Top 40 Greatest Britpop Albums
Following in the wake of Madchester and defying American grunge's fatalist attitude, Britpop ruled Britannia and provided a glimmer of sunshine to the drab and overcast streets of 1990s UK. From the bouncy rhythms of The Farm to the seductive lyrics of Pulp, we take a look at the 40 best Britpop albums that changed Britain for the better.
40. Sleeper - The IT Girl (1996)
Sleeper's sophomore effort showed very little progression from their debut, Smart, but fans of the band will still find an LP of enjoyable punk rock tracks. Opener 'Lie Detector' is practically a punk song in a time of hope caught up in “Cool Britannia”, and 'Statuesque' was good enough to be featured towards the climax of the sensational 1996 film, Trainspotting, which revealed a new way of looking at Britpop and urban city life.
39. The Bluetones - Expecting To Fly (1996)
Expecting To Fly is largely typical Britpop, but it does contain its fair share of great songs. Opener 'Talking To Clarry' begins in psychedelic, progressive fashion before seemingly fusing the likes of Australia's Silverchair with optimistic, undeniably British rock. The Bluetones also enjoyed moderate success with singles 'Cut Some Rug' and 'Slight Return', the latter of which is easily the highlight of the LP and feels like it was destined for 90s radio.
38. Dodgy - Homegrown (1994)
Homegrown is folky, jangly and undoubtedly inspired by legendary rock band Blue Öyster Cult, which is particularly evident on Dodgy's best single, 'Staying Out For The Summer'. Other tracks like 'So Let Me Go Far' take a departure from harder rock and opt to jump on the optimism bandwagon that Britpop is so well known for adopting. Dodgy's Free Peace Sweet is almost as good as their debut, with its lead single 'Good Enough' proving largely popular on radio, but it's Homegrown that defines their folk-based, shaky sound so well.
37. Sleeper - Smart (1995)
Smart is the direct, smirking debut of Sleeper, opening with the tastefully blunt description of everyday life, 'Inbetweener': "She stops for a coffee, she smiles at the waiter, he winks at his friends and they laugh at her later." Vocalist Louise Wener seems hungrier on this record than Sleeper's second album, utilising the group's punk rock roots to her advantage, and with thick, grungey guitars settling just under her casual vocal delivery, Smart is exactly what it says it is.
36. James - Seven (1992)
Sitting comfortably between Gold Mother (which features the classic 'Sit Down') and Laid, Seven is arguably James' best album. Opener 'Born Of Frustration' could even be the band's best song, and is surely their best chance at riling up a festival crowd with singer Tim Booth's atmospheric calls. Seven is early 1990s Britain in a nutshell - football heartbreak, the ravers' sunset - and yet it was also a subtle indicator of that new-found optimism just waiting to take the UK by storm.
35. Echobelly - Everyone's Got One (1994)
Echobelly's debut is a treat - punchy rhythms and thick sounding guitars make for a highly listenable, tightly produced record. Frontwoman Sonya Madan oozes confidence throughout, with tracks like 'Insomniac' and 'Father Ruler King Computer' pushing her fluctuating coos. With the latter track being about Madan's discontent with arranged marriages, Everyone's Got One is not just another hopeful Britpop record - it's a constructive sign o’ the times.
34. Shed Seven - A Maximum High (1996)
Shed Seven’s sophomore effort is tightly produced, loud and proud and is one of the defining British records of 1996. Album opener ‘Getting Better’ is practically the rocky, bulky cousin of D:Ream’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’'; perhaps the ultimate anthem for the 1990s’ “Cool Britannia”. The rest of A Maximum High is defiantly enjoyable, especially the track ‘Parallel Lines’, a developed piece which contains the lyric that the album’s name comes from.
33. Cast - All Change (1995)
Cast are probably best known for their hit ‘Finetime’, which peaked at number 17 on the UK singles chart. While it’s certainly the highlight of their debut album, All Change, other tracks like opener ‘Alright’ and the atmospheric ‘Mankind’ serve as delightfully sunny, working class Britpop. Singer John Power (ex The La’s) opts for a Hunky Dory era Bowie at times but it’s beautifully matched with Cast’s powerful persona - it’s no wonder the LP ended up being the biggest selling in Polydor’s history.
