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>DEMOS ROUND UP

Those of you with long memories may remember that as part of Joyfest, we ran a competition for bands to win a place on the lineup by sending us their demos. The standard was generally pretty high - so high in fact that we extended the number of winners from two to four to allow us a little more leeway with the selections.

The eventual winners were Killers on Camera, October All Over, The Schla La Las and Artichoke, but there were plenty more entries worthy of your attention, here's a run down of all the bands who entered the competition:

KILLERS ON CAMERA
M y personal faves. Their 6 track demo displayed a greater variety and understanding of dynamics than any other entry, veering from jittery punk to floaty keyboard new romance.
www.killersoncamera.com

OCTOBER ALL OVER
Appealed to the noisenik in me - an angry brand of Sonic Youth dissonance combined with shouty ATD-I on opener 'The Day The Earth Stood Still', which was followed by the marginally more sedate, female vocalled 'Romans vs Trojans' which reminded me of The Swear.
www.octoberallover.co.uk

THE SCHLA LA LAS
Made up of Sweetie's Vicky Churchill, Artrocker/A-Line Delia, Piney Gir + Georgie and Katrin, the Schlas added a lovable ramshackle charm amongst the angsty whinings, angry shouting and serious guitar wrangling that made up much of the competition. Plus they have their own theme tune & matching outfits!
www.theschlalalas.com

ARTICHOKE
Boy/Girl vocals get Andrew FLA every time, and by combining them with the floorscraping bassline and crackling guitar feedback of 'Down/Out' Artichoke managed to concoct a track that dragged me in too.
www.artichokeonline.com

BUGFLY
Having wowed us with a superb Joyfest warmup performance at Cargo, Bugfly were the early favourites for the competition, and almost earned themselves a spot on the lineup without the need to enter. On cd their sound is a far more laid back and poppy experience than their live show, casting my mind back to my mid-teens when Britpop ruled the waves and I was in love with Louise Wener.
www.bugfly.co.uk

FORWARD RUSSIA!
Another band that only narrowly missed out, Forward Russia! do the quiet bit loud bit thing with more gusto than any other band on this list, and with enough artfulness to merit repeated listening.
www.nyevskyprospect.com

BABYFOOD
If this was a contest to see which band can generate most complaints from passers by (generally along the lines of 'what the fuck is that you're listening to?', Babyfood would have won hands down. They don't fare too badly in a music contest either, their Eighties Matchbox meets Pink Grease over cheap instrumentation has a pleasingly dirty feel, so much so that you expect your cd player to be coated in an inch thick layer of grime by the time you reach the end of the demo.
www.baby-food.org

NEBRASKA
New Cross' own Nebraska meld the wistful melancholy of The Smiths with the passion and urgency of early Manics, and come out somewhere entirely of their own, largely thanks to the distinctive soaring vocals of singer Michael. Had I been a Manics or Smiths fan, they would have been a shoe-in, but I'm not (although I do prefer Nebraska to either, especially on 'The Sound That Stars Make').
www.lovepeacemusic.clara.net/nebraska

ARIEL-X
Easily the most professional offering that the competition threw our way, Ariel-X have proper production, big guitars, and a clutch of songs that had my feet tapping, but that I'd completely forgotten by the time the cd finished.

www.ariel-x.com

COGNOSCENTI
When I first heard this I thought it was terrible, but a few more listens down the line a Guided by Voices like lo-fi charm began to seep through the fuzzy non-production of 'You Alight: Reduction'. Let down badly by the grating vocals on second track 'Leaving Liverpool' though.
iamaninja.co.uk/cognoscenti

ANTIHERO
Another 'proper' cd (like, with real artwork and actual production!), this was streets ahead of most of the entries in terms of crispness of sound, and lead track 'Don't Trust the DJ' had an impressively brooding build up, but was let down by a weak chorus and non-descript singing voice.
www.antihero.org.uk

FLOODSHOCK!
One of the more 'difficult' listens amongst the entries, Floodshock!'s blend of cheap keyboards, semi-spoken word vocals and sarcastic lyrics would sound great backing a b3ta animation. In 'Kym Marsh Found in Ditch', they also possess one of the best titles to be found here. Limited appeal, but I could see some people going mad for this.
www.floodshock.co.uk

STRIKER
Striker are a ramshackle female fronted punk-pop band - the sort that are ten a penny on the live circuit, but are still more than capable of having you dance around your bedroom to their sunny guitars and uncomplicated rhythms.
www.strikerpose.co.uk

THE KILL RAIMI'S
The Kill Raimi's offer up similar frill-free treats to Striker, albeit with heavier bass-lines and sludgier production. Non-descript rather than awful.

