Thursday, February 23, 2017

The future is now then

With the benefit of hindsight, 1997 was a pretty extraordinary year in British music. The reactionary, jingoistic Britpop was dead, its "peak" reached with Knebworth the previous year (although, as has been argued elsewhere, its creative peak had actually come in 1994), and by 1997 the movement's former luminaries Blur had performed a complete volte-face, embracing lo-fi aesthetics and looking across the Atlantic to American indie rock (unconvincing from Damon Albarn, if not from Graham Coxon).

As Pitchfork's Stuart Berman has noted, Blur's resultant self-titled fifth album was the first of a torrent of inventive, game-changing, hugely influential British records from the likes of Radiohead, Spiritualized, The Chemical Brothers, Primal Scream, Cornershop, Super Furry Animals and Mogwai, all of which looked forwards rather than merely back. "Listening to Brit-rock's class of '97 now, you don't so much feel like you're revisiting a bygone moment as living in the tense, chaotic future it anticipated."

Berman's only contentious choice is the bloated Britpop hangover of The Verve's Urban Hymns, a pompous, vacuous statement that says nothing except that they'd completely abandoned any interest in making vital, challenging music. The exclusion of The Prodigy's The Fat Of The Land might also raise a few eyebrows - it was one of the year's most significant releases, after all - but in truth 1994's Music For The Jilted Generation was their key LP. I also rate Primal Scream's XTRMNTR much more highly than Vanishing Point, but Berman's right in arguing that the latter successfully salvaged their career and paved the way for XTRMNTR - even if they then blew it with subsequent releases.

Meanwhile, the mock-inclusion of Oasis' Be Here Now indicates that, like me, he wouldn't buy Angus Batey's argument that it's a misunderstood work of genius...

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