Almost twenty years ago, the world was first introduced to the band Oasis, ushering in a new era of music now commonly referred to as Britpop. 1994 was a transitional year for the industry but in hindsight it was probably the best of the decade. Skimming through the albums that were released, it is insane that all of these could have come out within 52 weeks.
Alice In Chains put out Jar of Flies which became the first EP to top the billboard chart. The genre bending of Beck’s Mellow Gold spawned one of the biggest songs of the year (“Loser”). Green Day’s breakthrough Dookie jumpstarted the pop-punk trend. Hole’s Live Through This came out weeks after the death of Kurt Cobain. Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden put what may be their most popular albums on the same day (The Downward Spiral and Superunknown, respectively) and will co-headline a tour this summer while sadly Weezer and Sunny Day Real Estate, who also accomplished this feat with Diary and Blue Album, respectively, will not be touring together. Superchunk, Pavement, Guided By Voices, Sonic Youth, and Jawbreaker released some of my favorite albums. The crazy part about all of this? It was all done in the first half of the year.
The alternative music boom was reaching its peak in America but in Britain audiences didn’t seem to be getting behind it as they were about to have an era all their own. Blur had been around for a few years. But when they released Parklife they became superstars. Striking the perfect balance between their debut Leisure and its follow-up Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife hit all the right marks. In America, you’re likely to find a lot more Blur fans today then you would have in 1994 but that’s just a testament to how great the band is. You wouldn’t have encountered many Americans shouting along to the title track but you would have found them singing along to then-rivals Oasis.
Oasis was probably the only Britpop band to make it big in America when they were active. Pulp’s reunion may have been a big deal but the fact is they played Coachella and two New York City dates when they finally made it over to America. If William Shatner had not covered “Common People” (on his 2004 album Has Been) Pulp probably wouldn’t have been able to even achieve that much success here.
But Oasis, you could not get away from their songs during the mid-90’s. If they were to reunite tomorrow they could bank on huge audiences in the United States almost every night for at least one run. In the 00’s they may have been on a bad run but if there is one thing Americans love it is seeing bands from their childhood playing their greatest hits.
No other Britpop band sold as many records in America as Oasis did and with good reason. Definitely, Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? really are two near perfect albums. Oasis was on such a roll; they had B-sides that most bands would have killed for. The Gallagher brothers may have thought the hits would never run out but eventually they did. By the late-90’s they had fallen from grace. It could have been that their third album, Be Here Now, was overproduced or it could have just been because audiences were moving more towards the aggressive sounds of Limp Bizkit and Korn.
U.S. music fans may still be catching up to the Brits in discovering how great the Britpop scene was but we at least caught on to one of their biggest acts. Blur has still yet to reach here on their on and off reunion although Damon Albarn brought Gorillaz to us and will be here for a solo tour this summer. Suede will probably never perform beyond the big festival dates and it is unlikely that Pulp will be back. But if Oasis ever decides to give it another shot you can bet that we will all be lining up for it.
Next time: I’ll be celebrating the release of Bob Mould’s new album Beauty & Ruin with a three part guide to his days in Hüsker Dü, Sugar, and his solo work.