It’s not something that we tend to bark on about in these pink pages but, 47 years ago, CBS News in America ran a story on the impending ‘British Invasion’. The centrality of our city’s role to the whole shebang and its place in the Brit-Beat phenomenon has been studied, scribed and marketed ever since, to great effect, but it seems that our friends from over the wash have ambitions of getting their own back. Such is the strength of the US contingent at Liverpool Sound City this year that we’ve been cooped up in Bido Lito! towers for weeks, expecting some kind of American musical putsch.
This comes at perhaps the summit of an eighteen month to two year period, during which our US cousins have been churning out new, essential bands at a rate and quality – if we’re honest – that the UK can’t even get close to. To mention a few… Smith Westerns, Crystal Stilts, Best Coast, Sleigh Bells, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Surfer Blood and Vivian Girls have all broken through with varying degrees of commercial success, yet universal critical acclaim. And that’s not even scratching the surface (I can hear you thinking, ‘well, what about Beach House, what about Girls, what about Ariel Pink’s long awaited breakthrough?…well you’re right, the list’s as long as that of the toppings choice board at your local Dunkin’ Donuts).
Given my opening reference to the British Invasion, BEAT CONNECTION probably provide a convenient starting point for a voyage through all things star-spangled at this year’s festival. Yet this Seattle group resist the Rickenbakers and mop tops and instead favour sample-aided, sun lovin’, jangling bliss. The aforementioned Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti probably provide a healthy reference point, though these guys sound like they very much enjoyed last year’s Glasser record, while factoring in a heavy dose of ‘90s deep house.
True, BLACK LIPS have been around for a while, but their constant form in creating plain-old-good-time-rock-n-roll-garage means that you just never fall out of love with them. Their new LP, Arabia Mountain, which is imminent on Vice, sees them carry on in pretty much the same vein as where 2009’s 200 Million Thousand left off. This is despite the understandable jitters of fans who may have feared that having Mark Ronson behind the desk could have resulted in a wholly more polished affair. Yet, it’s all gnarly melodic irony: these guys are drugged-up hyenas with a knack for a tune. Expect stage invasions and unbridled chaos, a thoroughly enjoyable experience during which Black Lips will manage to provide complete escapism, while not taking themselves too seriously at all. And that in itself is no mean feat. (Ed – And pick up 20th May’s Liverpool Sound City Bido Lito! Daily Magazine for a full exclusive interview with the band!)
We’ve been spreading the virtue over the past four or five months of Guards, a little known New York band who released their debut EP on 3 Syllables Records at the end of 2010. And it was on said EP that we first came across CULTS, who contributed to the record. Cults have since emerged as a pretty scintillating prospect in their own right, with their soulful, knee-jellying pop coming straight out of the Wayne Coyne songbook. Like fellow American newcomers The Magic Kids, this band seem to get away with utterly straight up, classic US pop, the kind you get the feeling most groups don’t really have the balls to try, or the charm to pull off. Essential listening.
FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHT ALERT! If you’ve not done so already, you’re going to fall head over heels for KURT VILE & THE VIOLATORS. Kurt’s debut LP Smoke Ring For My Halo has been on constant spin at the Bido Bat Cave since it landed and it still sounds as gorgeously nocturnal and as bold as it did on its first rotation. Comparisons to Neil Young have been prevalent, numerous and not without grounds, as Kurt manages to bridge the gap between acoustic troubadour and rock demigod with ease, without feeling forced or contrived in either context. Not since the emergence of Ryan Adams from the ashes of Whiskeytown, and the release of Heartbreaker in 2000, has a new American songwriter oozed so much promise. Very, very exciting indeed.
So guys n gals, raise a bourbon to the mid-west, a Manhattan to the skyscrapers, a Rolling Rock to the Rockies, kick on your cowboy boots and whip on your Stetson, cos the Americans are coming. And I for one, can’t wait y’all.