Will Williams

15:56 12th November 2003

It’s been a long time since Liverpool has really had a thriving music community, but in the last couple of years we’ve seen the emergence of two contrasting scenes from that very city. The Bandwagon continues to produce madcap psychedelic guitar pop from the likes of The Coral and The Bandits, whilst Flamingo 50 and Zombina & The Skeletones remain at the forefront of the occasionally artier punk community. From somewhere in the middle of all this come Polydor’s new signings The Open. Their debut single ‘Never Enough’ is the sort of counter-baggy drivel the city pumped out in the early nineties with The Real People and Rain. It might have sounded good way back when, but ultimately this is all bluster and ‘classic’ influences, and frankly, with all Merseyside has on offer these days, who’s got the time for any of that any more? More tunes please.

And so it’s from there to a much louder form of rock’n’roll. Great things have been said about Reuben but, on the strength of ‘Stuck In My Throat’, Christ only knows why. Aimless, forgettable and seemingly devoid of a chorus, this is one of the least interesting singles to feature this much sub-Deftones riffage…well, ever. Avoid. Like the motherfucking plague.

Of course, if it’s a great riff you’re after, you can always look straight to Wire’s art-punk fave ‘Three Girl Rhumba’ (just ask Justine Frischmann). Southern Fried popsters Klonhertz offer a dated-as-fuck Big Beat cover, and inevitably, it’s not particularly good. For the best renditions of that ‘DAH! DA-DAH! DAH!’ bit that we all love, pick up copies of ‘Pink Flag’ or ‘Elastica’. Because choosing this version is kinda like choosing to snort talc over cocaine or sherbert.

Anyway, didn’t anyone tell Klonhertz that punk packed up its bags and cried all the way home from college? According to one school of thought, at any rate, and proving that there’s still life in old-fashioned emo rock, The Holiday Plan’s debut EP is a mixture of chiming quiet/loud guitars and impassioned throaty shouting, like Hot Water Music in more reflective mood. Not exactly pushing the envelope, but neither is it a bad effort. The picture on the front’s quite nice too.

Harking back to an even older form of emotional hardcore are Glasgow’s Stapleton. Just as their debut album was a reminder of the days when the genre meant carefully crafted, occasionally awkward, but usually rewarding indie rock, their new EP ‘Chez Chef Plus Three’ is a delicious concoction of post-Sunny Day Real Estate instrumentation and lovelorn poetry. With Larry from Hundred Reasons on production duties, they even sound that little bit louder than they used to. Definitely worth investigating, especially while all this extremo business is starting to sound a little samey. Although it does seem a little odd that we’re already seeing the first wave of retrospective emo kids.

The Open should really take a listen to fellow hometown boys 28 Costumes. Their debut release ‘Hurricane’ is a fine slice of melodic indie-pop, veering from brooding, slightly sinister verses to a big “Stop! Yeah…” bit, just like Rocket From The Crypt in ‘Born In ‘69’. The whole shebang finally climaxes in a big Ash-sized chorus, and is quite, quite marvellous. The best track here by a mile, however, is the B-side ‘Fraudulent’. Jagged Pavement-esque guitars and an insistently catchy chorus pin back an endearingly funny lyric about trying too hard to fit in, and with this much promise on their first outing, it’s hard to imagine that they’re in it for anything other than the long haul.

Welsh trio Kentucky AFC demonstrate that the mid-nineties prominence of their countrymen SFA and Gorky’s was far from a fluke. For such a small country, it still produces more than its fair share of psychedelic mentalists, and Kentucky’s rockabilly stomp ‘Outlaw’ (about literally “getting away with murder”) is the sort of throwaway pop genius that the Furries’ used to produce on an almost-weekly basis. The Welsh scene may be more famous now for extremo rockers like Lostprophets and Funeral For A Friend, but this lot ably show us that there’s always room for a bit of nonsensical fun every now and again.

So that’s the issue of oddball rock’n’roll addressed, but it’s fair to say that what the world probably doesn’t need is another naff electroclash band. Roger is never going to be the name of anyone’s favourite band, and in accordance with that fact, the slightly lacklustre ‘Give Me Love Or A Brand New Car EP’ is never going to be anyone’s favourite record. Ever. Lead track ‘Save Your Tears’ shimmers, bleeps and squelches, but never manages to sparkle. So bollocks to it. 'Try harder' is their lesson, as is 'CHANGE THAT BLOODY NAME'. Otherwise, the day job remains a better prospect.

Far more likely to have you moving your feet are Jarcrew. Despite having saddled themselves with one of the many terrible monikers currently doing the rounds, their unlikely hybrid of Hot Hot Heat’s indie-punk-funk and Fugazi’s twisting post-rock intricacies is bouncier than a space hopper and more fun to boot. ‘Paris And The New Math’ probably won’t make it onto many ‘single of the year’ lists, but could well make your day sometime soon.

Multinational balladeers The Crimea, meanwhile, are doing their best to convince us that they’re a bunch of emotionally-driven experimentalists, but new single ‘Baby Boom’ is dreary, uneventful indie rock without much going for it other than the admittedly fine line “I guess you can call me Fred Flintstone”. Lyrically they’re on another level, but it’s tunes that really make us rush out to buy records, and if you can’t be bothered with those then what’s the point? Hey, isn’t this where we came in?