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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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').
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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'.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.