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Wednesday July 26, 2017

1985 - R.E.M. to The Velvet Underground - College Rock or something ...

At the beginning of the eighties in the USA the independent radio stations of colleges and universities began to broadcast their own radio programs - detached from the chart dictation of the nationwide operating "commercial" radio stations. The playlists in these stations are deliberately different from those of the normal radio stations, they are put together by music-loving students - and as it is with music enthusiasts: They want to hear something new and interesting. Now the USA is lagging a bit behind the musical development in Europe. New wave and punk from Europe - as well as US hardcore and post-punk from the big cities - are being pushed into the corner of disreputable and evil by the Republicans under Reagan, by the very strong religious right and thus by the mainstream of the population. Schlock like the music of Mr. Mister, REO Speedwagon, or Starship rules the charts and is consumed uncritically by the majority of US citizens. the soundtrack to the 80s lifestyle crime series Miami Vice is one of the best-selling albums in the USA - and yet there is brains in this country. Just because millions of flies eat shit, it doesn't taste good either. There are clever, politically neutral to left-wing, deliberately non-commercial bands from the USA like R.E.M. (yes ... they are still with a small label ...) or drunken romantics like the replacements or the tasteful revivalist Chris Isaak - or the frenzied art / hardcore bands of the SST label that I want to write about in a separate chapter - and they make music that is interesting, that points to the future. The range of bands that one encompasses under the term college rock is broad - college rock is NOT a style name, but a word for music that stands for a certain attitude of its listeners and the performers. College rock is still a topic for the initiated. Soon the industry becomes aware of this market, soon the big radio stations (which you still listen to in the eighties) notice that they are missing out on a development and threatening to lose a whole generation of listeners. And in five years, a small band from Seattle will involuntarily manage to combine commerce and this claim. But in 1985 college rock is still relatively "uncommercial" and innocent. It's a grown-up phenomenon, but it's still fun. So here are a few albums from American bands that were heard by students in the United States this year.


Fables Of The Reconstruction

R.E.M. Right from the start they were a band that moved within a recognizable stylistic framework. Within American and British folk music, the jangle of the Byrds and the nervous fury of post-punk. And that makes them an archetypal band for college radio in the mid-eighties. In addition, there was an unconditional will to independence (see label ...) and the associated credibility. But it had also shown that they had a considerable pop appeal - with all the simplicity in the sound and despite - or perhaps because of - the cryptic lyrics. After two albums, it was time to readjust the sound a little bit, so they went to London and got legendary folk producer Joe Boyd (of Brit Folk Fame ...). Fables of the Reconstruction Strangely enough, it is considered to be one of the band's weaker albums - for which they are to blame. In retrospect, drummer Bill Berry said "it sucks" at first, but this opinion has been revised by all band members over time. In fact, the four musicians got homesick in rainy London, they didn't really warm to Joe Boyd either - but above all the basic mood of the album is more (deliberately) gloomy, the theme (despite the stay in England) "American Gothic". The album begins with the dark folk rock of “Feeling Gravitys Pull” including a string quartet, even a singalong like “Driver 8” has an unruly hook and the single “Cant get There from Here” likes it upbeat start, but the grin looks wrong. Actually are on Fables ... some really great songs - even if they don't catch your eye right away. For me, R.E.M. Here for the first time a depth that they soon mastered better. Songs like “Kohoutek” or “Wendell Gee” may not have the hit qualities of later singles, but they are appealing precisely because of the slurred production and their unwilling tension. Fables of the Reconstruction is an unusual album for R.E.M. - and one that only they could do.

The replacements


Tim is the album after let it be, after the first appreciative pat on the shoulder, which was probably surprising for the band - you should remember that there was a reason why the four musicians called themselves "The Substitute". They had hit the wall again and again with carefree force - and suddenly they were told that they had done well. If so let it be the album about the Teenage fear in the US is the eighties then is Tim the album about the point where you hit the twenties, when you realize that you have no idea what it means to be grown up and responsible and when you realize that you have no idea what is "right". And for these feelings Paul Westerberg was exactly the right songwriter at exactly this time. He gave the forlornness of his generation a voice - and the right melodies. The two hymns "Bastards of Young" and the opener "Hold My Life" best represent the mood that Westerberg captures when he sings: "... It's time for a decision to be made ... ”Only to turn around and ask "... hold my life, until I'm ready to use it," The perplexity and the recognition of this perplexity turns into a longing and catchy Melody packed that this moment seems all the more devastating. In addition, the band has now literally cultivated the tumbling power of its predecessor and developed a highly independent sound - a sound that they could only repeat in individual magical songs after this album. The combination of hope and fear, knowledge and despair comes up Tim Captured perfectly and even the charming “Kiss Me on the Bus” takes on a concerned, anxious undertone in this very complete album. let it be may have the better individual songs Tim remains consistently at a high level - and you can still understand the attitude towards life that the replacements here - one last time, by the way - set to music as a complete band. After that they became more and more of Westerberg's solo project.

