"I've escaped it, a life wasted/And I'm never going back again." - Pearl Jam, "Life Wasted"

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Top 25 Brit Pop songs

I love this list, cuz it reminds me of my university life which, frankly, is the best time of my life. This is when modern British bands created magical music - full of wit and utterly hummable.

It was the era in which the British started to like themselves again, and produced some of the most powerful music heard around the world, even in the US. Although the second British Invasion never happened (bands self-destructed again), the songs are far better than the hip-hop crap in the States.

Here's 25 of my favourites.

25 The La's - There She Goes
No, Sixpence None The Richer are not the original artistes of this bittersweet pop gem. It belongs to this one-hit wonder band, and what a timeless song this is. Cut in 1990, it still sounds appealing in 2005. Spine-tingling moment: When singer Lee Mavers leaps into the falsetto as he sings "There she goes, there she goes again." Cue goosebumps.

24 Elastica - Connection
Damon Albarn's ex-girlfriend, Justine Frischmann, proves she is quite capable of a sneering kiss-off like this song, albeit her band's sole hit. She hits all the right notes in this one - sarcastic in the verses, then nonchalantly utters "Somehow a vital connection is made" in the chorus. Dripping with attitude. Spine-tingling moment: The ringing guitar line that comes after the chorus.

23 Embrace - Wonder
What a majestic ballad this is. Without dripping into saccharine, Embrace crafted a beautiful, aching song that grabbed me from the first guitar strum. Spine-tingling moment: Subtle guitar fill after the first line of the first verse. Genius.

22 Doves - There Goes The Fear
Seven minutes of galloping brilliance from Manchester's finest band of the moment. Doves evoke a rarity in pop music: patience. Their winding songs take their time to reveal their treasures, and this song is a treat for any britpop fans. Spine-tingling moment: The opening chime of guitars.

21 The Libertines - Time For Heroes
This band win the prize for the fastest self-destruction by a britpop band, lead singer Pete Doherty burning out in drugs as this is written. Yet, they offer a wondrous respite to the drudge of wimpy songs churned out of Britain this decade. This is a swift kick in the arse, as Doherty sneers at his fellow countrymen for apeing America. Spine-tingling moment: Out of nowhere, a raw guitar solo pops in.

20 Oasis - Stop Cryin' Your Heart Out
The definitive britpop band, one of my favourites. This song managed to ruin the entire "Heathen Chemistry" album for me - I didn't bother to listen the songs that come after this tearjerker. The one moment of magic left in Noel Gallagher, although I hope not. Spine-tingling moment: If you don't sing along to the chorus, you must be dead.

19 The Streets - Dry Your Eyes
Uniquely British. Mike Skinner's light rap fails to hide the heavy heart of an imminent break-up with a girlfriend. "There's plenty more fish in the sea," so he comforts himself. But, one guesses, it is always heartbreaking. Spine-tingling moment: When the strings glide in to announce that it's over.

18 Pulp - Disco 2000
Lest you think britpop is all moping about, in came this deliciously addictive song. Like a rush of adrenaline, Jarvis Cocker steers us through a strangely platonic relationship with a giggle. Spine-tingling moment: The pay-off line: "You can even bring your baby." Nothing else to say, but "Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh."

17 Blur - No Distance Left To Run
Blur always sounded cold to me. Damon Albarn drips sarcasm, but he seems so detached in every song - except on this one. Back story: he just broke up with Justine Frischmann (see above). End product: Suitably morose dirge as you hear Albarn's heart break slowly. Spine-tingling moment: Graham Coxon's genius never shone brighter than his guitar lines here.

16 Keane - Somewhere Only We Know
A mighty sound with just pianos and drums. Tom Chaplin's boyish voice then cuts through with choir-like clarity. Who cares if they look like nice and proper boys? Spine-tingling moment: When the piano hits the higher notes, and Chaplin wails "If you have a minute, why don't we go?"

15 Coldplay - The Scientist
Coldplay score with their sincerity, and nowhere is this clearer than on this heartrending ballad. Chris Martin's soaring voice tugs at every heart strings, while the band wisely stay out of the spotlight. Spine-tingling moment: Goosebump alert as Martin leaps into the wordless coda.

14 Snow Patrol - Run
One of the best stories of belated success, Snow Patrol released two previous albums that bombed, and decided last year to call it a day after releasing their third, aptly titled "Final Straw". Then radio picked up this exquisite ballad, and they finally made it big. The "lighter-waving", weepie type of song which is actually brilliant. Spine-tingling moment: Bravery in gloom as Gary Lightbody sings: "Lighten up, lighten up, as if you have a choice."

13 The Smiths - Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now
I got into The Smiths late and, as a result, didn't really appreciate their ground-breaking music when it came out in the mid 1980s. Probably the first britpop band, this is their most prototypical single. Morrissey's woe-is-me lyrics is countered by Johnny Marr's magical guitars. No wonder every band caught on. Spine-tingling moment: Any time Morrissey drops out and Marr's guitars come to the forefront. Jangly brilliance.

12 Manic Street Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness
Not exactly britpop, but the genre will be nothing without the confrontational attitude of their early years. "The Holy Bible" may be the bleakest album of this genre, and this song from their debut album "Generation Terrorists" hints at the desperation to come. Spine-tingling moment: The looping guitar riff, courtesy of the vanished Richey Edwards. (Edit: Oops, me friend Pinkerman says it's actually James Dean Bradfield. Richey just holds the guitar.)

11 Travis - Turn
Travis fall just short of greatness, because their super-lightweight songs simply could not be hard-hitting. That's not to say they are bad, because on songs like this, they create a palpable and palatable optimism rare in the other sneering bands. Hey, don't blame them for being nice people. Spine-tingling moment: Fran Healy never sang with more conviction than on this wondrous chorus.

10 Oasis - Wonderwall
The most famous song of this genre. One of the best love songs too, as Noel Gallagher lays his heart bare - not exactly with his cryptic lyrics (really, what's a wonderwall anyway), but with his understated arrangement. The song could be destroyed at any moment that Noel pumps up the bombast, but he never spoils it. The strings murmur, brother Liam's vocals remain calm, and the guitars chime of utter devotion. Spine-tingling moment: The simple piano riff at the end. Sheer class.

9 Suede - The Wild Ones
Suede exude an simple honesty amid a world of decadence, and Brett Anderson can pull it off only with Bernard Butler. On this luminous ballad, two lovers pledge devotion in a dirty world, as Butler intertwines with Anderson's unique vocals for a singular sound. Spine-tingling moment: Another falsetto-leaping moment, as Anderson croons "We'll be the wild ones running with the dogs today" and Butler noodles up an exqusite guitar line.

8 Teenage Fanclub - Star Sign
The "Smells Like Teen Spirit" of britpop. Sheer lunatic catchiness, complete with crushing guitars and nonchalant lyrics. If you don't start singing to the chorus on first listen, something's wrong with you. Spine-tingling moment: The vocal melody, effortlessly catchy.

7 The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
Superb piece of bile, rendered beautiful by a stunning string section. You can never tell Richard Ashcroft's angry lyrics from the sweeping music, but as he intones "Try to make ends meet, you're slave to the money, then you die", it is nihilism at its best. Spine-tingling moment: What else? The violins are the most unique voice of the britpop generation. So what if it's stolen from the Rolling Stones?

6 Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
This one caught me totally off-guard. I had thought I've heard it all, then in crashes this masterpiece in innovation. You want a complete rhythm change? Check. You want double-entredre lyrics? Got it. You want all of this angular music, and still remain catchy? Why not? Franz Ferdinand pull off what must surely be the most invigorating song last year. Spine-tingling moment: So many of them, none as dramatic as when rock turns into disco, about one minute into this gem.

