If the 20th anniversary of Britpop taught us anything, it’s that there’s no pleasing everyone. For every word written celebrating the scene, there was another lambasting it as everything from “rubbish” to a “cultural abomination”. But if folks are this conflicted about a time beloved by so many, what’s in store for the guitar music that followed it? When the big two-oh comes round for the likes of pop punk, nu-metal, the post punk revival and nu-rave, are they in for as much condemnation as Britpop? Here’s a look into the future.
Whilst it’s difficult to think of a contemporary band modelling themselves on, say, Bowling For Soup, the formative appeal of pop punk is pretty clear. It was just snotty enough to not be your parents’ music, but about as melodically challenging as the average lullaby. But one day artists will admit the punk rock they were raised on wasn’t The Clash or The Ramones, but this stuff: Fat Wreck Chords compilations, the fart gags of Sum 41, the relentless brass parping of Less Than Jake. And though bands of late have tended to cite loftier influences than Blink 182, with the 20th anniversary of the 15m selling ‘Enema Of The State’ on the not too distant horizon, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that Wavves, Mac DeMarco or Eagulls once called a copy their own. Pop punk bands such as Rancid, NOFX and Bad Religion, despite never quite crossing over in to the mainstream, were genuinely influential within their circles and beyond. There’s a lineage that can be traced from bands currently in their 20s – Japandroids, FIDLAR, No Age, Best Coast, Swearin’ – to this stuff. So, like it or not, a comeback isn’t out of the question.
Nu-metal initially appears the most difficult of the big guitar scenes to salvage something likeable from. It burned briefly and brightly, throwing up more festival headliner-level bands than any of the genres that followed in its wake yet the music of Coal Chamber, Staind, Papa Roach and their ilk remains near impossible to defend.
Deftones found a way around such pitfalls, with their later work regarded as highly as their earliest. A move towards a more alternative metal, and System of a Down’s delightfully skewed take on it from the start, mean they’ll fare better. Rage Against The Machine, a precursor but lynchpin to the whole rap rock crossover, have their legacy assured, mostly because of having a comparatively blunt but forceful message when so much of the nu-metal that followed was anchored in teenage venting (“Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” looks practically like a manifesto when placed next to “Give me something to break!”). Though simplistic, such messages are pretty influential the first time they’re heard, and the rap rock that provides a thrill like that or matures a la Deftones can be carried with a listener into later life. Expect Toxicity and White Pony to get similarly high scores out of 10 to Rage Against The Machine when reissue stage comes around, while we all pretend Limp Bizkit’s ‘Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavoured Water’ never happened.
We get a dry run of how an anniversary for the heady days of the 00’s post punk revival will feel courtesy of The Libertines’ recently announced reunion. The Libertines gifted the scene a classic with ‘Up The Bracket’, and what with the early success of Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand, their native island felt at the centre of something special. To these ears, a lot of it still sounds pretty great (and in the case of The White Stripes, really great), though remember for every Libertines there was a Little Man Tate, and for every Strokes, a Bravery.
Yes, it spawned a whole heck of poor, short-lived Libertines imitators, but there was enough strong songwriting doing the rounds (‘Last Night’, ‘Take Me Out’, ‘Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground’ – all undeniable beauties) for some of it to warrant being carried in to adulthood on a journey that few allow Limp Bizkit. But the scene as a whole broke little new ground, and if anything was no more forward thinking than our old chum Britpop. Unless a legacy springs from nowhere, fast, it stands to celebrate a pretty awkward 20th birthday.
Sign up for the newsletter
Sometimes you don’t have to wait long for a backlash at all. A genre like nu-rave found itself disowned by many of its main protagonists almost as soon as the term was coined. Though bands like Hadouken!, New Young Pony Club and The Sunshine Underground trudge onward, they’re not in great company. The likes of Shitdisco embodied the scene’s spirit of being a flash in the pan, where only a few, like Late of the Pier, seemed to offer something deeper (‘Myths Of The Near Future’ aside, theirs is the closest to a truly decent record – as opposed to decent single – that emerged from the whole saga).
Much like nu-metal, this doesn’t seem like music that survives adolescence. And yet, it sure sounds exciting when you’re its target audience. Whilst it’s difficult to envisage deluxe editions of Hadouken!’s ‘Music For An Accelerated Culture’ rushing off the shelves in 2028, it felt like something was happening when Klaxons won that Mercury Prize. Maybe the promise of that night is why the rest of it felt like such a letdown.
Of course, scene anniversaries say as much about the present day as they do about the music in question. In another 20 years, this will all be viewed very differently – Britpop included.