Thin white rope

Exploring The Axis

College kids in their mid-eighties also have a lot of fun with the music of the so-called Paisley Uderground. A really small, incestuous scene in L, A. and environment, which is the best known representative of the Bangles, which includes bands such as Green On Red, Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, Opal, The Three O'Clock and Thin White Rope. All bands that filter the sound of the 60s through post punk and power pop. The Byrds are quoted, the Grateful Dead, girl groups like the Ronettes but also the garage rock bands of the Nuggets Sampler and the Beach Boys - and all of this gets a touch of reduction with a lot of stubbornness. Thin White Rope come from Davis, so they are closer to San Francisco, but they are closely connected to L-A's paisley underground scene - and they are one of the most idiosyncratic bands in this scene. Their music always balances close to the chaos, singer Guy Kyser has a harsh, tortured voice that is reminiscent of John Cale and Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce. The music on the debut of this unearthed treasure of the eighties can be described as ice-cold psychedelic rock, it sounds as if Can and The Velvet Underground are covering Grateful Dead Tracks together, the rhythms are hypnotic and "motoric" - one of the highlights of was not for nothing Thin White Rope concerts "Yoo Do Right" by Can. But they also have their roots in the south of the USA - there Tex-Mex roots are pounded into the ground with “Down in the Desert”, the “Disney Girl” is immersed in feedback and all the various influences of Kyser's voice are held together . Incidentally, the band had borrowed their name from William S. Burrough's euphemism for ejaculation and with it Exploring the axis at least the basis for the following glorious LP's was laid.

Jeffrey Lee Pierce


And so I stick to one of the names just mentioned - Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce had his band shut down after exhausting touring and three albums and joined in in '85 Wildweed his first solo album under his own name. I can start with the usual comparative name dropping: Wildweed is the mixture of Gun Club (of course) Television and Bob Dylan (approx. Highway 61) - it sounds like Gun Club, which is no wonder since Pierce was the voice and soul of the band. It may be that the focus here is a bit more on rockabilly than on howling blues, but Pierce might have practiced this shift with a band as well. The themes of his songs are the same as on Fire of Love or Miami: Love that turns into obsession, murder, manslaughter and the feverish search for the next abyss to plunge into. And the songs on Wildweed sound by no means like leftovers that would have been left over at Gun Club: The opening duo "Love and" Desperation "and" Sex Killer "have everything that made Gun Club classics such as" Sex Beat "or Fire of Love" so great they are feverish and driven, unmistakable by Pierce's vocals and the chasing guitars. In the liner notes Pierce says he has a lot of Velvet Underground (.. their compilation VU was out just that year - see below) and heard from Dylan before he even got down to the songwriting, and indeed some of the lyrics are as surreal as "his bobness“And some of the songs have the drone of the VU. There may be a few less successful tracks, but the mentioned opening tracks, the crashing “Sensitivity”, the title track or the Tex Mex rockabilly “Hey Juana” would be further good reasons for this album. The Gun Club and Pierce Solo were definitely on a tasteful college radio playlist at the time.

Green on Red

Gas Food Lodging

Back to the blossoming paisley underground. Green On Red had moved to L.A. from Tucson / Arizona, spiced their original punk soup with country and psychedelic rock and made contact with other paisley underground bands such as Dream Syndicate or Rain Parade. The result was a debut in '83 (Gravity Talks), which sounded like roots rock, garage and punk, which already had its qualities, but now from Gas Food Lodging was outdone because main songwriter Dan Stuart now had better songs, because he had the perfect counterweights with Chris Cacavas as keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist and with the newly added Chuck Prophet as Keith Richards' musical revenant. Gas Food Lodging is - like the debut - a roots rock album, interspersed with Byrdsian psychedelic and punk. The songs describe the America of the Reagan years from the perspective of a small rock band on the roadthat is surrounded by losers and drinkers, it shows the USA from below, without pathos but full of love. Green On Red sound like disillusioned replacements who have given up trying to become sensible and grown up. In addition, Cacava's organ rotates and Chuck Prophet cuts out stone riffs. Gas Food Lodging sits - like many albums that were on the college radio programs - between the chairs. Adventurous country listeners should like the album as much as abandoned Neil Young fans (he only made bad albums in the eighties ...) - and the series of successful songs like “That's What Dreams” or “Sixteen Ways” is impressive. Green On Red were still a unit and the credits for the songs were still distributed fairly among the whole band - but that would soon change. This is actually their strongest full album.

