Manchester Music vs Norwich Music

Coming to the end of my first year at music uni has made me look back over the year and think about all the differences between my home city of Norwich and now my second home of Manchester. Of course there are cultural, historical and dialect differences but seeing as this is a music blog, I am going to focus and compare the Manchester music scene to the Norwich music scene.

As I said previously in my blog ‘Music in Manchester’, there are very obvious differences you notice when coming to Manchester, such as the whole cities obsession with Oasis, The Smiths and The Stone Roses. Nearly everyone here loves either one or all of these bands and honestly it’s pretty weird to experience!
Norwich doesn’t have a defining band like Oasis, it’s mainly filled with people who like all different kinds of music. That’s one thing I love about music in Norwich; you don’t feel pressured to like one particular genre/artist/band. All different kinds of bands come to Norwich, but the city isn’t really defined by one particular band or genre.

For example, from going to a music college and being friends with mainly metal-heads, I experienced that Norwich had a thriving underground heavy metal scene. Pubs like the B2 and Brickmakers and the Owl Sanctuary regularly put on gigs for local metal bands, in order to give aspiring musicians of metal- a genre which has lost some of its’ popularity in recent years- the promotion and foot on the ladder that they need.
Of course, Norwich doesn’t have nearly as many venues as Manchester and lacks a big venue like MEN Arena, the Etihad Stadium or Victoria Warehouse. The biggest venue Norwich has is the UEA, with a capacity of only 1500. So, this means that more well known bands and artists are less likely to tour to little ol’ Naar’ich. When I was younger I had to travel to Nottingham to see bands, such as My Chemical Romance, Thirty Seconds To Mars and Blink 182. Now, living in Manchester, I only need to walk to the other side of the city or down the road to see bands like these. In December, I’m lucky enough to be seeing Marilyn Manson. An artist whose music I don’t primarily listen to as much as I used to, but one who I would never pass up the opportunity to see.

Norwich also has other genres intertwined within it, such as drum and bass, folk/acoustic acts and mainstream rock. The UEA and Waterfront are venues which both regularly hold club nights that play everything from R ‘n’ B to pop punk, from underground dance to nostalgic ’emo’. However, whilst Norwich has all this going on, it unfortunately fails to stand out as a musical city. The UEA doesn’t even run a music degree.

Now, compare this to Manchester, and whilst it has the huge stereotype of being an indie music central, it is looked upon as a musically rich city. Bands actually come here, their tour manager is able to look at the city and conclude that people will attend the concert, and ALL KINDS of musicians come here because of the range of venues. Manchester Academy- just down Oxford Road- has 3 venues within it. There are 2 O2 sites (Apollo and Ritz), smaller venues for lesser known artists or uni bands such as Gorilla, Band On The Wall and Sound Control as well as the larger venues I mentioned earlier. Musicians from all over the world come and play in Manchester.

However, I do feel that some aspiring musicians/bands who come out of the uni’s and colleges here, do fall into the stereotypical indie-wannabe Arctic Monkey’s/Oasis/The Smiths, which isn’t a good sign for the cities new music scene. Manchester is a vibrant, varied city and shouldn’t be stuck on repeat, churning out indie band after indie band. What I’ve noticed whilst living here, and of course experiencing Manchester’s music scene, is that there needs to be different genres that are prevalent in Manchester. I feel that the city could really experience its dance/EDM scene more, rather than just confining it to Victoria Warehouse. It would be nice to regularly attend raves that you don’t have to fork out £40/£50 for!
Event organisers would be surprised by how many people would attend dance nights, and how many DJ’s and Producers they would be able to hire. The uni I attend has a Music Production course but currently, it’s difficult for them to spread their name further than Soundcloud, due to the lack of dance venues Manchester has. I can say definitely that having EDM venues would make this city even more attractive than it already is and would help shift the indie stereotype it’s becoming stuck with.

So that’s my comparison between Norwich and Manchester’s music scenes. Both have their faults, but I love them equally. I think if they merged together though then they would have the right balance. It’s strange to experience a city which has a strong music scene, it’s just getting used to a genre which I don’t listen to, but coming to Manchester meant I met my boyfriend, who introduced me to the amazing world of dance music and expanded my music tastes even further, which I am very grateful for.

Will there ever be another huge music movement?