5 Coldplay - Yellow
The one moment of transcendence in britpop. This powerful love song cuts through all races, all countries and all music tastes to be certified a bona-fide classic. It's an insane rush of honest love and devotion, as Chris Martin and gang nail every second of this wondrous rocker. Spine-tingling moment: When Martin opens his mouth for the first time: "Look at the stars..."

4 Pulp - Common People
Witty sarcasm from britpop's most evocative band. Not only does Jarvis Cocker take the piss out of middle-class snobs, but he also paints a dead accurate picture of the urban squall where the common people live. That's what my friend Neil from Dagenham tells me. Add the wonderfully supportive music, and no wonder the Americans don't get it. Spine-tingling moment: "I took her to the supermarket, I don't know why but I had to start somewhere, so it started.....there." Cheeky bastard.

3 The Cure - Pictures Of You
The odd band, out of step with every musical direction, yet influential beyond its years. Britpop is known for bittersweet romantic yearnings, and Robert Smith is the prime architect of such affecting music. This song is his masterpiece, a moving paean to a lost love handled with complete grace. The instrumentation is icy, soaring and memorable, Smith's vocals never sounded so aching, and the result is sheer beauty. Spine-tingling moment: The lengthy intro builds up to such momentum that Smith can only tumble blindly in.

2 The Stone Roses - I Am The Resurrection
In the three-year apex of this seminal band, the Stone Roses changed the sonic landscape of British music. Equally embracing rock and dance, they swaggered into the limelight with deathless songs which bear repeated listening to discern the dense layers of beauty. This song is the moment where the band realised how far they can take their style. The thumping drums, the bouncy bass, Ian Brown's thuggish vocals, and John Squire's glorious guitar collide for eight minutes of bliss. No more synth-based indie music from this song onwards. Spine-tingling moment: When Squire's guitar finally enters at the first chorus.

1 Oasis - Live Forever
When British music became relevant to the world again. The spark that ignited the world of britpop, the launch of the (now-aborted) British Invasion, etc etc etc. Whatever. To me, it marks the point where I abandoned heavy metal. It's such a perfect song. It rocks, but the guitars hide a tender love song. It is insanely catchy, but not mawkish. It swaggers, yet one can embrace the arrogance. Yeah, I jumped on the bandwagon, but it's a mighty fine bandwagon to jump onto. Spine-tingling moment: Every time Liam Gallagher sings "Maybe......"


Blogger pinkiebrown said...

"Spine-tingling moment: The looping guitar riff, courtesy of the vanished Richey Edwards."

dude, richey couldnt play his way out of a paper bag. james dean bradfield did all the guitar parts, richey just did lyrics with nicky wire.

- billy

12:35 AM

Blogger Big Fuzz said...

Really?? Thought it was Richey all along. But he's the guitarist right? Or just a super-maladjusted poser? =p

5:30 PM

Blogger pinkiebrown said...

the latter; they gave him a guitar so he could prance around onstage but i think he only managed the F bar chord after recording the holy bible.
early manics lah, all about the image..

11:32 PM

Anonymous Neil H said...

Fucking superb list. Enough said.
Neil H

8:20 PM

Anonymous THE REAL NEIL HANNON said...

this list is shite! You miss loads of great brit pop bands! Where is Shed seven?? the divine comedy?? Mansun?? Supegrass?? Travis?? Gene?? Inspiral Carpets?? etc, etc.
And the cure??? if that is brit pop then why not add The Stranglers? Xtc? and even Depeche Mode!!
Besides, how can u say elastica's song connection is a great song???? when it is such a big copy of I am the fly by Wire!!

7:48 PM

Blogger Vannistelrom said...

Most of this stuff isn't Britpop. Anything after 1997 is 'indie'. And Britpop begins in 1993 at the earliest. I love the La's but you can't have that. And what about Don't Look Back in Anger? It was the icing on the cake, the song that knocked Take That off the top stuff. That was the peak of Britpop. Coldplay are just not Britpop- they have none of the exuberance or excitement of this music and the same goes for the yawn-fest that is Keane. And what about Riverboat song- the riff is THE sound of the 90's. Also the whole point of the 'pop' aspect of britpop is that it is accessible music- out of all the Smiths songs how could you choose Heaven Knows I'm Miserable now over This Charmless Man or Panic? And Franz Ferdinand? They're just arty farty student music. There are only 7 songs here that are actually Britpop. It was a thing of its time and nothing before or after deserves the title.

