New Model Army
Anarchy in the UK
Despite what may have gushed on you via the UK music press (Q magazine: "British music will conquer the world in 2005"), this isn't 1994 all over again. Brit pop's as dead as Dickens' doorknob (thanks, Robbie Williams), and far worse, so is John Peel.
Still, there's something in the air, and not just Steve Lamacq's BBC 1 show, either. Glaswegians Franz Ferdinand's SXSW 04 success has kick-started another wave of new UK acts. Out of the 95 UK acts scheduled for this year's Music Festival, here's a skimming through the cream of the crop the usual suspects, raw recruits, the good, badass, and the downright odd. And Fatboy Slim. Remember him?
Wales-by-way-of-London's Alarm last had a hit on these shores in 1983 when IRS Records was the hippest label in the land. Mike Peters brought his version of the band to Austin two years ago, but never made it to La Zona Rosa once he learned his wife was in labor. Here's hoping that family isn't expanding again come the third week of March.
The Old Guard
Last year saw the release of Ash's Meltdown, a louder disc than what we're used to from Tim Wheeler's tuneful Britrock quartet. They're also co-founding members of ZombAid, the UK group deadicated to giving useful occupations to the newly-reanimated layabouts of Shaun of the Dead. Ash Fun Facts Nos. 1 and 2: Stunningly lovely and talented Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley just released her superb solo debut Grey Will Fade and is currently snogging Shaun director Edgar Wright. Manchester's Doves may well be the best band in Britain these days, new CD Some Cities and new single "Black and White Town" being an insanely catchy collection of guitar-and-drum-driven monster grooves that positively screams for stateside success.
Graham Coxon, meanwhile, used to be in Blur, but don't hold that against him. His post-Blur debut, Happiness in Magazines, is a minor, lo-fi Britrock masterpiece, and single "Freakin' Out" rivals anything coming out of the UK this year with the possible exception of Doves' new single.
Brothers Danny and Richard McNamara founded swaggering rock outfit Embrace in the late Eighties in West Yorkshire, recorded groundbreaking single "All You Good Good People" in 1997, and released new CD Out of Nothing in 2004, which entered the UK charts at No. 1. Rumor has it a superstadium is being built on the Isle of Wight in order to safely contain the band's gargantuan sound.
Wildly popular Brighton-based DJ/producer Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, has come a long way, baby, and is the godfather of the Big Beat as well as a former Housemartin. His new CD Palookaville is good enough to make your ass drop off from all that shakin', so strong undergarments are advised. Longtime SXSWer Robyn Hitchcock's recent Spooked (Yep Roc) continues the singer-songwriter-storefronter's penchant for gorgeous melodies and obscurantist lyrics. It's his best in ages.
It's been said that Birmingham's reggaefied Musical Youth were neither, but that's not true: They really were young once. Brothers Michael and Kelvin Grant are still passing the dutchie around, although lefthander/singer Dennis Seaton is no longer along for the ride. Musical Youth Fun Fact No. 1: They were the first-ever black act on MTV!
The New Model Army was created by Parliament in 1645. Led by Oliver Cromwell, they beat the stuffing out of the Royalists at the Battle of Naseby that June. Much, much later a band bearing the same moniker cropped up. Marked by trenchant politicism and a gritty melodic panache, they remain a cornerstone of thinking-man's proletarian punk outfit 25 years on, despite the recent death of drummer Robert Heaton.
Songstress Beth Orton is the closest thing the UK will ever have to Lucinda Williams, thanks to the GATT treaty limiting the number of achingly gorgeous singer-songwriters allowed per monarchy. Similarly, Scout Niblett's loud/soft/loud acoustic methodology has found her compared in these pages to Cat Power, but truth be told she's actually a bit more like Kim Gordon minus the animalistic husbandry.
Can't stand the Rezillos? Tough shit, Mickey, Edinburgh's punk pioneers have been discharging the cream of the noisy crop since 1976 and have now reformed. Singers Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds are Class of '77 royalty, although, as yet, they still haven't been offered a Peerage, dammit.
Obscurity is knocking: Scotland's beloved indie-poppers the Trashcan Sinatras have a new album, Weightlifting, which lifts enough lovelorn confessionals to make even the most jaded Smiths fan forget about the Mozzer, if only for a moment.
Edinburgh's indiepop darlings Aberfeldy could well give Belle & Sebastian a run for their lucre. Thankfully, they're busy being musical geniuses. Their new Rough Trade-r, Young Forever, is, in a word, heavenly.
