Monday, March 06, 2006

The New British Invasion

Whatever Happened to Britpop?

From the upcoming March issue of The Seattle Sinner

By Jeremy M. Barker

So, after several years of not paying attention to what's been going on across the pond in Great Britain, I was recently driven to check out the dismal state of Britpop when I was informed, by THE NEW YORK TIMES no less, that the best band since The Beatles had surfaced, a barely pubescent quartet called The Arctic Monkeys. At the same time, 107.7 The End has been shoving (following an appearance on THE O.C.) another English act called The Subways down my throat.

All of a sudden, Britpop is unavoidable. The American press, for some reason still obsessed with model Kate Moss, has gleefully kept us informed on her and boyfriend Pete Doherty's (formerly of The Libertines, currently of Babyshambles) descent into druggie hell. So I decided to find out what the hell the deal is, and in the process discovered that this month, Seattle plays host to the new wave of British bands invading the US and clamoring for our attention.

March 29, Crocodile Cafe

So, The Arctic Monkeys are, like, the best band since The Beatles. Or Oasis. Or maybe just The Libertines. Whatever. They're debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, is the fastest selling album in British history. Just released in the US, the album was lead her by two singles--the infectiously catchy "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor" and the just plain bad "When The Sun Goes Down," both of which have received some radio play. The exact source of fascination with Arctic Monkeys frankly escapes me. Like I said, "Dancefloor" is catchy but forgettable and derivative--power pop chords with a punky lead line and some cutesy back-up vox. "When The Sun Goes Down," though, is just plain irritating and schmaltzy; poor girl on the streets, she's a hooker, blah blah blah. Sorry kids, we've all heard "Roxanne" already.

March 30, Crocodile Cafe

If Arctic Monkeys are over-hyped in Britain, The Subways are over-hyped in the US. Although they've released a slew of singles in the UK, over here they're known exclusively for the single "Rock and Roll Queen," which they performed live on Fox's The O.C. Personally, I'd also guess that their barely legal, hottie bassist Charlotte Cooper helped get them exposure (hot chick in the band is the oldest trick in the book). But despite claims to the contrary, "Rock and Roll Queen" is not the regeneration of rock by returning to its roots; it's just punk redux, two and a half minutes of youthful angst...singing about love. Seriously, hugely overrated, The Subways will be as forgotten in two years as Third Eye Blind, Fastball and Cornershop are now.

March 25, Neumos

In researching this article, I checked out a lot of contemporary British acts--Bloc Party (forgettable), Kaiser Chiefs (already forgotten), Ash (wait, aren't they ancient?)--but the big surprise I came across was Art Brut. You won't be hearing this band on 107.7 any time soon (though KEXP has them in rotation), but they're a fantastic antidote to the crap described above. Their first single, "Formed a Band," is a brilliant rebel scream, a battle cry against the banality of most Britpop.

Most often compared to The Fall, the first thing I thought listening to this band's debut was Slint and Pavement. Like both those visionary American indie bands, Art Brut uses math rocky rhythms and spoken word elements to make music. "Formed a Band" is a two minute rocker, featuring a chorus of "Look at us, we formed a band!" against repetitive rock chords. The verses, half spoken word, half cheesy rhymed singing, are sung against a schizoidal lead guitar, as lead singer Eddie Argos chants, "Honey pie, I don't know when it started/Just stop buying your albums from the supermarket" and later in spoken word, "...yes, this is my singing voice/it's not irony, it's not rock and roll." Structurally, it's almost identical to Pavement's "Conduit for Sale" from Slanted and Enchanted, but then again, Pavement's supposed to sound just like The Fall. Art Brut's debut Bang Bang Rock and Roll is the only of the three debuts cited herein worth buying, and check out them out in concert; they already have a reputation as a great live band.


Blogger ::shrugs:: said...

(found ur blog at random, sorry if my comment wierds you out)

the article is right about some things. in my opinion its wrong about a few (namely, bloc party and kaiser chiefs) but more importantly, Arctic Monkeys have a few decent songs, but its really nothing special. Art Brut is brilliant. Thanks for posting the article.

also, what the fuck happened to music? why do we have to hunt it down like some endangered animal, whose bounty is both amazing and illegal? like we have to look over our shoulders hiding from fans of american pseudo-punk-green-day-garbage who refuse to understand shit about music.

that's my rant.

2:01 AM  
Blogger Fenton Hall said...

How coem you hat englund so mucch, faggit?

2:02 PM  

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