August 02, 2006

1990s Most Influential Music?

Whilst browsing the big black CDs in my parents' house (I think they call them 'vinyl') a thought crept up on me from behind and stole my socks – the 1990s, eh? Who was the most influential band?

Yeah, it's been six and a half years since it ended, possibly a little too early to assess its influence, but I think the 1990s might be turning out differently than those who lived through it thought it would. I wondered, amongst those big black CDs and missing socks, who were the most influential British bands of the decade? The conclusion was a little surprising. To my mind, looking at music today, it looks like being a competition between Radiohead, the Spice Girls and Pulp.

Firstly let me explain why other major bands are absent. Oasis and Blur hold the iconic status for the decade. But who did they really influence? Many bands talk of their love for Oasis but very few sound anything like them, those that do are the likes of Proud Mary or Hurricane #1… who? Exactly! Those bands now who remind me of Oasis aren't all that inspiring – Kasabian lack their wit and diversity (yeah, I know I'm using "diversity" to describe Oasis) but have the attitude, others claim to love Oasis but sound nothing like them. Blur have also got very few real groupies. The Dears and Kaiser Chiefs are the only two I can think of, taking very different parts of Blur's catalogue as their touchstones ('This Is A Low' and 'Parklife' respectively). But who is today's most Blur–like act? Graham Coxon probably. Mmm.

It's the same with a lot of 1990s bands, loved but it's hard to hear their influence in bands at the moment – The Verve, Catatonia, Super Furry Animals, Manic Street Preachers, none have had succesful followers, merely bands who say they liked them who sounds very little like them (would you ever guess that The Automatic are big Manics fans?).

It's broadly true in pop as well. Cheesy dance music, rave and techno don't sound much like the dance music we have today. The charts just lack the identikit trance songs which flooded the late 1990s. And don't say Take That to me. Boy bands are not a 1990s creation, New Kids On The Block were definitely late 1980s.

So, Radiohead, the Spice Girls and Pulp… the UK's most influential?


It's actually Coldplay's fault. But they did take advantage of Radiohead forcing open the door to sensitively voiced boys with guitars to sing about feelings. The Bends is responsible. In itself this is not bad thing, The Bends is great and so is some of Coldplay's better stuff. But Coldplay showed record companies that this sort of music could sell and sell without turning the band into paranoid electronica freaks. Look at what record companies throw at us now. It's not hard to see how you can get from 'Fake Plastic Trees' to James Blunt. All it requires is all enigma, originality and sharp edges being removed, which is what big record companies do. They declaw innovation to make it safe for the mass markets and a hell of a lot of music in the supermarkets today is declawed Radiohead.

The Spice Girls

Doesn't it say a lot that Girls Aloud not One True Voice are the Popstars: The Rivals survivors? It's not really about gender. It's the style of music, where boybands spewed ballady bollocks all over the charts, the Spice Girls usually opted fot the more upbeat music. Sound like anyone in the charts? Girls Aloud? Sugababes? It was a natural response to indie going pop with Britpop that pop had to raise its game, be more upfront and interesting.

If those lessons were partially forgotten in the late 1990s/early 2000s it was because indie lost its poppy edge. Since indie got back into the charts we've seen the rise of Girls Aloud and Sugababes, as well as increased interest in American versions like Destiny's Child/Beyonce and Gwen Stefani's solo career. Yes, American music tastes do impact over here but there are a lot of American bands and pop acts which succeed over there and fail to get big here (Dave Matthews Band, 98 Degrees, All American Rejects) most likely because they just fail to suit the mood of the British markets.


They're getting a lot of attention at the moment as a couple of their albums are being reissued, and the music scene in Sheffield has woken up. Less influential than Radiohead and the Spive Girls, but Pulp seem to share a lot of modern indie's main features – a late 1970s/early 1980s indebted music, regional accents, lyrical astuteness, and an increasing disregard about what's cool and who's an outsider. Whilst Maximo Park are the closest to Pulp, you can hear obvious influence in The Futureheads, Arctic Monkeys, Young Knives, Franz Ferdinand. And whilst Liam Gallagher seems more a parody of himself each day, Jarvis Cocker is still lucid and relevant in interviews.

So that's my thoughts. I'd like to know what others think, of course.

- 22 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Is this a UK–only discussion, or did you deliberately leave out Nirvana and Alanis Morisette? Not that I mind, really, but especially Pulp's influence seems to be limited to the British Isles.

    02 Aug 2006, 17:52

  2. UK only, sorry wasn't too clear on that.

    Goes and edits slightly

    But Nirvana are a band I would have addressed in a worldwide artist discussion. Maybe there should be a wprldwide debate as well, though I fear it'll get bogged down when my J–pop friends find this and start naming people no one in the West knows!

    02 Aug 2006, 18:09

  3. I have to say I think U2's influence stretched into the 1990s too and is still going albeit not totally mainstream.

    Completely off the subject I think it is quite unfortunate that some of the artists mentioned (Alanis Morisette, DMB, Blur) who have arguably more musical talent than the Spice Girls have failed to have significant influence here.

    The likes of Snow Patrol, Coldplay et all sound very similar to me to the point that in many cases I can't really tell the difference, to the point that I agree with Mitch Benn about current indie music.

    Does anyone know who influenced James Blunt??? Or signed him…

    02 Aug 2006, 18:33

  4. Hehehe, nearly got out my favourite piece of musical pendatry there but that Mitch Been song is true true true and so I've decided not to strike you down with the U2–are–not–British stick. I think the problem is that talented artists soemtimes take longer to be recognised (Velvet Underground, Wire, Depeche Mode) than more instant acts like the Spice Girls. In 20 years I'd be interested to see who is considered the 1990s main bands for influence, I suspect the Spice Girls' influence might have faded.

