Sorry to break it to you, skinny-jeaners everywhere: word around the industry campfire is that indie acts are out, and pop’s going to rule in 2009.
Check this year’s tips for evidence of the music business leaning on the side of accessibility: La Roux, Little Boots, Empire Of The Sun, VV Brown. All are silky smooth of finish, designed for chart success. You scummy men knocking about the back room of a Camden boozer – sorry, nobody worth a damn is coming to see you.
This turn of events isn’t stopping a fair few from having a crack at taking their rock ‘n’ roll to a wider audience, though – from established big-hitters to complete newcomers, the next few months will see a great many indie releases hit the shelves.
But what odds are there on their makers reaching this time next year with critical respect, commercial potential and personal integrity intact? Clash puts its tongue firmly in cheek for a playful look at the runners and riders hoping to win you over with their newest wares.
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Back, albeit a little later than anticipated, with a third album, the celebrated Scots are already well positioned to ride out any indie band turnaround. Besides, ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ is well-oiled like the best dancefloor-filling material, sure to get you swinging – it’s the album of 2009 that can bridge the polar-opposite worlds of indie-rock and dance-pop. It’s certainly impressed Clash – it’s our album of the week for January 26 (review HERE).
Odds On NME Giving A Shit (ONGAS): EVENS – they already do as this review demonstrates.
The lead single from album two ‘Which Bitch?’, ‘5Rebeccas’, couldn’t crack the top 40 when it was released last year. Not a good omen. But its parent record’s not all bad, and it suggests that its makers are at least trying to diversify in a way they didn’t dare on debut ‘Hats Off To The Buskers’ – although that rapping’s a step too far. Clash, we kind of like The View, since they’re from Dundee and all (‘Which Bitch?’ is reviewed positively HERE); but it remains to be seen how other critics will respond to a truly Marmite-flavoured release.
ONGAS: 8/1 – the nation’s favourite music weekly went for their debut, but has a habit of laying down the law rather harshly come patchy second affairs, and there’s no doubt ‘Which Bitch?’ has its share of flaws.
Coming out fighting on album three are London foursome The Rakes, who recorded ‘Klang’ (out March 20) in Berlin after vocalist Alan Donohoe declared: “The London music scene is so dull – it’s like wading through a swamp of shit.” Stern words, but simple facts prevail here: ‘Klang’ has to be better than 2007’s so-so ‘Ten New Messages’, which seemed a shadow of the band’s breakthrough debut of 2005, ‘Capture/Release’. The proof will be in the pudding, and the pudding’s distinctly German. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte all round, we’re hoping.
ONGAS: 10/1 – ‘Capture/Release’ part two isn’t quite what’s needed to guarantee The Rakes a decent write-up, but ‘Klang’ really does need to make an impression.
A new, rawer sound has been promised by frontman Tom Smith for Editors’ follow-up to 2007’s second album, ‘An End Has A Start’. That didn’t fare terribly on the critical front, and established Editors as one of the UK’s biggest indie acts, capable of filling sizeable venues – while it lacked the punch of debut ‘The Back Room’, it showcased a maturing band still finding their creative feet. Apparently the band has been looking to electronic music for third-album inspiration, in particular the soundtrack to the Terminator movie. Should we expect a Portishead-style affair, all bleak synths and pounding mechanical percussion? Probably not – it’ll sound like Interpol only, you know, more English. Expect it to drop sometime in the autumn.
ONGAS: 5/1 – if Editors really have made a stand on the originality front they can expect a warm welcome; if, though, album three is essentially more of the same with slightly differently tuned bells and whistles, the cold shoulder’s sure to be coming their way.
Another of the country’s biggest indie acts to have shot their mouths off ahead of schedule, Leicester swagger-braggers Kasabian have announced that their third album – second LP ‘Empire’ went to number one in 2006 – is sounding psychedelic, with one song coming on like Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. A tongue-twisting title is also expected. Both we’ll believe when we hear and see them. Bringing Dan The Automator in to work on tracks wont harm the band’s credibility any, but there’s always one nagging doubt about Kasabian: they have a habit of coming across as plonkers, to put it kindly. If their music does the talking come album three’s release, we’ll forgive them the hot air. If not: fuck ‘em.
ONGAS: 2/1 – weirdly, the weekly’s always sided with Kasabian, with ‘Empire’ awarded a whopping 9/10. Seems likely this new album will earn their praise, too.
ARCTIC MONKEYS (pictured)
The band have already played new material from their as-yet-untitled third album live on their tour of New Zealand and Australia, and reports are that it’s as good as what’s preceded it to so much acclaim (check out ‘Crying Lightening’ HERE). They’ve also been covering Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’ while out and about Down Under – a great influence to have shining through on any new songs. Frontman Alex Turner reckons the band is now two-thirds done with their third, so we should get to hear it later this year. With such amazing precedents set, anything but a number one album and single must be seen as a commercial failure; what’s surely guaranteed, though, is a warm critical reception.
ONGAS: EVENS – there’s no way any publication is going to turn its nose up at the return of the Monkeys, not while there are cover possibilities. The only negativity will surely come from the web, where editors are still in a position to kick returning champions without fear of significant commercial impact. And besides, the record will be great, right?
His debut solo album ‘Grace/Wastelands’ is, by its maker’s own admission, “(lacking) any singles, to be honest; I don’t see it as a commercial venture” (read our full interview with Pete HERE). It’s not got the depth of either Libertines record and feels rather unfocussed, even compared to Babyshambles’ incoherent (and inconsistent) brace of long-players. But… this is Pete Doherty we’re talking about, and the man’s celebrity status is yet to be matched by his musical achievements, at lease since the Libs parted ways. Could go either way.
ONGAS: 12/1 – the money’s on ‘em hating it, or being politely indifferent at best, unless they get to plaster Pete all over their cover. Cynical, us?
Little is known about what will be the stadium-headliners’ fifth album. It’ll probably sound big though – like every drumbeat is the explosion of a faraway star. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme has said it’s likely to be out sometime in 2009, but with nothing more to go on we’re keeping speculation in check.
ONGAS: betting won’t open until further notice.
MANIC STREET PREACHERS
‘Journal For Plague Lovers’ – to give the Manics’ ninth album its working title – is shaping up to be one of their strongest since their post-Richey Edwards return way back in 1996, and seems set to feature lyrics penned by the guitarist prior to his disappearance in February 1995. Despite being officially declared ‘assumed dead’ last year, Edwards’ bandmates have continued to put a quarter of their earnings into an account in his name, and ‘Journal…’ could prove to be his greatest work yet, pitched as it is as a follow-up of sorts to 1994’s sensational ‘The Holy Bible’. Something about baited breath: add it here.
ONGAS: 2/1 – if… and it’s a big if… IF ‘Journal…’ is everything the Manics are suggesting it could be, it might well be their all-time best album. If it falls short of ‘The Holy Bible’, hell, it’ll still be brilliant.
What’s worse, really – the idea of The Twang or the actuality of The Twang? Answer: neither. What’s worse than both is that the culmination of the actuality’s ideas, 2007’s ‘I Love It When I Feel Like This’, is to be followed by a successor.
ONGAS: 20/1 – everyone needs a coaster for their mug of tea. Might as well recycle.