This is a re-post of a piece from another blog, about the Manic Street Preachers masterful album from 1994, The Holy Bible. This week, August 29th, 2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of the album’s release in the UK via Epic Records.
In many ways BritPop could be looked at as a direct response to American’s grunge movement of the day, specifically the meteoritic rise of Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana. It wasn’t like Britain didn’t like grunge, a quick watching of the Nirvana dvd ‘Live at Reading’ more then shows this, as does the interpretation of Cobain’s career by several of the leading glitterati of the BritPop movement. Noel Gallagher for example, wrote Oasis’ breakout single ‘Live Forever’ as a direct counter to Nirvana’s ‘I Hate Myself and Want to Die’, expressing essentially that pop stars have some sort of obligation of message to millions of impressionable, adorning fans. It would almost be weird stance for him to take, as in a few short months Oasis would themselves be heavily under the influence of hardcore street drugs (his direct quote on ‘I Hate Myself and Want to Die’ was, “‘Well, I’m not fucking having that.’ As much as I fucking like him [Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain] and all that shit, I’m not having that. I can’t have people like that coming over here, on smack, fucking saying that they hate themselves and they wanna die. That’s fucking rubbish. Kids don’t need to be hearing that nonsense.”). But, as is almost always the case with British pop, it distinctions and chief breaking off point with grunge was a class distinction at heart. As Noel continued, “Seems to me that here was a guy (Kurt Cobain) who had everything, and was miserable about it. And we had fuck-all (the Gallagher’s grew up in a broken home that was incredibly poor), and I still thought that getting up in the morning was the greatest fuckin’ thing ever, ’cause you didn’t know where you’d end up at night. And we didn’t have a pot to piss in, but it was fucking great, man.”
What all this says is a critical distinction of the era’s music geographically (it could probably be extended to the entire post-Elvis pop landscape in the specific countries; American pop music deals in rebellion in a expressionistic, nihilistic way that is incredibly individual, while British pop celebrates the class ascension afforded it’s pop stars. In short, that’s the essential dream of becoming a pop star [but both are rooted in the under class]. It’s why the clothes are so important to the British pop star, and why fashion has been relatively consistent throughout its family tree; Pete Townshend wore Fred Perry in 1965, as did Steve Marriott in 1967. Then so did Desmond Dekker in 1971, then so do Paul Weller and Terry Hall in 1979, as did Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn in 1993, and why Alex Turner did in 2006. It’ll be why the next great artist will in 2015, or 2020). The point of all this is to point out that while BritPop on the surface looked like throwaway cheery pop compared to the doom and gloom of grunge this wasn’t actually the case, BritPop was as depressive as grunge (and in some ways more so) and most of the leading records of the movement clearly exhibit this. In fact several are about this depression, often articulated as either individual existential angst (Suede’s Dog Star Man and Pulp’s This Is Hardcore, or more acutely Oasis’ ‘Morning Glory’ and Blur’s ‘Badhead’ and/or ‘Tracy Jacks’) or the collective crumbling of English imperial class culture (Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish or The Auteurs New Wave, or more acutely Pulp’s brilliant ‘Common People’). Nirvana, and the music that came in their wake, was just music colored in slightly different tones.
This key distinction, that’s just a distinction of articulation of similar themes, is but one thing that makes the Manic Street Preachers The Holy Bible from 1994 such an interesting record. Continue reading