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
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
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

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced marketeer is req...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting to join a s...

    Recruitment Genius: Food Production / Operations Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a large and well ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas