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)

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living