Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Acts To Watch In 2008 - for Drum Media (Sydney)

There’s only so much you can pick up from MySpace or foreign rock press. So our man in the UK James McGalliard has suggested some acts to watch out for in 2008

I’ve got a fair idea of some of the bands that will become hard to avoid in 2008. But you can read about Foals, The Pigeon Detectives, The Cribs, The Wombats, Palladium, The Enemy and their like elsewhere. What follows is not necessarily bands who will break big in 2008, but acts I’ve seen and been impressed by over the past 12 months. Acts I’ll be spending my time and money keeping an eye on; hopefully some of them will find success as well. But rather than just list a few in detail, here are more than 20 over a broad spectrum in rough categories for you to pursue if you so wish

Not The Same Old Blues Crap
Is the name of a set of promoters who have already presented gigs by The Scientists and the wonderful Gallon Drunk this year. They’re also bringing blues to a wider audience - and blues is making big inroads into the indie scene. Seasick Steve is the genuine article – of the old school. But he’s playing bigger and bigger audiences for every tour, and is like the Top Gear - folks who usually have no interest in this sort of thing are flocking to see him. One can only hope that John Peel favourite Jawbone will find success in his wake? With a renewed interest in “punk rock blues”, maybe Archie Bronson Outfit will progress from being one of the best live acts in the country, to being a big one too?

One man and his guitar
Or in the case of Simple Kid, a guitar and a laptop. Which allows him to duet with Kermit the frog on It’s Not Easy Being Green, have a karaoke-style singalong to The Ballad Of Elton John, and spew out the lyrics of set highlight Serotonin. Josh T Pearson (the T is for Texas) has been stunning UK audiences with his open-hearted, scary, long, involved honest one-man songs. He’s due to release his first real material since Lift To Experience soon – it will have been worth the wait. Kid Harpoon first hooked me with his brilliant live cover of Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan. Now he has a full band (The Powers That Be) and together they play some of the best folk-influenced rock since The Pogues

The shock of the old
Reunions are generally a disappointment, but there have been some exceptions. The best of all was Gang Of Four, whose 2005 live shows wiped the floor with newer pretenders. Sadly drummer Hugh is not currently in the band, but they’re recording new material and its release is sure to make a major impact. Similarly James played the arenas this year, but it was more than a nostalgia trip; they have written and recorded a new album. The live shows were great – if radio gets behind them, they may have a second coming.

Second chances to make a first impression
My Latest Novel produced a great debut album, but it never really translated into a big following. But they’re a fabulously adventurous live act, and the new songs are particularly strong. Fields progressed enormously over 2007; after much touring were able to keep the intensity levels sustained throughout their shows. I hope 2008 is the year their hybrid shoegaze folk-rock makes a mark. On the other hand The Duke Spirit were always great live, but sadly their debut album failed to capture this. However this seems to have been rectified with their new recordings, and their forthcoming album may yet make them a household name.

Pick And Mix
The Early Years were easily a live highlight of 2007. They’ve officially expanded to a four piece and are currently recording a second album – it should be blinding. When Fuck Buttons played Truck festival, such was the interest I couldn’t even get into the tent they were playing. But what I heard though the tent walls definitely made me want to find out more. SPC ECO is Dean Garcia of Curve coming back with something reminiscent of his previous act, but also entirely new. Curve should have been huge – Garbage owed their sound to them! Maybe this time the originators will grab the spoils? But Exit Calm are the where the smart money is. The music is tight and large, even if the vocals are yet to catch up. They will be in big venues by the year’s end. Think U2, but in a good way…

From Over There
The National may have released four albums and have toured a few times, but they’re yet to break big here. All the right ingredients are there – it’s just something not quite clicking. 2008 may well see them do an R.E.M. and jump from devoted fanbase to widespread acclaim.

Personal Bias
The Twilight Sad was the band of 2007 for me. Yet somehow, in a foolish oversight, their brilliant debut album has missed many end of year lists. Live the act is powerful and unforgettable. And bloody LOUD! There’s a special something about them; even though their music is entirely different, I keep thinking Here Are The Young Men. Andy Yorke is that Radiohead guy’s brother, and some years ago had his own band The Unbelievable Truth. At Truck he had be totally entranced – an understanding between the people onstage translated to a magic and beautiful hour. I’ve told Evi Vine that she’s a future Mercury Music Prize candidate; she thinks I’m joking, but her unique music is worthy of such accolades. She is transported when she plays and takes the audience with her; the journey may be sometimes unnerving though, as she is a singularly spectacular talent. A brother and sister – the guy on guitar, a gal on drums - but nothing like that that red & white duo? That’s Joe Gideon & The Shark – a real find for me, and a band I’ll definitely write about in more detail during 2008. And finally there’s Model Morning who may never find huge success, but still make my jaw drop, and my soul sing, each time I see them.

Sadly, there’s no time for
The return of doves. Or Spiritualized Acoustic Mainline. Or other acts with string sections. Or the whole world of new pop! So especially sorry to Tim Ten Yen, Strange Idols, 586, The Chaira L’s… But now that the ukulele has overtaken the recorder as the most played instrument in UK schools, who knows what the future will bring?

© James McGalliard 2008