Tag Archives: BRIT ROCK


After The Prodigy helped manufacture post-Nirvana rave culture for Britain’s underground masses, a swarm of inventive laptop musicians sprung up and found fame in England, hoisting Fatboy Slim and Chemical Brothers atop the next ‘big beat generation.’ Then Daft Punk absorbed these influences and gave a metallic sheen to the heavy groove line, ushering in the new millennium for hotshot modern beat-masters like LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, and the more rock-oriented Pendulum.

Leaving Perth, Australia’s early drum and bass alliance to relocate in the United Kingdom during 2003, Pendulum have slowly, but surely, taken over the current club scene and beyond with their impetuously infectious techno-rock concoctions. Led by sturdy original crew, Rob Squire and Gareth Mc Grillen (from unheralded Tool/ Deftones-styled Aussie rockers, Xygen), plus seasoned DJ, Paul Harding, Pendulum expanded their lineup over time, magnifying the enthusiastic electro-percussive soundscape twofold since formative ’05 debut, Hold Your Colour, and its rockier ‘08 follow-up, In Silico.

Full of confidence, swagger, and stacked electronic gadgetry, they’ve now made a perfectly bombastic 66-minute nightclub masterpiece recalculating, redirecting, and re-calcifying 30 years of decadent post-punk discotheque maneuvers for a joyous ecstasy-laced journey beyond the galaxies. Truly, the magnanimous Immersion features something for everyone to get into. Placing thrillingly overwrought mantras inside flashy nu-metal guitar frays, monst0rous dance floor romps, and cybernetic phase-shifting burbles, its plush interior design supports a deliriously cryptic water theme.

Commencing orchestral march, “Genesis,” opens the mammoth set, drifting directly into engrossing genre-bending anthem, “Salt In The Wounds,” a first-rate state-of-the-art rock-blocked techno-Industrial instrumental just about as fascinatingly phantasmagorical as Hollywood’s greatest espionage capers. Moving through a streamlined synth-drum pulse with furious adrenaline, this phosphorescent seven-minute opus shoots gooey electronic taser spurts and spritz-y laser gun squirts into an insanely megalomaniacal potpourri where Frankie Goes To Hollywood-meets-”Frankenstein” at an intergalactic Star Wars convention.

Without sounding guardedly superficial, Pendulum oft-times enjoys salvaging ‘80s musical vagaries from vinyl wreckage throughout Immersion, forging ahead with one foot in the past on “Watercolour,” which could be mistaken for posh arena-ready prog-rock by overblown supergroup, Asia, despite its utterly techno-derived rhythmic crush. In a similar vein, “Crush” revisits not only Asia, but also Europe and Damn Yankees arena rock, reaching deeper emotional heights and gaining wider mainstream access than ‘Watercolour” (an instant ’09 Brit hit single).

Though “Witchcraft” and “The Island – Pt. 1 Dawn” nearly overload the cheesy art-rock tendencies, mesmerizing mantra “The Island Pt. II Dusk” fries the brain with piercing synth-string spikes sunk into a ceaselessly overwhelming bass-drum backbeat that boggles the mind devising trippy modulated oscillations and lofty robotic machinations. Likewise, “The Vulture” bites off a few syncopated rhythm ideas from high-tech disco producer, Giorgio Moroder, with jubilant results.

Pendulum also got the opportunity to employ a few varied musicians that have gained their respect over the years. Prodigy’s Liam Howlett, a veritable techno-rock mentor, provides profuse pyrotechnic percussion blurts to floor-shaking rattler, “Immunize.” Swedish death metal band, In Flames, fling a guitar-trebled bass rumble at corrosive gut-wrenching changeup, “Self Vs. Self.” Purcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson brings a hint of psychedelic intrigue to symphonic piano-based space-rock illumination, “The Fountain.”

Not to be outdone, the dauntingly rancorous assault of “Comprachicos” fucks you like Nine Inch Nail’s “Animal,” ultimately spiraling out of control as sizzling guitar riffs and heated synthesizer jabs battle it out until the guys vindictively scream ‘throw it away/ ‘cause I got no patience.’

It may’ve taken two years to assemble Immersion, but Pendulum definitely realized their enormous potential. Every track’s been handled with grandiose Epicurean care and each cluttered performance is given utmost conviction.

I spoke to Pendulum’s Rob Swire mid-January 2011 via phone.

Did you plan on making Immersion into a gargantuan epic during the planning stages?

ROB SWIRE: No. It did take awhile though. We wrote it in the space of two years on and off bus tours. But we really cracked down on it in the last five months of making the record.

How’d you come up with the album title, Immersion?



There was a subconscious water theme running through the lyrics. Then, we were going back into the studio and it felt a bit like being immersed in itself. So it came naturally.

How has Pendulum’s live show evolved over the years into an absolutely mesmerizing extravaganza?



It definitely got bigger. I don’t think we ever noticed because when you’re in the middle of it you’re not conscious of it developing. Since we didn’t see our families for the better part of two years, the show got really pumped up.

How’d Pendulum build an early audience from the once-thriving drum and bass scene Down Under?



