Wednesday, July 06, 2005We Like To Monkey Around.
Sheffield really does seem to be the hottest scene right now. Leeds was the source of much excitement last year, but now the other Yorkshire big student city is showing what's what with excellent new bands like the Long Blondes (see below), and this motley crew, the Arctic Monkeys, who are showing all the pretenders what it means to be real. Or something like that.
Abstractboy managed to get a photopass for their Edinburgh gig on their first nationwide tour and was genuinely amazed at the passion, the fanaticism and the fire between the crowd and the band. It ought to be noted that this gig was the night before they released their first single ever. And yet the sold-out crowd chanted every word bck at the band as though they were on their tenth album. There was crowd surfing, tears, screams and so much dancing. It's a lazy comparison, but the raw passion made me think of what those early Libertines gigs must have been like. The kids looked like they would die for the music. And that really is quite something. This certainly speaks volumes of the Arctic Monkeys pragmatic approach to releasing music. The band have had MP3 demos and downloads of all their songs available for free through various channels over the internet for months and months. Tales of just how good the Arctic Monkeys are have been passed through internet forums from The Others to Oasis and just about everyone else in between, simply because their sound is so infectious. Strong recommendations + free downloads + really damn good tunes = a huge, dedicated fanbase before you've even released your first limited edition single. The boys in the band would clearly rather share their music with the fans as soon as a new song is written, rather than teasing them with release dates and copy-protected CDs.
Their music is fairly simple, summer guitar-based indie-rock, with a bit of ska thrown in for good measure and some angular punkfunk moves. Again, I could make a lazy comparison to the Libertines, because, well, it does sound like the Libertines, but not in a contrived way. Their lyrics are about being young, not having much to do, characters from the nightime streets of Sheffield, getting on your dancing shoes, all sung in a thick Sheffield accent. It's urchin teen tales like current single "Fake Tales of San Fransisco" that seem to be working for Teh Kidz right now, probably because the songs mean something to their lives with lines like "You're not from New York City, you're from Rotherham" which just make you smile.
The Arctic Monkeys are about to head out on their second UK tour, though most of the dates are now sold-out. Tickets available from here. A quick scoot around their busy forum will unearth many live and demo mp3s. Long and Blonde
Watch out. Cutting shapes with their scuzzy artrockpop across the nation's indiedisco dancefloors are Sheffield's young upstarts, the Long Blondes. Both the band members and the music are stylish, energetic, wry and sexy. Beret wearing singer, Kate, delivers their songs with a knowing sneer, telling tales of crap relationships, bored desire with a penchant for the banal queerness of British life. She has a distinctly English accent and veers between bored teenager and screaming banshee. In the best possible way, of course.
On their recent single, Appropriation (By Any Other Name), Kate sings the verses in an aloof, poetic drawl, using long words and complex word orders (uh-oh! language student alert!), which has an oddly intoxicating effect. The subject matter and the delivery reminds me of Black Box Recorder's anthem "The Facts of Life" in the way that it provides a very perceptive and cutting commentary on the way things are in relationships. It might sound trivial if you haven't heard it, but like most bands that I blog about, they have to be heard to be believed. The B-side, Lust In The Movies, gives its A-side a run for its money and was even played twice at Trash on Abstractboy's last visit. It is more social-realist relationship drama, tales of a man who has had 18 lovers, and this girl proclaims "I just want to be ya sweetheart" in its air-punching chorus. Gripping, pouting stuff.
After a quick trip to NYC, the Long Blondes are playing around the UK with Maximo Park and doing a few mini-festivals. You'd be advised to check them out - the press are catching on to their angular rhythms and interesting, quirky lyrical themes. They are an enthralling live act and you will be converted as I was.