Tag: album cover

Britpop: Supergrass and I Should Coco at 20

Supergrass I Should Coco 20

Supergrass I Should Coco

It couldn’t be a worse time of year, I Should Coco is all about the summer of ’95 right? But no. It’s alright. After all, Caught by the Fuzz was originally released in autumn 2004. And today’s ‘wear your old band t-shirt to work’ day. And the now sadly dis- band have chosen today to release the remastered 20th anniversary special edition of their seminal debut. So that makes this the perfect day for Jokerside to salute Supergrass’ debut! Alright?

I DON’T KNOW WHEN I RELALISED JUST HOW GOOD I SHOULD COCO IS. I REMEMBER THE SUMMER LIGHT WAS FADING. AND THOUGH I CAN’T QUITE REMEMBER THE METHOD –WALKMAN SEEMS LIKELY – I DO VAGUELY REMEMBER THE STRETCH OF A PARTICULAR PARK. NEAR A COLLEGE CAMPUS, NOT MINE. Unfortunately that memory wouldn’t place it in 1995. No, I fully switched on to Supergrass with the release of their second album In It for the Money – or the release of the first single from that follow up, 1996’s Going Out.

I remember hearing the band interviewed by Steve Lamacq during or just before those In It For the Money recording sessions. I suppose backstage at the ’96 Mercury Music Prize, when they promised a more mature sound… And for once, that wasn’t a deflecting description. I didn’t really have the comparison beyond its predecessor’s singles at the time, but every part of In it for the Money dripped quality and confidence – it had a huge, solid sound that as it happened perfectly extended their bombastic debut while sparking it off in a myriad new directions. As I soon found out.

While In it for the Money had a slight melancholy, there it is on the cover of what’s their autumn album (released in the spring), I Should Coco was their defiantly summer LP. Although of course, that was recorded in the cold of the preceding winter in Cornwall.

“We honed the songs so they were short and full of energy and life”

That’s how Danny Goffey described it. It was some times before I took in the scrappier, more joyful, more vital and generally more pop punk I Should Coco. The moment it hit, that late afternoon, walking that path. Singles. Single after single. It was dripping in them. As much as the sun, as much as Britpop, as much as growing up, as much as sideburns.

Gaz Coombes recently declared there to be only a few great Britpop bands, and that much has been clear for a long time. But amid the heavyweight scrapping and flash in the pan chancers, wasters, lapsed shoe gazer and label hangers, Supergrass still stick out as the buzzing three piece from 95’s Summer of Britpop. In that leaner year than the fuller market of ‘96, they were the freshest and most alive during the fleeting movement that was always obtusely dipping in dolefulness. Oh, there are rock, riffs and darkness in I Should Coco, but also great peaks of vitality that brought the band crashing to widespread attention. It’s at the punk end of the spectrum – fast, three chord, break-neck – but that can’t disguise countless nods to an extraordinary number of other styles and English bands, from the rock pop of the Kinks to the ska infusion of Madness.

I Should Coco by the numbers

“1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4”

I’d Like to know, the album opener sets the agenda, almost by accident. It’s Gaz Coombes’ extraordinary and distinctive voice that steals the show, against thundering high tempo rock, with high pass backing vocals and a tendency to reach ear-piercing peaks and then surpass them. There’s a huge amount going on in this record. In a peculiar way, before the androgyny of glam and Bowie had fully swept into to fill out Britpop’s sixties fixation, it’s not genderless but it’s rather sexless – there’s nothing that sums the band up as a macho three-piece. As the long chords hang and tempos shift up and down with incredible speed, there’s the mantra – the call to arms to follow the strange right there.

I’d Like to know break, brings the instrumental of blistering chords and percussion that really shows what Supergrass could do. It’s the third longest song on the album thanks to that long and anthemic coda. And it ends on a sample of crashing waves, percussion thumping away… Until it hits the chord wall called Caught By the Fuzz. The single that was originally intended to have I’d Like to Know as its b‑side to. On the album, the difference is instant, as if this is the point where the album begins proper. The themes of the first song will be picked up later, but now’s there’s an even more singular tune, again first person and arguably the bands most daring – all based on an incident from young Coombes’ real-life. There’s the distorted vocals until the almost unbearable, reaching chorus. It’s frenetic and immediate. This is what arrived in 1994, a little presumptuously controversial than Supergrass would prove to be. It’s what caught their first attention. From bikers, as bassist Mick Quinn once said. Alright is mildy more reserved in its sortie through teenage life, but then it’s the carefree romp that comes before the claustrophobic rock of Caught by the Fuzz. And Alright’s video did much to create Supergrass’ New Monkees image. It was the hair right? Must be the hair. Because Supergrass were far more distinctive, talented and original than that comparison or Spielberg’s pitch of a television series suggests. Continue reading “Britpop: Supergrass and I Should Coco at 20”

Britpop: One year in – Blur’s Great Britpop Escape

Britpop The Great Escape

Britpop and Blur's The Great Escape

This month marks 19 years since Blur’s The Great Escape was released. While it would continue for several years, the four-piece’s fourth album would prove their personal swansong to the Britpop movement they had unwittingly ushered in with Parklife a year previously. It’s no secret that this isn’t their best regarded album, but could it be their most prescient?

AND AS SOON AS IT ARRIVED IT WAS TRYING TO SELF-DESTRUCT. BRITPOP WASN’T BRITISH AS MUCH AS ENGLISH. IT WASN’T THE EPITOME OF THE 1990S EITHER, BUT IT NEVER CONSCIOUSLY INTENDED TO BE. Its roots were either far too contemporary or too based in the 1960s, dependent on your view point, to do that. But in the summer of 1995, while Britpop crammed Chris Evan’s Radio 1 Breakfast Show it also captured a space in the six o’clock news as Oasis and Blur went head to head. That was the first skirmish in a long fight, as the two biggest bands of the era released much anticipated follow-ups, with all record labels, regions and single-buyers pitting the two against each other at any opportunity. There was never any doubt who’d win that opening parry, no matter the host of conspiracy theories. But then it was a poor race; Country House was simply the least worse of the two songs. Oasis justly won the subsequent album war of ’95 with their second album, the seminal What’s the Story (Morning Glory), while Blur’s fourth, The Great Escape, was picked apart and within just a few years had became synonymous with a sea-change for the band. That same strain was natural, and would start to affect Oasis as they record the bloated Be Here Now the following year.

Continue reading “Britpop: One year in – Blur’s Great Britpop Escape”

Britpop: 20 Years since Parklife Escaped the Traps (With Lyrics!)

Britpup close up

Parklife and lone greyhound of Britpop

It was 20 years ago today… That Blur taught Food they could pick their own songs.  Not that the label thought so at the time.

PARKLIFE.  WHILE IT MAY NOT BE DEFINITIVE, OR BY ANY MEANS THE BEST OF BLUR, IT WAS THE ALBUM THAT KICKED EVERYTHING OFF 20 YEARS AGO TODAY.  Sure, the four month head-start on Oasis maybe definitely helped, but even then, the modern classic wouldn’t have been easily hidden.

Not as melancholy as Modern Life is Rubbish or gratuitous and premonitory as The Great Escape it was the album that made Blur the band to beat, linking their brand of what would soon be Britpop inextricably to the capital city while other big hitters kept it vague. Pulp was a different class, Oasis an unstoppable cannonball heading down the M6. While every other facet of the movement from Menswear to Mansun, Suede to Supergrass, Elastica to Embrace managed to start as many incestuous fights as class, societal and musical crusades as they could, none went the dangerously specific route of Blur.

