Chained To The Mirror And The Razorblade

Or, thoughts on last night’s Britpop documentary on BBC2.

I'm still not sure how I feel about those halcyon days. On the one hand, the Britpop era marks the time when I became interested in music again, when I would listen to the radio all the time, when I would brave below-freezing temperatures just to get a single on a Monday morning, when I finally felt connected to the world around me. Yet, looking back, I can see the harm that Britpop did to the British music industry; killing off independent labels, causing the downfall of the NME/Melody Maker, and, in the end, marginalising the indie/alternative scene even further.

The documentary was a fairly conventional look at the origins and life of the era, tracing the origins to The Stone Roses and a reaction against American grunge. Fairly typical stuff, but at least this film mentioned the important 1993 Select issue featuring Brett Anderson from Suede superimposed on a Union Jack. Instead of trying to cover everything, it focused on a few key events (Spike Island, 'Parklife', Blur v. Oasis, Knebworth, Noel Gallagher meeting Tony Blair, etc.), and only interviewed the main players such as Noel and Liam Gallagher, Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker, plus a few music journalists. And the editor of Loaded. Don't worry, I've got a complete paragraph of bile saved up for him.

None of the interviews were particularly revealing, although Damon Albarn's strange answer to the Blur/Oasis rivalry does seem to give credence to the Liam - Lisa Moorish - Damon love triangle theory of why the two bands didn't get on. I've warmed to Blur in the post-Britpop years; I now only really hate 'Country House' and 'Parklife', but in this film, Damon came across as a bit of a pompous twit, to be honest. Noel, on the other hand, seemed to be quite honest and amusing (although he has a little chip on his shoulder about his background). Liam was his usual charming self; the segment where he pretended not to know what androgynous means was funny, and the end bit where he outed himeself as a fan of S Club Juniors was enjoyable (as was Noel's Old Man act with the dance moves). Jarvis Cocker was as intelligent and sad as ever. Louise Wener had a book to promote. (Incidentally, why does everybody hate her so much? Yes, Sleeper were never going to set the world on fire, but were they any worse than, say, Northern Uproar or Dodgy?)

There aren't many people on this planet who I really hate, but James Brown, ex-head of Loaded is definitely on the list. I don't think we really needed to hear how people at the ironic-porn-mag-for-people-embarrassed-to-buy-porn had arguments about who was going to get the champagne that morning, or the feature deals he made in the toilets whilst doing coke. Or stupid, vacuous statements like "Americans don't have any talent." Useless, cretinous moron.

The film made a valiant attempt to tie the rise in Britpop with the ascent of New Labour, showing Tony Blair's cringeworthy "Three Lions" speech, and talking to Peter Mandelson about how he tried to reposition the party to take advantage of the new optimism that was supposedly sweeping the nation. Some of the analysis didn't work; Jon Savage suggested that Oasis' first number one, Some Might Say, was a celebration of the Tories defeat in the local Council elections, but then the title card revealed that the single was released a month before the elections took place. It was also interesting to see how Albarn and Wener viewed Noel's visit to Downing Street as a sign that he had been captured by the system, while Noel himself gave the impression that he only went to see what Number 10 was like.

Obviously, a 90-minute film wasn't going to be able to cover the whole era in any depth, but there a few omissions that I felt should have been examined. Firstly, there was very little mention of how, well, conservative Britpop was, both musically and culturally. Almost everybody was white, and a lot of groups mined the musical heritage of the sixties for their songs (The Beatles, The Faces, The Kinks, etc.). In many ways, it was a retrograde step from the days of Acid House and Shoegazing. There's a short interview with 3D from Massive Attack in the film which touches on these issues briefly, but I felt that they could have (and should have) done more. Radio 1 wasn't mentioned at all, which was weird, as the Bannister regime was (to me, anyway) an important part of the era; it was a station that was looking to redefine itself, and so became a major backer of the Britpop bands (going as far as having a week in 1996 where all the daytime records were from UK artists). The fall of Britpop left Radio 1 directionless again, and it's still struggling to redefine itself (an interesting discussion about this is progressing on Usenet, if you're interested). Finally, the film concentrated solely on the major players of the scene: Blur, Oasis, and Pulp. It would have been nice to see some of the myriad of bands that sprung up at the same time, about the Camden Town bands, and how the end of the era left most of these signed to a major label that demanded success (and hence, nowadays, most of these bands are not on major labels). There's only so much you can cover in 90 minutes, however, and as a primer on Britpop, the film does quite well.

I'm still conflicted about that time. It's responsible for a lot of the problems that British music has had for the last decade, but when I see that shot of the Wonderwall video where the lights are reflected in his Lennon sunglasses, I remember what it was like when I thought Oasis were the coolest band in the world…

currently playing: Suede - Trash

The New Eternal September (well...August)

Couldn’t they have waited until next week? (This message brought to you by the former elitist users of Usenet).

currently playing: Yo La Tengo - Last Days of Disco


Yay for unrestrained capitalism! The Google AdWord account passed $100 yesterday, so I should be getting my first cheque from them soon. Thank you, one and all, for clicking on the links. I shall spend the money wisely, honest (runs off to Amazon).


After reading this post on BoingBoing the other day, I fully endorse Warren Ellis' idea of breaking Cory's hands. Writing a 21,000 word novella in a week is bad enough, but re-writing two novels, critiquing over twenty pieces and still having the time to read several books? The man needs to be stopped.

Proof that complaining does get results: I received my first SoBig email this afternoon. Okay, so it's not the deluge that everybody else is experiencing, but at least it proves I'm on somebody's addressbook. Not that I think about these things. Not often, anyway.

