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)

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
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
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

    Primary Teachers needed in Ely

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

    Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

    £60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

    KS2 Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

    SEN Learning Support Assistant

    £70 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Learning Support Assistants n...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain