Alwyn Turner on some contributions from the rockier end of the Britpop spectrum:
Anna, ‘Pretty Jesus’ (1993)
I saw Anna at the Moonlight Club in West Hampstead, London, around the time that this was released. They were noisy and enthusiastic and had a loyal little following. They also did a fine version of Robert Palmer’s best-known song, which they retitled, with admirable directness, ‘Addicted to Drugs’. Apart from that, I knew nothing. Now that I look them up, I discover that they comprised Pete Uglow, Darren Lynch, Philip Lynch and Cormac, and that they came from Croydon.
They’d already had a couple of releases on Go! Discs by this stage, without making much impression, and had recently signed to Free, with whom they were to release their solitary album, 101-ism, later in 1993. And that didn’t make much impression either.
But maybe it should have done. This is the sort of indie-pop-metal that Terrorvision were starting to make a name with at the time: a big, dumb riff, some shouty vocals, and a singalong chorus.
2 Tribes, ‘What Do They Want from Us?’ (1991)
So I clearly have a pretty loose definition of Britpop – it has to be a British guitar band from the 1990s and, er, that’s it. And on those flimsy grounds, 2 Tribes count, though not really on any others. They were primarily a rock band, with strong elements of funk, the occasional reggae-ish bassline and some fiercely committed politics.
This was their first single, released on Chrysalis in 1991 and then again in 1993. On neither occasion did it get anywhere commercially, despite a Top of the Pops appearance. Nor did anything else, but they did release two albums, 2 Tribes (1992) and Race Against Time (1993). By the time of the latter, it felt to me as though they were losing their identity a little, being pushed towards a mainstream that wasn’t interested. From the second album came a fine single ‘File Under Rock’, one of their earliest songs, intended as a statement of intent: ‘This ain’t Soul 2 Soul, this is rock ‘n’ roll.’
None of the recordings, though, quite matched up to their live shows, with an act honed by a support slot on Tin Machine’s It’s My Life tour in 1991.
RPLA, ‘Last Night a Drag Queen Saved Your Life’ (1993)
This isn’t very Britpop either. But it is absolutely magnificent, a perfect pop single from the opening audio clip (‘Oi, where do you think you’re going, all dressed up like the Queen of Sheba?’) through the irresistible riff and Mott the Hoople backing vocals to the final audio clip (‘The roughs are coming!’). The title is a work of genius in itself and the lyrics don’t let the side down:
I know you want sex with any four-limbed boy.
How many times can you mouth the words to Murder Ahoy?
In short, as though metal weren’t camp enough already, here came RPLA to create the queerest take on glam rock since T. Roth and Another Pretty Face.
RPLA weren’t actually a new band. Fronted by James Maker, they’d made their debut back in 1986 under the name Raymonde, purveying Morrissey-influenced indie and getting themselves a Peel session on the strength of it. By the time of the last Raymonde single, ‘Destination Breakdown’ (1988), though, they’d toughened up considerably, and there’s little to separate that from the RPLA material.
Sadly, there’s no video for this song, though there is for the singles on either side: ‘Unnatural Woman’ (1991) and ‘Absolute Queen of Pop’ (1993). But this is the masterpiece: as muscular as the Cult, and as over-the-top as Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction…
Addendum: Since first posting, this has been taken down from YouTube, so here’s the video for ‘The Absolute Queen of Pop’ instead – not quite as good, but still very fine:
World of Leather, ‘Baby Yamamoto’ (1994)
As a song title, one of the few from the mid-1990s to rival ‘Last Night a Drag Queen Saved My Life’ was World of Leather’s single ‘Future Ex-Pop Star’ (1994). This was the follow-up to that release and it’s gorgeous. I think it’d be fair to say that they’d heard some David Bowie records from the early ’70s and fancied having a go at that combination of acoustic and electric guitars on a big, stately anthem. Obviously the guitar solo could have done with being played by Mick Ronson, but that’s true of just about every guitar solo in the world. Nice to have Kentish Town referenced in the first line, as well.
Britpop part 1 (Cud, Denim, Menswear, Zuno Men)
Britpop part 2 (Kingmaker, Telstarr, Elcka, Echobelly)
Britpop part 3 (Sleeper, the Other Two, Helen Love, Kenickie)
Britpop part 4 (Catwalk, Engine Alley, Drugstore, Linoleum)
Britpop part 5 (Eggman, Edward Ball, McAlmont & Butler, Me Me Me)