The mid to late 2000s-ish was a golden time for math (pronounced ‘maff’ or ‘maffs’) rock across the British Isles. Some of the bands who started at this time are still around today, but many have joined the realm of your favourite bands who have all split up. Alas. Whilst this time/space got a brief mention in our History Of Math Rock Pt.1 article we decided it could do with a closer look. This is by no means a definitive guide, and not even the start of maff rock in this part of the world, but more of a primer, for a long read that may one day be written. If you were involved in the scene around that time please get in touch, I’d love to have a chat, especially if I got something wrong or left something out. Sorry about that. Let’s dive in to some history…
Colour from Kingston, Surrey were mentioned in our top 50 Greatest Math Rock Albums Of All Time joint. The fact that so many people still enjoy their one and only label-released offering, Anthology, is a testament to how fresh and fun their music still sounds ten plus years on. Gorgeous and well crafted maff pop ditties that will stick in your head for days (and years, apparently) afterwards. Recently it was rereleased on vinyl by their label Big Scary Monsters who were vital to this era and that music we like. You’ll see them pop up again. Guitarist/vocalist Alan Welsh and second drummer James Trood (after Alex MacGillivray) went on to form Tangled Hair, who we love but most intriguing is that guitarist George Reid went on to become a producer in the UK R&B scene and scored some chart hits with duo AlunaGeorge. Reid continues to produce music for the project but does not tour. Trood on the other hand joined as live/session drummer and still plays live shows such as their 2017 tour support slot for Coldplay in Europe and North America. This, I believe, is probably why the Tangled Hair album took so long. Anyway here’s a video of three (ex)members of Colour covering a Naughty Boy/Sam Smith song on Radio One’s Live Lounge. Life huh? Lastly, like This Town Needs Guns, Colour had a Spinal Tap of bassists including Sean Bamberger who went on to play in Tubelord (up next) and Lewis Reynolds, formerly of Meet Me In St. Louis and futurely of Exes. We’ll get to both later on.
Deep cut: Their first EP, where they spelt ‘Colour’ wrong and there’s a wildly different version of Some Miles: https://youtu.be/rdfQKJ76w8c
Tubelord were also from Kingston, Surrey and formed around 2006. They also hung around that math-pop niche but with occasional heavier riffs and a penchant for synth work that pushed its way to the forefront of their sound come second and final album Romance – even adding keyboardist James Elliot Field from Tall Ships (who were brilliant themselves) to the line up. Fun fact, Field also produced most of the tracks on Colour’s Anthology. Throughout Tubelord’s songs were joyful and guaranteed to pick you up. Their first few EPs, released by Big Scary Monsters (see I told you), were highly popular and so word of mouth and mp3 rips spread fast. Also lovely was the Tezcatlipōca EP (recorded by that there Steve Albini dontchyaknow) that followed debut album Our First American Friends which also made it into the 50 Greatest Music Writers To Stalk And Threaten To Kill piece. This NME (yes I know) article with a misleading name does a very nice job of getting into the band during that time and what’s happened to them since. It’s a nice read. However as to reunions or more music unfortunately the long and short of it is that’s that for now. Of the founding members of Tubelord, guitarist/vocalist Joseph Prendergast now goes by, plays gorgeous indie-pop, and DJs all under the name Joey/Xoey Fourr.
Blakfish from Birmingham were one of the hardest working bands at this time with a tour schedule to match. They released their first EP Dirty Import in 2004, and by 2008 they were hitting 200 shows a year all around Europe. Musically the band were on the heavier side of maff rock and lyrically they focused on things that pissed them off, daytime TV, the 2008 economic crisis, cleaning one’s house, stuff like that. The hard work seemed to be paying off till they imploded mid-tour whilst supporting Biffy Clyro in Europe, just a few months prior to what would have been their first Japan tour supporting 65DaysOfStatic. Still, their debut album Champions made it into the 50 Greatest Daytime TV Presenters To Have In Your Sights article, and rightly so. Guitarist/vocalist Thomas Peckett, bassist Richard Lee, and drummer Robert Wiseley (AKA Thomas Rock, Richard Hollywood, and Robert Fruit respectively) very quickly formed the brilliant &U&I who scratch an itch but have been a bit quiet of late. Peckett and Wiseley are currently playing in To The Wall with two other members of Shapes who we’ll get to soon. Also-guitarist/vocalist Sam Manville (AKA Sammy Vile) has done a little bit I guess…ready? A two-piece CrossHymnsCross who released an album on Big Scary Monsters, Vietwow! with Meet Me In St. Louis’s Toby Hayes and Super Tennis’ Bob D’Mello (who also played drums in Pennines for a bit), solo under the monikers Greatest Hits and more recently, S T Manville, plus a bunch of songwriting and production stuff for Møonce or twice, Burna Boy, and so many others, like George Reid of Colour he also made a successful foray into electronica under the name FTSE (that at one point was a live band featuring members of Shapes and The James Cleaver Quintet), and a one-off project Get Hot with fellow electronic producer Jakwob…and breath. Boy am I glad my 2009 opinions about dance music weren’t preserved for all time in song eh Sam?
