The Over/Under: Britpop

The Britpop phenomenon might have ended nearly 15 years ago, but it cast such a shadow over the U.K. music scene that its presence is still felt today. Where would groups such as Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys or the Killers be without Blur, Pulp and Oasis? Often maligned as a scene obsessed with fame and fashion, the mid-’90s saw a revival of British creativity and provided a pop-friendly rebuttal to the dominant American grunge sound. By looking backward to the Kinks and Beatles, Britpop set the musical standards for years to come. With Blur back together and Jarvis Cocker on tour, it’s the perfect time to examine the most overrated and underrated bands of the Britpop era.

:: The Five Most Overrated Britpop Bands
1. Oasis

In the Britpop trifecta of Oasis, Blur and Pulp, Oasis was the most successful and the least interesting of the lot. While the band made some good pop songs and had a genuine lunatic in Liam Gallagher, Oasis was the very definition of overrated. From overhyped 1994 debut Definitely Maybe to the NME covers it still graces, Oasis received more praise than it merited. Oasis is like the Quentin Tarantino of the pop world; its first two efforts showed real talent, but the band has spent so long rehashing the same formula that it’s damaged the very reputation those initial works established. How many other groups have soldiered on despite producing nothing of interest since 1997? In a way, it’s impressive. But in another, more accurate way, it’s just sad.

“Roll With It”:

2. Supergrass
Sure, Supergrass was nice and loud. But as much as critics liked to peg the band as “eclectic” and “ambitious,” and even though Supergrass took on everything from psychedelia to house music, somehow the songs tend to blend together. Because Supergrass was ostensibly more thoughtful than Oasis, the critics hyped the group to high heaven, and a massively overrated outfit was born.


3. Elastica
Elastica was a perfectly fine pop group, but with only one decent album under its belt, it’s difficult to see just what has made the band so celebrated. Was it Justine Frischmann’s badass persona? The group’s legacy as one of the few female-friendly crews in Britpop? Upon closer examination, that statement doesn’t really hold: What about Salad, Sleeper, Echobelly, Lush, the Cranberries and other bands with female members that found success during the Britpop era? Elastica’s reputation has grown over the years, while many of those equally interesting groups have been forgotten.

“Car Song”:

4. The Verve
The Verve has one—count it, one—great song, and that is “Bittersweet Symphony.” Not only that, but “Bittersweet Symphony” was immeasurably improved by a Jay-Z remix. The most impressive aspect of the Verve is how Richard Ashcroft has successfully tricked the world into thinking of him as a deep, insightful writer, despite penning lyrics as inane as “Are you invited/To the party of life?/Now you’ve decided/Do you live ’til you die?” The answer to that question is, by the way, yes. Despite having more high-profile break-ups than Jennifer Aniston, the Verve has endured both commercially and critically. While 1995 sophomore album A Northern Soul had its moments, 1997’s Urban Hymns (the band’s biggest success) is one of the most bloated, boring and overpraised albums of the ’90s.

“Bittersweet Symphony”:

5. Manic Street Preachers
The Manics were always in an awkward position; sneering at Britpop’s success but benefiting massively from the scene it helped create, making hit albums such as 1994’s The Holy Bible and 1996’s Everything Must Go. Guitarist Richey Edwards’ mysterious disappearance in 1995 (his family declared him dead in November 2008) made him a martyr for the group, and while his loss is still felt by family, friends and fans, it doesn’t mean that we have to take self-indulgent trash like “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” as “art.” If the Manics had embraced their pop sensibilities, below all the condescending trappings (see “Faster” or “Revol” for a pop sound buried under layers of production) they could have been truly great.


:: The Five Most Underrated Britpop Bands
1. The Boo Radleys

Like their namesake, the Boo Radleys were sweet, sincere and somewhat reclusive. Songwriter Martin Carr might have resisted the Britpop label, but his band’s shoegaze-tinged take on ’60s Britannia showed that the mid-’90s scene was as vibrant and complex as it had ever been. The band broke up in 1999, and that’s a shame. Because in an era of economic collapse, global warming and Orly Taitz, we need bright, hopeful pop songs more than ever.

