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The Britpop phenomenon might have ended nearly 15 years ago, but it cast such a shadow over the U.K. music scene that its presence is still felt today.
Where would groups such as Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys or the Killers be without Blur, Pulp and Oasis? Often maligned as a scene obsessed with fame and fashion, the mid-’90s saw a revival of British creativity and provided a pop-friendly rebuttal to the dominant American grunge sound. By looking backward to the Kinks and Beatles, Britpop set the musical standards for years to come. With Blur back together and Jarvis Cocker on tour, it’s the perfect time to examine the most overrated and underrated bands of the Britpop era.
:: The Five Most Overrated Britpop Bands
In the Britpop trifecta of Oasis, Blur and Pulp, Oasis was the most successful and the least interesting of the lot. While the band made some good pop songs and had a genuine lunatic in Liam Gallagher, Oasis was the very definition of overrated. From overhyped 1994 debut Definitely Maybe to the NME covers it still graces, Oasis received more praise than it merited. Oasis is like the Quentin Tarantino of the pop world; its first two efforts showed real talent, but the band has spent so long rehashing the same formula that it’s damaged the very reputation those initial works established. How many other groups have soldiered on despite producing nothing of interest since 1997? In a way, it’s impressive. But in another, more accurate way, it’s just sad.“Roll With It”:
Sure, Supergrass was nice and loud. But as much as critics liked to peg the band as “eclectic” and “ambitious,” and even though Supergrass took on everything from psychedelia to house music, somehow the songs tend to blend together. Because Supergrass was ostensibly more thoughtful than Oasis, the critics hyped the group to high heaven, and a massively overrated outfit was born.“Alright”:
Elastica was a perfectly fine pop group, but with only one decent album under its belt, it’s difficult to see just what has made the band so celebrated. Was it Justine Frischmann’s badass persona? The group’s legacy as one of the few female-friendly crews in Britpop? Upon closer examination, that statement doesn’t really hold: What about Salad, Sleeper, Echobelly, Lush, the Cranberries and other bands with female members that found success during the Britpop era? Elastica’s reputation has grown over the years, while many of those equally interesting groups have been forgotten.“Car Song”:
4. The Verve
The Verve has one—count it, one—great song, and that is “Bittersweet Symphony.” Not only that, but “Bittersweet Symphony” was immeasurably improved by a Jay-Z remix. The most impressive aspect of the Verve is how Richard Ashcroft has successfully tricked the world into thinking of him as a deep, insightful writer, despite penning lyrics as inane as “Are you invited/To the party of life?/Now you’ve decided/Do you live ’til you die?” The answer to that question is, by the way, yes. Despite having more high-profile break-ups than Jennifer Aniston, the Verve has endured both commercially and critically. While 1995 sophomore album A Northern Soul had its moments, 1997’s Urban Hymns (the band’s biggest success) is one of the most bloated, boring and overpraised albums of the ’90s.“Bittersweet Symphony”:
5. Manic Street Preachers
The Manics were always in an awkward position; sneering at Britpop’s success but benefiting massively from the scene it helped create, making hit albums such as 1994’s The Holy Bible and 1996’s Everything Must Go. Guitarist Richey Edwards’ mysterious disappearance in 1995 (his family declared him dead in November 2008) made him a martyr for the group, and while his loss is still felt by family, friends and fans, it doesn’t mean that we have to take self-indulgent trash like “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” as “art.” If the Manics had embraced their pop sensibilities, below all the condescending trappings (see “Faster” or “Revol” for a pop sound buried under layers of production) they could have been truly great.“Faster”: