Leeds Undergound
Leeds Undeground second to none
Leeds Underground

Any mathematician will tell you these two formulas are unequivocally true:

Leeds = Kaiser Chiefs
and
Kaiser Chiefs > than any band in Leeds

Maths lies. The above equations can be disproved in four words. Dance To The Radio. No, this isn’t some radical claim that the radio actually is worth listening to. Of course it’s not. Nor is it merely some outdated reference to Joy Division. We all know they’re not from Leeds, and we all know that Ian Curtis is dead.

So what is Dance To The Radio? It is the most important thing that’s happened in Leeds since the football club’s league-triumph in 1992. DTTR is Leeds’ newest record label, and I, for one, am getting excessively excited. DTTR was a gig, featuring 5 of Leeds’ best new bands, and The Old House (who want to be The Libertines, but sound more like The Paddingtons or some equally hopelessly hopeful Doherty-apers). We got Duels playing their excessively English pop music (Kinks, Stranglers, Blur, Supergrass), ¡Forward, Russia! proving that the spirit of Gang of Four lives on in Leeds, iLiKETRAiNS creating a lot of post-rock noisiness, whilst singing about murder, stalking and general nastiness, The Lodger’s honest indie-poppery and This Et Al’s colossus-sized rock songs. That was ace. We were all there, we all got pissed, and apparently disturbed some monuments from the wake of a bloke called Kev that had been held at the venue a week or two before. True story.

There was a CD as well. To return to t’Chiefs again, they have a t-shirt bearing the legend ‘Everything Is Brilliant In Leeds’. The DTTR CD proved once again that t-shirts never lie (unless they are those FCUK ones that comatose drunkards wear declaring ‘Great Fcuk’ or something equally witty – but that’s for another piece of writing). Eighteen tracks, each and every one from Leeds, none of them bad. Ok, so a few may have been alright, rather than mind-blowing superb, but c’mon, 18 tracks is a lot of songs. There’s some 7” singles coming soon. That means great music, from this city, on that lovely black stuff that won’t fit in your CD player and sounds wonderful. Everything Is Absolutely Fucking Ace In Leeds.

That’s a lie. There is of course a lot of bollocks here. For every gorgeous beer-drenched angular racket and chocolate covered pop loveliness, there are about three-hundred bands made up entirely of Athlete fans, and few people who never got over Jeff Buckley’s Grace album, and far, far, far too many acoustic singer-songwriters who believe that covering ‘Hallelujah’ is a good idea (on a side note, is this song becoming the acoustic version of ‘Stairway…’?). We can expect that though, yes? There’s always going to be more shit than genius, and it’s so much easier to be bland than interesting. Let us now return to the interesting.

Wrath Records. That’s good. It’s pronounced with an ‘o’ apparently (like Froth, but beginning with a ‘w’ and not a ‘f’), that’s not really important. The thing that is really, genuinely lovely about Wrath is the ideals behind it. It’s run by the bands that release stuff on it. It’s primarily run by twin brothers, from their own houses. Their offices are their living rooms, their budget is whatever pennies they can find to rub together. But in spite of all the things in their way, they release singles that Steve Lamacq plays on BBC6, they release albums with more substance than anything that you’re going to be forced into buying by any major record label. They’d probably kick Jonny Borrell out onto the street, and for that, they deserve respect. In short Wrath = good; Borrell = twat.

So what else is there to be said about Leeds music? It would be all to easy to write about the many, many great bands we have here, but then that’s what reviews are for. Suffice to say that: This Et Al, O Fracas, The Scaramanga Six, The Terminals, ¡Forward, Russia!, The Lodger, Robochrist, Napoleon IIIrd, Being 747, iLiKETRAiNS, The Somatics, Duels, The Research, Black Wire, 10,000 Things, Cardboard Cowboy, Loqui, Shatner, Yorkshire Bone, The Acutes, Downdime, Samsa, Galitza, The Cribs, The Butterfly, Parisman and The Holy Terror are all worth watching. No really, go see them all. Thankfully, there isn’t a Leeds sound. We don’t rely on any that fucking pathetic ‘baggy’ nonsense, we don’t rotate around psychedelic poppery, and we have more ideas than we have good blazers and strange hair cuts. Well OK, there might, just might, be a slight push towards angular post-punk, but we’ve got loads more. Just in that list we have Wagner-esque operatic rock, indie-pop, deathmetalcheesenonsense, intense soundscapes, seventies acid-heads, keyboard-led harmonic pop, electro-pop, country rock, a combination of the Sex Pistols and Polyphonic Spree (with some stage musical sounds added), intense tuneless noise, redneck rock’n’roll, and riot grrrl. That’s a lot of options.

This is where the problems come. There isn’t a unified Leeds scene. Just loads of really, really, really stunningly ace bands. That makes Leeds very hard to write about. So I’m going to stop. Now.

Tom Goodhand – tMx 19 – 04/05


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