If social media is to be believed, this enforced stay-at-home time should be used to broaden your horizons or learn something new, rather than just surviving. In this spirit, I decided to wander off and see what Birmingham indie rock bands old and new are out there, waiting to be discovered. Usually, the library’s stock takes me on all kinds of journeys; now, of course, I have no access. My classical music bias hangs a little heavy sometimes, so this exploration should be a breath of fresh air.
Join me in this experiment. Maybe you’ll discover someone new, or perhaps you’ll just roll your eyes at my choices.
Why start with Swim Deep? How could I not when one of the genres listed under the band is Shoegazing? As you might expect, this led to a detour. Here is Wikipedia’s definition:
Shoegazing is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock that emerged in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. It is characterized by its ethereal-sounding mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume.
Here’s a track from early on in their career (2012):
Contrast that with this offering from last year:
There’s quite a difference to my ears. See what you think. The band has been through quite a series of personnel changes – maybe that has something to do with it. Learning more about the band has also introduced me to the B-Town scene based in the Digbeth part of the city.
Another B-town badged group, they also have much the same list of genres as Swim Deep. Staying with the shoegazing element, I find Honey (released in 2012, the same year as Jaws’ Staying In) is more obviously ‘dreamy’. I’m missing out on the ‘overwhelming volume’ though in all cases – my laptop is producing a sedate, safe level instead. Hardly a nightclub on a packed Friday night.
Here’s a video from last year, made partly to promote an upcoming tour. Don’t know much of that they managed before the shutters came down. Based on a short sample from the video, I’d say Jaws’ style has remained more constant over the years.
I have this listing to thank for my next choice. BIMM Institute (British and Irish Modern Music) is a small group of music colleges in the UK, one of which is based in Digbeth, Birmingham.
Here’s part of a review for Paper Buoys’ self-titled first album:
Political discontent is not new turf for music, but is one that has to be approached with trepidation. Get it right and the awards are paramount – you can be hailed as a revolutionary or a trailblazer. However, a slight misfire and lyrics can come across as hamfisted, haughty and out-of-touch. To focus your debut album on it smacks of bravery, but Birmingham rockers Paper Buoys are able to blend sleek indie riffery with inner vitriol that burns with red-hot rage.
An example of that ‘red-hot rage’:
Variously described as ‘psychedelic space rock’ or ‘psych garage rock’, the Lizards arrived on the Birmingham music scene in 2016 with the single Houdini.
A review from the same source as the Paper Buoys’ one quoted earlier includes this comment:
‘Houdini’ is where The Lizards’ blend of raw readiness and reverb-drenched detail magnificently mesh – from the off-kilter and slightly occult subject matter to the twisting, propulsive guitar solo that booms straight from a dog-eared speaker.
The Mighty Young
Let’s close with some garage rock (plus blues). A local promoters website description continues like this:
The final in a series of incarnations of a differing line up, The Mighty Young live together in ‘The Rutting Devil and Devil’, their home and studio based in a remote location on Birmingham’s canal network. They can often be seen around the city delivering their trademark brand of garage blues adored by men women and animals of all ages…
So… have I found a new fave? No, but it’s been a fascinating exercise, one which I may repeat. Why not branch out yourself? Ignore the usual automated suggestions and instead go looking. Or simply change your background radio station to something different. You never know what you might discover.