Adem is best known as the bassist for Fridge. His new solo disc, Homesongs, is a contemplatively low-key blend of guitar, harmonium, glockenspiel, and achingly beautiful sadness. Apache Indian, aka Steven Kapur, fuses Bhangra with hip-hop and more, to the point he's been nominated for the Mercury Music award. Single "Boomshackalak" is far too funky.
Nottingham's Nic Armstrong is The Greatest White Liar, according to his New West debut, but we think of him as the groovy reincarnation of sixties Britpop pre-Beatles, post-Merseybeat, all soul. Bikini Atoll are labelmates with Austin's Explosions in the Sky, which tells you all you need to know. Bloc Party's "Banquet" single was the sound of London 2004 and new album Silent Alarm is a cacophonous blend of Joy Divisioned guitars leavened by stuttery funk beats and a healthy sense of how to make your bum shake.
Dogs Die in Hot Cars' ingratiating blend of insatiably poppy songcraft recalls the best of Squeeze if they'd been fronted by Paul Weller, while Welsh hip-hop jesters Goldie Lookin Chain are what happens when you run out of spliff in the midst of an Ali G bender. Scottrockers Idlewild's new single "Love Steals Us From Loneliness" is a mouthful certainly, but it rocks just fine.
M.I.A., aka Maya Arulpragasam, was recently profiled in The New Yorker even though the Sri Lankan-by-way-of-London rapper hasn't released a full album yet. Her blend of grime hip-hop and Sri Lankan patois via single "Galang" is the best thing off the streets since the Streets.
Aggressively melodic Britrockers Ordinary Boys nicked their name from a Morrissey song and never looked back. Their cover of the Specials' "Little Bitch" nearly tops the original. Speaking of aces all the way, the Kaiser Chiefs' single "Oh My God" has lodged itself so far in my brain I can no longer remember the dog's name. As for their SXSW gig? "I Predict a Riot." Relentlessly catchy post-New-Wave genius.
Do their passports read I Am Kloot? Likely not, but these Manchesters sound suspiciously like Robyn Hitchcock offspring, which is a very good thing. Mancunians the Longcut mix post-punk, keyboards, and furious pacing into an enveloping style that recalls everyone from Fugazi to the Mars Volta. Nine Black Alps' frenetic proto-punk is like sticking your head in a Cuisinart and ending up with a wicked new hairstyle. Frantically charging single "Cosmopolitan" will do nothing to ease your post-gig hangover.
Let's be blunt. In fact, let's be James Blunt because we're tired and we'd like to go Back to Bedlam, the title of Blunt's new album, which recalls Elliott Smith at his most not-dead-yet.
The Go! Team have the coolest name, and the coolest sound: film-referencing, horn-inflected, dance party boogie circa '64. Debut disc, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, sums up their infectious sound. Breed '77 are more like Seattle '92, making them the year's most atypical Britrock band, verging as they do on Alice in Chains-lite territory, albeit with fewer drugs and, presumably, more hugs. The friendly fire of 22-20s, on the other hand, is MC5 all the way, Woodstock-era traditionalists that they are. Flak jackets required.
The Departure are the NBT (Next Big Thing) according to the Britrock music press, but this time NME are onto something. Part Television-meets-Suede, part retro flashback, single "Crashing the Same Scene" almost makes you wish it were 1982 all over again. Almost. Fronted by laconic blonde IED Leila Moss, the Duke Spirit have exploded New Wave and bluesified Blondie, resulting in a driving groove that, especially in single "Dark Is Light Enough," can sterilize surgical instruments better than a platinum autoclave. CBGB's is calling.
Yanks John Mark Lapham (a Texan, no less) and Brandon Carr formed the Earlies with a pair of UK lads to form this lo-fi, guitar-driven Britrock-by-way-of-Austin outfit that would do Townes Van Zandt proud.
Meet the New Boss
We're all Sluts of Trust, but only the few, the proud, the slutty get to rock out this hard via electronica-enhanced punk squall and shouty, sweaty lyrics. Single "Piece o' You" should give Lemmy Kilmister a few more moles. Atlantic's the Glitterati recruited Guns n' Roses producer Mike Clink to oversee their sleaze-rock debut so these guys eat Poison for breakfast.
SXSW returners the Crimea's EP Lottery Winners on Acid verges on the painfully honest, with jangle-pop eclectics and some 30 releases in three years (!). Liverpool's the Black Velvets reconfigure the heavy monster sound of Sixties-era rock gods the Who: "Led Zeppelin with melodies by The Beatles."
