Sleeper – Nice Guy Eddie (1996)
Technically Sleeper were 75 per cent male but in terms of media coverage they were very much outspoken singer Louise Wener and, somewhere at the back, three instrument-wielding Sleeperblokes (including guitarist Jon Stewart, who didn’t go on to front The Daily Show).
Reading between the lines of her memoir Different For Girls (later republished as Just For One Day), Wener – now an author – seems a bit down on Sleeper. In fact they hit that Britpop sweet spot between indie-tastic guitar, witty lyrics and hit-making ability, even if the asthmatic Louise’s breathy voice was not to all tastes.
They had a fine string of singles to ensure they had a life beyond Wener’s headline-grabbing interviews, including Dale Winton-endorsed breakthrough ‘Inbetweener’, Elvis Costello-covered ‘What Do I Do Now’, and their top-ten entries ‘Sale of the Century’ and ‘Nice Guy Eddie’.
A happy mixture of disco drums and rocking riff, ‘Nice Guy Eddie’ is topped off with a lyric that’s still fun more than 20 years later. Nothing to do with the Reservoir Dogs character (as far as I can work out), it contains the use of the phrase ‘your heart is dicky’, though – spoiler alert! – the male protagonist dies, choking on an olive, causing ‘dismay from friends he was close to’, which I guess it would really.
‘Nice Guy Eddie’ was from Sleeper’s 1996 album The It Girl, their second and most successful. They then rushed out another LP Pleased to Meet You, which failed to produce any hits, and were dropped by their record label. They promptly split, intra-band relations not helped by the fact that Wener had begun the group’s life in a relationship with Stewart and ended it with drummer Andy Maclure.
Still, we’ll always have ‘Nice Guy Eddie’, with Louise’s bizarre shuffling dance on TFI Friday and that most Britpop of things on the b-side – a cover of ‘Inbetweener’ by DJ Mark Radcliffe.
The Other Two – Tasty Fish (1991)
Ever wondered what New Order would have sounded like if Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook had not been in it? Exactly like Saint Etienne, it turns out.
Although this was released in 1991, I’m having this in Britpop, not least as it was Gillian Gilbert and Steven Morris that wrote the music to the movement’s 1990 football-celebrating overture, ‘World in Motion’. Originally Kim Wilde was meant to sing ‘Tasty Fish’ but ‘she kept going on holiday’ and New Order’s keyboard player Gilbert did a fine job instead.
As for why they made their own spin-off, as Sumner and Hook had already done, Morris told Britpop hack Stuart Maconie: ‘We thought New Order would start up again last year but it didn’t. Anyway, we’d just turned down this soundtrack, Jute City, so we thought we’d make a record out of all the stuff we had lying around.’
The excellently-named album The Other Two and You eventually came out in 1993 with the previously-released single as the lead track (its name comes from a Stockport fish and chip shop and has nothing to do with the lyrics).
As it happens the delay in bringing out the The Other Two and You meant it appeared simultaneously with New Order’s Republic and was largely ignored. The Other Two (what with being the other two) never had the hits of Sumner’s Electronic or Hook’s Monaco, though there was a second album, Super Highways, in 1999. It still sounded like Saint Etienne, which is irrefutably a good thing.
Helen Love – Long Live the UK Music Scene (1998)
Welsh band Helen Love, named after their lead singer, would probably hate being lumped in with Britpop, what with this tune being dedicated to slagging it off. Well, tough. I decide what’s Britpop (unless vetoed by Stuart Maconie obviously).
Helen Love were formed in 1992 and their musical inspiration was made clear by their second single being called ‘Joey Ramoney’ – in fact Joey himself was to duet with Helen on ‘Punk Boy’, as covered by Ash. Anyway, having released their first two albums Radio Hits and Radio Hits 2 (strictly singles compilations), in 1998 Helen Love turned their/her attention to the UK music scene.
With their trademark bubblegum/Ramoney sound, their intentions are clear with the sarcastic refrain ‘Chris Evans and Shed Seven will save the UK music scene’. Castigating Ocean Colour Scene as they will ‘never sell more records than Gina G’, Helen Love’s feelings, on the dying embers of Britpop were clear:
Spend 80,000 on a video to play a minute on The Chart Show
Fly-posters all over London Town
How we pissed ourselves when your single went down, down, down.
The song (like all Helen Love’s admittedly pretty similar output) is damned catchy, but I am throwing a flag on the record American football-style for having a go at the Bluetones. Still, like the Bluetones, Helen Love are still going and happily sound exactly the same, including their marvellous Euro 2016 single ‘A Boy From Wales Called Gareth Bale’.
Kenickie – Nightlife (1997)
I’m aware Lauren Laverne has gone on to a life after being the singer in Kenickie but surely she must end a lot of her radio shows thinking: ‘Actually none of the records I just played were nearly as good as the ones I made in the late 1990s’ (especially if it’s Late Night Women’s Hour).
Sunderland’s Kenickie were formed in 1994 when Laverne (real name Lauren Gofton) and her band-mates were mere slips of teenagers and they only lasted four years, but they packed a lot in, championed by the Ramones (like Helen Love, Kenickie were heavily influenced by everyone’s favourite New Yorkers) and Courtney Love, and producing many fine songs.
‘Nightlife’ came from the first of their two albums, 1997’s At The Club, which also included ‘Come Out 2 Nite’, a John Peel’s Festive 50 No. 1. Kenickie never had big hits but should have done – this is catchy enough to make Helen Love sound like the most self-indulgant prog. Also, this appearance on Channel 4’s Fresh Pop shows why it is no surprise at least one of their members went on to a career in broadcasting.
Britpop part 1 (Cud, Denim, Menswear, Zuno Men)
Britpop part 2 (Kingmaker, Telstarr, Elcka, Echobelly)
Britpop part 4 (Catwalk, Engine Alley, Drugstore, Linoleum)
Britpop part 5 (Eggman, Edward Ball, McAlmont & Butler, Me Me Me)
Britpop part 6 (Anna, 2 Tribes, RPLA, World of Leather)