Rock/pop Clubs by Night
Rock/Pop Club Directory
Rock/Pop Bands in Town
Jazz Clubs by Night
Jazz Club Directory
Jazz Bands in Town
Last year, though word barely reached the States, the Liverpool scene came back to life, with the Zutons, the Stands, and the Coral leading the resurgence. The first two of those bands reflected the jumble of sounds and styles that have passed through the rough and tumble port of the North Britain city. Who Killed the Zutons? (Sony), dumped a Spanish galleon’s worth of musical nuggets into 13 playfully energetic songs buoyed by bolting rhythms, tooting saxophone, and brash rock-and-roll nerve. Drawing from similar waters, but with a darker, early-’60s British R&B flavor, the Coral had, over the course of five albums, developed a mysterious and exotic aura, with their Zombies-meet-the-Animals update of forlorn sea chanteys, sci-fi effects, bizarre rhythms, moping ballads, and dry Liverpudlian wit. And, when it was released last year, The Invisible Invasion (Deltasonic/Sony) seemed poised to gain a foothold for the band in the US. They seemed more focused than in the past, and the disc offered dense songs immersed in moody (and at times manic) Merseyside reflections, as well as a straightforward pop single ("In the Morning") and a pair of psychedelic excursions ("She Sings the Mourning" and "The Operator").
"That strangeness is from where we live," explains singer-guitarist James Skelly, whose thick Scouse sounds like gravel mixed with honey over the phone from his hometown. "Hoylake is a seaside village with no tourists. It is just an empty town across the Mersey from Liverpool. In the winter it can get spooky. You can hear the sails on all the boats rustling in the wind. They are all things that make me want to write songs. It is like thinking of an old lantern, or some object like that and writing a song about it. Even the Moors near Hoylake will make me want to write a song."
Producer and former Lightning Seed Paul Hemmings, who first emerged as a champion of hometown heroes Echo and the Bunnymen in the ’80s, has been chronicling the town’s legacy with the three-disc-and-counting Liverpool Cult Classics Unearthed (Viper). The CDs feature lost bands like The La’s and the Teardrop Explodes as well as lesser-knowns like Tramp Attack, a still functioning band that once included the Zutons’ Dave McCabe.
"Liverpool as a city is smaller than other British cities," says Hemming over the phone. "So there are only certain places Liverpool musicians can go to play and have a drink. It’s more a village than a city. Everybody knows each other and if, say, you need a drummer, you can find one that night."
The Coral’s Skelly has his own ideas about what makes Liverpool unique. "There is something in the sea, I think. Liverpool, Merseyside, and the Wirral is way in the Northwest of England; it is like an island away on its own, separate from the rest of the country. If you look at all of the bands that have come from here since the Beatles, has there ever been a fashionable band from Liverpool, ever? They are always on their own mission. Look at The La’s, the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, and us: we’re all off-center."
Indeed, The Invisible Invasion barrels between merry pop, haunted folk, and sci-fi adventures, with the mood swinging from playful to bittersweet, especially in "A Warning to the Curious" and "In The Morning," or the bleaker "Come Home" and "Far from the Crowd." Produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley, the album has a sullen yet magical quality. In a sense, it feels like the band have taken a step away from their hometown.
"We don’t really go out to Liverpool anymore," Skelly admits. "We don’t like it. It’s boring. We’ve already done it." What Skelly and his bandmates really deserve is an opportunity to bring their sense of adventure across the Atlantic, where reviews have been good and a cult audience awaits.
Issue Date: January 6 - 12, 2006
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