As a teenager in mid-’90s New Jersey, Gerard Way was unabashedly drawn to Britpop music. “I could relate to it a great deal,” the former My Chemical Romance frontman says, “because they were singing about the lousier, mundane areas they were from. I felt like that living in Jersey.” His love of the genre was placed on the back burner over MCR’s decade-plus run, but now, having struck out on his own, Way is releasing his debut solo effort, the Britpop-toasting Hesitant Alien. To mark the occasion, Way broke down some of his favorite Britpop acts.
1. David Bowie
“There’s a lot of David Bowie worship in Britpop, and it comes from this long tradition that to me started with him. There is a connection there. I think that’s why my album feels so sonically cohesive; I was looking at albums like Station to Station.
The first thing I remember is buying the first Suede album. That was probably before, at least in the U.S., it was being called Britpop. To me, it was very glam, very romantic, very dark, and it also did have an element of pop. I just responded to it, I connected with it. Even the album cover has two boys making out. That was a pretty powerful image coming from a place [like Belleville, New Jersey] that was homophobic. You didn’t see that kind of thing. So that just really spoke to me and opened me to different things and different kinds of people.
There was a cover of Select magazine that had [Blur frontman] Damon [Albarn] on it wearing a private-school uniform. I remember that cover pretty vividly. And that was when “Girls & Boys” just hit and they were becoming a big deal in England. But in the States, these bands were probably playing places like Irving Plaza and smaller. The first track I heard and the first video I watched was “Girls and Boys.” I strongly tie artists to their visual representation, and they had this video that looked like it was made for nothing. It was just bad video footage of people on vacation. There’s just such a true fucking nature to it. And on top of that, it was a pop song. To me, that was the biggest kind of rebellion that I could think of. It was like the pop from Britain was the rebellious answer to American rock and grunge.
I know Lush is categorized as Britpop. But I never thought of them [that way]. I always thought of them as an alternative band. I was really into it.
To me, Pulp really solidified what Britpop was. That was the band. When I think of Britpop, I think of Pulp. I followed them through Different Class and then discovered their back catalogue. And then This Is Hardcore came out; that’s my favorite Pulp album. I was an intense frontman in My Chemical Romance. I strove to become more like Freddie Mercury because I didn’t feel like I was ready to pull in that influence from [Pulp frontman] Jarvis Cocker. He had such a calm and collected [demeanor]. It was dramatic, but it was paced really well. And really effortless. I was almost the opposite onstage: I was putting a lot of effort into what I was doing. I feel way more connected now to someone like Jarvis when I’m [onstage]. I feel so much more relaxed and confident, and it’s not about proving something. Which is one of the main elements of what he was doing: He wasn’t trying to prove anything.
I did like Oasis, but it took me time to warm up to them because I was so attached to Blur. And there was this rivalry thing that happened, and you were almost made to feel like you had to choose sides. If I were more mature at the time, I would have just said I liked both. I was a strong Blur supporter because at the time, Oasis was really connecting with America. And that was a bit strange to me. (What’s the Story) Morning Glory did feel like a record that strongly connected with America. So there were kids in high school that were pretty annoying that were into them. [Laughs.] So it was pretty easy to choose Blur at that time. But later I would vastly appreciate Oasis. [My Chemical Romance bassist and Gerard’s brother] Mikey [Way] was into Oasis, so I would always listen to them.
7. Female-Fronted Britpop Bands
I love Elastica. That Elastica [self-titled] record is incredible. Sleeper is another band I really loved. Echobelly. Those three bands were all fronted by women. There’s a lot of really great women in Britpop — obviously Miki [Berenyi] from Lush.
I feel like they were the last real breath of fresh air to Britpop towards the end of its cycle.