Circling Britpop, Briefly

I’ve talked at length about (but am too lazy to dredge up examples of) how my mind seeks completionism. Not exclusively — I can hear a single Mark Ronson remix of Radiohead’s “Just,” for example, and not feel the need to wander down a pigeonhole of mid–00s British remix artists — but selectively, and with relative consistency.

March 2021: Circling Britpop, Briefly

  • “Squares” — The Beta Band
  • “The Dark Room” — Dilated Peoples (w/Vince Staples)
  • “Get By” — Talib Kweli
  • “Just” — Mark Ronson (w/Alex Greenwald)
  • “It Starts and Ends With You” — Suede
  • “All the Things” — Bitter Defeat
  • “Ashes to Ashes” – Boise Cover Band
  • “The Bug Collector” — Haley Heynderickx
  • “Out of Reach” — Sincere Engineer
  • “7/4 (Shoreline)” — Broken Social Scene
  • “The Woman That Loves You” — Japanese Breakfast.
  • “Trust Me” — Guru (w/N’Dea Davenport)
  • “Domino” — Nicole Atkins
  • “Little Rage” — The Mice
  • “Beechwood 4-5789” — The Marvelettes
  • “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me” — Bob Nanna
  • “Can’t Hardly Wait” — Justin Townes Earle

It’s a whole thing with me, part of The Corey Vilhauer Experience: you get the mixtapes and the sometimes lively conversation, but you also have to live with a two-week obsession with some kind of trivial knowledge.

Two months ago, it was another go at Greek mythology, until I realized there was too much to capture in a few weeks and I kind of trailed off. (I’m still reading Song of Achilles, so this one might rekindle yet.) One month ago it was the inner workings of Octopath Traveller, a game in which you wander through eight parallel and rarely intersecting Super Nintendo-era RPG story archetypes: the scholar in search of knowledge, the dancer in search of vengeance, the apothecary in search of … herbs.

This month it’s britpop.

I’ve circled britpop for years.

  • I worked at Best Buy during the peak of the Britpop bubble — those years when Oasis and Blur broke through in the U.S. — and definitely owned a copy of Definitely Maybe, but that’s as far as it ever got.
  • I visited England the summer of 2000 — the literal defining piece of britpop’s name and attitude — though, again, I had missed the movement’s peak relevance by a year or two.
  • I went through a phase of what I now know is called “post-britpop” — the early-era Coldplay, Starsailor, Travis; stuff that was just pop rock in its native England, but felt independent and underground to my Anglophile ears. That was the early 2000s, and britpop was apparently dead.
  • I played D&D with a friend who, unexpectedly, professed a deep love for britpop. He referenced stuff I didn’t know, and in that moment I felt the need to learn it all, but then I had another beer and shot a fireball at someone, I guess.

This month, though, who knows? It’s all back — maybe due to a glancing reference to Pulp, or a reminder that I only really owned the Best Of Blur — and it’s back, with a vengeance. I’m ready to dive in again. I’m ready to obsess.

Now, like an old struggling to understand a new remote control, my mind understanding the concept but overwhelmed by choice, I’m piecing together a history through cultural mixtapes and best-of articles. “We’re approaching the 20-year anniversary of this weird time,” I said to myself, until realizing that I was sadly incorrect.

“30-year anniversary.”

I started this mini-project with a tinge of nostalgia, of a longing for something that almost felt like time-travel — I was there, in England, just after the boom and even closer to the bust — and my mind started trying to put more weight on it, hoping this longing could carry some kind of deep metaphor for loss or sadness or mystery.

And then, after hearing yet another Suede song, I realized I was trying too hard. I couldn’t capture it all — not the symbolism, and not the genre. Sometimes a few words about rediscovering a past musical phenomenon is just a few words about rediscovering a past musical phenomenon, or so I’m sure some philosopher once said.

Anyway, I do really like britpop. I’ll catch ‘em all, yet.

This was lovingly handwritten on March 31st, 2021