To get in to the spirit of reflecting on the music of the noughties that everyone seems to be doing to varying degrees of credibility, we at The Blue Whale Blog are attempting something similar with a regional focus.
With the help of the music community of the city, we are aiming to build an almost definitive top ten of Birmingham and the West Midlands bands from the past ten years, in celebration of the vibrant and diverse scene that we have been blessed with since the dawn of the millenium.
The top ten below is my own stab at creating a list of the greatest groups to grace the stages of Brum boozers since the year 2000. If there are any glaring absentees and / or bands that you believe to be in the wrong position, I’m sticking to the story that it was done intentionally to cause enough controversy to gain us some publicity, rather than the fact that I have limited knowledge and a short sighted view on the subject. It seems to have worked well for others that way.
Each band will earn points dependant upon their position in people’s individual charts; 10 points for 1st place, 9 for 2nd and so on. Then on 1st January 2010 (or whenever the new year’s eve hangover clears up), we will announce the winner on this very blog.
Everyone is welcome to take part – just email your ten choices to me at email@example.com and a brief 20-50 word description of why you love that band, and we will get your entry posted up here.
If you’re a Tweeter, you can keep track of things via the hashtag #top10BrumBands
Back in 2001, before becoming a Birmingham indie stalwart, JP White landed in Birmingham with a fiery, no-holds barred three piece that showed many of the existing crop at the time how to write a tune and put on a blitz of a performance. Line-ups changed fairly frequently, but the power trio of Peanut, Selfie and JP were really what Silversuit were about: live sets of indie anthems with astronomical choruses played ferociously, often ending in a drunken collapsed heap with the crowd fearing for JP’s Telecaster.
They unfortunately went all serious and remoulded themselves as Pioneers of Industry, leading to bassist Selfie quitting and going on to successfully orchestrate a record deal for The Twang as part of Zoot Management. Peanut went on to drum for the brooding Dirty Soul leaving JP to form The Gravity Crisis who are now sadly defunct but rumours are now circulating of a new venture due to surface in 2010.
9. Miss Halliwell
With each gig seemingly having a completely different line up and a whole set of new songs that frontman Miles Perhower doesn’t necessarily teach to the rest of the band, Miss Halliwell are one of the most creative, uncompromising and bewildering bands in existence, let alone in the Midlands. Shows are more of a ‘happening’ than a gig, often leaving you with a sense of befuddlement and unsure whether what you witnessed was completely coherent.
Their invention doesn’t just stop at the music- Miss Halliwell recently produced their first feature film incorporating a live album, ‘Die Son! Die!‘, a surreal vacuum cleaner thriller-cum-rockumentary written and directed by Miles Perhower himself.
8. Scarlet Harlots
Northfield’s Scarlet Harlots have brought a little grime and a lot of style to the Birmingham music scene. Their early demos of ‘Cat’s Eyes’, ‘Passing Time’ and ‘Explain’ captured the attention of a handful of record companies with their raw, Libertines / Maccabees catchiness. Now, while still retaining a Smiths-ian dynamic, they have fused in a groovier R&B sound with injections of UK Garage and Dub that is seeing the asses of many a hip pretty youngster shake at gigs up and down the country and as far as Finland, which the band have recently returned from a tour of. We’re hoping that 2010 finally sees the release of a debut album and the widespread acclaim that they deserve.
Perhaps a surprise entry for a few but Tantrums have been the shining light on the Birmingham scene of late and arguably show the most promise out of the current crop of bands.
Seamlessly meshing insane prog rock guitar and stuttering time signatures with heavy laptop dubstep breaks, Tantrums can do pretty much anything they decide to turn their hands to. For a bunch so young, their knowledge of music is dauntingly impressive and has enabled them to create a cutting edge sound while still retaining uber catchy hooks.
Blue Whale urges you to go to the next Tantrums gig, if not for the music, but someone needs to catch guitarist Stuart when he stage dives.
Yelps were not around long enough to really capitalise on their huge talent. Their presence was immense as was the arrangement of guitars and synthesisers that brought to mind Television and Neu! and at points climaxing Chicago House style. ‘Bordello Shuffle’ is a Bowie-esque indie dancefloor smash that never was while ‘Cavalier Frontier’ is a delicious slab of Kraut-ish prog with mind looping Korg delivered with Jagger like effeminate bravado.