There was a small drum and bass club scene in Perth. We were just trying to make tracks for local producers that would get airplay at local clubs. That’s how we met Paul (Harding), our DJ. We were supposed to play a live set that day, but one of our computers went down so we asked him to set up the decks and play our tracks.

How do your first two albums compare to Immersion?



I think it’s the sound of Pendulum knowing what they’re doing now. To a large extent, the first two were good, but we were experimenting. We didn’t have a clear conscious idea about that the music we were making or the sound we were after. We got to a point where we were happy enough to be called a band then. On Immersion, we knew what we were doing and understood what album we wanted to make.

The opening track, “Salt In The Wounds,” was a major English hit. But in the United States, there probably hasn’t been a substantial Top 10 instrumental hit since Harold Faltenmeyer’s “Axel F” from Eddie Murphy’s 1984 film, Beverly Hills Cop.



It’s funny. Over here in England, you could get a lot of stuff on the radio, especially if it’s electronic.

On the other hand, “Watercolour” drudges up comparisons to ‘70s/ ‘80s prog-rock.



Actually, I’m a big prog fan – Yes and King Crimson. But more than that, Porcupine Tree, which started in 1997. I’ve listened to their second album a lot and picked up on them. I’d never really been a big fan of Pink Floyd until I worked myself backwards to older bands. We like Porcupine Tree so much we actually asked Steve Wilson to work with us on “The Fountain.”

“Crush” may be Pendulum’s most accessible track. Does that tune best captivate the mainstream audience?



We can’t play a show without doing it or we’ll hear about it online. General fans in England love “Watercolour” and “Witchcraft.” But in the States, “Crush” is the most liked. And our cult fans have also fell in love with that.

One of the mightiest Industrial-metal-styled cuts, “Comprachicos,” recalled Nine Inch Nails or System Of A Down at certain junctures.



We were trying to make something with a Nine Inch Nails intro to begin with. The word comprachicos (coined by novelist Victor Hugo in The Man Who Laughs) loosely means child molding. It was born out of a Spanish fable that had guys who’d take children and put them into these forcible constraints that would deform their bodies as they grew and keep them as ornaments.

Has Pendulum ever considered doing soundtrack work or movie scores? Your music would totally suit some sci-fi adventure.



Yeah. We’d love to do it. We get envious when we hear Trent Reznor doing The Social Network or Daft Punk on Tron.

Have you begun working on the next Pendulum album? If so, how will it differ from previous endeavors?



We’re working on the next album currently. But we’re not using those songs in our shows. We do have some stuff lined up for the States tour, though. It’s getting very ‘in the moment.’ We’re not trying to spend too much time on things because we’re trying to be less affectionate and bring a sort of punk edge to it. We want to keep it visceral and possibly contrast Immersion with shorter songs.

Do you feel comfortable when your band is considered a natural and direct descendant of outstanding musical paragons, Prodigy? After all, you sought out Liam Howlett to co-write “Immunize.”


We grew up listening to those guys around ‘97/ ’98. They were my favorite band.




Emerging from the urban West Yorkshire metropolis of Wakefield, the Cribs continue to rise above cookie cutter British knockoffs with ‘07s exuberant youth manifesto, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever (Warner Bros.). Truly a family affair, agile Jarman twins Ryan (guitar) and Gary (bass) compose and sing the English trio’s instinctively tuneful punk-informed oeuvre while younger brother, Ross, emphatically bangs the drums. While the Cribs eponymous ’04 debut and enticingly better ’05 follow-up, New Fellas, set the tone for the ambitious siblings, forthright comparisons to simultaneously fashionable peers, the Libertines, only served to piss ‘em off and heighten their resolve.


Flowing seamlessly from the bouncy harmonic opener, “Our Bovine Republic” (with its scruffy Strokes-like guitar), to somber acoustic vignette, “Shoot The Poets,” the brotherly troika stay pleasingly affable on US breakout, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever. Between those bookends, shimmered six-string lucidity and jittered stick-work enliven “Girls Like Mystery,” tone-dialed melodic guitar efficacy coils anxiously fixated, “Men’s Needs,” and fretted beeps cluster ruptured bass rumblings on emotional hardcore reprisal, “Moving Pictures.”

Ostensibly spunkier and more talented than fly-by-night mimickers, the Cribs remain genuinely confident. Yet their skeptical lyrical exploits could be summed up in “I’m A Realist,” an instantly addictive number pelting a cuckold loser as effectively as the Offspring’s “Self-Esteem” did a decade hence, defensively spewing advisory sideswipe ‘I’m a realist/ I’m a romantic/ I’m an indecisive piece of shit.’ The longing desperation seems to reach full froth on resonant baritone-deepened snag “Major’s Titling Victory.”

Challenging collaboration, “Be Safe,” crosscuts legendary Sonic Youth mainstay Lee Ranaldo’s ghostly misanthropic spoken word sentiments with the Jarman’s melancholically wailed harmonic intervals of ‘I know a place we can go where you’ll fall in love so hard you’ll wish you were dead.’ And the recessively downcast ‘cut off your nose to spite your friends’ disclosure lamenting “Shoot The Poets” closes the set on a sentient retreat into gloomy nightfall.

