The NME Awards Tour is a long-established way to kick off the musical year with a quartet of bands that gathered plaudits in the preceding months. This year, we have Brummie style from Peace, noisy London shenanigans from Palma Violets, Liverpudlian swagger from Miles Kane, and sort-of-Scottish art-pop from Django Django. Surely something for everyone, and TGTF was there in Newcastle on opening night to see how things went down.
One’s heart goes out to Peace: their set began just as the Academy’s doors were opening, meaning the crowd was more stunted than they deserve. Nevertheless, there were whoops and hollers aplenty from a knot of dedicated fans right down the front. And any plaudits coming their way are well-deserved. Peace have a knack of honing in on any particular guitar music sound from the last couple of decades, and brilliantly recreating it as their own. ‘Follow Baby’ is a fine bit of pop-baggy last heard from EMF in the very early ‘90s. ‘Wraith’, shorn of its dubious blaxsploitation visuals is altogether more considered, with its funky guitar chops and enormous singalong chorus revealing a fine almost-love song.
But where Peace really sound most at home is in the unashamed power ballad ‘California Daze’. Sweet, sweeping backing vocals melt into a gentle guitar figure, the drums kick things up a gear about 90 seconds in, and the emotion is unashamed. A true lighters-in-the-air moment, which shows their maturity as songwriters and talent as performers. Perhaps for my sins, in the widescreen guitars and breadth of scope, I was reminded of a young U2. Peace deserve the latter band’s wider recognition, and tonight is a decent step towards achieving that.
Palma Violets (pictured at top) eschew subtlety in favour of noise, wild abandon, and onstage theatricality. Their sound owes a lot to punk – I’m sure there’s one or two Sex Pistols and Clash records in Sam Fryer’s parents’ record collection. Vocals are artfully tweaked out of tune, instrumentation is simple: a synth organ parping underneath distorted guitars. Fryer and bassist Chilli Jesson have a sweaty bromance going on, mic stands intimately close together, double-headed guitar action never far away. Certainly this is raucous, powerful stuff live, artfully lo-fi (as per the obvious and unnecessary tape noise on their recorded material). Are they the true heirs to the art-punk throne? Until their forthcoming album is properly analysed for the presence of decent songs, the jury is still out, but they’re certainly a fun way to spend half an hour.
As Miles Kane takes the stage, it becomes pretty clear that the crowd is his. Perhaps this is because, as his Wikipedia entry states, he is “very attractive”, or perhaps it’s the glint of his diamanté slippers that prove irresistible. Whatever the cause, the audience are big Kane fans, and he doesn’t disappoint them. Having been in bands since the age of 18, Kane knows a thing or two about throwing an onstage shape – for any young trainee frontmen watching, this was a masterclass in the art of swagger. Kane knows this is his big chance, and has got his pedal pressed hard to the floor. Imagine Liam Gallagher’s vocal sneer, his brother’s guitar technique, Alex Turner’s way with a tune, and Paul Weller’s haircut, and we have Miles Kane – a patchwork dadrock man in leather trousers.
But then again, there’s a big hole right now where all the big beasts used to prowl. So step forward Miles Kane, a pseudo-tribute to them all, to keep the guitar-loving public downloading content for the time being. The fact is, most people know what they like, and like what they know, and what they know is what Miles Kane is offering. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it isn’t really. Kane is 100% professional, committed, and no box in the rock playbook is left unticked tonight. And, cynicism aside, that’s not an easy feat to pull off.
