By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
For geography-impaired Americans, being able to differentiate between this British city and that British borough is always a dicey proposition — especially if one of them isn't London. I mean, there's just so much de-industrialization everywhere. And curry shops. Makes it hard to know your Leeds from your Leicester.
The fact is, most of us can't make a reliable distinction until after the British city in question has launched a world-famous music scene. Liverpool is the Beatles city. Manchester is where Liam learned to hit Noel with a tambourine. And so on.
By Liverpudlian standards, the city of Sheffield doesn't really register on Americans' municipal radar, but it might someday. Known to rock fans as the ancestral home of Def Leppard and Joe Cocker, Sheffield — a once-mighty steel producer anchored in northern England's Yorkshire region — has also become a regular post-punk-revival mecca, launching such acts as Arctic Monkeys (currently touring North America in support of their U.K. chart-topping Humbug disc) and Kaiser Chiefs (one of the best live bands on the planet).
That being said, here's a chance to brush up on your British music-based geography. Sans London. We all know about London.
Birmingham: Industrial origins aside, their Birmingham isn't much like our Birmingham. Firstly, the "Brummies" don't care much for church bombings. Secondly, they launched a ton of classic heavy metal acts, from Judas Priest to Black Sabbath to Magnum. They even chipped in a couple of the dudes from Led Zeppelin. For this reason, the West Midlands metropolis is sometimes called "the birthplace of heavy metal." It's also called England's Second City — but unlike our Second City, Birmingham hasn't given birth to a commercially significant act since the 1980s (Duran Duran, UB40).
Manchester: In the 1880s, this restless northwest borough exported textiles. In the 1980s, it shipped out some of rock music's richest, most iconoclastic art (Joy Division, The Smiths, Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses) and the modern rave culture as we know it (later depicted in filmmaker Michael Winterbottom's riotous portrait of the "Madchester" era, 24 Hour Party People). And now? Well, soccer hooliganism is a regional passion, obviously, but the city is still waiting for its first 21st-century "movement."
Liverpool: When your first trick is the world's greatest rock band, a lackluster encore is pretty much a fait accompli. Which isn't to say that the post-Beatles output of this seaside mega-hamlet is anything to kick out of bed (Echo and the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Atomic Kitten). It just doesn't come close to the prestige of the city's fabled "Merseybeat" era, which moved Allan Ginsberg to declare Liverpool "the center of consciousness of the human universe."
Leeds: Industry towns like Leeds don't typically spit dozens of chain-moving music acts — at least when the "industry" in question is government. Just look at Washington, D.C. Still, the largest city in Yorkshire has contributed some noteworthy bands over the years, including '80s degenerate-rock legends Soft Cell and current New Rave bad boys Hadouken! — who are playing Coachella this weekend.
Leiceister: Overshadowed by nearby Birmingham, this West Midlands city has yet to christen a true rock world-beater, but has ponied up some nice acts over the past decade, including the Brit Award-winning space rock quartet Kasabian ("Fire").
Sheffield: A fertile incubator for '80s New Wave acts (Human League, ABC, Heaven 17) and '90s electronica talent (Wasp Records), Sheffield has proved adaptable and discretely prolific as an urban music hub. The emergence of new-again post-punk acts like Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs inspired one British wag to declare the dawn of a "New Yorkshire" musical movement. And people are buying it: The most recent SxSW music festival featured a "Yorkshire showcase" with One Night Only, Grammatics, Slow Club, The Crookes, and Middleman. Liverpool, Shmiverpool.
Surprised to learn that Artic Monkeys is a Brit band so this serves as a good refresher for me regarding the British music scene. One could go deeper into geography here, such as Inspiral Carpets being from Oldham in Greater Manchester (named after a shop in Oldham). aka fans of Oldham Athletic don't think of themselves as a subset of Manchester United.
Yorkshire's SXSW Party was fantastic. I saw the Wild Beasts and Sky Larkin there in 2009. This year's event at the wonderful British Music Embassy featured One Night Only, Grammatics, Slow Club, The Crookes AND Middleman. But its not all about Leeds and Sheffield. You should check for Huddersfield (near Leeds) outfit Kava Kava currently touring the USA and who are truly original and Yorkshire proud, the singer Pat bothering to organise said Yorkshire SXSW Party!
Kaiser Chiefs, Grammatics, Middleman and Hadouken are all from Leeds, as are Gang Of Four, Pulled Apart By Horses, Blue Roses, Lone Wolf and The Cribs
Kaiser Chiefs quality band part of the yorkshire indie movement but are from leeds a different city in yorkshire to sheffield, aside from the kaisers a great band from Britain are the Zutons from liverpool (home of the greatest football team)