As we were going to press, this lovely interview with Manville popped up that’s worth a listen.
Tired Irie started life in Leicester as an angular, rhythmic five-some and ended as a four-headed glam-pop synth heavy party. Whatever the genre names, throughout the band was tied by a superb ear for melody and the dual vocal pairing of Simon Gingell and Mark Adams who also played bass during the early days and guitar when the band became a 4-piece later on. Gingell also moved to synth bass in the same move. The band were the first to be signed to Alan Sundvall (from Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies), Simon Cope, and Sim O’Farrell’s label Try Harder Records who also worked with Foals in the early days and other brilliant but not-so-maff bands like Jonquil and Blood Red Shoes. There they released 7” Like.Gentle.Men and a brilliant self-titled EP that along with the Hexagon single would be their last outputs. There was also a magnificent split 7” with Cats & Cats & Cats released on the great indie-label Field Records from Southampton who did few nice split 7”s at this time (no one does split 7” anymore, whatupwiddat?). Original guitarist and first to depart Neil Shaun Humphrey formed the very maff-pop Minaars who were great. Adams was briefly in Cassette Culture, an electronics side-project of two members of fellow Leicester shoegaze band Kyte. Kyte’s guitarist Jamie Ward briefly drummed in Tired Irie towards the end and went on to play bass in also-Leicester band Maybeshewill. Maybeshewill’s first ever remix was of Tired Irie’s Freeze Me A River, a song that never saw the light unremixed. Leicester was nothing if not incesttuous at this time. Lastly, also-guitarist Ian Humes, along with Adams and original Tired Irie drummer Robert T Neely went on to do some lovely indie-fuzz pop in Sisterland, and now play in the stoner-doomy Yetti in Brighton and they’re pretty righteous too.
The Edmund Fitzgerald were from Oxford, and if we’re being strict (we’re not) then we should say they kinda predate our era of interest. But their fun, brash angular songs are a must hear. Of special interest is the Horses/When We Won’t Have To Make The Freezing Scene No More (maff rock song titles eh?) split 7” they released with Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies in 2004 with both bands contributing one frankly brilliant song each. There was also a split 12” with Bilge Pump. And that was that, though they did release a bunch of other tracks on compilations for Truck Festivaland Silver Rocket Club (SR50), both important events at this time. These days the best way to hear all their music is on YouTube. So if some label out there would like to put out an anthology then I would tell them to shut up and take my money. After the band’s split guitarist Lina Simon took a long break from music but in the last few years she started releasing lush music as a solo artist. Also-guitarist Yannis Philippakis and drummer Jack Bevan did something after this, Foals was it? Whatever happened to them?
