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Silverclub: the sound of Manchester 2012


 
Manchester is a city with an incredible musical history, but a somewhat divided and schizophrenic musical present. On the one hand there’s the let’s-have-it late 80s/early 90s “Madchester” party gang (think The Stone Roses/Happy Mondays/Inspiral Carpets/etc) and on the other the “more-serious-than-thou” school of late 70s/early 80s Factory records (Joy Division/New Order/A Certain Ratio/etc). Bestriding both these worlds like a colossus of crap are, of course, Oasis, the band who made partying and getting off-yer-face seem like the most boring activity on earth.

Entire blogs have been set up to both eulogise and criticize Manchester’s musical history and it’s current legacy. So, while it was great to see Richard posting about the Mondays here the other day (and to read the reactions from their US fan base) I can’t help but feel mixed emotions. For as much as I love that band (I vividly remember the first time I heard “Step On”, on my school bus at the age of ten) they are also signifiers of what is wrong with the current Manchester music scene. In a nutshell: a relentless clinging on to the past.

I guess it’s the double-edged sword of having a once world-beating music scene right on your doorstep, but certain elements within the Manchester “culture industry” are all too willing to just lean on that reputation (sensing that it’s a quick way to make an easy buck) without putting effort into discovering new talent. Talent like Silverclub. 

Led by frontman Duncan Jones (who formerly made techno and electro as DNCN on the Human Shield label), Silverclub combine all the best bits of pop, rock, dance and electronica, drag it down the local disco and tie it up with a shiny, techno bow tie. They are influenced by the past yet remain firmly focussed on the present, while retaining a very English vibe with the kind of spiky, edgy songs that betray a childhood spent listening to Elvis Costello and the Attractions. 

To me, this band represent all that is good about music from the North of England, and Manchester in particular. People here have a dizzying array of tastes, have an appreciation for pretty much every single genre available, and yet somehow manage to meld these disparate influences into something that is their own with a distinct, regional voice and outlook. Silverclub fuse a knowledge of dancefloor dynamics and sharp hook-writing skills, and maintain a singular identity thanks to Jones’ Northern drawl and sweet harmonies from synth-player Henrietta Smith. Hmm, I wonder if there’s room in the band for a dancing maracas player? I want that job!

At the very start of this year I featured the Silverclub b-side “The Goldener Reiter” on my Best of 2011 Mixtape, which you can still download, here. The single it’s taken from, “No Application”, is available as a free download (below) while Silverclub’s self-titled debut album will be coming this May on the Canadian label Hidden Pony. There’s more info on the band’s website, and in the meantime, here’s the “No Application” video:
 

 
Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Don’t Need You - The Herstory of Riot Grrrl documentary


 
As an introduction to a brief but important music movement, or even just a simple nostalgia piece for people who were around at the time, Kerri Koch’s 2006 documentary Don’t Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl makes for interesting and compelling viewing.

For a brief while in the early 90s it seemed Riot Grrrl was everywhere. It was a breath of fresh air in the male-dominated grunge landscape, though some of those grunge bands did their best to promote it and more pro-feminist ideals (the ghost of Kurt looms into view in a flowing, floral-print dress). But Riot Grrrl was met mostly with derision in the mainstream media, what with its core values of fanzines and localised press, not to mention of course feminism, self-expression and the forcing through of female self-determination in a male-oriented world.

Looking back now It’s hard to believe how much of an uproar some female musicians simply being angry could cause, but then as has been mentioned numerous times no-one wants to see women being angry (supposedly). Pretty soon Riot Grrrl was reduced to a simple concept of being merely “angry girls”, and made easy to dismiss. UK Riot Grrrl contingent Huggy Bear famously got ejected from the studios of tacky yoof program The Word (on which they had just performed) for heckling the presenters about their Barbie doll-imitating porn star guests. This got the band into the national media, but also sealed their fate as mere rabble-rousers while ignoring their efforts to create alternative spaces and dialogs. But still, Riot Grrrl was oppositional, it was dramatic, and it was fucking exciting. 

Just as quickly as it bubbled up however, Riot Grrrl seemed to fizzle out. I guess my perception of this was skewed hugely by the mainstream UK music press, which was my only port of access to alternative music and culture in those pre-internet days. It was a mutual love/hate thing (more hate/hate I guess) with the performers and the scene itself withdrawing from the mainstream attention and the negative associations it brought. In a very interesting read called Riot Grrrl - the collected interviews on Collpase Board, Everett True (the editor of Melody Maker at the time, and the person chiefly responsible for breaking the scene in the UK music media) explains his own role and that of the press:

Riot Grrrl was basically about female empowerment – females doing stuff on their own terms, separate from men, making up their own rules and systems and cultures. Sure, men were welcome, but they had to understand that for once they weren’t going to be automatically given first place. (One of the reasons my own role in the gestation of Riot Grrrl as a popular cultural movement became so confused was that after a certain period of time I began to listen to those around me – female musicians, activists, artists, human beings – who felt that having such a high-profile male associated with a fledgling female movement was absolutely counter-productive. This is almost the first time I’ve spoken to anyone since then.)

Don’t Need You - The Herstory of Riot Grrrl is important because it lets the creators of the movement speak for themselves. The editing may be rough in places, and the story may jump around in chronology a wee bit, but you get to hear first hand from the original Riot Grrrls themselves what informed their third-wave feminist views and what inspired them to start their own scene. Featured interviewees include Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, Alison Wolfe of Bratmobile, Corin Tucker of Heavens To Betsy / Sleatter-Kinney and Fugazi’s Ian McKaye:
 


 
That’s part one - part two and part three are after the jump…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment