Late last year, the celebrated British photographer Kevin Cummins released an iconic book of photos, While We Were Getting High, that recalled the finest years of what-became-known-as Britpop. Running (roughly) from 1993 to 1997, with the key years of impact covering 1994-95, it still feels like the last great creative explosion of music entwined with culture that took the UK into the stratosphere across the Globe. Sure, British music has always found a place out there but there was something special about those years, where every aspect of the music became an identity for those of us bang in the middle.
While Cummins book hailed his photography of the era, this new vinyl release delves deeply into another vital aspect – the music. For me, there’s been a plethora of Britpop-related music releases, but they usually contain the obvious tracks that smashed through to the mainstream from all the classic bands including Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Suede and The Bluetones – containing tracks we all love but have heard a thousand times (literally in my case) before, and don’t really need again. Thankfully on Caught Beneath The Landslide, we finally get a chance to remember something different!
For this review, I’ve been exploring the double LP with 26 tracks (there’s also a 4xCD set with 71 tracks here) that covers those aforementioned bands but also lesser-spotted acts, and it’s not the same tunes either, it’s B-Sides, remixes and those songs that will no doubt be on your CD singles somewhere but, let’s face it, if you didn’t sell them years ago to help with rent *hands up here*, then they’re buried amongst the shelves of endless nostalgia.
This compilation, from kings of the moment Demon Music, is The Other Side of Britpop and the ‘90s – because let’s not forget bands like Blur and Suede were already around before Oasis took the mantel, and the label ‘Britpop’ was an easy handle for the press to grab and spread across all kinds of styles and approaches. But, importantly, that doesn’t make it any less brilliant. While there was a definite associated style that grew from the scene, I don’t think anyone was too worried about their image because it was all about the music and these 26 tracks take us deep inside that, like a welcome return to songs you either never discovered or remember somewhere deep in the mind. Think of it as your week day night, listening to the Evening Session with Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley, combined with fine-looking lingering on the fringes of John Peel’s show.
Cummins assembled this selection with Michael Mulligan and Ben Stanley, two chaps with vast music knowledge, and they’ve worked with the bands and music labels across the included. Everyone you can think of is included from Blur, Suede, Elastica, Gene, The Bluetones, Dodgy, Lush, Pulp (and a Lush/Pulp team-up for Ciao!), Kenickie, Oasis, The Charlatans and beyond. While it did remind me I’m personally not fond of Echobelly (I guarantee you’ve all got a band you never really ‘got’), it was great to be reintroduced to the likes of The Auteurs with the first mix of Lenny Valentino, and a great original version of I’ll Manage Somehow from Menswe@r.
The record includes The Lightning Seeds cover of Pink Floyd’s Lucifer Sam,which is vastly different to everything else poppy you know from their excellent Jollification album, and Black Nite Crash by Ride, a band I felt were always around but never quite dropped onto my radar, despite Andy Bell eventually forming Hurricane #1, and then joining Oasis. This is a killer track though. You’ve also got Ash’s ace cover of ABBA’s Does Your Mother Know, as well as Supergrass taking on the Mickey Newbury/Kenny Rogers Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) and – also –Sleeper’s iconic cover of Blondie’s Atomic, which sat perfectly on the Trainspotting soundtrack.
As Kevin mentions in the sleeve notes, the Manics and Primal Scream were never really considered ‘Britpop’ despite being there throughout, so it’s good to have the latter here with the Dust Brothers remix of Jailbird. Other first class remix versions included on Caught Beneath the Landslide are Paul Weller Vs Portishead with Wild Wood, the Hexadecimal Mix of Radiohead’s Planet Telex (and trust me, change the last minute to 45rpm to really push the track), and the Lucky 13 mix of Kula Shaker’s Tattva. Closing the vinyl is and that Brendan Lynch mix of Champagne Supernova by Oasis, it features Paul Weller on guitar and backing vocals, which concludes everything quite effortlessly, as you’d expect.
This is a welcome addition to the recent re-releases and special editions of Britpop, and other music, from that era in the 90s. I felt like I’d dived back into being sat in my room with the radio on, discovering new tracks, revisited old classics and reinventions, and loving it all the way. A mighty selection that celebrates and honours all those songs, acts and the era in equal measure.