If I told you that the first track on Oxford’s Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies’ (later known as Youthmovies and for a very brief time as Youm which I hope was a joke) Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March Of Progress Will Lead Us All To Happiness EP, has a 2 minute plus long intro (the vocals start at 2:35) you would probably think them a post rock band. But you’d be wrong. “This so-called 4 track EP is 32 minutes long!” you’d say, “maff rock is short and post rock is long” you’d add. Sure, but in that time span you’ll hear more well-crafted, creative, and perfectly connected ideas than most bands manage in a lifetime. In fact I would argue that this era of the band…after their post-hardcore rooted debut Let’s Get Going... You’re Fracturing Me With This Misery, and before they started self-restraining themselves on follow-up single Ores…was the most beautiful, perfect, and soulful that the UK/Ireland maff scene managed. In my humble opinion we’ve yet to see a band as brilliant as this. After the band parted ways guitarist/vocalist Andrew Mears started a solo project under the name Pet Moon (which became Modern Ache, though both are quiet these days) and also collaborated with friend of the band Adam Gnade. Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies’ collaborations with Adam Gnade were real high points, on the Honey Slides and Polyp EPs respectively. Mears also formed the short lived but fantastic and very different initial iteration of Foals. Also-guitarist/synthist Alan Sundvall currently plays in the operatic and, well, doomy psych band Bonnacons Of Doom. Lastly, check out these two brilliant songs by Vertical Montanas which was all of Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies and all of fellow Oxford band Jonquil together. On Jonquil’s frankly spectacular debut album Lions (seriously, it’s breathtaking) Mears sang on this track which would eventually be reworked for Youthmovies’ album Good Nature by which point Samuel Hudson Scott of Jonquil had joined the band on trumpet, keys, and jokes. He also played on this I Was A Cub Scout album with Brontide/Young Legionnaire/La Roux/Summer Campdrummer William Frederick Bowerman. Phew…
Cats & Cats & Cats were born at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield out of the ashes of Clone Of Mel. Probably the most adventurous and bombastic of the bands of this era the group strived for something new on every EP, split single, and album. At heart you could say they were a pop band but one that took every left turn they could in the writing process. Their songs were convoluted sure but never bloated, more earnest and rooted in folk tradition if anything. Their split EP with This Town Needs Guns (released of course on Big Scary Monsters) and the album If I’d Had An Atlas (put out by Function Records who did stellar work with bands both maffy and not) are key listens. They also did a split single with Tired Irie which is fab. The members split off to different parts of the world but of particular note is guitarist/vocalist Ben George who moved to Japan and started a lovely band called Merry Christmas that deserve your time.
Deep cut: This Town Needs Guns should have just renamed themselves ‘This Town Needs Cats’ and everything would have been okay. Sweet Drunk Everyone from their split: https://youtu.be/XU-gH5sc4Wo
Depending on what order you read this article or how it’s chopped up This Town Needs Guns* from Blompton-Upon-Chaos are the first band on this list that are still in existence in a regular Cartesian sense. The band have had ten (10!) members in their time with the only constant being Tim Collis and his revered and unique guitar fingering. As the band have progressed their music has become more technical, Wikipedia page “List Of Musical Works In Unusual Time Signatures” makes note of a bunch of their songs which I guess is fame right? It wasn’t always this way though, earlier releases were much more typical of the U.K. rock scene in general at the time, more discord and loud distorted choruses. As mentioned, their split EP with Cats & Cats & Cats is (cat) fantastic. Animals made it to number 2 in our 50 Greatest Pointless Arguments Over Who’s The Better Singer piece. I guess you know what they’re up to now but let’s mention that current bassguitist/vocalist Henry Tremain used to play in Pennines (see Pennines), and 184.108.40.206.0 era bassist Jamie Thompson played in “Oxford-post-math-rock-whatevs-it’s-just-bloody-good” band Hreða (they really were aces). Third drummer Chris Collis (after Simon Thompson and Matt Bennington) channels five year old Icelandic children in his solo project The Otter Years. Then there’s Animals era bassist/trumpeter Dan Adams, who’s musical endeavours post-band have taken him in a (w)holy different, and rather sweet, direction with Awesome Cutlery.
*Now predominantly known as TTNG yes but not in the era we’re looking at – also maff bands seem to have this thing for lengthy or untypical band names that they later on realise aren’t as cool as they thought and rebrand/regret. And So I Watch You From Afar, I’ve got my eye on you. From afar. Alpha Male Tea Party, you’re okay.