The 50’s was Rock N Roll. The 60’s was Psychedelia. The 70’s was Punk and the 80’s was Glam Metal and New Romanticism.

All those decades are known for certain movements in music. Memorable genre’s which had their own culture, lifestyle and fashion, ones you had to commit to and which encompassed periods of your life. They spawned huge bands; with Rock N Roll you had Elvis and Buddy Holly, with Psychedelia you had Jimi Hendrix, with Punk you had the Ramones and Sex Pistols, and Glam Metal saw Bon Jovi whilst New Romanticism produced Duran Duran. History documentaries are made about these decades and these bands and their careers are immortalised in books.

However, when you get to the 90’s and to the present day…no band really sticks out. No genre was prominent and there was certainly no movement like Punk. I guess you could say the genre of the 90’s was cheese pop, the kind of genre you only ‘like’ when you’re about 5 pints and 3 tequila shots down in the club. The 90’s was the decade in which music got ‘samey’, and this funk has seemed to carry on throughout the 00’s. Pop started to be manufactured, mass produced and had to follow exact guidelines in order for people to buy the records.

Music has gotten safe, even rock bands that are emerging from underground claiming to be ‘punk’ or ‘hardcore’ etc just sound like watered-down re-hashes of their idols. Pop music and rap music is sounding too ‘sugary’, following the same patterns and all using the same tactics to draw people in- a female vocalist in their late teens or early 20’s, normally collaborating with a half well-known rapper, and dressed in revealing, tight high-on-trend clothes that, lets be honest, you would only really see the Kardashians actually wearing out.

All of this begs the question: is there ever going to be another movement in music, or is this how it will be from now on? Stale and samey?

Radio and TV stations like Kiss and 4music only play the same ‘trending’ songs on loop, day after day and now focus on what is being streamed instead of physically bought. So, this doesn’t help new bands who are potentially bringing something fresh and interesting to break out into the spotlight and get the media attention they need. Grime was a genre that reared its’ head a couple of years ago, but that was forgotten about, with only Stormzy still carrying the torch. Outside of the mainstream, there is a vast dance music scene, which has a huge following, it’s own festivals and accomplished DJ’s/Producers- this has the potential to be a movement, so what’s stopping it? Answer: the media.

There could be a new movement in music again, if the media would break out of the cycle of only playing the same artists, the same songs of the same genre. The media needs to recognise that if this is how it carries on, music will have no life. It will just sound too manufactured. There will be no passion, no real message or drive for the artist to make the music, other than expensive clothes and lots of money. However, this might just be how the industry is going to go for the foreseeable future, because record labels, managers, media outlets etc, have gotten too focused on just producing what will sell and what will make them the most money. Their heads are way too high up in the clouds for them to see that their method of doing things is what is slowly causing the music industry to flat-line.

A new band needs to come forward and be that revelation that the music industry needs.

The Return of Blink 182

Today, the music world became electric with excitement, barely keeping a lid on itself. After nearly 5 years since their last full length album, Neighborhoods, Blink 182 have finally announced that their new album’California’ will be released on July 1st of this year. To get fans even more pumped up, they released a new single titled, ‘Bored to Death’, via their Facebook page. I listened to this right before writing this post, and I absolutely love it. ‘Bored to Death’ is very reminiscent of ‘Neighborhoods’, in the sense that it has a more mature vibe to it. They’re not singing about girls or sex or anything crazy like that, it’s them bearing their souls after such a long time and after a rollercoaster 5 years.

Of course, everyone by now knows that the Blink 182 who have come back, are not the Blink 182 from 5 years ago. There has always been a love/hate relationship between the Travis, Mark and Tom, something which has time and time again put a strain on the band. It seemed that, after Neighborhoods was released that everything was okay between the three of them again, yet it didn’t last this way for long. I began to wonder if Tom particularly wanted to stay a part of Blink 182 after seeing their Reading performance on TV in 2014. The vocals from Tom were…like he wasn’t trying that much to give a good performance. It sounded as though he was just speaking the words instead of singing them like Mark was, and there was no attempt to harmonise between them. It just felt flat. There was all this buzz about them headlining, and at first when I watched it I thought something was wrong with the sound quality, but as the performance went on, it was clear that Tom just wasn’t making the effort.

