British fests attract top talent

by David Klein | 8/21/02 5:00am

A pair of the most substantial musical festivals of the year kickoff in only two days, but unfortunately you're going to have to travel to England if you want to catch them.

The Leeds and Reading Festivals consistently provide three days of big name talent, and this weekend's offerings are certainly no exceptions. With both festivals sharing headliners such as The Strokes, Weezer and Jane's Addiction, these Leeds and Reading make Area 2 and the Warped Tour seem like low-key country fairs. Even Guns & Roses (or what's left of the band) will be putting in an appearance at Leeds.

But what's perhaps more significant than the big name talent that will be performing over Bank Holiday weekend, is the eclectic array of emerging artists that will appear at these shows. So even if you can't make your way over the Atlantic, keep in mind these following up-and-comers who will be attempting to inflate their reps this weekend.

The Moldy Peaches

With the lyrical sophistication (or rather lack thereof) of Ween, The Moldy Peaches make the first impression of a toss-away novelty act. Also like Ween, however, their simple, though endearing songs (which include such unforgettable titles as "Who's Got the Crack?" and "The Ballad of Helen Keller and Rip Van Winkle") will appeal to "South Park" fans and emo hipsters alike. The vocal tandem of Kimya Dawson and Adam Green play off each other's gentle simplicity with great success. Ladies are sure to swoon over Green's playful nice-guy persona while guys will go ballistic when Dawson whips out one of the greatest pop metaphors of our generation, "up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start/Just because we use cheats doesn't mean we're not smart," on "Anybody Else But You."

Soulwax

What do you get when you cross Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" with The Strokes' "Hard to Explain?" "A Stroke of Genius." Well, at least that's the title of Soulwax's bizarre, though remarkably succinct hybrid of these two singles. Soulwax has been a pioneer of England's musical fad-of-the-moment, bootlegging, with which vocal and musical tracks from various songs are spliced together creating fascinating, though often Frankensteinish incarnates. So if you're only exposure to deejays this summer has been limited to Rockin' Lou and Spindrome or if you're simply curious as to what a musical concoction of Beastie Boys, Herbie Hancock, INXS and AC/DC might sound like, sign on to KaZaa and seek out Soulwax.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

While their name invokes a band of Skynyrd lovin', beer guzzlin', Harley ridin' thugs, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is just another pack of harmless, pretty boy Strokes look-alikes. But don't judge a book by its cover. B.R.M.C's debut single, "Whatever Happened to My Rock & Roll (Punk Song)" provides a wallop of frustration over the state of the music industry (we feel your pain boys). Thankfully groups such as B.R.M.C. and their contemporaries have answered that call. Those expecting a full-out punk explosion on the bands self-titled debut may be disappointed, as many of the tracks are straight out of the Brit-pop soundscape. But it's the band's musical diversity that sets them apart from the rest of the scene.

And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

And you thought Black Rebel Motorcycle Club had a long name. Building their reputation with notoriously frenzied concerts, Trail of Dead match their live success with the recent release of their major label debut, "Source Tags and Codes." The album currently stands as the best musical contribution of the year, a dynamic rock slugfest that pummels along with the ferociousness of Mike Tyson (in his heyday, of course)..

The Streets

If your only exposure to garage has been Craig David's soulful crooning, then The Streets debut album, "Original Pirate Material" might sound strange. Then again, it doesn't quite sound like anything ever produced before. The Streets is actually one man, deejay Mike Skinner, who lays down his cunning, Birmingham-accented speak-rap over thumping beats. It's no wonder "Original Pirate Material" is considered a top contender for the Mercury Music Prize, awarded to the year's best British album. Skinner's credo is nicely summed up in the chorus to "Let's Push Things Forward": "You say that everything sounds the same, then you go buy them/There's no excuses my friend, let's push things forward."

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