1993: Grunge Babylon – For Tomorrow brings Britpop

Posted on 19 January 2012
By Richard Lewis
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Purple Revolver have been exploring 18 year business cycle theories and how they affect music and culture at large.

We are moving into the influence of 1994 – but before we do, here’s a look at 1993 and the start of the shift in balance of power from Grunge to Britpop.

If 1992 was the year that Grunge conquered the world, 1993 was when it entered its Imperial Phase. Second albums from Nirvana, Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins saw Grunge’s principal players pull up chairs at rock’s top table.

Grunge laid all before it in the early 1990s, with the ostensibly college rock likes of The Breeders and Lemonheads thrown in with the movement that began in Washington State.

Nirvana’s In Utero was a worthy follow-up to Nevermind, despite some listeners being turned off by the rawer sound masterminded by alt-rock production demigod Steve Albini.

In the sales stakes however, the year belonged to Pearl Jam.

Their second LP Vs shifted a staggering one million copies in its first week on sale in the U.S. – despite the lack of any videos or press by the band.

Eddie Vedder’s crew are back in the limelight as the subject of a career-spanning documentary, Pearl Jam Twenty by Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe.

Meanwhile, releases from Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees and Seattle stalwarts Melvins and TAD saw Washington State become the most discussed musical region in the world.

British guitar slingers Yuck have spearheaded what some are calling the ‘grunge revival’, the band a composite of Dinosaur Jnr stoner rock and Kim Deal basslines. Certainly not old enough to remember grunge’s dominance back in 1993, the 18-year-cycle is evident in the London rockers.

On the other side of the Atlantic meanwhile plans were afoot to topple the American dominance…

“If punk was about getting rid of hippies, then I’m getting rid of grunge” said Damon Albarn in May 1993.

Suede’s glamourous, decadent, vaguely seedy and thoroughly British eponymous debut album released in March saw the band scale the chart summit and promptly walk out the front door with their second Mercury Music Prize.

Brett and the boys reformed last year to play their biggest ever show at The O2 and plans are afoot for the reconfigured group to record a new LP.

May 1993 heralded a musical power shift towards the UK as Blur unveiled their masterful second album, proto-Britpop masterpiece Modern Life is Rubbish.

Flagged by the Kinks-esque wonderment of first single For Tomorrow and mod appropriating British Image No.1 photoshoot, Albarn’s men had clearly set their sites on chronicalling the fortunes of England’s downtrodden suburbanites.

Meanwhile in May 1993, Creation Records MD Alan McGee signed a promising young Manchester band Oasis after seeing them play a gig in Glasgow.

Their menacing white label demo of Columbia scored the unprecedented honour of making it onto the Radio One daytime playlist a few months later.

Oasis went on to become arguably the most influential British band of the past twenty years. Their hallmarks can especially be heard in the 2011 output of Miles Kane and Kasabian.

Back in April 1993, the forward looking issue of the now-defunct Select magazine saw Suede’s Brett Anderson superimposed in front of a Union Jack with the headline ‘Yanks Go Home’ emblazoned across the cover.

Staff writer Stuart Maconie, now of BBC radio fame, demolished the grunge aesthetic and hailed nascent homegrown talents.

Saint Etienne, Denim, The Auteurs and most notably, a little-known band from Sheffield called Pulp were given the thumbs up.

Jarvis and Co’s Compilation disc Intro saw the band edging towards the mainstream with essential tracks like Razzmatazz and Babies.

Elsewhere, Abingdon, Oxfordshire’s finest Radiohead scored a colossal hit on both sides of the Atlantic with a ditty entitled Creep. Their debut album Pablo Honey was an inauspicious start for one of Britain’s greatest ever bands, but it put Thom Yorke’s crew on the map.

1993: Essential Recordings
Grunge vs. (What would come to be known as) Britpop

Grunge/US Rock
Nirvana – In Utero
Pearl Jam – Vs
Smashing Pumpkins –Siamese Dream
The Breeders – The Last Splash
TAD – Inhaler
Mudhoney – Five Dollar Bob’s Mock Cooter Stew (EP)
Superchunk – On the Mouth

Britpop/UK indie
Blur – Modern Life is Rubbish
Suede – Suede
The Auteurs – New Wave
St. Etienne – So Tough
Verve – A Storm in Heaven
Radiohead – Pablo Honey
Pulp – Intro (Singles Compilation)
Oasis – Columbia (White Label Demo)

Essential soundtrack: Dazed and Confused.

Set on the last day of high school for a bunch of American teenagers, the soundtrack to Richard Linklater’s cult debut movie features many of the acts who went on to influence the grunge movement of the 1990s.

This piece is an excerpt from the 1993 Future Throwback issue of Uber zine. Out now in Liverpool’s finest coffee shops, skater shops and men’s/ladies vintage shops.