Brit Pop’s greatest moment – err, it is sort of by Americans

Duffy So which is the best Brit Pop album? Blur’s ParkLife, Oasis’ Morning Glory, Thurman’s Lux!? Well in PopJunkie’s books the ultimate Brit Pop album was actually a bizarre collaboration between an 80s has been and a group of well, Americans. Yes, to relive that nineties moment when the hippest joint on the planet was actually a dodgy old Irish boozer in Camden, you need Stephen Duffy’s seminal self-titled masterpiece Duffy.

Up until that point Duffy’s career had been pretty odd. He started in the embryonic Duran Duran, spent his early years as Catholic guilt-ridden New Romantic singer Stephen Tin Tin Duffy (who had a top 5 hit with Kiss Me), made experimental music as Dr. Calculus, and finally reinvented himself as a serious folk musician in the late eighties.

This album came after a bit of a cabinet reshuffle for Duffy. His folk band, The Lilac Time had made five albums, the last of which, Astronauts, was completed in very depressing circumstances. It is probably as quiet an album as you’ll ever hear. A subsequent collaboration with violin wild child and fellow Aston Villa fan, Nigel Kennedy, took him further into the baroque, and was only partially successful, though it did spawn the delightful Natalie. All indicators pointed to Duffy’s next album as being an almost inaudible recording of him reading Madame Bovary over a muted harpsichord.

Surprisingly, Duffy (the album), is not only loud, punchy and vibrant, it completely captured the essence of nineties North London. It contains a pair of songs which perhaps encapsulate Brit Pop more than any other, which is kind of odd as Duffy was in the US for much of the early nineties and backing him on the album are the truly wonderful American band Velvet Crush.

The stomping opener and first single London Girls, captures the optimism of the era with girls in mummy’s pearls swapping halls of residences for hip arty happening all off the back off of one adrenalin rush of a single. But then there’s the dark side, the REM-esque Needle Mythology, which more than other song form the era documents the moment when cocaine gave way to heroin taking some of the best artists of a generation with it. Its uplifting chorus and swoonsome harmonies only add more dollops of irony to its lyrically downbeat tone.

Second single Sugar High is a beautiful song about the awe that the young have for music, Ghetto Child is a woeful song of loss, while Rachel, a driving, joyous folk song, captures entirely the joy of the first flushes of a relationship. Duffy’s empathy with the unhappy, his lyrical path to the heart, his ability to put into words what we have all been through; these are all recurring traits. What this album specifically recalls is the going-out years. The period we spent going out every night, hanging around with pop stars backstage, drinking in Camden, doing drugs and getting excited about new music. Your life simply isn’t complete without it.

Stephen Duffy – Duffy (Indolent) 1995

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3 Responses to “Brit Pop’s greatest moment – err, it is sort of by Americans”

  1. Marty Says:

    Great choice. Funnily enough John Harris goes on about this album in his Britpop book The Last Party. He loves it too. It’s a shame that so few people have heard it, or indeed Stephen’s other albums from the 90s which are all excellent.

  2. Chris Squires Says:

    If You like this album you must try Stephen’s others, because even though “Duffy” contains enough Brilliant brit-pop moments to have Oasis looking back in awe, it is not Stephen’s best work by a long chalk. Try any of the albums by The Lilac Time and you will find an album that you will be pestering your mates with for months. I suggest starting with the first “The Lilac Time” or the last “Keep Going”, or to be absolutely honest any point in between. You will not regret it.

  3. Rich Says:

    The new Robbie Williams album which Stephen has worked om, is a great listen too. Hope he’s loaded now

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