The View From… Birmingham

Neil Ward lived – until just a few days ago – in Birmingham. Birmingham is known mainly for producing a slew of globe-straddling hard rock bands a few decades ago, and apparently little since. Don’t take his leaving town as a bad sign. (He left to pursue a career and a girl, and they’re both good enough reasons for me.) Before he left, he wrote this article, which aims to redress the balance…

I’m not here to provide a musical history lesson. It is common knowledge that Birmingham has been home to some of the biggest bands the world has ever seen.  But, in my generation no one has come close to the dizzy heights of Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath (you’re welcome, by the way).

We have had notable contributions from both Mike Skinner and Mr Hudson, but Skinner fled to London faster than you could say “mockney accent”, and Hudson got auto-tuned to death for a bag of money from Kanye West. What does that leave us with? The Twang?

I feel we’ve been slightly misrepresented of late. There’s a long list of hard-working musicians in the city and it seems like it’s just a case of who will get the next opportunity to break through.  Here are two real diamonds that I think could make waves in the near future:

TANTRUMS // Everyone in the city is pretty excited about these guys right now.  Taking all the best bits of New Order, Fleetwood Mac and electronic dubstep guy Rusko, their songs are filled with enough catchy hooks and great lyrics to justify this current maelstrom of hype.  Their new(ish) single ‘If I Don’t Try’ is pretty much a fully fledged pop hit.

TOM PEEL // His geek-chic allure and folksy warblings share a lo-fi charm with groups like The Moldy Peaches, with a naivety you could liken to Daniel Johnston.  He has four releases available, with his most recent ‘Blockbiscuits’ on Birmingham label-du-jour Speech Fewapy.

It is perfect fuzzy indie pop music exhaled through a distinctive Americana haze.  When you see him live, you can’t help but smile. His party trick?… using a vintage reel-to-reel tape deck strapped to his chest. It’s a real show stealer.

The smaller DIY touring and local bands desperately need a 100 capacity venue in the city centre.  People have tried and failed, others haven’t even bothered. Although there is plenty of stuff going on here, it’s nothing in comparison to Manchester, let alone London.  Nods go to the Yardbird for their free gigs and although it is out of town The Hare & Hounds always has great shows.

Maybe the mass of recent noise abatement orders has made potential venues think twice about putting on shows. Still, the promoters are the unsung heroes of Birmingham, constantly working to enthuse the population with great gigs and nights out.

© Neil Ward //

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