32. Pulp - This Is Hardcore (1998)
Pulp’s album which stands as their farewell to Britpop is an evident change in direction from their previous, obsessive, street culture ballads. This Is Hardcore reflects a lot of the Sheffielder’s earlier work (the chorus on ‘Help The Aged’ could easily fit on most tracks on Different Class) but their sixth album includes more experimental tendencies, like lounge and art rock. Not to mention, the title track is moody, suave and contains all the swagger that Pulp have had since His ‘N’ Hers, with Jarvis Cocker leading the way for a fruitful change in style and approach.
31. The Boo Radleys - C'mon Kids (1996)
Shoegazers turned Britpoppers The Boo Radleys released C’mon Kids for the young ones themselves: “We didn't want to scare away the hit-kids, we wanted to take them with us to somewhere that we'd not been before,” said frontman Simon Rowbottom in 2005. Their fifth record explores the 1960s-influenced Britpop that became synonymous with bands like Oasis, Kula Shaker and Ocean Colour Scene, with psychedelic touches like mystic gang vocals and airy guitars on tracks like ‘Four Saints’ and ‘Bullfrog Green’.
30. Echobelly - On (1995)
Echobelly’s second album builds on the balladry of the first, this time honing in on the power chords that make the group sound so huge. By fusing the casual attitude at the time with big choruses, Echobelly proved themselves as Britpop giants not to be overlooked. Tracks like ‘Natural Animal’ perfectly cement this notion, but others such as the opener, ‘Car Fiction’, offer a crazed, punchy vibe to break up some of the seriousness.
29. Space - Spiders (1996)
Quirky Liverpool outfit Space released their magnum opus in 1996. Featuring big singles ‘Dark Clouds’, ‘Me And You Versus The World’ and ‘Female Of The Species’, Spiders is a highly danceable and light-hearted Britpop record. The Liverpudlians also touch on some of the baggy and electronic sounds of the late 1980s and early 1990s, most apparent in the bounciness on the highlight that is ‘Neighbourhood’.
28. Black Grape - It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah (1995)
Shaun Ryder’s post-Happy Mondays group Black Grape took all the Madchester gleam and stirred it up with electronica and infectious groove. The LP oozes cool and doesn’t for a second feel inferior to the Mondays - it holds its own well enough to provide a ‘further listening’ type demeanour for both the kids who just missed the summer of love in 1989, as well as the ravers looking for a little fresh nostalgia.
27. Shed Seven - Change Giver (1994)
Shed Seven’s debut album has been dubbed ‘lad rock’ by The Guardian’s Caroline Sullivan, but it’s more than that. Filled with jangly, nigh on garagey riffs, Change Giver is a nightlife album which is at times menacing. Take ‘Dirty Soul’ for instance - polished, infectious and likely influenced by Wales’ Manic Street Preachers. It’s bluesy, jangly and a little rough around the edges, and thoroughly enjoyable throughout.
26. The Boo Radleys - Giant Steps (1993)
Are The Boo Radleys more shoegaze than Britpop? Possibly. Considering them shoegaze would either make this entry null, or warrant adding Adorable’s Against Perfection to this list. Conveniently, most of the record comprises of fully-fledged alt rock tunes, with a few snippets of top quality shoegaze like on ‘Rodney King - Song For Lenny Bruce’ - a track far closer to My Bloody Valentine than Pulp or Suede.
25. Blur - Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993)
Modern Life Is Rubbish is Blur’s first entry on this list - the first of many, it must be said. This record contains hits such as ‘For Tomorrow’ and ‘Chemical World’ and attempts to centre Blur’s outstanding creativity. This along with Blur’s next two records would see the Colchester band lead the way for Britpop and 1990s UK music in general - a very important breakthrough considering their prior poor reception in the United States and the growing popularity of British counterparts Suede.
24. Ocean Colour Scene - Moseley Shoals (1996)
Moseley Shoals is the record which contains ‘The Circle’, the Beatles-esque ‘The Day We Caught The Train’ and the incendiary ‘The Riverboat Song’. A firm favourite amongst fans during Britpop’s sunset, Ocean Colour Scene sound like The Beatles and The Jam joined forces to write festival and nightclub anthems; an impressive and coherent pair of influences considering Paul Weller and co. already sampled The Beatles’ ‘Taxman’ for their very own ‘Start!’.
