Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On the 'royd

Regular readers will be aware that we love little better than a mini-clique, a set of likeminded individuals who come together in no greater cause than the common musical good. The White brothers centred Brighton collective was good, the London nu-folkies better if only because the connections are so intertwined we tried to sit down and chart it all once and had to give up, but for sheer visceral thrills and the type of new band namechecking you've come to know as STN's stock in trade we can do no better than the coterie who've given their collaborative powers a name for us - Awesome Pals!

While their numbers are many - nine contributing to that blog at the moment, and a handful of likeminded souls not doing so - there are four who are closer to the spirit and are in some way the founding fathers (fourteen in total, plus six founding mothers) of this group of new young exciting British talent, and we've featured them all heavily on STN. We speak of the mob-handed cross-referencers of indiepop and maxi-indie alike, Los Campesinos!; the post-pre-hardcore documenters of Birmingham's shitty nightlife Johnny Foreigner; the poised but shortish, sharp shocks of Sky Larkin and the audio-visual fight-pop bitzkrieg of Dananananaykroyd. As we say, these are four bands we've been heavily backing almost from the very start (the last link there serving as a valid public warning about the dangers of entrusting an email interview to John Baillie Jnr) and been vocal fans of their debut albums. The moral: We're great, us. Apart from when we think we accidentally insulted Gareth in private email conversation. Soz.

So what is it with these four? Well, it helps that they retain a connection with their fans no matter how much time they spend in swanky American studios, whether through embracing blogging's cultural power or the modish entertainments of Twitter, but that's not all. Journalists looking for an 'in' - hello, NME - like to claim they're all cut from the same cloth, but in practice that rarely gets beyond a couple of basic intuitive strands. They have their own community interlinks - LC! have toured with Sky Larkin and JoFo. JoFo have toured with Sky Larkin and Danana both twice and have the former on their new album (the latter missed a flight, as did LC! when they were supposed to contribute to the first LP) - but clearly that's not all either. There's no geographical correlation between the four, which doesn't make it some British equivalent of The Smell. No, there's something they all do in the way they take their primary influences. American for the most part, it's fairly solid to state, and chiefly Pavement and their ilk, but taking in a wide range from the noisenik of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and the Blood Brothers to the controlled collapse of Broken Social Scene, Xiu Xiu, Cap'n Jazz, Deerhoof and the Unicorns right through to Jim O'Rourke, Wilco, the Breeders and Why? Then there's a huge swathe of largely overlooked British bands of the 90s and 00s, from Urusei Yatsura to Life Without Buildings to Seafood, and perhaps above all else a determination to make things bend their way rather than pay lip service to prevailing trends. These just shouldn't sound like British bands yet at the same time don't sound like the Americanisation of their influences through a wholly British mordant wit, peculiar obsessions, singular angle of approach and almost grace in their colliding guitars and rhythms. They are, not to put too much weight on it, the products of the Pitchfork and mp3 blog age, and more power to their elbows.

We mean, this is the sort of song each of them feels they can afford to leave off an album:

Dananananaykroyd - Chrome Rainbow (Pink Sabbath B-side)
Johnny Foreigner - I Heard, He Ties Up Cats (Eyes Wide Terrified B-side)
Los Campesinos! - How I Taught Myself To Scream (freely distributed offcut)
Sky Larkin - Shipwreck (2006 demo)

Anyway, on to the matter at hand, and if all that folderol is reallythe case, which it is because we've just said it is, Hey Everyone! may be, if not its totem, at least its stylistic apogee. There may be people who haven't seen them live yet, and we pity those people as a Dananananaykroyd gig is more a community support meeting on mescaline, even if they have decided to stop doing this sort of thing:

Dananananaykroyd SXSW Scottish Showcase Austin from NMK on Vimeo.

But we've all heard debut records by bands with phenomenal live reputations who can't capture that lightning in a bottle live. However, a tale: back when Johnny Foreigner took them around the country for the second time in 2008 we caught them in a now defunct cavern, and before they came on Alexei Berrow sidled up to us - the stalking had to work eventually - and let on that they had new songs that, in his words, "made the hairs on my neck stand up". Now, the Danana obsessive will already have seven of these eleven songs, albeit six re-recorded here, but they still sound vital and carry the whole thing along on the crest of a very dissonant wave. So while you're not going to get hugged by a sweaty, more than likely topless, definitely overcome by the thrill of it all Calum Gunn, you are going to hear him and Baillie Jnr give it their cross-purposes all vocally. Behind them whips up an almighty storm, but one so meticulously planned out that it has a certain crooked melody hidden under all the feedback, noise screes and barrage of power chords, handclaps and hardcore pummelling. It's the fact that they can even out handclaps and hardcore pummelling that makes them so special. The first vocal on the record is a chanted chorus of the bandname, following which Gunn stalks out his territory with one well chosen word: "Hiya!" Then things start clanging into and over each other, the two drummers clattering in time. It's full of outstanding little moments - the riff at the start of The Greater Than Symbol And The Hash, the becalmed last minute and a half of 1993, the mass chant at the opening of Some Dresses. It's positivist quasi-screamo, it's car crash noise you can dance to, and it's near enough a new benchmark for those who turn up and fuzz out in this country. Turning hissy fits into sissy hits, indeed. Why is it that we prefer lionising the ordinary American underground bands when we can produce records that sound like this, and the sounds of those around them?

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