cover image While We Were Getting High: Britpop and the ’90s

While We Were Getting High: Britpop and the ’90s

Kevin Cummins. Cassell, $40 (256p) ISBN 978-1-78840-220-0

Readers of a certain age yearning for a comforting stroll through the bands of their youth may be jolted by the jaded tone of this collection of 1990s Britpop photos and contemporary interviews from rock photographer Cummins. He opens with cynicism about “cool Britannia” marketed “to the masses” and links Britpop’s flag-waving to Brexit. The photos are a mixed bag artistically, but inarguably definitive: the pugilistic laddish look for Oasis tracks with the group’s view of what rock and roll should be (“You wanna write about shagging and taking drugs,” per Noel Gallagher), but makes for relatively flat portraits, all football jerseys and dead-eyed glaring. Contrasting visually is the fey androgyny of Suede’s Brett Anderson, whose take on the era lines up with Cummins’s. (“I think it’s aged terribly. The faint whiff of nationalism and misogyny.”) Despite being divorced from the period’s tabloid flare, some portraits, particularly of the women-led bands, still resonate with an attitudinal sting (Elastica) or glam mystery (Lush). This is the rare archival music photography collection that looks back not with awe but some weariness, a more clear-eyed if grim gaze. Agent: Carrie Kania, C&W. (Oct.)