SMILEX
Starts off promisingly with a twinkling guitar intro, before losing its way with an over-Americanised vocal and some sub-Rachel Stamp lyrics ("I feel just like a naughty schoolboy" is by no means the worst).
www.smilex.co.uk

KEFRANSKI
Shambling indie shuffle, with a singer whose voice possesses a slight similarity with Damon Albarn. Pleasant enough, but never really gets out of first gear.
www.kefranski.com

SUSTAIN
Has a wonderful feedback drenched intro on the first track, and a lightning fingered guitar line that runs throughout the verses, but as with so many entries, is let down by a substandard chorus and vocals that don't match up to the quality of their backing.
www.sustainrock.com

COBRAS
Their list of support slots is pretty impressive - The Futureheads, The Rakes, Golden Virgins; but Cobras straight take on rock 'n' roll is more akin to Jet's artless stomping than the art rock of their contemporaries.

THE ROOM
Another promising demo spoiled by an overacting vocalist. There is an absolute gem locked inside 'Poison in Me', and it's a real shame to see such a good song go to waste.
www.theroomalive.co.uk

IN PRINT
It's always a worry when a demo comes with a press release that states "We're proud of this, so don't discard it as crap, please just give it a listen". Luckily, In Print are not crap, they're not great either, but their quiet bit, loud bit formula will appeal to fans of Biffy Clyro, particularly when it's done as well as on first track 'Method to Madness'.

CRITICAL MASS
It's always hard to review bands like this - they don't do anything bad enough to make you want to slag them off, but at the same time they're so utterly unremarkable that it's difficult to come up with anything worthy of praise. I guess that the best description I can muster is 'alright'.

THE EDUCATION, TIGERMOTH, THE DASH + THE LAMS
Four bands for the price of one, due to a shared management company, The Education are up first, and their mash up of twanging acoustic guitars, lightly distorted vocals and electronics recalls a low-budget Beck, but lacks the courage of Mr Hanson's genre-blending eclecticism. The Dash offer up a more bombastic sound, building up 'Alone No More' into a pulsating melange of keys, guitars and pounding drums, before falling away rather disappointingly to leave a rather weak 70s rock song. Tigermoth's weak country-tinged indie rock recall The Thrills at their worst, so I reach for the skip button, for final band The Lams, who give us a glammed up rocker in the form of 'Different For Me', whose stuttering guitars remind me of much maligned britpop scenesters Menswe@r and their mini-hit 'Daysleeper'.
www.tigermoth.org.uk
www.rhythmfactory.co.uk/lams
www.thedash.info

FREEZERBURN
'Candela' opens with some delightfully off-kilter freeform 'rhyming for the sake of it' lyrics, but loses it's way a little when it tries to become a 'proper' song. Nice soaring guitar parts though.
www.freezerburn.co.uk

MY DARK EMPIRE
From the glowering monochrome photo on the cover, to the buzzing, stuttering guitars, it's clear that My Dark Empire have owned a Placebo record or two in their time. Fortunately Toby Athersuch's voice is nowhere near as irritating as Molko's nasal whine, but these songs are just missing that vital ingredient that makes a decent song great.
www.mydarkempire.com

BEVERLEY
Halfway through first song 'Jenny 73', everything goes a bit mental, and the whole song sound like it's being pushed through the blades of a helicopter. I'm not sure whether this is intentional or due to a problem with the cd, but it's damn impressive, and pushes what up to that point had been a good, rather than great attempt at recreating The Pattern's glorious recreations of late 60s garage punk - warning: liable to give you a migrane if you listen to it for more than 5 minutes at a time.
groups.msn.com/BEVERLEYGREATBAND

GENERAL KHAKI
As regular readers will know, I have only a limited tolerance for novelty/comedy rock, so General Khaki where always going to be up against it. For the most part their mixture of lo-fi surf guitars and grimey voiced lyrics doesn't quite work, but 'I Am an Animal' managed to raise a smile.
www.generalkhaki.com

SILVERSUIT
Falling somewhere inbetween The Coral and Space, Silversuit produce jaunty indie-pop tunes with a vaguely eclectic feel. Pretty good for its type, but I just don't go for this sort of thing.
www.silversuit.co.uk

ULTRAVIOLET PILOTS
Characterless, slightly glammy rock the likes of which you could hear in a pub backroom any night of the week, if you were so inclined.
www.ultravioletpilots.com

LIBOR SPACEK
Arrived a day after we'd announced the winners, so it wasn't eligble for entry, Libor Spacek prove that, despite Keane's efforts to the contrary, piano backed indie doesn't have to be insufferably drippy. There's real promise shown here, with some fantastic drumming, fraught vocals, and some fantastic piano/bass interaction. Would certainly have been in with a shout for a place on the line-up if it had arrived in time.
www.liborspacek.co.uk