In bars of Brixton and the pubs of Peckham, a scene is brewing.
A lot, if not all, of the UK’s most exciting, enthralling upcoming artists are operating in the capital today, building excitement that extends far beyond.
Alongside the stronghold of Brixton’s Windmill, and the support of the likes of So Young Magazine and the promoters Black Cat White Cat, these bands have forged a movement in the capital that is like no other in the country.
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The Fat White Family
The catalyst for this wave of often grimey, gristly guitar bands can be traced back to none other than Fat White Family. Arising to notoriety at some point between the release of debut album 'Champagne Holocaust' and furious follow-up 'Songs For Our Mothers', the Fat Whites have made a name for themselves with their bombastic, ritualistic live shows; frontman Lias Saoudi thrives in a live environment, his cathartic performances as energetic as they are depraved, which in this case says a lot.
The band too, take on a live sound much filthier, looser, and more savage than their records ever even hinted at; the sparsity of their records is gone, in place is a souped-up psychedelic garage rock sound, the bloodthirsty troubled marriage of the Monks and The Butthole Surfers.
The Fat White Family are a dangerous proposition, constantly on the verge of collapse, a kind of brilliant mayhem that could implode at any time. In truth, the duo at the core of the volatile guild - that is Lias Saoudi, and guitarist Saul Adamczewski - admit that their relationship is of an almost eruptive nature. But even like now, even during fallow periods, as Saoudi takes the helm of semi-fictional ouija-pop outfit The Moonlandingz, and Saul mothers his Insecure Men and Warmduscher projects, the band’s looming spectre can be felt across the scene.
A wave of bands that are almost the Fat White Family’s bastard offspring are springing up, soundtracking the filth of London’s underground and the gentrification that constantly looms large in their own unique ways.
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Following quite clearly in their wake are Shame, a five-piece from Brixton and the surrounding areas, all of whom were in their teens when landing big support slots with the likes of Fidlar, The Fall, and the Fat Whites themselves. A guttural garage-punk sound, their strength lies in their tight, driving rhythm section, the clanging cut-throat guitars, and the lightning performances of frontman Charlie Steen.
Their latest single 'Tasteless' is a call to arms that rallies against the apathy of people who only care about the issues that affect them, whilst its B-side 'Visa Vulture' is a more on-the-nose kneejerk in the direction of the PM, as Steen pleads “Theresa May, won’t you let me stay” atop an uncharacteristically soft backing.
And delve deeper into their releases; 'Gold Hole' is a thunderous set closer, that creates an air of menace and danger from the first guitar line, whist 'The Lick' is a trundling commentary on the music scene itself; in short, Shame are a band that offer hope to the disaffected, left behind youth in search of a likeminded guitar band.
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Glam-stomping freak-pop, HMLTD are a band a thousand miles away sonically from the Fat Whites, but have been tearing the aforementioned scene apart, and the rulebook with it, with their indescribable postmodern take on just what pop music can be.
'On To The Door', they combined a galloping, narcotic, Tarantino-esque guitar twang with a melting trap breakdown, whilst B-side 'Music!' sees a glitching synth stomp lavished by the Bowie-lite caterwaul of shamanic figurehead Henry Spychalski. He howls “sacrifice ourselves the North Sea/they’ll never find you, they’ll never find me”, as if the world is caving in on him.
Live, the band’s self proclaimed “realised phantasmagoric spectacle” poises them as contenders for the best live band in the country; HMLTD weave together genres that shouldn’t fit together like a toddler ramming the wrong pieces into a jigsaw, yet somehow make it into one enthralling gesamtkunstwerk. At the same time Spychalski’s manic on-stage persona makes the group seem like Lux Interior fronting disco-era Sparks. Probably the most unique band in the UK, and certainly the most exciting.
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Migrating on the prevailing winds from the nether zone between Southampton and Portsmouth to the Big Smoke less than a year ago, Hotel Lux are a five-piece whose fiery sound falls somewhere between Dr Feelgood pub-rock and the more manic end of krautrock.
Frontman Lewis Duffin barks poetry of ugly social commentaries atop a marauding prowl of jagged guitars and thick, throbbing organs. Causing a ruckus across the city with a live show on par with the very best, they look to build on their stellar debut release 'Envoi' as their sound develops more and more with every performance.
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A change in pace from the aforementioned bands, Matt Maltese is a 21 year old singer-songwriter with wisdom and wit of someone three or four times his age. With his politically informed piano ballads, Maltese crafts images of dystopian humanism, as well as dreary modern landscapes to match.
His latest single 'As The World Caves In' captures the love-in of two reptilian dictators during their last night on Earth once they’ve pressed the red button; he makes a chorus of biblical proportions out of “oh it’s you that I lie with, as the atom bomb caves in”. On 'Strange Time' he captures an erotic kind of despair, whilst No One Won The War paints a vulgar picture of modern Britain perfectly, from “the FTSE going up” to “the mother (who) turns to drinking”.
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Live workhorses, Sorry are a four-piece whose lethargic grunge has caught the attention of everyone in the music industry. The smoky voice of frontwoman Asha Lorenz meets the attitude rich guitar licks to form some of the catchiest and most instantly memorable tracks to infest the ear of anyone that ventures out to catch them live.
On 'Prickz' and 'Drag King', the two tracks they’ve released to the world they offer an almost haunting, lilting sound, rather than their hellfire grunge live shows. Lorenz’s voice is undeniably the centrepiece still, protruding through muddy guitars with ease.
A scene unlike any other in the country, in tough, no, awful, political times, these bands alongside the likes of Rough Trade’s country-garage four-piece Goat Girl, adopted Bristolian sons LICE, the Butthole Surfers-esque booze-rock of YOWL, and the ironi-pop of the Rhythm Method, are quickly becoming the flagship bands of the UK’s eternally notorious guitar scene.
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Words: Cal Cashin
Photo Credit: Rachel Lipsitz