Tired of London? Far from it: Taylor Parkes wonders what's got into a lot of young boys' heads

Right now, nothing is more fashionable in pop than the cockney accent, the dandy flourish; the whole devalued currency of London pop. Perhaps as a reaction to all-American grunge more and more young groups are adopting a nostalgic vision recycling the precious sepia-tinted imagery of The Kinks and Madness.

Very few of these bands come from London. Drawn to the city, Dick Whittington-style, they seem blind to anything that fails to tie in with the imaginary childhood fed by films, books and pop itself. Their London is stuffed with barrow boys, mini-skirted dolly birds, pub singalongs and big red buses.

Blur began as a half-baked, jangly guitar-pop band before donning 16-hole Doc Martens and singing about the Westway in exaggerated cockney accents (they are middle-class boys from Colchester).

Answering charges of being too referential and hung up on an impossible past, Blur are evasive: 'We're a Nineties band', said singer Damon Albarn, 'we're. . . Nineties eaters. Our audience have the same feelings about the Nineties as we do. There's a contradiction in using the past and rebelling against the future. There's a contradiction in what we are.'

Whatever, the album went straight in at number one.

Saint Etienne are pretty successful too (their LP, Tiger Bay, went into the top ten), but their take on London pop history is altogether more sophisticated. They'll sing about Archway and Kentish Town as readily as Ladbroke Grove or Trafalgar Square. Their videos and record sleeves are full of carefully-chosen images of London past and present.

The band's songwriters Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs aren't born-and-bred Londoners - rather, they hail from. . . Croydon.

'I used to buy Madness records, or old Kinks records', said Stanley, 'and I thought that all these places they were referring to in North London must be really exotic, because the only bit of London I ever saw as a kid was the A23 between Croydon and Vauxhall.

Me and Pete used to get on the number 68 bus to school, and on the front of the bus it said it was going to Chalk Farm. It was just the weirdest name for a place we'd ever heard. We never wanted to go to school, just stay on the bus and see Chalk Farm '

These people who hate London have normally come here, got themselves a bedsit in Finsbury Park or Seven Sisters and sat in it. Then they leave after six months saying London's a dump.'

'I remember as a kid thinking 'why is anybody living in Southend,' said singer Jake Shillingford, when they could be living in London? What's the point of living miles from one of the most brilliant cities in the world?'

However strongly one is drawn to this nouveau Swinging London foppery, its hard to deny that it's anachronistic beyond belief. The music hall pastiches of The Kinks, The Small Faces and The Who were a direct response to a period of genuine optimism about Britain in general, when London really was, culturally at least, the centre of the world.

For now, the startlingly innovative music of Bark Psychosis (residents of East Ham) explores that sense of alienation and dread all too familiar to modern-day Londoners.

Perhaps this music - fractious, techno-conscious, and desperately paranoid - says more about Nineties London than a hundred chunks chipped off the past onto which

neon-drunk is shakily stencilled: THE FUTURE.

SHORT HISTORY OF 'COCKNEY' POP

1 The Kinks

'Waterloo Sunset' (Pye 1967) The first great London pop song. Ray Davies locates the poetic in young lovers meeting on the South Bank.

2 The Small Faces

'Lazy Sunday' (Immediate 1967) Steve Marriott in cockney sparrow

persona explores the incongruity of the psychedelic experience in east London.

3 The Clash

'London's Burning' (CBS 1977) A hymn of hate to a city 'burning with boredom': 'Drive round the Westway on a Saturday night / what ? great traffic system, it's so bright.'

4 The Jam

'In The City' (Polydor 1977) Woking boy Paul Weller's awestruck ode to the Big City: 'In the city there's a thousand things faces all shining bright / and those golden faces are under twenty-five. . .'

5 Madness

'One Better Day' (Stiff 1984)

Madness - hailing from Camden Town and Muswell Hill - had no illusions about London life, but their songs had warmth drawn straight from the music hall.

6 The Band of Holy Joy

'When Stars Come Out To Play' (Flim Flam 1986) Almost entirely

forgotten band, squatting in south

London, wrote beautiful vignettes of lowlife, tinged with romance.

7 Saint Etienne

'London Belongs To Me' (Heavenly 1991) 'Take the tube to Camden Town / walk down Parkway and settle down / in the shade of a willow tree / summer hovering over me.' To those born in Croydon, this is what north London is really like.

8 Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine

'The Only Living Boy In New Cross' (Chrysalis 1992) Authentic Sarf Lahndan boys. Punular social realism: 'The comfort and the joy of feeling lost / with the only living boy in New Cross'.

9 My Life Story

'The Lady Is A Tramp' (Mother Tongue 1994) Belsize Park-based fops on a mission to become the Max

Miller of pop.

10 Blur

'Parklife' (Food, 1994) Essex-born art-school types with mock-cockney accents mix New Wave quirkiness with visions of council houses and computer games. The effect is half-satirical, half-poetic: 'l feed the pigeons, sometimes I feed the sparrows as well / it gives me a sense of enormous well being.'

(Photograph omitted)

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

    £20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Senior Management Accountant

    £40000 - £46000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Global publishing and digital bu...

    Year 2 Teachers needed for day to day supply

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitve rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Yea...

    Year 4 Teachers needed for day to day supply across the region

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits