In between all the meetings and extraneous stuff today (oh, and kicking myself for missing the Leonard Cohen lig that Allan blogs about here), I’ve belatedly got round to hearing Gallows.
Gallows, if you haven’t come across them, are a five-piece from Watford who look like they’ve been used as doodle pads at a tattooists’ convention. For the past couple of months or so, they’ve also been the subject of a fairly unseemly scramble, thanks to an album they put out last autumn called “Orchestra Of Wolves”. Today, it transpires they’ve signed to Warners in the UK and Epitaph in the States, after being one of the feted buzz bands of South By Southwest.
God knows how this happened, to be honest. Not because Gallows are crap – far from it. It’s just weird that a band as relentlessly hardcore as this should have excited the mainstream music business. “Orchestra Of Wolves” reminds me quite a lot of something like Drive Like Jehu, something far from the pogo-friendly type of US punk that usually gets assimilated. I guess there are some affinities with At The Drive-In, but even they had to become a prog-rock band (The Mars Volta) to really make it.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great record, and I’m genuinely excited that a band of such thrashing menace should be getting the NME kids in a froth. But I was having a conversation about Gallows with someone in the office this morning, and it struck me that there must be so many bands like this in the States – bands who’ve little need of mainstream approval, and who are so immersed in their scene that, frankly, I’ve never heard of most of them. One I have heard of are called Fucked Up and they’re tremendous, every bit the belligerent equal of Gallows.
What we concluded, anyway, was that the rise of Gallows is a sign of how small the UK music scene actually is: a band can be making notionally uncompromising, traditionally uncommercial music to an underground elite, but they can still be found fairly easily by mainstream band-spotters. It’s both an indictment of the UK’s shallow talent pool, and a reassuring sign that however lily-livered and narrow-minded we might perceive major labels to be, they’re not just looking for the next Mika or whatever.
Then, of course, the guy I was talking to kept going on about how Gallows made him want to jump about and smash things up, and maybe that’s the secret. See what you think – give Gallows’ Myspace page a go, and drop me a line.