The term ‘britpop’ is often overshadowed by male band dominance – the likes of Oasis, Blur, Pulp (with the exception of Candida Doyle), Suede, Supergrass… the list goes on. People are quick to forget and undermine the array of wonderful female-fronted bands around at the time.
Well, here’s ten of my favourite female Britpop bands you may not have heard of, but should check out regardless.
I should probably start this off with Elastica; they are, after all, the seemingly ‘definitive’ Britpop girl band always remembered by critics and music journalists. But was that because of their music? Or the fact that lead singer Justine Frischmann (ex-Suede band member) was in possibly the biggest love triangle of the early 90’s with the two Britpop ‘it-boys’ of the time: Damon Albarn and Brett Anderson? Who knows. However, that’s not to take away from Elastica’s worthiness as a band; their self-titled release in 1995 is easily one of the best Britpop records ever released.
My favourite songs: Connection, Waking Up, All-Nighter
Fronted by Louise Wener, Sleeper were one of the more well-known female-fronted Britpop groups. Their sound is quite reminiscent of Blondie and even makes one draws comparisons with their peers at the time in Elastica. It wouldn’t surprise me if Louise Wener was inspired by Justine Frischmann in more than just a penchant for creating catchy pop songs and similar lyrical context (see her haircut for details) – but that doesn’t matter, because I for one much prefer Sleeper over Elastica.
My favourite songs: Inbetweener, Sale of the Century, What Do I Do Now?, Statuesque
Like Sleeper, another band that enjoyed moderate success but were often overshadowed by Elastica’s popularity and comparison – were Echobelly. In my opinion, the influence of Morrissey, The Smiths, and jangle pop is much more apparent in the music and lyrics. And after all, Morrissey was an Echobelly fan, which means they must be good.
Originally more of a shoegazing band, Lush’s sound eventually progressed towards uplifting Britpop with feminist undertones and anti-misogyny/anti-sexist lyrical themes. Perhaps their most famous song, Ladykillers, is a feminist anthem embracing fierce female independence. Their most successful album, Lushlife, released in 1996, is considered a 90’s masterpiece (and even features a duet with lead singer Miki Berenyi and Jarvis Cocker). Lushlife would’ve no doubt launched them into Britpop superstardom if not for the shock suicide of their drummer shortly after the release – which ultimately caused them to disband later that year.
My favourite songs: Ladykillers, Single Girl, De-Luxe, Ciao! (duet with Jarvis Cocker)
In the days of post-Britpop, Catatonia were one of the biggest – and best – rock bands to come out of Wales. With front-woman Cerys Matthews’ instantly recognisable brash vocal style and sometimes-odd lyrical subtext, they enjoyed quite large success – especially with the 1998 release of their album International Velvet. They even did a duet with Welsh legend Tom Jones.
My favourite songs: Mulder and Scully, I Am The Mob, Road Rage, Strange Glue
Fronted by Lauren Laverne and hailing from Newcastle, Kenickie (named after their favourite character from Grease), gained mild popularity with the release of their debut At The Club in 1998 – which, I can vouch for, is a great, upbeat staple to the Britpop genre. Although Kenickie never achieved major success, they were the epitomy of a 90’s pop band — lots of fun and never took things too seriously.
My favourite songs: In Your Car, Punka, Nightlife, Stay In The Sun
Okay, probably technically not Britpop and perhaps leaning more towards indie – but it doesn’t really matter – because The Sundays were a really great band and deserve some love and appreciation. Formed in the late 80’s and continuing throughout the 90’s, they achieved almost unprecedented success within their genre for their debut Reading, Writing, And Arithmetic which features songs about living in England, finding a pound coin in the underground, and kicking boys until they cry. They are one of my favourite bands and a nice mellow listen. Highly recommended.
Dubstar were a trio from Newcastle lead by Sarah Blackwood. Their acclaimed 1995 debut, Disgraceful (amazing record) is full of catchy dreampop and indie melodies which gained them a lot of success early on in their career. They had a real knack for writing bright pop melodies which were then underpinned by quite somber, depressing lyrics (see: Just A Girl She Said for example). Often forgot about nowadays, but definitely worth checking out.
Formed in the late 80’s, The Popguns never made much of an impact and I have no idea why. Led by frontwoman Wendy Morgan, and with Shaun Charman (ex-Wedding Present) in the line-up, The Popguns’ sound is upbeat jangle pop at it’s best. Despite their lack of mainstream success, they were, however, championed by the late great John Peel – someone who always knew a great band when he heard them. They are seriously good and seriously underrated.
Despite their first album Drink Me being quite well received, Salad never really took off, which is a shame because they were a cool band and wrote some really good songs: one of my favourite lyric of theirs being “I am winter solstice waiting / Like a granite statue”
So there you have it. Ten female-fronted Britpop bands I like, complete with Spotify links for you to enjoy and hopefully discover some new music. Let me know what you think.