As you read this, Liverpool Council is deep in discussion. They’re deciding whether to take The Wombats to China – to show the world that we’re still (adopts Smashy and Nicey voice) ‘Capital of Pop’.

While they deliberate, let us do the same…

At the start of our Capital of Culture year, to proclaim our musical prowess to the world, we raised Ringo Starr and The Wombats to the top of St George’s Hall. A drummer from an outfit last active 40 years previously, and a quasi-Liverpool band with a mannered and quirky hit behind them.

They both seemed like curios from another time. We didn’t need Ringo’s paean to a city he was, at best, disinterested in and while the Wombats brand of Napoleon Dynamite quirk rock might have marked them out as ‘band most likely to’ in the LIPA yearbook, the crowd didn’t exactly rush the barriers.

The WombatsTwo years on, and to mark the end of Liverpool’s appearance at the Shanghai Expo next month, the City Council are locked in talks to decide whether they should plug up a cash shortfall enabling us to export the Wombats (OMD and 6ix Toys) to perform for the Expo crowd.

Now, the Wombat’s new stuff is, at least, brave stab at separating themselves with their self-conscious past. But the nagging doubts remain: what’s happened to Liverpool’s music scene? Fractured, unfocused and frustrating, it’s a long way – a very long way – from its vital, essential, and influential best.

So, you have to wonder – is this really something to make a song and dance about?

We should say at the outset – this isn’t a moan about individual acts, for Liverpool has many exciting musicians and bands gigging their way around the city. And SevenStreets will continue to champion them. And it’s not about initiatives like Sound City or Music Week, both creating a stir for visiting bands and industry insiders.

The past two years has seen a resurgent Manchester music scene given a kick start by another creative hothouse. Unlike LIPA, Salford’s Islington Mill isn’t an academic exercise – it’s a series of galleries and spaces where impromptu club nights and gigs take place, and where creative types mix and mutate. It was (and still is) run for love, not money. It was no surprise when the Ting Tings arrived, armed with an artillery of surefire hits, from the Mill: and no surprise that they knew exactly how to work the room. They were knowing, sure, but they weren’t quite like anything else, too.

Ting TingsSimilarly, Elbow, Kloot, Doves and co were regulars at Stockport’s Moolah Rouge: part studio, part after-hours pool hall, part creative hang out, always teetering on the brink of collapse, but shot through with the belief that there was a meeting of minds here that would, one day, result in one hell of a big noise.

It’s something Liverpool’s so-called Crucial Three of Cope, McCulloch and Wylie knew all about thirty years ago in Erics: huddling together for warmth – and inspiration – through the lean years has its rewards.

Could it happen now? Well, we turned Parr Street Studios into a trendy wine bar…

Meanwhile, in Manchester, the old guard continues to create work of beauty. At their best, few can beat Doves, Elbow are – finally, and rightly – lionised, and this year, even scrappy underachievers I Am Kloot saw another (deserved) Manchester band on the Mercury list.

But with new kids like Delphic, Everything Everything, Hurts and Egyptian Hip Hop (to name a few) Manchester’s planting the seeds for a thrilling sonic future, too.

Musical cities seem to appear, fully formed, straight out of nowhere. But, in truth, they bubble up like geysers, only when the conditions are right. We did it in the early 60s, and early 80s. Recently the same could be said of Portland, Montreal, Stockholm, Brooklyn, Melbourne and Manchester…

Montreal’s clutch of bands are constantly in a state of flux – mutating, collaborating and reinventing. Over there, it’s less Broken Social Scene, and more ‘fairtrade co-operative’ – yet, despite this, the city never descends into the mutually backslapping ‘scene that celebrates itself’ guff that London suffered from in the 90s. Instead it produces The Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Stars, Land of Talk and The Dears (to pick just a few)…

But this isn’t about Manchester. Or Montreal. Or Melbourne. It’s about us.

Liverpool, like Montreal, isn’t short of empty warehouses of the kind that make cheap rehearsal space. Like Seattle we’ve got that maritime weather to keep us couped up inside learning chord structures. And, like Manchester, we’ve got a right chip on our shoulder.

But a scene? That’s something far less tangible to assess right now.

Since the turn of the century, as our city’s economic fortunes have improved, our soundtrack has faltered. Sure, we’ve got swanky new bars, high-end music systems and our own Arena. But at what price?

I’ve spent some time in Montreal (mostly at family weddings, but I was allowed  time off for good behaviour) and, for all its musical might, the city is a refreshingly egalitarian place. Its downtown bars don’t have dress policies. The city doesn’t fetishise the wives of its sports stars. Its evening paper doesn’t give a column to tit-headed glamour models, it sponsors local bands and celebrates the urbanness of the city. It’s a place where a jeans-wearing 25-year-old could be a millionaire producer or a penniless guitarist.  Maybe that’s what the French Canadians bring to it. Whatever, there’s no tangible aspiration to afford a VIP booth, or to open up a velvet-rope style bar (I doubt there’s that many in Brooklyn, too).  And, just as dot–com entrepreneurs followed the hippies to San Francisco, places with an open-door social scene create the kind of alchemy that attracts creativity. Encourage a route in, and you’re opening a doorway out, too. Musical scenes are not just measured on bands who come ‘from’ a city, but bands that are drawn to it – to soak up that magical juice it’s impossible to bottle.

concert squareYou want to trace a graph of our musical muscle? It’ll be the mirror image of Concert Square’s fortunes: from open-minded and open-sided to barricaded and security-protected.

