Leeds, the jewel of the north, is well known for its steady turnout of self-sufficient, trend-proof rock wallahs. Bilge Pump are no exception. These three men have forged a sound based on clang and whallop, given shape by the rollicking bonh(a)mie of Neil Turpin, a man who has loaned his rhythm to Him, Enablers and Damo Suzuki more than once. Think Gang Of Four bass tumbling over Led Zep drum-rollick, slammed up against gnarled, screeching King Crimson guitar fripperies. Bilge Pump are heavy and off-kilter, but never turgid. Sharp melodies and upbeat delivery jump out with repeated listening.
Broken Arm are a punk group from Leeds, deepest, darkest West Yorkshire. The question is, what kind of punk group? Or indeed, what kind of punks? There are many. It's confusing. Although they have short hair and are known to wear check shirts, they have no affinity with straight edge. Although they like dogs and lager, they don't appear to be crusties either. It might well be that they are four fairly anonymous individuals who occasionally crawl out from under their respective rocks and meet up on a Friday night to play an aggressive mixture of garage rock and uncouth 80s-style noise rock in a way that sounds... not quite like any other group.
Stewed down rock'n'roll at its most primitive played by two punk/blues/garage rockers featuring 4 stringed guitar, minimal drum kit and shouting. Subject matter included getting divorced, boozing, wanting to be the next James Bond, crashing your car and wanting to make the world a better place. During their time together Clambake sonically changed from their earlier 50's inspirations to a two man Motorhead, or the Ramones with a slide guitar. Whatever way you sliced it, it was just good time Saturday night rock'n'roll - not designed to change peoples lives, but intended to make people jump about, drink, shout and large it up.
COLD PUMAS specialise in pounding, motorik repetition that grabs the groove for dear life. Running rings around themselves with exultant abandon, these four spirited men are haunted by grand visions, combining cyclical, harmonised guitar riffs, impressionistic vocals and interwoven rhythms to great effect. Combining post-punk, Krautrock, shoegaze, and experimental indie rock into an equally driving and reflective sound, Cold Pumas was formed in 2008 by brothers Oliver and Patrick Fisher and Dan Reeves, also the founder of Faux Discx.
Designer Babies started as the musical brainchild of Dusty Bible, following years of experimentation with bizarre and innovative fusions of blues-rock, electronics and the avant-garde. Manifesting in various incarnations throughout the formative years of the 21st century, Designer Babies finally reached stability in late 2002 with its present line up of Dusty Bible (guitar, bass, vox), Kushal Gaya (vocals), Nick Perry (drums) and Kate Deane (noises). Designer Babies collage the old and new, fast and slow, melodic and abrasive. Their influences range from old blues and rock n roll to traditional Mauritian music and Japanese experimentalism.
Fists have been writing, fighting and exciting in various bedrooms and rehearsal spaces across Nottingham since 2005. Fists' music is influenced by everything from mid-50s skiffle and rockabilly, through lo-fi pioneers like Daniel Johnston and Simon Joyner, to proto-punks the Monks. Their noisy, joyful and ferociously energetic gigs display the Fists sound in all its crisp, fresh, beautifully bruised glory. Sweet vocal harmonies, rich raw power; original, electrifying indie rock.
Grey Hairs are channelling aggressive surf rock and some of the lesser known 80's and 90's bands of their optimistic riddled youth, now seen through the eyes of the barrel staring 10's. It's 100% definitely punk rock, but it's way more than that. You want a soundbite, go hunt your own - But I'm saying Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys V's The Wipers done Notts style, this time it's war. Paranoid Time, The Minutemen done by The Fall and the B52's.
Hirameka Hi-Fi formed in that long hot summer of 97. Tom Coogan and Chris Baldwin met whilst downing cheap alcohol at a ruined Roman wall in Colchester. The two had schooled together, and quickly found that they shared the desire to make music that was exciting, angular and accessible enough to buy them and the nascent Gringo Records a ticket out of Colchester. Their first record, 'Munchin', was released in January 1998. Its canny mix of shouty vocals, sugary car-alarm guitar riff and pounding rhythm may have owed a lot to contemporary influences like The Yummy Fur, Bis and Urusei Yatsura, but it also won the band support from both John Peel and Steve Lamacq's Radio 1 shows.
