In a time when sub-genres and musical labeling seem to be so important - if you don’t believe me, just go ask an Uncle Tupelo fan what he thinks of Poco - Britpop seems to be a catch-all moniker which covers a huge range of styles and sounds. Just recently, for example, I read a review of the latest Radio 4 album that shamelessly stated that they sounded like "Britpop spiked post-punk". I mean, what the hell does that mean? Like Ray Davies fronting Mission Of Burma, a Hollies / PiL mongrel harmony-noise fest, or maybe Coldplay jamming with A Certain Ratio, with Thom Yorke looking on, scratching his knackers in bewilderment and trying to remember how to write a song. In fact, having spent fourteen pounds on said album, I can confirm that it sounds like a collection of Gang Of Four b-sides, which is probably what the reviewer meant all along. Damn those clever writers and their hidden meanings.
China on Paper Plates (Musician Records)
David Wyatt will almost certainly find himself branded as Britpop, a special folk-roots brand informed and influenced by key singer-songwriters; two generations of Buckleys, Nick Drake and most recently, David Gray and Damien Rice. China On Paper Plates is the moderately pretentious title of his debut album, a well-balanced collection of deeply personal songs covering the majority of the singer-songwriter bases. Love, tolerance and innocence all claim their allocated spaces on the lyric sheet, though nothing is too obvious and Wyatt wraps the majority of his words deep within shrouds of concealment, and delivers them with a voice which skips octaves with ease without ever being too showy. My favourite track is “Daisy”, arguably the simplest song on the record, and a throwback to the Southern Californian troubadour days of the early 70s. Backed by a supremely talented band, with a wealth of experience throughout the music biz - bass player Neil Segrott is both Ryan Adams and Jay Farrar’s soundman of choice when they hit this part of the world - Wyatt is possibly only one breakthrough song and a chunk of good fortune away from the big time. A serious debut.
The Dirty Switches
The Dirty Switches (Longhorn Records)
The garage-rock revival seems to be still going strong on both sides of the Atlantic. On The Dirty Switches website, there’s a quote: "Unkempt gutter spuzz that obliterates all known corporate garage whores on sight, this is raw, it’s still bleeding, it’s The Dirty Switches", which is a lovely thing to have written about your band, and self-titled debut album, though it is unaccredited so the singer’s mum is almost certainly responsible. Never mind, when you’ve the decency to kick out heavy-duty guitar riffery - one third T-Rex on cheap speed, one third Stooges ferocity, one third scuzzy AC/DC - then you deserve superior made-up quotes. Truth be told, the ability to write songs and decent tunes is a talent that they’ve yet to acquire, but full points for unadulterated enthusiasm, and if you’re 19, over-sexed, undernourished, and in the right mood, you won’t go far wrong.
RockRockKissKissCombo (BMG Denmark)
The Fashion are big in Denmark. RockRockKissKissCombo is a smart, ultra-modern collection of power pop-rockers, tailor-made for late night MTV - you know - when they think they’re getting edgy. Although, to be honest, The Fashion seem more intent on putting a smile on your face, rather than frightening your Granny, and they succeed through a near relentless barrage of upbeat bonhomie and hooks aplenty. Album opener “Let’s Go Dancing” is ever so slightly restrained, but provides an instant buzz thanks to some wiry guitars and lashings of bravado. “Not New In N.Y.” ups the ante, thanks to a guitar line that Daniel Ash might have used in his Bauhaus days, while “Roller Disco Inferno” will be filling indie dance floors for years to come. This might have been a little tiresome if it had been executed with less talent and more cheese, but at a mere 36 minutes, you’re left wanting just a little bit more.
Built To Last (Hungry Dog Records)
I guess the Endrick Brothers are a Britpop band too, insofar that they’re British and they play a recognised form of pop music. Their Built To Last album is a prime example of Scottish Americana, a sound that traces its homegrown roots back to bands like The Waterboys, Del Amitri, Teenage Fanclub and the Lost Soul Band. All important and popular bands, but for core influences, we must go further afield, to classic American outfits, including The Byrds, early Eagles and Big Star, right through to contemporaries, REM, The Jayhawks and Counting Crows. In essence, Built To Last is a thoroughly pleasant ride through some decent-enough songs: “Queen Of The Summer” and “Long May We Wander” are particularly toothsome - subtle imagery and deft playing, and while they invoke rootsy vistas of the big empty outdoors, they do so in an especially Scottish way. You can see for miles, but it’s borderline grey, the midges are out and the nearest town is just over the next hill.
The Redlands Palomino Co.
By The Time You Hear This...We’ll Be Gone (Laughing Outlaw)
Ploughing a similar furrow to the Endricks, The Redlands Palomino Co. have been livening up the London club scene for several years now, building a small but loyal following in the city, before slowly breaking out into the suburbs and other parts of the country. For some reason an album has been a long time coming, but finally their debut, By The Time You Hear This...We’ll Be Gone is here, and it’s rather fine. Their take on country-fried rock and pop features the excellent male/female harmonies of the band’s two songwriters, Alex and Hannah Elton-Wall, together with a wicked pickin’ Mac; pedal steel player called David Rothon, who features prominently throughout. They can trace their sound directly back to bands like the Fallen Angels, the Stones at their most rootsy, Great Speckled Bird and Whiskeytown, but they bring something to the party which is very much all their own, because in Hannah Elton-Wall they’ve got an exceptionally gifted singer-songwriter with a real feel for the genre in which she works. On the downside, they can be just a little derivative at times, and if the presence of what sounds like a fake live track indicates an over familiarity with Gram Parson’s catalogue - well, I’m not prepared to damn them for that. Personally, I truly hope that their album title doesn’t turn out to be prophetic - this is a band with a lot to offer. Cosmic English music, file alongside the Stones, Ronnie Lane & Macs Last Chance, Nick Lowe, Truck Records and The HaveNots.
String Theory (Woronzow)
To paraphrase The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society, God save Ade Shaw and the Bevis Frond. Adrian Shaw, as he likes to call himself when he releases records under his own guise, earned his spurs when he replaced Lemmy in the ultimate British underground, psychedelic rock band, Hawkwind, before joining the wonderfully eccentric, and fore mentioned, Bevis Frond. Add to that stints with Arthur Brown, Keith Christmas, Atomic Rooster, Michael Moorcock, a few porn movies, and very nearly T-Rex, and there’s no questioning Shaw’s credentials. String Theory is his fifth (or sixth?) solo album and it’s an old skool romp through his hard rocking, synth-powered, psychedelic past, featuring some gloriously excessive guitar courtesy of Paul Simmons, ex-Only One John Perry, and the Bevis Frond&Mac226;s Nick Saloman. The songs themselves range from the beautifully nostalgic “Cotham Hill” to the righteously pissed off “Stirrup Cup”, a ruthless condemnation of the red-coated, upper-class asses who chase foxes ‘round the English countryside. And “Saving Grace”, a possibly light-hearted look at the life of a certain bass-player on the road, who’s probably been doing it for far too long. All in all, a great little album, and as Nick Saloman says, "Ade Shaw is fast and bulbous, and so is his new album, got me?" We got you, Nick.
Rob Forbes lives in Leicester, England and has been dancing about architecture for several years. Apart from music, he enjoys The Archers, cups of tea and moaning about West Ham United.