Listen to: A BBC Radio 1 live session of MyBloodyJesusExplorerOnFire because it’ll change your day. The song title is a mix of band names, My Bloody Valentine, pre-Crash Of Rhinos bands The Jesus Years and The Little Explorer, and the aforementioned Amusement Parks On Fire. This is a masterpiece: https://youtu.be/gahxNlQRus8
Google this band and it’s likely the first thing to bounce up won’t be anything to do with the exhilarating band You Slut! (formerly You Slut Motherfucker!, yes, “You Slut!” was a compromise) from Derby/Nottingham but rather some think-pieces dissecting the meaning and manner of the word ‘slut’. It’s hard not to mention the band’s name even though you just want to talk about how damn brilliant they were. Exciting, powerful, riffy, songs that left you exhausted but in that blissful post-rut way. Their name made people angry, their music confused and annoyed all but the most wonderful people, their live shows were dependant on the venue’s PA and how fast songwriter/drummer Darren Cook (AKA Sato D’Angelo) fancied playing, but damn they were good (better than they were at playing Pro Evo anyway). They had a softer side too as shown with this acoustic session for Kerrang! (that’s a weird sentence right?) in fact, Cook and guitarist Richard Collins (AKA Rhyll Styzer) started playing together in an acoustic two-piece called Salo. Anyway, Cook wrote some words for us back in the day about how to encourage filicide and also took a shot at a solo project under the name Panji & The Buffalo which more than scratches an itch – listen to Taneo and tell me it isn’t a lost You Slut! number. He still updates both You Slut! Facebook pages with other good maff bands, Panji info, and You Slut! nostalgia. Two because YS! Official was created after You Slut! was overrun by spammy teens from Australia who didn’t realise it was a band page. True story. Guitarist Gavin Poole (AKA Vanilla Christ) also played bass with the shoegazy solo project-turned-full band Amusement Parks On Fire (the solo project era first album is a worthy listen), Poole wrote this belter on their second album. The aforementioned also-guitarist Collins played drums with indie-pop group Mascot Fight, with original You Slut! Bassist Matt Swan (AKA Dr. Marc Zwei) in The Four Fours, and recently with the otherworldly pop of Grawl!x. He co-runs Snug Records Co. in Derby who have done fantastic work with some of those artists mentioned above as well as other maff bands like Alright The Captain, a-tota-so, andToo Piste. Lastly, bassist Sam Lloyd (who replaced Dr. Marc Zwei after the hard-to-find debut EP Grit Eyed & Greasy Tailed) currently plays in the retro-tastic Church Of The Cosmic Skull who have named him Brother Samuel and made him grow a moustache. Blink twice if you need help Sam.
(Personal side note here, the Derby music scene during this time and since was/is more bloody fantastic than it gets credit for.)
With the kind of band name usually reserved for song titles And So I Watch You From Afar (apparently named after a misheard lyric in a song by the breathtaking Team Sleep) from Belfast, Northern Ireland toured all over Ireland and the UK (and Europe) during this time. First with phenomenal Leicester noise-punks Public Relations Exercise and then, predominantly, with also-Leicester post rockers Maybshewill – both brilliant bands and worthy listens in themselves. Whilst the band started on the more post rockier side of our niche on debut EP This Is Our Machine And Nothing Can Stop It, they quickly found focus, drive, and a truck load of pedals to move them firmly into that sound we like. Debut album And So I Watch You From Afar (which recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary) and follow-up Gangs both deservedly got mentions in the 50 Greatest Star Trek Phaser Setting References article. Their continued evolution has been as joyous as the songs themselves. Founding guitarist Tony Wright who left after Gangs does some strong singer-songwriter sounds under the name VerseChorusVerse. He’s also the first instance I’ve found of someone from this era moving into the acting world post-band, with roles in the biopic of German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann and the web-series The Also-Rans which he co-wrote. Speaking of writing, Wright also authored a book, Chapter & Verse(ChorusVerse): Or (Another Dickhead) On The Road in 2018. Also-guitarist/pedal-fan Rory Fries does dreamy electronic sounds/DJs under the name Thrash Hat and gorgeous pop as Beach Comber. Friers is a busy man, with current guitarist Niall Arthur Kennedy they did a soundtrack to post-zombie apocalypse movie The Cured (which has Ellen Page in it dontchyaknow?) and before And So I Watch You From Afar they formed hip-hop/punk collective Team Fresh where Kennedy drums in the live shows. Friers also plays/ed with bassist Jonathan Adger and the band’s former front-of-house-engineer Andrew Coles (who was very briefly in Her Name In Calla) in the sludgy 7.5 Tonnes Of Beard. Kennedy joined the band after Wright’s departure and the ending of his previous band Panama Kings, more recently he’s been playing in solo project/sometimes-band A Bad Cavalier. Lastly there’s Sons Of Burlap, a heartwarming Irish-folk project that features most of the band and their family and friends. Speaking of which, Frier’s brother Ewan who sometimes plays bass in And So I Watch You From Afar had his own band, the punky Axis Of who played a bunch around this time period and wrote a solid tune or two, currently he’s doing solo-project/sometimes band Catalan. Anything I missed?
