Fifteen years after Oasis and Blur’s sensationalised singles scuffle, the media are dinging the bell for round two. But in place of the northern monkeys and southern fairies this time are two oblivious competitors being hammered into a ‘next big thing’ shaped hole.
Music doesn’t need another Battle of Britpop. Yet this year with Brother and The Vaccines as it’s Punch and Judy, the industry seems absurdly intent in recreating the landscape, and sales figures of 1996 With a rocketing rush of publicity behind both as the shared hope in resuscitating traditional British guitar-rock, the expected outcome will be the print press recoil should either fail to live up the anticipation bestowed upon them. The key difference is, while The Vaccines are turning a blind eye to the hype, Brother are egging it on with a two finger salute being proudly waved.
After rescheduling tour dates, The Vaccines returned amidst sold out hysteria at Stoke’s Sugarmill earlier this month. Round the corner at the town’s indie hub The Underground, in swaggered Brother for their turn to bring it on down and shoot footage for an upcoming video.
Prior to their arrival there’s an air of suspicion that Brother’s marketing PR are striving to emulate a ‘band of the people, band of a generation’ style emergence despite there being more faith in the hype than the band’s big words. Geffen netted the band for a touted quarter-million on the back of as few gigs as you could count on two hands and fewer recordings than you could count on one. But what hooked the label, aside from the songs, was the dead-eyed confidence of the band’s frontman Lee Newell as he issued the statement “Anyone who doesn’t want to see the future of rock’n'roll should leave now” to a London shoebox.
You’d be forgiven for seeing the hubbub that’s ensued as a little manufactured, if not coyly calculated to resemble the pre-MySpace anticipation of ‘‘Definitely Maybe‘. There’d be the lack of an official MySpace page to start with, instead the URL “acidlove.net” adding a little mystique and harking back to the days before a rockstar’s breakfast was common knowledge and music boiled down to inanimate files.
With a Google-stumping address and three demos, the band has seized front covers and more web space than anyone would care to know the specifics of, something for whatever reason was always going to raise a few eyebrows, and on top of all of this, for a bunch of lads hell-bent on putting guitars back on the airwaves, we’ve yet to as much as see a debut single released.
What’s been lost amidst the bustle and ruckus surrounding Brother’s presentation is that on a surface level what’s exhibited is positively infectious with very little grit to be found amidst the self-tagged ‘Gritpop‘, lyrical or otherwise.
Listen closer though and you can envision several tracks as a knock off backdrop to some unofficial, market stall Oasis biopic. The much claimed Morrissey infatuation is untraceable next to the authority the Gallaghers pose on their sound. The familiar jurassic T-Rex riffs, the faint sneer in Newell’s otherwise rangy delivery, there’s even a lifted Noel-ism (‘Love is a time machine’ of all lines).
Other titles have less tendency to shadow the glory days of Oasis so explicitly and when Brother revisit Britpop further afield than Manchester’s Boardwalk they touch on more engaging territory.
‘Darling Buds of May‘ channels Dodgy sweetness through a baggy-Blur groove, a crying shame then when an immense chorus is hindered by meaningless filler ‘it is what it is, it is what is is’. “That never stopped Oasis!” I hear you say. Brother have done their homework.
On stage the Slough-spawned quartet are well rehearsed and the backing harmonies of a female vocalist add dimension but when the lights come on and security is ushering you out the door after half an hour you’re left feeling like you’ve seen a T4 promo rather than the ‘saviours of rock’n'roll’.
Not least when the band is talking up ten crackers to feature on their Autumn-expected record, including ‘Electric Daydream‘, a song already set to tower over ‘Live Forever‘ in Brother’s opinion. All that rang familiar throughout the set were songs we’ve already made acquaintances with, the remaining couple bore more similarities with Shed Seven singles than Q poll toppers.
Lad rock escapism flares up every few years. The Enemy proclaimed ‘We’ll live and die in these towns’ and Reverend & the Makers lamented ‘I could’ve been the heavyweight champion of the world.’ Both were champions of the month as far as Britrock was concerned. It’s up to Brother to ensure staying power beyond a handful of demo tapes and a book full of quotes.
Whether the fighting talk is the kind to put a quarter-million in Knebworth, or indeed 10,000 in Slough remains to be seen, because as the scarcity of listenable material would suggest, we ain’t seen (nor heard) nothin’ yet.
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