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Cool Britannia: Your Essential Britpop Playlist

Blur: The band that dude from the Gorillaz was in.
Blur: The band that dude from the Gorillaz was in.

It was announced this week that British bands Blur, New Order and the Specials will be performing at the closing ceremonies of this year's Summer Olympics, which will be held in London in July and August. All three bands represent three distinct parts of British popular music from past 35 years. We can only assume that the Spice Girls wanted too much money.

It's fun to see Blur up there, of course, seeing that at one point that band and Oasis were the hard-living enfant terribles of the British musical press, heading the Britpop machine with a cigarette in one hand and bottle of champagne in the other.

Explaining the parameters of Britpop gets tricky once you really start digging into the nuts and bolts of the title, foisted upon a group of bands from the UK in the early to mid-'90s.

Radiohead traditionally isn't considered Britpop, though they released Pablo Honey and The Bends during the height of the pop-culture obsession with the sound. Along the way, they have been lumped with icons like Pink Floyd and, to a lesser extent, Roxy Music, as great British experimental rock bands, instead of thrust into the likes of Oasis and Blur, who had pop hooks for days. The pronounced Beatles fetish of Oasis was at times comical and noble.

One could debate My Bloody Valentine and Ride as Britpop standard-bearers, but they had less jangle and glitter to them than, say, Gene or even Suede, and are lauded by everyone as shoegaze masters. The line between cute little pop group and Britpop grew vague in the '90s, too.

It gets even more confusing when you take into account proto-Britpop like the La's, Inspiral Carpets, and big bad daddies The Smiths. Second-wave Britpop is usually colored by bands like early Coldplay, Travis, Snow Patrol and Elbow.

There was in fact a time when Travis was almost as popular as Coldplay, around 2001 or so. Early work from The Verve is termed as Britpop, while their Urban Hymns gets this strange modern-rock classification since it became a hit.

Then bands such as Primal Scream, Manic Street Preachers, Mansun, Placebo, Space, Stereophonics, Super Furry Animals, Kula Shaker, and Spacehog get special loving places in the hearts of minds of music geeks as great bands that are sadly unsung.

Blame the program directors at The Buzz back in the '90s for figuring so heavily into that. The 'Hog's Resident Alien and The Chinese Album get more play in my headphones than they ever did upon their release.


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