So here it is. After nearly a year of the Guardian running ‘is rock music dead?’ stories and readers’ polls to find Britain’s best band with results that make me weep for humanity, this punk fan is finally hitting back. I could go on a rant about major media outlets refusing to interview The King Blues because they were ‘too political’, I could talk about the Guardian beginning their pattern of dismissing UK rock last year with a story on the death of guitar music a few days before Sheffield metalcore torchbearers Bring Me The Horizon released their critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful third album There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It, There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret… but I won’t. Instead, I’ll introduce you to some of the UK’s leading lights and rising stars, and let you judge them for yourselves. Please note that this list is selective: I don’t listen to much metal, and wouldn’t feel qualified to talk about it, so I’ll mostly be focusing on punk, pop-punk, emo and post-hardcore. Maybe Chinny would do a piece on modern British metal? (hint, hint…)
You Me At Six
This pop-punk/kinda-sorta-emo five-piece (it might help to think of them as Fall Out Boy, but English and with a happier songwriter…) have released three albums to date. Their 2008 debut Take Off Your Colours was good, if slightly scrappy and immature, and spawned the fan-favourite single Save It For The Bedroom. 2010’s Hold Me Down was more rounded, and included ballads like Liquid Confidence as well as pop-punk tracks like Underdog. After their label forced them into an awful collaboration with Chiddy Bang, they bounced back last October with Sinners Never Sleep. The album’s first single, featuring a scenery-chewing cameo on the middle-eight from Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes, was Bite My Tongue, a blistering attack on the people at Virgin Records who had screwed them over.
…and speaking of Oli Sykes…
Bring Me The Horizon
BMTH started out as a pretty brutal metalcore act. Songs like Chelsea Smile (from their second album Suicide Season) showcase their sheer raw aggression. They followed Suicide Season with a remix album, Suicide Season: Cut Up, using various producers and artists (including L’amour La Morgue, aka Ian Watkins of LostProphets). My personal favourite would have to be Football Season is Over (After The Night remix). Their third album, There Is A Hell… was released a day after Sinners Never Sleep. It is much more experimental, using electronics, a choir, strings and guest vocals from Canadian electro-pop songstress Lights and YMAS frontman Josh Franceschi. One particular track, Blessed With A Curse, stands out for me.
If you found that a bit too aggressive, why not kick back and listen to some Kids In Glass Houses? You could try my favourite KIGH song, Hunt The Haunted, or the brilliant The Best Is Yet To Come, or perhaps Undercover Lover, which features your one from the Saturdays who used to be in SClubJuniors (aka Frankie Sandford). It’s slightly depressing that if you go on Youtube and put ‘Undercover L’ into the search bar, the first suggestion is ‘Undercover Lover Frankie Sandford’ and KIGH don’t appear in any of the suggestions, but nonetheless it’s a great tune. Kids In Glass Houses are from Wales, growing up in the same scene that spawned LostProphets, Funeral For A Friend and The Blackout (more on all of whom later…), and they have the attitude that characterises all of those bands: they don’t care what people think, accusations of ‘selling out’ based on the fact that they know their way around a catchy melody are ignored and the music is all the better for it.
If, like me, you’re a fan of Scottish accents, then Twin Atlantic are the band for you. I particularly love their song What Is Light? Where Is Laughter?
Starting out as a post-hardcore band, the departure of their original singer – with bassist James Veck-Gilodi shedding his instrument and moving centre-stage – saw Deaf Havana move towards a more alt-rock sound. Their latest album (and the first to feature Veck-Gilodi on lead vocals) is Fools and Worthless Liars, and it’s absolutely brilliant. The opening track The Past Six Years is an acoustic tune cataloguing the band’s story so far, and nodding to the greater success of Lower Than Atlantis and Young Guns (“Mike’s on daytime radio and John’s played Reading and Leeds/and I’m still playing the Purple Turtle on New Year’s Eve”). The tastefully self-loathing I’m A Bore, Mostly is a particular favourite of mine… something to do with the line about being kept alive by coffee, perchance? The first single from Fools and Worthless Liars, Little White Lies, which features up-and-coming folk/pop singer Portia Conn, actually made some commercial headway, and it’s a banger.