(Editor’s note: Yes, Frier and drummer Chris Wee played in straight-up-the-middle rock band Zombie Safari Park before starting And So I Watch You From Afar. Writer’s note: Oh okay, thank you. Editor’s note: No problem.)
Whilst Kingston had the lighter side of maff in this age Birmingham took the heavy end of the stick and beat you with it. Firstly with the aforementioned Blakfish and then here with Shapes who also spent some time on the Big Scary Monsters roster. Just don’t confuse them with other Birmingham band called Shapes (stylised SHVPES, they mix alt-rock and hip-hop vomit emoji). The good Shapes did not mess around, their music was chaotic, exhilarating, and requiring of multiple listens. Check out the bass tone on debut EP Get Your Learn On and weep. I think that the first and last tracks on the EP, You’ve Made Your Bed, Now Eat It and Yer Cold Bastard have some members of Blakfish singing on it but I can’t find proof for sure. Soz. Anyway ten years on and a doctorate in high-algebra and I still have no idea how they wrote their songs let alone played them live, just listen to the epic closer Pat Butcher, I mean, You Butcher on second EP The Pasture, The Oil for example. Currently, drummer-turned-bassist Gavin Filmer and guitarist Steve Bachelor of Shapes are playing in To The Wall with Blakfish/&U&I alumni Thom Peckett and Robert Wiseley, their new EP is being recorded by Sam Manville (also formerly of Blakfish) so it’s nice to know those boys can get along now eh?
It’s strange to think that Alright The Captain from Derby only got into the groove towards the end of the 2000s. If you played a show around Derby or Nottingham in those years or after you’d probably be sharing the stage with the band who were one of the hardest working/touring acts going. In fact, it was probably guitarist Marty Toner, Marty Toner who booked and promoted the show under the banner of Buttonpusher and gave you a place to crash afterwards. Musically the band mixed a ton of influences together in a superbly fluid way that made them a great watch. The band is on pause right now but you got a-tota-so which features Toner and second drummer Jamie Cattermole to keep the bed warm. The latter plays in indie/maffy lovelies Cheap Jazz too. Founding guitarist-turned-drummer Ashley West-Mullen made some gorgeous ambient/electronic under the name Mender and lastly there’s bassist Todd Wood who did all the artwork (as TODDJERM) for the band and occasionally plays in pirate band (no wait come back, they’re actually really good) Seas Of Mirth.
Deep cut: Live version of Clamp with both past and present drummers, and then another random prat joins in too: https://youtu.be/AAitnnYbaFs
Chrik from Huddersfield were comprised of guitarist Chris Lynn and drummer Rik Fisher and unlike most guitar/drum two-pieces weren’t all about showing off their technical prowess to the detriment of an actual song. On the other hand Chrik wrote big, melodic, fun, smile inducing songs that made you feel good about your life choices. Their sound was marked with huge chords, crunchy guitar sounds, and a well placed yelp or two. Whilst their second EP, EP (2009) is free over on Bandcamp, their first record, Record (2008) is absent from the internet which is a shame because it includes amazing tracks like Yoshi and Marmight, the latter you can find on some streaming sites thanks to a Big Scary Monsters unsigned bands compilation that even the label seem to have forgotten about since it doesn’t show up on their website or Bandcamp or almost anywhere else*. Anyway, at the time Lynn also played in the joyous Midwest-maffy group Vasco De Gama who with Lynn have morphed into the also lovely Real Terms (side note, Jim Cork of The Jesus Years/The Little Explorer/Crash Of Rhinos/Holding Patterns does their stunning artwork, prolific much?). He was also briefly in the super fun indie-pop-stylee goFaster. Fisher played with Cassus for a few years, and directed/edited this video for old Big Scary Monsters band Itch which is cool. Alas Chrik haven’t done anything since 2012-ish and for that we should complain to our local MPs.
*You know, Bandcamp only became a thing in 2008 so a huge swath of good music pre-that time is lost unless the band members or someone else puts them up for our enjoyment and purchasing.
