The British are coming - again. After a year in which tracks by British-based bands were generally shunned by modern rock radio stations in favor of American grunge and neo-punk, British acts are beginning to make a significant impact at the format again.
In the last month, Oasis’ “Live Forever” has topped the charts at modern rock KROQ Los Angeles and KEGE Minneapolis, while its “Supersonic” was No. 1 on the playlist at WENZ Cleveland.
The Stone Roses’ new single, “Love Spreads,” has hit No. 1 at WXRT Chicago and CIMX Detroit, while Portishead’s “Sour Times” hit the summit at KWOD Sacramento.
This week on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart, British acts make up nearly half the top 10 as “Love Spreads” climbs to No. 5 with a bullet. “Everything Zen,” by Bush, another new British entry, moves to No. 6, while “Live Forever” jumps to No. 7 and “Sour Times” falls to No. 9.
Some modern rock radio executives suggest the British rock resurgence is because listeners might be growing tired of grunge and punkish sounds. Other radio executives believe the latest onslaught of releases from Britain is superior to releases in the past year.
“I can’t remember the last time there was a cluster of four big records at the top of the charts from Britain,” says WNNX Atlanta program director Brian Philips. Bush benefited from a chain reaction late last year when modern rock heavyweight KROQ began playing “Everything Zen” and “Little Things” from the band’s debut “Sixteen Stone” even before it was released. Stations in Chicago, Seattle, San Jose and Augusta, Ga., soon followed suit.
WXRT program director Norm Winer fears that the success of Green Day and Offspring has spurred copycat signings. “That would make the format more homogeneous, and we are looking for as much diversity as possible,” he says. “There’s no reason why someone that loves Green Day can’t love Oasis and Portishead.”
Some radio executives, however, say any British rock resurgence is purely coincidental. “A hit is a hit is a hit,” says KEGE program director John Lassman. “We have been lucky enough to get better-sounding songs from British acts, but I don’t think the audience is sitting around saying, ‘We haven’t heard from the lads in a long time.’ “
Geffen director of alternative promotion Ted Volk agrees. “It’s really pretty simple - Oasis has a great song. It doesn’t matter where they’re from.”