Greetings from London, England, still home to some of the world’s most innovative musicians on the planet. Theories abound here about why England fosters such forward-thinking music — a highly educated population, an uncomfortable relationship with its many institutions, a deep connection with musical forefathers, etc. — but no matter. The welcomed Britpop invasion continues.
The Vaccines seem to know exactly when to add and subtract gravity from songs, as understated Brit rock tends to do. Start with the simple angst, paired with paternal vocals. And it seems too straightforward. Just when you’re lulled into a state of contentment, they go for the jugular. “Post Break-Up Sex” might be the most indicative, representative Vaccines song, a toe-lining, cynical twist on a subject with which we’re all too familiar. The formula earned the band critical kudos from the international musical press and gigs at some of the world’s biggest festivals this summer. Pay attention.
Arctic Monkeys, Fox Theater, Thursday-Friday
BREAKING: Englishmen enjoy their pints and general rowdiness. OK, that’s not a newsflash. That’s just the English way. And that’s what Arctic Monkeys are all about. They made a name for themselves spouting tales of young lads ending up in various types of gutters, engaging in various types of self-destruction, getting into various types of beds with various types of women, so on and so forth. Five albums and seven years into a ridiculously prolific span, Arctic Monkeys are now showing hints of growing up. A.M. has glimpses of that dirty “M” word. And yes, they are maturing, and everyone seems to know it. They’re up for the Mercury Award for their effort, and deservedly so. Ten out of 10 blokes agree, the album is brilliant. (Update: The show is sold out, so Craigslist-away!)
Leave it to England to replicate Bob Dylan better than any American has ever been able to (ok, Sweden’s The Tallest Man on Earth has a legit claim to that reference, too). Singer-songwriter Jake Bugg put yanks on notice with his self-titled debut album late in 2012. Bugg’s stirring, populist songs connects with the head and the heart, and everything in between, just like Dylan did with Highway 61 Revisited some 50 years ago. Folks have taken notice. A Mercury Prize nomination has Bugg firmly on any serious music fan’s radar.
I’ll be honest. I’m still on the fence with Savages, the femme-only four piece London band. But it seems like I’m the only one. Probably because I have yet to experience their live show, which has been routinely called a religious experience. Pitchfork has been jocking them for a while now, and their cover story on the band is certainly worth a read (http://pitchfork.com/features/cover-story/reader/savages/). And THEME ALERT: their album Silence Yourself is up for the Mercury Award, too. See all these shows and judge for yourself.