Tuesday Ten: 043: Sheffield

I listened to a radio show from last week that resulted in the inspiration for this week’s Tuesday Ten. And what was that show? It was Jarvis Cocker’s musical map of Sheffield, which was a fascinating guide through the Sheffield that Jarvis grew up in, and the music he was influenced by along the way – not all of which was Sheffield-based, but the majority was.

One great comment from it was that “Hallam FM refused to play punk at the time as they believed “it wasn’t real music”“. So nothing new there, then…

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065: Places

Anyway, I’ve now lived in this city for a week over four years. So it’s perhaps time for a look at ten musical acts from Sheffield that I like or have liked in one way or another. Interestingly, this was a tougher list to create than I thought it might be. It includes very well known bands, some influential older bands, and even some newer, “up-and-coming” bands that some may not be aware of at all.

So where to start?

Let’s start, perhaps, with some of the bands that came from the city that proved to be hugely influential.

And they don’t perhaps, get much more influential than Cabaret Voltaire. One of the very earliest bands to be deemed “industrial”, along with their peers they helped to lay the groundwork for the “scene” that we know today, through experiments in sound, music and the manipulation of sound. While some of their earliest material sounds a little primitive nowadays, for me it was their early/mid-80s output that has always interested me the most, where a strangely alien-sounding funk influence began to manifest itself as their sound continued to evolve.

A band that perhaps arrived a little later, but were no less influential were Clock DVA. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of their earliest material, but the album Advantage has a brilliantly sparse, spooky feel that echoes of can be seen in many bands since. Later album Buried Dreams, that was released on WaxTrax!, was kinda ironic in that it seemingly co-opted what was by then the almost standard WaxTrax! sound – perhaps an example of a band taking on the sounds of the bands that they influenced in the first place!

The third “industrial” band to come from Sheffield that I have been a fan of is In The Nursery – although quite how they have remained with the tag “industrial” at all nowadays is kinda beyond me, with the band having moved into the realm of film scores, and as they appeared in the live environment last year, with a heavily tribal feel.

So onto some of the perhaps better-known bands – to some, anyway.

Probably Sheffield’s best known musical export of all is Pulp, Jarvis Cocker’s long-running band that I believe have now all-but split-up, not that I recall it ever being made particularly obvious (they are officially “on hiatus”). I’m not a fan of early Pulp material at all, and indeed my interest in the band only really begins with His’n’Hers, which I still think is a better album than their biggest success with Different Class – a great mix of indie-pop and kitchen-sink drama, with a wry sense of humour so desperately lacking in many of the other indie bands of the time. I only saw them live one, at the Heineken Festival at Roundhay Park in Leeds in the summer of ’95 (their next performance after their legendary Glastonbury headline slot that year), when they were in electric form and were one of the best festival acts I have ever seen.

Another Sheffield indie band from the mid-90s were this lot, who enjoyed moderate success for a short while before disappearing from view and disintegrating. Their debut album The Sun Is Often Out had rather more depth than a number of others I could think of, and sadly their second album Mobile Home kinda vanished from view – and while it was not as good as the first album, the first couple of tracks pretty much make it worth obtaining. Also of note is that Richard Hawley – who has enjoyed considerable success of late as a solo artist – was a member of this band before joining Pulp as a touring guitarist for a few years.

Bringing things up-to-date somewhat, I perhaps couldn’t avoid mentioning this lot. I’m not a huge fan of everything that they have done – but more than anything I admire this band for their wonderfully realised lyrics that are so evocative of the city that they come from.

And now, onto a number of smaller bands:

65DoS are a band that should be huge, but due to the type of music that they play – which is within the realms of post-rock – this will probably never happen. Somehow they manage to mix post-rock with an energy that is almost unrivalled, and mix in all kinds of electronic effects and very precise arrangements to stunning effect. Oh, and they are one of the best ten live bands I have ever seen.

Another very good live band are Machines, who I’ve mentioned a fair bit about of late. A very technical metal band who in some respects are treading in the footsteps of Tool, but over time have gradually evolved their own sound that should get them noticed. Or, at least in a just world should certainly get them noticed, but in this musical world of short-termism at present, I wonder if they are simply too cerebral for that.

A band that have toured incessantly but appear to have had a number of setbacks are The Mirimar Disaster – including firing their vocalist not long after their first album was released, for reasons that I never entirely understood. Another metal band that exist in the “leftfield” of the genre, taking notes from the likes of Neurosis and various stoner metal bands, they sounded great both on record and on stage. I’ve not actually seen them live since the lineup change, and perhaps I should again soon, particularly as they have a new album coming this autumn.

Finally, it’s time to mention a now defunct band where I know all three of the members. 3ulogy had been around a while, and had progressed into being a particularly savage live act. Their sound probably could be deemed “harsh industrial”, and at points went considerably more harsh and intense than that. However the band disbanded earlier this year, with members instead concentrating on their other projects prot0type and Nekrodrako, which take the sound of 3ulogy in two very different directions!

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