Rain parade

Crashing dreams

And L.A.'s Paisley Underground - the third. Rain Parade are almost history in 1985. They co-founded the scene in L.A., they co-founded the previous album Emergency third rail power trip (83) one of the best psychedelic albums of the eighties - oh what am I saying - made pop history (really!) - with Steven and David Roback, with Matt Piucci and right at the beginning with Susanna Hoffs, they are a nucleus of the intelligent indie rock of the coming Days, but they made the mistake after the first great album and the equally wonderful EP (Explosions in the Glass Palace (84)) to succumb to the lure of a label operating according to the principles of profit optimization and to take the step into oblivion - not that Crashing dreams would be bad. It may be a little bit weaker than the two indie releases, some of them sound a bit too synthetic and clean - but it's a wonderful album, heavily infused with psychedelic rock and enthusiastic Americana, with other guitars, glowing melodies and enough groundedness to be able to do so to sound modern. It is neatly produced, songs like “Fertile Crescent” balance on a line along twee and psychedelic. The opener “Depending on You” would have deserved at least as much chart honors as the upcoming hits by R.E.M., but Crashing dreams honored his title: The Island Rec. decided days after the end of production that guitar-oriented bands had no future and dropped the band. No promotion for the album, no tour - the recognition of college stations was not enough for another career and Rain Parade '86 flew apart in various directions. Roback formed Opal and later Mazzy Star, Piucci made a wonderful album called Gone Fishin 'and ended up with Crazy Horse, and the band's reputation grew legendary over time. It's a shame that no more came back then.

Giant sand

Valley of Rain

In '85 there was no term "alternative rock", nor were there any classifications of music outside of the "mainstream" (music played on commercial radio) that college radio stations used as exclusion criteria for airplay. Of course, the insider knows about the paisley undergroud scene in L.A. or the accumulation of interesting bands with folk, punk and psychedelic preferences in and around Athens. But all of this is just "non-commercial music" - the music that you most like to hear as a young student - and it has many facets. There is, for example, Giant Sand - like Green On Red from the punk scene in Tucson / AZ - but unlike Green On Red, they stay in the desert. And so is her debut Valley of Rain alongside a handful of other albums for the largely forgotten moment when the desert became the subject of rock music. Howe Gelb, head of Giant Sand didn't need much for this: The sand crunches in his guitar sound, his band actually sounds like the cousins ​​from the paisley underground with the country, folk and psychedelic influences - but Howe Gelb has breathed the desert air, and he can not going away from her - and Giant Sand always sound like a trip through Death Valley. In contrast to later albums, Giant Sand were even harder and more focused, less adventurous, the vocals of Gelb did not get lost in nowhere and punk was still an obvious influence. "Tumble and Tear," "Down on Town," and "Death, Dying and Channel 5" are tough rockers by Giant Sand standards, but "Artists" and "October, Anywhere" already point the way to Giant Sand in should walk in the following years. Figuratively speaking: You were just starting from the last gas station before the desert. The second album (Ballad of a Thin Line Man) from 1986 still sounds very similar, the third album (Love songs) would be the first triumph.

Camper Van Beethoven

Telephone Free Landslide Victory

The Californian Camper Van Beethoven had the image of a cool “novelty act” right from the start. They are virtuoso musicians who can serve any style, they call themselves "surrealist absurdist folk“And let so much humor and self-irony flow into their music that you can forgive them for their novelty and virtuosity. They themselves belong to the skaters, punks, hippies and skinheads that they make fun of in their songs. On her debut Telephone Free Landslide Victory two types of songs are still neatly separated from each other that would be combined on later albums: There are the instrumentals that sound deceptively simple, into which a number of unusual stylistic elements flow.It sounds like TexMex, Eastern European folklore, 1950s instrumental music, polka and ska, the organs wash and the violin fiddles. On the other hand, there are the tracks with the vocals of main songwriter David Lowery, with really funny lyrics, with unconventional melodies, but at least closer to "normal" rock music. With “Take the Skinheads Bowling”, Camper Van Beethoven have a hit and upcoming college rock classic with them. With “Wasted” you cover the hardcore institution Black Flag in a most ironic way - and thus one of the bands that is presumably adored by its own audience. And there are plenty of good songs - with titles like “The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon” or “Club Med Sucks”, instrumentals and vocal tracks alternate properly, which creates a pleasant balance, and although here a very broad stylistic spectrum is covered, the typical sound of the band and the continuous basic irony hold the whole album together quite well. Over time they got a bit more conventional, but they never completely lost their sense of the absurd. The first in a series of quite successful, individual albums of the "other" US rock music.

The Blasters

Hard line

This chapter deals primarily with US bands played by college rock radio stations. And one of the most American of its kind are the blasters. With them you can see how thoroughly “value-conservative” the student audience in the USA was. The Blasters also come from the Los Angeles punk scene, they play a fast-paced, but definitely old-fashioned rock'n'roll with strong influences from mountain music, rockabilly and rhythm 'n' blues - and that's the title of their '80s debut album American Music also to be understood as a program. But it is also a fact that with their uncompromising attitude, their pace and their simplicity they appealed to the same audience as the Cramps, X, Gun Club and even Black Flag. Roots, rock'n'roll and punk are simply not in competition in America in the 80s. The two brothers Dave and Phil Alvin were (and still are) credible idealists of their craft - and Dave Alvin is one of the great roots rock songwriters. Hard line is the band's fourth album, the last one Phil and Dave Alvin played together, and it is the album that Dave Alvin wrote his darkest songs for. The respectable John Mellencamp wrote singer Phil Alvin “Colored Lights” for him, Dave Alvin worked on two songs with John Doe from X, Dave Hidalgo from Los Lobos also participated, as did Elvis' backing choir the Jordanairs and with the smalltown lynch story “Dark Night” is one of them, which 10 years later was done by Quentin Tatrantino for the carnage From Dusk 'til Dawn would be used - and whoever questions the credibility of the blasters can read through the lyrics to the songs: It's about fake populists, love between black and white, the dreary everyday jobs of a rock'n'roller and "young men looking for trouble". In a way, the blasters are like the replacements, only their love for American roots music is more pronounced, their style more strict - but the energy is that of US punk. Hard line doesn't have the freshness of the first two albums, but it's close.

Chris Isaak


Another adept of the American music tradition appeared in 1985 with his debut album. I find the short list that I found very apt: Roy Orbison + Duane Eddy + Buddy Holly + Gun Club = Chris Isaak. And here the weighting is correct in the order of the influences. Almost thirty-year-old Isaac was very well versed in creating a certain atmosphere. He had studied, had been to Japan and had learned in the land of the copyists to sell an idealized version of the music of the fifties to the audience with Tolle, crooner voice, Roy Orbison falsetto and rock'n'roll ingredients. This preference for the rock'n'roll of the late fifties and the models listed above borders on slavish admiration only at first glance, he copied the models, but also combines their style with a more modern sound and an abysmal sultriness that was 25- 30 years would have been unthinkable - and thereby makes something of his own, which sounds ancient, but which was so convincing that he was able to build a complete career after a difficult start. First was the critically acclaimed debut Silvertone (named after his first backing band) brought little success - many a listener may not have been sure whether the theatricality and twangy sound trained by Roy Orbison were meant seriously. But tracks like "Talk to Me" (the pairing of Orbison and Gun Club) or "Gone Ridin '" were irony-free and when director David Lynch was the latter, the latter track for his film Blue Velvet used, more people became aware of it. In fact, in James Calvin Wilsey, Isaak has an extremely tasteful guitarist and arranger at his side. One who has mastered the twang of the great guitarists of the 50s inside out. And Chris Isaak turns out to be Silvertone as a famous songwriter: "Back on Your Side", "Voodoo" or "Funeral in the Rain" are clichéd, but also outrageously catchy. And Isaak clearly knows bands like the Cramps, Gun Club and the Blasters. Soon he would be an actor in David Lynch's hit series Twin peaks play along and become more and more known with various soundtrack contributions.

Velvet Underground


(Verve, Rec. 1968/69, Rel. 1985)

In the eighties, bands like The Velvet Underground had not yet reached the canon of “cultural assets” - they are only considered legendary role models by post-punk aficionados, by listeners with a real interest in innovative sounds, the mainstream no longer knows them, they come from a forgotten one Generation - just like their protagonists Lou Reed or John Cale, who released only a few successful albums in the eighties, but above all hardly successful albums. After all, there is the student “college” audience in the mid-eighties who are interested in the fathers of the dark and the dark in rock music. And there are college rock stations with playlists put together by music nerds curious enough to play the role models so often cited by musicians of their generation. Then in 1985 comes the "lost album"The Velvet Underground quite rightly to enrich their radio programs. Interesting how close VU in its simplicity, coolness, sound and attitude to the music of several bands on the college radio playlists. VU is a compilation of tracks the band recorded for MGM Records in 1968 and 1969. The Velvets had switched from Verve to MGM in '68, had released their third album, John Cale had left the band and in various sessions 14 songs had emerged that would become the second MGM album. But the label had decided to part with all those damn "uncommercial" hippie bands, and the recordings were put on hold and forgotten ... So you can VU as the rightful album between Velvet Underground and Loaded - it is actually an album that shows how far ahead of their time they were, that shows that they filled a then vacant niche with their coolly ironic but at the same time passionate mix of feedback, rock'n'roll, DooWop and pop . None of the ten for VU selected tracks is as experimental as the material of the first two albums. Cale was gone, Lou Reed had clearly taken command and decided to do what he would call pop. The opener “I Can't Stand It”, for example, “rocks” straight ahead, “Lisa Says” fits into every lounge, and even “Ocean” is psychedelic light. But Reed was in great shape as a songwriter. Several of the songs would reappear years later in a different form on various Lou Reed solo albums ("Andy's Chest" on Transformer, Stephanie Says on Berlin...), with "Foggy Notion" there is an excellent "driving song"," I'm Sticking With You "begins as a nursery rhyme to lead to one of these strangely uninvolved Lou Reed stories - in short: VU is the coolest New York Rock'n'Roll in its simplest form and The Velvet Underground was brought back to the consciousness of a young generation with a powerful push with this compilation.

... and what else was going on on College Rock Radio?

The picture that I create through these 11 reviews is inevitably distorted because I limit myself to bands from the USA who have not yet made the commercial breakthrough - some of which will never really make it and which therefore remain quite obscure today are (see Thin White Rope or the Blasters). But music by British acts such as The Cure, The Fall etc. was played in the College Stations. The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths were probably also noticed, as well as Tom Waits or John Fogerty from their homeland, the whole flourishing US hardcore scene with Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen, Dead Kennedy's, a number of new psychedelic bands that aren't Paisley Park scene originated etc. pp ... But all of them have their place elsewhere on these pages: I'll write my own article about hardcore, the "classics" from England are already reviewed in the "leading article" about 1985 - as always - the heading here is only a brief note and an appetizer, not a dogma that I am forced to follow. College rock is a vague term and a lot more than what you've read here ...

Monday 17th July 2017

1995 - Oasis to Boo Radleys - The Brit-Pop hype at its peak

I can also be completely unhip .... To call music from Great Britain in the mid-nineties "Brit-Pop" is the helpless attempt to put some very different bands and sounds of a certain time and origin under one cover, to standardize them and with them to provide a label. And that logically leads to misunderstandings. On the one hand: music that can be called Brit-Pop has been around since at least the sixties, since Mersey Beat and Bealtlemania. Because by that you mean music that relates to the Beatles, the Small Faces and the Kinks, to XTC, the Smiths and the Stone Roses - which is recognizable “British”. When the US hype grunge was exhausted in the middle of the nineties, and when there were a few bands in Great Britain who apparently did not deny the above-mentioned bands from their homeland as influences and had a few good songs, the British press went to their music and their style and formulated a competition between the two most popular representatives. The industry likes to jump on such media activities and advertise bands that sound comparable with more effort than usual, the music press adds its mustard to fill the pages of its organs and we have the Brit-Pop hype - after a short time thoroughly fed up. Ultimately, the hype about Blur and Oasis, for example in the SUN, was completely meaningless. The protagonists - the Gallagher brothers and Damon Albarn - took part, probably also to sell their music - which is legal - and otherwise dealt with what was really important to them: their music. Blur won the competition for the better single, but Oasis had the more successful album (see below). Several other British bands from the time were also pushed into the Brit-Pop drawer, although they sometimes sounded very different / independent or would have simply been called indie, post-punk or rock bands without the term "Brit Pop". As long as you came from the UK and didn't play free jazz or hip-hop, you were Brit-Pop. That sometimes damaged careers in the further course, a few years later you got tired of this clearly British type of pop music due to oversaturation and a new hype came. But I want to point out one thing on these pages: The music that was sold under this label is sometimes very good, the term is just a headline and at some point the post-Brit pop hype will come ... well, be a hipster before there are others and get yourself albums by Gene, the Charlatans or Shack, this music is now over 20 years old, and the hype may start soon ...


What's The Story (Morning Glory)

No question: What's the Story (Morning Glory) is the apex of Brit-Pop. In the long run, Blur may have become the better band, for some the Gallagher Brothers (plus mates) previous album may Definitly maybe who have had better songs, but at What's the story ... The loud mouth and self-image of the band were in line with hype and zeitgeist. Everything is larger than life and the band's overconfidence was fun, the noise they made was entertaining, and Noel Gallagher had a few new versions of his Beatles / Stone Roses songwriting up his sleeve to get stuck in the ear. There is of course “Wonderwall”, one of the catchiest songs of the 90s, there is “Champagne Supernova”, another second best song by Oasis, just like “Don't Look Back in Anger”. The album is full of hits that, funnily enough, you don't forget that easily, and that you always find your way back to while listening to them. It's quintessential 90s pop music, everyday music that shouldn't make the huge claim that it is POP, nothing more and nothing less - which on the other hand can also be claim enough - mind you !!. And which is always nice to listen to. Some say, of course, that if they had stopped after this album, we would have better remembered them. That's right on the one hand, but then you would have missed the way they hit the wall with the successor so grandiose. And the other successors, about which I will report in a less prominent place, ultimately also have their charm. Basically, however, we recommend: Buy this album and its predecessor. And of course...