    As for Blunt, I've heard rumours about how he got signed but I'm not publishing them here as I don't want to get sued.

    02 Aug 2006, 21:06

  5. What about Underworld???!!!!

    02 Aug 2006, 23:26

  6. Moz

    I think Oasis have had more of an influence then maybe you've credited them with– when I moved back up here I worked putting on gigs for a bit, and EVERY SINGLE NIGHT I used to hear crap Oasis wannabes, although maybe that's just a Manchester thing, as they'd grown up around the musical heritage of the city. Luckily, none of them seemed to get signed. A band doesn't necessarily have to sound like another one to have been influenced by them– I don't think Coldplay have too much in common musically with Radiohead. They certainly don't have the aggressive edge that Radiohead have at times, or the sense of melancholy. Plus Radiohead are good, and Coldplay aren't.

    03 Aug 2006, 17:08

  7. Joe

    Radiohead are just Pink Floyd wannabees but they're not in the same league. I think Pulp and Oasis shine out like beacons in a pretty barren decade as far as music goes.

    03 Aug 2006, 21:29

  8. Moz

    Oasis better than Radiohead? No, no, no…Radiohead managed (up til Hail To The Thief) to never make the same album twice, which is more than can be said for Oasis…

    04 Aug 2006, 00:12

  9. Carter

    Although it's true that the influence of their actual music doesn't seem that visible nowadays, I would argue that Oasis pretty much changed the entire cultural landscape in this country and it'd be difficult to argue that their stranglehold over the nation for those few years between 94–98 didn't mark perhaps the most significant cultural movement since the Sex Pistols emerged the late 70s. That said, you CAN still see traces of Oasis's influence in The Killers, Arctic Monkeys and the like. For me though it was more about their attitude and what they represented – they WERE what it meant to be British in the 1990s, simple as that.

    Worldwide, the two most influential bands of the last decade were Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine, though if you were to go underground and dig a bit deeper I'm pretty sure you'd find a far–reaching influence from Refused and The Dismemberment Plan.

    No Menswear, Hol?

    07 Aug 2006, 13:26

  10. Sarah

    Spice Girls rocked my world from left to right. Influenced most female artists of the 21st century and if thats not enough turned half the female population born after 1980 slightly gay, only slightly mind ;)


    Get your Spice/Spiceworld CD's out of the attic and just let their tone ignite your soul.

    07 Aug 2006, 15:27

  11. spicegirls joy i saw them…but only four….bitches.

    07 Aug 2006, 19:05

  12. Moz

    Carter, I love you. The band Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine were obviously named after you (seriously, there's actually a band with that name).

    07 Aug 2006, 20:04

  13. Hero

    Youse are aw forgetting the f'in mondays and the f'in stone rerses now that's influence!

    08 Aug 2006, 13:11

  14. I have no idea why but despite my brain retaining some quite vivid memories of such forgotten Britpop types as Sleeper, Echobelly, Shed Seven and Cast, I have absolutely no recollection of any songs or videos produced by Menswear. Odd.

    Also, Hero, I would count both the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses as 1980s bands on the basis that the Mondays first appeared then, and the Roses were frankly shite in the 1990s. It's all about the 1989 there!*

    *Though I'm just back from a wedding and one pf the floor fillers was 'I Am The Resurrection'.

    08 Aug 2006, 17:11

  15. Sarah

    I think Coldplay are only as popular as they are because of Chris Martin…he's one of the pretty boy brigade innit, I think their music is overrated but I have to admit he is a real pretty boy….swoon swoon!!

    08 Aug 2006, 18:40

  16. hero

    ahem yes, I thought you were saying who influenced the 90s.. teach me actually read blogs before commenting!

    mind you I did see the 'rerses in 90 and they were definietely NOT shite!
    Blur were influenced by both, (remember 'there's no other way??' and OAsis's attitude was pure early mondays…

    Since the Q has been upgraded… then perhaps that argument should. The best and most influential band in the 90s was undoubtedly the prodigy, and if you are counting stage shows then they are much better than that!! (seriously if you haven't felt the earthquake cvaused by prodigy in a 100,000 strong venue then you really, really should…)

    09 Aug 2006, 13:19

  17. The Stone Roses were definitely an influencial band in the 1990s. Second Coming (1994) was an awesome album, arguably even better than their first. Check out Breaking Into Heaven, Love Spreads, Tears, Begging You and Ten Story Love Song if you don't know what I'm talking about – Second Coming had it all.

    10 Aug 2006, 13:31

  18. Hero

    Mind you the rerses in 'second coming' were a bit of a different band –but it was panned by nostalgic tennis–raquet–playing muso journalists who were still pretending to be from manchester, unfortunately…

    14 Aug 2006, 11:45

  19. jj


    12 Oct 2006, 15:06

  20. Dude 1

    People need to settle down about critizizin sights …......... too much time for those who did but those who had a general comment NICE well done. And good on Holly for the anti spam thingo well done what a legend.

    28 Mar 2007, 10:50

  21. Dude 1

    Dude 1 cant spell critisisin if anyone can please give me a call. By the way
    go anograms
    (its my namejust in case you guys dont google me or somethin LOL)


    28 Mar 2007, 10:59

  22. girls aloud

    girls aloud are possibly one of the best manufactured bands in existince, they rock!

    26 Sep 2007, 21:01

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