And so it’s left to Django Django to top that. And frankly, it’s a little too much of a jarring contrast to really work well, as the Djangos’ artful and considered musings requiring a little too much concentration in comparison with Kane’s balls-to-the-wall rock. Most of the crowd do stick around, although the atmosphere is noticeably more subdued than previously. Perhaps this is all the better to hear the subtleties in the music, of which their multi-layered arrangements are full. There’s the echo of The Beta Band throughout, which can only be a good thing. To their own audience, with the correct support, Django Django would make a lot more sense. As it is, they are a little too cerebral for the headline slot here tonight. Perhaps a less fickle crowd might await them in other parts of the country…
Overall, this is five-star entertainment: four set of deeply professional musicians, playing somewhere around the top of their game. If you want to find out about new bands before everyone else, this is not the event for you. If you’ve not been paying attention over the last 12 months or so, or just can’t be bothered to keep up, a quick trip to the NME Tour every winter should get you right up to speed with where pop music is right now. That would be a pretty good place, then.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 15th January 2013 at 11:00 am
Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2013 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change.
Carrying on with the genre section of the exclusive TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013 to continue through January each Tuesday, today we’re bringing you the UK bands slated to perform at this year’s SXSW that play rock, punk, metal and every combination in between. (Last week, we brought you the pop and pop hybrid acts list, which you can catch up on here.) Each part of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013 is a handy resource if you’re wondering which acts to catch at this year’s marathon week of showcases, parties and secret shows. But I hope it’ll also introduce you to the solo artists and bands you haven’t heard of, because that’s the most exciting thing about SXSW: at any one moment, you could walk into a bar, a club, a hotel, a warehouse, wherever…and you might just discover the next big thing in music.
What do all these acts in the rock / punk / metal genre list have in common besides being from Britain? Powerful guitars, punishing bass and drums and in most cases, vocals worthy of idolatry. How they achieve this differs from act to act, as you will read and see/hear below.
Belligerence (added 10/01/13) – heavy metal from Portsmouth. I’m finding it hard to find information on them, as there’s another band – also metal – from Prague with the same name…
File next to: Biohazard, Clutch, Pantera
The Blackout – Welsh post-hardcore band who have been soldiering on since their formation in 2003. Right, that means they’ve been around a decade. How many other bands, no matter what the genre, still exist after 10 years? They must be doing something right. Their next album, ‘Start the Party’, is scheduled to be out on the 21st of January 2013. We won’t post the name of their sweary big hit, but John mentions it in his day 2 roundup of Leeds Fest 2011.
Brutality Will Prevail – This Cardiff hardcore band had been signed previously to Alex Fitzgerald’s Holy Roar label and are now with Purgatory Records (sensing a theme here?), who this year released their latest album, ‘Scatter the Ashes’. Expect something punishing.
Touring with: Cancer Bats and Empress in March 2013 (maybe now they won’t appear at some of the dates on this previous organised tour, since the middle of it is smack dab during SXSW).
China Rats – Leeds lad rock. Legend has it that thanks to the tour bus of Bat for Lashes breaking down on the way to this year’s Benicassim, the band found themselves headlining the Valencia festival. Is ‘(At Least Those) Kids are Getting Fed’ a commentary on the North East, or a wider problem across Britain?
The Crookes – The Crookes made their SXSW debut in 2011 and when I finally met them in Brighton in May 2012, they were eager to return, so I’m really pleased for them getting another SXSW nod. This time, they’ll have the good time sounds of ‘Hold Fast’ (my top album of 2012) under their belts and I’m sure there will be a gaggle of new American fans of theirs (mostly female?) following their every move. I’ll be catching them as many times as I can, so do come and say hello.
Seeing that I’ve been a fan of theirs since the ‘Dreams of Another Day’ EP in 2010, there is a boatload of Crookes coverage you can read on TGTF, starting here.
Crowns – Coming off of their December tour raising awareness of UK homelessness, Cornwall’s Crowns will bring their fun rock ‘n’ roll sound to Austin. I missed their show at the Cornwall Pasty Company at last year’s Great Escape (really kicking myself over this…I mean, come on, that would have been the ultimate party conversation starter, right?) but I’m determined to catch them on American soil.
Read all of our previous Crowns coverage here.
The Enemy – my guess is that the Enemy are to be the younger equivalent of and will act like Kaiser Chiefs at last year’s SXSW: pulling in a good number of fans for their perfectly good but possibly unextraordinary sets in a post-Oasis breakup world. Since they’ve been around for a while (3 albums’ worth) in the UK, they’re not likely to be high on the average UK attendees’ must-see list, but I’ve never seen them before, so if they show up at Stubb’s, I might head on over.
