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The 25 Best BritPop Bands

List Of The Day

Ah Brit Pop! That most maligned of genres on U.S. shores, exclusive to elites and kids who don't listen to Korn or whatever it is that kids who beat up on other kids listen to these days. That struggling brotherhood known as Oasis are back with a new album which can only mean that it's time here at List Of The Day to observe and analyze the entire genre--until it hurts.

As is usually the case, in order to make the list interesting--and to annoy my faithful readers--I've expanded the definition ever so slightly. The band still must originate from one of the British Isles (that means England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, people) and the band must exist sometime between 1980 and the present day. While some smart readers might want to include the Beatles on this list, since they were British and sure did play pop music, they've been barred as simply being "too old." So, Sir McCartney, take your AARP card and shop for your discount somewhere else! However, I'm sure any of these bands below would be proud to be considered one of your "children," if only to be cut into the inheritance. But if you think I'm going vegan just to get on your good side, Macca, you've got a double cheeseburger coming!

Now, should the Jam have qualified? I love 'em, but I just couldn't see them here.

25) Lush: Shoegazers? Seems we never run out of categories. There was a time when it was believed this music could be successful in the United States and it would take one big Lollapalooza to convince everyone. Except the line for the beer was long and half the people in attendance were counting on slam-dancing to show off their physical prowess. These sweet-cheeks were on 4AD, which was generally considered a "Goth" label. Back in the early '90s, Goths were often scorned!

24) Franz Ferdinand: It's said they're working on their third album that should be out sometime next year. This Scottish group is taking their sweet time, which makes you wonder if they're up to something. As in completely altering their sound? Probably not going heavy metal anytime soon, but the thing about smart kids is they eventually get restless and bored and end up experimenting. Sometimes it's a good thing. Other times, it makes you wish they were a little dumber.

23) Supergrass: If you look at England on a map, it isn't that big. Considering how many bands come out of the country, it makes you wonder if there isn't some sort of factory that manufactures them. And why does this country insist on supporting its economy this way? If we could, here in America, we'd all be a nation of investment bankers. Well, that was up until a few weeks ago. Now, we're making other career choices. And trying to understand what a "bank" really is.

22) The Verve: Just when you figure a band is done, they come back. It's like that Terminator movie. Wasn't that frustrating? How are you supposed to kill something that won't die? Can't die. With bands it's usually as long as their lead singer survives that they continue on. Unless you're AC/DC or Van Halen or Journey or Judas Priest....hey, wait a minute. Some bands aren't playing by the rules.

21) James: Another band on the comeback trail, James have been around since the early '80s, so their "overnight success" was anything but. And they still have to fight to be heard. The singer, Tim Booth, even recorded an album with Angelo Badalamenti as Booth And The Bad Angel, which is surely to be a trivia question in the Trivial Pursuit, Britpop Edition.

20) Suede: There was once a time when Suede were being pushed as the next big thing, much like Jesus Jones and Prodigy. The record buying public had other ideas. The band was better than their hype. But they suffered nonetheless.

19) Travis: I've heard these guys described as Radiohead lite. I like to think of them as what Radiohead might have sounded like if they'd stuck with writing conventional songs and not working up their resume for the MOMA.

18) The Charlatans UK: Most bands that plug at it for so many years make consistently worse albums. The Charlies here have actually made some of their better albums later in their career. I guess some bands really do save their inspiration.

17) Snow Patrol: Writing catchy and melodic pop rock is harder than it seems. In current times, there aren't many groups who seem dedicated to it. Instead, bands court controversy or they try to look exactly like all the other bands in hopes that you'll get confused and buy their albums by accident.

16) Ride: Their bass player went on to join Oasis. What a day that must've been. You're down at the unemployment agency, waiting to hear if there might be an opening for a bass player, figuring you may have to take a job in a bad ska band or an old R&B tribute band and then the word comes down that Oasis are hiring! As long as you know how to dodge a punch from one of the volatile brothers, you've got it made. Yet Ride were damn fine on their terms, considering they were considered to be guys who stared at their shoes too much.

15) Placebo: The only band on this list that some listeners confuse with RUSH. That's because singer Brian Molko also favors a certain exaggerated sense of enunciation. He hasn't put Atlas Shrugged to music yet. But then he's not wishy-washy enough to take orders from his drummer.