Increasingly, Liverpool’s scene is looking more like so many hermetically sealed silos rather than a Petri dish where strange cultures can shift and mutate into wondrous new things. And this city’s just too small for silos. Musically speaking, shallow gene pools can only lead one way. Jedward and The Nolans.

Forced ever inwards, we become a city that riffs on itself. A city where quirks turn to ticks. A city with not one, but two bands with a penchant for wearing masks on stage. And that’s a trope you can only get away with once. If that. Is just co-incidence that the Merseyside act most responsible for word of mouth (and national airplay) right now is the excellent Delta Maid: who sounds far more New Orleans than New Brighton?

Liverpool ONE, style bars and successful football teams create their own economies (the latter really only in the shops of Cavern Walks, but you get the drift). But for us to build a cultural economy, we have to stop self referencing, getting pissed to Beatles tribute acts and hoping for another slight return from Cast or The Coral. In Manchester, at least the WAGs have the decency to spend their evenings in Alderley Edge.

We need to open up, reach out, and shoot on sight those who think another style bar is the way to save a city that gave the world Deaf School, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Las, The Wild Swans, The Real Thing, The Lightening Seeds and Ladytron…

Let’s not forget, Stevie G got into a fight for the right to play Phil Collins, after all.

In the 90s, it was Cream, not the courses, that made Liverpool University such a draw. Liverpool’s image as an essential, youthful and energetic city fired the imagination of Europe. Yousef and a clutch of great DJs and club nights emerged from the cradle of the Courtyard, and scores of dance acts and producers met up, and started working together.

I remember how the conversation used to start up in Cream. We were all like raving Cilla Blacks, hugging strangers with the refrain: ‘What’s your name lad? Where’ve you come from?’ For one night a week, a sweaty, vibrant, gurning melting pot made anything possible.

No-one much travels here in the same way these days, save for the stags and the hens (and what’s the betting they’re the raw material for the next Arcade Fire? Unlikely), and if you so much as try to engage in idle conversation in Kingdom you’ll risk getting more than your Peroni spilled.

Maybe the light bouncing off all those glittery chandeliers has, temporarily, taken our eye off the task in hand. But let’s get back to what we do best.

Commercial economies are important. But our urban riches are what makes us who we are.

It’s been too long. But let’s get to it. Maybe we can still be whole again.

And the sooner someone rips down that embarrassing wall of rusting CDs on Mathew Street (the one that has our musical legacy literally ending with Atomic Kitten) the better.

– POSTED SEPTEMBER 15, 2010 –

  • Jamie

    Briliant stuff David – accurate but not spiteful.

  • RB

    Great piece.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=111941835530979&ref=ts Neil

    Excellent piece. I’d namedrop 28 Costumes and Wave Machines here as good examples of the DIY ethic that most of the city’s best bands now employ.

  • Geoff

    A brilliant read. Such a shame you don’t get this quality of writing or coverage in The Echo. This is the city I recognise, not the one that comes from Old Hall Street. I think Liverpool has a few great bands gigging at the moment, as you say but it suffers from a lack of momentum and vision, and the same old dinosaurs keep hogging all the local press. We just need one great band to punch above the mediocracy, but they all seem to fall short for some reason. If Sound City spent more time in Liverpool instead of going to Dubai with The Happy Mondays perhaps we could get somewhere!!

  • Littoral

    Not sure where to start with this (and I’ll come back) but, for a start, Salford’s Islington Mill. Okay, nice “thing”. This has produced the massive musical output of … the mildly diverting Ting Ting. A one-shot gimmick, entertaining enough for a month and already running out of steam. And the girl’s from Wigan and the fella, London if you want to qualify whether the Wombats (hardly significant I’ll agree) are really a Liverpool band or not.

  • http://www.mashemon.co.uk Mike Donnelly

    Spot on that David. There seems to be an emerging DIY thing again with places like MelloMello, Kazimier and even the basement underneath News from Nowhere. I think some Liverpool bands were getting sucked into the WAG scene with gigs at Alma de Cuba, Newz and Zeligs etc and there is definitely a resistance to that with people putting their own stuff on. As for the Echo’s crap local music coverage, well it’s just a symptom of an increasingly irrelevant newspaper. Much with the footy though, it pains me to say our friendly cousins down the M62 have pissed all over us for the last 20 yrs

  • Benji

    Excellent – this has needed saying for ages. There’s far too many people too timid to say anything. Couldn’t agree more with Mike too, the press just fawn over everything to get their press tickets and to keep in the pockets of the promotors, I know it goes on because I was one!! Got out when I got sick of the whole back scratching shit. Liverpool needs to take a long hard look at itself and ask the really big questions before it starts getting terminal.

