CD: Britpop brassCory Band
Conductor: Philip Harper
I can’t think of a time when it has been ‘cooler’ to play a brass instrument than it is at the moment. Groups like Youngblood Brass Band, Too Many Zooz, Lucky Chops and the Hackney Colliery Band have helped break barriers and make brass-based music accessible to a whole new generation.
To mark the 25th anniversary of Britpop, Decca Records have tapped into this newfound appreciation for brass music with britpop brass, which contains ‘covers’ of some of Britain’s greatest and most identifiable music of the ‘90s. Containing 12 tracks from the likes of Pulp, Oasis, Blur and Catatonia, the album appears well-equipped to bring new listeners to the medium through programming tracks that are held very dear by many people. However, as is often the case with covers of any kind - it can be a dangerous undertaking!
It is always going to be hard for any ensemble to play a piece that is vocal-dependant; no matter how well the ensemble plays or how hard the arranger tries, you are never going to be able to recreate the nuances in Jarvis Cocker’s vocals (as found in Common People) or the earthy to euphoric tonal qualities of Cerys Matthews (as evidenced in Mulder and Scully).
There is such a wide array of memorable music from the Britpop era that choosing a track list must have been a nightmare. It does feel, though, that a trick has been missed with tracks like Something for the Weekend by the Divine Comedy, To the End by Blur and Sorted for E’s and Whizz by Pulp not featuring, all of which would have made the transition to brass band a little easier and much more effective than most on the album.
The playing throughout the disc, as we have come to expect from the World’s number one brass band, is fantastic - the intonation, solo contributions (especially on Don’t Look Back in Anger) and rich quality of sound are all on display throughout. However, the limitations within the programme itself do leave me with the feeling of seeing a Ferrari 488 GT driving through a 20mph zone.
Aimed at celebrating the 25th anniversary of Britpop, sadly britpop brass could leave people looking into our movement with the feeling that brass bands are still stuck in 1993.