For those of us old enough to remember, the mid-90s was full of optimism in the UK. The old school Tory government was falling apart and a new, young(ish) Labour party leader was on the rise. We had all had enough of being depressed by grunge music and were ready for something a little more up-lifting. We found it in britpop.
Inspired by the swinging sixties, britpop recreated the guitar driven pop music of that decade. Bands churned out catchy, bright-sounding songs and generally made a big deal about being British. More broadly speaking, britpop was part of a cultural movement in the UK known as ‘Cool Britannia,’ which renewed British popular culture after two decades of social and economic unrest.
And so, without further ado, here are some of the best britpop bands ever:
Formed in 1993 in Oxford, Supergrass achieved mainstream success in 1995 with the release of their debut album, ‘I Should Coco’. The album went to number 1 in the UK and the single, ‘Alright’, was an international hit. The band broke up in 2010 after releasing a total of 6 albums. In 2019, Supergrass got back together but have said they will not be releasing new material only playing gigs.
Hailing from Manchester, Oasis were one of, if not the most successful britpop band ever. Their debut album, released in 1994, became the fastest selling UK album ever released up to that point and entered the charts at number 1. The band’s followup album, ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’, spent 10 weeks at number 1 in the UK and reached number 4 in the US. The album remains the 5th best selling British album of all time.
The band gained notoriety in the press due to internal conflicts between Noel and Liam Gallagher, the frontmen of Oasis, and because of a perceived rivalry between themselves and britpop band Blur. Today, Oasis are a household name in the UK and their songs continue to be played at parties, weddings, and social gatherings across the country.
During the mid-90s Blur were rivaling Oasis for the title of ‘Biggest Band in Britain’. Egged on by the press, the two bands became engaged in a chart rivalry branded the “Battle of Britpop”. Blur were middle class Londoners, while Oasis were a group of working class lads from Manchester in Northern England. As such, the rivalry between the two bands was as much about class antagonisms and the UK’s north-south divide, as it was about music.
After a poorly received debut album, Blur reinvented their sound to include brass and woodwind instruments layered over their original guitar driven indie sound. The result was the album ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’, which was received with critical acclaim and moderate commercial success. Along-with the change in musical direction, the songs began to focus on British life, making the album one of the defining britpop records.
Blur’s next three albums, ‘Parklife’, ‘The Great Esacpe’ and ‘Blur’, would propel them to international stardom. The band produced a string of hits and even broke into the USA, something Oasis never quite managed.
Comprising part of the southern core of britpop, London-based Elastica formed in 1992. Their self-titled debut album, released in 1995, went straight to number 1 on the UK Albums Chart and was described as being what britpop “should sound like”.
It took the band five years to produce a followup album, by which time britpop was coming to an end and being replaced by a new generation of post-britpop bands. Elastica split up one year after their second album’s release.
Pulp existed a long, long time before britpop, but it wasn’t until the cultural phenomena kicked-off that they discovered stardom. The band got its big break when they were asked to fill in for The Stone Roses at Glastonbury festival in 1995. The performance, along with their single ‘Common People’, turned them into certified britpop superstars and their album, ‘Different Class’, which was released later the same year, was a huge hit, entering the UK Albums Chart at number 1.
But fame turned into Pulp’s downfall as frontman Jarvis Cocker became the subject of numerous British tabloid papers and developed a drug addiction. As a result, the band didn’t release another album until 1998. Titled ‘This is Hardcore’, the album focused on the downsides of fame and drug use. Pulp released their final album in 2001, after which they split up.
Suede formed in 1989 in London. The band played an important role in bringing britpop to the forefront of British music. The band received heaps of press and were labeled “the best new band in Britain” before they had even released an album. When their self-titled debut album did get released in 1993, it reached number 1 on the UK Albums Chart.
The band would later be classified as one of the big four britpop bands, along with Oasis, Blur, and Pulp. Suede’s third album would also reach number 1 in the UK (as would their fourth) and featured 5 Top 10 singles.
As the 90s came to a close, popularity in the band began to wane. Their fifth studio album, ‘A New Morning’, was a commercial failure despite costing around £1 million to produce. The band split shortly after.