Read our previous Enemy coverage here.
Evans the Death – This band already has a Rolling Stone description (huh?): “This London band mixes post–Smiths jangle and early–grunge sludge, as Katherine Whitaker explores varying shades of bad romance. Her raw emotion blends with slashing, whirling guitars to inject paralysis with weird power.” When you see they’ve been signed to Slumberland Records here in America (‘Allo Darlin’ and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart‘s American home), it all seems to make sense…
Sounds like: the Libertines, if they had a female out in front
Gallops – why do I feel the need to mention Mogwai every time I hear a proggy band? Wrexham group Gallops aren’t nearly hard enough to warrant the comparison, although with titles like ‘Astaroth’ and ‘Hongliday’ their Blood and Biscuits’ debut ‘ ‘Yours Sincerely, Dr. Hardcore’, you’d not be putting experimental band in the pop box anyhow. (Something interesting I found on the band’s Tumblr: the linked to the Kitsune Maison 11 compilation – didn’t see that coming at all.)
Gallows – they’re punks. They deliver punishing sets at festivals, such as at 2000 Trees last year. And Frank Carter left them in 2011 to start Pure Love. That’s all you really need to know, right?
Hawk Eyes – punishing hard rock from Leeds. Their 2012 album ‘Ideas’ got top marks from Kerrang! and Artrocker so you know where this is going…
Nik Turner’s Hawkwind – the current incarnation of history’s first space rock groups.
Heaven’s Basement (added 10/01/13) – a hard rock band who has been soldiering on for quite a while (since 2008) and are releasing their debut album, ‘Filthy Empires’, this year. They’ve supported big names like Bon Jovi and Papa Roach, so is this an indicator of their hard rock prowess? We’ll see at this year’s event.
The Joy Formidable – what can we say about Welsh rock band Joy Formidable that hasn’t already been said? When you’ve been hand-picked by Dave Grohl as the man’s own favourite band right now, calling them “a killer live band”, ’nuff said really, yeah? The other facts that they are truly some of the loveliest people we have met and are always so happy about our coverage of them? That’s just icing on the cake. I’ve seen them several times now but the only time I’ve seen them at SXSW was on a live stream in 2011, which doesn’t really count, so I’m making it a point to catch them this time around.
Read all our previous coverage of the Joy Formidable here.
Kassidy – some have called them the Scottish Kings of Leon, but that’s just lazy journalism. We’ve been following the folky rock hybrid band since their early EPs in 2010, and trust us, they’re way better than the Followills.
Read our previous coverage of Kassidy here.
Kill It Kid – wow, I don’t have to write a piece on them, because they placed #10 on our 10 for 2013 list and Martin’s already done for me. Revivalist blues from Bath.
Klaxons – they’ve been around a while. They won a Mercury Prize in 2007 for ‘Myths of the New Future’. Their last album ‘Surfing the Void’ released in 2010 “>has a cat in an astronaut suit on the cover. Sorry, I’m having trouble sounding knowledgeable about Klaxons because I don’t really like them all that much.
Read our previous coverage on Klaxons here.
Little Barrie – ‘powerhouse’ is a word that seems to be following this Nottingham formed, London transplanted trio. But if you’re going to call Little Barrie a powerhouse trio, then surely you mean to compare to the greats of rock ‘n’ roll.
Sounds like: a more radio-polished Cream or at least a band that came out swinging in the Sixties, not in the Noughties
LostAlone – Derby band who have been described as “breathtaking Queen-style harmonies and classic metal bite” and compared to Muse. How is it possible that we’ve never heard about them, then?
New Ivory – according to MTV Iggy, these guys from London are the new knights of British indie rock. I am struggling to find a comparison, except maybe they sound like early Arctic Monkeys or Two Door Cinema Club, but not as catchy? (Yeah, I know. Damning with faint praise, aren’t I? Sorry.) Steve Aoki is a fan, having signed them to his Dim Mak Records. I dunno. Maybe they’ll actually sound better in person at SXSW.