Maybe Holodrum were destined to start at this point. This might be the first time they’ve all officially worked together, but between Emily Garner (vocals), Matthew Benn (synth/bass/production), Jonathan Nash (drums), Jonathan Wilkinson (guitar), Sam Shjipstone (guitar/vocals), Christopher Duffin (sax/synth) and Steve Nuttall (percussion) they've shared bands, mixed each other's records, promoted live shows and made music videos together in and around Leeds. As Holodrum, this is the seven-piece's debut album, but the interlocking grooves and hot headiness of their repeato-rock-via-CBGBs dopamine hits have in one way or other been fermenting for years.
"When it comes to doing music most bands fall between two extremes of doing it for some goal or as an end to itself” says Shjipstone. “I think Holodrum is about the joyand complexity of living, and I just hope to god everyone gets to have a good time doing it."
Ultimately the core of the group comes from Shjipstone and his former Hookworms bandmates Benn, Nash and Wilkinson. After their abrupt dissolution in late 2018, the four of them spent six months apart; Benn still had Xam Duo, his ongoing project with Virginia Wing and some-time James Holden & The Animal Spirits live member Duffin, Nash remains vocalist and guitarist of long-running DIY rockers Cowtown and helms his solo project Game_Program; and Shjipstone plays guitar with Yard Act. However, the four of them missed the sixth sense synergy they’d built-up playing together over a decade and soon enough demos were being swapped and new ideas were discussed.
The vision of a large live electronic ensemble formed quickly. Friends were added: Duffin and Nuttall – who was keen to resurrect the double percussion interplay that he and Nash had been exploring as part of motorik trio Nope – joined first. Then animator and VIDE0 singer Garner crystallised the line-up by joining on vocals.
"Apart from Emily, all of us had actually played together before in a covers band at a New Year’s Eve party at the Brudenell Social Club a couple of years ago, so we knew we could have fun together” says Benn. “So we set up to be a live party band early on. We wanted lots of people on stage having fun, playing for people that also wanted to have fun. It makes sense we take inspiration from bands like Tom Tom Club and Liquid Liquid; they were trying to help people to party at a point when New York was quite a scary and dangerous place – we’re doing the same, albeit in the face of a decaying world and a global pandemic."
The group work out of a shared rehearsal space and studio in Bradford with friends Virginia Wing, with Nash and Benn also separately producing records by the likes of VIDE0 and local post-punks Nape Neck there. It’s a space that encapsulates the sense of community that runs through Holodrum’s music; tunes that are made for moving but also act as a language of communication between the band themselves.The song writing is shared and members come and go in the music just as they do in the studio, putting ego aside in pursuit of the fulfilling whole.
"The process is really democratic" agrees Nash. "Everyone is free to add, take away, re-record, remix and openly discuss anything they want until we come to a conclusion. We work to the grid, which means disciplined rhythms with a wealth of textured, arpeggiated synths and intricate percussion woven into the foundations. It’s man and machine working in harmony."
Harmony, collaboration and community. They’re the three things that perhaps bond Holodrum together most tightly; this is a group of players who’ve experienced enough in music to come full circle and understand the simple joy of just playing with friends, jamming it out and putting something out into the ether that they can collectively be proud of. Like it always should be.
For a while now Leeds five-piece Hookworms have been terrorising headlining bands across northern England and beyond, not through histrionics or gimmick, but through sheer sonic velocity and emotive intent. Often bracketed among the latest wave of psychedelic rock currently appearing in pockets around the UK, this tag is somewhat of a misnomer for a band whose use of repetition and reverb is not to open the third dimension or for some sort of flower-power escapism. Instead the reel feels cathartic, each fresh revolution of the loop a confrontation between the band and themes of depression, loss and anger.