23. The Farm - Spartacus (1991)
Many people may consider this album part of the baggy or electronic culture which exploded in 1989, but Spartacus contains some undeniable Britpop tunes such as ‘Sweet Inspiration’ and ‘How Long’, along with the irresistible ‘Groovy Train’ . It seems fitting to tar The Farm with the same Britpop brush as the other entries in this list, mostly because of their less dance-oriented sounds compared to the likes of Stereo MC’s, Saint Etienne, The Shamen and EMF, the latter of whom held major short-term success with their catchy hit, ‘Unbelievable’.
22. Elastica - Elastica (1995)
Elastica’s hit ‘Connection’ was not only popular for the time, but also found its way as the theme song for British comedian Dom Joly’s hilarious Trigger Happy TV. Frontwoman Justine Frischmann is not only cool and collected but highly desirable as a leading woman. Both herself and Echobelly’s Sonya Madan became something of cult female icons in the British scene at the time. Elastica houses great tracks throughout, with the unmistakable influence of Blondie very much evident.
21. Mansun - Attack Of The Grey Lantern (1997)
Mansun’s story is something of a tragedy - they went from enjoying a successful Japanese tour and being featured on Top of The Pops to being thrown into lacklustre reception, financial disarray and personal backstabbing. Still, Paul Draper’s band are to be widely celebrated - Attack Of The Grey Lantern (named after the alter ego that Draper donned to avoid stagefright) contains great tracks such as ‘Taxloss’ and the monumental ‘Wide Open Space’. It seems there are reasons that Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead thought this record was better than his own, genre-defining OK Computer after all.
20. The Auteurs - New Wave (1993)
Another band that have The Beatles to thank are The Auteurs - just listen to ‘Bail Out’; despite being released in 1993, it feels like it could easily have been a B-side on Revolver or their self-titled effort (‘The White Album’). New Wave doesn’t follow conventional Britpop - it’s not audacious, cool or seductive; it’s not even new wave in the usual sense. Instead, it’s folky, honest and poetic. Not only was it a breath of fresh air, but also largely impressive both in terms of lyrical composition and grand songwriting.
19. Supergrass - Supergrass (1999)
It seems that as the Britpop era was coming to an end, Supergrass weren’t willing to enter the new millennium without a fight. Their self-titled effort is filled with fantastic tracks, from the fan favourite ‘Pumping On Your Stereo’ to the fast-paced, jangly ‘Jesus Came From Outta Space’. The CD also offers a reason to own the physical copy, with its x-ray style green cover and the cardboard-like backing.
18. Blur - 13 (1999)
Blur’s 13 went back to the band’s roots following their highly American-influenced record beforehand, Blur. Fans can enjoy Britpop staples like ‘Coffee & TV’ and ‘Tender’, which are a nod to their previous material but also show signs of experimenting with art rock and lo-fi. It seems the band opted for the New Order method of packaging by utilising in-house artwork (in this case, a section of a painting by band member Graham Coxon) as well as ensuring no logos or mention of the band’s name appeared anywhere on the physical release.
17. Oasis - Be Here Now (1997)
Be Here Now is not up to the same standard as the group’s first two records, nor their compilation album, The Masterplan. Fact. However, that’s not to say it’s not a good album, or that it’s audacity can be understated. Sure, the album wouldn’t even have existed without cocaine, but isn’t that what rock ‘n’ roll is all about anyway? Liam Gallagher seems to think so too, going on to rank it as a 10/10 Oasis album in an NME feature in 2018. There are some great tracks to be had: ‘D’ya Know What I Mean?’, ‘My Big Mouth’ and ‘All Around The World’ (although the fact the latter is over nine minutes long is tedious to say the least).
16. Supergrass - In It For The Money (1997)
It seems Supergrass are a little overlooked in the role they played for Britpop in the 1990s, maybe because they’re more like The La’s than Oasis or Blur. Still, they managed to create three practically flawless records, and this is one of them. In It For The Money contains huge tracks like the optimistic ‘Sun Hits The Sky’ and the tastefully punk rock ‘Richard III’, a firm favourite of The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett. In 2000, Q magazine ended up placing it at as the 57th best British album ever, and rightfully so.