Blue-collar romantics facing the same highs and lows as average pimply-faced Brit teens, the Cribs gladly shun the spoiled suburban faux-punk mentality of upper crust kids crying in their coffee living safely at home. Lurk back to New Fellas repetitively interjected chant, “Hey Scenesters,” for further evidence of the Cribs content poseur snubbing.

More significantly, it’s the Cribs celebrated live shows that unmistakably separate them from the New Musical Express-sponsored vogue-ish crap pack. Their energized performances sustain a ruggedly scurried boisterousness first-wave punks would surely appreciate.

Who are some of your early musical influences?


GARY JARMAN: The first band I got into was Queen. But I don’t see them as a profound influence in our style of music. When I met with Wichita, the label we were initially signed to, they asked what my first single was. I said it was by Aztec Camera. They were cool fans of Glasgow pop so I was lucky to say that. Also, I enjoy Orange Juice. Edwin Collins produced our second record. Well into my teens, I got into late ‘70s punk – Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, and especially, X-Ray Spex, then later, Sonic Youth and Nirvana. By ’92, my favorite was Brit band, Comet Gain, who I’d get to drum for. They do few gigs now and then. They’re like a ramshackle version of Television Personalities.

How do your first two albums compare to Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever?


This little label, Worlds Fair, released them in America. The first album has a very apparent Beat Happening influence. It’s reminiscent of K Records stuff. It was naïve. We weren’t as aggressive live. We started out as a beat band. Gradually, our punk influence came through. The second was written on the road real fast as a knee jerk reaction to the fact we were three guys from Wakefield who’d never seen the industry. It’s a friendly fuck-off. I love that record’s cynicism.

I’ve heard former Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr, now part of Modest Mouse, has been working on some tracks with the Cribs.


Our original intention was to get together, write songs just for fun, and of course, we just love him. We wanted to do a single and it came along quickly. He definitely fits into our plans. I’m good friends with the Modest Mouse guys so I don’t want to create any problems there. (laughter)

What kind of abstract designs or studio techniques did Franz Ferdinand front man Alex Kopranos bring to the production?


We had a few ideas but had never been with a professional producer. The first record we self-produced, though Bobby Conn did a track. We didn’t want some big shot producer. I didn’t want to be in the position where you’re just another band in the production line. Alex was enthusiastic and passionate. That’s what we wanted. He had lots of the same references. We had a fun time and worked well. His opinions were valid. He’d write real pop songs and hide them in lo-fi. I wanted him to make our music sound more fully realized. I was scared of going to a big studio. I didn’t want it to sound sterile. But it was easy to trust him.

“Our Bovine Public” seems to be a snippy l’il opener.


The more upbeat punk songs are generally my brothers. In the UK, there’s so many bands springing up trying to capitalize on the current trend of the scrappy indie guitar aesthetic. But that song has more literal meaning. Where we grew up in Wakefield, due to the amount of drinking and fighting on Saturday nights, it’s a commentary on people being treated like cattle, but acting like pigs. They reserve the right to act like animals, but complain when they get (skewered like one). Also, it’s frustrating to be compared to bands like the Libertines. It’s fine, but we started at the same time they did in 2001. We’d never heard of each other. Our labels tried to put us on tour together. But it’s annoying people think we sound the same. They’re our contemporaries. Now there’s a million generic bands we don’t want to get lumped in with. Most are ignorant copycats the UK press serves up.

How did the loose concept juxtaposing “Women’s Needs” against “Men’s Needs” come about?


It was never our idea to conceptualize the record. Before the band started, I was involved with Ladyfest – a feminist empowered, independent, not-for-profit, DIY festival. A lot of our songs are about self-examination. But a lot of dumb rock and roll cliches are inherently sexist. I’m proud to be against that, not bluntly or overtly, but politically.

“Shoot The Poets” seems to aim for the gut.


My brother had an idea for a long time that he didn’t want to live in big cities. He’d moved to Leeds and was bummed out. He wrote that in an ancient hotel in the middle of nowhere in a creepy town. The title comes from the frustration of seeing generic bands singing about nothing. They think they’re poets ‘cause they write dumb-ass pretentious pop punk. We don’t want to be thought of as rock stars craving attention. We have nothing in common with most UK guitar bands. Some are good, millions suck. America will be spared, but in the UK we’re confronted with dire, watered down bands.

How do you keep your renowned live shows exciting?


We try to keep things spontaneous and leave some things to chance. When touring for a long time, some bands become a well-oiled machine. It seems boring. I can’t imagine working like that. It’s like punching the clock. That’s the attitude we have.


FOREWORD: I got to hang out with British pop idols, the Coral, during their first American tour supporting ‘02s rewarding eponymous psych-folk mod rock debut. Stargazing guitar group revivalists, the Coral went on to reach number one in England with respectable sophomore set, Magic And Medicine, but were jilted by US lack of interest. I’m unfamiliar with ‘04s The Invisible Invasion and ‘07s Roots & Echoes (which wasn’t released in the States). Lead singer-guitarist James Skelley proved to be a rather shy, soft-spoken person offstage. But the rest of the band was more outgoing. This article originally appeared in Aquarian Weekly.