The Great Escape

The Great Escape - is a wonderfully ironic title invented by Damon Albarn. His vision of typical British middle class life is transformed into a complete concept album in the tradition of Ray Davies' images of the British suburbs, carried over into our time. And like Ray Davies, Albarn is quite capable of appreciating the amiability and quirkiness of his compatriots as well as dissecting the wickedness that lurks behind respectable façades. He manages to portray life as it probably often really is - just as we just don't want to see it: someone takes a meaningless job in order to receive equally meaningless social recognition through the hollow prestige that has been gained - and either gets it Not at all or desperate .... Whether Blur did that at that time? The competition between them and the loudmouths from Oasis was ultimately similarly hollow and aimed at recognition that the smarter of both - Blur - apparently could ultimately do without. In any case, the media hype about Blur vs Oasis has long faded, the artistically more interesting music undoubtedly made Blur in the following years, although Oasis 1995 with their album What's the Story (Morning Glory) 1-0 lead. Among other things, perhaps also because Pulp with similar socially critical issues had the larger presence and the even bigger hit with “Common People”, and so on The Great Escape additionally had to fade a little. But that doesn't change the fact that the omnipresent hit “Country House”, but also songs like “Charmless Man”, “Top Man”, “Ernold Same” and above all the wonderful “The Universal” are among the best songs that Damon did Albarn has ever written or who operate under the label Brit-Pop. Albums like this and What's the Story (Morning Glory) to compare is of course nonsense. They both rightly exist, and both are of sufficient quality to be always happy to be heard - and at least currently do The Great Escape even more fun. But that kind of thing changes all the time.


Different class

Pulp had long existed (and rightly so) in relative obscurity, but with the '94 album His 'n' Hers finally made the step to a high musical level and at the same time made it into the charts. Then the Brit Pop hype came and they made their fifth album Different class - and meaning and class went through the roof at the same time. This album stands for the intelligent side of Brit Pop, whereby the songwriter and lyricist Jarvis Cocker basically had very little in common with bands like Oasis (and to a lesser extent Blur) and the band in the unspeakable hype about the, pushed by the British tabloids The fight for the Brit-Pop throne deliberately took no part. Different class is even more than its predecessor a perfect mixture of new wave, pop, disco and theater, it is a portrayal of British society in the mid-nineties, erotic, glamorous and socialist - and very British, which makes it a classic Brit- Pop album makes. Opener “Mis-Shapes” is a pompous show tune - and just as irresistible as the painful ballad “Underwear” or the sultry seance “I Spy”. And then there are the hits of the album: “Common Poeple” negotiates the impossibility of an understanding between the classes through the story of an upper-class girl who condescends to the people of the lower-class - and of course remains a stranger to them - and “Disco 2000” - with Laura Brannigan quote - is intelligent and great pop. Jarvis Cocker was stylized as a clumsy Lulatsch version of David Bowie - and maybe even became a bit like the king of Brit-Pop after all.

Super grass

I should Coco

To stay in the coordinate system: If Oasis were the Beatles, Blur the Kinks, then Supergrass were the Small Faces. Your debut I should Coco - Cockney - slang for "... that's what I mean ..." - is pure fast pop, unencumbered by oppressive teenage fear, owes more to the funny and somewhat hysterical bands of post punk, and is more reminiscent of bands like The No more than at XTC or The Jam. The first half of the album is full of candy-colored song bursts at a rapid pace. A perfect and by all means demanding teen pop album. On the second side of the LP, the pace is slowed down a bit with Stones-like ballads (“Time”) and a genuine Syd Barrett tune (“We're Not Supposed to”) and it turns out that the band offers several facets can. At that time, Supergrass mainly had the message “Have fun, go out and try not to be booked in” with a few reflective moments in between. On "Sofa (Of My Lethargy)" - which is a bit reminiscent of "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles - it still says: "Hold on now, all I wanna do is see you but everybody is here just sitting round staring at the ceiling. What you gonna find in your mixed up minds when you're dreaming? Could be we're not like you at all ". But “Alright” is all about how great it is to be young: “We are young, we run green. Keep our teeth nice and clean. See our friends, see the sights, feel alright " The secret of the longevity of this album lies in the cleverness of the song writing. Because the three, who were all under 20 at the time, seem like a band that has been around for a number of years. In fact, Jaz Coombes later jokingly distanced himself from the teenage anthem "Alright" when he said: "We don't play '" Alright "anymore. We should play it in a minor key, and in the past tense. "

