A beginner’s guide to 90s UK indie essential albums to own

If the 1980s UK indie scene created some of the most iconic cult bands of all time, creating a pathway for the movement to take hold, then the 90s was when it fully exploded.

There was, of course, more to UK indie in this decade than just Britpop. The jangle pop of The La’s and James predates the term, but the records those bands were producing as the 90s slid into view no doubt helped influence that particular cultural phenomenon. Elsewhere, the baggy movement of the early 90s fused dance beats with guitars, with bands like The Happy Mondays or Inspiral Carpets looking like they were going to pick up the baton left by The Stone Roses. There was the bizarre and short-lived obsession with grebo, with bands like The Wonderstuff, Carter USM (Reading and Glastonbury headliners respectively), Pop Will Eat Itself and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin all gaining hit records. There were also difficult and experimental albums by Radiohead – who don’t really fit here, all things considered, hence their omission – or Spiritualized. And by the time Britpop had crashed and burned, the lo-fi sounds of Gomez, The Beta Band and Badly Drawn Boy reflected the country’s cultural mood change.

Ultimately though, when writing the story of indie music in the 90s, it’s hard to look too far beyond the short-lived but era defining explosion that was Britpop. It all seemed so unlikely upon inception: the image of Suede’s Brett Anderson – the underdog figurehead for the UK’s fightback against the onslaught of grunge – stood in front of a Union Jack, telling Kurt Cobain to go home on the front cover of music magazines, felt daring and aspirational in 1993. But a few years later, he and his peers in Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Elastica, Supergrass, Sleeper, The Charlatans and Ocean Colour Scene were arguably bigger here in the UK than Nirvana or Pearl Jam ever were. Today, even so much as a mention of a Britpop B-lister can transport those of us of an, ahem, certain age straight back to a world of TFI Friday, Kickers shoes, bottles of Hooch, Loaded magazine, Euro ‘96 and bucket hats.

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