“They look awful and sound terrible” is how one wag mischievously put it when The Horrors first reared their mops of black hair for the general public to properly gaze upon. Indeed, is there a more unlikely band to still be a band, since coming out of the mid-noughties indie revivalist period? With their cartoon-goth image and their super-short noise garage songs, many commentators simply dismissed them as fly-by-night operators, given an almighty leg up by both the music and fashion press, before they had paid their dues, as it were. Here today, gone tomorrow. Good for a laugh and a mess about with but, when the serious stuff was happening, you’d quickly reach out for an Arctic Monkeys, or a Bloc Party.
Back in 2010, Wolf Alice were hitting the open mic circuit in search of… something. That elusive pot of gold (metaphorical and otherwise) that all young musicians are striving for, even if the first goal is to find someone – anyone – who likes what you do. Which is very hard to achieve in most open mic situations. It's at that point that confidence can suddenly drain out, and the willpower dissipates.
It feels like he has been around forever but Jake Bugg is still only 23. He's just released his fourth album. He and the world have moved on considerably since he first made his mark with an appearance on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2011, this after personally submitting a demo to their website. Totally unknown at the time, hardly anyone was actually there to see that performance but Bugg caught the eyes and ears of the Mercury label, who snapped him up and away he went. Today, Bugg is a global phenomenon, hanging out with some of the best Nashville has to offer and, with Leonardo DiCaprio's ex on his arm, the incredulously named Roxy Horner. It's a long way from his Nottingham council estate upbringing.
Awards. Do we really need or want them? Aren't they just a publicity stunt designed by big labels in order to further their own nests and provide a jolly back slapping night out for the industry? Well, yes and no. The Mercury awards are a little bit different, you see. There is a considerable amount of credibility attached to them. It is, crucially, all about critical responses, rather than sales. Conceived in 1992, the Mercury Prize is awarded to the best album from Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music presenters, music producers, music journalists, festival organisers and other figures in the industry and covers all genres known to man (although metal and all its sub-genres has strangely been missing from all shortlists.). Just to be nominated will almost invariably give a boost to someone's career, although one must capitalise on such things to make that work.
I hadn't heard Youth (real name Martin Glover) speak until I saw him on the amazing Killing Joke documentary, where he imparted gentle homespun wisdom, and anecdotes aplenty in that archetypal 70s/80s cosmic-punk drawl. He sounded stoned. I loved it. Especially when married to his career as a musician and producer. For he is no slacker, but a veritable workaholic it seems. Ever since he answered an ad to be the bassist in Killing Joke back in the late 70s, he's been beavering away at building blocks of music and production with a high level of artistic commitment and commensurate success. As a bassist with Killing Joke (with whom he now plays with again). As a performer/producer with the hit-making Brilliant (with Jimmy Cauty, who later formed The KLF with Bill Drummond). And again with the dance act Blue Pearl. He also set up, with Alex Patterson, Wau! Mr Modo Recordings, and with The Orb co-wrote the ambient house classic 'Little Fluffy Clouds'.
There's plenty of mileage to be had in analysing the youth of today. More than ever, it seems. Not just for the purposes of marketing and consumer preferences. Sure, reality TV and mainstream pop is (as it has always been) largely dominated by the youth. But, more than ever, they are literally going their own way. They are leaving the rest of us in our tracks. Metaphorically speaking. Look at what happened in the recent European Referendum, and the General Election. The youth (under 25) overwhelmingly voted to stay in Europe, and to enact policies that emphasised socialism; a collectivist vision as opposed to one proposing pure individualism. Hope over fear. The gap between the young and old is startling. In simple terms, it's a deep divide between generations, and values. And there is very little sign that the older have any real understanding of what is really happening with the younger folk. Their world is literally being taken from under their feet.
2017 has certainly gotten off to a flying start! It’s hard to believe we’re only halfway through with all that has happened so far, although it is hard not to notice that it’s summer with all of this amazing weather we are having: I’ve never known it to be so hot. It has been a big year for Brightonsfinest so far too, having finally made the sensible and necessary step of moving our offices from Hove to the heart of Brighton’s bustling North Laine. At the same time we launched our own Radio Show in March on Brighton’s Juice 107.2. If you’re not in the know yet our show runs from Monday-Thursday, 9-11pm, with a new music focussed selection of tracks and interviews with artists, promoters and the like. You can listen back to all of our shows HERE, listen live HERE or tune in on 107.2FM if you’re in Sussex (UK). We also presented a spell-binding Alternative Escape Showcase at St Mary’s Church, which is an incredible setting up the road in Kemptown and have released a Live vinyl album by Los Albertos and a special-edition double vinyl reissue of The Fiction Aisle’s debut Heart Map Rubric. Both are available from Brightonsfinest Presents Shop now, and we expect to be releasing another compilation later in the year, as well as getting more involved in promoting shows on the live music scene down here and beyond.
After the first Love Supreme Festival in 2013, the organisers very nearly decided to throw in the towel. They lost a tonne of money. But disco legends Chic, in a roundabout way, saved the day. Not only had the festival sold a fair few tickets on the back of their appearance, but they also delivered a nigh-on perfect set of sunshine hits that had the crowd in raptures. It proved to be a lucky booking for, only a week before, Chic had stolen the show at Glastonbury, and re-established their credentials as true icons and purveyors of ridiculously infectious and classy hits galore. This fact reverberated to Glynde, in Sussex, telling the organisers that there was potentially a market for this kind of event, an outdoor festival that catered for a well-heeled, mature crowd, that would literally get down to the right kind of music.
Fun. That is what it's supposed to be, is it not? Being in a band as a young adult. Meeting new people, going to new places, playing music because you just damn well enjoy doing that? And you know what? People can smell that. They often have a good sense of what is real, and what is not. Being able to tell the difference between what is too earnest, and what is just having a bit of a laugh. Even the most muso lunatics such as Yes or Gentle Giant were having a laugh back in the days of bombastic prog-rock. Even the most epic and earnest sounding like Radiohead, are just having a bit of a laugh amidst all the heavy sentiments and chord progressions.
They’ve done it again. Albeit perhaps not quite as consistently impressive as their first two albums, alt-J still hit new peaks on Relaxer, an album that continues their foray into that weird and wonderful mix of prog, folk, garage and electro, but which is more spacious and at times punchier. It’s epitomised by the stunning lead track ‘3WW’ (three worn words), a song that, according to the band, “Traces the adventures of a wayward lad on England’s northeast coast, culminating in the whispering of three worn words." It's full of sexual awakening and adventure, and features the voices of alt-J's Gus Unger-Hamilton and Joe Newman, as well as Wolf Alice's Ellie Roswell. "I just want to love you in my own language", they sing against a background of beguiling alt-folk, with distorted waves of electronica, shakers, minimal keys, dubby bass and much else besides. It’s one of their best ever songs.