London Calling

Have 'Twang,' Will Travel

Meet the Birmingham band NME's new-music editor declares Britain's upstarts du jour. Plus: the U.K. rejoices over the return of Dinosaur Jr; and the Shockwaves festivals roll through London town

NOT EXTINCT When not listening to the Twang, NME editors are excited about the first new CD by the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr in…
Image credit: Bob Berg / Retna
NOT EXTINCT When not listening to the Twang, NME editors are excited about the first new CD by the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr in 18 years; the band, we trust, is happy on the inside

Every time I write one of these things, I seem to write about (Britain's best new band) the Twang. Little surprise given that, with the exception of Doncaster Rovers Football club and my mum, they're just about my favourite thing in the world right now. Guess what? This time 'round is no exception.

See, not only have the Birmingham band achieved their debut feature in this week's issue of NME, where they finally squash the oft-touted myth that bassist Jon Watkin was once arrested for brandishing a samurai sword in a nightclub (How the f--- can you get into a nightclub with a sword?'' says singer Phil Etheridge. ''You can hardly get your pills in, man...''), but their debut single, ''Wide Awake,'' finally landed in the office with the kind of fervour more suited to the Second Coming than a slab of shiny plastic. Recalling the majesty of early Oasis, Stone Roses, and the Happy Mondays, a gazillion plays later, we've been positively strutting to lunch.

And in the moments when we haven't been hammering said single? Well, we're all stoked with the new Dinosaur Jr album, ''Beyond'' (the first studio release from the original lineup of J Mascis, Lou Barlow. and Murph in 18 years). Heck, it sounds exactly like you'd expect, the guitar solos are longer than the British winter, and there's a song on it that sounds a little bit too much like Dire Straits for my liking, but it's awesome to have them back. NME's sister publication Uncut is busy cutting a rug as well; judging by their new album blog.

This week London Town finally got hit by the twin colossi of the Shockwaves NME Indie Rock and Indie Rave tours. Hammersmith Palais (subject of the Clash's ''White Man In Hammersmith Palais,'' as you probably recall) played host to two bills of four bands each. First off, new rave heroes the Klaxons celebrated their album hitting the U.K. top ten with a stage invasion. The following day the View were celebrating their No. 1 album, and they weren't even headlining — that was the storming the Automatic. It all leads onto the Shockwaves NME Awards this Thursday, a night of rock, debauchery, and the musicians voted by readers getting their just rewards, rather than being voted for by a shadowy cabal like, say, the Oscars.

Certainly more exciting than the Oscars is the debut album by new British band, the Maccabees, currently untitled. They're a band I've been falling in love with rapidly since I saw them play a storming hometown show at the three-day, multivenue Great Escape Festival (imagine SXSW, but with donkey rides and ''Kiss Me Quick'' hats) in Brighton back in early 2006. Recent stars of the NME Rock and Roll Riot tour (where they had the misfortune to be billed between the petty squabbling of headliners the Fratellis and the ever mischievous Horrors, their debut is everything I'd hoped it would be.

I've got this theory that the U.K.'s much beloved Futureheads are akin to my generation's Velvet Underground, and the Brighton band froth my theory off with a cherry on top. Sure, the Sunderland band have sold some records, but hardly as many as their immediate peers (Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, and the Killers), yet you'd need a genetically modified hand to count the number of new bands influenced by their brilliant jitter pop: (Kubichek!, Hot Club De Paris, Maximo Park, GoodBooks, the Young Knives, Dartz!). Out of this bunch (and I like trebly post-punk almost as much as I like black metal — and I like black metal an awful lot), I think the Maccabees are my favourite. I can't even imagine how's there's going to be an album I'll enjoy more this year.

Um, scratch that, I think there's a Twang album due this year. Right, play the Twang single, or ring my mum. Um...

For more on the latest from the U.K. music beat, see www.nme.com and www.nme.com/news.

Originally posted Feb 23, 2007