  • Fabian Rothschilde

    What I see in Liverpool music is a microcosm of society-the sense of a culture folding in on itself. Modern creativity seems empty when taken away from the context of it’s reference points-irony means never having to say ‘I meant that.’ Nieztche calls this decadance. I call it tedious. Next…

  • NoiseNoiseNoise

    A Liverpool band kicking against the endless rehashing of The Beatles using the power of noise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKlC0y569hI

  • PIGGY

    I think you are being a little hard on Liverpool here. Yes, the city hasn’t produced an innovative band with chart/commercial success for a while, but that doesn’t mean exciting things aren’t being created by talented people. No other city I know has anything like the Kazimier (and I am currently living in Brooklyn, the apparent hipster mecca of the world). Plus how can you say creativity is being sapped when you have the Biennial about to start? Maybe Liverpool is concentrating on art at the moment – rather than music. Check out Never Records at Binary Cell at the moment for the perfect marriage of both!

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    The argument isn’t ‘Liverpool isn’t creative’ – quite the opposite. The argument is ‘Why, if we’re so creative, is our music scene not connecting to a wider audience’? That, simply, is a fact. And the piece just throws some observations into the mix. Wildly off-kilter arguments, sure, but ones that might just begin to connect a few dots, maybe?

  • Mark

    The thing about Manchester is interesting, because their bands are hard to categorise, but here too many bands sound the same,. It’s no wonder Ladytron were massive in the states and still not filling L2, as was, here. We’re still stuck in a guitar groove, when every other successful band is far more creative. I know there’s APATT but they’ve forgotten to write songs.

  • John Lenin

    The problem is that Liverpool arrogantly gazes at its navel far too much, with a total lack of criticism – basically, if it sounds typically scouse it’s good, so any band that strays from the formula isn’t appreciated or taken seriously, while any Deltasonic-endorsed act or a Payne/ Sharrock family act will get the kudos.

    Also, look at the Mathew Street Festival, a celebration of the past (beatles) and of tacky unoriginality! Only after many years the organisers finally decided to have local, original bands…who doesn’t get as much publicity as the cover acts, nor get paid as much. For as long as Liverpool values “Amy Housewine” more than new local bands, the scene here will be doomed!!!

    A local merseysider,interviewed by the Echo, said she couldn’t understand how come the festival didn’t get national coverage or wasn’t on TV…hahaha!!! That’s how pathetic the prevailing Liverpool mentality is.

    As for the Wombats/ 6ix Toys…I hope the council doesn’t fork it out for them to go to China, who are not very good and represent nothing about Liverpool…more like represent the LIPA ethos…6ix Toys in particular are truly deeply horrible…very mediocre and utterly bland – they make Dave Mathews Band sound exciting. Who on earth could think the world would be interested in them???

    And if any Liverpool act that strays from the formula makes it big, it sure won’t be enough to change people’s perceptions of Liverpool or change the local scene at large..

  • Jason

    Well said Lenin. I’m not a scouser but I live here, and I don’t see the variety of acts doing the rounds that I did back in Glasgow. Liverpool acts do by and large tend to sound similar. Sure, there’s a handful trying something different, but they don’t get the crowds. The local papers music coverage is pathetic too. Not that the press makes any difference, it’s all grass roots support bands need. Liverpool’s been relying on its past for far too long, but it needs to shake itself up and get a real bo-ho quarter going on, like Glasgow has at Brel, The Sub Club and so on. Anyone who says Liverpool’s music scene is well served and thriving need to get outside the city – and then they’ll realise no one outside is listening.

  • http://liverpoolacoustic.co.uk Liverpool Acoustic

    Interesting what you said about the Liverpool Echo’s poor support for the local music scene. You’d think they’d be interested in a press release about the first anniversary of the Liverpool Acoustic website (the only one of its kind in the UK), wouldn’t you? We didn’t get even a mention in passing… I know they haven’t got space for everything that’s happening, but it’s frustratingly difficult to get decent publicity for decent events. And anyone else wonder why there’s so much space given over to the likes of Amsterdam (good though they are)?

    New magazines such as Bido Lito are filling the gaps left by the poor Echo coverage, and are giving the grass roots music scene the exposure it deserves.

    I agree with the comments about the Mathew Street Festival, and its only in recent years that the Fringe has been around to counter the Beatles and other tribute acts.

    Liverpool Sound City has too many events across too many venues, leading to musicians who’ve travelled half way round the world playing to only a handful of people in a half-dead venue.

  • Elly

    If you wanna know how well the Liverpool music scene’s perceived outside the city, just take a look at last.fm plays. Amsterdam have just gotta sneeze and they get a double page in the Echo, but they got the grand total of 5 plays last week on Last fm. And not many Liverpool bands are doing much better.

  • Daniel

    +1 the love for Bido Lito. Only that, and this website, is doing a decent job of representing what’s really going on in the city.

  • David Orlando

    Piggy is one of few with any perspective here.

    For all the love for Bido Lito (which is good) there seems to be a contrast in people’s perception of the talent out there.

    On the one hand the majority of the commenters say the scene is poor and yet Bido Lito consistently champions dozens of bands in each of its issues.

    (Paragraph removed by SS – let’s keep the debate general, fellas. No names, etc)

    On the whole I think the music scene has dozens of good bands but it’s more a reflection on the whole of the UK that at present the Yanks are pissing all over us in buzz bands.

  • Daniel

    That’s not really correct, David O. There are plenty of UK upcoming bands getting just as much coverage as the american ones and unfortunately none of them have sprung up from Liverpool. Egyptian Hip Hop, Everything Everything, Gold Panda, Mumford & Sons, The XX, etc. There hasn’t been a band here that’s gained much attention since The Wombats, and that’s about three years ago now.