Onstage at Manhattan’s crowded Mercury Lounge, Britain’s latest press darlings, the Coral, prove worthy impressing stateside informants through the relentlessly frenetic sea shanty opener, “Spanish Main,” to the distended Searchers-obliged closing mantra, “Goodbye.” Musically sophisticated beyond their years (ages 18 to 21), these cleverly resourceful thick-accented Merseyside villagers shun post-punk conventionality by dousing intricate arrangements with crusty Yardbirds-styled riffs, twanged surf rock borrowings, psych-garage organ motifs, and doo wop-influenced harmonies.

Now proud college dropouts, Hillbury High pals James Skelley (vocals-guitar), his brother, Ian (drums), Nick Power (organ), Bill Ryder-Jones (guitar-trumpet), Lee Southall (guitar), and Paul Duffy (bass-sax) have garnered massive UK media attention since their self-titled debut sold an impressive 100,000 copies in Great Britain alone.

Whether chanting simple nursery rhyme schemes on the nifty “Simon Diamond,” drifting into the reggae-fried “Dreadlock Holiday” abyss of organ saturated “Shadows Fall,” or slipping through scampered Madness placation’s such as the soulful “Dreaming Of You,” and the anxiety-riddled “I Remember When,” the Coral consistently scramble jumbled influences in intentionally awkward ways.

Perhaps the most inextricable illustration of their deranged diversification comes via the spasmodic “Bad Man,” a frazzled espionage-themed elixir with fluctuant time signatures, sinister clipped guitar clusters, and burbling wheeze-box undercurrent.

Are the Coral part of a thriving Liverpool-based scene?


BILL: It’s going through a transition and turning itself around. It’s a bit of a positive place to come from. It still has its flaws. Local bands like the Bandits, who are into ska-skiffle sounds like the Clash-meets-the-Sex Pistols. The Stands are more like the Byrds’ Sweetheart Of The Rodeo country-folk.

PAUL: Then there’s two lads called Hokum Clones that do bluegrass ragtime with two acoustic guitars. The Irish band, Zutons, is on our label. When we started getting into music, we weren’t serious at fourteen years old yet. The band Madness was cool.

LEE: At that stage, you’re not sure what you’re into. The bands we initially liked were the Beatles, Oasis, and the La’s. The La’s made the best pop songs of the ‘90s. We’ve been playing some of our songs for four years, so the problem becomes ‘How do you play the songs with the same feeling?’

How do your diligent arrangements usually come about?


BILL: Most songs are collaborations that are created out of chords. It’s not really a set way. We go over what the feel of the song is and it comes together.

LEE: We could write a few lyrics and put two chords together and a whole song comes out of it. It’s just us.

Your closing song at the Mercury Lounge gig, “Goodbye,” was stretched out live. Its stinging leads reminded me of the Yardbirds while the harmonies

seemed influenced by the Searchers.


PAUL: We like to freak out on that. It’s completely selfish and indulgent. We just like to jam out.

The obtuse “Skeleton Key,” with its Captain Beefheart-skewed rhythmic complexity, nearly resembles the music of the New York City band with the same name.


PAUL: There’s also a band named Shadows Fall.

On that song, “Shadows Fall,” you play a reggae bass line.


PAUL: To be honest, I was on vacation when they wrote that song. It’s not just standard reggae. It skips through styles. The words Nick wrote and the theme called for that bass. But it wasn’t premeditated.

Nick, what’s the inside scoop concerning the lyrics to your song, “Simon Diamond”?


NICK: It’s kind of tragic. At the end of the song, he changes into a plant. He has arms to wash himself, but he can’t because he’s a plant. It’s philosophical. Sometimes you sing the chorus until it fits into your liking and that’s the essence of it. Sometimes, they’re made up on the spot.

Are you into Northern Soul?


NICK: That’s what we’ve always done. We listen to everything. But we’re so bored because there’s so little to do where we live, so we sit in our bedroom. There’s a high population of old people. So you have to amuse yourself in some way. The first thing I got into was Bob Marley. Then, there was John Lennon and Bob Dylan. They’re the biggest icons. I also like Captain Beefheart and Scott Walker.

The neo-orchestral parts on some songs are reminiscent of Scott Walker’s early ‘70s singer-songwriter stuff.


NICK: It’s never preconceived how we’re gonna write. We get an idea, go into the practice room, then whatever happens…you chuck a load of ideas around. If you’re in a band and you’re getting paid for it, you should get everybody involved.

How’s the second record coming along?


JAMES: It’s more refined than the first. The quality of songwriting and the arrangements are better and we’re better players now. It’s more within one mood. It’s not as chopped together as the first was.

NICK: The parts of the debut you hear that you can’t relate to any other band is what the whole of the second album is like. It’s more like in ten years time it’ll have a more obvious sound. Our first album was a great, weird representation of where we were then. The next is a more of a mood album like one of those thematic Hawaiian albums that take you someplace else. It’s like the quiet after the storm with some severe Can jams.

(The interview moves downstairs to the Mercury Lounge basement area where James Skelley confides)

I notice your vocal arrangements seem influenced by the purity of doo wop.


