The Unlikely Lads; Bands That Have Hovered on the Fringes of Rock Are Now Challenging the Tedium of the Charts - by Just Having Fun

By Smyth, David | The Evening Standard (London, England), June 20, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Unlikely Lads; Bands That Have Hovered on the Fringes of Rock Are Now Challenging the Tedium of the Charts - by Just Having Fun


Smyth, David, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: DAVID SMYTH

UPSTAIRS at the Monarch pub, Camden, the venue of choice for winsome indie bands whose idea of showmanship is wearing a tighter T-shirt than usual, a different kind of rock concert is going on. The Texan quintet Young Heart Attack are giving a head-banging performance which takes in all the most entertaining excesses of rock 'n' roll.

They are led by a singer thrusting his fist in the air, screeching like Robert Plant with his hair on fire, and assisted by a girl on backing vocals with a haircut that could be the style of the moment, but is more likely the work of a blindfolded sheepshearer. They are not cool, but they are certainly entertaining.

Young Heart Attack are just one thrust of an onslaught of new bands bringing back a good-time feeling to rock. New Zealand bands the Datsuns and the D4 are playing unreconstructed, exhilarating Seventies-style hard rock with no sign of a knowing wink, and The Darkness and Turbonegro are creating a stir in the UK with bizarre stunts and hilarious outfits.

Record company boss Alan McGee, the man who discovered Oasis, has been getting het up about Torqamada, a bunch of hairy Glaswegians with a penchant for lengthy guitar solos and studded-leather wristbands. These bands are looking towards the foot-tothe-floor heavy rock of Seventies successes AC/DC, rather than any more intellectually challenging influences.

The grandaddies of overblown metal have also been enjoying renewed interest.

Complete back catalogues by AC/DC and Motley Cr'e have just been reissued in deluxe remastered CD form, while Whitesnake, Def Leppard and Guns N' Roses have all recently toured packed houses in the UK.

Last month's Download festival at Donington, a cutting-edge event aimed at technology-savvy teenagers, was headlined by Iron Maiden. Just as punk and the Sex Pistols killed prog rock forever, so grunge and Nirvana were supposed to have destroyed heavy metal, but now it's making a powerful comeback.

The four men who have been banging old metal louder than anyone are The Darkness, a bunch of comically geeky longhairs from Lowestoft who had the latest laugh when they landed a major label deal with Warner Records last month. Meeting them in a Camden pub to discuss their imminent ascendance, they truly do look like men out of time.

Wonky-toothed singer Justin Hawkins wears a leather belt with silver AC/DC buckle, while bassist Frankie Poullain sports a long, droopy moustache and a black shirt with a natty skulls and cobwebs design. On stage things get really silly, with Hawkins switching outfits between pink leather trousers and a tiger-print catsuit.

"I was given a tape of Nirvana's Nevermind when it came out, but after two songs I stopped it and put my dad's Thin Lizzy album on instead. That was the last time I actually listened to Nirvana," says Hawkins's guitarist brother Dan.

"You're supposed to grow out of old metal, but we never thought anything else was as good."

This deeply uncool band was first spotted by style magazine Dazed & Confused, which wanted to run a feature on a group that was going nowhere but kept on going anyway.

Record companies refused to touch them unless Hawkins toned down the vocal histrionics and daft costumes. …

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