    For a newspaper that’s meant to “serve” the city, the Echo’s music coverage is very narrow. Compare it to the Evening News in Manchester and it absolutely pales in comparison.

  • Matt

    But bido lito isn’t full of local bands, it features touring bands, and just because it features Liverpool bands (which it would do, to keep its audience happy) doesn’t mean they’re of any merit. The simple fact is, yes, there are great bands (and I don’t know why people are knocking the Wombats, because they are one of the better ones, and Zane Lowe is playing their new single to death, so they’re not just a local success story) but much of our bands sound like they’re destined to be great pub singers or support bands. They don’t have the vision. There’s a couple of honourable exceptions, but Daniel is right, the ones to watch are at the other end of the M62 or even further away, and as a proud scouser that hurts me to say it!!

  • http://we-are-samizdat.tumblr.com Ellis

    Have you checked those those warehouse type spaces and DIY co-ops to see what’s actually going on? The Kazimier, Mello Mello, The Abandoned Cinema last year, Casa de Brujas every now and again. We had a sell out crowd for Hot Club de Paris and That Fucking Tank on Thursday (within an abandoned club for that matter).

    If the council actually pushed any funding into local music (and by that I certainly don’t mean the Matthew Street Festival) then maybe things would be easier but when you look at a small city like Liverpool who’s students really don’t seem to be interested in anything vaguely off the beaten track then keeping things sustainable on a larger scale is close to impossible.

    And as for the whole Islington Mill thing, i’m sure as a space you can draw a lot of parallels there with the Kazimier. The fact that the Ting Tings came out from within means another pop band has had a good press agent again. The fact that Liverpool hasn’t had a rip-roaring success band recently maybe means that the city’s real musical stars aren’t adhering to the standards of mainstream success and isn’t that what some of the beauty of this city is about.

    The scene may have been driven underground but it’s certainly there and will remain so quite happily. There are plenty of fantastic bands and plenty of terrible ones. Popular success may not be floating in the air, but there’s a tangible scene of interesting and great acts, you might just have to look a bit harder to find them.

  • http://liverpoolacoustic.co.uk Liverpool Acoustic

    I see David Orlando’s comment was moderated by the SS – a bit extreme, don’t you think? 😉

  • Daniel

    It’s a bit unfair to name specific people that are ‘to blame’ when they’re not here to defend themselves, so I think it was probably appropriate to moderate it.

    Ellis is correct, there’s lots of impressive stuff going on at a grass roots level. This article as far as I can see isnt talking about what IS going on (we all know that theres awesome underground stuff happening if you dig deeper, and this site has talked about that) but rather how Liverpool is perceived nationally and internationally.

  • David

    We really try not to moderate – and very seldom do. But to single out writers who are responsible isn’t what the piece is about, whether we agree with the views or not. That’s the only reason. This is more a debate about the general landscape, and to focus in on named journalists, bands or promoters isn’t, in this forum, fair.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    PS – Liverpool Acoustic: you can always send press releases to us, you know, info@sevenstreets.com

  • Meshuggy

    This article is bull. The author has a romantic view of Manchester when he should love his city and stop dragging on bands like the Wombats and others. His half arsed approach at researching Liverpool has left him looking like a clueless dumb ass.

    I’m sorry if this is rude cause you all seem to like his comments but maybe if he stopped going to concert square and wag wank bars then maybe you will have a better experience here.

    We have alot of great things in Liverpool for a place 5 times smaller than Manchester. Dont forget we have a micro scene with promoters like EVOL , SAMIZDAT MELLOWTONE HARVEST SUN FREE ROCK AND ROLL and others who all work hard for the city.

    I get frustrated with the Echo but their limited space and audience does not lend itself to writing about the underground scene. Your article cuts out magazines like Bido Lito or bloggers like get into this who are championing Liverpool acts and club nights.

    Liverpool Acoustic may dis on Sound City but the festival gives hundreds of emerging bands an opportunity to play in front of people who may make a difference. We have all had gigs that have struggled in Liverpool on nights when there are not 25 other shows going on.

    Liverpool will always be a great music city but until we rid the articles that give kudos to Manchester we will always been in this frame of mind. Its the people working on the music scene who shape the city not the venues and not the paper.

    To name just a few of the acts that makes us great.
    Outfit, Sun Drums, Mugstar, Beast, Hot Club De Paris, Barberos, Capac, Dire Wolfe, Short Sharp Shock, Wave Machines, Fables, Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies, The Cubical, Dead Cities, Homestead Collective, Dogshow, Down and Outs, In Casino Out, Battleships, Married to the Sea, Misery Guts, Sean Francis Butler, Sparkwood and 21 and The Drellas.