9:15 PM

Blogger waltonic said...

A little lesson: Britpop was begat by Popscene [Blur] & the Drowners [Suede] in 1992. Both songs were very out of kilter with the times. They were a reaction to grunge. They set the whole thing in motion. The tombstone thudded above its coffin to the strains of OK Computer in 1997. These are the absolute extremities of Britpop. The Cure are about as Britpop as Shostakovich.

As for Shed Seven being a great band? Well... that's laughable!

1:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

pulp, blur..


i say no more.

oasis :/

9:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether it all qualifies as 'Britpop' or not, a top-class list.

3:29 PM

Anonymous Sean Waters said...

i agree completely with Vannistelrom <<
riverboat, day we caught the train... franz f, the streets, keane, snow p, coldp... cant even begin to compete with the gallaghers.. different league. i never fancied blur.. but it was either them or oasis an i went for oasis. i still rate there music; parklife, girls boys arent even there best songs... there a bit shit compared to wonderwall an that. but there other songs a little less heard of... some are hidden gems. Vannistelrom is dead right, get rid of the 97 + shite. replace with Just go ahead now - spin doctors and etc.

11:35 PM

Blogger Digga said...

Virtually half this list is not even Britpop - bad list.

Shed 7 anyone? Where have you been????

If you were listesning to this at uni then you obviously weren't at uni in the Britpop 'era'.

9:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best list for britpop/indie i've seen for a while. Don't Look Back in Anger and Some Might Say Oasis should be there though. Doesn't matter what years are britpop and what years are indie or whatever. Still a great list.

5:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

half this list is not even britpop. stop crying your heart out came out in 2002 so it can't be britpop. oasis are a rock band n britpop is a kind of rock that was in the 90's so if its after the 90's it not britpop.

11:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Half this list is not even britpop" is correct. Britpop began with Blur's popscene and Suede's The Drowner's in 1992 and ended in 1997 when Blur went indie electronic and Oasis went to hell. All that aside, however, this is a bad list. In what universe is The Scientist better than any one of Blur's singles, let alone one as good as No Distance Left to Run?

4:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A decent list, but I echo the sentiments regarding the timeline of the era and inclusion of great bands like the Cure and Smiths, and lesser bands like Coldplay. Here's my southern california USA list:

Blur - There's No Other Way; Popscene; Parklife

Suede - The Drowners (and the whole single, really, w/ To the Birds and My Insatiable One; Animal Nitrate

Pulp - Disco 2000, Common People

Elastica - Connection, but I preferred Waking Up and Stutter, to a lesser extent.

Oasis - Acquiesce; Columbia, all of Definitely Maybe really.

Stone Roses - I Am the Resurrection; Elephant Stone

Supergrass - Alright; Caught by the Fuzz, and I dig Sun Meets the Sky

Gene - Haunted by You (great Mozzer rip off, who seemed to rip off Gene with Jack the Ripper)

Echobelly, Bluetones, Boo Radleys, Radiohead's My Iron Lung maybe yes maybe no

Anyway, good times and miss these shows.

3:29 AM

Blogger jic- josé ignacio cancino said...

and.. where is "melt with you" ???

6:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think radiohead must include on your list

9:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

very good list.. but where are the kaiser chiefs and the arctic monkeys?

12:21 AM

Blogger Bill Trueman said...

Elastica - Connection
Suede - The Wild Ones
Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
Pulp - Common People

are the ones which I like most.

Hope you would also like our new music release Are You With Me by Saxxons - Britpop Band.

3:58 AM

Anonymous gutscheine zum ausdrucken said...

sehr guter Kommentar

11:26 PM


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