15. Suede - Dog Man Star (1994)
Suede’s first entry on this list is Dog Man Star, a more melancholy, focused record containing tunes like ‘We Are The Pigs’ and ‘The Wild Ones’. This album is not as fun or lighthearted as other releases like their self-titled debut or Coming Up, but amidst the tensions between frontman Brett Anderson and guitarist Bernard Butler came this magnificent LP. The consequences of such disagreements also resulted in the song ‘The Asphalt World’, a true epic that might just be the greatest Britpop track of all time.
14. Blur - Blur (1997)
Blur’s international recognition perhaps reached its peak with their 1997 self-titled album, following their 1995 Japan tour and 1996 live album, Live At The Budokan. Influenced by both American lo-fi acts and grunge bands, from Pavement to Nirvana (with Nirvana’s influence very apparent on ‘Song 2’ - ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ anyone?), Blur took the masculine sound of Britpop to a new extreme and created this LP as a testament to true rock ‘n’ roll.
13. Kula Shaker - K (1996)
Drenched in groove and laced with impressive nods to the Middle East, Kula Shaker’s debut record was at the time the fastest selling UK debut album ever, after taking the title from Elastica. There’s plenty to be had here, from the full-on and cocky ‘Hey Dude’ (the opening track, and a great one at that) to the wild and wonderful ‘Govinda’, sung entirely in Sanskrit and feeling more like The Beatles’ seminal ‘Within You Without You’ than a run-of-the-mill Britpop record.
12. Blur - The Great Escape (1995)
The Great Escape contains defining anthems such as ‘The Universal’ (which is now popular once again thanks to the British Gas television adverts) and the infectious ‘Charmless Man’. Blur’s fourth record is one that helped them regain their foothold in popular British music, but also one that sparked further rivalry, this time with Oasis. Their single ‘Country House’ not only cheekily mocked the Manchester act: “He's got morning glory and life's a different story, everything's going jackanory,” but also prompted the so called ‘Battle Of Britpop’, when Blur’s single challenged Oasis’ (largely superior) single ‘Roll With It’ to the number one spot. The winner? Blur, although foul play in the figures was suspected.
11. Denim - Back In Denim (1992)
Denim are criminally overlooked, but this record in particular is rarely mentioned in Britpop lists. It’s back-to-the-roots rock through and through, with more of a nod to post-punk than the Swinging Sixties, with tracks like ‘Bubblehead’ and ‘Fish And Chips’ standing as defining indie anthems but touching on glam enough to remain intriguing. What’s interesting is the swagger that frontman Lawrence Hayward delivers his lyrics with is largely similar to later garage and post-Britpop acts and singers like Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Finn Vine of White Rose Movement and Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys.
10. Supergrass - I Should Coco (1995)
For those perplexed by the title, ‘I should coco’ is apparently cockney rhyming slang for ‘I should think so’. Supergrass’ debut album was recorded in Cornwall, and contains many punk-influenced tunes like ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ and ‘Mansize Rooster’, as well as the unforgettable ‘Alright’ (maybe the second greatest Britpop song ever?). The group also check dirty riffs off their list with songs like ‘Lenny’. I Should Coco is Supergrass’ only number one album, but for an honest reason; it’s probably their best.
9. Suede - Coming Up (1996)
The second last entry by Suede on this is loud and clear, not to mention colourful. Just listen to ‘Beautiful Ones’ - hopeful, sunny and filled with frontman Brett Anderson’s unmistakable whines. Coming Up also houses cool tunes like ‘Filmstar’ with its driving verses and ‘Lazy’ with its heavily distorted riff. This is Suede at their most defiant, away from the romanticism of the debut record and after the departure of guitarist Bernard Butler. Despite his absence, Coming Up feels fresh and believable throughout.
8. Blur - Leisure (1991)
Arguably Blur’s most polarising record, Leisure just barely touches on shoegaze (‘She’s So High’ feels deep and chock full of instrumentation despite its minimalist approach) as well as alt rock. It must be said that Blur were very much still finding themselves as a band at this point - ‘There’s No Other Way’ may be one of the band’s greatest songs, but it’s full of bloated Madchester, no doubt thanks to their record label (Food) insisting they make something that sounds like The Stone Roses, namely their iconic 1989 hit, ‘Fools Gold’.
