Thursday, 7 March 2013

The British Inversion

You know, people are saying that we’re living the second wave of a British Invasion. For those that don’t know, the original British Invasion occurred in the mid-1960s, when bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Moody Blues took America by storm, selling a culture and attitude American youths were transfixed by. Many of the bands that were part of the British Invasion were simply artists that adored American rock ‘n’ roll culture of the 1950s and mimicked the pitch, delivery and style of classic rockabilly pop records, but they incorporated a sense of fashion and reckless poise that whacked American teenagers like a punch in the face.

Skip to 50 years later and some will argue that the British Invasion is once again knocking America sideways. BPI analysis of Nielsen SoundScan sales data reveals that British artists accounted for 13.7%, equal to one in seven, of all artist albums sold in the US in 2012, as well as four of the five best-selling artist albums last year. UK artists accounted for 11.7% of the US market, equivalent to one in every eight albums sold. British music has not seen success of this nature in America since Dire Straits were doing the Walk of life, which was a very long time ago indeed.

But seriously, is the new British Invasion anything to be proud of? The Saturdays, a British girl group that failed to satisfactorily capture the attentions of UK kids, has now decided to throw in the towel as far as their non-appreciating home country is concerned and focus their efforts on the North American market, where a concerning lax in music consumer quality control means that they have better odds at making a name for themselves. Successful pop confections like One Direction and Cher Lloyd are British television talent show constructions that have scored major attention in America principally because they have the marketing muscle of Simon Cowell behind them. Even posh pricks like Mumford and Sons and Florence Welch are hitting big with American consumers because their parents were rich enough to purchase a privileged music education for them, and then subsequently using contacts to help acquire record deals with major labels that have the power get them onto record shelves. Even acts like Adele, Jessie J and Leona Lewis are BRIT School alumni, paid for and nurtured in an institute part-funded by big record labels that expect a return on their investments which often means successful artists will abide to formula in order to shift big quantities. Even bands like Muse and Coldplay have gained promotion because of endorsements by famous American Mormons that write soapy teen vampire romances (not Mitt Romney, the other one), or because they are married to celebrity Hollywood starlets. And now we’ve got an idiot like Conor Maynard eyeing the susceptible US music consumer, confident that their appetite for crappy British pop sung in generic transatlantic accents will pay major dividends.

In all honesty, one has to ask themselves if any of the current acts that form part of the new British Invasion are manufacturing the kinds of music Americans are incapable of making themselves? Is there anything truly distinctive about the current British Invasion that demonstrates a degree of originality and inventiveness Americans are unaccustomed to, and therefore enraptured by?

Britain is an island nation that functions best when it stays true to its character rather than conforming to expectations. This is a country marked by its eccentric personality and esoteric individuality. The most impressive music to have come out of Britain was made when it didn’t kowtow to international expectations and did its own thing. The best time for British music is when it is left to its own devices, creating songs for local audiences which then captures the attention of the world over.

Below are some bands that are all-British in spirit, though totally foreign in every other way. These bands were born in lands and cultures vastly different from Blighty, but were motivated to create music in the fashion of a country that inspired it. They latched on to periods in British pop culture that may not have exported as well as what it did circa 1965 or 2013, but it travelled in more abstract and exciting ways. This is the Great British Inversion.

The Japanese Love Britain!


Though it’s understandable why you may confuse this group as Twickenham natives, they actually hail from Tokyo, Japan. Taking the Britpop sound and female-fronted formation while some guys play guitar, drum and bass in the background, Taffy demonstrates why the best of British didn’t always mean big sales in America. Taffy’s lead singer even does the fluttering eyelids thing that middle-class British girls are so fond of because they think it makes them look cute.

British Influences: Echobelly, Sleeper.

The Italians Love Britain!

To listen to them you’d swear these boys probably grew up in Ipswich, but they’re like totally Italian. They even have crazy curly Italian hair and exotic Neapolitan names like Lampredi and Stolzini, yet that sound of theirs is classic British shoegaze. The fuzz and fades are beautifully rendered, not to mention the lead singer has a voice that makes you proud to be British.

British Influences: My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain.

The Americans Love Britain!

Britain may be selling sonic shit to the Americans in unprecedented ways but that doesn’t mean they should stoop to our level. The Drums come from York, though a Newer kind of York. When they first came on the scene, British audiences began having flashbacks of living under the reign of Margaret Thatcher and being forced to pay poll tax all over again, but it was a huge hoodwink because The Drums only wish they had lived in 1980s England. Those that actually did will tell you it’s nothing to aspire to.

British Influences: The Field Mice, The Smiths.

The Pakistanis Love Britain!

Will wonders never cease? Had you just put on the radio and heard this song rocking out then you’d be sure to claim them as early 1990s delinquents from Kent, but these guys are from Karachi, Pakistan. Could these blokes be our allies in the War on Terrible Music?

British Influences: Sterolab, The Verve, Spacemen 3.


  1. But its important to remember that Jervaise Brooke Hamster 'HATES' Britain ! ! ! (and his opinion is the one that really counts).

  2. I enjoyed listening to Brothers in Law and Orangenoise.

  3. Try and imagine if you can how throughly confusing the opening/closing of the Olympics was for me this year. I thought all those ppl (except the boybands) were American! Eye opener for sure.

    "because of endorsements by famous American Mormons that write soapy teen vampire romances (not Mitt Romney, the other one)" Laughed out loud - at work.

    Oh, and you forgot Niki Minaj.

    What's that you say? Not British? It's okay, you can have her.

    And I loved Brothers in Law!!