    Go see them play and write an article that reflects our city please.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    The article’s role, Meshuggy, was to raise debate. And that’s what it’s done. The fact that you think we’re being ‘traitors’ to the city by even asking the questions is, I might suggest, part of the problem. Take a look around our site – we exist to champion the city’s creatives. And we do it all for love, not money, in our spare time. And, today, we’ve a feature about Mellowtone, and interview with Dave McT lined up (who, amongst many musicians and promoters, agreed that this feature raised interesting questions). We know there’s a great micro scene. The feature is simply saying ‘if we’re so vital and creative (which we believe we are) why aren’t we making a bigger noise? And why have so many of our brightest hopes, recently, failed to find listeners outside of the cellars of our city?’ That’s a fact. And to shudder at us ‘giving kudos to Manchester’ is a bit silly, isn’t it? Music shouldn’t be about territorial warfare. Oh, also, last week’s band spotlight, Hey Tourists, said something similar in their feature. Take a read…

  • Rob G

    The autor wasn’t saying there’s no great bands in the city, Meshuggy. He was rightly making a point that not one of them is getting national attention. Look at the Zutons – dropped. Wave Machines, Seal Cub and Hot Melts, and the rest of them are all decent bands, but youre kidding yourself if you think they hold a candle to the bands that you bring over here, like Deerhoof or Dirty Projectors. Get real lad.

  • Daniel

    People seem to be missing the point a bit. It’s not about what is going on in the city – there ARE brilliant bands and fantastic culture. It’s a fact! We can see it and we know of it, because we live here. But no-one outside of the city can. They are not aware of it.

    Who are the bands that have the potential to ‘break out’ to wider acclaim then, given half a chance? Are there any at the moment? Hot Club de Paris seem to have done a pretty decent job of it. Delta Maid looks set to do well too.

  • http://www.getintothis.co.uk Peter Guy

    I aired some of my views via Twitter (twitter.com/Getintothis) when this piece was published saying that while I thought it was well-written it was wildly off the mark.

    Now, having read, re-read and re-read again, I like Meshuggy, Ellis and some of the other people that have written replies, think that it’s not actually clearly defining anything other than the easy and rather throwaway question: ‘Why isn’t Liverpool making a bigger noise?’

    But to address other posters’ disillusionment with the Echo – and more specifically it’s music coverage – I’m going to have stick my neck out and say those people clearly don’t read the swag that I’ve been churning out for nearly four years for the Post & Echo at http://www.getintothis.co.uk

    Whether it’s been working alongside the City’s first-rate promoters, photographic diamonds (McNulty, Sakura etc), superb underground venues (Kazimier, Mello, Korova etc) and not to mention the gazillion of musicians and artists making the city tick, the Echo & Post has reviewed and interviewed almost everyone you can think of on a local, national and international level – from Samizdat to Revo and RZA to Godspeed! You Black Emporer.

    And whatever your views on Mathew St – it’s my personal nightmare and bugbear – do you honestly think the Echo will shift more copies reviewing Neon Indian over this regional mass piss up?

  • Tim B

    Peter – surely as a journo yourself you should know that pieces like this, worded with broad brush strokes, are designed to create interesting discussion.

  • Dave

    Phew. Now we’re getting somewhere. Again, I *know* we have excellent local journos, bands, promoters. This isn’t a personal attack. Hence deliberate removal of anything trying to be so. But one thing’s for sure, there’s a lot of passion out there. And we’re just trying to stir it up. In a good way.

  • Matt

    Well said Tim. Looks like everyone’s FAR too touchy about this, like it’s a taboo subject to even discuss. If all these people are to be believed, everything in Liverpools music scene is just perfect, and couldn’t be improved upon at all. If you can’t honestly discuss the good and bad points, there’s something very wrong indeed. I wouldn’t live anywhere else, but sometimes we do seem VERY thin skinned in this city, much to our detriment.

  • Peter

    Liverpool’s underground music scene might be great if you’re in the middle of it but if influencing such a tiny number of mates is all you’re after you can play pubs in Southport.

    Cities should be musical powerhouses with both underground scenes and the power to influence the musical taste of a nation. Liverpool is not a musical powerhouse, it’s currently in-between Sheffield and Leeds and falling fast.

    Getintothis, your own review of Neon Indian complained about the lack of attendance in Liverpool compared to Manchester!

  • Matt

    ouch!

  • DMCT

    I think it is a good, well written piece, with lots of food for thought… and it has certainly sparked a healthy debate… which is surely a good thing, right?
    I know lots of people who envy the vibrancy of Liverpool’s “scene” and what it has to offer.
    Perhaps it is a paradoxical situation – given the high standard and variety of music on offer in the city, it makes it harder for bands to “stand out” and thus make an impact on a larger scale…?

  • http://we-are-samizdat.tumblr.com Ellis

    Well said DMCT

    http://we-are-samizdat.tumblr.com
    some interesting little bits on here about Never Records if anyone’s interested, we’ll be around until November.

  • David

    Ellis – we’ve got a whole feature about Never Records on our site here
    http://www.sevenstreets.com/art-and-creativity/now-thats-what-we-call-music/

  • http://liverpoolacoustic.co.uk Liverpool Acoustic

    Wow! What a response! If the article’s aim was to spark a debate I think it’s done that, and then some.

    In response to some of the points…

    Meshuggy: I’m not dissing Liverpool Sound City as a high-profile music festival – it’s great that emerging bands have the chance to perform in front of music industry representatives – but the organisation could be better and, in my view, on any one night there are too many gigs chasing too few punters.

    Peter Guy: good to see you taking part in the debate and defending the Echo. I have been reading your ‘swag’ for well over a year, Peter, and know you’ve covered Mellowtone and The Company Store in recent months on your blog (nice piece about Bono, by the way!) but I’m not the only person who’s made passing comments about the printed Liverpool Echo ignoring certain areas of the local music scene or bands, in favour of the old familiar faces. Maybe I’m just bitter and jaded by the lack of response from the newspaper that proudly professes to support the local music scene.