The Verve

A Northern Soul

The Verve are also thrown into the Brit-Pop pot at this time, and you can see how bottomless this pot must be when you hear their shoegaze- and psychedelic-tinged sound compared to that of Supergrass - or Elastica. The band around singer Richard Ashcroft was in a desperate condition at the time, on the Lollapalooza tour their extensive drug use had led Ashcroft to hospital because of dehydration and drummer Peter Salisbury had ended up in jail for the classic - the demolition of a hotel room. Deserved commercial success after the critically acclaimed debut A Storm in Heaven just didn't want to adjust and that didn't suit the narcissistic singer any more than the egomaniacal (and excellent) guitarist Nick McCabe. So became A Northern Soul recorded with the help of tons of ecstasy and sounds accordingly chaotic - and shockingly intense. It's a dark album, full of songs about isolation, hymns of disillusionment and loss. McCabe's spiraling guitar figures and Ashcroft's evocative vocals A Northern Soul to The Verve's best album - even if the successor Urban hymns - after separation and reunification of the band - in the wake of the epochal single "Bittersweet Symphonie" - and thus in the wake of a legal dispute with the Stones, who were then profitably involved (how bitter that must have been ... but more on that in 1997 .. .) should first bring the desired commercial success. Songs like “On Your Own”, “So It Goes” and the majestic, disgruntled “History” could be described as the dark shimmering, psychedelic facet of Brit-Pop - but their shimmer was then topped by Spiritualized.

The Charlatans

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The Charlatans are stylistically comparable to The Verve on this self-titled album, at least for those who hear them impartially. In 1995, however, due to their past in the rave scene, they were better known as second hand Stone Roses, as the less crazy alternative to the Happy Mondays and they also had a very good debut album that fully fit into the Madchester trend of the early 90s , delivered two weaker albums that were now a burden. Then came their fourth album in 1995 The Charlatans Somewhat surprisingly high in the charts, with a freshening up of their sound by now incorporating Brit-Pop into their songs alongside dance and techno. At that time they were maybe just in good shape and undoubtedly had nothing to lose; their sound cosmos had actually not changed, they just went a little further, adding (sometimes almost too many) trippy dance passages to their music. And they had some nice songs with them. The album is worth its price for “Nine Acre Court” alone. Here a hard working rock & roll band showed how to balance traditional rock and postmodern acid house while maintaining style. In the following year they tragically lost their style and sound-defining keyboardist Tim Collins in a car accident, but they continue to this day indefatigably and with great success. Something that cannot be said of most of the Brit-Pop mid-high bands. This album is their best next to the debut. Incidentally, the cover is very similar to that of The Verve ...

Black grape

It's Great When You're Straight (Yeah)

Black Grape also come from Manchester's rave scene, which was hailed as the big thing for a year or two in the early 1990s. Shaun Ryder, the (drugged) head of the Happy Mondays is behind Black Grape, and his return to the current music scene has been viewed as a biological miracle. The Happy Mondays were THE drug band of the rave scene - which alone means something - and Ryder was the one who tried EVERY drug. In 1995 the band was embraced full of emotion and admiration by both the audience and the press. Indeed, Black Grape fulfills many of the promises that the Happy Mondays never kept because they were too stoned. It's Great When You're Straight ... Yeah, is a surreal, irreverent, funky, cracking and perversely happy album that overflows with carefree eclecticism and drunk humor. The band was just better now, Ryder had a capable man with the rapper Kermit who could adequately complement his bizarre texts full of literary allusions and drug references. Then there is the groove of a band that justified the hype that was being made about the Happy Mondyas. It starts with the powerful harp on the opener “Reverend Black Grape”, continues with the trippy sitar of “In the Name of the Father” and doesn't end with the Rolling Stones-like “Shake Your Money”. Short: It's Great When You're Straight, was a triumphant return and a lot of fun that can still be felt now.


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For some inexplicable reason ... well, actually I mentioned the reasons in the introduction ... Elastica were thrown into the Brit-Pop pot next to Blur, Oasis and others. One reason was for sure that band leader Justine Frischmanz was in a relationship with Blur's Damon Albarn at the time, and maybe also because Elastica was founded by two former Suede members Frischman and Justin Welch. And Suede are direct forerunners of Brit Pop (even if they would never say that). Anyway, let's stick with the music - and it's excellent on this debut - has a lot that you find so good in post-punk bands like Wire and Siouxie & the Banshees or 30 years later in Savages. Yes, you can now list references, especially at Elastica, the indifferent sexiness of Frischman's vocals is reminiscent of Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders, you can hear the Stranglers and Blondie as well as Riot Grrl bands like Sleater-Kinney, but of course you do them wrong, if you just compare them. The real appeal of Elastica lies in the famous songs, the album actually came to number 1 on the British charts as a rare proof of good taste. And songs like “Hold Me Now”, “S.O.F.T.” or “Vaseline” are more effective post-punk. You can also put it this way: It's tasteful pop music that takes up the style elements of its time, but also has its own character. In a certain way, that's timeless.



