Manchester is forever embedded in music folklore, not just in the UK but in the entire world. In the ‘70s and ‘80s it brought the world the likes of The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, the Stone Roses and more. An iconic set of artists that came to define a generation.
The city has been a hive for music in the UK ever since, often seen as second in musical importance only to London. More recently the city has been less prolific as guitar bands have had less of an impact on pop charts over the last couple of decades. But that is not to say that rock is dead, it most certainly isn’t, and Manchester is now a key location keeping it alive.
The number of new bands coming through the city is staggering and with a thriving gig community and plenty of gorgeous venues to play, Manchester is a key testing ground for new musicians.
Clash thought we would take a look at the best new bands coming out of the city right now...
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Document have been doing loops of the Manchester circuit over the past year as support for various bands, but 2020 has been the year where they have really started to make a mark on the city.
Songs that seem to be set in the nihilistic monochrome of a city’s underside, Document are a key part of Manchester’s punk-leaning DIY scene. Bass lines throb with added layers of smut and shrapnel, whilst the vocals scold you, “Pity! Pity Pity!” is the cry from their debut single ‘Pity’.
Debut EP ‘A Camera Wanders All Night’ was released last month and a key text if you want to understand the bleak, yet thrillingly dramatic narratives of Document. One highlight from the EP is ‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ a spoken word piece centred around the 1965 film of the same name. The eerie sense of chill and static friction of distorted guitars situate you in the middle of a thriller.
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The newly renewed Blanketman released their fantastic single ‘Taking You With Me’ recently. Singer Adam Hopper is untouchable throughout, his manic style of vocal delivery and scatter-gun approach is a joy to behold. It will remind you of their contemporaries Squid but with the shirt tucked in trousers style of the Talking Heads.
If you need any further evidence of this, check out the video for ‘Taking You With Me’ to see Adam writhe around, truly a man possessed by a unique force.
Whilst erased from Spotify, you can still find some of the band’s older singles on Bandcamp or a couple of live performances of theirs on YouTube if you need that extra Blanketman fix. An exciting prospect, we can’t wait to see what they offer us next.
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Idle Hours are your next favourite indie band. Started after meeting at university in Manchester, the band have tapped into a range of influences, creating a sound that is some parts ‘80s, some parts post-punk or new wave.
Their latest effort ‘Scream In Stereo’ has singer Jack Waldron take aim at a society glued to a screen, too disconnected to even notice what’s going on around them. A swipe at social media and its ability to cause addictive tendencies, particularly within young people. Some of their strongest hooks to date, ‘Scream In Stereo’ is ultimately the product of incredibly cohesive guitar playing.
Wandering around the city in recent times you might have caught them in Manchester’s fantastic four floor venue YES or the Northern Quarter’s Gullivers. Idle Hours have even supported the much-loved Orielles.
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Initially taking influence from the Riot Grrrl movement, Faux Pas are proudly loud. The sheer noise that this band can produce is unprecedented. They end up landing somewhere between indie and punk, but their level of intensity is a key factor in what keeps them apart from similar artists.
One of their best songs has to be ‘TV Made In Paranoid’, with an anxious vocal performance that is timid during the verses, before increasing in confidence to have a defiant outburst during the chorus. ‘That’s My Ego’ is the band at peak angry, the musical equivalent of reaching peak stress before unleashing a relenting fury of fists onto an unsuspecting wall.
At their live shows, even more discontent in nature, expect to see limbs twisted in shapes that they shouldn’t be and plenty of anthems of protest. A band that continue to be unashamed in their approach to writing songs with sharp topical observations.
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Alex Rave and The Sceptical
A relative newcomer to the Manchester scene, Alex Rave and The Sceptical released their debut single ‘Itch’ last month. A haunting track in nature, echoed textures and guitar riffs that claw at the wall provide a natural sense of unease. Alex’s vocals more akin to spoken word than singing, his cutting Northern accent slicing through the instrumentals: “Pop culture's got me thinking it’s my God given right to be saved but maybe it’s not and maybe it never was...”
A song that feels like a lament, the product of a mind discontent with his surroundings and channelling it into his art, with the slight hint of psychedelic influences working in the background. The intimidating atmosphere makes it even more enticing. It is an enthralling opening chapter for the Manchester artist.
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Another punk group, but one that leans much closer to the heaviest elements of the genre. Branching into metal territory at times, Witch fever are an absolute joy of unrelenting rage. An all-girl band, they elicit images of groups such as Pussy Riot or Bikini Kill. Witch Fever are far more occult in nature; “I am the divine, I am the divine!” is chanted repeatedly on ‘The Hallow’. There’s talk of tearing off skin, sin and asphyxiation, just a few of the band’s cheery subject matter.
The raw energy they project is an experience to behold. Riffs pile up on top of other riffs, drums crash as if your actual eardrum is being wacked by a stick. If Witch fever were a cult it would be incredibly difficult to refuse an offer to join them. It is intense stuff and very rare that a band can make you perspire from the comfort of your own home.
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The Goa Express
Emigrating from nearby Burnley to Manchester, The Goa Express are on a hot streak of momentum. Already having played iconic venues around the country such as Band on the Wall, Brudenell Social Club and Hebden Bridge’s Trades Club. Their single ‘The Day’ rises above the standardised indie parapet. “I like the smell of weed but I don’t like the smell of smoke,” singer James declares. A song that encourages defiance, telling you to seize each moment whilst not letting others interfere.
Angular rhythms, a drum track that races alongside, and a layer of synth sandwiched in the middle - it’s a lot to take during a run time of just over two minutes. They were even given a hand by Fat White Family’s Nathan Saoudi, which serves as an exciting endorsement of this band’s potential.
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Words: Matthew Pywell
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