7. Suede - Suede (1993)
Suede’s debut album is both glamorous and startling, drawing comparisons to the likes of The Smiths among others. Having now been placed at number 78 in the greatest albums of all time list by NME, its legacy cannot be understated. The highlight, ‘Animal Nitrate’ is an absolute masterpiece, comprising of a determined opening riff as well as showing off Brett Anderson’s signature voice for the first time. Suede also contains staples like ‘Metal Mickey’ and ‘The Drowners’, both of which helped push the group to the forefront of the Britpop scene - a position they wold hold until the return of Blur.
6. The Verve - Urban Hymns (1997)
Richard Ashcroft’s legacy is no doubt the magnum opus that is Urban Hymns. Breathing new life into Britpop with smash hits like ‘Lucky Man’ and ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’, The Verve took the sunny optimism made famous by Oasis and added a collected, folky vibe to it. Of course, Ashcroft’s influence on the Manchester greats is likely what supplied that hopefulness in the first place, leading them to create an ode to Ashcroft on their classic (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? two years prior in the form of ‘Cast No Shadow’. Urban Hymns also holds the British powerhouse ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, but bittersweet it is, as most of the royalties were (honestly, wrongfully) obtained by The Rolling Stones over a sampling dispute.
5. Pulp - Different Class (1995)
Some would argue that Different Class is the greatest Britpop album ever (notably both Pitchfork and The Village Voice), and for good reason. Songs like ‘Common People’ and ‘Disco 2000’ still hold up as defining alternative club anthems, inviting wave after wave of impressionable indie kids to the dancefloor. Pulp’s ability to supply poetic mannerisms via frontman Jarvis Cocker as well as exotic melodies from Russell Senior’s Jazzmaster guitar seem effortless, only adding to their mystique and appeal.
4. Pulp - His 'N' Hers (1994)
His ‘N’ Hers beautifully summarises Pulp at their best; sexy, desirable and a little sleazy at times. Tracks like ‘Babies’ (a story told in first person about lust and voyeurism) and ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ cement Pulp as a force to be reckoned with. Although less focused on a central idea like Different Class’ “in a different class but in a class of its own” paradox, His ‘N’ Hers greater showcases Pulp at their most poetic and seductive.
3. Blur - Parklife (1994)
Blur’s final entry in this list is Parklife. The tracks alone can justify why it’s the third greatest album in this list; the annoyingly catchy ‘Girls And Boys’, the pushy ‘End Of A Century’, the magnificently written ‘To The End’ (which also matches Nathan’s hilariously casual realisation that he’s immortal in British TV show, Misfits) and of course, the seminal title track which sits firmly in the hearts of Britons the world over. Blur’s gradual rise to prominence can really be attributed to here, at their peak.
2. Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
While Parklife’s songs alone can justify its placement in this list, so can (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, only stronger. Seriously, just reeling them off can make one feel giddy: ‘Roll With It, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, ‘Hello’, ‘Cast No Shadow’, ‘Wonderwall’. Even the more understated tracks, like the incredible ‘Hey Now’ (possibly Oasis’ second best track) sound absolutely monumental, proving that Oasis had no reason to fear the dreaded sophomore slump. (What’s The Story) also contains its ginormous title track, ‘Some Might Say’ and the tear-inducing ‘Champagne Supernova’. Just sensational.
1. Oasis - Definitely Maybe (1994)
Could it really have been anything else? The Gallagher bros. and co. had set out to make a proper rock ‘n’ roll record, and instead produced an album that defined a generation and had the general population starstruck. The opener (‘Rock 'N’ Roll Star’) says it all, even though ‘Columbia’ should really be the first track, purely for it’s audacious intro. There is simply not a bad song on the entire LP - in short, this is where it all started. ‘Cigarettes And Alcohol’? Check. ‘Slide Away’? It’s only Sir Paul McCartney’s favourite Oasis song. ‘Supersonic’? But of course. Definitely Maybe is gigantic, preposterous and stratospheric, and it’s the greatest Britpop album of all time.