The reason why I was so disappointed was because I went to go see them in 2012 for their 20th Anniversary Tour, and all three members were incredible, pouring their everything into the show. So, only 2 years on to see that the spark had already fizzled out, I honestly thought that we were never going to hear new Blink music again.

However, 2015 comes around and this is the year where Blink 182 hot up again. Tom DeLonge leaves Blink after quite public disagreements with the rest of the band, and Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio guitarist and singer) is brought in as his replacement. Initially, long term fans were sceptical about having such a prominent member replaced as they saw Blink 182 as always being Mark, Tom and Travis. Although in a very short time, fans quickly warmed to Matt becoming part of Blink, and after listening to ‘Bored To Death’, it’s clear that his vocals suit the style that Blink are going for with ‘California’.

I am incredibly excited about hearing more news to do with this album, and hearing it in full when it comes out on 1st July. Hopefully the spark won’t fizzle out this time.

Fearless Vampire Killers: ‘Bruises’ Review

Formed in Beccles in 2008, Fearless Vampire Killers are a band who have come a long way and grown so much in terms of their musical ability and sound since their first EP ‘In Grandomina’. Made up of 5 members; drummer Luke Illingworth, bassist Drew Woolnough, guitarist Cyrus Barrone (aka Shane Sumner) and joint front-men Kier Kemp and Laurence Beveridge who both take it in turns to do vocals and guitar, they create songs rich in individuality and all joined together through a story that weaves through their albums. Both their debut album ‘Militia of the Lost’ and ‘Unbreakable Hearts’ are based on novels created by Laurence Beveridge, set in the fictional city of Grandomina, with themes of love, loss, war and -of course- vampires and the ‘Fearless Vampire Killers’.

However, ‘Bruises’ does not seem to follow that same pattern. This mini album has taken a more personal route, with the band members expressing emotions that they feel, not that their characters feel. The songs are more like anthems, filled with truth, and you can hear how passionate both Kier and Laurence are when they sing their respective songs. At moments the music and lyrics are so overwhelming it’s hard not to get emotional. These are different stories they are telling this time, ones from the heart, not the pages of a book.

It starts off with ‘Feel Alive’, a song which encaptures FVK’s sound and throws it at you with a jumpy verses and melodic chorus, showing Kier Kemps voice change from clean cut singing to a harsher shout/scream in the second verse. ‘Feel Alive’ has so much variety in it, from the simple muffled drum beat and guitar riff for the intro, to the slower bridge where the whole band joins in to sing the lyrics, it shows that FVK are able to pack different sections into a song without it sounding patched together and sloppy. It is certainly a powerful opening song, one that captures the listener and shows great promise for the rest of the album.

Promise that is lived up to. The next track ‘Stepping Stones’ is sung by Laurence, who has a more deeper, rawer voice to compliment Kier’s higher range. It’s one of many clearly emotional songs, with a stand-out chorus that gets the listener singing along to it. Again, the whole band joins in to provide backing vocals and harmonies, something that they pull off so well, and is evidence of how tight they are as a group. My favourite part of the song is when they chant the chorus, accompanied by a marching drum roll, as though to show that the ‘we’ in ‘We walk these stepping stones’, includes you as well as them.

‘Keep Smiling’ is in total contrast to its predecessor, with the intro sounding much more like the style of Green Day. It’s exciting, fast and catchy, and keeps the energy level of the album up high. It’s put together in the same way as ‘Feel Alive’, but this time in the chorus you have Kier singing the lead lines over the rest of the band who are singing a repeated section underneath. This does make it hard to hear what the lyrics actually are, therefore losing some of the songs meaning, but this is regained when it comes to Laurence’s spoken word speech. Putting something like this in a song can prove risky, yet Fearless Vampire Killers hit the mark.

‘Ok so this is the way I see it:
All you do is commentate
On what’s hot and what’s not.
What’s hip and what’s shit.
What means something,
And what ain’t nothing.
You’re a leaking spout of shallow observations
Based on half-arsed assumptions.
You’re spineless.
You don’t add anything to this world.
You don’t create anything.
It costs you nothing!
This cost us everything!’

The speech actually relates to the rest of the song, it’s not just in there for the sake of it. Laurence has something he wants to say and has been wanting to for a while, it seems. You can speculate who he may be talking to, politicians, record companies, celebrities, bullies… The main thing is, people can relate to it. It’s powerful. And these days you need power in order to stand out in the music scene.