Enemies (named after that there Pele album) from Wicklow village Kilcoole, South Ireland, were another band to come on the 2000s maff rock scene late in the day but not without making an almost immediate impact. The members of Enemies started musical life in a small Kilcoole punk scene that also gave us Adebisi Shank (see above), a common story for many at this time – small, supportive communities that blossomed into something bigger and reached out to national and international ears. Their debut EP Alpha Waves was released in 2008 on Richter Collective precursor label Popular Records and also came out on Machu Picchu Industrias, an indie label run by members of legendary Japan-bands Toe and Mouse On The Keys. Their debut album We’ve Been Talking was released in Europe by the aforementioned Richter Collective and also made it into our 50 Greatest Outros To Fierce Pit Bosses, Why Mark? Why? write-up. As the band went on they started incorporating occasional vocals and putting out solid gold brilliance just as this and this. Since Enemies guitarist/sometimes second drummer/sometimes vocalist/producer Eoin Whitfield‘s solo project Mau turned into duo Ehco who do some lush glitchy electro-pop. Prior to Enemies he was also in the excellent hardcore band Kidd Blunt although annoyingly their second album The Flood has disappeared from the internet. Then there’s bassist/sometimes vocalist/ruiner-of-the-ending-of-Fierce Pit Bosses/bread toff Mark O’Brien who has put out some stunning R&B/soul under the moniker Royal Yellow that you should definitely listen to. Ballpark guess, how many of the kids mentioned in this article got sick of guitars around 2010 and started making noises with computers? Anyway, lastly there’s founding member Oisin Trench who currently drums in rock band Kid Karate, they’re a fun time innit.
Pennines (named after that there mountain range) are another band on this list that have gone the way of the dodo. There’s a reason you might know this band already, but we’re not going to go into that here. Pennines, who started after the unfortunate end of guitarist/vocalist Henry Tremain’s previous band saleontomorrow, came out of another small but solid local community, this time in Norwich, with bassist Mike Wightman putting on gigs under the name Fair Do’s that would eventually and accidentally become the name of Pennines’ first and only EP. There was also an if-only-they-knew split single with This Town Needs Guns (£7 for one track? Come on lads…). The band’s music, which only a few years back got put up on Bandcamp, is a beautiful, earnest, melody driven affair. Clean twinkly guitars and soft, subtle vocals. Just a joy to sit back with. Tremain and also-guitarist Tristan Holden went on form Ballgame with drummer Bob D’Mello (formerly of the brilliant Super Tennis, post-Blakfish/Meet Me In St. Louis project Vietwow!, and he’d subbed in Pennines once too) but, like Pennines, they also left us unfulfilled and album-less. As with The Edmund Fitzgerald, any label that puts out Pennines music properly would have to shut up and take my money. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
Bats from Dublin, Ireland were rather busy between 2007 and 2012, in that time we got debut EP Cruel Sea Scientist, the phenomenal debut album Red In Tooth And Claw (recorded in Salem, Massachusetts by him outta Converge – needed more songs about burning witches to be fair), and the equally deadly second album The Sleep Of Reason (named after that there painting), which was the last album the label Richter Collective put out before calling it quits. Sad times. Bats’ music mixes maff with post-hardcore, metal, post-punk…it’s dark, primal, visceral, and it puts a rye devilish smile on your face. It’s hard to pinpoint one outstanding aspect of the band since every member is doing stellar work, singer/guitarist Rupert Morris’s ear for a lyrical hook and vocal range is of particular note though. And the rhythm section need a solid high-five too. We are blessed that Bats are still with us and though it took a while, third album Alter Nature (has more songs about burning witches) is the band being just as brilliant as they were 10 years ago. As mentioned, Morris plays with Adebisi Shank’s Vincent McCreith in Speed Of Snakes, but also with two members of the riff-tastic Down I Go in MoonCleanser (for which Bats bassist Timmy Moran did the artwork), occasionally guesting for the chaotic Turning Down Sex, and he’s done guest vocals on this and this and this too. Busy bat. Drummer Noel Anderson did some killer solo drum n’ beats stuff under the name Census which he should really do more of. Also-guitarist Craig Potterton did a bunch of great artwork for Richter Collective bands, not least for Bats themselves, Adebisi Shank’s second album and jazzy The Continuous Battle Of Order’s one and only. Let’s just hope we get the next Bats album before the heat death of the universe.
