2015 was a good year for hot UK bands with great pop-rock music coming out from the land of my ancestors. Here’s a sampling…
CATFISH AND THE BOTTLEMEN
Whilst the last couple of solo albums have not been bad per se, there has been a sense of creative ennui on the part of the Modfather, since the release of 2002’s Illumination, in fact.
Regular visitors to Power of Pop will be aware of my obsession with British pop-rock, from The Beatles to the Who to the Kinks to the Stones and on and on and on… Since the end of the 90s (and the demise of Britpop), I have always been hoping for a revival of British pop-rock (and I do not mean the post-punk revival like The xx! Ugh!!)
Well it’s now 20 years since the heyday of Britpop and surveying the British pop-rock scene in 2015, there appears to be a couple of promising acts that hopefully will make the grade to generate enough buzz for this particular brand of pop-rock to dominate once again. In fact, I have found 20 bands that fit the bill completely – check out my playlist below and do let me know if you have other recommendations?
… still there’s more …
This is epic Brit-rock at its finest. And when I say ‘Brit-rock’, I am basically referring to the psychedelic noise-rock outfits that have illuminated the British music scene in the 80s and 90s. Which roughly means references to post-punk, shoegaze and Britpop – sounds good to me!
Reading outfit, Tripwires, consist of longtime friends frontman Rhys Edwards, guitarist Joe Stone, bassist Ben White and drummer Sam Pilsbury, certainly have a collective finger on the pulse on what has made Brit-rock the coolest kid on the indie rock block.
Meaning – a diverse range of styles that augment stellar songwriting that emphasizes melodies and arrangements over a gimmicky veneer. It’s so obvious that this quartet are genuine rock fans to begin with – enthusing as they do over Neil Young and Yo La Tengo to the Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth (yes, not a Brit amongst them) but closer inspection reveal other pointed influences.
“Feedback Loop” seems to channel a unique combo of Suede and the Verve, “Shimmer” (listen below) betrays a psych-gaze vibe that recalls latter-day Ride and the House of Love (via the Bunnymen, perhaps) whilst the opening title track’s space-rock leanings will leave Swervedriver and early Radiohead fans with a huge grin on their faces.
Brit-rock lovers need not hesitate, Tripwires’ Spacehopper is an album made in heaven, for you!
Clinic, the iconoclastic band from Liverpool is back with yet another genre-bending, mind-blowing album – Free Reign, its seventh! “Miss You” is the appropriate teasing shot with the accompanying, equally transportative video directed by The 3 Sisters (Andy Knowles, Josh McCartney & James Hicks).
Well, I suppose on one level, my interview with Stereophonics was a bit of a failure, by conventional standards. It was the first band interview I’ve ever done by roundtable. Meaning that I had to wait my turn to ask a question and could not develop any train of thought with follow up questions as I had to wait for my turn again. Not only that but I was using my extremely old phone which had a voice recorder, that I didn’t realize only records for 2 minutes at a time, which means I got nothing on “tape” – nada! So its probably no point to try to recreate the answers the band gave to my three questions.
I will say this – the band – dressed smart casually for the most part – come across as amiable, down to earth blokes who just happened to be rock musicians. Most of the usual queries were raised – what was the concept behind the album title, what was the inspiration for the album, what current music do you listen to etc etc etc.
For my part, the band confirmed that most of what is written on wikipedia about them is absolute bollocks. The band gave me the impression that Stereophonics was a major part of their careers and so they constantly challenge themselves to keep their music fresh – by listening to new music, working with different producers and adopting alternative approaches to recording and so on. In that context, side projects (like solo albums) were never a priority – you could imagine Stereophonics going on for another decade easily.
So I guess whilst I was disappointed that I could not go deeper with the band on certain issues (like their place in rock history and their legacy, if any), I was thankful for the opportunity to meet them and pick their brains a little. For that I’m grateful to Universal Music Singapore and especially, Fristene, Alan and Hazel, as always.
Stereophonics will be playing at Fort Canning tonight at 8pm and their new albun Keep Calm and Carry On is available at all good music stores now.
Come up and say hello if you’re going to the show tonight!
Picture courtesy of Audrey Kua.
STEREOPHONICS Keep Calm and Carry On (Mercury/Universal)
This Welsh band is one of the few bands (that emerged out of the mid-90s Britpop era) to still be commercially successful in modern UK rock scene. In the 13 years since the release of the debut LP, Word Gets Around, Stereophonics’ sonic approach has remained intact – classic UK rock which retains the hookiness of 70s British rock (e.g. glam, blues rock) and the post punk edge of the 80s.
Album number 7 – Keep Calm and Carry On (a slogan from WWII) – contains many vibrant, catchy tunes (e.g. Innocent, She’s Alright, Could You Be The One? and Trouble) to keep casual pop fans happy. Serious themes like alcoholism (Beerbottle) and fake hypocritical people (I Got Your Number, Uppercut).
An excellent album that will appeal to both serious and casual music lovers. Music video of Innocent below.
Oh, and Stereophonics return to Singapore to play at Fort Canning Park on 30 April at 8pm. Tickets available at SISTIC.
STELLARSCOPE This Is Who We Are (Patetico)
Employing a noise-pop/shoegaze approach to rock songs, Stellarscope’s alt-rock sound is definitely an acquired taste only. The Philly trio’s adoption of the 90s Brit-rock style is total in nature, down to the faux Brit accents. The overall production values are low, making This Is Who We Are come across as a glorified demo. Thus, whilst the intent of the band is to be applauded, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Back to the drawing board, boys.