"Hello Wembley!! Ah shit, wrong night"

by Ben Loder

Hello reader, ready for a tortured analogy? Then I’ll begin …

Let me start by saying that I don’t believe there is a certain style of music that is the “right” one and that everybody should play like that all the time. That would be boring, and besides, not everyone has the ability to perform at the same level. There are certain bands or individual songs that I enjoy more than others, and different people have differing opinions to mine – maybe because they genuinely like a band, maybe because they’ve always liked them and stick with them even when they sell out or go off the boil, or maybe just because they’re successful. Whatever, it’s their choice. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have to like every style of music equally.

A certain band from West London has been receiving a lot of attention in the last few weeks after two successful gigs where they surprisingly got a better reception than the Catalan headliners. They certainly deserve credit – they’ve been around for a while and I for one thought they were past it, yet they managed to impress more people than they had for a long time. But personally, I thought they were dull. Not the kind of performance I’d like to pay to see, and most of the band members come across as total pricks in the press. I’d much rather have seen the headliners get through that battle of the bands, but if your lead singer just doesn’t get into his rhythm, you know you’re in trouble.

Of course, there are a number of factors to consider when judging a band. That London side have a huge budget for their shows, which only adds to my frustration when they play it safe, even boring, on the big stage. But it’s hard to argue with it if it gets them to the top of the charts. There’s another band, from Stoke, whose producer claims they can’t afford the top-quality equipment to really impress on stage. They prefer to rely on a gritty melody, the same chords in every song and a frontman who’s decent enough and can get the fans going by doing the robot. And yet, another group from Swansea have provided (in my opinion) the album of the year on a lower budget, just by getting the right mix of talented musicians and a producer who can show them how to get the best out of their abilities. It makes me wonder why there aren’t more bands trying the same formula. As I said, if you hear it from too many places it’ll become mainstream and boring, but right now the music world seems to have a lot more Alex McLeishs than Luis Enriques, to use a football comparison.

Then there’s that great band from Bilbao who did an incredible gig in Manchester in spring. It’s always nice to see a group from the same area come together; the type you know probably jammed after school but never thought they’d make it big. What I really admire about them, though, is the fact that when things had gone stale, they weren’t afraid to take a punt on a crazy producer from South America to come and help them put together a show that would get them noticed. Admittedly the bread and butter of the album hasn’t quite hit the heights he would have hoped, but a few stunning live performances around Europe are worth just as much to fans. And OK, he brings his own style wherever he goes, but when it has that much goddamn funk, who cares? Apparently other producers on his home continent have started mimicking his way of doing things, but with their own twist. It sounds awesome, so if anyone knows where I can watch some bootleg footage online, do get in touch.

But anyway, back to those golden oldies from London. They’ll be playing arguably the biggest festival in the world in a few weeks, so we’ll see if they’ve really still got it or not. Personally I’m more looking forward to seeing that group from Munich, Bayern, playing to their home crowd. On form they are brilliant to watch, but there’s always that tension between two of the band members. Both of them want to be on lead guitar every song – given their looks it’s the only way they’ll get the groupies, so fair enough. It would be a shame if they went the way of The Libertines though, they’ve got the talent to keep producing for years. Luckily for them, it’s what you do on stage that matters – apparently it’s not unknown for them to come to blows in practice sessions. Now that’s rock and roll.