, that as a fan of music you may well only experience a handful of times. Be it a live show, an opening track, a final note, or anything in between. Yet despite that feeling being so rare, it set the wheels in motion for Laird’s excellent study into Britpop.
The truth is Britpop like all genres in art had an expiry date. The show can’t always go on, and eventually, it’s all brought to a close. Ultimately as a movement or a musical focus for the masses, it lasted under a decade. But, the beauty of Britpop is someone like Laird can come along two decades later and write about what made it special, and someone like me or you can listen to the songs and appreciate them for what they were.
There is a reason Pulp are announcing shows almost 45 years on from their formation, there is a reason an Oasis reunion will forever be British music’s greatest request, and there is a reason that Suede are set to release their ninth album later this year. Britpop matters. It mattered then, and for those who experienced it, it matters now. For those who didn’t get a chance to live through it, put on an album from the time, pick up The Birth and Impact of Britpop, and start to read. It’ll be worth your time.
The Birth and Impact of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters and Insatiable Ones is available to purchase here