We’ve already looked at Damon Albarn’s shiny reincarnation for his new opera album Dr. Dee that was released today, but Mr. Albarn wasn’t always so clean cut and introverted. There was a time when he was a Brit brat through-and-through, sporting trainers, jeans, zippered jackets and a cockney accent that put East Enders to shame.

Before you get into his new music, we thought we’d take you back to Albarn’s origins in the heady days of the 1990s English music scene affectionately nicknamed ‘Britpop’. Born out of disillusionment with the social climate instigated by Margaret Thatcher’s conservative rule in the 80s, Britpop promised upbeat music that made fun of aspects of British life with an ironic, snarky attitude.

In part, Britpop was a reaction against the grunge music of the early 1990s. Grunge was seen as an import, another marker of the American cultural domination that was slowly creeping across the world. Britpop was a way of reasserting identity by singing in British accents and referencing nuances of life in the back streets of suburbs all over the country.

This is not something unique to Britain however — musicians, artists, writers and filmmakers all over the world often struggle with trying to be heard in local scenes that are primarily supplied by American imports. It becomes a contradictory struggle between resenting American domination and simultaneously seeking recognition from the American scene. Conquering the great U.S. of A. is often seen as the final frontier of ‘arriving’ as a band.

However, Britpop was not designed to be palatable for a US audience. It was made to be British, it was made to be bratty, and it was made for lads who liked larfing at how shit things were post-Thatcher. Whether or not it had impact in the US doesn’t negate how significant it was for England in the 1990s. Grab a pint, get your union jack ready and read on after the jump for the best of Britpop.