Liverpool: England’s Most Musical City?


A recent Arts Council poll claims that Liverpool is England’s most musical city. The current European Capital of Culture took the win with 49% of votes cast, ahead of Sheffield in second and Manchester in third. What a load of utter tripe. In my opinion, there are several things wrong with this.

Mainly, I have a problem with Liverpool’s continued reliance on their Beatles heritage as a starting point for any contemporary cultural relevance. Take their status as Captial of Culture, featuring concerts of pop and classical from Paul McCartney. How exactly does that demonstrate cultural development, a stated aim of the event? All those shows demonstrate is cultural retardation, a nostalgic, safe view.

Obviously the Beatles had a massive influence on musical culture worldwide, but by the same token you would not refer to Memphis as the greatest musical city in the USA just because that’s where Elvis lived.

A lot of the musical schedule for the year follows a similar format, there are also weekly concerts featuring other Mersey-beat bands from the same era, along with a one off concert of 80s washouts, headlined by Paul Young. Appearances by Ali Campbell, The Yardbirds, The Zombies and TV trash Shayne Ward, Journey South and Connie Fisher also litter the programme. Really progressive stuff, this.

Amongst this year-long splurge of detritus there a total lack of recognition for Liverpool’s other musical mavericks or indeed their rising stars. Throughout the reportage of this poll result, the two names consecutively mentioned are The Beatles and The Zutons. Is that the best the city has to offer? What about Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Half Man Half Biscuit, Ladytron, Clinic, The Coral, The La’s, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and all the others? Sure, some of those are older but in their own fields, groundbreaking.

None get even a mention. The most relevant and contemporary item I can find in the schedule was a performance by Wiley: who isn’t even from Liverpool.

For my money, the greatest musical city in England is Manchester. And quite how London can be missed out of a top three is beyond me!

Anyway, here is my ‘Best of Liverpool’, not in any order.

1. Seventeen – Ladytron
2. Reward – The Teardrop Explodes
3. Walking With Thee – Clinic
4. Skeleton Key – The Coral
5. Lips Like Sugar – Echo & The Bunnymen
6. Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
7. Shot Shot – Gomez
8. Way Out – The La’s
9. Shipwreck – Hot Club De Paris
10. A Day In The Life – The Beatles

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Aural Geography: Brighton

Our second stop on the Aural tour of the world brings us to the hometown of Blood Red Shoes, Brighton. A lovely town on the south coast of England, Brighton has a great recent history in music. Socially and politically, the town is quite liberal; promoting art, individuality and performance at every turn. Not only does the town have a lively music scene (venues, record shops, labels as well as bands), the music it produces is pretty damn good.

Bat For Lashes produced one of the albums of the year in 2006, with Fur and Gold, heading to Mercury and Brit nominations. Brighton features heavily throughout my collection, British Sea Power’s Open Season is a particular great, The Go! Team’s debut Thunder Lightning Strike is great fun, as is Brighton don Norman Cook’s Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars. Cook is one of Brighton’s favoured sons, with nearly a quarter of a million folk turning up to see his last beach set in 2002. Electrelane, too, make superb electronic music, 2004’s The Power Out is my choice of their back-cat. Not featured in today’s audio selection are other fine bands such as Electric Soft Parade, Brakes, Clearlake, The Levellers, Maccabees and retropop funstrumpets The Pipettes.

So today’s audio choices are all quite modern, and all pretty enjoyable, and demonstrate the variety of the Brighton scene…

Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice
British Sea Power – True Adventures (Live in Columbus, Ohio): Thanks to ThaBombShelter for this!
Bat For Lashes – Prescilla
The Go! Team – Fake ID
Electrelane – To The East


Aural Geography: San Francisco

A new feature to the World of Wingrove is Aural Geography, where I will use the home town of the artist who has produced album of the week, or similarly another big release. The plan is then to pillage Wikipedia and come up with some other bands from that area. This will be a mix of some names I like, some big names and some hip names. Maybe I’ll even re-word a bit of history!

Fortunately, the feature gets off to a relatively easy start with a big US city like San Francisco, the hometown of Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek. Musically, San Francisco’s big contribution was the ‘San Francisco Sound‘ in the mid 60s to early 70s. This was a more jazz-influenced freewheeling rock, a polar opposite to the concurrent sounds from over the water, the ‘British Invasion’ of 3 minte pop songs, The Beatles, The Kinks etc. The SF Sound is probably summed up best by The Grateful Dead, a ever changing group headed by Jerry Garcia.

The bands I’ve picked from recent times are Beulah and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Beulah released four albums in the period 1996-2003, including the only official full-length LP on the famed Elephant 6 Recording Company, responsible for indie luminaries Of Montreal and Neutral Milk Hotel. Miles Kurosky, lead singer of Beulah has recently finished recording a solo record. BRMC were originally a bigger success in drummer Nick Jago’s homeland of the UK, and the hype surrounding their debut was huge; the backlash against the second LP almost as big. Their debut featured Love Burns, a massive favourite of mine. After losing (and regaining) Jago following drug and alcohol abuse, the band continue to ply their expansive bluesytrade, seemingly improving with age.

Beulah – If We Can Land A Man On The Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart
B.R.M.C. – Love Burns
The Grateful Dead – Friend Of The Devil