JAMES: Doo wop is rock and roll, isn’t it? Just like Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and “Red Sails In The Sunset” or the Spaniels or the Impressions. It’s all feel-good music. I think those were the things I was into, but now everybody in the band is into it.

Did you and your brother, Ian, grow up in a bohemian household with creative parents?


JAMES: No. They were just never really in. They were always out. There was no one to tell us what to do. My mom got into the Beatles, Stones, Small Faces, the Kinks, the Who, and David Bowie. But they were into shit music as well. However, they were also into soulful American artists like Jackie Wilson, Smokey Robinson, and Sam Cooke. And stretching back before that, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, the Ronettes, the Teddy Bears, and “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes. Bo Diddley is future music. There’s been nothing as contemporary as Bo Diddley since.

Where do you draw lyrical influences?


JAMES: Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, Lennon-Mc Cartney, Arthur Lee and writers Dylan Thomas, William Wordsworth (Tintern Alley), John Steinbeck (The Grapes Of Wrath).

So you have quite a few literary influences?


JAMES: Yeah. I got The Old Man And The Sea and I just started reading stuff like Tom Sawyer.



FOREWORD: The attacks on the World Trade Center not only ruined my beer book deal with office-damaged Avalon Publications, but forced up-and-coming Liverpool band Clinic to postpone a live date. On the rescheduled date a month later, the surgically masked loons truly kicked ass at Bowery Ballroom. Though they never caught on in a big way, the resourceful Clinic continue to churn out albums and hit the road. ‘02s Walking With Thee outdid the bands’ debut and ‘04s Winchester Cathedral gave hope for bigger club dates. ‘06s Visitations found ‘em in fine form but I never got serviced with ‘08s Do It!

Formed in ‘97 by vocalist Ade Blackburn and guitarist Hartley, then quickly fortified with the addition of percussionist Carl Turney and bassist Brian Campbell, Liverpool-based Clinic spike cinematic lo-fi garage-psychedelia with a collage of jazzed up funk, dub reggae, and punk vagaries. Leaning on rock’s past for inspiration and ideas, but breaking new ground with a truly unique stylistic mesh, this art-damaged British quartet enjoys triggering different audience reactions by being perfectly confusing. Just as some of their ambiguous song titles can’t quite be pinned down, Clinic manage to flaunt kitschy eccentricities in an interesting, wholly accessible, yet equally obtuse manner.

A self-released ‘97 debut single humorously taunting U.K. media-hype, “IPC Sub-Editors Dictate Our Youth” secured Clinic’s position as one of England’s most profound new combos, leading to the ‘98 follow-ups “Cement Mixer” and the Velvet Underground/ Suicide-influenced “Monkey On My Back.”

Signed to Domino in ‘99, the primal post-punk confection “The Second Line” (somewhat reminiscent of late ‘70s underground linchpins Kleenex with its affectionate disjointed harmonies and murky bass bluster) set the stage for the engaging long-player, Internal Wrangler.

Loud melodica saturates buzz-toned, electronica-spiked “The Return Of Evil Bill,” beat-thickened bloozy swirl “T.K,” and the dark-hued surf guitar-laden title track. A driving sixty-six second ball of flame, “C.Q.” fully invests in early punk amateurism, retaining the same unbridled urgency and raw expediency of the gremlin-like “Hippie Death Suite.” Moody change-ups include the embalming, organ-droned “Distortions” (a somber-toned, weepy ballad right in line with Velvet Underground’s Nico-sang “Sunday Morning”) and the calm oceanic seduction “Earth Angel.”

I spoke to Turney over the phone a few days after their first U.S. tour began in Boston. We were to have met at Hoboken’s Maxwells prior to a show, but the unjust World Trade Center terrorist attacks took care of that.

AW: Though your band may be from Liverpool, you stave off Beatles and Echo & the Bunnymen comparisons by going off on a more psych-garage tangent.

CARL TURNEY: We distance ourselves from being completely retro by drawing from unusual sources and going one step forward. Hopefully, it’s something new.

Melodica gives some songs a dub-reggae Linton Kwesi Johnson atmosphere.

That’s it. It comes from Augustus Pablo and Jamaican influences like that. We like the actual effect of the instrument. It jumps out in a way you wouldn’t normally expect to hear on a record. We take influences and distort them so there’s no identical reference. We think a lot of the current guitar stuff is a bit cliché now so we try to put a twist on things. We try to be inventive to keep your ear fresh.

“C.Q.” reminded me of the snotty ‘70s punk X-Ray Spex once dabbled in.

It’s a crazy ragtime shuffle with a bit of sirens at the beginning. There’s a punk-jazz mixture as well. We have broad tastes in music. We read about what records influenced our favorite artists, then delve deeper. Shangri-Las records and Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound broadened our listening scope and suddenly we realized there’s an enormous amount of records we don’t own that have influenced people we like.

Was your family into rock music?