“Wake Up Boo!”:

2. The Auteurs
The Auteurs, like many other Britpop also-rans, had their one moment of greatness (1994’s Now I’m A Cowboy) before comfortably retreating into history. But this musical footnote actually produced six brilliant albums of jittery British rock in its brief career, thanks to songwriter Luke Haines’ gift with a pop tune. Haines’ sometimes difficult vocals and the band’s eventual move toward house and techno alienated casual fans, but this was the rare Britpop group pushing the envelope rather than going with the crowd.

“Lenny Valentino”:

3. Gene
Gene might have started life as a punchline, but Martin Rossiter’s band of ordinary boys offered so much more than a Smiths pastiche. Sure, Rossiter’s croon bore an eerie resemblance to a certain Pope of Mope, but Gene stood on its own. Deep down, it was a sweet, melancholy group that took the Smiths’ moody lyricism and combined it with an old-school pop sensibility. Sadly, commercial disappointments brought Gene to an end after 2002’s Libertine, but who knows? Maybe one day Gene will be appreciated for the band it was, not the one the press expected it to be.

“Haunted By You”:

4. Marion
Marion managed just two albums in its short career, and only 1996 debut This World And Body managed to chart. While you can hear the band’s influence in modern success stories such as the Killers and Bloc Party, Marion never got the attention it deserved. For a band inspired by British heavyweights like Radiohead, the Buzzcocks and the Smiths, getting Johnny Marr to produce its second album must’ve seemed like a dream, but 1998’s The Program was a commercial failure and the group sputtered to an end at the same time as Britpop itself. Plans for a reunion have been delayed by illness, and Marion fans everywhere are left in limbo. Luckily, there’s only about three of them left.


5. The Longpigs
America has been the graveyard of dozens of British bands, with only Oasis emerging somewhat intact. For evidence of this theory, give an American teenager an acoustic guitar and wait out the seven minutes until he starts playing “Wonderwall.” The Longpigs were another victim of the Britpop curse, and their quirky brand of pop, influenced by Radiohead and Suede, failed to chart overseas. After 1999 sophomore album Mobile Home, the band split. Guitarist Richard Hawley—now a solo artist—played in Pulp and has toured with former frontman Jarvis Cocker, which makes perfect sense: The Longpigs’ tales of broken hearts and pop melodies had Pulp written all over them. And yet somehow this brilliant band never really made it. Maybe it was that name.


—Emily Tartanella

53 replies on “The Over/Under: Britpop”

Auteurs moved into house / techno? ..I don’t think so.
The Auteurs blow away any band on this list. Luke Haines is a genius, and as he stated, The Auteurs will only be truly appreciated much later on after their career.

Check out Luke Haines solo & Black Box Recorder.

Marion’s Phil Cunningham played guitars/keys in New Order on their last album and tour. As much as I loved many of these bands, I could never get into Black Grape, These Animal Men, and Dodgy.

Marion? Really???
There’s a reason why the bands in your “Overrated” list were successful. they had hits! And looked cool as shit doing so….Your “Underrated” list looks as though you didn’t do much research. Can I have a job at Magnet too? I was aged 14 during the height of Britpop and remember more than sweetheart here.

The Verve only had one good song? Okay, so tell me that “A Storm In Heaven” is a terrible album. In reality, “Urban Hymns” isn’t very good, but don’t deny the great shoegaze work that this band released early in their career.

Also, Supergrass is not an overrated band. Their ability to go from their early, teenage pop sensibilities on “I Should Coco” to a far more mature sound later on in their career on “Road to Rouen” shows just how much this band has progressed as songwriters over the years.

Menswe@r was so underrated, lulz!!!

I couldn’t disagree more about Supergrass!!! Judging from the embarrassingly uninformed and very brief writeup you did, I just have to assume that you haven’t listened to all of their records. If anything they are criminally underrated, especially in the U.S.

Is Magnet a British magazine? Apparently so if Manic Street Preachers are overrated. Walk down the street in the US and ask people if Manic Street Preachers are overrated and they won’t know what you are talking about. As usual, the overrated part of this article is pointless.

The Verve have only one good song? And it’s Bittersweet Symphony? By “good” do you mean “song played on US radio”? A Storm in Heaven is a great album that nobody knows. A Northern Soul and Urban Hymns are also excellent albums. I guess I’m not rad enough to dislike a popular album like Urban Hymns.

I have to concur with Marie and Bootyfish re: Supergrass. These guys have a great catalog of songs up to maybe the current release, which I didn’t like enough to purchase. I Should Coco and the following 2 are classics. I’m happy that I’ve gotten to see them live twice and they did not disappoint! Most important current band of the Brit pop ilk, and still reletively unknown to Yanks is Little Man Tate. Awesome and talented band. I also enjoy their little diy, inexpensive but delightful and effective videos. Try all of their early stuff from about 3 years ago before endulging in the latest album from last summer.

Supergrass overrated? Bollocks.
Any band which could produce a record as fabulous as IN IT FOR THE MONEY could hardly be accurately derided as overrated.

And whether they were “britpop” or not is debatable, but as far as underrated bands of the era (and beyond) are concerned, Super Furry Animals.

p.s. I loved Sleeper, Lush, and Echobelly, but they never put together tunes with the impact of the hits from Elastica’s debut. Just sayin’.

Are you kidding me? Oasis overrated? This is just the worst and the most pathetic thing I ever heard in my whole life. So, the rest of the albums are technically for this “place” sh*t. Ah, c’mon!

This person is either mentally retarded or has gone deaf. Have you listened to Dig out your Soul? A genuine great slbum as good as Morning Glory. As for the Verve well A Storm in Heaven is probably the greatest album of the last 20 years. If you believe the words you have just written then I am genuinely concerned for you. Its more likely you’re trying to be controversial. How risque!?

Really Supergrass, Elastica? Overrated? I always thought that they were not given proper recognition.

Could I just say The Verve were never Britpop, they were just mashed into the genre because they were mates with Oasis. Plus have you just diregarded all their other songs apart from Bittersweet. Thats lazy Journalism right there.

well, of course oasis is overrated. brit-pop in gerneral was/is and will always be horrible.

This has to be the worst Britpop article I’ve read in the years 1994-2009!
Oasis are yet to make a bad album and still tour the world with a fanatical following.
Elastica and other smaller bands were riding a wave but had the carpet pulled out from under them when the record companies got bored of “Britpop”…..who knows what they could’ve made in later years.
The Verve’s Urban Hymms contains some classic songs. Bittersweet Symphony was the radio friendly hit……..dig deeper for better songs…….Weeping Willow and Come on being real gems.

Your choice of underrated bands are very art student cool bands but in all honesty they never had the songs to make a success of themselves! Wake Up Boo was possibly the low point of the 90’s for me! I wouldn’t even call The Auteurs Britpop……they were in their own little scene with only sucicidal misery guts taking any notice!

Not heard of Magnet magazine before but if this the level of writing I’ll save my money and time and read MOJO or Uncut.

The Verve’s “A Storm In Heaven” is a great album. Really timeless, still sounds good today. Just put it on for the first time in forever, nice start to my morning, thanks Magnet!!!

More people should be aware of it.

Oasis – Excellent band who have had there ups and downs but still have more Rock n Roll in there little finger than the wet pap that are around at the moment… BLOC PARTY you must be jokin!
The Verve – Like people have said previously – Go listen to HISTORY – On Your Own – Grey Skies…

Emily could you name a few bands\tracks you do like…..

“Oasis was the most successful and least interesting of the lot”

You moron how can they be successful without being interesting? Oasis are 100 x more interesting than any other band of the 90s, with the exception possibly of Nirvana.

Oh Lordy, another pretentious article about somebody who knows so much more about music than us.

The writer of this article has only really listened to these ‘overrated bands’ songs on the radio, without actually going deeper into these bands back catalogues.

