Aug 15, 2020

The Battle of Britpop: the dullest beef in the history of beefs

Blur versus Oasis newspaper graphic

This week, it's 25 years since the Blur / Oasis 'Battle of Britpop'. They went head to head in a battle for number one in what became a definitive moment for 1990s indie music. 

The battle lines were clearly drawn. You were either a chirpy Blur fan prancing around like a jolly Cock-er-nee chimney sweep, or you were a swaggering Oasis fan ready to have a scrap with "our kid".

You had to choose one or the other, like the Mods or the Rockers, like the Beatles or the Stones, like Gordon the Gopher or Edd the Duck. And if you couldn't chose, you just feigned a Jarvis Cocker swoon and kept your nose out of it.

Blur got the number one spot and Noel Gallagher tried to curse them with "catching Aids", but the victory meant nothing. This all-consuming pop war was hollow: a clanging bell full of sound, fury and cobwebs. Yes, there was the class war aspect: the Leadbetters against the Goods, upstairs versus downstairs. But my real issue is one of quality.

It now seems criminal that two bands used their worst singles to create the dullest beef in the history of beefs, resulting in half a million record buyers being ripped off with sub-standard product.

Roll With It is a leaden dirge that wasn't even worthy of a Slade b-side. Country House was Blur at their most annoying, so faux posh that you could imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg enjoying it. That's right: just imagine Rees-Mogg snuggling under the covers with his gramophone, flicking himself off to the line "everything's going jackanory".

I wouldn't mind if this had been a couple of crap bands scrapping it out: if the Cheeky Girls wanted to have a fist fight with Las Ketchup, I'd have just left them to it. But these lads were at the top of their games – and they farted out such nonsense. I can only drool at some alternate universe in which The Masterplan went up against The Universal. Instead we got, in the parlance of South Park, a turd sandwich versus a giant douche bag.

That was only the beginning. The massive media attention then morphed into 'Cool Britannia', the broadsheet-friendly Union Flag-waving version of Britpop that saw Ginger Spice become ruler of South Africa or something. Meanwhile, indie music never quite recovered: this fatal breach of quality opened up the beige hell-mouth that was the Stereophonics, Travis and Satan's favourite band Coldplay.

I'm not necessarily saying that the Oasis versus Blur battle killed indie music forever: that's for you to decide. But what a con it was. Thank goodness for the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy soldiering on during it all, cementing a glorious electronic future, otherwise there'd be no music left worth listening to apart from the ever-fading echo of disappointed sighs. 

As a great philosopher once wrote, "I think I've got a feeling I've lost inside." You, me and the rest of us, Liam.

1 comment:

JPM said...

It was pointed out that if you look at the Country House video, Graham Coxon looks like he's on the edge of a breakdown - really, really not enjoing this moment in their time.