Everybody else on the Internet is probably linking to this today, but hey, it's big news: BBC to open archives.. Admittedly, the announcement has little in the way of details, so we might end up watching the archive in 100x100 Realplayer windows, but this could be huge, considering that the corporation is sitting on over seventy years of television and radio programmes. If nothing else, it might stop the Doctor Who fanatics from writing into Ceefax and the Radio Times.

Any UNC people who might be reading - I will be sleeping while you are all cavorting at the FallFest, but have a good time, and don't get too drunk…

currently playing: Bob Dylan - Sara

A Balancing Act

Exciting legal updates! Fox’s rather insane lawsuit against Al Franken was thrown out of court on Friday, with the judge describing it as “wholly without merit, both factually and legally.” He also disputed the validity of Fox’s trademark, so we can be fair and balanced without threat of Mr. Murdoch’s lawyers. Hurrah!

(Incidentally, the book in question has already gone back to the presses for a second printing, the high demand brought about by…the publicity that Fox has given the book whilst trying to get it taken off the shelves. Genius.)

currently playing: Kate Rusby - Polly

Für Einen Tag!

Yes, I’ve finally got rid of the rather pointless sideblog. It was thought, by some, to be to cluttered. More exciting changes will be coming soon! (Maybe)

Anyway, onto the music. Dedicated to everybody at UNC going back this weekend (*sniff*).

  • David BowieHelden
    It's Heroes! But! In! German!
  • Mint RoyaleDancehall Places
    I heard this during Lauren Laverne's stint on the 6music Breakfast Show this week. It reminds me a little of Bran Van 3000, but don't let that put you off.
  • OasisTake Me Away
    This is one of the b-sides from their first single. It's one of my favourite of Noel's "I'm quite miserable, actually" acoustic numbers. I was surprised that it didn't turn up on The Masterplan (mind you, Round Are Way isn't on that album, and it's been in a film). I haven't actually heard it for a few years, as somehow the single escaped my attention when I was converting my music to MP3 format, but I found it today, and that's why it's included on this entry.
  • BroadcastColour Me In
    Fulfilling the ethereal female voice quotient of today's music selection. It sounds like it wouldn't be out of place in a Play School episode. In a good way, natch.
  • Neneh CherryBuffalo Stance
    I'm having an eighties renaissance at the moment, so you have to suffer too. It's the extended 12" mix, just to add to the torture. Bwahahaha!

currently playing: Broadcast - Before We Begin

We Could Send Letters

I haven’t received one SoBig email yet. I feel so left out.

I have R.E.M. tickets! Yay!

currently playing: Mint Royale - Dancehall Places

"You paranoid Berkeley shiksa Feminista!"

Special features will include audio commentaries from series creator Aaron Sorkin and director Tommy Schlamme on five key episodes, including the Pilot, What Kind of Day Has It Been, Take This Sabbath Day, In Excelsis Deo (which features additional commentary from co-executive producer and director Alex Graves) and Celestial Navigation (with additional commentary by co-executive producer and director Chris Misiano), cast and crew interviews, 2 behind-the-scenes documentaries (The Primaries and The West Wing Inauguration), behind-the-scenes footage from the first season (including Capital Beat and Sheet Music), deleted scenes, the Gag Order outtakes and bloopers reel, the Off the Record featurette (outtakes from various cast and producer interviews) and more.
All for $60. Which, at today’s exchange rate, is $40 less than I paid for the UK bare-bones releases (slaps forehead).

currently playing: Pulp - Lipgloss

The League of Extraordinary Links!

Admittedly, most of the people who care about this will probably know about it already, but Lauren Laverne is standing in for Phill Jupitus on 6music at the moment. If you’re up between the hours of 0700-1000 BST (0200-0500, EST fans), you could do a lot worse than tuning in.

A new side to affirmative action. Rumours that Ann Coulter will be on UNC's reading list next year remain unconfirmed at this point…

Europe goes to the moon (albeit rather slowly)!

The power of Photoshop!

Paul Newman is Fair and Balanced.

Design magazines that are hideously expensive, but look extremely cool :-).

Finally, from today's Google ads: tickets to the Chapel Hill Springsteen concert start at $125. And go up to $390. Ouch. Amusingly, the hall I was staying in last year is less than 100 meters away from the stadium, so I imagine the new occupants will have a good night on September 15th (ideally, they should throw a listening party).

currently playing: Saturday Looks Good To Me - Alcohol

Home Taping Is Killing The Music Industry (Part 234)

The record industry’s constant carping about the dangers of the EVIL INTERNET PIRATES today received a small setback, at least here in the UK. It turns out that 228 million albums were sold from June 2002-3, a 3% increase on the year before, and an industry record. Huzzah!

Of course, the companies still aren't happy. Their complaints seem to centre on two things: the single market is still doing really badly, and their profits have taken a dive due to high discounting. There's not too much to say about singles that I haven't said before; they're a dying market and even if the Internet went dead tomorrow, I'm not sure that single sales would increase all that much. The profit complaint, however, is a little disingenuous. The BBC article says that album prices have fallen to £9.79 as a result of price reductions. From today's interest rates, this is roughly $15.50. When I was living in Chapel Hill, the albums I bought varied in price from $12.99 to $15.99. The front page of (personally, I'd recommend Schoolkids or CDAlley, but they don't have prices on their websites to illustrate the point) shows that many new releases are being sold for prices as low as $11.99. So I can't feel too sorry for the industry, as the decline in profit only shows that they're not gouging the UK market quite as much as they did in the past.

currently playing: Mogwai - Xmas Steps

Their Numbers Are Legion

currently playing: Ultrasound - Floodlit World