Originally created 09/22/05

The Brits are back



They came, they saw, they conquered.

And now they're back.

In the 1960s, a small army of British musicians, led by The Beatles and the Stones and supported by the likes of The Who, the Kinks and the Animals, captured American ears with distinctive sounds that twisted traditional rock and blues in an Anglo-centric way.

As is often the case with invading armies, though, the British found sustaining themselves so far from home difficult. While their field marshals continue to soldier on - the Stones are on the road again, as is former Beatle Paul McCartney - most of the original invaders have called it a day.

In the years since, there have been pockets of activity - Pink Floyd, The Police and some band called Led Zeppelin, for example - but no simultaneous assaults.

Until, perhaps, now.

Not only are the aforementioned golden oldies taking another stab at the States and garnering their best reviews in years in the process, but a new generation of English acts has reached American shores, prompting hushed whispers of a new British Invasion.

Leading the pack are the London act Coldplay and the Manchester band Oasis. Like The Beatles and Stones before them, they represent, respectively, the refinement and rebellion of rock.

Both bands bring their brand of British song-craft to Atlanta next week.

Once dismissed as Radiohead-lite, Coldplay reeived its earliest success on the back of Yellow, a single off its debut, Parachutes. Featuring the same sort of yearning vocals, floating guitars and very British melancholy, the band seemed content to temporarily fill the breach left when Radiohead sidestepped tunes in favor of experimental blips, pings and sproings. Parachutes performed well, earning a nomination for England's Mercury Prize in 2000 and creeping into the American charts.

The band returned in 2002 with A Rush of Blood to the Head, a second, stronger collection. A far more piano-driven record, Blood attracted a new legion, perhaps two legions, of fans with soaring heartbreak anthems such as The Scientist and Clocks and then kept them interested with the edgier arrangements found on Politik and God Put a Smile Upon You Face. Both a popular and artistic success, Blood peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 200 and earned a Grammy for best alternative music album.

By the time the band returned in 2005 with the critically acclaimed X&Y, the whisper as to what Coldplay's legacy might be had already begun. It was not uncommon to hear the band's name mentioned in the same breath as U2, arguably the most successful British Isle import of the past 20 years. Occasionally, even the B word (Beatles) is bandied about. Certainly, the band's profile has increased, thanks in no small part to frontman Chris Martin's marriage to actress Gwyneth Paltrow; and though the tabloid tales might have helped, X&Y also garnered Coldplay some of its strongest reviews and cemented its spot as one of the twin pillars of the new invasion.

An unapologetic cherry picker, Oasis has skimmed the best parts of classic English rock - the clamor of The Who, the melodies of The Beatles, the roughshod image of the Rolling Stones and the drama of the Kinks - and combined them into their own kitchen-sink approximation of what a big, brawny British rock band should sound like.

Led, in iron fist style, by guitarist and primary songwriter Noel Gallagher, the band put out its first two albums, 1994's Definitely Maybe and 1995's (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, made waves on both English and American shores with their sure sense of melody and often nonsensical lyrical flights. In a recent interview with British music magazine Word, Mr. Gallagher admitted that more than a decade after the song was written he still had no idea what Don't Look Back in Anger is about.

The band's most recent release, Don't Believe the Truth, has been hailed by critics as at least a partial return to form. Simply written and sonically large, it shows the band once again embracing both the bombast and the sweet song sense that made it famous. Fans seem to be responding as well. Oasis, a band that has always been larger at home than abroad, managed to sell out the biggest of the big rooms, Madison Square Garden, on its current tour.

Consider that a warning shot over the bow.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.