Leeds Music Scene

DTTR: Something I Learned Today by Various Artists

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Reviewed on 19th March 2007.


DTTR: Something I Learned Today

By Various Artists

After 'What Everyone Wants' comes what everyone really wants - the new long player from Leeds' most vibrant and diverse label of the moment; Dance To The Radio. It would perhaps be unkind to claim that their previous two compilations were scattergun in approach, but there does appear to be a greater cohesion in the sound of this album. Perhaps there is a greater emphasis on sound above geography this time around (several of these bands don't even hail from this country, let alone this city), or perhaps the label's increased clout has brought a greater calibre of band. Anyway, none but the most blinkered musical Luddite will be able to give this one a spin without their faith in the latest crop of talent being reaffirmed.

Anyone nestling into the armchair with this album cued up may be forgiven for thinking that they've fallen asleep with Radio 4 on the wireless (don't we all, now and again?!), as it opens up with a passage from the shipping forecast. Let's hope the sample was cleared, because it would be a shame to lose half the royalties to something so tangential to the direction of the record. However, the ensuing track of the same name from Leeds' own Grammatics is a taut and, at times, vocally tortured workout punctuated by chiming, trenchant choruses. If your attention wasn't captured by warnings of gale force 8 in Fitzroy, then it will have been by now.

Next up we have bucolic Nottinghamshire teenagers, I Was A Cub Scout. 'Teenage Skin' is typical of their work thus far, constructed out of tuneful electro-bleeps and furious stickwork, coupled with fragile, anxious vocals. This is followed by Pia Zadora. Thankfully this does not mean the pint-sized 80s D-lister (check Wikipedia if in doubt), but a tune by frenetic American guitar wielders Read Yellow. Said guitar assault - of varying tempo - is accompanied by vocals that switch between the plaintive and the shouted. Think of ¡Forward,Russia! distilled for American teenagers, if you will.

'Summit' is another slab of delightful guitar pop from local favourites Sky Larkin. Delightful, dark and driven, it will be recognizable to all those who know them already, and a pretty good starting point for anyone who doesn't. 'It Wasn't Said To Ask' is an anthemic offering by appropriately-named Americans, Foreign Born. Sparse and soaring, the resonant vocals take us to a blissful middle eight of carefully picked guitar and thunderous linear drumming. OK - I might've been more impressed if they were from Belle Isle, but I'll forgive DTTR for looking to America if they bring back something quite this lovely.

Voltage Union, on the other hand, are purely West Riding from the floor up. Fraught and angular, even by their standards, the mash of keys, guitars, frenetic drums and jittery vocals that make 'All Who You Know' is like early Stranglers being repeatedly coiled and unleashed. It's messy, but makes its point. Disco Drive are, apparently, Italian signings. 'All About This' plays out like a bunch of taut Gang Of Four riffs being sent out on the cheap, via Jet2, and relaxing in the milieu of post-millennial Turin. It still retains enough angst to keep it relevant and, more importantly, enough rhythm to keep you dancing.

'Coast' by Laura Groves is, indisputably, the biggest departure on the record. On its own merits this is an charming piece of solo female acoustic folk (did I detect the sound of a thousand Stop buttons?) but it does draw attention to the more masculine and muscular environs which it inhabits. However, the unimpeachable (and sometimes multi-tracked) vocals are genuinely affecting and it's as well to consider this intimate moment as the eye of a storm of guitar frenzy that surrounds it. Sorry - it does feature a xylophone.

:( furnish us with both the most wilfully bizarre band name, and the most obstreperously miasmic musical outpouring of the whole album. Listening to 'Codes' is like listening to a slow motion replay of a road crash involving Van Halen, drunken soccer fans, the demo tune from your old 80s Christmas present keyboard and a plangent "emo" vocalist who unexpectedly, and tragically, ploughed through the central reservation from the opposite direction. It's frightening and traumatizing but, at a mere 2'22" long, utterly utterly brilliant.

Ghost Fleet's 'Shattered' offers an eerily repeated vocal refrain against claustrophobic industrial beats, which is ever so slightly haunting. Sometree are rather more brooding, with the guitar builds of 'One Man Shelter' slightly reminiscent of Mogwai's more ponderous efforts. The vocals are finally roused from trance-like inertia to a cathartic bawl in the final bars and you realize that you probably should have been paying attention from the start.

'Final Lecky' is brought to us by AnteAter, aka Tom ¡F,R!, and almost defies description (although I will try.) It's beat-heavy, confusing, bleep-laden, ghostly, sample-driven, disjointed, bizarre and climactic. Do not expect to find this track on the juke box at the Dog and Duck, but do expect it to infect your brain if you listen to it more than once. Turning in an entirely different direction, however, the Lions of SWE offer 'Whatever Happened To Emilio Estevez'. It's a curious title (although come to think of it, whatever did become of the sometime brat-packer? - a quick search on IMDB may be in order...), and a curious tune. Think of all your favourite pay-off choruses from Ziggy-era Bowie being recorded from the wrong end of an aircraft hangar, and you'll have a vague idea. If the titular question was philosophically trenchant then it's pith may, sadly, have become obfuscated. Oh well.

Even on record, and without their Garibaldi shirts as an initial visual cudgel, This Et Al possess the sonic credentials to batter you into submission. 'Can You Speak European' presents a frighteningly cacophonous mêlée that is reminiscent of nothing so much as being beaten up in a dark alley by half a dozen guitars, then spending a minute or two drifting in and out of consciousness. They don't even have the common decency to finish you off with a cowbell to the head, damn them! On the other hand, the ministering angels that are Black Wire might wake your disfigured corpse with the appropriately titled 'See The Blood'. It's danceable, driven and tight, and there are enough "oo-oo"s for even the most battered listener to end this album on a high note.

All in all this is an extremely creditable bunch of tracks. There will be names you recognize, many you don't, and possibly the odd omission which you may have been expecting to see. You may not have expect to find a label compilation such as this hitting you with a cohesive unit that stands as a decent listen on its own merits, but this album won't necessarily need to get divided up on your iPod. It's a statement of intent for the coming year; not just for Leeds, not just for DTTR, but for musical invention in general.



All replies to this article. Log in to post a reply.

On 19th March 2007 at 12:46 Anonymous 13 wrote...

A fine review Mr. Rennie. Keep up the good work!


On 23rd March 2007 at 15:22 thirties wrote...

Cheers! But if one's just got one's grubby mitts on the new DTTR a month ahead of release, the least one can do is to cobble together a couple of hundred words on the subject. ;-)



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14 bands associated with this article.


Sky Larkin

alternative rock

Laura Groves

acoustic folk indie



This Et Al

alternative rock

Black Wire

Black Wire...