    General: So what does Liverpool have to do to make more noise on the national stage? There’s certainly no shortage of talent in the city, so why aren’t more bands making it to the next stage with national airplay and that elusive Number One hit single to mount next to Atomic Kitten?

    David: Thanks for the offer, but we already send our press releases to info@sevenstreets.com

    To be fair, and to counter the criticism of the Echo, I must thank Directory of Liverpool, and Click Liverpool, who both regularly mention the Liverpool Acoustic Live gigs on their websites.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    oops. Ok, Liverpool Acoustic. We’ll be in touch…

  • Daniel

    I love the fact this discussion is even happening. It’s nice to dissect the ‘music scene’ and get everyone’s opinions on it. Good job, SevenStreets.

    As for who has the potential to break out to bigger things? Who knows. Yes, it’s fantastic there’s a thriving underground scene – but any city needs a balance of bigger exports and smaller challenging artists.

  • Josef

    There are always bands creating good shit and indie labels, promoters, DJs getting behind it and the comments here prove that there is enough passion, know-how and fire to keep Liverpool burning.
    One thing I always wondered in my time living and working in Liverpool was where the hip-hop was and why it’d not burst out. Bands and guitar-wielding crackers and madheads are one thing but I wonder whether there isn’t a crackling set of spitters out there somewhere too.

  • admin

    There’s actually a very interesting (albeit small) grime and hip-hop scene, but that kind of thing struggles to find venues and outlets, which is a real shame, so it’s forced even more underground.

    We got sent some info last week about a local guy called Bang On! who looks interesting, and who’s just signed to Big Dada (home to Roots Manuva amongst others). Hopefully we’ll be following that up.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    I remember the night they booked LTJ Bukem for the first of his monthly residencies at Cream. Never seen an emptier Courtyard. Weird.

  • Mark C

    We always will have great bands, that’s just a fact of us being in a big city. But bands that will create a critical mass and get the city noticed, im not hearing that. When will someone bite the bullet and say that’s the real reason. We just need one band to step up to the plate and make a big sonic leap forward, like the XX or Mumford or Friendly Fires or any of these bands did.

  • Al

    Like a Q list, you’ve stimulated debate here Dave. Nice one. My two penneth? I don’t give a shite about scenes. they’re insular and encourage people to be exclusive and not inclusive. Sure, all great art/artists need a share of snobbery, but scenes will get you nowhere. To keep it in Liverpool, Merseybeat or Eric’s weren’t scenes, as such. Loadsa’ people were friends within them, but loads couldn’t stand or had rank antipathy to each other too. A couple (no more) of great bands appeared from the same city at the same time and myth and the media did the rest. Same goes for Manchester or London. For every Beatles, Joy Division or Clash, there are hundreds of shite bands that came along in the slipstream of the scene. If that’s what a scene does, then stick it. I think there are a few really good bands around here at the minute and one or two great ones, but we live in interesting times. Unchartered waters. We can’t gauge success based on how many singles The Zutons got in the top 30 any more, the game has changed. Answers? I’m not sure there are any, but as long as bands have places to rehearse and play (and we have plenty of them), those who want to, will always be able to find good music. It’s important not to get personal; to be honest, I don’t like The Kaz’ as a venue, but I wouldn’t knock what they’re trying to do right now. Horses for courses I guess. The point made about Manchester or London’s Mercury Prize pedigree compared to Liverpool isn’t wrong as an observation. But who cares? Music ain’t no contest, them things are peripheal and always will be. Do you really think Villagers, for example, got a massive sales bump cos of the Mercury stands in HMV or is it down to word of mouth growing around what is the best debut record this year? Whatever your answer, dictates what side you’re on in this debate for me.

  • Northern son.

    How many years was it between Merseybeat and Erics..15? So whats the rush? It might take another 8 years or even 80 before the glare of the music media is upon us again. The only thing that is certain is that there will be another explosion of talent/great records at some point. It’s in the DNA.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    Fair points. And Villagers is ace – he’s my tip for the top, whatever the top is these days. It’s obviously not ‘…of the pops’.

  • DMCT

    The game has certainly changed.
    How much of this is specific to Liverpool, and how much is a wider symptom of the way people now ‘consume’ music coupled with an increasingly fragmented media?
    Social networking, blogs, internet radio, podcatsing… as we all know, the internet has revolutionised the way people are exposed to, listen to, and buy music, and many of these new models are still finding their feet.
    Also, large established music magazine (and newspaper) sales are down, we have more TV channels, more radio stations etc then ever before etc etc … the list goes on…
    This is something all cities and ‘scenes’ will face.
    It all adds up to the fact that it makes it harder for a band / artist to make a national impact in the traditional way, as the chanels that were available there do not exist in the same way.
    Perhaps Liverpool’s music is connecting on a larger scale more than we realise, and it’s just near impossible to measure…

  • David

    It’s not just the media that’s fragmented: i’d say our musical tastes are too – and that means that, whereas once ‘Merseybeat’ might have been seized on by a vast chunk of the population, now, the long-tail phenomenon means that, because we can graze a lot of musical styles, it’s not enough for a city to sound homogenously ‘city like’. It’s interesting that most musical ‘scene’ cities are composed not just of bands that ‘come from’ that city, but bands that ‘go to’ that city. Most ‘Brooklyn’ bands aren’t from Brooklyn, but were drawn to it because it seemed to offer everything they’d need: a hot house for talent to emerge. That’s why it can produce Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors and The Drums: hard to see a common denomenator in them!