I'm Being Good are from Brighton, formed in 1993, with an ever shifting line-up around the lynchpin foundation of Singer/Guitarist Andrew Clare. They have released numerous albums, singles and tracks on compilations. Both live and on record the band are becoming renowned for their electrifying live shows, slinging deleriously woozy lead guitars over tightly wound, angular art-rock foundations, and for playing themselves and their equipment into the ground.
Jutland Songs is an indie-rock band from Glasgow, Scotland. Their vibe is chunky, chiming guitars, boy/girl vocals, rolling drums and an anchor of a bass. Influences: Superchunk, The Replacements, Sebadoh, Guided By Voices, Polvo, Chapel Hill, Twin Peaks, Aeropress, dogs, cats and Westbrook Gose. Colin takes beer exams, Cecilia makes jewellery, Brian got in a fight at a Smog gig and Paul isn’t Italian.
Lords deliver good vibes at exceptional volume. Their rock is both shonky and squidgy. They follow the 'drunken master' approach. They are one part 70s rock, one part euphoric free jazz, one part primitive blues, one part garage rock and one part DC hardcore. They are all parts love. They are no longer teenagers.They laugh hard in the face of woe and strife. One of them is a lifeguard. Their drummer's real name is Elvis. Do not lend them your amplifier
Glasgow’s Order of the Toad return with a third long player on released 16 September 2022 via Gringo Records and Hidden Bay Records entitled ‘Spirit Man’.
Now in their 5th year of existence, OOTT forge onwards with 12 frenetic new compositions, pulled together throughout windows of opportunity during the covid era.
Recently a four piece (new guitarist Fionnan joining the Order just before the lockdowns began), Gemma Fleet (Current Affairs/ ex- The Wharves/Kasms) remains the spiritual lynchpin and main energy conductor from which Chris Taylor (Personality Toilet/ Open Face), Andrew Doig (Robert Sotelo/Nightshift) and of course now Fionnan (Open Face) are powered.
With added twin guitar dimensionality, the band flirt with an 80s new wave sound at times on Spirit Man, garnishing their regular sound with new hues of blue and purple atop the amphibious green of previous efforts.
‘Subterranean’ which opens the set is evidence of a B52s style composite, Doig’s now familiar faux organ guitar franken-sound holding steady beneath the wild and youthful six string movement that Fionnan brings to the toadstool.
Elsewhere Taylor takes the lead Vox on ‘Salt of the Earth’, ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and ‘The Dumbening’, all further progressions of the ensemble’s sound. Song structure and chord elements subtly mutate away from the 60’s nucleus of yore, Taylor bringing a Kevin Ayers meets Bill Callahan vocal approach to his cleverly assembled lyrical narratives, the band weaving about tempos with eccentric colour around him.
Of course Fleet’s voice is central throughout, always simultaneous with her precise elasticity on the 4 string bass guitar, providing the likes of ‘Golden Rod’ with a sweeping Grace Slick meets Dolly Parton wail, a hollering Kate Bush style octave leap during the kinetic ‘Fog Horn’ and the fast paced crescendo of hollers at the back end of ‘Beyond the Pale’, a breathless 4 chord slammer.
Her graceful and acute vocalisms paint the world of Order of the Toad and never before as vibrantly.
In Summer 2021 the day after Fleet and Doig were married during a meal at a restaurant in Ayr, they noticed striking and vivid paintings by the artist they came to know as Gordon Stead hanging on the walls. The band went about approaching Gordon to create a front image for Spirit Man and the resulting painting was passed on to design layout whizz-kid Matthew Walkerdine to complete and ready for manufacture.
Ox Scapula have helped make their hometown, Stoke-on-Trent, exciting. Really. Their debut album "Hands Out" captures the fierce sonic storm of their rugged and raucous live performances. Fans of Unwound or Drive Like Jehu will already know the feeling - frantic, stroppy guitars over a heaving, grooving, bass and drumset jam. Then expanding space.
