Defining Britpop and picking the top 100

Drawing the line
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  August 17, 2011


We know what you're thinking — you've read this far, and you're ready to throw this rag down in disgust. "Where is Morrissey? Or Stereolab? Or the fucking Cure? What is wrong with you people?" As if we didn't all practically strangle each other in order to whittle this list down! Look, friends: we love Morrissey. Everyone loves Morrissey. But ask yourself this: is he "Britpop?" We had to draw the line somewhere, and that line, among other things, meant no solo dudes from '80s bands. Because otherwise the Top 10 would have been seven Morrissey songs and three Paul Weller songs. (Psych — just kidding.)

Ultimately, Britpop was a relatively organic musical movement built out of a groundswell of British triumphalism: London was turning around from its '70s slump, the discovery of offshore oil in the North Sea pumped prosperity into the Isles, and people were ready to get down in a way that celebrated instead of disguised their British roots. And as an organic force, there were no strict rules to Britpop — especially since most of the movement's shining stars refused the moniker itself. The definition is as much social and historical as it is musical. So it's tricky to figure out what is in and what is out. But there do have to be some rules.

Okay, so no '80s dudes. Shoegaze: denied. Which is why there's no My Bloody Valentine, and more important, no Ride — and no Curve, or Slowdive, and no early Lush. And no Stereolab — that's not Britpop, that's lounge music, mate! And seriously, do we even have to explain why there is no Radiohead on here? They were the goddamned Pink Floyd of the late '90s — we're talking about a Pop Music Movement here. So no Radiohead, no Orbital, no Orb (even if "Little Fluffy Clouds" was super catchy), no Aphex Twin. And no straight-up dance music, so we nixed Dubstar and their ilk as well.

A lot of great material was just a bit too early for consideration: like "There She Goes" by the La's, a right mega tune that is, alas, from 1988 — and Britpop was a mid-'90s phenomenon. The same goes for the early singles of the Charlatans — "The Only One I Know" is a classic, but 1990 is really pushing it, we decided, and for that same reason Blur's 1990 singles "She's So High" and "There's No Other Way" aren't here.

Finally, Britpop has its precious moments, catchy tunes with clever lyrical sensibilities — but we drew the line at straight-up twee, thus the dearth of tunes from Scottish superstars Belle and Sebastian. Not like some of us didn't lobby hard for them — because how could you have a Britpop list and leave out "The Stars of Track and Field"? I mean, we let Gay Dad and Shampoo in, for crying out loud! But in the end, the thing about Britpop is even if it's hard to define, you know it when you hear it, and you know when something just isn't it — and Cool Britannia just isn't twee.

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  Topics: Music Features , Music, Radiohead, MORRISSEY,  More more >
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