Various Artists - By Hook or By Crook: Leeds 2012 - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Various Artists - By Hook or By Crook: Leeds 2012

by Andy Brown Rating:9 Release Date:2012-11-12

By Hook or By Crook finds Sturdy Records bringing together some of the finest bands from in and around Leeds and serves as a rather enticing musical invitation to the city. While I'd be reluctant to imply that this selection of 12 bands makes up some kind of scene, their presence on this fine compilation does emphasise the independent spirit that is alive and well in West Yorkshire. If you've been to gigs around Leeds over the last few years you'll no doubt recognise some of the bands here and if they've somehow passed under your radar then you're really in for a treat.

Proceedings open with the darkly danceable 'When I Was a T.O.Y' by T.O.Y.S, an indiepop three-piece with a penchant for driving bass lines and 60s-tinged/psychedelic synths. Their definitely a band to keep an eye on, just don't confuse them with NME darlings TOY, who are from London and mates with The Horrors. Next up, The World Service give us the sublimely melancholic 'Katherine'. The song manages to capture the lovelorn leanings of early Creation Records bands like The Jasmine Minks and has a slight Americana feel that recalls Whiskeytown at their most wistful.

The Wind-Up Birds have been one of the best live bands in Leeds for some time now and 'Two Ambulance Day' will be familiar to anyone who's seen them play recently. The song finds Kroyd's dark suburban poetry combining with the band's urgent post-punk noise perfectly; like Half Man Half Biscuit trying to play The Cure. The Seven Inches change the mood with the sun-kissed indie-pop stylings of 'A Letter'. It's a blissfully languid slice of technicolour pop which even manages to get a reference to Throwing Muses singer Kristin Hersh in the lyrics (how indie can you get?).

Many of us at Soundblab and across the Leeds music scene knew the talented and lovely Pete Sykes, the This Many Boyfriends guitarist who passed away suddenly last year. It's genuinely great to see his own band, Men Only (who consisted of two boys and one girl) on this compilation of first-class Leeds bands. Men Only didn't record many songs but what they did record shows a talented songwriter and lyricist finding his way. Pete's love of The Magnetic Fields can be heard in his vocal delivery and the way the band's outward seriousness hides a brilliantly charismatic sense of humour. 'Summer Girls' inevitably carries an emotional weight for anyone that knew Pete but the song should appeal to anyone with a love of simple melodies and indie-pop heart.

Racket Ball track 'When They Walked In (Live)' starts like John Cooper Clarke before turning into an electro-pop foot-stomper that owes a thing or two to Mark E Smith. The Birthday Kiss offer up some effortlessly brilliant indie-pop in the form of 'Choking', while The French Defence turn in one of the compilations most tender moments. 'Comedy' is a beautiful lilting ballad but listen closely to the lyrics to hear all those "fuck you"s.

Loqui turn the amps back up for 'We Drown on Dry Land', which features semi-funk guitars, huge harmonies and a superbly passionate vocal from The Wind-Up Birds' Kroyd. It's a stunning track and has some typically informative lyrics from Kroyd; "See, Whitby's got the goths and Blackpool's got the puking and Brighton's got the sixty-year-old mods and we're left with nothing". Downdime offer up their sensitive side with the anthemic slow-build of 'In Space' while This Many Boyfriends give us the demo recording of their signature tune, 'Young Lovers Go Pop!' (still sounds like the most exciting indie-pop song I've heard in ages).

Post War Glamour Girls wind things up with the suitably impressive and brooding 'Ghost in the Tape Recorder'. The track manages to capture a little of the stately brilliance of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. The lyrics ask, "Is this the best it's going to get?" and It certainly seems like a reasonable question considering the frankly bamboozling brilliance of this compilation. The good news is that By Hook or By Crook feels like the beginning and you may have just been introduced to a few of your new favourite bands. Nice one, Sturdy Records.

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