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What even is Britpop, anyway? Even at the time, its subjects and supposed characters were wary of the vagueness of the term that joined them all at the hip. As Steve Lamacq, co-host with Jo Whiley of BBC Sounds’ new podcast The Rise and Fall Of Britpop, noted to NME: “A scene can really pull things along by creating something that people want to belong to. A scene creates a fashion, then a thought process, then a manifesto.”
It’s perhaps still a bit muddy what this manifesto meant, or what you were standing for as you proudly waved it, but there’s no denying its potency. It’s a topic that features heavily in The Rise and Fall Of Britpop, which features new interviews, archive material and fervent discussions between the two hosts. And as the nation looks back to the ‘90s, NME remembers the cast of characters and what came next.
What happened then: At Britpop’s heights, the band released two albums: 1994’s ‘Definitely Maybe’ and 1995’s ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’ to dizzying critical and commercial acclaim. The Gallagher brothers dominated British culture, and they put on two era-defining shows at Knebworth in 1996; no band has matched their cultural impact and recognition since. 1997’s bloated but brilliant ‘Be Here Now’ sounded the death knell for the scene.
Where are they now? Well, it had to end, didn’t it? After a shonky decade, Noel quit the band for good in 2009 following a dressing-room fight. Both Noel and Liam have had separate, successful solo careers, but reunion rumours remain rife.
What happened then: The other half of Britpop’s biggest – and daftest – rivalry. Their Life Trilogy – 1993’s ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’, 1994’s ‘Parklife’ and 1995’s ‘The Great Escape’ – cemented the band as one of their generation’s most-beloved. Their following material became darker, knottier on ‘13’ and ‘Think Tank’ before the group took a hiatus in 2003.
Where are they now? Back, and better than ever! This Friday, the band release their ninth album ‘The Ballad of Darren’ and have just played two of their biggest ever shows at Wembley Stadium.
- Read more – Blur: every album ranked in order of greatness
What happened then: Jarvis Cocker and co. released some of the 1990s most-memorable records in ‘His N Hers’ and ‘Different Class’, and headlined Glastonbury in 1995 with a legendary show. Jarvis Cocker caused a stir by mooning Michael Jackson at The Brits, and subsequent 1998 album ‘This Is Hardcore’ was the moody swansong the scene deserved.
Where are they now? Also back, and better than ever! After an initial reunion run in 2011, the band returned this summer for a string of shows that NME said “we never want to end”. They did so without late bassist Steve Mackey, who died in March 2023.
What happened then: The most dazzling jewel in Britpop’s crown. The band’s self-titled 1993 debut picked up the Mercury Music Prize, while ‘Dog Man Star’ (1994) and ‘Coming Up’ (1996) were erotic, irresistible alternatives to some of the decade’s lumpier, laddy trends. The band took an extended hiatus following 2002’s ‘A New Morning’.
Where are they now? Following the band’s reunion a decade later, they continue to hit new heights. NME said that 2022’s ‘Autofiction’ “finds the indie greats getting back in the garage to make a racket. This is a band with a lust for life.”
What happened then: 1995’s ‘I Should Coco’ was a sensation: the record raced to Number One in the UK Album Charts, the band scooped Best New Band at the NME Awards, and ‘Alright’ spawned a joyous video that turned Hollywood director Steven Spielberg’s head (yes, really). 1997’s follow-up ‘In It For The Money’ was deemed by NME as “more fun than watching a wombat in a washing machine”. Sure!
Where are they now? The band split in the period following 2008’s ‘Diamond Hoo Ha’, with the band focusing on solo projects and Gaz Coombes’ ‘Matador’ (2015) earning a Mercury Prize nod. They reunited in 2019 for a full tour, though a new record doesn’t appear on the cards.
What happened then: The ‘90s coolest band? Yes, probably. Formed by former Suede members Justine Frischmann and Justin Welch, 1995’s ‘Elastica’ was a runaway hit and became the fastest-selling debut album since Oasis’ ‘…Morning Glory’, a record it would hold for a decade and Arctic Monkeys came along.
Where are they now? Touring and inter-band turmoil saw the band call it a day in 2000. Frichsmann worked with M.I.A. on her earliest material, but told The Guardian in 2016 that she was more focused on her career as an artist: “I don’t really have any desire to make music, to be honest.”
What happened then: The Londoners grafted to three Top Ten placings in the UK Albums chart and supported Blur on their Parklife tour in 1994. Their cover of Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ featured in the film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.
Where are they now? Frontwoman Louise Wener has had a successful career as a novelist following the band’s initial split in 1998. They reformed in 2018 for a string of reunion dates and have released two records since.
What happened then: Led by the mercurial talent of Richard Ashcroft, the Wigan band’s star was one that burned twice as bright… and for half as long. They released three albums – culminating in 1997’s ‘Urban Hymns’ – but were not long for it as creative differences and ego would tear the band apart.
Where are they now? Ashcroft first went solo after the band split in 1999 and released six albums under his own name. The Verve reunited in 2007 and released a new record, ‘Forth’, in 2008. A year later, they’d split again and in 2017, Ashcroft told The Telegraph that there are “no plans” to get back together again.
The Rise and Fall of Britpop, presented by Jo Whiley and Steve Lamacq is available now on BBC Sounds.
Steve Lamacq will be exploring the history of Britpop every Thursday in July on BBC Radio 6 Music, 4pm-7pm.