  • Negative Creep

    The day Liverpool stops being obsessed with “scouse-ness”, the day Liverpool musicians stop being worried about being “musos” and the day the biggest record label in Liverpool is Deltasonic (ie. promoting the same old, same old) then maybe, just maybe, Liverpool will be relevant again.

    As it stands, Liverpool has a quite boring, dated and irrelevant music scene. Sure, there are some good bands here, we all know that…but on the whole, it’s too scouse, too boring…Liverpool should embrace different people and different sounds more, like Brooklyn, London, or Manchester do.

  • http://www.everythingevolves.co.uk Nick Brookfield

    There really are some very interesting bands out there who aren’t making the same ‘scouse’ sound. ‘Ticks’ being one of them. They just need to be given a chance to shine!

  • http://Www.liverpoolculturalchampions.wordpress.com Argybargy

    We need to re-open Eric’s. A venue that lets anyone and everyone perform. Health and safety would have a fit I know but surely this is the infrastructure that’s needed to nurture the pool’s new talent. Turn up with your mates and play. The talents out there.

  • Soft Ollies

    You’ve actually given an opinion. That’s a lot more useful than all those media fence-sitters with their forced enthusiasm for the local music scene. Someone NEEDED to say it. The music coming out of Liverpool is not good enough mate!

    I don’t accept that it’s all to do with bands copying The Beatles or The La’s. It shouldn’t matter if you play guitars or if you don’t. It’s all about songs and melodies. They’re either good or they’re not good. There’s not one new local band that I could recommend to anyone generally. It’s all too genre specific and underground. Local bands are not thinking BIG anymore. More ambition please.

    The local live scene is also spread too thin. A ‘Scene’ doesn’t need every band to sound the same. It only requires a few really good bands to be around at the same time playing on strong bills. Say what you like about ‘scenes’ but they generate a buzz and a buzz generates press.

    The lack of any exciting new music leads to apathy amongst the public in general. I’m nuts about music but I haven’t bought an album by a new band for over a year. Nothing to buy. Prior to Britpop we were also hearing the death-knell for the music industry. Britpop got the average person going to gigs and buying albums again on a massive scale.

    This is also a working class city and I’m afraid the state of the music industry means you’ve got to have money behind you to get anywhere. Look at the amount of talentless posh kids dominating the national music scene. Their music may be sh*t but they’re clued-up and they’re entrepeneurial. They can afford not to work. They can afford to record and manufacture their own albums. They can afford to buy their way onto tours as support bands. They can afford PR and marketing. Record companies want the finished arcticle with a big fan base so they themselves don’t have to do any work at all!

    God help us but we’ll keep trying.

  • http://www.myspace.com/lewdbritannia Stephen

    Couldn’t agree more with argybargy. The city is crying out for a club like erics!

  • m chance

    although islington mill is awesome and there are some great promoters in Manchester (Fat Out Til You Pass Out, Wotgodforgot, Lamb and Wolf amongst others) I think liverpool actually has a far more cohesive music scene now. Manchester has undoubtedly had greater success (and better bands) in recent times, the scene itself has become somewhat distended and centreless. Go to Wolstenholme projects, see Barberos and We Came Out Like Tigers, go the Static gallery, Shipping Forecast, or any number of other venues in liverpool that have been so vibrant and then tell me the scene is lacking.

  • ffffffffffffffffffff

    This whole article is ridiculous, there is huge music scene if you actually take the time and effort to check things out, go to gigs you wouldn’t usually and don’t just go to more and more horrendous ‘liverpool unsigned’ nights and the like.

  • Soft Ollies

    For me, it doesn’t matter how the music’s styled. If there’s a good underlying song you can put whatever guitar sound or sonic styling on it. Punk, Indie, Shoegaze, Rock, Math-Rock, Electro etc etc. It really doesn’t matter.

    It’s the song that appeals to people. Chords, melody, rhythm, lyrics. Very few people are writing songs these days. Having the right effect pedal, the right haircut or the right skinny jeans can’t compensate for a lack of good songs.

    It’s the opposite of dumbing down. It’s about encouraging the people who buy sh*t music to get into some good music! Don’t tell me that cool, quality music doesn’t get in the charts. Foo Fighters are currently No1. They’re not cheesy pop but they are melodic.

    All this so-called cool underground music in Liverpool will never break out of it’s shell until it loses it’s self-conscious edginess. Name me one truly great band/artist who never got near the Top 30? The rest are just footnotes.

