Pretty Green

Putting the ‘Pop’ in Britpop

Union Jack heart

We’ve all been there; cornered by a younger sibling/cousin/neighbour and being asked the question, ‘Do you like (insert indie pop band here)?’ We’ve also all given the same shallow, hipster answer of ‘No way! They’re way too poppy for me.’ In this article, I am going to look to dispel this prejudice we have against the ‘indie pop’ genre whilst offering examples of when more popular, mainstream music has been at the heart of the alternative music scene. Hopefully by the end we will all be a little bit more open minded before writing off certain bands.

It’s 1963 and Britain is just beginning to be swept away by ‘Beatlemania’. Four floppy haired lads from Liverpool have taken the country by storm with their new age rock ‘n’ roll and they would go on to be the most celebrated British band in history. So what was that first album ‘Please, Please Me’ actually like? It was rubbish! The repetitive, vacuous lyrics wouldn’t be fit for radio in this day and age but, at the time, because they had guitars and a harmonica, the world listened to and loved The Beatles. Many modern bands single out John, Paul, George and Ringo as the biggest influences on their music and the reasons they wanted to become musicians. However, no one seems to even recognise the early Beatles records because they were ‘too poppy’. Looking back, we only really look on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘The White Album’ as the groundbreaking, industry changing records that everyone associates with The Beatles. So, if we’re going to simplify this, the basis of the entire Britpop scene is the pop element. Intriguing.

Fast forward thirty years and the Britpop war between Oasis and Blur has gripped the United Kingdom. Though Blur may have won the singles battle, with Country House outselling Roll With It by almost 50,000 copies, Oasis would eventually win the war with more commercial success and a much longer career. However, there was an element to the battle that is often ignored; Oasis represented the raw passion of the genre while Blur were seen to be a bit more refined, manufactured if you like. Songs like Coffee and TV, Girls and Boys and Park Life demonstrated that, despite being catchy and slightly mainstream, bands can retain their Britpop core. These tracks remain favourites with Britpop fans even now and in 2009 Blur returned with a sellout reunion tour. The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that even when Britpop was at the height of the English music scene, the ‘Pop’ was gaining an equal share of the headlines.

In the early noughties British ‘Pop Punk’ emerged through Busted and has been continued to this very day with bands such as McFly, Scouting For Girls and even The Wombats. These bands are often shunned by Britpop traditionalists who think the catchy lyrics and repetitive music are just poor attempts to saturated the industry with mediocrity. Though this is a view I have held in the past, recently I have been a bit more open to any band who write their own music for a specific target audience. I am of the opinion that anyone who has the ability to not only learn how to play an instrument but then go on to write songs for that instrument deserve some credit. The music industry is hard enough to break without fans who should be united allowing themselves to be divided by a slight tone inflection. There is much to be said for the simple but effective tunes that cause no offense to anyone.

In short, the bands that we should be turning against are those that don’t have any musical talent whatsoever. A backing track and prescribed tracklist do not count as an album and yet they achieve so much commercial success because those who appreciate good music are feuding with each other over the minor details. I would urge everyone to take a second glance at those bands you instantly wrote off and try to find the merit that does exist in their music.