Listen to this track by Brit-pop rear guard band and early to mid-nineties music industry case-study Sleeper. It’s “Sale Of The Century”, a top ten hit from 1996’s The It Girl. Even if they never made a record as big or as era-defining as Parklife, let’s say, this album is looked upon as their definitive statement during the height of the Brit-pop period, a bona fide platinum-selling record. This one is my favourite of their singles, of which they had eight in the top twenty during their tenure together before the end of the decade.
Sleeper formed at just the right time, and were active on the local scenes in London just as one era was ticking over into another. A record deal seemed to materialize before their eyes. But, by the time “Sale Of The Century” came around, they’d been on the scene playing the parts of jaded pop stars for a year and a half, touring with Blur, REM, and later with Elvis Costello & The Attractions. “Sale Of The Century” can be viewed in a different way when one considers their trajectory, and the mindset of lead singer Louise Wener as the writer and central figure in the eye of their particular storm. Read more
Listen to this track by Northern Irish pop concern with a rotating line-up, The Divine Comedy. It’s “National Express”, a single and a top ten hit in the UK as taken from their 1998 album Fin de Siècle. I say “their”, but perhaps I should say “his”, given that The Divine Comedy is steered by the central figure of singer and songwriter Neil Hannon, working with other musicians in the creation of his albums when not playing multiple parts himself.
Hannon’s general musical neighbourhood is centered around the minutiae of British life that is both real as well as that which is steeped in cultural myth. His approach also owes a debt to that which Ray Davies took in the 1960s with the Kinks, with his well-respected men about town, dedicated followers of fashion, and Village Green Preservation societies that populated a decidedly British landscape. Maybe that Kinksian connection is why The Divine Comedy are very often included when the subject of Britpop comes up.
But, I think Hannon’s work went one better than most. Read more
Listen to this track by Sheffieldian Britpop figureheads Pulp. It’s “Do You Remember The First Time”, a single as taken from their 1994 record His ‘N’ Hers. This record helped to establish the band’s propensity for strong narratives marked by a dramatic slice-of-life songwriting style.
The band began in the late ’70s when lead singer and founder Jarvis Cocker was 15. But, it was only in the 1990s that they would make their mark in the mainstream, helping to define the Britpop era in terms of subject matter, tone, and overall presentation. It would be this album that would serve as their invitation into the premiership of the UK charts, with that aforementioned flair for drama within a four minute pop song .
This particular song tells the story of two lovers, and another one waiting at home. On the surface, this story appears to be about sexual jealousy. But underneath that, it’s also a song about memory, maturity, and and how love itself can be very messy. Read more