I mean, are you really suggesting Roll With It is one of Oasis best songs for example? It’s a terrible song. If you actually listened to Oasis more, you’d find songs such as The Masterplan and Rockin Chair as classic examples of why they are great.

I actually like all these so called ‘overrated Britpop bands’ and another thing, if you knew anything about The Verve, you’d obviously choose one of the classics from ‘History’, but then again, you’ve probably only listened to Urban Hymns. Come back when you have some knowledge you idiot.

I certainly wouldn’t class Verve as Britpop , their first album ,Storm In Heaven is an absolute classic and a “must have” for your collection

Actually the more I read this the more I realise that the writer hasn’t a clue what she’s talking about. Such a bad article and obviously knows nothing about the term Britpop.

It seems to me it me to be famous v less than famous

I helped compile Rhino’s Brit Box, and one of the most common complaints about it was the absence of The Autuers. Sorry, but I think I’m in agreement with James T on this band — they’re unknown for good reason.

I agree with all the overrated not counting The Verve. The Verve are not Britpop for one. If you want to lump Urban Hymns in there, I’ll give you that, but that was basically a Richard Ashcroft solo effort. I do remember you having a Shoegaze issue a while back and listed A Storm in Heaven as essential…REMEMBER? Now they have only one hit, which is all America knows and is off their worst 90’s album? I expect this kind of crap from Rolling Stone or Spin or all the other sh**ty mags, but not you guys.

Some of the lazyest journalism I’ve ever had the misfortune to read, and from such an obviously ignorant US view point too. The Verve had one decent song? Utterly ridiculous thing to say, but then you make it even worse by stating it was “improved by a Jay-Z remix” !? Urban Hymns is one of the greatest albums of all time. Oh and while we’re at it, Oasis are still the best band on earth. I for one celebrate the fact that Americans dont “get” British rock music, we must be doing something right. Stick to your Aerosmith.

That’s it Magnet, keep salivating over Wilco et. all, and slagging a band like Oasis that’s an actual hook driven rock and roll band. Once you started using people like Ace Frehley as ‘guest editors’, you kinda lost the ‘art verus commerce’ argument, so you may as well fully embrace pop culture and abandon any pretense of artistic relevancy. Oh, I guess I forgot, he was the cool guy in Kiss on all those misogynistic, juvenile albums.

that was beyond shit. that emily tart(anaella) deserves to be sacked. please never ever again give a comment about a thing you don’t know anything about. i bet you were still shating your pants in the middle of the 90ies anyway.

Oasis can not be the most overrated band of the period, even to someone who hates them. Surely the frankly awful bands who made their success riding Oasis’s wave are more overrated by the very nature of the concept?

And last year’s Dig out your soul album is truly remarkable.

Only one good The Verve song? What?! And that “was immeasurably improved by a Jay-Z remix?

Ridiculus journalism!
Have you listened to the early singles, A storm in heaven, A northern soul, their B-sides? I think not. And the Verve was not Britpop. The Verve is one of the best bands in history… Can you listen to Star Sail, Slide Away, She’s a Superstar, Stormy Clouds, Gravity Grave, Life’s an Ocean and honestly say they’re no good?

I loved britpop back in the 90’s, how anyone can say the Verve/Oasis etc are overated is a complete joke.

Looks like someone wanted publicity for a site which doesn’t get many hits so decided to write something ridiculous such as this.

The Verve – one song ? How about History or On your own ? Ridiculous.

Oasis – Every album has a lot of great songs on it, it just seems its ‘cool’ nowadays to slate the band. Boring

Emily Tartanella hang your head in shame. Seriously. Who are you? You should be sacked from whatever so called irelevant position you have with this even more irelevant magazine. YOU REALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. I’ve never heard such rubbish before in my life. No wonder I’ve never even heard of magnet if your the kind of person they employ. Firstly, Oasis have sold over 50 million records and without them the music world would be a very different place today. I’m not saying you have to like them. But you cannot underestimate what this band have done for music today. Oasis should not be in your list. Secondly Bittersweet Symphony The Verve’s only decent tune???????? Are you crazy? That song is nothing compared to the rest of The Verve’s back catalogue. They have written some of the most beautiful, inspiring songs ever. Have you even heard Man Called Sun, I See The Door, So Sister, Life’s An Ocean, All In The Mind, History, Slide Away…….I could go on & on. And thirdly Manic Street Preachers ARE truly great. They’ve never been afraid to change sound and experiment. And for not staying the same you think they are overrated!???? 3 of the greatest bands in the world are in your list. You seriously have a warpped sense of reality!