Lower Than Atlantis
Frontman Mike Duce is ‘Mike’ from ‘The Past Six Years’. Personally, I feel that songs like Beech Like The Tree and I’m Not Bulimic (I Just Wanted to See How Far I Could Stick My Fingers Down My Throat) have a bit of a grungy vibe to them. Certainly Duce has cited bands like Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World as an influence, but he also called them ‘Dad rock’. Excuse me? He’s about two years older than me and he thinks the Foos and JEW are Dad rock? In fairness, they perform a medley of Foos songs at every show they do, so presumably he meant in an affectionate way…
Here we go back to Wales for one of the bands who sowed the seeds for the current UK rock scene. If you’ve never heard them, imagine Papa Roach, Bon Jovi, Taking Back Sunday and Minor Threat riding on a horse waving a bullwhip while being chased by Darth Vader on a bicycle with ET in the front basket, who in turn is being chased by John Williams waving an orchestral score… They’re entirely impossible to pigeonhole by genre, which is – in my opinion – no bad thing. For a whistle-stop career retrospective, check out The Fake Sound Of Progress, Burn, Burn, Last Summer, It’s Not The End Of The World (But I Can See It From Here), Where We Belong and We Bring An Arsenal…
How are you bearing up? Do you need a minute to breathe? That’s a shame, because here come Lostprophets’ compatriots Funeral For A Friend. I won’t inflict a retrospective on you this time, but I will draw your attention to three songs: Welcome Home Armageddon, Streetcar and She Drove Me To Daytime Television. If you have the time, go listen to their album Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation.
So, for our third Welsh band in a row, here’s The Blackout! One of their earliest singles, It’s High Tide, Baby, actually featured LP frontman Ian Watkins. Then there’s their secularist anthem Never By Your Side and the epically awesome Save Our Selves (The Warning). All together now: “GOING OUT! GOING OUT! GOING OUT!”
We’ve had a few leading lights in a row now, so here’s a band who are very successful and respected, but are still relatively new to the scene. Songs like Bones, Learn My Lesson and Crystal Clear are all stadium-fillers in-waiting, so keep your fingers crossed!
The King Blues
The King Blues are dead. Fact. They’re not coming back. Fact. They broke up amid a storm of unrepeatable allegations. Fact. Frontman Jonny ‘Itch’ Fox is embarking on a solo career, while bassist Kat Marsh and guitarist Jamie Jazz have formed new bands (Lionface and Former Lovers, respectively). Fact. But while they lasted, they were wonderful. Undisputable fact. I’ll just link to one song, Set The World On Fire, and leave it at that. Long live the struggle.
Sonic Boom Six
They’ve been around for a decade, but they’ve only recently started to get the recognition they deserve. Like TKB, they’re a heavily political band, and they mix together all sorts of genres: rap, folk, hardcore, metal, punk, D’n’B, dub, reggae and ska. Try For The Kids Of The Multiculture, written in the wake of last year’s looting. If you want something a bit more gentle, listen to Sunny Side Of The Street, a bittersweet acoustic ode to their hometown of Manchester. The Rape Of Punk To Come (and you’d better get the joke in that title) showcases their ska side, and is a brilliant attack on pseudo pop-punk bands like Busted, while All In focuses more on the reggae end of things.
Evarose are one of my favourite bands. They’re for girls from Oxfordshire playing pop-punk/emo/pop-rock with great lyrics. They only have two EPs to their name, but expect great things in the future. Listen to We Can Pretend Anyway, Cough It Up or Change. Their short video On The Road, Literally, Acoustic, where they cover ‘Too Close’ by Alex Clare, is also worth a glance.
Hearts Under Fire
I’ve saved the best ‘til last. Hearts Under Fire are my favourite band. EVER. They’re friends with YMAS, and their song Liquid Luck, about the joys of alcohol as a social crutch, ended up with a name that’s a shout-out to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because they like Potter and YMAS had already taken ‘Liquid Confidence’ (I know this because I asked them on Tumblr). Go listen to it. And then go listen to It’s Not Me, It’s You and We’ve Come Too Far To Live In The Past. And then go buy their EPs. I really wish they would come to Ireland on one of their many tours (and they tour a LOT), but sadly that seems unlikely at the moment. Drummer Lexi Clark also plays in a hardcore band called Try Me/Love Me, who are great, but who are too far under the radar to get into this article (oh, well, it’s early days yet!) Incidentally, if any of you are on Twitter, follow Lexi. She’s hilarious.
OK, that’s a lot to take in, so I’ll bid you all farewell and let you get on with your listening! Please comment and let me know what you think of the bands, and also tell me about anyone you feel I’ve missed.