Cinephile's sleek, serpentine "Urban Angel" single makes Massive Attack last year's news, if last year's news also included the Sneaker Pimps and Morcheeba. Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves' "Good Morning, Aston Martin" is a slice of pure-pop deliciousness, off her CD Drive It Like You Stole It, featuring Spoonbenders Britt Daniel and Jim Eno.
British screamo? Seriously, you could use Hell Is for Heroes' Models for the Programme CD to strip the costumes off the Locust. Shriekery never sounded so, well, loud. Wales' Jarcrew "sound like some bastard electro-dancefloor-friendly post-hardcore elecroclash mashup, all sub-atomic keyboard basslines, handclaps, and staccato DFA punk-funk." With a name like Viking Skull, it's got to be cheesily addictive, and with songs like "Beer, Drugs, and Bitches" and "Rape, Pillage, and Burn," they are. Paging Dr. Oppenheimer: Punish the Atom do so with low-end fuzzbomb verve, part Dischord, part end-of-time guitar blitz. When they say they're "Destroying drudgery with mantra-like basslines," they aren't kidding.
Nominated for Favourite Single in this year's CMW Indie Awards, Boy's "Same Old Song" recalls the best of the Byrds meets the Dandy Warhols, tunefully retro Britrock as catchy as the clap, but far less painful.
Adem (London) www.adem.tv; Thu., 8pm, Blender Bar @ the Ritz
United Kingdom @ SXSW
AKO (Bristol) www.ako-music.com; Thu., 8pm, Red Eyed Fly
Aqualung (London) Fri., TBA, Stubb's
Nic Armstrong (London) www.nicarmstrong.com; Sat., 9pm, Cedar Street Courtyard
Ash (London) www.ash-official.com; Fri., 11pm, Eternal
Tom Baxter (London) www.tombaxter.co.uk; Fri., 9pm, Buffalo Billiards
Bikini Atoll (London) www.batoll.com; Wed., 10pm, Friends
Biomechanical (London) www.biomechanical.co.uk; Thu., 11pm, Back Room
Black Moses (London) www.blackmoses.co.uk; Thu., 10pm, Flamingo Cantina
Bloc Party (London) www.blocparty.com; Fri., TBA, Stubb's
The Blueskins (Yorkshire) www.theblueskins.com; Thu., 10pm, Blender Bar @ the Ritz
James Blunt (London) www.jamesblunt.com; Fri., 10pm, Buffalo Billiards
Breed 77 (London) www.breed77.net; Fri., 11pm, Hard Rock Cafe
Meg Lee Chin (London) www.megleechin.com; Wed., TBA, Elysium
Graham Coxon (London) www.grahamcoxon.co.uk; Thu., 11:15pm, Stubb's
Cranebuilders (Liverpool) www.cranebuilders.net; Sat., 10pm, Nuno's
Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves (London) www.thesuddenmoves.com; Sat., 11pm, Friends
The Cribs (Leeds) www.thecribs.com; Sat., 1am, Pecan Street Ale House
The Crimea (London) www.thecrimea.net; Fri., 8pm, Exodus
The Dawn Parade (Cambridge) www.thedawnparade.com; Fri., 9pm, Jackalope
Dogs (London) Sat., 9pm, Buffalo Billiards
Doves (Manchester) www.doves.net; Thu., 1am, La Zona Rosa
The Duke Spirit (London) www.dukespirit.com; Wed., 1am, Nuno's
The Earlies (Manchester) www.theearlies.com; Thu., 12:15am, Maggie Mae's
Embrace (Leeds) www.embrace-music.com; Fri., 1am, Buffalo Billiards
Evil Nine (London) www.marineparade.net; Wed., TBA, Elysium
Fatboy Slim (Brighton) www.fatboyslim.net; Thu., 12:30am, Stubb's
Fingathing (Manchester) www.fingathing.com; Thu., 9:30pm, Zero Degrees
Rachel Fuller (London) www.rachelfuller.com; Sat., 10pm, 18th Floor @ Crowne Plaza
