We never grew up, we just got ourselves free …

… so sing Ocean Colour Scene. And last night I had the pleasure of having Simon Fowler sing that a mere couple of metres from my expectant moonish face. In true Britpop revival spirit, I joined the other weather-beaten (life-beaten?) Fred Perry wearers at UEA to watch a band that I last saw 13 years ago, and it was fucking great.

Ocean Colour Scene seemed to epitomise the laddish, no nonsense riffy rock that so gripped the floppy haired lads in fishing hats in those heady summers of 95 & 96. The Riverboat Song, their debut single (well, not if you count their ‘baggy’ first album, but most people dont’) became the theme tune to TFI Friday (britpop’s answer to Wogan) and they had the likes to Noel Gallagher declaring them “a better band than Oasis” (well, durr). But then when the mid-nineties bubble burst and everyone started taking pills and turning their backs on indie music OCS fell hard and quick. Perhaps unfairly, I mean, sure by all means take it out on Northern Uproar, they were shit, but the guys behind The Day We Caught The Train? Come on, credit where credit’s due.

Anyway, fair or not, OCS became toxic. I was roundly ridiculed for years by the trendy wankers I am proud to call my friends for keeping a copy of Marchin’ Already in regular use on my iPod. Though even I admit that OCS’s 1999 single ‘Profit in Peace’ with its naive, pseudo-hippie hookline of “we don’t want to fight no more” didn’t really help their cause too much.

But to me Mosely Shoals and Marchin’ Already have stood the test of time unlike much of the Britpop cannon (anyone still listen to Cast? Kula Shaker? The Seahorses?). It was genuinely exciting to go along and watch them perform the whole of Mosely Shoals in order last night, followed by a second set of favourites with a bit of new stuff chucked in.

The difference between OCS and say Suede, who recently reformed, is that OCS never went away, they’ve continued to make music and release a new album every two years for the last decade. I imagine they play more of their new stuff on tour normally, but this ‘Mosely Shoals Tour’ is clearly their version of a ‘re-union,’ a contemporary band becoming an historical reenactment of themselves. It must be strange, and it certainly didn’t look like they were particularly enjoying it. The band seemed to be going through the motions a bit in the Mosely Shoal section of the show. This wasn’t helped by a largely static audience (35 years olds don’t mosh in the same way 20 years olds do). There is no doubt the ‘Mosely Shoals Tour’ is financially motivated, a quick-fix pension scheme, but I have no doubt they did enjoy playing the album again the first few nights, certainly at bigger city venues. Still things perked up in the second set and we got a good mosh going, something I haven’t done for years.

For me the Britpop revival thing is a dichotomy. One one hand its a glorious, Gallagher-esque swagger down the High Streets of the past; unselfconscious leisure time that harks back (for me particularly) to a time when I wasn’t worried about my place in the world and just happy to be a fan. On the other, it’s just a suspension of disbelief, a game of let’s pretend. Let’s pretend that the summers will last forever, and Estelle might change her mind about me, and anyway none of this matters because we’re got rock n roll and a massive bottle of cider. But now, we know the future, we know that those dreams don’t come true: we’ve got jobs, mortagages and families, and those things are so much better than some cliched teenage pipe dreams anyway. And besides, four middle-aged men playing at rockstars is a bit creepy really.

What it comes down to is that, if you let them, rose-tinted glasses can be dangerous objects. Living in the past is pointless and will only leave you with a heavy sense of malaise. But I think I’m willing to take that risk because nights like last night are fun, and as long as you see them as that, they can’t do you any harm. For the audience at any rate, I hope the OCS boys are at peace with their situation and that playing their old stuff is fun rather than a gloomy reminder of what they had and lost.

A weird addition to last night’s gig was the appearance of Dion Dublin (ex Norwich, Man U and Coventry striker) on stage playing an instrument that he has apparently invented. The Dube is a cube on a stand at a 45 degree angle on which a musician plays samba style rhythms with his bare hands. It looks weird and was unclear what it added, though the Norwich City fans enjoyed their chants of: “Dion, Dion Diiiiiooooon.” For me it just added to sense of being 14 again and wondering who I was going to swap with to get the Dion Dublin sticker I needed to complete my football stickers annual (cool, huh?)

Anyway, this is a protracted way of introducing a new poem:

Britpop Revival
(with apologies to John Cooper Clarke)

As Britain hits the twenty-teens
the phantoms of the Camden scenes
are topping up their pension schemes
it’s Britpop Revival.

The bassist who has gone to fat
in Sherman checks and Reni hat
had better register for VAT
it’s Britpop Revival.

Cos now their fans have cash to burn
those stringy blokes with lasting gurns
have lots of na na nas to learn
it’s Britpop Revival.

Who remembers Glastonbury
when you could still get in free?
I think I’ll buy the NME

it’s Britpop Revival.

We’ll sing and live our sun-kissed past
and toast the ones that didn’t last
though nobody’s inviting Cast
it’s Britpop Revival.

So throw aside your TV guide
and wear those desert boots with pride
now shut your eyes, it’s ninety-five
it’s Britpop Revival.

© Luke Wright, 2011

2 Comments

  • yan February 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Please can you put up the Vic Valentines poem you read on today’s Saturday Live?
    x

    Reply
  • Nikki March 5, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    I like this! I was a big fan of Britpop, even though I mostly moved on to baggy, and I well relate to rose-tinting the past. I saw Ocean Colour Scene supporting Oasis at Loch Lomond…ahh them was the days.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Nikki Cancel reply