‘Regret’ is a beautiful song. It’s one that really touches me personally, and is one of those songs that gets you thinking, contemplating. ‘I’m holding on to something, I’m holding on to this regret’. Everyone has a regret, it’s not something you can let go of easily, and Fearless Vampire Killers capture that feeling and put it into this song. It’s a song that is very stripped back considering how huge some songs were in ‘Unbreakable Hearts’, yet stripping it back lets FVK reveal themselves more and shows how much they’re still growing- how much they still have to offer.

Now onto the stand out track, ‘Like Bruises’. The first single off the album and the one which has it all. Lead in by a blinding riff that comes at you like a whirlwind, mixing together the deepest notes of a guitar with the highest, it spins around you with such aggression that you wouldn’t normally associate with Fearless Vampire Killers. You can tell this song is fueled by anger. Even the video which accompanies it tells the story of a relationship ending, and shows how your life can change from good to bad in a split second, with just one sentence, shown with the lyrics ‘Like Bruises on skin, words unspoken sink in’ and ‘All that I am is no more’. It’s actually quite hard to watch that video, and makes you want to reach out and make everything better again. Laurence almost spits out the lyrics when he sings the verses, before composing himself to sing the chorus, yet no emotion is spared as it reaches the ending of the song, as that monster of a riff comes back around to finish the song with a bang.

An audio clip of someone getting out of a car and walking to a house, knocking on a door plays before the finale of the album starts, ‘Aging Love’. It’s the song which hits home the most. There’s no glorified story surrounding it, and it’s clear what it’s about, ‘I loved you, but this can’t go on’…’Why is an aging love so wrong? You promised me we’d be forever’… It’s dark, haunting and full of pain. However the bridge goes off on a tangent, as Laurence tells us more of the story, and you have to listen hard to keep up with it all to get the full meaning. Yet this is overshadowed by the wonderfully melodic instrumental finish that wraps up the album in a huge FVK shaped bow.

This album is all about them, no dramatics, no characters, just them as they truly are. Each track is so carefully thought out and professionally produced, Fearless Vampire Killers are a band that mean business, they want to get their voices heard- now more so than ever. They put songs out that they truly believe in and I couldn’t see how anyone could doubt their creativity. The instrumentation is so technical; each riff is different, each track contains multiple drum sequences and all the harmonies are done with such precision. This band will achieve big things, I have no doubt about that. They will do it their way, and they will let nothing stop them.

Vicki Hicks

 

First album

Okay so this week I’m going to talk about the first album I remember buying myself. Of course I’ve had albums bought for me as a child but I count this one as I physically picked it up and went to pay for it, under my own initiative. If that makes sense?

Anyway, my first abum was Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by My Chemical Romance, which I bought in 2010, a few months after it came out. I first got into My Chemical Romance earlier that year, and initially didn’t like them. However this had to do with just starting high school, and trying to fit into the popular groups, therefore convincing myself I liked pop music/chart music…which I knew deep down I didn’t. Then Dad started to listen to them, playing Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and The Black Parade on a regular basis, and I gradually began to like them. I remember the music video for ‘Na Na Na’ being released, and after watching it I said, ‘Oi Dad! That weird band you like have released a new video!’. After listening to that song and a few others, I grew to love the album and MCR in general.

The upbeat sound of Danger Days, with its electronic elements, commentary by Dr Death-Defying (aka Steve Righ? from Mindless Self Indulgence), and strong concept and story-line, all combined to make this (in my opinion) a perfect album. ‘Summertime’ was even played at my Nanna’s funeral, and now I listen to that song with reflection and memories of her. It’s pretty emotional. What I loved was that MCR still included an element of humour in this album, which is prevalent in the last track, ‘Vampire Money’. Everyone kept wanting them to make a song for the ‘Twilight’ franchise, which Gerard Way was not interested in, so made an anti-twilight song highlighting that people wanted them to make the song just to get the money.

Danger Days made me start to love music and get a real passion for it, giving me a whole new genre to explore, instead of forcing myself to listen to the commercially churned out chart music I thought I had to listen to. It lead to me going through different phases in the next few years, discovering new bands and following MCR in the last few years of their journey, even their World Contamination Tour, which I will write about in the next blog.

Vicki x