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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Are we in Britpop's second wave?
By Stephen Dowling
BBC News

This week marks 10 years since the height of Britpop, when Blur and Oasis went head-to-head in the charts. Is the current crop of UK bands now picking up where they left off?

Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos
Franz Ferdinand have sold more than a million albums in the US
In the mid-1990s, bands like Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Suede and Supergrass gave British music one of its most successful periods for decades.

But, with the benefit of a decade's hindsight, was it all just a dummy run for what could be Britpop's finest hour?

British groups seem to be taking the world by storm again. Franz Ferdinand came from nowhere to sell more than a million copies of their debut album in the US alone.

Kaiser Chiefs, borrowing a guitar-pop template that would have been at home in the heady days of 1994, have created enough buzz to perform at the Philadelphia leg of Live 8.

And Keane, a band whose sound owes much to post-Britpop groups such as Travis and Coldplay, have become stars from Mexico to New Zealand.

Kaiser Chiefs
Kaiser Chiefs - early Blur for 2005?
As for Coldplay, their songs waft out of malls in Toronto, beachside bars in Bali and Moscow nightclubs. They are arguably the biggest band in the world.

So are we seeing British groups reap the rewards of the efforts of bands a decade ago?

"You could say that, but you'd be wrong," according to Andrew Mueller, who was reviews editor of music weekly Melody Maker during the Britpop years.

"Coldplay's success in the US has been, if anything, despite Oasis and Blur, not because of them.

"Coldplay have, instead, followed the U2 model - embrace the place, tour relentlessly, show up at every meet-and-greet you're invited to, smile, be gracious, be humble and don't complain that the Yanks don't make tea properly."

Mr Mueller thinks much of the music from the Britpop period has not aged particularly well.

Coldplay have had the international success that eluded Oasis
"With that scene, as with others, a lot of really good stuff attracted imitation by a vast legion of ambulance-chasers and bandwagon-jumpers," he says.

"Pulp's Different Class and Blur's Parklife still sound just dandy. Whereas it is difficult, not to say disturbing, to imagine anyone still listening to Menswear."

Menswear guitarist Simon White now manages Bloc Party, one of the most acclaimed bands of the new indie crop, and says most Britpop bands were "not really that great".

Like Britpop, record labels are again desperate to sign any acts with a certain sound, he says.

"Any old band is getting a record deal if you've got some of the right influences.

"I think the quality's really low at the moment if anything. I think there's very little that will stand the test of time here."

These bands today haven't had the phenomenal status at home
Mark Sutherland
BBC 6 Music
Mark Sutherland, an ex-Melody Maker editor and NME staff member who is now news editor of BBC 6 Music, thinks this generation's most successful bands have learned the mistakes of Britpop.

But he also says bands as popular as Coldplay are not as big as Oasis were in 1995.

"I think it's hard to understand it unless you were there," he says. "They were as big as any British band ever - as big as The Beatles.

Clockwise from bottom left: The Boo Radleys' Sice, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, Blur's Damon Albarn and Sleeper's Louise Wener
The class of 1995 included Jarvis Cocker (left) and Damon Albarn (right)
"These bands today haven't had the phenomenal status at home, they have been more concerned about the international market."

Blur and Oasis did not crack American because they did not need America, he argues.

"Whereas even a band like Franz Ferdinand - who are thought of as being a bit more arty - are prepared to play that game."

Franz Ferdinand's million-strong US sales would have been unheard of for mid-'90s also-rans such as Sleeper, Echobelly and Cast.

But Britpop may go down as Britain's last great unifying music scene, says Jody Thompson, a former news editor at NME.

Maybe the Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand can eventually match up to the 90s Britpop era but it's hard to tell right now with only their debut albums to go by.
Kirsty Telford

"That's not necessarily for it's quality, but because of the political, artistic and social climate of the time as well," she says.

"Britpop kind of became the poster boy for a resurgence of British culture as a whole and all aspects became interconnected - like Damien Hirst directing Blur's Country House video."

Bands getting success now may find it lasts longer, she says.

"But then it's probably more liberating for the bands around right now anyway - they can develop at their own speed without the weight of the nation's expectations on their output."


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