“Panic on the streets of Birmingham…” was once exclaimed by a rather famous man sporting a quiff. Now, I to find myself exclaiming a similar sentence out-loud (I also have a quiff) every time I go to a local gig. Birmingham is bursting at the seams with bands. It’s all getting a bit Warriors-esque too, and they are certainly all “coming out to play-ay…”
So, let me be the one to break it down for you readers. I’m going to give you a guide to all the musical gangs of this city; their members and their collective sound. Reading on will most definitely increase your street cred.
First up, we have The B-Town Boys. These are the dons of Birmingham’s current music scene. We have Peace, Swim Deep and Troumaca at the forefront of B-Town, representing the city outside of its walls. You’ll have heard of these guys.
Following closely behind, and who are pretty much ready for the big-leagues are The Alt-Poppers. Jaws, Superfood and Midnight Bonfires all share a knack for penning tunes that you can hum, dance and jump along to. What makes them stand out is that they manage to make pop-songs sound interesting, adding imagination to well-worn formulas.
Now, The Shoe-Gazerz may seem less ambitious due to the fact that they pen tunes that are a little less direct but make no mistake, Wide Eyed, Bad Moon and Laced are all gazing up at the stars when they aren’t looking down at their pedal boards. Victories At Sea are also a band on the fringes of this gang, they combine a love of shoe-gaze with a penchant for 80’s synth pop.
At the heavier end of the distortion appreciation in Birmingham are The Grungers, led by God Damn with Heavy Waves and Caves also doing their bit to make sure no-one forgets what surfaced in Seattle in the early 90’s. Fans of Nirvana and Mudhoney should try and get initiated into this gang.
The Folksters are pretty different to the other gangs we’ve got to know so far. Cannon Street, The Mourning Suns and Goodnight Lenin are all representing the folk-tinged rock that can often be heard echoing out of Moseley or King’s Heath and reverberating around the city centre’s concrete shapes.
The Post-Punkers are a gang for those music fans that appreciate angst being turned into something a little more arty. Bombers and Shana Tova, both signed to local label Dead London, share an exuberant energy with other locals Youth Man, The Bombergs and Eat Y’Self Pretty.
The party is always bound to start if you go see any of The Fun-Time Rock’N’Rollers. This gang is made up of Black Market Empire, The British Kicks, The Van Cortlandt Rangers, Cold Fields and Winter. Definitely a gang to join for fans of indie-rock’s most recent heyday circa 2005/2006.
Bands like Layers and Spearmint 6 are at the forefront of the kind of scene that Birmingham was originally known for: heavy metal. But Layers are a far more melodic take on the classic sound and Spearmint 6, despite their gruff tones have strong and melodic choruses. These guys are in The Melodic-Rockers gang, so expect tough stuff with added pop-sensibilities.
If something a little more experimental is what pricks your ears up, then you need to hang out with The Outsiders. Evil Alien, Skull TV and io are all experi-mentalists and the results are always interesting.
Last but not least, we have the bands that are in gangs of their own: Tempting Rosie get butts shaking with their ska-pop that sounds familiar to UB40 who represented Birmingham way back when. Birmingham is also proud to be home to hip-hop heads Abes Oddysee, a collective that runs club nights, open mic nights and consistently puts out releases from its various members.
Of course there are still loads more bands out there, doing what they do best. Go seek them out, but first; pick your gang. The only initiation will be having a love of music, oh and you might need to attend a few local gigs.
Words: Jack Parker