The Futureheads (Sunderland) www.thefutureheads.com; Thu., 11pm, La Zona Rosa
The Glitterati (Leeds) www.theglitterati.com; Wed., 10:30pm, Hard Rock Cafe
Goldie Lookin Chain (Newport) www.youknowsit.co.uk; Fri., 12mid, Eternal
The Go! Team (Brighton) www.thegoteam.co.uk; Fri., 11pm, Buffalo Billiards
The Great Lines (Gillingham) Thu., 8pm, Pecan Street Ale House
Ed Harcourt (London) www.edharcourt.com; Sat., 10:30pm, Antone's
Hell Is for Heroes (London) www.hellisforheroes.net; Wed,. 10pm, Sake on Sixth
Robyn Hitchcock (London) www.robynhitchcock.com; Wed., 8pm, Emo's Main Room
Robyn Hitchcock again (London) www.robynhitchcock.com; Thu., 10pm, Blender Balcony @ the Ritz
Robyn Hitchcock yet again (London) www.robynhitchcock.com; Fri., TBA, Cactus Cafe
Robyn Hitchcock one last time (London) www.robynhitchcock.com; Fri., 11:30pm, La `Zona Rosa
Hot Chip (London) www.hotchip.co.uk; Thu., 12mid, Elysium
I Am Kloot (Manchester) www.iamkloot.com; Thu., 1am, Habana Calle 6
Kaiser Chiefs (Leeds) www.kaiserchiefs.co.uk; Thu., 9pm, La Zona Rosa
Kasabian (London) www.kasabian.co.uk; Fri., TBA, Stubb's
The Kills (London) Fri., 10pm, Emo's Main
Large Number (London) www.largenumber.co.uk; Fri., 11:20pm, Latitude 30
Long-View (Manchester) Fri., 10pm, Co-Op Bar
The Longcut (Manchester) www.thelongcut.com; Fri., 9pm, Exodus
The Magic Numbers (London) www.themagicnumbers.net; Sat., 10pm, La Zona Rosa
Marlowe (Liverpool) www.marlowemusic.co.uk; Fri., 10pm, Habana Calle 6
The Martini Henry Rifles (Cardiff) www.themartinihenryrifles.com; Fri., 10pm, Blender Balcony @ the Ritz
Maximo Park (Newcastle) Sat., 12mid, Pecan Street Ale House
M.I.A. (London) www.miauk.com; Thu., 11pm, Elysium
The Music (Leeds) www.themusicuk.com; Sat., 1am, La Zona Rosa
New Model Army (Bradford) www.newmodelarmy.com; Fri., 10pm, Elysium
Nightingales (Birmingham) home.clara.net/kidd/nightingales.html; Sat., 12mid, Maggie Mae's
Nine Black Alps (Manchester) www.nineblackalps.net; Sat., 11pm, La Zona Rosa
Nizlopi (Leamington Spa) www.nizlopi.com; Wed., 8pm, Buffalo Billiards
The Ordinary Boys (Worthing) www.theordinaryboys.com; Fri., 12mid, Exodus
Panic Cell (Kent) www.paniccell.com; Thu., 9pm, Back Room
Paul the Girl (London) www.paulthegirl.com; Wed., 12mid, Hideout
Polly Paulusma (London) www.pollypaulusma.com; Thu., 11pm, Nuno's
PDHM (London) www.pdhm.co.uk; Thu., 10pm, Back Room
People in Planes (Cardiff) www.peopleinplanes.com; Thu., 11pm, Co-Op Bar
Mike Peters/the Alarm MMV (Rhyl) www.thealarm.com; Fri., 11pm, Elysium
Robert Plant & the Strange Sensation (Bath Somerset) www.robertplant.com; Thu., 12:15am, Austin Music Hall
Punish the Atom (Nottingham) www.punishtheatom.com; Fri., 8pm, Jackalope
Pure Reason Revolution (Reading) www.purereasonrevolution.com; Sat., 11pm, Buffalo Billiards
Raging Speedhorn (Corby) www.ragingspeedhorn.co.uk; Thu., 1am, Back Room
Selfish Cunt (London) www.horsegluerecords.com; Wed., 8pm, Club de Ville
Amy Smith (London) www.amy-smith.com; Fri., 8pm, Buffalo Billiards
S.Rock Levinson (London) www.srocklevinson.com; Fri., 8pm, Blender Balcony @ the Ritz
Steel Pulse (Birmingham) www.steel-pulse.com; Thu., 8pm, Auditorium Shores
22-20s (Lincoln) www.22-20s.com; Thu., 8pm, Stubb's