Orange Goblin (added 10/01/13) – formerly known as Our Haunted Kingdom, on first glance you have to wonder if the new name was for a cuddlier image. So imagine my surprise that this is a heavy metal band! Having put out their first album in 1997, they’re definitely the granddaddies of the rock/metal/punk group, but having changed their sound from stoner/doom to their current more metal sound proves that they aren’t willing to stand in one place musically. A special live album for their devoted, ‘A Eulogy for the Fans’, will be released in March.
Palma Violets – I’ve refrained about writing about Palma Violets from Lambeth, South London, as what I’ve heard from them makes me think of The Vaccines, who came out of an NME promotional campaign firestorm and their #3 placing on the BBC Sound of 2011 poll with loads of fans clamouring to see them at major festivals. It’s 2013 now and look what’s happened: Palma Violets are on the BBC Sound of 2013 longlist. Overhyped band leads to foregone conclusion…appearing as a support act to headliners Django Django on the 2013 NME Awards tour next month sounds like an NME mistake then…
PAWS – Scottish three-piece banging out tunes in a garage-y, lo-fi style. It should come as no surprise that they have a strong DIY aesthetic, as they’re great fans of bands like Dinosaur Jr and the Pixies, even having a song called ‘Kim Deal’ in their arsenal.
Sounds like: the Cribs or Peace, if they were from far north of the border.
Peace – We won’t waste your time here, since the band have already been tipped on the BBC Sound of 2013 poll. Read our previous Peace coverage, including their 10 for 2013 profile (they placed #5 on this last readers’ poll), here.
Peers – 6music’s Tom Robinson was an early supporter of this Reading band in 2010, the year the young band, then all under the age of 18, played the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds. The unsigned band cite Bombay Bicycle Club as a major influence, and if you squeeze your eyes real tight, you can hear Jack Steadman’s impact on singer Matt Thompson’s vocals.
Savages – dissonant post-punk via an unusual package – four women from London. Is it their anti-establishment stance that attracted the BBC Sound of 2013 tipsters? We’ll never know for sure but I guess imitating Patti Smith and looking sullen are the highest form of flattery? They could have at least smiled for the photos on their Facebook…
Sounds like: trying too hard to be a 21st century Siouxsie and the Banshees
Sharks – usually punk is associated with a lo-fi, scuzzy sound, but this band from Leamington Spa sound remarkably polished, with hybrid punk/pop songs that could have easily slotted in with the music I listened here in America in high school.
Sound like: a grown up Blink-182, or Green Day when they weren’t so political and were still fun
Tall Ships – math rock meets indie rock in an epic way via three high-spirited lads from Brighton. John adored their 2012 opus ‘Everything Touching’ and for a Foals loving nation, it’s a wonder they aren’t bigger in the UK. Foals? Who are they?
Read our previous coverage on Tall Ships here.
Tango in the Attic – Scottish band from Glenrothes having Two Door Cinema Club-type guitars with reverb.
File next to: Smith Westerns
Throne – there’s not a lot known about this London band, except that they’re known to ‘level rooms’ with their bad boy riffage when they appear in the Capital. You have been warned.
TOY (added 10/01/13) – psychedelic rock from a band made up of some members for the group Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong. I don’t feel like it’s really necessary to write about them, considering nearly every friend of mine rates them quite highly. Not really my thing, but I’m pretty sure they will do well in Austin.
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls (added 10/01/13) – I nearly put Frank Turner’s band in the singer/songwriter category, but since his appearances at this year’s SXSW will be louder and more raucous than his solo turn last year at the Xtra Mile Recordings showcase, in the end there was no contest.
We’ve written quite about the man on TGTF, and you can read all of that through here.
Virals – vehicle for Worcester’s Shaun Hencher, who with his live band have most recently supported #5 10 for 2013 band Peace in the UK. Now Hencher’s looking to make a big splash at their American live debut at SXSW.
Sounds like: a cross between Male Bonding, Two Wounded Birds (RIP) and the Vaccines. Get yer sunnies out!
The Virginmarys – Macclesfield will soon be known for more than Ian Curtis, if this trio have anything to say about it. Their sound? Hard rocking, arse-kicking tunes.
File next to: Kasabian, Biffy Clyro
Wet Nuns – even with quite possibly one of the silliest names for a band ever, Sheffield duo Wet Nuns had a spectacular 2012, getting attention not only for their silly name but their punk crossed with blues schizophrenic sound.
Sounds like: the evil child borne from Band of Skulls and the Black Keys
While She Sleeps – is heavy metal more your thing? Then I suppose you should look to Sheffield and a band like While She Sleeps for your jollies. Luke caught them last summer at day 2 of Slam Dunk South.
Young Guns – this band has been around for quite a while, but it wasn’t until summer 2012 that they had an American record deal. Radio-friendly, not too hard rock sound made by youngish, good-looking boys in leather: in short, an American label signing coup.
Read all our previous coverage of Young Guns here.
The Zombies – “What’s your name? / Who’s your daddy? / Is he rich like me?” All kidding aside, the Zombies have been around for over 50 years. Fifty effin’ years. They called themselves the Zombies before it was hip to like zombies. Though they’re down to only two original members – Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent – contrary to popular belief, it was they, not Friendly Fires, who put St. Albans on the musical map.
Read Braden’s interview with Colin and Rod from 2 years ago here.
Electronic bands and DJs are up next week. So catch us next Tuesday for the third chapter of the genre section of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013!
Editor’s note: The BBC Sound of 2013 longlist announcement garnered mixed reviews from our writers, which led me to commission this unusual interplay – between John, holed up on his home island of Guernsey, and Martin, holed up similarly at home in Gateshead – just about the merits – or lack of? – in this Sound of 2013 list. For an alternative list, check out the TGTF 10 for 2013 poll winners, as voted by our lovely readers. As I prep this post in WordPress New Year’s Day, Welsh electropoppers CHVRCHES and Laura Mvula have been announced as #5 and #4, respectively. Before we get ahead of ourselves, John and Martin get stuck in their discussion…
So what is the BBC Sound of 2013? Is it a jumped-up product placement list, or a true representation of the best innovation to come out of the UK in the next year? Can the tips from the 213 so-called ‘tastemakers’ truly gauge who is going to break boundaries and inspire us this coming calendar year, or is it just a script that each BBC Radio presenter needs to stick to? Martin Sharman and I will be discussing this over this transcript:
John: So Martin, the BBC Sound of 2013 list is out and I quite frankly, I am bored and uninterested in what they’ve thrown up, what do you think?
Martin: Well, John, it’s easy to be cynical about these things – people like you and me spend a lot of time seeking out and experiencing new music, and could well be able to come up with a list of our own that would be just as virtuous, and certainly more to our own tastes, as this one. But I think this list has a good stab at covering a lot of bases, and I’m sure a lot of the artists on the list are grateful for the increased exposure it will generate for them. Quite how and why the acts are chosen we will never know – I fantasise that a lot of PR puffery and not the odd glass of champagne have been involved in its genesis – but if one is prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure most people who look at the list will be able to find something that they like.
John: I will indulge that a lot of bases are covered here, you’ve got your British guitar bands (Palma Violets and Savages) so the tabloid media can pander their fantasy that institution of ‘the Great British Guitar Band’ lives on. You’ve got your ‘strong independent’ woman type in the form of Angel Haze who already stinks of Jessie J and even a Michael Kiwanuka 2.0 (this time a girl!) in Laura Mvula. It feels almost formulaic to me?
