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Britain in the 1990s was a stark contrast to today’s bleak, grey skies, and Britpop perfectly soundtracked the optimistic mood of the nation. For many years, it looked like the good times would never end, but unfortunately, they didn’t keep rolling forever.
The zenith of the Britpop wars came in 1995 as Oasis brought the fight to their fierce rivals Blur in ‘The Battle of Britpop’. Not only did it see the two bands go head-to-head in the singles chart with ‘Roll With It’ and ‘Country House’, but there was also a deep-rooted animosity between them which kept the music press in business.
It was the most-talked-about feud in British music since The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Blur pipped Oasis to the top spot with ‘Country House’ selling over 50,000 copies more than ‘Roll With It’, but in truth, neither track was the group’s magnum opus.
Towards the end of the decade, Britpop officially died a slow and painful death, which has been accredited to Oasis’ third album, Be Here Now, which signalled an end of an era. However, for a short while, it was an unstoppable scene which spawned a series of classic albums, and below, Far Out has ranked the top ten.
The Charlatans formed in 1988 and pre-date the Britpop scene. However, they moved with the times and successfully transitioned from the Madchester scene into its successor. In 1997, they shared their fifth album, Tellin’ Stories, and made one of the definitive records of the era.
It was recorded at the home of Britpop, Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, where Oasis made (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? two years prior. The album is wall-to-wall hits and features Charlatans classics such as ‘One To Another’, ‘How High’, and ‘North Country Boy’, which still take the roof off at their gigs 25 years later.
Released in 1994, I Should Coco remains one of the most jubilant albums of the Britpop era. Boasting the kind of three-chord wonders that defined the output of The Kinks, The Jam and The Buzzcocks, this motor-mouthed masterpiece was enough to make Oasis look self-indulgent. Despite emerging from the same Oxford scene that birthed Swervedriver and Radiohead, Supergrass never had much use for melancholy. Tracks like ‘Alright’ and ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ are perhaps the 1990s’ finest evocations of adolescent joy.
That’s not to say the Oxford group were a one-trick pony. In fact, if I should Coco proves anything, it’s that Supergrass’s more experimental offerings have been shamefully ignored. From the doomy acoustica of She’s So Loose’ to the carnivalesque punk of ‘Mansize Rooster,’ the group’s debut shatters all our assumptions about Britpop. It’s a real testament to Supergrass’ songwriting that I Should Coco still sounds like it was written tomorrow. It’s rare to come across an album so varied and yet so cohesive. Supergrass were truly in a league of their own.
On its release in 1994, Suede’s Dog Man Star sounded like nothing else. Explosively psychedelic and strangely sexy, it sat somewhere between Ziggy-era Bowie and Joy Division and, like all albums that herald something truly new, seemed to have fallen from space.
Suede helped usher in the Britpop era. Of course, that didn’t stop them from resenting it. Dog Man Star’s bleakness is a clear attack on the hollowness of what the movement would come to signify. “As soon as we became aware of it,” he told The Guardian in 2013, “We went away and wrote Dog Man Star. You could not find a less Britpop record. It’s tortured, epic, extremely sexual and personal. None of those things apply to Britpop.”
Radiohead weren’t as intrinsically associated with Britpop as Oasis and Blur, but with their first two albums, they offered a guitar-driven alternative to the Americans’ concurrent grunge scene that was tantamount to the Britpop sound and aesthetic. As much as we might like to include The Bends’ superior follow-up OK Computer on this list, by that point, Thom Yorke and co. had set sail to experimental and compositionally ambitious shores; hence, Britpop would be an ill-fitting label. 
In 1995, The Bends built upon the varied and rather incoherent smorgasbord offered by 1993’s Pablo Honey. Adhering to the moody aura of ‘Creep’, Radiohead brought a new level of sophistication and refinement with essential hits like ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’, ‘Just’ and ‘Planet Telex’. 