My parents listened to tame commercial ‘60s music like the Beatles. But I branched out to the Velvet Underground and ignored the pop thing. We’ve been listening to the Nuggets collection. And “2nd Foot Stomp” is a bit more New Orleans-type marching band sloppiness with reverb added for that psychedelic effect.%0


Talk about meeting one of your favorite artists and then getting to hang with him before and after a sweat-drenched sold out gig. That’s what happened in 2003 when I visited Chicago to do a brewpub tour and catch Peter Shelley’s lifelong punk-pop outfit, the Buzzcocks, across the street from historic Wrigley Field. One of the friendliest and least conceded artists I’ve encountered, Shelley had just signed with indie icon, Merge Records, and released an enjoyable eponymous Buzzcocks disc he was supporting by touring the US and beyond.

Inarguably a seminal ‘70s punk legend, Buzzcocks vocalist-guitarist Peter Shelley continues to compose exuberant rockers and perform thrilling live shows well into his fifties. Along with former bandleader Howard Devoto (who went on to form Magazine with Barry Adamson), then-bassist Steve Diggle, and long-departed drummer John Maher, the Buzzcocks delivered the frenzied 7” Spiral Scratch E.P. in ’77 just as The Clash, Sex Pistols, and Damned began defining the exciting British underground scene. Sans Devoto, Shelley took over lead responsibilities, Diggle moved to guitar and vocals, and then-newcomer Steve Garvey plucked bass on British-only albums Another Music In A Different Kitchen and its resplendent ’78 follow-up, Love Bites. The most pop-rooted, melody-related combo of the initial Brit-punk era, these inspirational Manchester natives reached an early zenith with the delightful A Different Kind Of Tension, culling the masterful Singles Going Steady from priceless 45’s prior to disbanding in March ’81.

Rumors persisted and finally Shelley and Diggle assembled a new rhythm section for ‘93s admirable Buzzcocks comeback, Trade Test Transmission. Though falling short of that triumphant masterwork, ‘96s fine All Set and ‘99s slight turnabout, Modern, then set the stage for ‘03s far better 12-song eponymous collection. Its disillusioned footstomping opener, “Jerk,” begs for forgiveness in a facetious manner. Streamlined harmonies graze the confrontational “Wake Up Call” while the sun-drenched “Driving You Insane” debates decisive resolution and the dual guitar-injected “Sick City Sometimes” grapples with metropolitan demise.

Adjacent to Wrigley Field at Chicago’s Metro, the Buzzcocks appease long-time fans and curious indie kids by unleashing a marathon 27-song set. Shelley, sporting white-dyed short-spiked hair and shaking his left leg to the groove, flails his axe through bottom heavy versions of classic punk treasures like the maladroit teen anthem “Boredom,” the ominously calamitous “Something’s Gone Wrong Again,” and the giddily tactless “Oh Shit!,” preparing the sweat-drenched anticipatory audience for sped-up, kinetic takes on newer fare. Diggle handles lead vocal chores on a few energetic rumblings while carrot-topped bassist Tony Barber and durable drummer Phil Barker (both onboard since ’93) provide stampeding rhythmic thunder. During their 6-song encore, the seasoned quartet roll through the exuberant snot-nosed diatribe “What Do I Get” and the hyper-sexual ditty “Orgasm Addict,” allowing the drunken moshpit to sway beyond its former parameters.

AW: You’re still able to write biting lyrics about personal politics. New songs like “Useless” maintain the same urgency and resonance as the Buzzcocks early punk material.

PETER SHELLEY: Well. I think if people treated each other properly, the world would be a better place.

I’d hate to be on the other side of “Jerk.”

I was dating a Brazilian girl and while I was doing the album, it was actually the day after I recorded the lyric for that song, she pissed me off. So I had a good row and wrote more lyrics. Then, the song “Morning After,” the night before I was supposed to do lyrics for the song and I had no idea what to do. So I got a bit drunk and the next day when I was getting my hair done in the morning with an awful hangover I came up with “Morning After.” So that’s what the song is about.

The flashy “Keep On” has the sonic immediacy and ‘keep on keepin’ it real’ lyrics I crave.

For that one, Tony came around one evening and said we need some more sounds and he programmed up the drum machine beat. I started playing guitar and we got a couple ideas. He took the ideas back and then made it into a working model with bass guitar.

Is it easier to construct songs nowadays?

It’s easier to get a general idea to let a song hang together. But it’s mainly the lyrics that are hard. You only have one verse and one chorus, but each time you sing the verse you have to come up with new words. That’s why I always wait until the last moment to try to commit as to what kind of song it’s gonna be.

Seminal artists such as Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, and Mick Jagger have lost their edge. What’s the driving force that keeps your songs fresh?

I don’t know. It’s almost a form of mania. You get this idea. It’s like an itch you wanna scratch. Even when you walk around the street you have notes in your head consuming you.

You’re mindful of writing efficient songs.

It’s not like I apply myself to write a song. I just find myself distractedly doing it. When Howard and I started doing the Buzzcocks, strangely we weren’t part of the Manchester scene. We didn’t hang out with those musicians. There was a thriving pop scene, but we decided we didn’t want to do that. If we did that, we wouldn’t be able to do what we wanted because we’d have to do covers and then we’d get used to the money. So we decided on punk.

On the new album, both “Stars” and “Lester Sands” were co-written with former Buzzcock Howard Devoto. Were they recent collaborations?

