By Various Artists
What with all the exciting musical happenings occurring in our own backyard at the moment, we folk of West Yorkshire could be accused of having become ever so slightly introspective when it comes to seeking out our sonic thrills these days. And, let's be honest, who could blame us?
Seriously, do you really care about what Camden crack den Messer's Doherty and co. have chosen for the launch party of their latest Clash cover when you can go see The Pigeon Detectives in the back room of a Rothwell boozer? Of course you don't. And as for Manchester, don't even get me started on Manchester.
Apparently things used to be quite interesting on that side of the Pennines about 15 years ago, something to do with skinny lads in baggy clothes singing about taking ecstasy. Oh, and a lairy bloke with big eyebrows singing about white lines and the sunshiiiiiiiiiiine. But that was ages ago, and on the back of a couple of years worth of musical invention, Manchester then went on to over shadow Leeds, its infinitely cooler northern cousin, for well over a decade. Now that's all changed of course, Leeds is officially The Rock N Roll Capital of the North (copyright NME) and poor old Manchester has a hell of a lot of catching up to do if it ever wants to win back its crown. The only problem being that upon hearing Full Charge, the new compilation from Manchester based label High Voltage Sounds, it becomes pretty clear that Leeds had better start watching itself, because there's a lot of young bands in Manchester at the moment and it sounds like they want their reputation back.
First up on Full Charge come The KBC with their Sunshine Underground on speed anthem Pride Before The Fall. Quite possibly the most perfect song ever written to start off a compilation, Pride Before The Fall is brilliantly loud, fast and brash and yet somehow manages to sustain a proper dance floor groove throughout and even packs in a huge, soaring chorus for good measure. If the rest of The KBC's stuff turns out half as good as this, they're gonna be very big, very soon. The band with the unenviable task of following such quality are the rather daftly titled Snowfight in the City Centre. Their name may be a bit crap, but their music is anything but and Listen is a magnificent pop song, sounding like the Delays if they had more balls and were (and this is the crucial bit) actually good.
Other early highlights on Full Charge include Bureau with After Midnight, a song that starts out with a horrible, tinny electronic loop but quickly transforms into something much better, the band coming across like a less po-faced Stellarstar* or The Arcade Fire if they'd have spent their youth at the Hacienda. And a special mention has to go Modernaire whose track Faites Tes Jeux adds some proper sex to mixture of drugs and rock n roll already on offer. If the idea of two girls singing about "a casino in Monte Carlo" over a disjointed electro beat doesn't sound cool to you then fair enough but as soon as I heard it, tales of borrowing a pound for a condom suddenly sounded so scummy.
It can't be said however, that Leeds bands are completely devoid of glamour because, standing out like a white shirt at Old Trafford on Full Charge are our very own Dead Disco, a bunch of Leeds lasses who expose most other bands for the scruffs they are but who are also capable of belting out a cracking tune. High Voltage Sounds have chosen The Treatment to introduce Dead Disco to the Manchester scene and it's not hard to see why. The Treatment is just ace, no laboured metaphors needed here, its a song that makes you want to dance around, jump up and down and clap your hands. And, despite what so many lazy journalists may have insisted in the past, Dead Disco don't sound like Blondie. Honestly.
It has to be said though, that not every band who crop up on Full Charge are of as high a standard as those already mentioned. The Clerks lose points for sounding as though they've made a conscious effort to actually sound like Placebo, whereas The Answering Machine and The Jakpot sound decent enough, but it's hard to get too excited by a simple Strokes inspired pop song any more. There's no point completely slating anyone on Full Charge though, because judging a band on one song is just stupid (such actions could even lead you to believe that Babyshambles are good) and there's enough quality on here to suggest that High Voltage Sounds know exactly what they are doing, it's possible that even the most uninspiring band on this compilation could turn out to be the best.
It seems then, that the ball is now in our court. Leeds may still be cooler at present but, trust me kids, I've heard what the competition has got to offer and maybe it's time to start worrying. Over to you...