Down the road from Kingston where you had your Colours and your Tubelords in Guildford, Surrey you had the highly influential and much loved Meet Me In St. Louis (named after that there movie), finest purveyors of gay horse porn music. Whilst being more in the post-hardcore style, their energy, clean angular riffs, and free-flowing song patterns touched the ears of many musicians and listeners in the U.K. and Ireland at that time and to this day. After three years of almost continuous and high energy live shows the band announced they were taking a break, but in fact were splitting up. Their brilliant debut album Variations On Swing was released by who else but Big Scary Monsters on the 24th September, 2007. The label and fans of the band have celebrated this day every year since which is nice. It was also voted into the 50 Greatest Actors From Stand By Me thing we did. Bassist Lewis Reynolds who was 17 at the time went on to join the aforementioned Colour. Singer Tobias James Dylan Hayes put out a number of lovely acoustic stylee albums under the moniker Shoes & Socks Off (a line from Come To New York, There Were Fewer Murders Last Year off of Variations On Swing) from 2007-2012 before changing pseudonyms and releasing stuff as Eugene Quell, He also did Vietwow! with some other cool cats (see Blakfish) and continued in the frenetic Shield Your Eyes for a bit too. These days he’s in woozy Laudromat and the scuzzy Love Among The Mannequins down in Brighton. After the band’s split drummer Paul Phillips, guitarist Oliver Malcolm Axel Knowles, and Reynolds formed Tropics with Bullet Union guitarist Jodie Cox, they quickly became Exes and the one album they did will scratch an itch for sure. Knowles took the beats pills and now makes dark downtempo electronica in Snow Ghosts. Meet Me In St. Louis did some one-off reunion shows in 2016 ending with a set at our beloved Arctangent. And well, that is probably that.
Three Trapped Tigers (named after that there Guillermo Cabrera Infante book) was birthed in London and were one many bands playing towards the end of the decade that moved away from indie/rock/pop tinted maff to the jazzier, soundtrack-worthy end of that music we like, along with bands like Suffer Like G Did,The Continuous Battle Of Order, and Physics House Band. To be fair, I think we only call them maff rock cause your dad wouldn’t like it if you put them in the jazz section after Thelonius Monk. His loss. Musically the band have let their virtuosity take them and us into some breathtaking places, as well as writing some absolute stonkers such as 6 on EP2 and 1 on EP. All these early EPs and a brilliant live show brought us to debut album Route One Or Die, with its monumental opener Cramm (thankfully they’d stopped with the numbers thing by then), and the approval and fandom of Team Sleep and Palms frontman Chino Moreno (oh and Deftones too I guess cause they did those tours together right?). The band have continued to write some damn fine tunes and as a result both the debut and follow-up Silent Earthling got your votes in the 50 Greatest Actors From Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace poll that we did recently. Only one of a few bands to get two mentions there. Anyway, Three Trapped Tigers are another with a lot of side hustles and other projects to dig into which is lovely. Drummer/podcasts fan Adam Betts used to play in brilliant spazz-punks Optimist Club with Jeion Nejad (one of only two Iranians in maff rock) who’s currently in fun-time-long-time maff band Axes who we like a lot. He does some capital-PH PHat solo work under his own name, guests in the peerless Squarepusher’s live band Shobaleader One as Company Laser, plays in Jarvis Cocker from Pulp’s humbly named project JARV IS (Betts is a fan of the frontman’s excellent podcast so that must be nice for him), with joyous jazz/punk/funk project Melt Yourself Down (does anyone else remember the song Fix My Life? Betts didn’t play on that but woah what a tune) and on a Motown covers album with The James Taylor Quintet because why not?. If all that (and probably more I couldn’t find) wasn’t enough he’s also in The Heritage Orchestra along with guitarist/keyboardist Matt Calvert and there they’ve done a vastrange of verycoolthings. Speaking of Calvert he also plays in the phenomenal Strobes who are great for when you’re trying to breakdance and Three Trapped Tigers just aren’t techno enough. He also plays lush, adventurous acoustica under his own name as well as doing a more off-kilter solo thing as Evil Ex. Betts played on that too cause they’re besties . Lastly there’s keyboardist/I-guess-you’d-call-it-vocalist Tom Rogerson who met Windows 95 theme tune creator and fan of the band Brian Eno (he wrote it on a Mac, lolz) outside a toilet at a gig and then they made a collaborative album together called Finding Shore. As you do.