No. “Lester Sands” was written in ’76. It appeared on a Time’s Up bootleg which we’ve subsequently released legitimately and it even has a video clip of the gig. So it’s been a demo we never played live. When I thought this should be an aggressive album, I thought that song would help the aggression. In 2000, I met Howard and we talked about the Buzzcocks 25th anniversary in 2001. I thought maybe we could write some songs together. The first one was “Stars,” which was actually a medley of a lot of Buzzcocks samples. So we did that and the other songs drifted off into other routes.

Mark Perry’s cheap, photocopied rag, Sniffin’ Glue, documented the ’77 punk scene well.

Punk was supposed to be about deciding on what you want and then going ahead and doing it. Mark was using a Xerox machine instead of going to the printers. He’d copy as many as he could sell. It was all about being a participant in your culture rather than a passive consumer… doing your own clothes.

Punk icons the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, and Buzzcocks seemed united for the cause of self-expression.

Later on, it became a more disorganized thing. In the early ‘80s, the new wave became a little more extreme and the melody got thrown out along with anything to capture my interest.

Perry claimed the punk scene died by ’78, but that’s when America began accepting the aforementioned bands.

I don’t know. In some ways, it was a generous construct. That’s why at the beginning it was labeled punk. Then, it quickly became new wave, which had more to do with what bands looked like rather than sounded like. Punk was like a religion, a belief system which was about your own personal freedom and making things happen by doing what you wanted to do. We organized within ourselves because we didn’t have a chance to get booking agents. There were a lot of people around at that time who wanted to do things. So we networked ourselves. All of a sudden everyone seemed to believe there was acceptability. We actually inspired people.

There was a mutual respect amongst punks.

Oh yeah. We did enjoy the Sex Pistols and they often said we were their favorite band as well. There was a lot of camaraderie. It’s strange now. In England, it was easier not to work than work. So giving up work to form a punk band seemed ideal. And bands like the Sex Pistols haven’t worked since. (laughter) I dropped out of college twice – the Bolton Institute of Technology – for electronics.

Perhaps the most consistent early album the Buzzcocks made was 1980’s A Different Kind Of Tension, which had crisper production.

We tried a different technique with Jamal, the drummer, and Steve Gall, the bassist. We worked out some bits of tangled verses and middle 8’s until we got very good verses. Then, it was stuck together. Everything is quite regimented. And the next thing that came out was my solo album, Homosapien, which was actually a precursor to Tension.

Amazingly, some Homosapien tracks were written in 1974.

I’ve always written and some of those ideas were only half written at first. Every now and again I go back and see what I’ve got. The Homosapien album started out as demos and it was decided that it was finished and we didn’t need to go back to the studio to do again. And we did a few more songs.

Tell me about lost albums like ‘80s Brit-released Cinema Music & Wallpaper Sounds.

It was on Groovy Records, but never actually made it to America. It was a bit older and had drum machines. We were messing about and there are cool noises on it. There’s one called The Free Agents Album. It was very experimental in an industrial way that came out on that label. Also, a solo album, Sky Yen, with oscillating electronic sounds (consuming Germanic techno). I actually met someone who had that LP on this tour. It was just me, recorded in ’74, under my name.

I know you were initially inspired by T. Rex, David Bowie and Eno, but were pre-punks like New York Dolls and Stiff Little Fingers influential too.

No. Alice Cooper was at the time because there’s something perverse about people leaving the building while you’re playing… that kind of reaction. And the Stooges and the Sparks (were influences).


FOREWORD: This piece was written a few years before I actually got to see British Sea Power live at Bowery Ballroom, where they put on one helluva show. Their excellent ’08 disc, Do You Like Rock Music?, found the boys displaying a more straightforward, but no less appealing, rock sound.

From the south coast of England, Brighton’s precocious British Sea Power harbor stormy melodic outbursts weathering colossal crescendo cascades, contrasting coastal climactic countenances against pacific stanzaic streambeds. Lead singer Yan (guitar-keys), whose gasping utterances and trembling breathless quavers drape crackling shore-shot serenades, plies taut thespian articulation to persuasively commiserating hymns. Sans surnames, Yan, his brother Hamilton (bass-vocals), and Cumbria-based schoolmate Woody (drums), soon secured Leeds guitarist Noble and began staging Club Sea Power nights at a local pub for kicks, never seriously contemplating a record deal.

On opening ’03 salvo, The Decline Of British Sea Power, the four green chums attempted to venture beyond the blue horizon. After nervously disjointed “Apologies To Insect Life” (sporting a buzzing guitar swagger, ruptured bass throb, and knockin’ drum scrum) and its ensuing noisily askew annihilation “Favours In The Beetroot Fields,” this admirable initiation settles somewhat into intricate literary Anglo-pop mode. Yan’s passionate sincerity shines through crushworthy ascension “Remember Me,” where Noble nicks no-wave guitar licks from Nick Zinner’s toolbox of blaring feedback tricks before the lyrics cruise into the Libertines on-the-verge-of-breakdown snarl. There are moments of sheer guitar discord on the stridently woozy “Fear Of Drowning” and the urgently tumbling symphonic swish “Carrion,” but for the most part, the divine Decline reclines ‘til the lysergic “Heavenly Waters” floats out to sea.