Tom Vek (London) www.tomvek.tv; Sat., 8pm, La Zona Rosa
Viking Skull (Corby) www.vikingskull.com; Thu., 12mid, Back Room
Wreckless Eric (Norwich) www.wrecklesseric.com; Fri., 9pm, Elysium
Pete Wylie @ the Mighty Wah! (Liverpool) www.petewylie.com; Sat., 10pm, B.D. Riley's
yourcodenameis:milo (Newcastle) www.yourcodenameismilo.com; Fri., 1am, Lava Lounge Patio
ScotlandAberfeldy (Edinburgh) www.aberfeldys.com; Thu., 8pm, Nuno's
Biffy Clyro (Glasgow) www.biffyclyro.com; Fri., 10pm, Exodus
Cinephile (Glasgow) www.cinephileonline.com; Wed., 11pm, Hideout
Dawn of the Replicants (Edinburgh) www.dawnofthereplicants.com; Fri., 9pm, Habana Calle 6
Dogs Die in Hot Cars (Glasgow) www.dogsdieinhotcars.com; Fri., 12mid, Buffalo Billiards
Hobotalk (Edinburgh) www.hobotalk.com; Sat., 11pm, Lounge
Idlewild (Edinburgh) www.idlewild.co.uk; Sat., 12mid, La Zona Rosa
Jupiter & Teardrop (Glasgow) www.jupiterandteardrop.com; Wed., 9pm, Nuno's
Rezillos (Edinburgh) www.rezillos.com; Fri., 12mid, Elysium
Sluts of Trust (Glasgow) www.slutsoftrust.co.uk; Sat., 10pm, Latitude 30
Trashcan Sinatras (Glasgow) www.trashcansinatras.com; Thu., 11pm, Exodus
NORTHERN IRELANDThe Amazing Pilots (Belfast NORTHERN IRELAND) www.theamazingpilots.com; Wed., 9pm, The Vibe
Iain Archer (Belfast NORTHERN IRELAND) www.iainarcher.com; Sat., 9pm, Pecan Street Ale House
Christof Dienz (Vienna AUSTRIA) Fri., 9pm, Copa
Other Intls @ SXSW
A Brand (Antwerp BELGIUM) www.abrand.be; Fri., 12mid, Jackalope
Maxon Blewitt (Antwerp BELGIUM) www.maxonblewitt.com; Thu., 9pm, Nuno's
Dr. Pepper Family (Gent BELGIUM) www.drpepperfamily.be; Sat., 10pm, Co-Op Bar
Hitch (Kortrijk BELGIUM) www.hitch.be; Sat., 9pm, Co-Op Bar
Andrea Echeverri (Bogota COLOMBIA) www.nacionalrecords.com; Thu., 12mid, Mambo Kings
Superlitio (Cali COLOMBIA) www.superlitio.com; Sat., 1am, Mambo Kings
Sunshine (Prague CZECH REPUBLIC) www.sunshinetrash.com; Fri., 12mid, Lava Lounge Patio
Apocalyptica (Germany GERMANY) www.apocalyptica.com; Sat., 9pm, Flamingo Cantina
Electrocute (Berlin GERMANY) www.electrocute.de; Thu., 8pm, Elysium
Ulrich Schnauss (Berlin GERMANY) www.ulrich-schnauss.net; Thu., 9pm, Blender Bar @ the Ritz
127 (Tehran IRAN) www.comingaroundmusic.com; Sat., 9pm, Tambaleo
Jennifer Gentle (Padova ITALY) www.jennifergentle.it; Wed., 12mid, Emo's Main
Piccola Orchestra Avion Travel (Naples ITALY) Sat., 10pm, Tambaleo
Beangrowers (St. Julians MALTA) www.beangrowers.net; Thu., 11pm, Lava Lounge Patio
Seyi Solagbade & the Blackface Band (Lagos State NIGERIA) www.broadjam.com/seyisolagbade; Thu., 8:45pm, Austin Music Hall
DJ Panko (Barcelona SPAIN) www.ojosdebrujo.com; Thu., 8:45pm, Zero Degrees
Ojos De Brujo (Barcelona SPAIN) www.ojosdebrujo.com; Sat., 1am, Caribbean Lights
C-Mon&Kypski (Utrecht NETHERLANDS) www.c-monandkypski.nl; Sat., 10:40pm, Caribbean Lights
NRA (Amsterdam NETHERLANDS) www.euronet.nl/users/nra; Sat., 11pm, Beerland
The Spades (Eindhoven NETHERLANDS) www.thespades.net; Thu., 9pm, Red Eyed Fly
Voicst (Amsterdam NETHERLANDS) www.voicst.com; Fri., 11pm, Jackalope
zZz (Amsterdam NETHERLANDS) www.soundofzzz.nl; Thu., 11pm, Flamingo Cantina
Daara J (SENEGAL) www.furax.fr; Sat., 11:50pm, Caribbean Lights
Sharq (Tashkent UZBEKISTAN) Sat., TBA, Elephant Room