Did somebody state that guitar bands were dead? The indie vs pop debate raged around over the last three or four years as guitar-based music became massively out-sold by the more electronic trend of modern pop. A mostly female-fronted youth market saw the girls defiantly climb on top with a sequence of talents that arrived around 2008/9, including the likes of Florence & The Machine, La Roux, Little Boots, Marina & The Diamonds, Ellie Goulding, and you can take the continued run of success right up to the more recent sensation, Lana Del Rey. There’s barely a guitar between them, and although it would be over-simplifying to suggest it’s anything to do with female anatomy, these dominating women replaced the traditional guitars with electronics. This whole time people have been commentating on the return of the six-stringed instrument, and you can understand why when you look at how cyclical history is, with Nirvana in the early 90s after a decade of 80s-drenched pop, Oasis in the mid-90s after the emergence of dance music, and The Strokes and The Libertines who plugged us all back in, either side of the Atlantic, at the start of The Noughties.
Surely we are over-due for the next resuscitation, right? We’re aware that we have the likes of Kasabian, Muse and Foo Fighters still selling well and winning awards, but they’re increasingly looking like the Grandads of a guitar scene. The baby-faced Ed Sheeran doesn’t really count as he’s unplugged, and despite the Brit awards and teen adoration he’s just spilling out GCSE-grade bile for the most part. You could argue there’s been a handful of punchy guitar bands, such as The Vaccines, or more recently with Spector and Tribes, or the really new boys, Gross Magic and Fractures, but on the whole they’re in danger of sounding like they’re regurgitating tricks that have gone before. What we really need is an adrenaline shot, a band that shakes the scene, a group that has a real weight to their riffs and an exciting, original edge to their song writing. For today’s recommendation we have evidence of a guitar band that could spell the end to the scene’s extended holiday. If they can overcome a few obstacles then they have every chance of sparking the required fire.
Unfortunately the first hurdle is difficult one. The London quartet decided to call themselves Vuvuvultures. Hardly a name that seems set for greatness is it? It simply doesn’t come across like a moniker that’s going to inspire a new movement, but we’re sure they don’t care, otherwise they’d never have settled on it. The other hurdle is out of their control. The audience has to be ready for them and to have a need for it, which means they’ve got to be, firstly, pretty extraordinary songwriters to push the popstars out of everyone’s attention and, secondly, the labels have to be able to sell it – and there’s no easier thing to sell than pop in this climate, so that’s a particularly tough one. Fortunately, their adventurous songs seem all set for big venues and with their debut EP, VVV, due out on March 12th with Popular Recordings/PIAS. The EPs opener, Ctrl Alt Mexicans, is the masterpiece that Muse never got around to writing, introducing the dangerously beautiful and charismatic frontwoman, Harmony Boucher, who leads from the front, which is an essential ingredient in all decent guitar bands. Safe Skin has just as much swagger and fizz, but it also moves in smoother steps, raising their songcraft to a more melodic level whilst losing none of their edge. Pills Week is the sound of a drug-fuelled rushing heartbeat, whilst I’ll Cut You is the required pause that leads to the heart’s inevitable come down.
The great thing with this group is that they have some fresh ideas and lots of style. This isn’t just another guitar band, and ultimately it’s going to be confidence and originality that wakes the public from their pop slumber – need we mention Nirvana, Oasis, The Strokes and The Libertines once again at this junction? All of these had those particular key attributes by the bucket load. There’s an argument that guitar music doesn’t sell and Vuvuvultures aren’t commercial enough to be wrapped in a marketable package like The Black Eyed Peas, or (the equally-horrific-) LMFAO, but if you have great music and a frontwoman as striking as Boucher then you have half a chance. Can we see her adorning posters on teenagers bedroom walls? Well, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a band’s singer that is this photogenic – she has been known to model in a previous life. Ultimately, if guitar music is never coming back then why are there still so many guitar bands still cropping up? Surely its only a matter of time before one of them delivers, right? The labels will always listen out and if they can uncover real talent then who knows what they can deliver.
On the flip side, as much as guitar music has indeed been overtaken on the blog highways and is currently bi-passing the wider mass-market audiences, we’re not sure there’s any particular appetite for the six-stringed return at this stage. Can anyone dominate with a new sound – electronic, guitar-based, or otherwise – when bands rarely last long enough to get past their debut album, as they regularly watch sales dwindle dramatically on their second outing? Has the Internet and it’s impossibly short attention span put an end to those bands that bring in any signs of real change? Nirvana’s massive global impact actually happened on their sophomore album after all, but if bands aren’t able to reach that stage without seeming like “they’ve been around for a while” then what chance has anyone? Vuvuvultures may yet overcome any hurdles placed in their way, but the biggest obstacle might actually be the entire discussion that this blog post has focused on. Do the band actually want to re-invent the guitar? Can they avoid the media’s obsession with trying to find the next indie spark? Will the weight of expectation on any new, half-decent guitar-based group ever have shoulders strong enough? It’s a minefield, and we’re in new territory here, so the changes we’ve seen in recent years may be permanent, especially since the Internet began to dominate the world of emerging music, but at the very least this band have achieved the most difficult and most basic of requirements – they sound totally awesome. (MB)
VUVUVULTURES – CTRL ALT MEXICANS
VUVUVULTURES – PILLS WEEK
VUVUVULTURES – SAFE SKIN