It would be the end of the art-school charge for some time, with little tangible substance. Typically it caught up some others, from Bowie to Bassey and politics knocked out some contenders (Kula Shaker).  The collateral damage of sign-ups, try-hards and casualties from the era is remarkable.  Now 20 years on, as band members sit in their middle-ages, often far removed from the industry, it’s an anniversary that will be more reflective and melancholy than celebratory.  Just as music journalists like it.  It seems strange given the perceived nature of Britpop, through the throwback tinted glasses – but there was always an inherent amount of dark in the era.  That wasn’t all about the faddishness either, or the odd catch-all nature of something that unified every region of Britain (however Anglo-centric the majority of it was).  There was real talent and real substance int here, although not every album of the era stands up like Parklife. Fresh, sharp and ambitious it’s saved by its links to the past if not relevance to today.

At the time, the airwaves were awash with ‘British pop’.  But before R n’B, hip hop and post-post-post-MOR ruled the airwaves, it was the phenomenon (copyright, NME) that could only burn bright and brief before it collapsed into a rather disliked red dwarf.  Few bands managed more than two albums in the era and it was rare that the follow-up built consistently on the first – no matter if you’re Dodgy, Oasis or Pulp. Ambition was built into Britpop, aspiration definitely, but even if it rose above the zeitgeist, there weren’t many bands that could escape the cynicism that came hand in hand with label exploitation.

By 1998 Britain was almost unrecognisable.  And for all the cyclical Sixties pomp that fuelled Britpop (as much as the entropy that came with the Conservative party‘s final throes or Euro ‘96), no band could ape the career longevity of many of their inspirations.

Even Walthamstow Stadium could only struggled on another 13 years after making an appearance on Parklife’s album cover.

As I hope whoever nicked my Parklife T-Shirt in ‘97 knows only too well…

And Blur.  Well, from a career that always kept Trellis Towers and the Westway in sight, that album cover said it all.  It was wise to not call the album London, as much as Martin Amis’ London Fields fuelled it and Noel Gallagher saw it as “Southern England personified”.  With traces of prog, electronic, synth, waltz, vaudeville, punk, New Wave it was an album that looked to the past far more than its rather magnificent but underperforming predecessor. With the next two albums, Britpop peak The Great Escape would look to a bleak future and 1997’s post-Britpop Blur would look across the Atlantic.  But for that short time, Britpop, ushered in by Parklife as Heimdall will one day signal Ragnarok, was something special.

All together now: Cool Britannia…

Doggy

BRITPOP

(to the tune of Parklife)

A short career is a preference for the habitual nostalgia of what was known as (BRITPOP)

As boy and girl groups could be avoided if you took a route straight through what was known as (BRITPOP)

Indie got brewers droop, they got intimidated by the dirty labels

They loved a bit of it (BRITPOP)

Who’s that Mad lord marching… you should cut down on your maracas mate… get down to

Camden

[Chorus]

ALL THE LYRICS

JUST NONSENSE LYRICS

THEY ALL WENT HAND IN HAND,

HAND IN HAND WITH EYE-LINER

Know what I mean?

I listened to what I wanted even on school days when I got rudely awakened by Chris Evans (STEVE WRIGHT)

I put the radio on, heard Boys & Girls and I didn’t need to think about leaving out House (BRITPOP)

I heard the southerners I sometimes heard the northerners too it gave me a sense of enormous well being (BRITPOP)

And then I was happy for the rest of the scene safe in the knowledge there would always be a bit

Of my heart devoted to it (BRITPOP)

[Chorus]

ALL THE TRY-HARDS

BEFORE THEY WERE WANNABES

THEY ALL WENT HAND IN HAND,

BAND BY BAND THROUGH THEIR RECORD DEALS

It’s had nothing to do with their “progress through technology” you know?

It was all about cycles that went round and round and round

Britpop

[Chorus]

ALL THE CLASSES

IN THATCHER’S POST-SOCIETY

ALL CHANNELLING THE SIXTIES UNTIL

‘97 CHANGED EVERYTHING.

[REPEAT

… Please]

 

This September: That bizarre notion that The Great Escape was premonitory gets sent to the Dogs…   

 

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