Deep cut: Roberson playing Cramm, with all of its everything, on a public piano. And it’s gorgeous. Some people and their talents eh? https://youtu.be/AhHCly8pqd4
Dartz!/DARTZ!/DARTS! from Middlesbrough!, England! are probably not the first band you’d think of from this era but that should change, they should be as well remembered (if not as well still existing) as any other band in this list-type-article. They had many of the same features; poppy, indie-but-more interesting, euphoric, super melodic, and with more hooks than a coat stand. The first EP Who Built The Buildings and album This Is My Ship have that dance-punk edge and they’re good. Really good if you like that post-punk thing (I do). But for my drug-money final (mini) album The Sad History Of The Village Of Alnerigue deserves to be a classic of our corner of the music world, up there with your Animalses and your Anthologys. Here Dartz! were at their best musically, creatively, and lyrically for which drummer Phillip J. Maughan deserves a high five. The whole album is the tale of a fictional village and the people within it, a small world built just for the purposes of these eight tracks. Just a masterpiece. Perhaps if they’d been able to tour it properly? Perhaps if they lived closer to London? Perhaps if their haircuts were cooler? T’internet wasn’t yet the great equaliser (and divider) it is now and gigging mattered. Due to the educational endeavors of the members, the band split in 2009 and after university, well, life just got in the way I suppose. That old story. Bassist/main vocalist William K.J. Anderson continues to make great sounds with instruments, with his solo work, and with Algiers (yes that one/no not that one) and someone has been continuously updating their socialmediaplaces, plying us with nostalgia and refusing multiple requests to reform. Shame.
Whilst not exactly in the timeframe we’re looking at (because I gave up on that 16 bands ago) The Redneck Manifesto (named after that there Jim Goad book) from Crumlin/Dundalk, Ireland (and now Malmö, Sweden) more than deserve a mention for the influence they had, particularly on Irish ears. Also, the band were most active between 2001-2010 at least on the albums front so we’re good. Debut album Thirtysixstrings and companion piece Cut Your Heart Off From Your Head are in that nice twinkly maff realm but there are also moments of experimentation and different genres in the mix that you could confidently say had an influence on the Enemieses and Adebisi Shankses of this world, especially on the latter’s guitarist Larry Kaye. After a bunch of touring, a SXSW spot, and gaining a totally bodacious BMX fan base (seriously), the stunning fourth album Friendship was released on Richter Collective. By this point the band were a five-piece with multi-instrumentalist Neil O’Connor of Connect Four Orchestra (if you like The Redneck Manifesto…) having joined the band before third album I Am Brazil (not on Bandcamp anymore?) and adding some tasty keys and more to an expanding sound. Eight years after Friendship the group added one more member before the release of fifth album The How, however O’Connor, founding member/drummer Mervyn Craig, and last-one-in keyboardist/percussionist Glenn Keating have all left the band since. From the earliest days the band members have always kept busy with some extracurriculars. The aforementioned O’Connor also does a bunch of lovely electronica under the monikers Somadrone, Ordnance Survey, and more. Guitarist Niall Byrne used to play/sing in Dublin hardcore band Jackbeast, metal band Last Rites, and Flexihead. More recently-ish he did a blissful solo album as Bill Blood with a little help from O’Connor and bassist Richard Egan with whom they also released music as VisionAir. Also-guitarist Matthew Bolger plays with Egan in the Malmo based Dimman, his brother Brian is a member of the Dublin Guitar Quartet who cover The Redneck Manifesto on occasion. Lastly, we go back to Egan, who’s solo-project/sometimes band Jape has done all manner of cool stuff and won two Choice Music Awards for best album (it’s a big deal) and had his music covered by The Raconteurs and Soulwax. Keating, Bolger, and O’Connor have all helped in this project at some point or another. Oh and more small thing, whilst trying to find the music of The Redneck Manifesto’s previous bands (only Byrne’s efforts survive) I kept coming across this book called Please Feed Me: A Punk Vegan Cookbook, that pairs vegan recipes with memories and gigs from the Dublin punk/hardcore scene in the 90s. Recipes include ‘Fugazi Chocolate Cake’ and ‘Bikini Kill Chilli non Carne’. Yum.