  • http://www.dontdropthedumbells.co.uk Anon

    ha ha ha.

    proper wrong.

    and for those that talking about erics, you just missed your chance to witness the same idea in 2010/2011. for 8months an amazing space put on secret ( ish, not really ) shows in a diy space in the heart of the city… and yes.. there is a copy of 2010 published Eric book on the bar… it exists.. its there… an amazing scene, spread between a few indipendant music orientated peopl and not populated by anything like posh kids… ya dont have to be posh not to work a shit job and make your own way in your own music industry.. its called the underground, its called d.i.y.. and its got fuck all to do with money.

    the good music in this city is kinda hidden, but not really.. its just not advertised by the council poster mafia on billboards next to ‘angels stripper bar’. mostly, liverwart and most cities are massively full of proper idiots at the moment, spurred on by the council putting all their efforts into building shopping malls and pointless consumer shit… producing an entire new generation of pretty gross humans in fake pre fade jeans and enough make-up to paint an elephant.

    ill be honest, who would want to be the people who have to entertain those clowns of an evening when they are full to the brim of cocaine, stella and about as much cultural knowlage or empathy for actually interesting or forward moving music as ya average lipa student.

    so yeah, it is kinda hidden from the masses, cause the masses basically are acting like fools.

    theres loads of amazing music in this city and an incredible scene that thrives without any need for any backing from the ‘city’ or council. it doesnt involve that demographic anymore… clearly put. liverpool council aint allowed to sell off its music anymore.. its ours, and we sell, manufacture and distribute our own myth… and we have jobs on the side or we make what money is need to survive and keep projects alive from our own sources.

    so, to be honest.. its as simple as, the majority of people in this city just aint really invited… once people start acting like living breathing thinking humans again with a little more than their crap job, shiny car or dullard future to talk about then maybe they to will find their way into one of the many disused buildings in town, through conversations and genuine conection with eachother its quite easy to find out whats really going on in this city behind all the crap indie clubs and council sponsored mulch.

    this isnt elitest, its just not for brain dead magazine reading, hair obsessed fashion fools.

    the wombats? = proper embarrassment be british. they even from liverpool? or they part of the 90% intake at lipa that basically take the money of creative hippy types that have brought up a kid down south or somewhere nice in and safe in europe to think it can be a rockstar by studying it at college.

    thats what is wrong mostly here… LIPA. its a scam, and it turns out hundreds of pointless ‘potential stars’ every year…. who cluter the streets with ridiculas hipster fools and fuel the money grabbing clubs and shady venues into creating the sick display that passes as live music in this city almost every night of week.

    the world is fucked, and full to the brim of offensivly unreal and shallow cranks, and this is why you will never no what is truly going on in Liverpool… cause, its got nowt to do with most people, industry or the fucking council. they lost their invite when they tryed to take all the diy promoters in the city to court for postering back in 2007.. yeah thats a good idea…. make it illegal to advertise gigs unless you pay the council. morons.

    enjoy hanna’s bar this friday night wont you.

    pffffff.

  • Citizen Kaned

    Hold on. Delta Maid? Her music is cringeworthy. Her whine-y voice is even worse than Duffie’s. Her songs are bland radio-friendly formulaic tosh. Eurovision Song Contest material. No spark of originality. Much hype has been given to her so I feel the need to re-dress the balance. I’m sure there are others who agree. There are others far more deserving of such praise. What really needles me is the lack of honesty from the people hyping her. Do they genuinely like her music? I don’t like criticising artists publicly but I can’t sit back and ignore the fake praise that’s being thrown at her. Sorry for being so blunt but enough’s enough.

  • Granville

    The house of Apatt, it’s all about the house of Apatt, a whole ecosystem of interconnected bands, musicians, promoters, engineers, producers and journalists, creating music the like of which I have never heard anywhere else, working mainly through the art scene because the music scene in Liverpool has gone all… LIPA. About 20 of them (literally) live in the same house, where they have parties that start out as gigs and finish like raves. This was the scene you never heard about, like a fire burning underground.

    Unfortunately just as the first one of their bands is getting its first big label record deal, half of the house of Apatt are moving to London so the whole thing will grind to a halt in Liverpool and sink without trace in the smoke.

    There’s probably another house about, or twenty, going on somewhere, that we just don’t know about.

  • http://we-are-samizdat.tumblr.com Ellis

    Granville, I think you may be blowing things slightly out of proportion there. I do like how these word of mouth things end up though. I heard they have a helicopter with a jacuzzi.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    Everyone knows that, Elllis. They were on Cribs, larking about in their steam bath with the drummer from Blink 182. To me, that smacked of sell out.

  • Milk

    Some of it we agree with but none the less a shite article. Obviously got what you wanted with the 63 comments so far but f**k me, a bit of research won’t hurt maybe even get out into the city and find some shit. Sounds like you’ve never been part of the ‘scene’ as you would of known about all the really cool goings on at the minute. Your missing out. Leaving you to chat shit.

  • Mike

    I agree about the WAG bits and Wombat slagging off. But as for the vast majority of it, maybe if you spent less time licking the golden streets of manchester and came over to see some of the stuff going on, then you would see that it’s still brilliant. I come from Carlisle for fuck sake! if you want to see a city void of a ‘scene’ go there. Here you’ve got loads of bands who are constantly putting stuff on! The Whicked Whispers, The Loud, The Wild Eyes, The Cubicle, By The Sea to name very few. Of course you have the shit clubs with velvet ropes blah blah, but you don’t have to look far to find the places where you would actually want to go. It’s not hard to avoid the pond life.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com/ SevenStreets

    Thanks for your recent comments, but this article’s now over a year old. The city’s definitely shifted in a more positive direction in the space of 12/14 months. We’ll probably revisit this early next year and see how things have changed.