The Britpop scene was a male-dominated space, and when the Justine Frischmann-led group emerged, they were a breath of fresh air. Elastica announced themselves emphatically with their debut single ‘Stutter’ in 1993, and almost 18 months later, they finally shared their eponymous first album.
Elastica was one of 1995’s most critically-acclaimed albums, hit number one in the chart, and has sold over one million copies worldwide to date. If Elastica had kept their momentum going and didn’t suffer a tumultuous five years after its release, the band could have become as big as anybody from that era. Despite that, their debut still stands up today and embodies the essence of Britpop.
Following the split of The Jam, Paul Weller removed himself from traditional guitar music and moved into a new sonic territory courtesy of The Style Council. In 1992, he launched his solo career, and his third album, Stanley Road, tapped into the feel-good spirit of the Britpop era.
Although he might not have been part of the same Britpop clique, most artists on this list grew up listening to his work, and on Stanley Road, Weller proved he still had the Midas touch. Album tracks such as ‘The Changingman’ and ‘You Do Something To Me’ are two of the finest moments in his solo canon, which proved there was life in the old dog yet.
The Verve established themselves over the mid-1990s, beginning with their esoteric yet highly acclaimed psychedelic-shoegaze debut, A Storm In Heaven. Over the following years, their sound developed toward something more chart-worthy and associative with the Britpop banner. If 1995’s A Northern Soul murmured, Urban Hymns roared.
The Verve struck a chord with the waning Britpop movement in 1997 with Urban Hymns. The music was punchy, anthemic and chorus-orientated; a surefire combination for chart success when seasoned with Richard Ashcroft’s towering vocal presence. Anthems like ‘Lucky Man’, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ doubtless left Noel Gallagher green with envy.
In a more palpable echo of the 1960s’ media-fabricated rivalry between The Beatles and Rolling Stones, Oasis and Blur rose to the manifestation and goading of the tabloids throughout the Britpop era. Fighting on the charts and the football pitch, Liam Gallagher and Damon Albarn clashed antlers on a number of occasions, polarising fans and fuelling the headlines. 
While Oasis may have won the popularity and sales battles, it can certainly be argued that Blur offered a broader sound with more enduring artistic qualities. Blur’s eponymous fifth album, released in 1997, marked a band at the peak of their powers with a range of poignant ballads and hit singles, including ‘Song 2’, ‘Beetlebum’, ‘You’re So Great’ and ‘M.O.R.’. 
In 1994, Oasis shook a generation with the release of their debut album, Definitely Maybe. The seismic success of the release launched the group into stardom and offered financial repair for Alan McGee’s Creation Records following the debts incurred by My Bloody Valentine’s brilliant but less commercially successful masterpiece, Loveless.
The album encapsulated the zeitgeist of the Madchester blueprint laid out by The Stone Roses et al., brandishing four essential hit singles, ‘Supersonic’, ‘Shakermaker’, ‘Live Forever’, and ‘Cigarettes and Alchohol’. Definitely Maybe went straight to number one on the UK Albums Chart and has since sold over eight million copies worldwide.
Released in 1995, Pulp’s A Different Class arrived as the good ship Cool Britannia pulled into the harbour. The phrase was originally coined back in 1967 by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, but by ’95, it had been usurped by ice cream manufacturers and governments alike.
A couple of years earlier, Jarvis Cocker had expressed his distaste for the brigade of American grunge artists dominating the airwaves. With A Different Class, Pulp rejuvenated the once-cherished British tradition of using pop music to find “the sense of the romantic in the everyday” and made history doing so.
With tracks like ‘Common People’, ‘Bar Italia’ and ‘Sorted For E’s and Wizz’, Pulp reflected Britain’s present – on a moment of guilt-free hedonism – while keeping one eye on age-old eccentricities and societal complexities.
As a result, A Different Class sounds both relevant and astoundingly era-specific. Sure, the giddy optimism of ‘Disco 2000’ couldn’t be less relatable today, but the Cockerian sexual jealousy of ‘Underwear’ and drunken pride of ‘Bar Italia’ still captures what it feels like to be young, horny and bored in modern Britain.
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