Make your own free website on


end of a century

doctor, we have a problem here. Damon Albarn takes the pulse of the Nineties

Somewhere at home, I've got a tape of Kurt Cobain singing "There's No Other Way". It's from 1991 or so. He was on BBC Radio Bristol; they asked him which records of the moment he liked, and he just picked up his guitar and started to sing our song about being resigned to your fate (I don't know why he liked it: maybe he thought that it sounded a bit like "Teen Spirit").

I listen to that tape every now and then, and I still don't know what to make of it. Because when Kurt Cobain died, one of the things that surprised me was how upset everyone was - whatever their background. It showed me how fragmented the world is all the rest of the time, and if there's a key to the Nineties I think it's that perpetual insecurity. Never have people thought so hard about their lives and come to such indecision, or felt further apart. We're powerless and confused - by politics and work and sex and even things like morality. If there's going to be an epitaph for the Nineties, it will be "By the end, we all felt like victims."

Apparenly the Ninties were introduced as some kind of a caring decade. I'm afraid I don't remember much of that because I was taking lots of drugs at the time and not really paying attention. By the time I stopped taking drugs, everybody else had started taking them, and the decade had become a surreal place where cause and effect were separated and no one had noticed.

So many things nave nappenea aurmg the Nineties that have made no sense whatsoever. Take the Gulf War - a conflict designed entirely for TV. We all sat there watching people being blown to pieces in their thousands, with "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin going on in the back of our heads. And we loved it. We thought it was great. Watching the Gulf War was like being on drugs. And that is what the Nineties are like - being on drugs all the time.

We were also told that the Nineties would become some golden era of ecological consciousness. I'm a vegetarian and I don't drive, so I should be right behind the ecological protesters, but vou look at them and vou can't heln but be cynical. Much as I hate car culture and the destruction of the environment, there is something unpleasant about the people who are protesting against them too. That is a real Nineties dilemma - you can't stand even the people who agree with you.

This isn't really anything to do with the Nineties at all: it's to do with the Eighties. We had a government that encouraged us to look affer ourselves alone. It was a political idea to change not only the way people live, but the way politics itself worked. And it succeeded. We don't really have politics in the real sense in this country any more - people's belief in what it can achieve has been dismantled just as much as their faith in the monarchy has, but it's more sinister than that. When you hear the supposed representatives of progressive, liberal politics uttering the language of Christian authoritarianism - and when you suspect that there are actually more liberals in the Conservative party than in New Labour - you really know that something has gone badly wrong.

Two years ago I was fervently in favour of New Labour. Now I've got serious doubts about them. If you are going to take a country's population with you on a big political change, then they have to feel the reason why they're doing it, as well as understand it, and I don't feel it any more with New Labour. Obviously I'll vote for them, but if I'm being honest it's more for the kind of reasons that I always drink Coke rather than Pepsi; you make your choice and you stick with it.

I met Tony Blair, at the time when I was Noel Gallagher (I've since realised, by the way, that it wasn't me but the ,position I was occupying that was important. Noel occupies it now, and eventually it will be someone else again). I didn't warm to Blair. What he said to me was, "I hope you sell a lot of records next year," and it was perfectly clear why. You can't complain when you're in that position in pop culture, though - the essence of the times just attaches itself to you.

Another of the great impulses of the Nineties has been the urge to see yourself as a victim. You see it all around you in the Nineties. People's psyches are in a terrible state these days but they all say, "Oh, at least we've got everything out in the open." I don't think that's a good thing at all. lt's just encouraged us all to say, "Oh, look what's wrong with me! Isn't it awful?" I have always preferred people to bottle things up, which of course you're not supposed to do these days, because I can't stand vomitous eruptions of emotions, on telly or in real life. I don't think it helps anyone - it's just pornographic. It lets you take pleasure in other people's misfortunes while telling yourself you're really concerned for them, and it lets them think they're being really honest while they're really just making a spectacle of themselves.

So as far as I can see, the Nineties have been your actual endof-the-century social and mental breakdown. One thing I am sure of, though, is that the millennium itself is going to be th~ebiggest let-down of the lot. I'm quite glad about that. I was very, excited at one point, thinking: "Ooh, let's do an enormous turnof-the-century gig on New Year's Eve 1999." But the more I heard and read, the more I realised I was accepting the hype. The real start of the 21st century was in about 1995, when we realised the world was not suddenly going to change and become this fabulous Space 1999 future. We've all had enough of the 21st century already. And I intend to be somewhere very far away from civilisation when it arrives.

Back to 1996 Back to Archive