The Sheffield Scene!
by Liam Ronan
Forget Leeds, forget Manchester, and forget Sunderland even (!?); it’s now the turn of Sheffield’s music scene to create a stir in new music circles. Not since the yuppie days of the eighties has the city enjoyed hosting a cluster of top bands. Back then it was synth stars Heaven 17 (Temptation), ABC (Look of love) and the Human League (Don’t you want me baby?), but now it’s the Arctic Monkeys, Milburn, The Harrisons and Little Man Tate’s turn to wave the South Yorkshire flag for British pop.
Take a trip across the misty mountains that are The Pennines and you will be presented with a scene that has found a sudden steely (steel…Sheffield…geddit??!) confidence. Many of you will have heard by now of the uniquely named Arctic Monkeys. The band has only so far released a few limited edition LP’s (“Five Minutes with the Arctic Monkeys”) that were scooped up in days and a chart-topping debut, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.” But go to a gig (if you can get tickets!) and the majority of the crowd will be singing along to every song as if they’d been around for decades. The internet has had a large part to play in the Monkeys’ popularity; type the word ‘Arctic Monkeys’ into most file-share sites and you will be greeted with over fifty different versions of their songs. However, any band can put their tracks on the net, but this does not mean they will be downloaded with as much vigour as the Monkeys. It is a testament to their talent that they became so popular without releasing one single! When Radio One added them to their play-list less than a year ago, the Monkeys became hot property; Jo Whiley, Zane Lowe and Steve Lamacq regularly play the Monkeys music. Since then, they have been signed by Domino records (home to Franz Ferdinand and The Kills); accepting the biggest album advance ever offered by the indie label, and reached new heights and audiences with their Number One single. The band have now embarked on a mini-world tour hitting the USA, Japan and Europe; as well as a UK tour that began with a warm-up in The Cavern, Liverpool, concluding with a home-coming gig at The Plug, Sheffield. The band has been earmarked as the “sharpest British group since The Jam” and is hotly tipped to be THE band of 2006.
Sheffield’s second circuit contemporaries are Milburn. The band won Zane Lowe’s ‘Fresh Meat’ talent search back in April and like the Monkeys are getting set for a UK tour, which is for some members of the band, the first time they have ventured south of South Yorkshire! Milburn are chums with the Monkeys after playing many a set at Sheffield’s famous ‘Boardwalk’ music venue. They have been described as sharing attributes with the Libertines, Razorlight and The Smiths, but hold their own character with a heavy drummer, bass playing singer and two brothers (adding for Gallagher-esque entertainment!). The band is, surprisingly for their youthfulness, very tight and as you’d expect from a northern group they are modest and unpretentious, but still oozing with attitude!
The Harrisons, named after the street in which they grew up and still live, are a more mod-punk leaning band. Like the Monkeys and Milburn they too have had their stint on Radio One, and are also predicted for the big time. They lumber around every gig with a ‘Harrison Road’ street-sign, to set as the back drop and an amusingly ardent following from the Owls Crime Squad. Apparently going to one of their gigs is like being in the middle of the fight scene on Braveheart, replacing of course the arrows for beer bottles; with dedications to regulars from “darn t’pub” and lyrics such as “I’m going out tonight/ Because the TV’s full of shite!” and “Stupid twats in Burberry Hats.”
Finally the most obscure band in this scene has to be Little Man Tate (LMT). Named after a film written by and starring Jodie Foster as a single mother who brings up an accidental genius of a son, the Sheffield foursome can certainly be seen in an analogy of that: the scene’s genius outcast kid. Their lyrics are based on everyday matter but with a significant “dry Yorkshire wit.” Jon Windle’s voice is a blend between Jonathan Ross and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, but with a tyke accent! Musically they have been labelled as having a “dash of Franz Ferdinand’s hip-swinging swagger.” However, for me they are incomparable to anyone; LMT are a totally unique, intelligent and beguiling band.
So come on you scenesters- don a flat cap, buy the Yorkshire post, start smoking pipes, drink bitter, join a union and download these:
Arctic Monkeys- ‘Mardy Bum’
‘When the Sun Goes Down’
‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’
‘A Certain Romance’
‘Ritz to the Rubble’
Milburn- ‘Lipstick Lickin’
‘Cheshire Cat Smile’
‘Let Me Go’
‘Send in the Boys’
The Harrisons- ‘Wishing Well’
‘Man of the Hour’
Little Man Tate- ‘Court Report’
‘What What You Got’
‘Down on Marie’
‘Man I Hate Your Band’
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