Everyone’s trying to make some greens singing the blues.
Words Niall O’Keeffe
Send your work of genius through the ears of The Stool Pigeon to the address on the contact page. Please mark the envelope ‘Demo’.
D-66 is a one-man-band who’s been “kept for far too long in a damp basement” in Hackney, playing “angry Delta-punk”, which sounds pretty ominous. Surprisingly, though, his 11-track demo proves a murky delight, offering idiosyncratic covers of songs by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, James Brown and Hasil Adkins alongside a few whiskey-soaked originals. The apparent influence of The Cramps’ burlesque rock’n’roll fairly livens up D-66’s brand of blues, as do his rollicking beats. Plainly, it’s time for D-66 to emerge blinking into the light.
I’m a little freaked out by Birdeatsbaby’s demo cover, in which a woman’s cleavage competes for attention with her bloody nose and black eyes. However, the music is altogether less scary, even if the all-female Brighton quintet do saddle their songs with titles like ‘I Always Hang Myself With The Same Rope’ and (yikes!) ‘Shiver Up The Spine’. According to their letter, half the band are classically trained and half come from “rock and punk roots”, but the former half seem to be winning the day: Birdeatsbaby’s demo comprises string-adorned, piano-led pop ballads given a Halloween makeover, and it’s ultimately not as daring as it’s dressed up to be.
You can pretty much guess what South London ‘power trio’ The Piccadillys sound like from their name and artwork which depicts a sour-looking lad in a baseball cap, but, just to deepen your instant prejudice, their letter seeks “to pigeonhole the band in wanky NME-style journalistic prose”. Ready? Here goes: “The Piccadillys sound like the Arctic Monkeys meeting the Fratellis in a London boozer for 10 pints, pie & mash and a punch-up at closing time.” Well, to that I can only add that if there’s a fight going on between the Fratellis and the Arctic Monkeys going on here, the Fratellis are winning. Still, The Piccadillys do raise a smile by revealing that they’ve played “alongside bands such as The Hoosiers (nice chaps), Rumblestrips (top band) and The Twang (twats)”.
Londoners Fanta Plastic immediately grab the attention with the brilliantly horrible noise-punk guitars and whirlwind of drums that open ‘Lifetime’s Dedication’, and the two-and-half-minute track also finds room for John Mosley’s Cockney shouting and a wholly unexpected blast of melodic folk rock. A visit to their MySpace page confirms Fanta Plastic’s identity crisis – ‘Folk / Death Metal / Indie’, they reckon – but it scarcely matters once ‘Lost It’ kicks up, offering a boy-girl duet of an unsentimental hue. “I can’t believe you lost it!” sings Christina Lange; “No I fucking didn’t!” retorts John, over a grungy thrash that later mutates into a melancholic post-rock instrumental. Christina has moved to California since this demo was dispatched, and there’s been a change of drummer, but the strength of this demo suggests a band that won’t be knocked off their stride.
For some, the first wave of Britpop never broke, it seems: The Perks comprise four blokes who look like refugees from Ocean Colour Scene and a girl who could pass for an Elastica member. She’s Emily, she’s the drummer, and – with apologies to Lucas, Dennis, James and Alex – she’s going to need to stand at the front in future photos. Overlooking the unfortunate “New London Rock” tag they’ve given themselves, The Perks’ offer Pixies-/Stooges-influenced indie rock that you can imagine proving fairly serviceable in a live setting. On record though, it feels a little over-familiar, and quickly runs out of steam.
Robert Bartley’s letter states his intention to “promote my music to a larger market”, but I won’t be joining his street team. His tales of South London life come off as hackneyed and showy, concerned more with managing impressions than with actual communication. One song’s called ‘Small Potatoes (On a Late-Night Radio Show)’. Like, what?
The next of this issue’s London-centric batch of demos, from Deportivo, comes with a bold declaration of intent: “If you like your bands with an air of arrogance, more style than content and some ‘interesting’ and ‘angular’ guitar riffs, there are about 500,745 to choose from.” Good attitude! But where were they going with this? Oh yeah: “If you want a band that will make you smile and hum on a packed Northern Line tube train to work on a Monday morning…” Well, here’s the problem. Deportivo sound like they want to knock The Feeling off their chart-topping perch, but singer Justin doesn’t seem committed the perfect-pop programme, delivering the songs’ trite lyrics with a trademark indie sneer. The melodies aren’t sticking in my head, either.
Like Deportivo, The Steve Bland Assembly want very badly to be liked and steer as close as possible to the middle of the road. Tunes are in short supply, however, and on songs such as ‘Luxembourg’ this lot prove a very bland Assembly indeed.
A. Renoar has featured in these pages before, as the bass player with The Klouds, and his solo demo, typified by ‘Love Is a White Flag’, reveals an aptitude for melancholic post-rock instrumentals in the Mogwai vein. The four songs he’s sent in aren’t much more than sketches, but there’s real promise here. His MySpace, meanwhile, reveals that he’s ignoring messages from a blonde Swedish 23-year-old – maybe it’s all gone to his head?
Name-checking Don Caballero, Shellac and Oxes as influences, 85 Bears are men who know their math-rock, and their demo roots them a little too firmly in that genre. One song, for example. is called ‘Godspeed Young Sir Your Time Is Up’. Still. At least they’re not a haircut band, eh?
Our pick for the fat advance: It has to be Fanta Plastic, who make noisy, quarrelous music and don’t seem to care whether you like it or not. Yeah: I’m guessing that if you sent this band a text message, they wouldn’t reply. More of this, please.