It was and still is a common comparison: "Genes are the Smith's of Brit-Pop" - which is wronging both bands. After all, Oasis are not the Brip-Pop Beatles, and no singer / songwriter has mutated into Bob Dylan, no matter how hard he tried. Genes will not have tried to make this comparison, but Martin Rossiter's voice actually sounds like Morrissey's and, above all, his intonation is clearly borrowed from “Mozzer”. However, Rossiter's lament is more tragic when he sings: I “cross the road just to hide and to avoid the times when you stood at my side so battered by the tide” .... while he never comes close to Morrissey's eccentric and polarizing statements. And the songwriting on Olympian is of course - as it should be for British bands of the time - based on the role models Beatles, Stones - and The Smiths ... But genes are different enough not to be considered clones of the Smiths and they also have their own style within the whole nebulous Brit-Pop community: More romantic and far less ironic, yet rocking harder than the Smiths ever dared - which led the NME to choose them as the Best New Act 1995. After all, as has debut Olympians the necessary density of good songs - and that although they initially allowed themselves - in good old British tradition - to ignore the first formidable singles "For the Dead" and "Be My Light, be My Guide" - they did then later on as CD bonus tracks - not necessary if there are tracks like the harder rocking "To The City" and "Left-Handed", the poppy "Sleep Well Tonight" and the slowly increasing tension title track of the Album. Brit-Pop is more than just oasis and blur.


Water pistol

(Marina, Rec. 1991, Rel. 1995)

Shack - and her head Michael Head could be described as the unlucky ones of the 80s / 90s. Head had played fine jangle post punk with pop sensitivity with the Pale Fountains in the early eighties, and was thus flown under the radar, he had a very good debut album with his new band Shack '88 (Zilch), which also did not get the recognition it deserved, and he had then finished this second album in '91. ... and then the studio and the tapes burned down, the record company went bankrupt and producer Chris Allison forgot the remaining DAT tapes in a rental car in the USA. Michael Head broke up the band and fell into depression, drugs and alcohol - but Allison got the tapes back and went on looking for a contract partner. So it was not until 1995 that a small record company from Hamburg, specializing in twee pop, was found to release the album. Funny to hear how close Shack is Water pistol the Brit-Pop of the mid-nineties, interesting because it confirms my idea that Brit-Pop has been around for a long time. It's amazing what Michael Head achieved despite his already massive drug and alcohol addiction. It is not for nothing that he is considered one of the great British songwriters - you can tell that there should not be docked on a hype, that the influences from the '91 still virulent Madchester sound are recorded, but then with veritable songs and largely acoustic instrumentation its own level can be fetched. The opener “Sgt Major” could be completely from the year of release, and Noel Gallagher would probably have been happy with such a good tune, and a ballad like the album closer “London Town” combines thoughtful kinks with twee pop. And indeed, the album and band now got a certain amount of recognition, Head reformed Shack and recorded another successful album in 1998 and came under Noel Gallagher's label with his next band The Strands in the mid-00s. So there was actually a little happy ending here - and Water pistol is one of the "lost" albums that are definitely worth rediscovering.

The Boo Radleys

Wake up!

The Boo Radley's are one of the really good British bands at the beginning of the nineties that survived the Shoegaze hype with noise, guitar feedback and pop. Your two albums Everything's Alright Forever (92) and Giant Steps (93) have earned them tons of critical acclaim and decent record sales. When they released the outrageously catchy - and very banal - sing-along Brit-Pop with the single "Wake Up Boo!" In '95, they probably alienated some of their fans. BUT - the new recipe was immensely successful. In the course of the single, the album also reached number 1 in the British charts, and those who may have smelled a sell-out could listen to Wake up! convince that the psychedelic gloom of the previous album had disappeared, but that psychedelic pop was made to shimmer in all its facets. Not only the Beatles are cited in their most colorful phase, but also Pink Floyd - and tracks like “Reaching Out From Here”, “Stuck On Amber” or “Fairfax Scene” are definitely on the level of the great role models. If you listen to the album in its entirety, the banality of the hit single and its successor “It's Lulu” is replaced by such pop gems as “Martin, Doom! It's Seven O'Clock ”. An album that is far better than its reputation.

Was that all in Brit Pop?

In fact, I could add a few more albums here: Paul Weller is there Stanley Road his successor too Wild Wood made - and he's the good uncle of all Brit-Poppers, and he's doing it just like the grim uncle Morrissey Southpaw Grammar so quintessentially British pop music that you could insert it here if you wanted to. And what about the Power Poppern Teenage Fan Club and theirs Grand Prix ? Or with Radiohead's The Bends ? - they are already too far ahead of the rest and appear in the blog entry ... Or Spiritualized and theirs Pure phaze or Slowdive's Pygmalion ? They all come from a different place ...