I do however agree The Longpigs were criminally underrated. But that doesn’t mean you are forgiven.

What if The Longpigs had been massive? Would they have been in your most OVERRATED list? Of course they would! Why? Because success is wrong isn’t it?

Manic Street Preachers are britpop since when?
Supergrass overrated? And all of their songs sound the same?
How on earth the songs on ‘I should Coco’ are similar to those on the moody ‘Road to Rouen’???
The Verve only one song? IMPROVED BY JAY-Z?????? That’s too much. Go and listen to A Storm In Heaven…Classic album

I think this article is a perfect example of the lazy journalism that plagues the internet nowadays…

You are an idiot. You fund of knowledge about music is about as reliable as having sunday brunch in Somalia. I hope you dont have a job when you wake up this morning.

This is God. You are no longer welcome here. I hope you enjoy whatever shitty music they play in hell. Eat ass.

Supergrass overrated? Wha?

Also, for underrated, the lack of Teenage Fanclub and Superstar is quite surprising.

whoa! Everyone is so angry in their responses to this article. hehe
Come awwhnn, OASIS is soooooo OVERRATED. Even Noel has had enough of it. Seriiously, I could never get the appeal of this “band”.

Oh god, another North American idiot who pretends to understand British music…. I’m Canadian, but this is just sad… no wonder they think yanks are ignorant and unable to comprehend bands that are uniquely British.

What kind of sad idiot wrote this list…. I hate how so many “journalists” say that bands are overrated just because they’re popular, then proceed to name more obscure bands that they probably found on wikipedia.

Emily Tartanella, you are a disgrace. To say that the Verve only have one great song just shows that you’ve only actually heard one Verve song. What a sad life you must lead.

And I’m sorry, but no way in hell are the Boo Radleys as underrated as you’re trying to make them out to be. They were a decent band. I actually love the Boo Radleys, but really… there are many bands that would deserve an entry on the underrated part of this list. The Boo Radleys are not one of them.

Wow, this article screams out loud “I need attention, so I’ll bash good bands in favor of pretentious art bands that no one has heard of.” There’s a reason the bands you mentioned are obscure. You didn’t even mention underrated Brit pop bands like Stone Roses, The La’s, and James, so please die.

Seems curious to cite Roll With It as Oasis’ most overrated song. As long as you’re going to play that card I’d expect Wonderwall or Champagne Supernova. No mention of the alleged ghostwriting by Damon Albarn of Elastica hits? Apocryphal perhaps, but tell me Car Song doesn’t sound like a Parklife outtake. The Longpigs namecheck made my day. So few remember them as anything but a Radiohead knock-off. Some of Hawley’s best work.

On a more practical note, it’s probably not feasible to attempt to apply this format to a genre, movement or school of music. Simply too much ground to cover as has been amply (and crankily, sheesh) pointed out above. That would explain the glaring exclusion of, say, Neil Hannon. He’s certainly more deserving of underrated status than the Smiths-ripping Gene, no?

Oh, and the graf on The Auteurs is inexcusable for a music journalist. As glenn notes, Haines, both with BBR and under various monikers (Baader Meinhof should be required listening) has continued to produce brilliant work long after The dissolution of The Auteurs. An amazing artist who clearly transcends Britpop. Let’s try harder next time…

Is it suddenly cool to like all of the lesser-known, shit bands from the britpop now? I can count the amount of good britpop bands on my hand and at least three are on that list (and the Manics aren’t britpop!).

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