14) Radiohead: They started out as another goofy grunge band singing about being a creep and they stared downward since looking up would simply be too painful. Then they got ambitious and decided to blow everything apart and give everything serious names and act very important, so their music wasn't considered music but culture. And then museums could play it. And the rest of the free world would know they didn't deserve to live in such times.

13) The Stone Roses: First time I heard "I Wanna Be Adored," I thought I was listening to the slowest version ever of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by Iggy and the Stooges. I was relieved to find out these guys were doing "their own thing." Still not sure what that thing is, but they sure defined an era when bands didn't make many records, but spent a lot of time talking about making their follow-up.

12) Happy Mondays: Whenever I read about these guys it says something about "Northern Soul," which I still don't quite understand. I guess it's like what we here in America would call "Vermont Rock," which isn't real, but probably should be. All music should be uselessly classified. Why make things easy for yourself?

11) Echo And The Bunnymen: Echo was a drum machine. Even the band couldn't handle that after awhile. They formed in the late '70s, but made their mark in the '80s as one of those bands you'd see on MTV late at night on 120 Minutes when MTV used to play these things called music videos and, well, it's complicated.

10) Oasis: While they swore their allegiance to the Beatles, they built their band chemistry on the Kinks model. Brotherly fights are always a sight to behold, since they know everything about each other and have been tormenting each other for years. You'd think their music would be edgier as a result, but then you'd also think their music would be catchier and more experimental considering they claim to love the Beatles.

9) Trembling Blue Stars: One of the most beloved groups of any era, Robert Wratten's Trembling Blue Stars redefined what it meant to be in love with someone who is no longer interested in you, but wouldn't mind playing in your band anyhow. Wratten took victimhood and turned it into a long, deserving career that all hardcore music fans could identify with and subsequently have. There's even a petition to pass a National Holiday for TBS. I would vote for it. It's another day off.

8) Belle & Sebastian: Their names sounds like they're going to be one of those dulcimer-playing duos with mountain songs that define the good old days. But these cheeky no-gooders took a class project to make an album and turned it into a career. Now kids everywhere do the B&S shuffle and their parents just shake their heads and wonder.

7) Pulp: Jarvis Cocker has since gone solo. But Pulp were once a very influential British band who spoke of those "class differences" the Kinks were all so fond of. Here in America, we're homogenous. We have different classes, but no "class difference," since everyone who wants to be successful eventually pretends they're not rich and speaks like they're a little slow on the draw. This is so they can "relate" to their common man. The common man is usually too drunk to notice.

6) The Cure: Robert Smith helped define goth with his big hair and make-up and songs that droned on for hours, but he also wrote some fine pop songs that the kids could dance to when they weren't sitting home fretting about their complexion.

5) The Teardrop Explodes: Julian Cope likes a lot of strange music, yet he has always been able to channel this love in ways that make it more palatable to the masses. Well, the masses in the UK, which is the equivalent to a popular county fair in Pennsylvania. But that's the breaks.

4) Blur: I liked how they eventually realized that America was never going to pay attention to them if they kept playing up the British angle. Rock critics and college radio DJs might like them a lot, but if the kids were going to follow they were going to have to toughen up. Figuring they could never pass for a heavy metal band, they decided to try their hand at some Pavement-like material. That didn't really work out for them either. They had to stick with being "Big in the UK."

3) Robyn Hitchcock And The Egyptians: Once the Soft Boys called it a day, Hitchcock cleverly hired a few of them back for union scale. And he wandered off into the surrealist abyss where literal-minded, bottom-line demanding, free market U.S. economy obsessives decided Hitchy was just too weird to ever cross over. He didn't sing about the struggles of the American farmer. He sang about his wife and his dead wife. That's not going to pull the tractor, son.

2) Prefab Sprout: With a name like Paddy McAloon you were expecting what? A wrestler? A heavyweight boxer? He came up in the 1980s when most styles were hurting. But he made the best of an era where production was all about reverb and other shoulder pads of industry. By the time he recorded Jordan: The Comeback, Americans had made a concerted effort to deliberately ignore him and his kind. A shame, really. Since he was someone who could've made a difference had he been given a fair chance.

1) The Smiths: With Morrissey leading the whine, and guitarist Johnny Marr leading the chiming guitar brigade, the youth of any culture were given the chance to relate in a very personal way. Each Smiths album was like another edition of Power For Living, another text to base one's life around and enjoy the riches that such a strong spiritual life can bring. Now start selling this crap door to door, kiddo.

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