Martin: Formulaic? This is the BBC we’re talking about, of course it is! There have undoubtedly been umpteenth meetings, focus groups, and quotas developed to exactly proportion each aspect of this list: genre, gender, ethnicity, hair colour, shoe size. But that’s not the fault of the artists who ended up being picked. Indeed, if Angel Haze, oozing with street smarts from the wrong side of Detroit, who can properly rap like Azealia Banks leavened with Odd Future‘s blunt lyrical themes, was to know she was being compared with the over-privileged, under-talented, Brit school rent-a-common-denominator Jessie J, she’d just as likely head across the Atlantic and whup yo’ ass. And Laura Mvula’s ethereal vocal work, presumably influenced by her a capella background, appeals to me a lot more than Kiwanuka’s homely schtick, but that just reinforces the subjective nature of all of this. What does make me yawn is the aforementioned Palma Violets – if I see another archly lo-fi video again, I’ve seen too many. The Libertines happened: deal with it. Although they may make more sense live. But there must be something on the list that appeals, John?
John: As a BBC employee I better watch whose toes on which I tread, but formulaic probably is hitting the nail on the head there. RE: Palma Violets and another ‘archly lo-fi video’, you’re going to absolutely have kittens for the video for ‘Best of Friends’, which people for some bizarre reason are gushing over? Not me, nope, I’m not buying into this Vaccines-lite that they seem to be publicising themselves as. I can get at least get a bit giddy about Gary Barlow’s favourite Irish crooners, Kodaline. The music and video to ‘All I Want’ is tear-jerkingly beautiful, and with the backing of Mister Barlow, I just feel like they could do very well for themselves. [They’ve also gotten a shout for SXSW 2013. – Ed.] While if she’s finished whooping ma ass, I feel like Angel Haze could at least be something edgy, exciting and a little bit sexy. Which is what I feel this list is missing… Who stands out for you then, Martin?
Martin: I’m with you on Kodaline: a deceptively simple song is enhanced with a brilliant, and indeed rather moving, visual story. Little Green Cars have a similarly powerful marriage: the video is made with a photographer’s eye for composition, and the song adds a much-needed bitter twist to the usual romance narrative. AlunaGeorge deserve mention for their sultry, mature approach to the urban pop genre, and visuals which positively drip 2013 London cool. The jury’s out on Tom Odell: he’s certainly a talented chap, but it’s so early on in his career to say for sure whether he’s got genuine depth, or simply blessed with an approximation of Chris Martin’s voice and demeanour. Gary Barlow’s finely-coiffed head pops up again with his signing A*M*E, who I can’t decide whether is bringing a decent bit of synthpop back to the charts or is the most derivative thing I’ve heard for ages. Either way, her video is a jolly bit of pastel-coloured candyfloss to liven these dark nights. And of the highlights for me that just leaves Haim’s ’80s-revival New York soft-rock, and (#5 band on the 10 for 2013 poll) Peace’s very British widescreen guitar jollity, one of very few bands who can invoke Talking Heads – and that’s a very good thing. Both acts were doing fine before this nomination, but it’ll do their career no harm either. Just pondering the winner…
John: We can ponder and discuss all we want, but it just feels like the cards are already stacked in Mr. Odell’s favour, he’s been named Brits Critics’ Choice Winner 2013 and we all know what that means. The talent is there, undoubtedly so: the Chichester-born musician seems like exactly what the BBC will want from their winner. Someone who’ll look well-placed on Jools Holland, while also being able to make fangirls swoon at festivals in the summer. We’d obviously like it to be somebody like Fenech-Soler, or a TGTF backed band, but hey we can dream.
Martin: I suspect you may be right. If they go for a band, and with all the talk of bands being back in fashion they may decide to buck the Brits trend, then my money’s on Kodaline. Great connections, great hairdos, great cheekbones. And although it’s easy to get all snobby about their ability to generate crowd-pleasing ditties, pleasing the crowd is what it’s all about. My personal choice is AlunaGeorge, on the basis that they might just turn into the next big urban crossover – there’s hints of that Tricky / Martina Topley-Bird interplay that gets me all excited. Well, we’ll find out soon enough!