There are signs that the new wave rock revival kick-started at the beginning of the decade has run its course. Perhaps the Arctic Monkeys, last year’s ones to watch, represented its high-water mark. Now the tide is receding, leaving behind sludgy 2006 albums by the likes of The Killers and The Strokes.
What’s the next big thing? The UK music press is getting in a lather about “new rave”, one of the movements it periodically invents in order to keep boredom at bay. This one denotes a claque of groups led by The Klaxons who are supposedly reviving the spirit of early-1990s dance music, although they don’t sound at all rave-like to me. The whole thing smacks of contrivance, an urge to will a new movement into being, and it’s surely destined for the graveyard of short-lived trends where it will be interred next to the “new acoustic movement”, the “new wave of new wave” and other such New Musical Express-sponsored flashes in the pan.
If change is in the air, I expect a very different type of band to help catalyse it. They are The Earlies, an Anglo-American group who, despite their daft name, make music of impressive scope and musicianship, a type of modern psychedelia that comes as a generous respite after the parade of art-punk clones who have been marching our way over the past few years.
A quartet, they’re a strange combination: two are from Texas, the others are from Lancashire. The band was formed when Christian Madden and Giles Hatton, the Englishmen, met John Mark Lapham at a recording studio in Manchester. Lapham recruited as vocalist his fellow Texan Brandon Carr, whose trippy southern drawl was considered better suited to space-rock than the brogues of his Lancastrian colleagues.
Their first album “These Were The Earlies” (2004) had dreamy melodies and shimmering electronic ambience, but betrayed too readily the influence of Brian Wilson and bands such as Spiritualized and The Beta Band. It won them admirers but failed to find the wider audience it deserved.
That seems set to change on their new album “The Enemy Chorus”, which comes out at the end of January. Its songs are more sharply defined and adventurous, using a huge palette of instruments – blaring trumpets, trembling strings, hypnotic percussion, squelching electronica, even Indian sitars – which in the past would presumably have cost a fortune to assemble. In concert The Earlies recruit the services of numerous other musicians to flesh out their music, but in the studio all they require are computers and keyboards.
The range of possibilities open to today’s musician are immense. Any sound can be conjured into being at a press of a button, although most bands lack the wit or ambition to exploit the riches at their fingertips. The Earlies’s music, with its echoes of “Pet Sounds” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, is rich in pedigree but it’s also thoroughly of our times.