5. The Big Bang
At their peak in 2006, few could touch The Big Bang as a live outfit. B-Movie horror garage with gargantuan psycho blues riffs delivered with sexuality gushing out of every pore, a Big Bang gig could turn a convent full of nuns into insatiable ultra vixens, such was their provocation. Debut album, ‘Shoot The Freak‘, was a valiant effort at capturing the energy of the band on record, packing a meaty punch with tunes like ‘Come Dance in The Fire’ and ‘Sugar Daddy’ ripping through the speakers.
When they tried to grow up and move away from the metal and more towards a West Coast / Country dynamic, The Big Bang lost their spark and unfortunately, inevitably played their last show earlier in 2009. Thankfully the spirit of The Big Bang lives on in guitarist Scott Abbott’s Vinny and The Curse and drummer Dan Finnemore’s Swampmeat amongst other Cold Rice collective collaborations.
4. Sunset Cinema Club
Perhaps Sunset Cinema Club would be considered ‘the band’s band’ as so many of Birmingham’s alternative music community would site them as a huge influence. Their gigs during 2005 and 2006 were great occasions to attend, played in good (if rather filthy) humour and often in fancy dress. ‘Gojira Suit’ and ‘Trees’ remain their amongst most well known songs that still see audience members glow with excitement whenever they are aired live.
Once debut album, ‘Homina Homina Homina‘ finds its way into your CD player it will barely leave. Its a kaleidoscopic adventure of cracking choons and guest appearances that deserves much more attention than it has had to this point. Currently taking a break but performing a Christmas show for This is Tomorrow on 23rd December at The Victoria, Sunset Cinema Club’s inclusive ethos has touched many budding musicians.
3. Calories / Distophia
Ok, so it’s probably not fair that these guys get to have two bands in one place but I couldn’t choose one without the other and while they are two different bands and presumably Calories themselves would like to be clearly distinct from their former mould, I would find it hard leaving out other bands in this top 10 if these guys were to get two places. Flakey justification I know.
‘Adventuring‘ is an album beyond superlatives. It has had majorly heavy rotation by most who own a copy and never fails to impact on repeat listen after repeat listen. Calories are the tighter, cleaner and (even) more melodic older brother of the car smash craziness of Distophia. The former’s gigs in the early part of the decade were a complete chaos of noise, hilarious onstage banter and venue navigating gymnastics held together by beautiful Brian Wilson-esque songwriting. This was translated brilliantly onto record in the form of ‘Soda Lake‘ and the officially unreleased, ‘Beat Dyslexia‘.
With a streamlined personel, Distophia morphed into Calories, still retaining the prolific output but now becoming a wiser, slightly chilled out model. ‘Adventuring’ was released in 2009 to widespread acclaim and we await with baited breath as to what the band will do next.
2. 35 Seconds
Sadly missed industrial noise freaks 35 Seconds were a sonic force that spent much of the decade in-fighting and then somehow producing unfathomably brilliant songs that were a slant on Nine Inch Nails with a super charged anthemic approach to choruses. They were like The Smiths if Morrissey had been backed by Aphex Twin, simultaneously turning on both musos and pill-heads in equal measure. ‘Youth Club’, ‘Grudge Match’ and ‘Dinosaurs’ still give goose bumps on hearing them as the fond memories of excited, sweat drenched gigs come flooding back.
For those who need a fresh fix of 35 Seconds, guitarist Danny Rowe is producing electronic filth under the guise of Minced Beats.
1. My Dad Hitla
The ingenuity of Radiohead, the anger of The Clash, the awkwardness of Nirvana, the almost believable psuedo-mystique of The Beatles, a singer that may have believed he was Jesus at some point, a guitarist with a death-wish discharging himself from hospital with a broken back, a bassist that could smoke Bob Marley under the table and a drummer who was driven to near-insanity hanging around with the other three – My Dad Hitla were complete madness permanently on the verge of true genius.
If they had hit the big-time instead of contemporaries Snowfield, then Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse would be making regular statements in the tabloids about their concern for the band’s mental state. Besides the delirium, My Dad Hitla (and then the sensibly renamed I am Zeitgeist) still remain the best band to have come out of this city this century. Actually scrap that, because of the delirium, they remain the best.
Think I’m wrong? Think I’m a dick? Got a better top 10? Why not email it into firstname.lastname@example.org
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