On ‘05s stellar follow-up, Open Season, Yan’s maddeningly theatrical melancholic wail befits the stately transcendent romanticism and luxuriously iridescent stoicism inlaying each exquisite track. Beats are stronger, arrangements richer, and Yan’s fey voice becomes fulsome, as the spiraling melodramatic dispatches receive deeper conviction. Now a quintet with the acquisition of experienced keyboardist Eamon, BSP’s sweeping Epicurean grandeur surges forth on serene fugue “It Ended On An Oily Stage,” lushly elegiac “Be Gone,” and sedate piano wisp “Like A Honeycomb.” The searing guitar ascendancy and numbing gust of “How Will I Ever Find My Way Home” conveys an unfettered nervousness their debut necessitated.

I spoke to Yan while the band was on the road heading to a Dallas, Texas, gig.

AW: Who were some of your early musical influences?

YAN: I used to worship the Pixies and Julian Cope. They made it sound like fun being in a band.

Vocally, you remind me of David Bowie or Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs. Were they important touchstones?

No. Not really. It’s just a biological accident how I sound like them.

You have a powerful dramatic voice.

I have a traumatic brain as well. (laughter) Sorry, that just sounded funny. I’d say Open Season is quite an optimistic album. On the first album, we thought that we’d be all over afterwards. We were surprised we got to our first album, to be honest.

The odd numbered songs seem to have quicker drumbeats and louder sections. Was that done purposely to diversify the mood flow?

Odd numbered songs should always be faster ones. It’s a secret rule.

What did producer Mads Bjerke, who has worked with Spiritualized and Primal Scream, add to British Sea Power?

He’s more of a talented engineer than our producer. He’s very patient as well so he can deal with awkward fucks like Jason Pierce (Spiritualized leader) without getting wound up. He’s good at finding the right sonic value of where a movement should fit.

There are so many wonderful textures abounding on your first two records. Did they take long to work on in the studio?

It was quite quick really. We didn’t have a lot of time and money. Only two or three Open Season songs we worked on live while touring. During the Decline tour, we did “Please Stand Up” and “How Will I Ever Find My Way Back Home.” That’s about it.

“Please Stand Up” is a cool song that, to me, is closer to Morrissey’s dreamier fare.

Apparently we’re being banned from MTV with that song. We did a video and they thought the lyrics were too suggestive.

Well that’s ‘cause MTV sucks corporate dick. What have you been listening to recently?

I was just enjoying Soft Bulletin by Flaming Lips. Last night it was Pulp. I listen to all kinds of stuff. I’m a big Buddy Holly fan.

Is there a hometown Brighton scene I should be made aware of?

There’s a lot of music going on, but no collective style or scene. There will always be a lot of bands there that like playing music. They are nice people worth drinking with that’ll never get beyond the Brighton area. There’s a very good band, Tenderfoot, who’ve got a chilled out, soft album coming out. I’ve been there three or four years. But I actually grew up in the Lake District of Northern England. It’s the most beautiful area – clean, very green, hills, and valleys.

Perhaps that bucolic setting affected the lovely picturesque music British Sea Power composes.

I think it must be. You can’t get away from it.

What’s “The Land Beyond” that you seek?

I can’t say. At the moment it’s Texas (where they’ll be playing this night) It’s hard to condense things down to the perfect pop format. It’s easier and more natural to have that lone street feel.

Is there a Victorian splendor informing your music?

I don’t know. Maybe ironically.

The Decemberists, a band from Portland, Oregon, write vintage seafaring lyrics not unlike yours. Do you find any common ground with them?

I’ve heard nice things about them and I’ll have to look out for their albums.

What were some of the differences between your debut and Open Season?

The first one was historical and the second was about present day. But the second one harks back to some ancient stuff. Yeah. That was a hangover from the debut.

How’d you and your brother, Hamilton, decide to make music together?

We just listened to records, played along, and recorded ourselves. It was good fun. At first, we did things like the English farming band, the Wurzels, who were a funny lot. They did “Combine Harvester” (a novelty record copping Melanie’s goofy puppy love tryst “Brand New Key”).

What are the differences you’ve seen between American and European audiences?

They’re a bit less obsessive in the States. We’re taking the long time strategy, but it’s an uphill battle. We’re doing our best. We’re not complaining. A lot of our American shows have been sold out.

Are you working on any new songs?

We’ve only just learned to play the new album. We have some new songs but can’t play them yet. It’s hard to say how they will sound like when they’re done. We’re gonna do more European shows.

How’d you come up with the prodigious name, British Sea Power? It fits the oceanic luxuriousness of your songs.

It was the most ridiculous name we could come up with that nobody else had. In the early 20th century, the British sea fleet was suspended. It was the end of the empire. They didn’t need big boats anymore.

What’s with all the commotion about Prince Charles marrying Camela Parker Bowles in England? Don’t’ you think the Brits should be spending their time fixing welfare issues instead of saluting two ragged hags?

We keep them around for novelty freak value.

Before I let you go, do you have any decent tour story?

No. But Hamilton says the other day he shagged a bull up the ass. I don’t know if that’s true, though.

I think you’ve been in the Southwest too long.