Polaris (Andrew Pollard Guitar, vocals, Joe O'Sullivan Guitar, John Ford Bass guitar, Neil Turpin Drums) release their second album on April 10. For a band that's been around since the mid-nineties, that might seem a little slow, but there's more to Polaris than meets the eye. Formed in Leeds in 1993 and featuring members of bands like Bilge Pump and Quack Quack, Polaris have quietly become godfathers of their now exploding local scene, turning at their own pace and never compromising quality for quantity......
A touch & feel power-trio, Reciprocate emerged from the ashes of Shield Your Eyes and The Wharves in the summer of 2018. They write romantic soul ballads and play them with an intense feel at high volume. Vibrato style guitar, very stirred drumming and feel-ridden bass back up the earnest singing of self-penned love songs.
Just when you thought 'punk rock' was gonna keep on being divided and subdivided by 'punk rockers' until it existed only as atoms, Sailors come along and remind you why you ever listened to it in the first place. Sailors absolutely, 101% DO NOT FUCK ABOUT. Their songs are examples of economy of rhythm and purpose seen too rarely and singer Nick spits forth snottily in a manner that'll make all you Sam McPheeters and Chris Thomson fans wonder why the hell you didn't do it first. "For fans of Monorchid, Circus Lupus, Born Against and Sweep The Leg Johnny" is what I'd write on the record in the record shop if I owned one and I was into all that microscopic genre breakdowns. Which I'm not.
Formed in the Black Country after the break up of their school band Fused, San Lorenzo aimed to create a varied and emotive sound from a basic three-piece set up. Owen's lyrics drew on suburban myths and dreams while the band's music was able to wrap these words in fragile melodies or noisy maelstroms. Their first 7" release garnered praise from the weekly music press with its dynamic intensity and melodic boy/girl harmonies. Comparisons were made to Codeine, Slint and Fugazi but these never quite hit the mark. In 2000 San Lorenzo toured with Idlewild to promote their debut album Nothing New Ever Works which was supported strongly by John Peel and Steve Lamacq's BBC radio shows.
Artistic affinities are pledged to Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Pissed Jeans and The Intelligence, but as Kurt Cobain once asked "Why can't we be both Black Sabbath and The Beatles?", Sauna Youth consistently and urgently pose the question, 'Why can't we be both The Ramones and Steve Reich?'.
Soe'za are currently a five-piece band, hailing from points along the M4 corridor, from Bristol to Swindon. With a somewhat unorthodox line-up of two drum kits, electric guitar, bass and French horn, Soe'za mix Can-esque grooves, and urgent guitars and folk tinged melody with Ben Owen's clear-voiced declarations. The band twist this template in every conceivable direction, their command of the irresistible rhythm is second to none, with the French horn rounding out subtle modulations of mood.
Souvaris are five like minded souls spilling forth rhythm and texture in songs that are long on the CD timer but seem short in the listening as you move along with them. Comparison are often made to Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, Godspeed, Sigur Ros, Tristeza etc but Souvaris are about different things. Those bands concern themselves with the spectacle and the distance between themselves and their audience but Souvaris, however grand the heights they push their music to, remain an exciting and sweaty live proposition working these amazing songs just for YOU. It may have elements of prog-rock or modern composition but it never fails to move you or make you move.
Spin Spin The Dogs take the bare bones of what's commonly known as the 'post-punk' sound and immediately swing off course into uncharted waters, constructing an inherently surreal and energetic pile of mess that almost resembles the Trout Mask-era Magic Band playing Prayers on Fire-era Birthday Party, with a big (probably unintentional) nod towards underrated trouble-makers Prolapse. And the singer is something else, charging around wild-eyed, spewing out head-spinning reams of dadaist beat blather like his life depends on keeping his mouth moving quicker than his brain can implement coherence.
Up from the sea-lap pebbles of the Sussex coast, beneath the battled sky, there, cupped like metal-fire in the clutching cauldron of the Brighton downs dwells the throb, purr, snarl and roar of Sweet Williams. A band whose grooves warm like loving wine, whose riffs swagger and lurch with all the seeming bonhomie of a sailor new on shore-leave, and yet like a stray dog which you imagined you could tame, those same riffs are liable in the end to wind up biting you on the arse.