Twenty years since Brit Pop. What’s changed?
It’s about 20 years since the emergence of Brit Pop. For those of you too old, too young or too disinterested to care, Brit Pop was a time somewhere between Grunge and hair straighteners. It was quirky, upbeat, loud-mouthed, yet a lot more polite than Punk. It somehow encapsulated the tidal wave of feeling that now a long Tory reign was due to collapse, things in the UK could only get better. Pulp, Blur, Oasis, Lush, Shed 7, Elastica, even (to my shame) Menswear. I turned it up loud.
I embraced Cool Britannia. Girls who were boys who liked boys to be girls smelled of CK1. Working-class people swaggered and swore and became rock n roll stars. Nice middle-class bands had no shame in expressing political views that leaned to the left. We wore short dresses with union jacks on the front and felt brilliant, not bigoted.
Three years later, as I was about to graduate, the rock n roll stars told us to vote for Tony Blair. With no idea as to the charmless man he was about to become, we did in our droves. We really believed that the time for them had passed and that it was now time for us. There were lots of us, and only a few of them. They didn’t stand a chance.
But the victory was bittersweet. The working-class rock stars got rich. We thought we deserved a bit of that action. We turned down the Brit Pop and turned up the bling. As we started to crave the Cristal, we said farewell to the champagne supernova, and hello to Champagne Socialism.
With that, we invaded Iraq, got jobs in banks and started bashing anyone who needed benefits. The Cool Britannia bubble burst, but we barely noticed as we invested our energy into blowing up the housing bubble instead. We worked harder and faster and longer to buy homes with mortgages so large that our Grandparents thought we must be rich. But we weren’t.
We blamed people with very little for our lack of time and expendable cash and ensured that they got even less. We didn’t want to sleep with common people anymore, we wanted to ridicule and hate them as if they were pantomime villains.
There was a brief respite when comedians seemed to be cool, but then they started playing stadiums and told us not to vote, and things went quickly downhill. On the other hand, they had a point. Last time we all bothered voting, it ended with us looking a little stupid. If there is one thing cool people don’t like, it’s looking stupid. Which is why, I suppose, they sit nonchalantly on the sidelines looking slightly annoyed, but not actually doing very much at all.
Now, as I look back through my rose tinted spectacles and forward through the eyes of a mother, forever fearful of what the future holds for the next generation, the thought of me declaring that things are no longer as cool as they were in my day is rather laughable. Seriously, if I start thinking things are hip and groovy, then they most definitely are not. And actually, Brit Pop, while it was quirky and upbeat and loud-mouthed, let’s face it, it wasn’t quite punk, was it?
I listen to some of the soundtracks of the current generation. Each generation has had its dross music, but if you see beyond the X-Factor crew and the twerking, there are still a shed load of tunes, voices, and lyrics that could be forming the next tidal wave of change.
Should anyone be bothered to ride the wave, and willing to take the risk of looking stupid should it all go wrong, then I advise them to turn up the music, sing the songs loud, and sing them together. There are lots of you and only a few of them. They won’t stand a chance.